MT. PULAG: Cold as It Can Be

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“But merely conforming to all the rules does not prove one’s worth to witness what the spirits of Mt. Pulag have to offer. Ambangeg’s three-hour trail is relatively welcoming and hospitable to mountain novices said to be because of a certain spirit that joins visitors at the foot of the mountain. And this spirit seemingly evolves, as if being nourished as the altitude gets higher and higher. So by the time trekkers reach the camp site upon sunset, it finally transforms into a full-blown Guardian Spirit of Cold.”

Have a glimpse of one of the best sunrises of the country on my published feature on LiveToExplore.ph!

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Seeking Davao

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“Business travels or work-related trips are always tight on schedule and may only include one rest day or none at all. But traveling to a city like Davao, with all the metropolitan sheen all over it, and upon seeing its vast greeneries from the plane ride, a true traveler would definitely set his or her goal.

Official business focuses on the city proper. But the adventurer will not be able to resist the temptation and will eventually sneak out. He or she can definitely find a way to escape work through the urban forests of Davao. And if one is keen enough, one could even find a natural wonder that is three hours away from the bustling streets of the metro.”

More of Davao on the 2nd Quarter issue of The Electrical Engineer! Digital copy of the magazine can be accessed here.

Pagsuong

Maulap ang umaga. Makapal rin ang hamog. Mukhang hindi akma ang umagang ito sa pag-akyat sa rurok ng bundok, nguni’t wala na kaming pagpipilian. Ilang araw na rin ang aming pinalipas sa dormitoryo sa camp site dahil sa tuluy-tuloy na pag-ulan.

“Kung hindi kayo aakyat ngayon, hindi natin alam kung kailan muling titigil ang ulan,” banggit ng aming tour guide na si Kuya Nato. Kaya’t iniwan namin pansamantala ang aming mga gamit sa dormitoryo at minabuting sumuong na.

At ang malakas na pag-ihip ng hangin ay lalo lamang nagpalala sa lamig ng panahon.

Ipinagpatuloy namin ang aming paglakad. Habang tumatagal ay pakapal nang pakapal ang hamog. Parami na rin nang parami ang nahakot na putik ng aming mga sapatos. Palamig na rin nang palamig ang panahon at ang aking paghinga ay palalim na rin nang palalim. Inatake na ako ng aking hika.

This post had been transferred by the author to another blog named “Nimotsu Counter.” To know what happened after the character had an asthma attack in the middle of a hike to the peak of a mountain, kindly click here.

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Post-climb or Pulag Hangover?

Part 2 of 2 of the Cold Chronicles

Part 1: Breathless at Pulag


 

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Definitely breathless at the summit.

The descent from Mt. Pulag was definitely full of pride for me. The congratulatory remarks from the people who were just embarking the climb were just music to my ears that day. And Breathless never gave me trouble again after we both enjoyed the summit experience.

When we reached Camp 1 again on our way down, I added another layer of clothing from the existing two layers. Our group came to a consensus that it was colder there at the moment, compared from our ascent the previous day. And so we bade everyone there loads and loads of luck (with an underlying meaning of “beware of the cold”) as we continued our descent.

When we reached the ranger station, I was overwhelmed by the number of hikers seeking the sea of clouds.

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This was the ranger station when we started our climb around 2PM on a Friday. When we went down on a Saturday afternoon, the place was filled with hikers. Photo by Karah Decapia.

 

After munching on some fresh snacks from the food stalls, Kuya Fermin, our jeepney driver, finally arrived.

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Nessa and Kuya Fermin. In case you need his services, you may contact him at 09474545044. Photo by Karah Decapia.

And this was when fatigue finally swept everyone to sleep.

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Photos by Karah Decapia and yours truly.

 

 

 

When we all woke up, Kuya Fermin brought us here.

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The Ambuklao Dam. Photo by Tim Reyes.

 

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Photo by Tim Reyes.

 

Ambuklao Dam is one of the major water reservoirs and hydroelectric power source in Bokod. And it sure was another source of breathtaking landscapes from the beautiful province of Benguet.

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Benguet. Still leaving us breathless.

And after another hour of zigzag roads, we finally and treated ourselves to a sumptous feast at the famous 50s Diner located at General Luna Road corner Brent Road, Baguio City.

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Feasting.

 

And this was where we parted ways. Karah, Tim, Ralph and me decided to stay in Baguio for one more night while the rest of the group headed back to Manila.

We managed to find an affordable inn along Session Road, and no, we didn’t take our rest yet. Instead, we had coffee at Volante.

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Their apple pie was highly recommended and their Volante coffee truly was so strong that I worried if the weariness from this very long day could send me to sleep that night.

But eventually, it did. With the help of the soft bed and blankets, fatigue became more powerful now than the cold. But the low temperature still stayed at the side of our beds that night.

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and were suddenly in the mood for art.

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Oh my Gulay!

 

To get to the Oh My Gulay Artists’ Cafe, we did a post-climb exercise as we ascended five flights of stairs inside the La Azotea Building along Session Road.

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Photo by Karah Decapia.

 

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And through the works of passion and the relaxing ambience, OMG could truly extract the inner artiste out of each guest.

