Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mt. Batulao III (The Third Time is a Charm)

Chapter One
ETD: 10:00
“You may delay, but time will not.”
-Benjamin Franklin

When you are traveling, the unwritten rule is never come late. Time is gold as someone had boldly told this author. Think the other people who honor the time agreed upon. Come to think of it, there are four types of traditional times; Christian Time, American time, Filipino time, and Indian time. The Christian time is an hour early from the scheduled period while the American time is the exact time agreed upon. Being Filipinos, we had our own time i.e. an hour after the scheduled time. Finally, the Indian time is when someone cannot go for some reason or another.

The Law Mountaineering Society had yet another expedition in Mt. Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas. Eight brave souls participated in this event, thus, they are dubbed as the Elite Eight. The group's itinerary indicated 10:00 as their Estimated Time of Departure from EDSA-Taft. Beyond that time, the group, who were seven, at that point, was still in the terminal due to the long line of passengers boarding the bus bound to Nasugbu. Finally, when they have seated in the bus, the last member of the club arrived. He was more than two hours late from the calling time.

Phillip Rosario, a tall and slim fellow, was wearing a printed white t-shirt indicating he resembles the Matinee Idol John Lloyd Cruz when he boarded the bus. There was pandemonium from the backend of the common carrier, signifying their joy that he was able to make it. It was not the first time he did that kind of act. It was his second time already. In fairness to him, he acknowledged to their team leader that he will follow them alone because he had to report for work but it turned out that they were left no choice but to wait him for a little longer. He did not fail them. He was able to join them in the nick of time.

He may be the last one to arrive in the terminal but with his knowledge and experience of the mountain, certainly it cannot happen there unless he is the sweeper. This was his third climb in the said mountain but this will be his first overnight stint there. It was a sojourn he deserved for what had happened to him this past month. He had many issues inside his head that needed to be release. He thought going to the summit of the mountain is a good place to start over again.

Chapter Two
Old Trail

Henry Miller was once quoted, "The real leader has no need to lead, he is content to point the way."

Jose Rafael Magno, who sports an almost clean shaved head, is the team leader of the group. Imagine Ang the Last Airbender without 
the arrows in the forehead. That is him. He was the conspirator of this whole affair. He did not report for work during that day just to
to climb the mountain. If something happened, Raffy, his nickname, is the principal liable. Like, Phillip, this is his third time in this mountain.

After a two-hour ride, they have arrived at their destination in Evercrest. The road to the jump-off point is not too distant from the National Road but a tricycle is available to carry them to the jump-off point. However, the group decided to walk instead. It was hot. One can really feel the summer's scourging heat. Then there is dust all over the place. Not to mention the fresh manures of the ponies which were left alone in the middle of the trails.

The said place is inhabited of country folks that were accustomed to mountaineers who are frequently hike the mountain. In fact, they make these hikers as part of their economy. The children during weekends act as guides to the climbers. They engaged their services for a fee ranging P100.00 to P300.00 which depends to the number of the group. Being their third time, in the mountain, they had no reason to hire any guide because of their experience in their prior hikes here. One of the interesting vendors there is the Manong Sorbetero. He is the one who sells dirty ice cream. They had encountered them last time but they did not buy any of his ice cream. He also had another talent that is playing the guitar. His version of Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight is a pleasant treat to the ears. This time, due to the increment warm weather, they bought his ice creams. Meanwhile, mothers sell refreshments like softdrinks, buko and halo-halo to provide something to drink for the travelers. The group rested in one hut that sells anything that is worth 20 Pesos. They purchased halo-halo and buko. Their halo-halo was really something. The ice is hard to crush so that Rowena "Weng" Burmer, one of the pioneers of the group, let her halo-halo melt in the sun. This is her second time here in Mt. Batulao, while this is her third time climbing a mountain 
with the group. Unfortunately for her, she had to wait for the late comers in all occasions. Strangely, when she is not around in other 
scheduled climbs, all were on-time. To describe Weng is quite relatively easy. She is your "Do not judge the book by its cover type." 
Beyond those feminine looks, masculine traits are hidden. However, whenever they are hiking those traits are easy to recognize. You could not hear any protests from her. She just kept walking but also she kept on talking. There are no dull moments with her. In fact, 
some male hikers from other groups were impressed by her efforts in climbing the summit. During the trek, they had crossed upon a 
half-naked foreigner which was on the way down. The team was surprised and laughed their hearts out when they saw the stranger.
They even teased Weng that he was her destiny.

