"To conquer a mountain is to conquer oneself," a quote I frequently used in my IM status. But how do you conquer the mountain? Is it surviving the tough and difficult terrains of the mountain? Is it overcoming the weather that protects the mountain? Or is it succumbing to Mother Nature's elegant creations it had bestowed upon us? From what I had experienced in one perfect Sunday in February, I would say all of the above.
The so-called adventure commenced at dawn, due to busy and conflicting schedules, only four were crazy enough to join the trek. The group composed of three boys and a girl. Thus, I dubbed it the Fantastic Four. A little past five o'clock in the morning, Raffy, Hydee, Dennis, and the guy who resembles a lot like John Lloyd Cruz, wait I remember clearly now it was me, met across the LRT station in Gil Puyat. Then we went in EDSA-Rotonda to board a bus going to Nasugbu, Batangas. During the bus ride, only Raffy was able to manage in getting to sleep even though the four of us had inadequate sleep due to the early schedule. Maybe its due to the excitement or thrill of our would be endeavor. Or maybe, the songs being played in the radio, in any rate, it was a trip back to memory lane. Listening to timeless songs such as Moon River, Obladi Oblada, Delilah, and other inspiring classic songs was a great satisfaction for the voyagers. (Writer's note: I was not even born when those songs were first played; I grew up listening to songs of Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift.) In addition, the three Koreans in the back-end of the bus were talking loudly that it seems we were watching a Koreanovela, I hope it was not Endless Love because it was a tragic story. And when they were about to alight the bus, the prettiest of the two Korean girls shouted "Para". It was an instant laugh trip for the passengers, including us.
Our travel only took less than a couple of hours because it was a Sunday and no traffic to worry about. Upon arriving at Evercrest, we rode a tricycle to bring us in the jump-off point of Mt. Batulao. Although the ride only consumed ten minutes, it was one nasty and bumpy ten-minute ride. Because of empty stomachs, our group looked for a store to buy foods. Unfortunately, we did not able to find one. So, we decided to return to the village we had passed by. Again, we rode a tricycle. The road was really rough that the vehicle carrying us cannot continue in the vehicle’s ascend in the steep road. As a result we disembarked it, so that it can go beyond that point it was stuck. When it finally moved, we boarded it again and brought us to the place we could buy foods to eat. After buying the things we needed in this trip, we restarted our journey. Luckily for us, we rode in a jeepney that carried us anew to the jump-off point. If this was in a movie shoot, the director would yell Scene 1 Take 2!
This was already my second time in Mt. Batulao so we did not get any guide to accompany us up in the summit. However, the first time we climbed here was ended in a sour note that we were unable to reach the summit because of the bad weather. Thus, I vowed to return here and finished what I have started. In contrast, this time the weather was fine. Indeed, the weather is inviting. So I thought. I really could feel the heat of the sun burning my skin. We were toasted by the sun perhaps excluding Dennis because you cannot find any trace of it from his skin (Just kidding). It felt like we went to the beach instead that I ended up with sun burn. Nonetheless, it was the first time in four climbs that we did not experience any rain fall. Ironically, we did not bring any camera to capture the moment. Probably, it was a sacrifice to Phoebus Apollo, the god of Sun in Greek mythology so he rewarded us a rain-free trek. During that rainy climb last year, we have encountered a lot of mud but this time around it was dust all over the place. It was so dusty that when I rubbed my face with my hand it turned into mud. It looked like I fell in a mud with head first.
With that kind of weather, the mountain was so gracious that it welcomed a bunch of visitors for that day. One group, we had chanced upon in the old trail, caught my interest. They were only two. Probably they were a couple. Because of her English accent, she is definitely an American, who had a gorgeous body and the guy, who wore a long-sleeved polo, is a foreign looking Pinoy. I opined to my teammates that they met in the chat room. They were interesting because they were really fast. It was like they were just strolling in the park. They just made the whole trek quite relatively easy. Apparently, they seemed to be pros but I doubt it because they do not carried any equipment at all. The American just had a small bottle of water to quench her thirst. That was really odd. Then there was another group, three "senior citizens" who are my fellow Bicolanos which I recognized because of our language. The two women were having trouble in going down the cliff. Raffy and Dennis even assisted them in their decline. I give them a perfect ten for their courage and will of trying this activity but I would suggest that if they want to continue, please try only minor climbs. I just said this because when they saw Raffy's shirt of Mt. Pulag, they thought of climbing there. It's the third highest mountain in the country. I even joked to try the Akiki trail because its the shortest compare to Ambangeg. (Shortest in terms of spelling). Another group we met was a couple. They were HHWW (Holding Hands While Walking) when we saw them in the exit point of the mountain. We sort of ruined their bonding moment in the Camp site. We raided the kubo they were occupying. But they were hospitable, the guy, who sported a beard, even suggested a place where we can eat in Tagaytay.