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Photo by Karah Decapia.

The healthy menu and good coffee were even the best companions to keep those brain cells oozing with creativity.

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Photo by Karah Decapia.

 

After our organic banquet, we planned to go to a cultural village but Ralph had an emergency and needed to get to Manila the soonest possible time. So Karah, Tim and I grabbed a cab to Pinsao Proper, Baguio City while Ralph offered to secure three more bus tickets for our trip back that night.

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Tam-awan Village shares a glimpse of the Cordilleran heritage from the arts to its customs and traditions.

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Inside the Bugnay Gallery. Photo by Karah Decapia.

 

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Shelter.

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And what I liked best about the place was that it provided us another post-climb routine after the Pulag trip.

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Photo by Karah Decapia.

 

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Photo by Tim Reyes.

 

But while we were enjoying our mini-Pulag adventure, Ralph called to tell us that all tickets bound for Manila were already sold out. The next available trip would be at 1:00AM the following morning so he would take his luck through the long queue of chance passengers.

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Anito.

So we bade the anitos goodbye so we could already secure our tickets.

But along the way, we saw the market. The vegetables and coffee were too enticing so we got to them first before the tickets.

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Gulay. Photo by Tim Reyes.

So when we finally got hold of our tickets, they were already for the 2:30AM trip! And it was still four o’clock in the afternoon. I never had so much time to spare! So we decided to roam around a little more, until we found this place.

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The climb continued at Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road.

 

The shop had all the stuff one needed for mountain-climbing: walking sticks, trek pants, backpacks, water jugs, harnesses, stoves, etc.

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But after feasting our eyes on yet another post-climb experience, we still had a lot of time on our hands. So we just continued walking along Upper Session Road and saw this.

No, we were not interested to have a massage and spa. What caught my attention was the Cinematheque. Unfortunately, the last film for the day just finished. So instead of films, we went to visit the books.

And the Pulag hangover remained.

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Tim and Karah browsing “Akyat!” by Romy Garduce.

 

The place was just relaxing and features a wide variety of books.

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Soon it was dark and our stomachs started to get grumpy.

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Their pizza and pasta definitely relaxed our grumpy stomachs.

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We finished dinner at around eight o’ clock. How many more hours do we have before 2:30AM?

We decided to walk around some more, though the cold was starting to get to my nerves again.

Along Session Road, we found a booksale shop. The placed offered books from fairytales to biographies. They even have a section offering 50% discount for all the books. So we tried our luck.

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“CD and DVD Recording Dummies”

 

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Guide to the Internet.

Most of the books in the section might seem obsolete but I was able to unearth a valuable piece of non-fiction there.

It was 10:30PM when we left the shop. How many more hours do we have before 2:30AM?

Across the street, the Night Market along Harisson Street greeted us a chilled welcome.

And that was an ukay-ukay haven. All sorts of second-hand and brand new items could be found around the area: from clothes to shoes to kitchen utensils.

We finished our window shopping at around 11:30PM. We decided to spend the rest of the time at the terminal where we witnessed how many passengers were taking their chances. The queue was still long even until past midnight.

I started reading my book and never thought I would get so teary-eyed just on the first few pages of this compilation of true-to-life stories about death. And I continued crying as the temperature went lower and lower.

At long last, the clock struck 2:30. We boarded our bus and said goodbye to the chance passengers who seemed to be witnessing sunrise at the terminal.

And as we went further and further from Baguio, the temperature started to normalize.

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Mt. Arayat in Pampanga. Next climb? 🙂

 

We now reached Central Luzon as the sun wished us a very good morning. The descent was now complete.

Breathless at Pulag

Part 1 of 2 of the Cold Chronicle


 

We were born together. We even grew up together. And he had always left me breathless ever since.

He was the chill and quiet type. But he was also very moody at times.

This childhood friend of mine was strict with my engagements with outdoor activities. He said that he should be the only one to leave me breathless. He became too possessive and was fierce whenever I tried to sneak out. One could hear his wrath beneath my chest. It was a special tune, resembling a mad bird, that reverberated through my whole respiratory system. And it was definitely a sound only he could make.

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His Filipino name was Hika. His english name was Asthma. But I would like to call him “Breathless”.

And maybe Breathless was also the main reason why I was so vulnerable to cold climate. And we were talking about cold temperature in the Philippines here, Central Luzon and National Capital Region to be exact. We did not have winter but my feet was already turning purple every December to January because of the cold mornings.

So when my friend Karah initiated a Mt. Pulag climb during the peak of the cold season in the country, I was determined to use the month-long pre-climb period to train and accustom my lungs to the cold.

Mt. Pulag, the third highest peak in the Philippines, was located in the province of Benguet, an area known for its mountain ranges and cold climate. So the sloping streets of RP Gulod, Novaliches became my training ground twice or thrice a week. I tried to do it every early morning but work just did not permit. And yes, I needed to do it early morning to catch the cold.

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It was a Friday morning, around one o’clock, when I and my friends left Manila via Dagupan Bus bound for Baguio. I had two layers of clothing at the moment.

At three o’clock, we were around Tarlac area and the cold started to creep inside my lungs. I added one more layer to my clothing, a total of three layers.

