Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘beauty’

Breathing Adventure: Touching the Heavenly Abode At Mt. Ulap

There’s no other place like Benguet. Sitting beside Baguio, many have fallen in love with this place because of its fresh air, scenic views, and alpine-covered slopes that resemble a bit of Europe’s fairy-tale forests. Besides that, Benguet boasts of giant mountains that defy the deities by touching the heavens. Among these is Mt. Ulap, which lives up to its name because it welcomes its visitors into the cradle of the heavenlies. 

Is it a deer? Nope. It’s a cow hiding as a deer. How’s that for an enchanted forest? 🙂

We left Cubao at 10pm to ensure we’d arrive at Benguet by 4 or 5am. First-timers are estimated to take an 8 to 10-hour trek on the mountain. 

The glorious sunrise was a wonderful opening to this long hike. Ever since my old phone has been damaged due to this poor writer’s absent-mindedness at the beach, I never imagined I would be able to catch again a momentous moment that actually happens everyday.

The hike was not as tiring as I first expected. It was one of the most refreshing hikes I had since I had my first taste of wonder at Mt. Pulag in 2015. 

The wind was cool enough to lessen the sting of the rising sun. I was surprised I did not consume a liter of water as I only brought a small canister with me. I decided not to tire myself with a backpack. I wanted to have the liberty of freeing my back from such heavy load. Besides, I enjoyed having my own stick, which I had bought at the registration area. I can be a good memorabilia after the hike.

There are three peaks at Mt. Ulap. The first peak already has amazing views itself.

Stone markers that tourists would like to build as proof they were once here.

Along the way, I took a moment to listen to the bird that was singing its praises to the Creator, who had artfully sculpted the beauty that I saw all around.

The Gungal Rock, which was the second peak, has been the most challenging one. One has to be loaded with guts to cross the sloping rocks to pose for a rocking profile pic.

Most breathtaking of them all is the last and highest peak.

Mt. Ulap would never be called as it is without the clouds that had slyly curtailed our wide-eyed, sun-kissed faces. The evergreen slopes beyond was playfully peeking behind those rising white pillars while we pranced and jumped around to get that perfect, perfect shot!

After going down a short but very steep portion of the mountain, we were finally relieved when we dropped by Mt. Ulap’s 7-Eleven. Oh, yes! More ref magnets to collect!

The descent at Mt. Ulap has been developed by installing makeshift wooden stairs. Lans, my friend who organized this trip, told me there were no manmade steps when they first trekked here in 2016. Mt. Ulap has just been officially opened in 2015 so it only took only awhile to improve the more dangerous path.

What I’ve appreciated most in this trip was the camaraderie that has been developed among the group. Most of us were unknown to one another at the start but most of us have became clingy to one another at the end of the trek. That’s why hiking is more enjoyable than beach. The challenges we face in the mountains are actually refining us to become stronger individuals and to make stronger bonds of friendship. 

Breathing Adventure: Lounging On Mt. Daraitan’s Treacherous Assault

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My heart was at my throat while I was listening at our tour guide’s orientation. For the first time, I felt a little apprehensive against a planned hike. We were told this would not be an easy one but that fact did not dawn on me until that morning. We were about to conquer an assault we have not yet conquered. I never thought my limits would be tested at Mt. Daraitan – at least a portion of it.
With the world still numb in darkness, we were already bustling with excitement as we waited for the van at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was excited on meeting new friends as well as catching up with old buddies. Because this was the first time we had rented a van, I thought we’d be cozy for the rest of the trip.

