Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘leisure’

Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (Day 2)

My friends and I wanted to snuggle in our beds until late in the morning as we were greeted by a cold start. Temperature was around 18 to 19 degrees in Hong Kong and it made me think I was living in a dream. But we have to get out of our beds early because we only have the whole day to spend in HK Disneyland.

Transportation going there is very accessible. Taking the train is the easiest way. I was completely impressed with how the whole MTR system is designed, as well as with the efficiency of its signs. These are tourist-friendly and they are easy to read because they are written in both Chinese and English.

Aside from that, Disneyland has its own train line! From the Sunny Bay station on Tung Chung line, the train would carry excited children and children-at-heart to the happiest place on earth! With the Mickey-inspired windows and handrails, we were even more thrilled to be there.

The happy kids: me, Rachel, and Lans. 😀

Even though it was a weekday (not just any weekend because it was a Monday), the queue at the entrance was very long. Actually, almost all rides at Disneyland have long queues. Wearing comfty footwear is the best advice I could give because I had to struggle in the end due to my chic boots.

Who says I was suffering at the hands…er, soles of my boots?

Some friends who had been to Disneyland have adviced us to begin at the end of the theme park. That would be at Toy Story Land where Woody was greeting us in both Chinese and English…

…tried to match up with Jessie and Buzz Lightyear…

…and screamed at rides that were seemingly mild.

Next was the roller coaster ride at the Grizzly Gulch.

We took at peek at Tarzan’s tree house.

But my favorite of all was the Mystic Manor (I don’t have a picture of the ride so you better see it for yourselves).

After all the thrill rides, we relaxed at It’s A Small World. I love it because it is a celebration of all nations where lovely toy children were singing it’s a small world in different languages.

The castle outside.

And I was touched that they have featured the Philippines.

Tomorrowland is also cool, especially Stark’s Expo and Star Wars.

Expect food to be expensive at Disneyland (and for the whiff of caramel popcorn to tease your noses everywhere). Nothing there would be lower than HK$35. Still, I tried the Minnie Mouse ice cream because I have to feel the Disney vibe.

And yes, I just ended up having a picture of Mickey ears that cost more than HK$100.

Our ultimate goal was to catch the Mouse…the Mice rather. Having a picture of Mickey and the gang would be a stroke of luck because there’s always a limit (I could only see Goofy and Pluto from afar huhu). But finally, finally! We were lucky to get into the queue just to get a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse just before we headed home!

The dream ends here. Too bad, there were no fireworks because some parts of Disneyland were under renovation. It does not matter because I have been to the happiest place on earth at last.

We capped off the night by meeting another friend living in Hong Kong, who then treated us with a good steamy hot pot at JKJ Pot at Tsim Tsia Shui.

Cheers for another day of adventure. I thought the dream was over but there’s more to come. 🙂

Breathing Adventure: Achieving High Walls at Climb Central

 

We always itch for adventure but the rains always quell our thirst for the heights. Adventure, however, is not limited to the outskirts of the city. Sometimes, they can be found lurking within the city walls.

Rock climbing is one activity I’ve been planning to do for a long time. There are plenty of rock climbing centers in Manila but it’s in Climb Central where I have had my first taste of this indoor adventure.

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Located at The Portal in Greenfield, the Climb Central is an easy access along EDSA and MRT’s Shaw Avenue station (and a good place to kill time while waiting for rush hour’s traffic and long, boring queues to subside). This adventure center is recommendable to beginners like my friends and me. But if you think rock climbing is easier than mountain hiking, think again.

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Once register, you have this tag. Always bring this when going there. 🙂

This venue gives everybody a chance to unleash their climbing power. Huge and quite spacious, everybody had the chance to get a climb to the top. There is a regular section, a children’s section, and a section for professional climbers (you need to get a certificate to try that one).

Adult registration is only Php600 (this includes a one-time registration fee and equipment). Don’t forget to bring any valid ID when you register, more preferably a government ID since it’s your lifetime registration. They would give you a short briefing on how to belay with a friend and how to climb alone. After that, you’re free to go.

 

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Almost reaching the top!