There are two trails on the trek to the summit of Mt. Batulao, the old trail and the traverse or the new trail. The group chose the old track. The said path starts downward to the mountain. On their way, they chanced upon an old man going to visit his crops. To take her time, Hydee Castro, interrogated "Tatang" while they walked. They passed three fellow hikers, one of which was pretty that even Hydee commented that girl was cute. Raffy, yet stayed there in the manggahan as if he wanted to wait for the others. However, Dennis Evora made the funniest remark, "Kung naging babae lang ako, mas maganda ako sa kanya." When they reached an abandoned hut, the girls did make use of the mirror hung in the wall. Then Julius Sandino Gili went for a call of nature that prompted Dennis to remark "Wala ka ng
mapagmamaliit sa amin, Julius." Clearly, laughs were all over the place.

A little past four o'clock in the afternoon, the group arrived at the camp site of the old trail. There were some hikers already set up camp there. They have to ask the ranger where they could set camp. Phillip jokingly said in the pent house. The ranger ignored that and said in
camp five. However, they chose camp four instead. The group had three tents. The first one was for Raffy and Julius. The second was for the four girls while the last one was for Phillip and Dennis. Because the mountain does not have a water source, they were left no choice but to buy water in the camp store. It cost a mind boggling P130.00 per container.

Chapter Three
Before Sunset

“Once while St. Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, ''What would you do if you were suddenly to learn that you were to die at sunset today?'' He replied, ''I would finish hoeing my garden.”

There were three things in Phillip's head when they have reached the camp site; first, to reached the summit before sunset, second, to pray wholeheartedly there, and to have a solemn moment of peace. He intended those things to happen so he was a bit far away from his group. To be exact, it was too distant. The rest of the group was still taking pictures while Phillip was determined to reach the summit in time for dusk. It was not an easy task. The assault to the summit is very stiff. He even thinking of the word succumb in the way up. He was ready for anything about to happen next but God has other plans for him. Needless to say, he managed to get to the top of the mountain unharmed. There was a group there when he arrived but they were on their way down to the new trail. Later, he discovered that Agot Isidro was part of that group, along with Gideon Lasco, M.D. of Pinoy Mountaineer and Carina Dayondon, the first Filipina (and Southeast Asian woman) to climb Mt. Everest.(Writer’s Note: there were five celebrities in that mountain that day; the three mentioned, Janet Belarmino who also climbed Mt. Everest and of course Phillip.) Regardless, Phillip got his sunset view. He was alone in the top. He prayed the Novena to St. Jude Thaddeus. And most importantly, he found the solemnity of peace, he was looking for. For a brief moment, there were no distractions in his mind. His mind was clear as if he had no problems or issues to resolve. It was so peaceful that the only thing missing was a burning bush that could talk like what happened to Moses in Mt. Sinai.

Several minutes later, Dennis and Raffy arrived in the peak. The girls could not make it because the darkness was looming and it would be dangerous if they continue the trek. Thus, the three got there photo sessions in the summit. They quenched their thirst by buying a Mountain Dew in the said peak. The drink cost P25.00. In an exhausting assault in that peak, you would not mind that kind of amount. Later, Julius would remark, "Ano essence ng Mountain pag walang Mountain Dew." Nearing dusk, they settled themselves to go back to camp. They were joined by the family selling the drinks. A girl about ten years old even raced with Dennis on their descent to the camp. Due to Sgiomlaireached, Phillip arrived at their camp before dark. The girls were still preparing for their meal.

Chapter Four
Starry Starry Night

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills

The sky was perfect even without the moon. It was surrounded by so many stars. A science geek would be having fun of looking for the constellations up there. It was chilly out there. The place was so quiet that the winds can carry the voices and can whisper it to another's ears. Even with the disappearance of the moon, there was still light produced by the stars.

Hydee Dollaga Castro, a Leo, is the most enthusiastic person in this group when it comes to adventure. She is the one who dares the club to climb a mountain, even though she have an overload of office works as well as a ton of cases to read in school. Nevertheless, she decided to join the trek and as a result she was the one in charge of the food. She prepared a pork steak for dinner. Julius was in charge of the rice while Hydee cooked the steak. It took an hour before they can eat for dinner. They were hungry all day. They hadn't eaten for lunch except for Phillip. Due to the tiresome trek all were anxious to eat anything edible. After dinner, they were all full.

Phillip felt it was a perfect opportunity to sleep but the rest of the gang otherwise planned to drink alcohol. Being an obedient person that he is, gave in to the majority. Emperador Light was the brandy's name. Being an occasional drinker, it was Phillip's first time to drink that brandy, which was sponsored by Julius, who is not any relation with whatsoever to the endorser of the said brandy, Richard Gutierrez. Julius Sandino Gili, an Ox, is a first timer with the group. However, he had climb a mountain before according to him. He also shared his can of sardines to the group. He provided something to laugh about throughout the evening.