 

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Riding the raft in pitch darkness

Arriving at Tanay, Rizal two hours later, we were surprised to find a wide river separating us from the jump-off. There’s no other way to get there but to cross the six-feet deep waters through a makeshift raft that was able to carry the ten of us. We had to bring all of our things to the summit because shower was also at the other side. But nature’s whimsical charm had made its way to brush off our little disappointment. The smooth rocks beneath the river peered at us when our lights pierced through the clear, pristine waters. It’s going to be a beautiful adventure.
A short tricycle ride carried us to the registration area. The registration area, which

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The team with their headlights still on

was actually the baranggay hall, was jam-packed. Weekends do make terrible hike dates sometimes, even at such a cold Sunday like this. Though hikers were told an assault would meet them ahead, nobody dared to turn back and let us take the rest of the mountain’s space.
Existing blog posts told us Mt. Daraitan’s difficulty was at 4/9, which was a notch higher than the usual 3/9 level mountains we have visited frequently. Our tour guides, Delo and Marquez (because he said his first name was hard to memorize), told us there are two routes to the top – the hard route and the easy route. The first, which was everybody’s usual way, would take 2 to 3 hours. The other one, which might have been a leisure to most of us, would take about 5 to 6 hours. Forget that one. We have became willing advocates of the tougher road.

 

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A steep ascent ahead

As the pathways were still dark at 5 am, most of us have to rent headlamps for 30 pesos (secretly vowing I will buy one on the next payday – next month). After we huddled to pray for God’s guidance and protection, we immediately trudged off with the long line of tourists. Soft drops of the early morning drizzle were already pelting on our already cold faces.
The ascent was a bit more arduous because some of the pathways were at 80 degrees. Most of the muddy path was littered with huge limestones that either slipped us down or helped us up. Around us were sturdy trees that kept our footing sturdy, shielding us from the treacherous cliffs that lingered on one side. The daylight rendered our headlights useless after an hour. Gray clouds have not been cleared from the skies I expected to be blue that day. The wind then howled like mad above our heads.
We were refreshed as it blew horrendously above us, resonating like a typhoon about

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The sign at the summit

to make a landfall. But at that moment, we were not threatened by its howling angst, because it enlivened our weary muscles. But I could sense these kinds of blustery gusts would soon bring rain. While I welcomed the cool winds, I hoped to have a little bit of sun warm me up for the rest of the day.
The sea of clouds were gone and the fog was lifting up, but the wide, green view welcomed us at the last resting point leading to the summit. The little caves that were hidden in dense rain forests have been left behind. The pain of clutching those sharp limestones was forgotten as we stood before the picture-worthy spot that was about to be blurred by the rising fog. It was beautiful, wondering how green and vivid it would have been without the fog. Still, the view appeared to be a dreamy haze that might be stomped eternally in the minds of campers. It was just 8am in the morning and I had this inkling this sight was better than at the highest point.

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Upon arriving at the summit, it was even more crowded than we expected. True enough, the fog has already covered the view. I would have loved to stay and watch the clouds dissipate but more and more tourists were flocking in the area. If there would be anything memorable there, that would be our group action pose on one of the limestones.

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When superheroes unite on the top of Mt. Daraitan

And this strange plant that was hidden behind other plants at the edge of the summit. Can anyone know what it is? I would gladly appreciate your help.

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We proceeded to descend to the Tinipak River. Not yet halfway there, the rain started to fall. In a short moment, it became a downpour that slowed a few of us down. We held onto sturdy trees to keep us from rolling down. This was a crucial part of the trek because it still involved steep pathways and edgy rocks. I was irritated because of the seemingly endless rain that only stopped when we arrived at the foot of the mountain (to which the rest of our group clapped when we came there dripping wet).

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Gazing at the current of the Tinipak River

The rains have subsided after we took lunch in a hut beside the river. Not wasting the moment, we went to see and wade our feet into the sandy waters of the Tinipak River. From its name (“tinipak” means “chopped off piece” in Tagalog), huge rocks towered along the river’s meandering path. The murky current slices through the verdant Mt. Daraitan and another mountain, sleepily looking down at us as we frolicked on the sabulous riverbed. The roaring sound of the hasty current was memorable, as if its waters were washing away our wp-image-1656096907jpg.jpgtired souls.
The pathway back to the jump-off was lovelier. The captivating landscape garnished with lush, green grass and tiny, yellow flowers seemed to have transported us to a portion of Middle-earth. At our left side, the river’s current became stronger and louder. Some portions of the pathway were danger zones though because of the falling rocks ahead. We needed to hurry and to be alert especially that many are

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The pathway back to reality

crossing that path. Horses carrying loads of goods would rush past us. Ahead, the tricycles were waiting to ferry us back into reality.