 

And there’s so turning back.

When we thought our hikes already had steep trails, these 8 to 12-meter walls are 90 to 110 degrees steeper. Each section has its own challenge, ranging from huge close rocks to small, separate stepping stones. Some of them are even tricky, causing me to deliberate how to take the next step higher (yes, this activity includes a lot of thinking).

Those who were already used to the activity would challenge themselves further. The stones are color-coded and

 

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Another achievement. 🙂

 

they would step or climb on one particular color only. That I could not achieve for now as I struggled halfway the wall with my then-numb fingers.

I realize this activity needs the strengthening of the arms, wrist, and the fingers for gripping rather than focusing power on the legs for support. After a few climbs, my arms felt weak and they were trembling. Even though we had rested for about 30 minutes or so, I felt my hands couldn’t grip well anymore.

 

I did not get a chance to finish most walls because my fingers were not too powerful to grip anything (and even combing was a struggle then). For the rest of the day, I’ve had cramps and spasms. But I realized I’ve conquered new heights and gained a new experience. Since I got a lifetime registration, this is not the end of the feat. Rather, I need to practice more. Besides, this is a new skill that I might use when going on hikes. More push ups, then? Yes, I need to begin that soon…hopefully.

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Experiencing adventure won’t be complete without friends like Lans, Tina, and Larry. 🙂

Breathing Adventure: Riding the Waves at Deca Wake Park (Angeles City, Pampanga)

Angeles City in Pampanga is just one of the Philippines’ sought after tourist spots. From restaurants to amusement centers, most of these were made to cater tourists, especially the foreign ones, who arrive in the country from Clark Airport. But local tourism also abound in this area. As Valentine’s Day arrived two weeks ago, it was also celebrated with the yearly Hot Air Balloon Fiesta at Clark Freeport Zone. But before we went balloon watching, we first tried another, action-packed amusement park in the area.

Deca Wake Park:

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The air was cool but the sun was beginning to scorch when we arrived at the Deca Wake Park. We came an hour earlier from its opening time which was at 9:30am. While munching on some chips left over from our two-hour travel from Manila, we chatted excitedly on how we would glide over the pool now glimmering beneath the cloudless sky a few hours later. Now should have been the perfect time to go wakeboarding. But half of me was musing to back out of it while still early.

12717555_552330858267427_2206368371811374102_nDeca Wake Park is one of the exciting places to visit when dropping by Angeles City, Pampanga. Water sport enthusiasts and adventurers alike plunk their boards and surf through the waters while being towed by an electronically-maneuvered cable. Looks easy for the sun-tanned surfers here. For beginners like us, it’s a dread.

For me, at least. It’s been nearly ten years ago since I first tried wakeboarding at a

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The author now putting the wakeboard on water in the beginner’s pool

company outing. But I never succeeded anyway. Besides, I’ve witnessed how one of my friends had an injury when a loose cable pulled her arm after she fell into the water.

That same friend was with us at our second attempt to go into this sport. Lans did not have a bit of that injury or even that dread as she lined up at the beginner’s pool. That’s where every beginner should be practicing before flawlessly surfing over the main wakeboarding pool. We need to succeed…well, at least make a perfect round.

Thursday is a lucky day for girls at Deca Wake Park. It offered a 50 percent discount for the whole day wakeboarding experience for ladies only. Usual price for whole day stay is at Php

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The lucky ladies: the author (left), Lans (middle), and Ritz (right)

1000, but we got to pay only half of it provided that we stay here for four hours or so.

Back at the beginner’s pool, I was ready to quit at the back of my mind. I thought of just keep on falling into the water until we go to our next itinerary for the day. But I kept on coming back. I appreciate the instructor for specifically pointing my mistakes before I begin again.

Then, ride the waves again. Then, fall. Over. And over.

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Our instructor demonstrates how to wakeboard

Until I gained balance. But that did not guarantee I could make a 360-degree turn in the pool. That was the hardest part. The moment I got at that point, I forgot every direction our instructor told me. Then, I drowned…

Of course, I did not. The pool was too shallow for that to happen. And we were wearing life vests and helmets. But I had to get out of the pool fast or I might get injured by the then loose cable.