When the drinking started, Hydee had a phonecall that took an entire eternity to end. However, she did not escape her shots. She even does not need any chaser to drink. From the looks of it, she is really hardcore. Everybody but Weng and Ilyne drink the brandy. But all participated in eating the pulutan. They talked all night. Mostly were green topics courtesy of Weng. "May gapang pa at dapa pang napagusapan," recalled Phillip. Three fellow hikers walked passed through our site because they are looking for a place to buy alcohol. Like in the streets, they were offered shots that they openly accepted. Before the night ended, Phillip provided final humor for the group, he blindly tripped to a bamboo stick creating laughs to the whole group.

Chapter Five
Before Sunrise

“Opportunities are like sunrises -- if you wait too long, you miss them.” - William Arthur Ward

The call time was 4:00 in the morning but Hydee was so generous that she wake the group thirty minutes later. THey prepared hot chocolate because it was cold that they were all except Phillip were wearing jackets. A group had passed them even though it was still dark. Moments later, Phillip followed suit. He wants to see the sunrise from the top. He had to undergo the same obstacles as before i.e. ascend a stiff cliff and climb a rocky portion with a 70 degree angle. He had a theory on how the sun rises. Phoebus Apollo, the Greek god of the sun was said to ride a golden chariot across the sky every day. That is according to mythology. When Phillip had reached the summit, it was in time for that glorious view.

Slowly but surely, the sun rises to the sky. It was the most elegant sight Phillip had ever seen due to the scenic backgrounds offered by the mountain. Still, it was not the majestic view he was searching but it is still a feast in his eyes. It was really splendid. Unfortunately, the group was not yet able to arrive in the summit in time for that great sight.

The group spent more than an hour in the top. Most were spent in taking pictures. The last time, Phillip, et al climbed here, they did not carry any camera so they really made fanfare this time of having photo shoots at the top of the mountain. The group even made friends with the other hikers. One of which had the same shirt with Weng. He is also a student in Adamson University. They were teased of course by their respective friends.

Chapter Six
A Tale of Two Groups

"If there were no bad people, there would be no good
lawyers." -Charles Dickens

A thing that should be know about them is that they are future lawyers. As one law professor always say, "Only God knows when." Their Final Examinations had just culminated, so it was a perfect opportunity to relax for a few days. However, they still brought along codals at the peak of the mountain. They all took pictures with them. Even at 811 meters above sea level, they could not escape from the thousand provisions of the law.

Because it was so hard to climb the summit, the group had decided that the girls will go to the traverse trail while the boys will go back to the camp site to get the things. It was not exactly turned out to be. Phillip, Dennis, Raffy and Weng (Yes, Weng!) returned to pick up their things while the rest move forward. Going down was easy for Raffy and Dennis while Weng and Phillip took their time. Meanwhile, the other four were on pace of going to the agreed destination, which was a forest-like camp site. However, they got passed it and did not notice it and had reached the camp site of the new trail.

That was both good news and bad news for the other group. It was good news because it is much nearer and easier if they take the old trail instead of climbing anew the summit. The bad news was they were already near the peak when they heard the news. If truth be told, Raffy and Weng were already in the summit at that point. Phillip and Dennis were way behind because the former was tired because of the intense
climb as well as to the extreme weather while the latter was concern that he helped Phillip along the way.

Dennis Ferrancullo Evora, who is the elder statesman of the group, was seemingly not affected by the extreme heat of the sun. Even though he carried a lot of baggage, he does not look tired at all. When the two of them had reached camp eight, they rested for a while. 
That is where they met a group going down to the old trail. One of them was a girl, who looks pretty enough, that do not able to stand anymore because she was afraid of falling down. She reminded “You know who”, the group’s very own PSG. (Because of fear, the author will not name her) Regardless, the girl asked for a picture to be taken by one of her companion. Standing beside her, Phillip was invited to have a picture with him. The result was 35 comments in his Facebook status.

Meanwhile, Weng was separated from Raffy. Because the others were hungry, the latter rushed to bring the food to them while the former was flock by another group of hikers. The boys there helped Weng carry her things. According to Weng, one of the boys was handsome. He is still single, she added. That's Weng for you, even in the mountain she is in her usual self. However, when they reached a peak of the mountain, they got separated.

At the peak, Phillip and Dennis were resting there while talking with the Mountain Dew vendor. After their pit stop, they move forward to the new trail. It is much easier than the old trail but Phillip still struggled on the way down. They had stumbled upon Raffy halfway to the 
camp site. He did not saw Weng, he said. He carried one of the bags from Dennis and continued their expedition. After a couple of hours in the tremendous heat, the whole group had reunited at last in the camp registration site.

