Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘hills’

Breathing Adventure: Friendships and Sunsets for the Lone Trip (Benguet Tour Part 2)

My two-day Baguio getaway was brief yet blissful, momentarily pulling me away from the reality that nearly freaked me out of my sanity. What came after my first BenCab Museum tour was a visit to a missionary friend I have not seen in years, a short walk in the night-cloaked city outskirts, and a moment of fellowship at my friend’s church the following day.

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The city lights glitter on the hilltops at night. Baguio is just one of the places where you can safely stroll at night

I emerged once again in the homey ideals that these lovely people hold, while vainly trying to understand Ilocano dialect. Competition was unlikely to begrudge the existence these people delve in; too far with what we Manileños strive for everyday. Little by little, urbanity has been setting in Baguio City for years. Yet, the unyielding purity of the city’s outskirts is just one of the million things that amazes me in this place.

The main reason for going up alone to Baguio was a small mountain my friend was telling me days ago. On the day I was to leave Benguet, I had the chance to go on a short trek on what they named as Mt. Jumbo. It was located at La Trinidad, a city beside Baguio, also best known for its strawberry farm. We planned to start the trek right after lunch. But due to the slow, incompetent service of a diner we came upon, we were able to leave for La Trinidad at past 3pm, a few hours before the sunset kicks in.

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Part of the view while going up to the summit of Mt. Jumbo

It was an easy trek, but my legs became easily strained after ascending a number of those small but steep man made steps. This is the consequence of not jogging for a long time. The cloistered trees, fresh air, and clear blue sky refreshed me though. Upon coming near the summit, the trees became fewer and the air became crispier.

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Going upward

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Racing towards the sun

I was surprised to find a few tourists clamoring upon the nearly bare, green, rolling hills of Mt. Jumbo. Some of them had tents set up, anticipating a clear, star-studded sky soon. A group had even taken horseback rides to the summit. We walked passed them as we clamored to the west side of the hill. The vast, industrial fields of La Trinidad opened wide before us, the golden sunshine painting it in bright orange.

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Beyond the rolling hills was part of the view of La Trinidad.

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The sunset gleaming over La Trinidad. This area once called the “salad bowl of the Philippines” as it used to be an agricultural area. Now, it is replaced with houses and industrial buildings, striving with the urban shift of the country.

I did not mind my short stay on the summit. In an intense moment of freedom, I did not dance, I did not run. All I did was flap my arms to feel the wind beneath them and watch the sunset descend behind the mountains in awe. But that moment of awe was broken when we tried to catch the sunset with our cameras.

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The sun giving us a final breathtaking view for the day.

The sun’s majestic exit was interrupted by the thick silver clouds that canopied over the mountains. Still, the view was breathless, for a sea of clouds surged over the adjacent mountains. It was a phenomenon that no city-dweller could experience everyday. Twilight was not far behind by then. The first sparkle of stars began to blink the moment we left the spot.

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The sea of clouds just behind me

It was a breathless moment. Though part of me knew I had to go straight to the bus terminal right after that trek, I strongly felt that my Baguio experience would not be complete without experiencing a known restaurant at Session Road. With that, I capped my stay with dinner with friends at the fine but affordable Solibao Restaurant. Should you end up hungry at Session Road, this is one of the places you should you drop by.

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Capping my trip with a great dinner with my friends Lans, Marian, and Angie. This Pinoy/Chinese group meal at Solibao Restaurant was too much for four ladies and yet it was very affordable.

The bus terminal was jampacked with people leaving for Manila. I was one of them. With me were jars of lengua, choco flakes, and strawberry wine — just some of the Baguio goodies I can’t leave without. As I waited at the line, I just realized that I have the capacity to travel somewhere far without a definite plan and still enjoy good memories of this place. Next stop? I won’t plan it up. All I know it would sure be better. 🙂

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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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Overcoming Mountains and Caves

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAI had the fear of heights.

And I did not realize this until my last vacation in Sagada just this Sunday.

After a long time, I had to chance to get out of this fast, city life for a while. Sagada was my dream place. I’ve been longing to trek nature and discover the unseen places never found in Manila. But who says it was easy? The biggest battle was not against nature but against self.

I was the slowest in the group. I lagged behind my friends whenever we trekked

Rock climbing at Sumaging Cave. It was here when I learned that I had a very weak grip. I managed to reach the top though :)

Rock climbing at Sumaging Cave. It was here when I learned that I had a very weak grip. I managed to reach the top though 🙂

the mountains. I could hardly catch my breath, but that was only the start.

At the Sumaging Cave, the slower I became. What slowed me down the most was that I was actually fighting the thought of crashing into the ravine. Yes, I trembled at every step. Not because it was cold or I was tired, but because I was scared of taking a step to the next jagged rock. I starred at every foothold I was stepping on so to keep my eyes away from the unseen end point shrouded in darkness. Whenever I did, I wanted to faint, struggling against an alter ego that whispered that I can never make it.

I saw my weakness. I felt the pain. But I saw that out of this, I learned much.

I was reminded that I cannot do all things without Christ who strengthens me.

Having fun with friends at the mountain top...Sagada, here we are!! :D

Having fun with friends at the mountain top…Sagada, here we are!! 😀

I saw the goodness in people. My friends encouraged me as I starred at every step. Instead of being sullen at my cause of delay, one of them said how she appreciated us city people for not complaining along the way. I did not realize how patient I was, that all I was looking forward was to get to the end point of the hike.

But most of all, I saw the beauty of God’s creation. I felt even more alive as I moved on. If I had stopped and left behind, I never had seen the unseen inner beauty of the caves, the culture of the people in life

Hanging coffins at Sagada. Through these, I learned how the natives valued their loved-ones as well as the afterlife.

Hanging coffins at Sagada. Through these, I learned how the natives valued their loved-ones as well as the afterlife.

and death, and the loveliness of the hills and mountains.

God left me awestruck with who He is. Opening my eyes, I realized how big He is while how little I am. Here’s this little me googling in His big, big world of mountains and cave. I would never have experienced His amazing creation if I ended up looking at postcards. The passion that had brought me out of my box for a while rewarded me with a whole range of experience to my senses and to my knowledge of Him. The industrialization that man tries to expand are nothing compared to God’s great works. The roads, bridges, and houses I see clustered on the mountains are too small to compare to the Creator’s handicrafts.

I could have hesitated to stand by this cliff and look beyond there. But, I would rather see myself conquering my fears and uncertainties. Sagada, I came, I saw, and I conquered! :D

I could have hesitated to stand by this cliff and look beyond there. But, I would rather see myself conquering my fears and uncertainties. Sagada, I came, I saw, and I conquered! 😀

Unconsciously, I soon learned to place the right foot at every downward step and move a little faster. Too bad I only learned it on the last day. True, I obtained cramps and muscle pain like my other friend from Manila. Yet, the two day visit to Sagada was memorable. Perhaps the pain we had was a reminder that one had to break from his shell in order to feel a whole new world we never had before.

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