 
Instead of crossing the river through a raft, we crossed the hanging bridge. It was sturdy but my head nearly spun as I wobbled while walking on the metal steps. Seeing the river below, the pristine waters

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Collecting guts at the hanging bridge

 

were already replaced by murkier waters caused by the wild current. At the other side where we came from, people were flocking for the next boat ride that has not arrived yet.
I turned back to the mountain which is now shrouded by rain clouds. Hiking season has almost come to a close because of the rainy season. But I guess no season would be able to dictate when we should stop. I bet the bad weather did not dampen our enthusiasm in this adventure and the mud did not spoil the fun we had in our visit to Mt. Daraitan.

 

 

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The whole adventure team posing after another adventure at Mt. Daraitan

Breathing Adventure: When the Heavens Come Down (A Twin Peak Adventure At Mt. Cuyabo-Mt. Maynoba)

I felt like entering into twilight zone as the tricycle bumped into the pitch-black road at Brgy. Cuyabo in Tanay, Rizal. This is the first time our team were able to set out very early in the morning. It was almost 5am and the three of us did not have a bit of sleep the night before. All of us booked for a tour group for Mt. Batolusong, which disappointingly, did not show up at our designated meeting place.

But we were determined to set out into the wilderness again. Packed with our heavy bags and a reliable data connection, we reviewed directions from travel blogs and soon found ourselves at Mt. Cuyabo and Mt. Maynoba.

This twin peak is an almost-new hiking destination in South Luzon. Surrounded by other popular mountains like Mt. Irid, Mt. Cuyabo and Mt. Maynoba are relatively small. However, they boost this one sighting that would only be seen when you arrive there at the right time.

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Past 5am and we were beginning to trudge along the damp trail lined with dew-covered grass. The trail became suddenly steep at the foot of Mt. Cuyabo. But that was just the beginning.

We could hear the birds singing their wild but glorious morning call among the dense forest leading to the summit. There was a faint fog that brought a slight chill over my face. This made the hike lovelier, although the initial trail was bringing pressure to my legs. Almost halfway, I was sweating too much and nearly dead-tired. It was tempting to rest for long periods, not until I turned around and saw the sea of clouds.

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This is heaven on earth! I thought I could only see such a sight on Mt. Pulag. The mountains surrounding us shyly covered themselves in the pure, white blanket of clouds from a distance. However, they were beginning to fizzle off from the morning kiss of the great, golden sun so we have to get to the summit as quick as we can.

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It was a sight to behold. The Great Artist had lovingly stroke different hues of blue and faint yellow on His favorite sky blue canvas above our heads. The sound of birds seem to cheer gleefully at His masterpiece while they flitted around His watercolor palette. But it’s a fleeting artwork, because He’s planning to create a new one soon. And because we love keeping memories, we have endlessly made selfies beside His work. This is the moment when we would love to pull out a guitar and sing a heartfelt song of praise. I hope we could do that next time.

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We rested and ate breakfast for a while at Mt. Cuyabo. There was still another mountain to conquer. Sherwin, our tour guide, told us we would try our best to see the clouds on Mt. Maynoba’s summit. But 8am and now sleep-deprived, we missed a better view of the sea of clouds over Mt. Maynoba.

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The sun was a bit crueler by this time. Her rays had finally fizzled the rest of the clouds that once covered the sleepy mountains. Yet, Mt. Cuyabo appeared greener as we viewed it from the peak of Mt. Maynoba.

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Our adventure does not end here yet. If you think the sea of clouds is the only highlight of this place, there are more to see beyond this twin peaks. There are eight waterfalls to visit before the trail ends.

But we need a shut eye first…or I’ll end up clawing the damp soil towards the falls.

Our tour guide led us a to a corner where the tall grass has been cleared away. This is where campers would set up their tents for an overnight stay. We spread our jackets and raincoats over the still damp grass to finally have the sleep that we’ve been craving for.