Chapter Seven
Rest and Relaxation

"In France, you're with the crew, and you have lunch with them. It's more like a family." – Charlotte Gainsbourg

Existence is full of activity and it appears each passing year it just gets busier. Family, education, office work and other obligations just take the day away and leave you with no time to sit back and settle down. On the other hand, rest and relaxation is very significant. In reality, getting adequate rest is vital to living a fit standard of living and when you do not relax and get sufficient sleep you are putting yourself at risk for illness on top of other things. Thus, after a grueling hike, it is imperative to rest for even a little while. However, it will be more relaxing if they have eaten lunch.

Michelle "Mikay" Caligan, an Ilongga and who was the only non-law student in the group, was the neophyte of the team. She is an officemate of Raffy and Phillip. She even blew Phillip's alibi to their boss, which treathened to give Phillip an IR. This was her first time in climbing a mountain. Probably her first climb can be describe as rocky because it was quite rough and jumpy for her uphill and downhill battle with the mountain. Nonetheless, it was alright for a beginner. However, she'll rethink this kind of endeavor is good for her. The lunch was corned beef with corn soup. Mikay prepared it. It must be mentioned that one canned corned beef was brought by Julius. His mother did not give her permission to bring it. After the much needed meal, the group rested for more than an hour. On the other hand, they did not able to sleep except for Mikay, who was really exhausted from the whole ordeal. The group talked about anything they could think of. They also took pictures there. They were pretty got the attention of the hen, which was kept on falling kamotes to them. Phillip even commented that he can also lay eggs that produce kamotes.

Even though they got tired, it seems that they were reenergized during their rest. They decided to move forward on their way home. And so they did. Phillip led the group. However, he was so fast going down that it feels they ate his dust. The girls had troubled downhill. They did many kind of approach going doen. As Hydee said "Kung hindi kaya ng patalikod, kuhanin ng paharap." Julius countered, " kung hindi kaya ng patalikod at paharap, patagilid naman." Nevertheless, they still survived those obstacles.

Upon reaching the nearby hut, they rested and bought halo-halo and buko. Weng even joke the vendor about knowing her. Phillip was about to pay his share when Eny already paid for him. Ilyne " Eny" Galasinao, whose birthstone is Aquamarine, is on her second stint with the group, which were all overnight treks. She provided nice memories to the group. In one instant, she felt a group of climbers are climbing, so she combed her hair and looked into a mirror to see her face. In addition, at the summit, another group took a photo with her, Hydee and Phillip. But the most memorable is when she was called cause of delay and the name of "You know who." In a split second, she showed a burst of speed just to prove she was not a cause of delay and does not want to claim the Bratinella throne.

After countless steps and a few farts from one of the members, they arrived in the village, which was celebrating the eve of their Fiesta. The group settled themselves in one of the "paliguan." While waiting for Raffy, they even composed a song. Furthermore, when Hydee was "on the throne", Phillip, Weng and Eny engaged in a trio just to cover the "explosions." They left the place in time for sunset. They made their last pictorial there.

Chapter Eight
Russian Roulette (LMS Version)
Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I'll miss you. Until we meet again! -Anonymous

According to Wikipedia, Russian roulette is a potentially lethal game of chance in which participants place a single round in a revolver, spin the cylinder, place the muzzle against their head and pull the trigger. The LMS had somewhat similar but friendly approach of that concept. Mikay, being the newbie, was tasked to perform that kind of initiation. The rule is quite simple, the person circles around like a roulette and points which store to eat. It was first done by Hydee last time thay went there in Mahogany Market in Tagaytay. This time it was Mikay’s turn. So, Mitch, the name Dennis used in referring to Mikay, did spin herself like a roulette but the most interesting note is that all vendors, who were looking at her, were praying their restaurant will be chosen. One lucky eatery was chosen. They ordered special Bulalo. They eat their meal wholeheartedly. According to Phillip, it was not delicious especially the rice. He had leftover rice to show proof of that. The banana, which was not yet ripe, Phillip ate was more edible than the rice. The whole group's attention was at him.

After their not so fantastic dinner, they waited in the waiting shed for a bus en route to Pasay. However, it was too late and darkness is getting darker, as a result, they decided to board a Lawton bound bus. Their tired faces cannot anymore be painted even by a great artist like Vincent Van Gogh. They had no more energy and seemingly resemble to a low battery mobile phone. Like many good stories, the end is inevitable. All of them are bound to go their separate ways and back to reality. They parted their own ways but a memorable trek like this one can never be forgotten especially when pictures and notes are posted in a social networking site.

This author is grateful; he had encountered such spirited individuals in that glorious climb in Mt. Batualo. Thank you, in alphabetical order, Dennis, Eny, Hydee, Julius, Mikay, Raffy and Weng. You made this John Lloyd Cruz look-a-like in high spirits.

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