Our bus surprisingly arrived at Baguio City at around 5:30 in the morning. And I was really overwhelmed by the cold. I added another layer of clothing, a total of four layers.

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So if I take my Masters this year, would I graduate on time? I just had a photo with UP Baguio’s Oblation! 🙂 Photo by Karah Decapia.

We had our breakfast at a local fast food chain and went to the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio campus to meet our reliable service vehicle.

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Our lovely jeepney.

 

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Because the blur was an effect of the 4D, haha 🙂 Photo by Ralph Ubales.

We left UP Baguio at around nine o’clock in the morning. And there started our three-hour 4D theatre viewing of soothing sceneries from our mechanical screens on both sides of the jeepney.

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The Mountains of Benguet.

The seats were also specially made so you can realistically feel all the bumps and curves of the zigzag roads of Benguet. The heat of the sun through the window could also be realistically felt that I needed to remove two layers of clothing. I had two layers left at the moment.

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A baby girl and her mother joined us in our jeepney ride towards the mountains.

After eating lunch at a nearby carinderia, we went to register and hear some short reminders from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office.

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A short seminar for those seeking Mt. Pulag.

Then another hour of sceneries welcomed us as we finally reached the ranger station at the the foot of Mt. Pulag, where we met our tour guide, Kuya Tiryo. I added one layer to my clothing, for a total of three layers.

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Another view from the mechanical screen of the 4D jeepney.

 

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Let us see until when this smile will last. 🙂

We started our trek at two o’clock in the afternoon. And I just took my first few steps when I began to hear the whistling rage of Breathless inside my chest. Uh-oh, not this early please.

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We were still at the cemented road but Breathless was out of pace already. 😦

But when I turned to my right, I saw why Breathless was enraged.

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“A view that will leave you breathless.”

My Breathless surely was jealous of the sceneries that would definitely take one’s breath away. And so with each step, this asthma got worse. I needed to use my brown bag as an improvised air mask.

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Breathless, please let me reach the summit. Photo by Karah Decapia.

 

Mt. Pulag

And yet another reason for being breathless.

Thank God that after forty-five minutes, Breathless was able to adapt to the altitude and the thinness of the air around. And I felt like I needed to keep going to keep my breathing momentum aligned with the climate.

At 3:45 in the afternoon, we reached Camp 1 where we rested in a small shed. But it seemed that the altitude was even higher here because Breathless started whistling again. I even added another layer of clothing, a total of four layers now.

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Kuya Mil at Camp 1.

 

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Rest. Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

After around thirty-five minutes, Breathless stabilized itself again. I thought it was a good thing that the intervals became shorter. I prayed that my breathing continue to calm down.

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Breathless with the silhouette.

And my prayers were answered as the wrath of Breathless finally subsided when we reached Camp 2 and prepared for the night.

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Setting-up. Photo by Jed Lising.

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Outfits of the Day. Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

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Pasta al dente on top of Mt. Pulag. Yum! Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

The cold of the night was really getting to my nerves. I now had six layers of clothing, gloves, two pairs of socks, a scarf and a bonnet on but I still could not feel any warmth. And the strong rush of the wind was not helping at all.

And then dinner ended and I and my friend Nessa were the ones assigned to do the dishes. I never thought that the water could literally burn my hands because of its frostiness. And as the time went by, I could no longer feel my hands. My knees started to tremble and my jaw began to shake. So we did the dishes fast and finally zipped up our tents.

But even the hands of the clock were frozen that night. The hours seemed to pass by so slow and the fatigue from the ascent was not enough to send us all to slumber. Even the sleeping bag, human warmth and the tent could not keep us safe from the cold. I definitely would not be fit for winter.

The only good thing about this abnormal temperature was it sent Breathless to sleep that night. And I was thankful for that. Battling the cold would have been more torture if Breathless came to make a scene that night.

Soon, it was three o’clock in the morning. It took us almost an hour to prepare and have coffee because our little butane stove was no match to the chill of the atmosphere.

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Even inside the tent, the water couldn’t heat up that fast. Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

 

Then I made a makeshift poncho from my blanket and put my rain coat over it for extra warmth as we started the one hour trek towards the summit. I now had a total of eight layers of warming material around me, but it was still cold, gah. But I thanked the Lord that Breathless was still at dreamland at the moment.

And this was what kissed us a very awesome morning when we reached the peak at around five o’clock.

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Definitely breathless at Pulag.

 

And yes, Breathless never bothered me at all while we were at the summit. Maybe because he realized that he could not compete with what we discovered at the summit.

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So who wouldn’t lose their breaths from this sea of clouds?

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Even the view from the other side surely was breath-taking! Braving the cold was definitely worth it! And I was thankful for having really good shots here because the cold was making my hands tremble, I thought all my photos could have been defocused.

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And after experiencing these magnificent God’s creations for three hours, we trekked back to camp.

And the rest was history.

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Photo by Karah de Capia.