I opened my eyes to see gray clouds hovering over me. My friends have also awakened. I felt like napping for about a few minutes but I was surprised we had dosed off for an hour!

We had gained enough strength to continue the trek. Since it was a Saturday, the tourists were almost closely lined up at some parts of the trail. Fortunately, we don’t get to bump into each other at the steeper portions, especially at the roped segments. More fortunately, we had a good sleep before that or I might roll myself downwards until I reach the falls.

The sound of gushing water could be heard at a near distance as I slowly balanced myself at the rock-laden, downhill trail that had my head spinning for a while. When we got to the falls, we sat down and took lunch.

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It was not a huge waterfalls, but it’s still refreshing to stay before it was kept hidden among the hills and the tall trees. The waters were cool and refreshing but we were just to tired to dip into it. Instead, I waded through these waters when we began our trail back.

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Curious little creatures and insects hovered over the pristine waters of the stream the flowed from the falls. Giant blue dragonflies rested on the enormous green leaves that flourished beside the waters. One huge, dark-colored butterfly covered the sunlight that inched itself between the dense little forest of greens. This is the kind of place I would want to wake up to in the morning, but also the one that can’t be carried back to the tainted and crowded suburbs we knew as home.

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We passed by the other waterfalls that were smaller than the one we stayed. It was noon and the trek was about to end. Small rice paddies that cradled a

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little hut on its corner were already looming as we hit the last leg of the visit. Houses could be seen lined up along a cemented road at a distance. The paradise was already far away. We were already back at the registration site.

It’s an achievement that we were able to come and end the tour early, without having the troubles of being late. The disappointing meet-up turned out to be a blessing in the end. Besides, we saved much on our expenses when we had our own tour. The travel group had charged us with a bigger fee.

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It’s great when these little unexpected circumstances bring you to more awesome moments. It just takes that determination to shove off the disappoinment and breakaway into the wonderful unknown.

Dwelling In His House

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

Psalm 27:4
I was ironing my clothes when I had the fun of memorizing the first six verses of Psalm 27. I couldn’t help but go back at verse 4 over and over again, as this has become the favorite of many of us who are in love with Jesus.
Here’s one thing I realized while meditating on this verse. While this cry from the psalmist’s heart has become our heartfelt prayer, too, the Lord has already answered it through His Word, too.
1 Corinthians 3:16 reminds us, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” God’s has given His promise of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling to those who have given their lives to Christ. As we stand as the temple of His Spirit, we have access to His glory and His beauty which we can gaze all the rest of our lives. We don’t have to look for His presence from some distant place as He Himself is already living within our hearts.
I have been praying Psalm 27:4 but was surprised to know that God has already answered it. But this doesn’t mean I have to disregard it. Instead, I have to ask for an increase of awareness and of desire to walk with His closely, I can hear the sweet rhythm of His heartbeat.

Breathing Adventure: Sun and Rain Affray at Gulugod Baboy

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Jumping high on Gulugod Baboy was Lans (far left), Brian (left), the author (right) and Mommy Gemma, Brian’s mom (far right)

The smell of the sea filled the morning air as the jeepney skidded across the almost lonely road winding along the mountainside. Our eyes were fixed at the resorts that went side-by-side with their assorted names and offers. But we would not be setting our foot on either one of them for this trip. We were about to trek Gulugod Baboy which lies near the diving paradise of Mabini, Batangas.

Gulugod Baboy is one of Batangas’ “chill climbing” destinations. It is called so because it was shaped like a pig’s spine, from which its name has been derived from. Because we have heard of its scenic views, we were willing to pay for that long trip from Mandaluyong City to Batangas that costs about 157 pesos ($3.30). As it was a holiday, we were expecting less traffic. Still, it seemed that traffic has always been a part of our everyday living, even those living southbound. It took us about two hours to reach the Batangas Grand Terminal.

Since we were just groping about with the help of other itineraries found in the internet, we looked for jeepneys that lead to the city of Mabini. But it seems that everything was ready for us. The driver offered everybody going to Gulugod Baboy that he could take us straight to the jump-off point of the mountain, provided that each will pay 100 pesos ($2.10) for the trip. Originally, hikers drop by the Mabini market and take tricycle rides going to the mountain. But I find travelling by jeepney a better alternative as the trip to the jump-off site is also a lengthy one.

