“Baka picture kayo ng picture di nyo alam natulo na pala sipon nyo, tapos ipo-post post nyo pa sa facebook!”, “Di pala kaya ng katawan nyo, tpos sasabihin nyo – mind over matter, mind over matter – di pede ganun sa bundok!” I was laughing so hard at the reminders of Ms. Emerita, park superintendent at the DENR. She delivered her lines with punch and conviction that it made me forget the reality of what I was about to experience. They say that experience is really the best teacher and so it taught me that.
Our next stop was the ranger station to have a quick lunch and make our last-minute preparations for the climb. It was noon but it was already misty and the air a bit chilly as it kissed my cheeks. We already had our guides – Manong Elpon and Ate Jane with 3 more ladies as our porters. Two persons manned in assigning of the guides and our porters. “Wala na ba magpapa-porter? Di na pwedeng magtawag ng porter pag nasa itaas na!” I was already having second thoughts on my pack. But it was puny comparing to the packs carried by my companions and so I just kept mum on my dilemma.
As the trek started, I started to pant, I had fluids running down my nose and the cold feeling was replaced with unfailing sweat. I immediately fell behind the pack. I was the sweeper, the slow ant that lagged behind the stamina and speed of the horses. I trudged on thinking of what awaits ahead of me. We were climbing Luzon’s highest mountain and described by Erick as Heaven on Earth – Mt. Pulag. It kept me moving forward. But Erick already felt it was getting harder for me, he asked me to hand over my pack to him. I hesitated since he already had a big and heavy pack on his back. But he insisted, and with my aching back and raspy breathing, I finally gave in. A little embarrassing, but for me he was heaven-sent as he became my porter for the rest of the climb.
It was at least 2 hours to camp 1 and another an hour and a half to camp 2. The way through the mossy forest became a bit steeper, the slight rains made the rocky steps more slippery and the trail muddy. By 3 pm, we made it to camp 2. I made it! I had my hopes up again. The mountain ranges were hiding behind the thick mists. But at least we were halfway to our goal, the summit.
We were 15 outdoor enthusiasts for “Team Erick and Friends”. Funny name for a group that we had to think during our registration. But it was just that, a group of friends that were gathered for the love of outdoors and have a great time. At the campsite, food was overflowing. The cool air was refreshing as we gorged on our hot meals.
Dawn the next day, some of our friends were already up and about. We were greeted with a moonless sky filled with stars, lots of stars. The milky way was present, as if it were a guiding light above our meager tents. It was the start of a magical morning as most of us described it.
Our trek started through a pitch black trail, guided only by our head lamps and flash lights. Without my pack, I thought this could be much easier. But as I continue to have another rush of fluids down my nose, I started to breathe heavily again. Again the sweeper, I stopped once in a while, complaining of headache and feeling nauseated. I didn’t know that I was already experiencing altitude sickness. I was worried again that I wouldn’t make it. I remembered Ms. Emerita’s “mind over matter” as I thought it over and over to forget what I’m feeling while recalling the video Chase the Clouds. I had no good reason to go back. Besides, with the gentle encouragement of our guide Manong Elpon and Erick, I had more reasons to go on.
The mountain ranges slowly started to show itself. The sky started bursting in light and colors like a picture slowly developing in front our eyes. I was already smiling, the summit was not far-fetched. A few more steps and I finally made it! I was enthusiastic and I couldn’t stop smiling to myself on this achievement. There was no sea of clouds that time but I was not complaining. Not only was the ethereal beauty of the rolling hills and colorful sunrise was my reward, I also had a bonus surprise that kept my smile lingering even as we made our descent down the hills. 🙂