 


 

This trip was a milestone for me because, first, Breathless never bothered me for the rest of the descent and I want to congratulate my lungs and my whole respiratory system for braving the cold. Secondly, my mountain-climbing skills and stamina had now improved because I was not the one at the end of the trek line anymore. I wasn’t the slowest hiker in the group now. I was even next in line with my friends, Karah and Tim, who were the master trekkers in the group. And this was just an achievement for me. Congratulations, self!

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Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

 

So where’s the next climb? 🙂


 

Next Article coming soon: “Post-Climb or Pulag Hangover?

 

EPOL and the Rain Bearer’s Mended Heart

Part 2 of 2 of the December Waterfall Chronicles


 

A week after the heartbreaking Kawasan trip, I was still craving for an “authentic” nature getaway.

The 22nd of December was a rest day for the Davao leg of our nationwide event. So I tried my luck on one of Davao’s finest.

It was quite a long bus ride. My bus window showed a free film featuring breath-taking mountain views. The sun was shining brightly and the clouds cast various shadows over the green meadows and forests of Mindanao. The chill of the wind was particularly evident as the bus traversed over the zigzag highway. Christmas was surely coming.

The bus was jam-packed that morning. Even people from this part of the country were cramming for the holidays. People climbed up the vehicle with all sorts of baggage: sacks of rice, coal and cotton; containers of fish and other sea food; bags full of native delicacies; vendors selling durian and mangosteen candies; and boxes and boxes of gifts. Christmas was definitely round the next corner.

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I went down at the middle of the highway at Sitio Bagong Silang, Brgy. Baganihan, Marilog District, Davao City. The place was around five more hours away from Cagayan De Oro City.

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A native specie of Yellow Bell.

Across the street, I saw a nipa hut selling a variety of plants. And there I saw the signage.

 

My feet subconsciously stepped backward. I was getting allergic to the word “resort” when attached to waterfalls (see my heartbreaking Kawasan Falls trip here).

But then I saw this path.

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I started to feel the ants walking over my feet. There was a sigh of relief.

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Birds began calling me and a grin registered on my face.

And the gush of the water made adrenalin flow through my veins. This was what I called “genuine adventure.”

The Ate at the entrance, to whom I paid seven pesos for maintenance fee, said that I just needed to follow the path and I wouldn’t be lost. Sounds familiar, eh? But she was washing some clothes and didn’t offer me any apples so I applied my insect repellent and moved on.

I came across a magnificently-shaped tree. My heart was already jumping. I could already sense the waterfalls from here.

Then I came across another nipa hut. There was a Kuya who asked me again for another seven pesos. I couldn’t remember seeing any furry ears and tail behind him so I thought he was also telling me the truth when he said, “follow the path.”

I came to a wooden makeshift staircase where I saw this. And I was frozen right then and there.

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It was just… beautiful.

And it was just a perfect timing. The group that got there before me were already leaving when I came. So now, the waterfalls was all mine.

 

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Yes, a selfie.

 

 

(sigh) Isn’t it serene?

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(sigh)

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And for the next two hours, I just sat there staring blankly onto the falls, drowning my consciousness onto the melody and succumbing my senses to the depths of the icy waters.

 

That afternoon, the rain poured, as the sun was shining brightly over the clouds.

The place was just enchanted. The rain bearer was in love.

Jewels in the Damas

Mt. Damas

Photo by Karina de Capia

Mt. Damas surely offered us an array of barely-polished, almost virginal jewels of nature. And because they were virginal, they were hard to find.

Our Chinese New Year started from Quezon City, as we rode a bus going to Alaminos, Pangasinan around 4am. The bus was SCTEX-bound, and it gave us this early morning motivation at around 6am.

View from SCTEX. Bundok

We arrived at Camiling, Tarlac around 8am and had our breakfast at a local gotohan. The bus fare was two hundred sixty pesos. Then we had an hour’s ride in a tricycle going to Brgy. Papaac where the foot of Mt. Damas rested. The tricycle driver charged us two hundred fifty pesos.

Mountain Guides

The Jeweller and the Pet: Kuya Marvin and Gin

The base camp fee was twenty.  And there we met Kuya Marvin, our ever-reliable mountain guide and his dog, Gin.

Hay stack

A womand and a kid carrying wood

A woman and a kid carrying wood. Photo by Karina de Capia.

The first hour of the hike was spent touring Brgy. Papaac where we saw the jewels of rural life: the residents, the fields, goats, carabaos, cows, hay stacks, a chapel, a modern house (which is kinda off-themed) and a nice view of the mountain we are about to soar.

Brgy. Papaac, Camiling, Tarlac. Bundok

Tree and skyFallen tree

The second hour brought us jewels of the forest: all sorts of standing and fallen trees, flowers, rivers, and a torture chamber, or I mean, a sorting tool for hay.

Hay Tool aka Torture Chamber

Then at about past eleven in the morning, we came to the priced gem that saved us from the heat of the sun.

A Nipa Hut!  Photo by Jenny Syjueco.

A Nipa Hut! Photo by Jenny Syjueco.

Here at the Jewel in the Palace of Damas, we had lunch with Jang Geum.

Jang Geum in the Damas

Jang Geum in the Damas

But Jang Geum’s smile seemed mystifying. It was as if she was telling us, “Enjoy yourselves now. The forces of nature are up ahead.”