The jeepney took us straight to the registration site. Registration is only 35 pesos ($0.74). The tour guide fee, which was at 500 pesos ($10.50) can be divided depending of the number of people in the group. But our group of five decided not to share the tour with another group because we’d like to have a good chit-chat with Jericho, the young tour guide. Besides, we’d like to enjoy the tour ourselves and we’d surely be left out by the large group of young strangers.

The first leg of the trail was covered by a cemented road. With the trail going too steep for IMG_20160225_101558motorbikes and other two-wheeled vehicles, I wonder if this was a wise idea. It can get too slippery when the rain pours. Good thing that the drizzle that welcomed us at our arrival did not last too long. We were hoping for a good clearing ahead…and a good, rough road that will keep my shoes on the ground.

There were a few motorbikes passing through the steep trail and ending up in some far end of the road. From the main road, there’s another road branching out from it. Our guide said it leads to another town. Now, I know where these motorbikes would be going. Not unless they would be going to the nearest store just near us.

Nah, maybe it was meant to be at the next store. Or to the other one…just over there! I find this a commercialized hiking destination as there were stores lined up in nearly every meter of the trek. They offer buko juice, sodas, and even halo-halo (which was only 30 pesos or $0.63) to every weary traveller that passes by. But not now. We’ll reward IMG_20160225_102601ourselves later.

Though having a cemented road for a mountain trail looks sumptuous for the tired tourist, I’d prefer the old, dirt road where I can have a good footing. Just as we thought the commercialized trail would go on forever, we found the sign pointing at the beginning of the classic dirt road some of us were looking for. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the improvised road sign, a white board doodled with the mountain’s three peaks. It looked clear, wasn’t it?

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This sign is translated as, “The way going to the Pig’s Spine”

As we went up the trail, we could feel the heat of the sun trying to beat us down. But the refreshing winds came blowing at our tired muscles. Then, in just a few minutes, another drizzle comes again! Gladly, there were a lot of trees around us that protected us from both sun and rain.

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One of the tiny communities in the mountain

Just as I thought we would be far from civilization, there was booming, party music coming from a few meters ahead of us. Another house! Within the mountain was a tiny community, and some of them had stores selling water, buko juice, and even walking sticks. People here sure knew how to have a good business on tourism.

We’d find houses after a few meters, perhaps about two more. Passing by the last house to the top was a sign that we were at the last leg of the hike. The sun was beating us even more by then. But upon coming to the three peaks, there was an outpour.

We stayed beneath the tree and decided to take lunch there. The clouds looked gloomy and

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Dark clouds hover over Peak 2 and 3

threatening enough to spoil the view. Yet, things suddenly changed in a while. The moment we came upon the second peak, the weather was sunny again.

The clouds suddenly gave a nice cleaning. At once, we were jumping and posing for pictures like never before. Then, we ran towards the third and highest peak. At that point, I was tempted to stay forever.

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The sea opens up behind me at Peak 2

But as I ran towards the last stop, I was surprised to hear a bell clanging on the top. Ice-cream! Wasn’t this mountain so commercialized? But I ignored it and looked at the view below. This was the reward I wanted all along: the sight of a beautiful world while standing on top of it.

I tried to sleep for a while and so did one of my friends. I couldn’t though and just mused at the scenic view before me. I felt the privilege of looking at a wonderful world made by a wonderful Creator. Sometimes, one has to struggle through heights to appreciate the beauty of things.

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Trying to jump high on Peak 3!

Another rain cloud was approaching us. Soon enough, it was drizzling again. I wished to

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Another scenic view on Peak 3

stay longer, but we had to leave immediately. Now, I have to face another waterloo…the art of descending.

I always had the trouble of descending mountains. Until now, I still couldn’t find my footing. I’m always careful to keep myself from rolling face down. But I also had the trouble of keeping myself from sliding backwards. To keep that from happening, I had to take a slow step-

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Looking down at Peak 1 and 2 from the highest peak

by-step descent. But this time, I had to be more careful, because the dirt road has the tendency to become more slippery due to the drizzle.