The most fascinating person in that mountain would be the old man selling ice cream. We saw him probably four times. He was so persistent in selling his products. But with no avail. However, he was really good with the guitar. I was amazed when he played Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight. He might earn much doing that instead of compelling hikers to buy his ice creams. Although we did not patronize his items, we were profit-friendly to the other locals. First, we dropped by to the friendly family who hosted us for lunch the last time. We bought Buko to satisfy our thirst due to the scorching heat of the sun. During our cascade down the mountain, we stopped over in one hut selling Halo-Halo. Again, it was due to the hot weather. Then when we were exiting in the jump-off point, we bought RC's to quench again our thirst. The highlight of these events was Raffy showing off his Origami to the local children.
Speaking of highlights, the most important of course was the summit. Upon reaching it, all the difficulties of reaching there were gone, such us using a rope in a 70 degrees part of the mountain. It was replaced of the joy brought by the splendid view from the top that you can see a full 360 degrees of the other mountains, sea and grass fields surrounding the mountain. It was the clearing I always hoped for. The scenery was so crystal clear that I probably saw an ant down there. Furthermore, the peak also holds an image of Mama Mary. It is unusual because from the past mountains I had climbed I had neber seen such so I have figured that there should be nothing left in the mountains. Maybe it is an exception to the rule. We just stayed there for a few minutes. It was so quick that I finished hurriedly my Piattos. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to witness nature in its best.
The four of us seemed to just savor the moment each time we took a rest. We talked anything our mind tells us. I even lectured a thing or two about Jose Rizal. There were no feelings of rush of going home. We just took our time. Apparently, we looked like the locals there rather than the mountaineers we supposed to be. It was a mixed of finding relaxation and having fun as well. It was that kind of day we have forgotten that we were employees as well as law students who should read a ton of cases for our next class. Certainly, it was not my typical Sunday. In my case, as a Sports freak, I was so disappointed to myself that I missed Nonito Donaire's sensational 2nd round masterpiece against Montiel. In addition to that, like adding insult to injury is I did not witnessed Blake Griffin's great innovative slam dunk while jumping over a car. That was so sick. But I have to live with it. As I learned during the course of my journey in life, you have to sacrifice something in order to achieve something. You cannot get both things. I, being me, should be happy with the way it turned out to be. It is not every day you spend a day with your friends in a venue that displayed God's magnificent creations.
As we have reached the main road, our group looked for a place to clean ourselves from the dust that covered our clothes as well as our body. A half an hour later, we settled ourselves and decided to eat dinner first before going home. We capped our terrific and splendid day in Tagaytay. We dined in one the eateries in Mahogany market. In fairness to the cook, the Bulalo was deliciously fine, not great but still good. It was so good we ordered four cups of rice for each of us. In the end, I ate four and a half rice. Obviously, we were really hungry. Even the espasol vendor, who was selling her products to us, was amazed on how the way we eat. While we were eating, Dennis even managed to let out his sense of humor by throwing some jokes to the waitresses. He even joked that we were ex-convicts recently released from prison. It was like having a get out of jail card in Monopoly. He also witted that his stomach was so full that his pants cannot fit anymore. After almost an hour of eating, we called it a day and bought some pasalubongs in the market and then paused for a jingle break before we boarded a bus transported us back to the real world.
Even if we were just four, I did have fun with you guys (and also girl). Dennis, being the always the generous and kind person you are I am thankful you joined with us despite your many responsibilities. And also to your timely wit remarks that make me laugh. Hydee, for the delicious food you have prepared for us and your gameness in engaging in this activity even though you are our unica hija, I extend to you my gratefulness. And of course to our team leader and co-conspirator of this trek, Raffy, who brought chicken even though he is allergic to it, we should continue these worthwhile experiences more often than usual. I will end this note like the line that ended Ben Affleck’s film, The Town, which was shown in that bus we boarded on our way home. (To my fellow LMS) We will meet again in this side or the other.