A short hike after lunch led us to the third hour of the trek: jewel-hopping, or I mean, river-hopping.

River-hopping

Photo by Karina de Capia

And we were literally hopping.

River shadow.

The river is flowing with crystal clear water, even potable so one can clearly see the bottom of the river. In some parts, the water was just ankle-high. In some areas, maybe waist-high. But there were sections where the bottom was just dark and even Kuya Marvin could not tell us how deep it was. So the best way to surpass the river was through the rocks.

As the water level varied, the rocks were created accordingly. There were boulders and sand. There were rocks close to each other. There were those that needed some leap of faith. And there were those unstable rocks. Actually, you had a choice whether to fall to the water or to another rock. Go all wet or scratch your knee? Mt. Damas valued your freedom of choice. Jewels really were not easy to find.

River-hopping

Photo by Karina de Capia.

But honestly, this was the part I liked the best. I liked how the chilly water touched my feet as I was stubborn enough to still walk in the water. I was wearing sandals anyway, unlike my friends who wore shoes. So I said I would just savor the moment. And I was thankful I was given the time to appreciate the trip this early, because our next stop was this.

Rappeling

Rappelling Site 1. Down the river. Photo by Karina de Capia.

Rappelling 1

View from the top

Are you ready to rappel? According to Dictionary.com, rappel is the “method of moving down a steep incline… by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body, usually under the left thigh and over the right shoulder… .” Luckily, our tour guide brought some rope for us to hold on to. But I simply could not find any rope wrapped around my body! And this was my first time! I was calling non-stop to the Lord. Maybe I was also able to call all the spirits from the Jewels in the Damas to help me.

Rappelling. Bundok.

View from the other side

It was a test of grip. Loving the rope, to make it cling to you as well, and loving the rocks, to not let you slip you all the way down, was the deal. And after a very slow but sure descent, I was with my friends again. And I was able to finish the first rappeling wall. Uhuh. You read it right. This was only the first of the three rappeling sites.

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Karah’s turn on Rappel Site 2, with Tim waiting for us

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Site 3. The Sideways Rappel. Photo by Karina de Capia.

But Damas was not that cruel. After every grip test was a jewel reward, a mini-falls serving us nature-chilled water. And this rappelling lasted for almost two hours.

Mini-Waterfalls

But the challenges of Mt. Damas were not over yet.

After a few minutes of rest, we saw Kuya Marvin tying his rope again on a tree somewhere up. Uh-oh. Another rappel? That was what I also thought.

The rope led us to an area where taking photos was very unlikely because all you would want to do was to concentrate on the climb.

Mt. Damas had its customized definition of steep. The rappel might have been steep but at least they had a creased surface, allowing grip for the soles of your shoes. But a steep mountain edge with nothing but soil was not easy. And at your left and right, you can see the river below. I was literally crawling. There were barely any stones that were rooted firmly to the ground that you could grasp and rest your whole weight onto. And the trail was almost vertical. At some parts there were the pepper trees and bamboo plants that can reach a helping hand to you.  Good thing I had my gloves to protect my hand from the sharp bamboo leaves. And thanks to them for holding the soil firmly, but some particles were just stubborn enough to get your shoes sliding.

Two hours passed by. It was already 4:30 in the afternoon, but we still were not at the summit. Kuya Marvin said it might take us another hour of steep-walking.

Taller than you. Photo by Karina de Capia.

Taller than you. Photo by Karina de Capia.

We took a little rest and off we went.  And we were welcomed by these tall sharp grasses we call talahib. And I was thankful again for my arm warmers, gloves and pants. Though my feet already had a bunch of scratches since I was wearing sandals.

And then there was this story of the 50-year old marathon-winner who broke his leg during this ascend.  I knew we were near the summit.

And after an hour, Damas finally gave in and showed us its most treasured jewel in its palace.

Summit of Mt. Damas

Jewel at the Summit. Photo by Karina de Capia.

The Camp Site. Photo by Karina de Capia.

The Camp Site. Photo by Tim Reyes

We camped and ate adobo. And Damas gave us another reward, a night sky full of stars. It was a guessing game of which constellation was which and whether we were looking at the North star or Venus. Tim even said he saw a red moving star. Then the word UFO came up. I said that we might already need to go to sleep before the UFO talk became a ghost story. And besides, we need to get up early to prepare for breakfast to be able to leave camp around seven in the morning.

And that was one good sleep. We were all tired.

We were not able to witness a great sunrise though because of the clouds, but we were nonetheless ready for the second half of the trip, the descent.

We did steep-walking again, which for me was more difficult than when we were going up. Sliding might had been the best way down but I chose to sit down while sliding. And leaning forward was also prohibited if you wouldn’t want to roll head first. My friends already got ahead of me. But I did not care. I was the slowly-but-surely type. I would prefer to go slow than dead.

And after two hours, I was happy to be reunited with my friends at the river.  For this day, we would have a little detour from the itinerary the other day.

Photo by Karina de Capia.

Photo by Karina de Capia.

We were going to Ubod Falls! But this was not Ubod yet.  It was a smaller falls that was yet to give us the steepest rappelling wall Mt. Damas had to offer.  Maybe Ubod was such a treasure that it needed a guardian to test the determination of those who wanted to see it.