The weather really is a weird thing. Here comes the drizzle, and then here comes the sun. It’s like it has been on a ruckus on who’s to rule the sky today, the weather is just confused, or it would like to play a trick on me. Nevertheless,

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Halo-halo, anyone?

it’s surprising that we were faster at our descent. The nearly two-hour ascent was slashed into thirty minutes!

Upon the end of the dirt road, we arrived at one of the little stores by the cemented road. There, we rewarded ourselves. Who would resist a nice, cold sweet halo-halo after a strenuous hike?

We would have loved to go to the beach after the hike but time was too short to enjoy the quiet sea. Besides, the 100 peso entrance fee would not be worth the short time we would be spending. I guess we’ll go back there another time. I guess I have to take scuba diving lessons when I return, don’t you think so?

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Breathing Adventure: The Hills Are Alive at Mt. Batulao

12105885_10153646083967708_6014320311900404317_nIt’s been two weeks since I have not visited the outdoors as it’s quite rare for us friends to get together. The last time I had gone to the mountains was with a lone, close buddy. Still, every journey is memorable. Though it took me some time to put it into writing, I could still vividly recall how I breathed the fresh scent of the rain-drenched earth while anxiously waiting for the mist to clear at Mt. Batulao.

My friend, Lans, and I planned to leave for Nasugbu, Batangas at 4:30am on a fair-weathered Saturday. I had to stay at her boarding house in for the night so as not to come late. But since one alarm did not ring and the other was snoozed off a number of times, we left the house late, prompting us to go straight to the bus terminal at the Coastal Mall at Parañaque. This was the only sure place where we can get a bus that would take us to our jump off site at the Evercrest Golf Course.

It took a distressing hour before the bus left the terminal and a marathon of two and a half Resident Evil movies before we got to Evecrest. The sun, already high at 10am, signaled that we were late. A number of hikers had gone before us, already enjoying a refreshing trek earlier.

It’s remarkable how tricycle drivers immediately recognized us as hikers, directly offering us a ride to the registration site of

The twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance

The twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance

Mt. Batulao. Our huge bags, sleeveless shirts, and travelling pants gave them clues where we were going. It was a bumpy ride getting there. The rocky, yet mud-ridden track reminded me that I am in another home far away from home.

It is required for every tourist to register and have a tour guide lead the way. This protocol was only instilled a few months ago. Mt. Batulao was an easy trek that tourists could opt to travel on their own. But due to safety (and business) measures, new rules have to be set.

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My friend, Lans, and our tour guide, Reijel.

A number of our friends would have joined this trek if it not for our conflicting schedules. I guess it’s fortunate that only the two of us were ushered by our guide that day. Reijel (if I got his name’s spelling right), was a thin, ruddy, young man who amazingly volunteered to carry my bulky bag. I would not have

Not only were horses were the main trade deliverers in this area, but sometimes carabaos were used in crossing this muddy track

Not only were horses were the main trade deliverers in this area, but sometimes carabaos were used in crossing this muddy track

obliged if I had not been wobbling on the muddy track.

The horses that occasionally trample that path caused it to be heavily muddied even in sunny days. These beasts would

carry trading goods from the mountain, their hooves digging deep into the soil everyday. The path was so slippery we had to walk at its edges, checking if the ground was solid enough to walk on. But don’t worry because this muddy path ends before getting at the foot of Mt. Batulao’s first peak. The road going to the green, rolling hills was a bit rockier, drier but denser.

Just seeing the twin peaks of Mt. Batulao at a distance made my heart sing. It was12143153_10153646083957708_5354685601593218194_n getting more scenic the moment we got nearer every peak. There were eight peaks to conquer, the highest summit at the last peak. Our guide lead us to the new trail, which he said was easier than the old one. True enough, it was easy. I felt like a little girl jogging downwards after every upward struggle.

One of the steep and narrow ways going to the summit

One of the steep and narrow ways going to the summit

These bare but scenic heights are reminiscent of Mt. Balagbag and Mt. Pulag mixed together. Mt. Batulao has become quite a favorite among those who wanted an adventurous weekend getaway and first-time hikers. However, the influx of tourists had encouraged commercialism. Almost every peak had a little sari-sari store offering shade and buko juice for every weary visitor. I would have loved to buy from them, but I rather not encourage them to do business in this part of nature.

The final ascent was the mountain’s crucial point. Some of the pathways become steeper and narrower; one wrong step can bring you plunging into a steep ravine. Towards the summit, there are two roped portions. You can climb those parts without the ropes though. I had to rid of the ropes at that moment. Reijel was strong enough to lend me a hand while I tried my best to get through that steep point.

"Rain, when are you going to stop?"

“Rain, when are you going to stop?”

Though the skies were becoming gloomier, I kept quite a slow pace as we got closer to the summit to catch my breath. But soon enough, it rained. The sunny morning was quickly drowned by an angry outpour.

Hikers cramped together under a little shelter made of tattered tarpaulin at the summit. Now draped in my raincoat, I silently waited for the rain to stop. Yes, it will in fifteen minutes…thirty minutes more…nope, it’s about to stop after an hour…oh, c’mon! Just a peak of the scenery below!

I had to give up waiting, eat peanuts and fruits with my friend, and chat with some of the stranded tourists who soon decided to descend while it was still raining. We were the last to stay on the summit, which was not in vain since we soon had a glimpse of Mt. Batulao’s rustic, green heads. We decided to wait a little more to clear the mist away, though we apprehended the slippery path.

Ironically, the weather cleared when we descended from the summit. Oh well, we

The clouds covering the other hills adjacent to Mt. Batulao is also a sight to behold

The clouds covering the other hills adjacent to Mt. Batulao is also a sight to behold

had been staying there for about an hour. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to get more pictures while the mist tried to cover us from the lens.

I just realized how the rain can make one’s body refreshed and revived. The smell of freshly drenched grass and the cool air made me feel even more alive. I became a bit quicker on our descent and I was able to catch my companions who had been faster than me at the first leg of the trek.

But the biggest challenge was the road going back to the registration

Lans being helped by Reijel walk on the side of the muddy path

Lans being helped by Reijel walk on the side of the muddy path

site. Remember the muddy path? Lans and I looked at each other with perturbed looks when we saw newcomers approaching us with mud reaching to their knees.

Our guide helped us walk at the side of the road, trying to keep us from the knee-deep portion of muddied path as much as possible. Mud was heaping beneath our shoes and sandals as we daintily took one step at a time. One had to wait while the other was guided to a safer point. We held on sturdy banana trees lined along the road while Reijel held us on the other hand. It was a tiring walk, much more to our guide who tried to hide his smile while we said jokes along the way.

The rain might have had its spoilers, but it also had its share of beauty. I guess adventures like this one made my trip to Mt. Batulao more memorable. As long as we do our best to be careful, these little irritants would not spoil the real fun behind it.

Too bad, there are no bulaluhan restaurants around the mountain (although they offered halo-halo in such a cold weather). Right after we washed and changed our spoiled clothes (and futilely cleaned my shoes), we took the bus back to Manila. It was going to be a long ride back home, which surprisingly was longer than the two-hour trek going up Mt. Batulao.

Lans and I tarried in our love affair with the mountains, mindless of the road that took us back home. Soon enough, we were already missing the outdoors as we are being brought back to the city filled with artificial lights that pierced the night sky and the smog-filled air.

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Breathing Adventure: Curling the Trail of Mt. Maculot

IMG_20150905_163137Dwelling in the urban life for a long time can drain the senses and dull the emotion. Upon getting into a new job after a short hiatus, I was getting into the toxic mode again. I then realized I can manage my time by treating myself out of the challenges of the marketplace from time to time. I have to get back to nature. And there’s no other way but getting back to the mountains.