Rappelling. The buwis-buhay roped area. Photo by Karina de Capia.

The buwis-buhay roped area. Photo by Karina de Capia.

Since this was a higher one, our rope was not enough for the whole wall so there was a part where we need to go sideways, without any support.

Rappelling/ Rock-climbing

Karah and Jenny on the no-rope area

My greatest problem about this wall was that the creases on the rocks where you were suppose to put your foot onto were just widely separated from each other! My short arms and legs just could not reach for them! Maybe rock-climbing was really meant for people taller than five feet. But I won’t turn my back on this.

 Photo by Karina de Capia.

Photo by Karina de Capia.

A few more rock and wood-climbing and we came to yet another Jewel in the Damas.

 Photo by Karina de Capia.

Photo by Karina de Capia.

The Ubod Falls became our natural refrigerator. The water was so clear and chilly too! And this was best served with hot rice, salted eggs, tomatoes and pechay. And that was the most refreshing lunch we had.

But the challenges were not yet over. On our way back, we need to pass through the guardian falls again. Then go up the three rappeling walls, again, which was harder for me this time around because first,  I could not lift my whole body up! Secondly, it seemed that the rock creases made a conspiracy against me.  They planned to move farther away from each other after seeing that I can pass through them the other day!  Thirdly, the conspiracy attracted more forest elements that when we came to the rappelling sites again, I could not remember the trail anymore!  This was my sense of direction for you!

After nine exhausting hours, we reached the foot of the mountain.  And finally, our smiling ego blurted out, “We survived Mt. Damas!”

And so, am I going to climb again after this? Sure, why not? 🙂

At the summit of Mt. Damas

Summit view

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ANG LABING-TATLONG RUROK NG BUNDOK BATULAO

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Peak 1 = Mabilis ang mga pangyayari.

Linggo ng umaga, Agosto 26, nang maalala kong nagyaya ang kaibigan kong si Karah na umakyat ng bundok sa petsang ito.  Nagtaka ako na wala man lang akong natatanggap na kahit isang text message mula sa kanya o sa iba pang kaibigan na sasama dapat sa pag-akyat.  So ano, tuloy pa ba?

Naisip kong magpadala na ng mensahe, “Karah, akala ko aakyat?”    Inakala kong ang isasagot niya ay ‘huwag muna ngayon’ o ‘saka na’ o ‘ay nakalimutan ko’.

Nguni’t sa sobrang bilis ng mga pangyayari, natagpuan ko na lamang ang sarili ko sa isang establisyimento sa Quezon Avenue, mga alas-kwatro ng madaling-araw kinabukasan.

 

Peak 2 = Sarado ang Mcdo Quezon Ave.

Napagpasyahan namin ni Karah, kasama ang lima pa sa aming mga kaibigan na tumuloy sa pag-akyat at magkita sa Mcdo Quezon Ave bandang alas-kwatro ng umaga ng Agosto 27, Lunes.

‘Pag baba ko ng bus galing Novaliches, nagulat ako na sarado ang Mcdo sa may Quezon Avenue Station ng MRT.  “Cleaning” ang nakapaskil sa kanilang salamin na pinto.  Sa tanang pagpunta ko dito tuwing madaling-araw, bilang madalas dito ang meeting place ng mga pull-out ng mga shoot, ngayon ko lang nakitang sarado sila para maglinis. Weird.

So ano, tuloy pa ba?  Kaya sa halip tumambay ako sa 7Eleven.  Dumating ang aking mga kaibigan, may dalawang hindi na makakasama, at kami’y sumakay na ng bus patungong Nasugbu, Batangas.

 

Peak 3 = Hamog.

Sa aming pagbaba sa bus, ito ang tumambad sa amin.

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Nasa highway pa lamang kami, malayo pa sa mismong paanan ng bundok, ay sinalubong na kami ng hamog. So ano, tuloy pa ba?  “Oo, mamaya wala na ‘yan, maaga pa kasi,” ang sambit ng isa sa amin.

Dumating kami sa Evercrest Golf Course mag-aalas-siyete ng umaga.  Sumakay kami ng tricycle at ibinaba kami ni Manong Drayber sa isang maputik na daan.

 

Peak 4 = Putik. 

“Maputik po talaga kasi umulan pero safe naman pong umakyat.”  Ito ang mga salitang iniwan sa amin ng tricycle driver matapos naming maibigay ang aming mga pamasahe.

Putik sa pataas na daan. Nadulas ang kaibigan kong si Jenny.  Putik sa pababang daan. Ako naman ang dumulas.  Putik na may mga bato.  Ngumanga na ang sapatos ni Jenny.  Putik na tumigas na.  Napaupo naman ako.  Putik na tila kumunoy. Lumubog ang sapatos ni Jenny at sa kanyang paghugot nito ay natanggalan na ito ng suwelas.  Putik na halos hinulmang parang hagdan. Kinailangan ko nang pumulot ng tungkod sa paligid.  Putik na bilug-bilog na… teka, putik pa ba ‘to? O kulay putik na lang? Marami pa namang kabayo sa paligid.