With a bunch of close buddies and new friends, we left before sunrise on a Saturday to the province of Batangas to trek Mt. Maculot. Maculot is a Tagalog word for “curly”, which no one could explain why it was named as such. Our ascent was a steep trail riddled with huge rocks. This gave me a jumpstart. My two-day jog ahead was not enough to strengthen my legs.

11951109_500853750081805_287650774244924684_nBefore we started this journey, our good-natured tour guide gave us fresh buko juice. As we drank straight from the fruit, we got to know each other. It’s odd to be the only media person among the group. Amazingly, our tour guide was also a rescue volunteer. He was one of those who responded in a rescue operation of a helicopter crash in this very mountain months ago. Upon hearing his story, I was amazed and confident that we can rely on him in this journey.

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Looking at the view from the Grotto

The woodland trail in Mt. Maculot reminded me of Pico de Loro: the hovering tall trees that served as a shade in our journey, those strange plants and ferns that littered the forest, the huge fallen trees that get in the way, and the huge centipedes that freaked us away…well, at least only two of us girls had goosebumps at their sight. The steep trek exerted much of my legs, however. Thus, we had to be given walking sticks to support us especially on the slippery parts. After an hour, we got to the Grotto. This was only halfway going to the summit.

At the Grotto, we could see a wide view of the city of Cuenca, Batangas. This place serves as a pilgrimage especially during Holy Week. For an easier trek for the devotees, a stone staircase filled with a thousand steps was made. But we loved to get the more foresty route. And we have to go back to this trail to get to the summit.

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One of the roped segments going to the top

The part leading to the top was steeper. There are also two roped segments leading to

The second roped segment near the summit

The second roped segment near the summit

the summit. I realized that strengthening the legs is not enough for this journey. We have to strengthen our arms, too, in order to support our bodies in these roped segments. I thought I was being a survivor when I climbed those ropes.

The summit was not appealing enough except for the distant view of the Taal Volcano,

which was a famous destination for those who visit this area. The summit looked like a

The Taal Volcano seen from the summit of Mt. Maculot

The Taal Volcano seen from the summit of Mt. Maculot

bare area strewn with tall, dry grass. We gathered under the small, lone tree that stood there to eat our lunch. But the summit was not the highlight of the trek. We cannot end this journey without visiting the Rockies.

The grassy trail to the Rockies

The grassy trail to the Rockies

We had to take a long winding road downhill. At the end of the wooded trek, we were welcomed by a grassy trail that made me imagine I was in an African savanna. These tall reeds however cannot block the early afternoon sun. So, it was a relief to rest for a while at a store fondly called 7/11.

Whenever, we are in a journey like this, water is gold for us. As precious as it would be, its price in a store like this could become as expensive as gold, especially for us who are on a budget. So, I had to save the remaining water in my bag in order to survive the rest of the journey. But I don’t have to bring

The Rockies

The Rockies

it for this last leg.

We left our bags for a moment in the 7/11 store in order to get to the Rockies. The Rockies is a lower peak adjacent to Mt. Maculot. We have to do rock climbing to get to the top. This time, we got a more rewarding view. Here is a better view of the Taal Lake.

The Taal Lake

The Taal Lake seen from the top of the Rockies

Too bad, the Taal Volcano was being covered by rain clouds. The sight at the rest of the lake though was fabulous. In order to get a better picture, I had to dare myself at the tip of the rocky edge. Despite of having shaky legs and a throbbing heart, I better get a pose with this

Don't forget to pose at this awesome view :)

Don’t forget to pose at this awesome view 🙂

beautiful view.

The adventure’s over. But my sore legs and feet were just beginning. Florencio, our tour guide was reliable to me especially towards at the end of the journey. Although it was embarrassing, I appreciated him for willingly carrying my bag all throughout the journey. At the descent, I began to get slower and my feet more painful. Oh, well, I was the slowpoke of the team this time. 🙂

But it was a refreshing pain. The pain of getting into the outdoors! The pain that made me know I am alive! What is a life without getting in touch with nature? This job is not what my life accounts for. I have more things to enjoy in life rather than drowning myself in work all the time.

There are still more mountains to explore. See you on the next mountain, then. 🙂

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