Noong umalis ako ng bahay, kulay puti ang sapatos ko. Matapos sumuong sa Mud Pie Festival ng Nasugbu, Batangas, ganito na ang itsura ng aming mga sapatos.

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So ano tuloy pa ba?  “Kaya ‘yan! Huwag lang uulan!” ang sabi naman ng kaibigan kong si Tim.

 

Peak 5 = Ulan. 

Sa aming pakikipagbuno sa malambot na putik, bahagyang nakasilip ang sikat ng araw mula sa makapal na hamog.  Nagdiwang ako, “Ayan na ang sun! I love you Sun!”  Nguni’t tila masamang nababati ang araw sa Nasugbu dahil maya-maya lamang ay bumuhos ang ulan.  “Hindi hihinto ‘yan.  Matagal pa ‘yan,” ang sabi ng aming trek guide na si Kuya Gerry.

So ano tuloy pa ba?  “Tara! Malayo na tayo para bumalik pa,”  ang aming napagdesisyunan habang isinusuot ang aming mga kapote ala North Face Jacket ala Hyper Vent Garbage Bag-inspired rain gear.

Lumakad kami sa ulan hanggang sa malampasan ang mga kabahayan at nagsimulang umakyat ng bundok.

 

Peak 6 = Makitid na daan.

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Dumating kami sa isa sa mga peak. Akalain mong naka-Peak 6 na pala kami na ang sabi ni Kuya Gerry ay nasa Peak 2 pa lang kami.

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Makikitid ang mga daan patungo at pagkalagpas ng Peak 6.  Halos isang talampakan lamang ang lapad ng bawat daan, at bangin na ang magkabilang gilid.  Balanse ang pangunahin naming sandata nguni’t tila mahirap lang talagang kalaban ang putik.  Samahan pa ng matatalim na talahib na humihiwa sa aming mga balat sa bawat hakbang.

So ano tuloy pa ba? Nangangalahati na kami sa aming paglalakbay.  Siguro ito na ang tinatawag nilang “Point of No Return”.

 

Peak 7 = Brunch.

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Alas-nuwebe y medya na ng umaga nang kami ay dumating sa camp site.  Doon ay kinalabit kami ng kaibigan naming ang pangalan ay ‘Gutom’.  At dahil kaibigan namin siya, hindi namin siya binigo.

Naghanap si Tim ng bulalo. Sabi ng ate na nandoon, “Cup noodles po meron.”

“E adobo ate?”, ang muling tanong ni Tim. “Ayun o lumilipad pa. “, sabay turo ni ate sa buhay na manok na tumalon mula sa bakod.

Sumali si Karah sa usapan, “Saan galing ‘yung manok?” Isang kuya pa ang nakisabad, “Sa itlog iha.”  At mula noon, gusto nang tumira ni Karah sa bundok na ito.

So ano tuloy pa ba? Tuluy na tuloy!

 

Peak 8 = May Namatay na Rito. 

Nagsimula kaming lumakad muli, na nagtatawanan.  Masaya naming iniwan ang camp site at tumungo sa Peak 8.

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Nahirapan kaming maka-recover sa pagre-recharge na gawa ng hotdog at chicken nuggets ni Karah; chopsuey ni Jenny; pork and beans ni Tim; Tuna Paella ko; malaking appetite ni Paul; at nakakaaliw na banat nina Ate at Kuyang may-ari ng mga manok.  Kaya sinamantala ni Kuya Gerry ang aming kasiyahan at biglang sinabing, “Nabalitaan n’yo ‘yung namatay dito? Dito siya nahulog.”  Patuloy sa pagkukwento si Kuya Gerry na noong una ay tinatawanan pa namin, “Umakyat siya doon tapos nag-picture e nawalan ng balanse. Ayun. Nakita na lang naming gumugulong siya diyan.”  Nandoon pa rin ang momentum ng aming tawanan pero sa loob-loob namin, “Kuya, tinatakot mo ba kami?”

So tuloy pa ba?  Oo, parang EDSA lang ‘yan. Kahit may nakasulat na ‘May namatay na rito’, tuloy pa rin sa pagtawid ang mga tao.  

 

Peak 9 = The Sole-less Woman

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Sa kasagsagan ng muling pag-ulan at muling pagbibigay serbisyo ng aming iba’t ibang klaseng rain gear, tila mayroong isang tinig na hindi namin narinig, or at least ni Jenny. At sa sobrang pagbabalewala namin sa maliit niyang boses na natatabunan ng tunog ng ulan, hindi na niya nakayanan at tuluyan na siyang bumitiw at humiwalay.  Tila hindi na kinaya ng isa pang suwelas ng sapatos ni Jenny ang mabilis na mga pangyayari.  Nangungulila na pala ito doon sa isa pang suwelas na nauna nang bumaon sa putik kaya naisipan na rin nitong humiwalay na ng tuluyan.

So, Jenny, ano tuloy pa ba? “Oo tuloy pa rin! Sige lang nang sige hangga’t hindi pa medyas mismo ang sumasayad sa lupa!  Kahit gaano pa katarik ‘yan!”, ang sagot niya sabay labas ng kanyang mga ngipin na puno ng halos kalalagay pa lamang na mga bakal.  

 

Peak 10 = Matarik na batuhan.

Matarik. Oo. Mas matarik pa sa mga tawa namin sa naiwang suwelas.

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Dumating kami sa isang parte ng bundok na may bato.  Actually, para siyang isang napakalaking bato na inilagay sa gitna ng aming daraanan patungo sa susunod na peak.  Nang makita ko ito, inisip ko kung paano namin ito tatawirin.  Tila nadinig ng langit ang aking tanong kaya’t daglian itong nagpadala ng biswal na demonstrasyon.  Pinatabi kami ni Kuya Gerry dahil mayroon daw kaming mga kasalubong.  Maya-maya lamang isang grupo ng mga kalalakihan na taga-New Manila raw ang nagpakita sa amin kung paano tawirin ang matarik na batuhan.  Ang ikinamangha ko sa kanila, para silang nagwo-wall climbing na may mga bitbit na sobrang bibigat na mga gamit.  Galing sila ng camping at hindi raw sila binalikan ng kanilang porter.

Rock climbing? So ano tuloy pa ba? Umuulan na! Game pa rin! Kahit pa isang maling hakbang o hawak lang namin ay diretso kami sa kung saan kami nanggaling.

 

Peak 11 = Mabagal na Roller Coaster Ride 

Nang malagpasan ang malaking bato, nagsimula na ang roller coaster ride.  Nagsimula na ang paulit-ulit na pagpanhik-panaog.  Nagkaroon ng mga paikot na daan, patarik na patarik na mga paakyat at padulas na padulas na mga pababa.  Ilang beses akong umupo muna para magpahinga; napaupo rin kahit pa inaalalayan na ni Kuya Gerry at halos paupong naglakad sa mga sobrang taas na parte.  Nagsimula na rin akong hingalin.  Siguro nagiging manipis na rin ang hangin.  Laking pasasalamat ko na hindi sumama kay kaibigang “Gutom” ang childhood friend kong si “Hika”.  Laking pasalamat ko din na nag-jogging ako sa UP noong nakaraang araw, na doon yata muna siya tumambay matapos ang halos isang oras na pag-ikot sa Academic Oval.

So ano tuloy pa ba?  Huwag lang makakahalata si “Hika” na hindi ko pala siya isinama.  

 

Peak 12 = Mababang temperatura. Malakas na Hangin.

Sa patuloy na paglalakad, patuloy ang paglalakbay patungo sa kalangitan, patuloy ang pagbaba ng temperatura, patuloy ang pag-ihip ng malakas na hangin at patuloy ang pagkapal ng hamog.  Nagsimula na ring mahawahan ng hamog ang aking mga salamin, na noong tinanggal ko ito, mas malinaw pa ang aking paningin.

Nguni’t ang aking mga mata ay kalahating bulag kapag wala ang aking mga salamin.

So ano tuloy pa ba? Ang hika, kapag dumating, konting pahinga lang wala na ‘yan. Pero iyong wala na akong makita, hindi ko tiyak kung ang nasa tagiliran ko ay isang talahib lamang o isang bangin na pala, medyo parang ibang usapan na ito.  Nguni’t konti na lamang, tuluy na tuloy na ito.  

 

Peak 13 = Tuktok ng Batulao.  

Matapos ang halos apat na oras na pag-akyat, narating rin namin ang inaasam-asam na summit.

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Pagdating sa tuktok, walang luntiang mga kaparangan, walang berdeng mga palayan, walang malalawak na damuhan o kahit matataas na mga puno.  Sabi nga ni Karah, “Puting dingding ba ito?”

Nguni’t hindi ko man nakita na nasa summit nga kami, iba pa rin ang pakiramdam.   May dumating na bagong kasama, ang kaibigan kong si “Pagod”. Talagang iniupo niya ako sa isang bato, itinikom ang aking mga labi at ipinikit ang aking mga mata.  Dumating ang napakalakas na hanging dumampi sa aking pisngi.  Maya-maya lamang ay narinig ko ang napakalamig niyang tinig. May ibinulong siya sa akin, na tila Extra Joss ang epekto sa aking katawan at nag-udyok na tapusin na ang second half ng aming paglalakbay:  ang pagbaba.

Ano ang ibinulong niya sa akin? “Congratulations. You made it.”  Oo, nakaya ko.  Nakaya kong sagutin ng “Oo” ang lahat ng “So ano tuloy pa ba?” na aking tinatanong sa simula pa lamang.  Nakaya kong sumagot ng “Oo” kahit sinasabi sa akin ng mga sirkumstansya na “hindi, huwag na lang kaya”. Nakaya ko at nagawa ko, nagawa namin, na makarating sa summit, dahil sinubukan namin.  Nakarating kami kahit tila “against all odds” ang scenario.  Oo, nagawa namin… dahil sumuong kami.

At sa aming pagbaba mula sa summit, sinalubong kami ng ilaw mula sa pagsilip ng araw na siyang naging daan upang makita namin ang magagandang bato ng bundok Batulao na noong una ay natatakpan ng hamog.