To keep yourself safe from loose cables, you can duck your head into the water or just keep it low as you get to the shore as fast as you could. Having legs good for swimming could help, too.

Soon, I felt pain on my arm after countless rounds and endless failures. That’s why stretching  or a daily workout is important before getting into any sport. But I was not keen at that for the past few days. So, I had to stop.

I forgot how I gained balance over the water when I stopped for a moment. Oh well, I have 12743530_552344434932736_4272592829614872366_nto go back to zero. But in the end I did not make a turn. None of us made a good turn. Some of our friends, who did not try wakeboarding, wanted to leave. We had to run for the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Besides, we haven’t had a good lunch in the afternoon.

We promised ourselves that we’ll save up for our return at Deca Wake Park. And we’ll make sure that we’ll come on a Thursday. By that time, we’ll make sure to surf a 360-degree turn at the main wakeboarding pool. Trying wakeboarding has been a reawakening of confidence for me, since I realized I could try something impossible at the beginning.

So, did we ride the hot air balloons after? That would have been a feat. But you will know that on my next blog. 🙂

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With friends Rico (far left), Lans (left), the author (behind middle), Ritz (right), Tina (far right). My travels are made memorable because of them 🙂

Breathing Adventure: Exploring Art in BenCab’s World (Benguet Tour Part 1)

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The roads fresh from the New Year’s revelry the night before, this bored little lady headed away from the still smoky lowlands to the mist-covered highlands of Baguio. I was excited to get out of reality for a while in order to experience a real holiday vacation, even if it’s just so sudden.

There were only two days and one night left for me in Baguio. All I just wanted was to go trekking with my closest friend from the far end of this country. But with the rains and fog covering the summit, my friend gave a few choice places to tour around. I chose all of them. For now, I can only share one popular tourist destination you can check out when you get to Baguio.

I have been going to Baguio a number of times just like almost every local tourist in the country. But, I had to experience the BenCab museum yet. So, I’d rather not miss this itinerary that day.

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This art museum is flocked by tourists and art enthusiasts because of the man who set it up. Ben Cab, or short for Benedicto Cabrera, has been hailed as a national artist of the Philippines. He’s been considered as a world-class Filipino artist as his works have also became known in different countries. In support of other Filipino artists, he built this museum for everyone to enjoy Pinoy art.

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It takes a 15-minute taxi ride from Baguio City to get to this artist haven. Though located in an almost remote part of a word-carving village, it was crowded with tourists that day. Entrance was supposedly at P120, but it was not yet in effect. Instead, we paid the original price of twenty pesos less.

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Inside was a kaleidoscope of ideas, emotions, and history clashed together through various artworks from different artists. Modern art had dominated each rooms. Here are just some of my favorites:

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“Feral Garden” by Roger “Rishab” Tibon. Not only are cat lovers captivated by this painting but every eye that pass by it

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“Tamis” by Emmanuel Garibay. If you’d look closer beneath the arms, you can guess where this painting is pointing at. It speaks of women and children used as private armies in places of conflict.

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But nothing beats this Lynyrd Paras artwork. I guess the title (which is already written on this painting) should go for the broken hearted and the disappointed in life 🙂

Art can never stand alone without history. And history carries the spirit of art from the beginning of time. Bulol, or rice granary idols stood guard in some of the exhibition areas. These carved images depicts the pagan culture of the Northern tribes of Luzon, especially in these areas of Benguet. This has been a common sight in this part of the country, but I guess tourists like me could only look and wonder at them.

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Sitting quietly around the bulol guarding this place

Just as I was amazed in seeing Picasso and Rembrandt in real life at Ireland, I was amazed to see BenCab’s works personally for the first time. Some of his works made me wonder…

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Talking to BenCab’s Tribal Art. “Who or what are you?”

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“Kutohan” by BenCab. Removing lice has been a tradition since long ago

There is also the Erotica Gallery. I guess I don’t have to elaborate what kind of artworks you’d expect there. If you’re bringing along kids, I’d suggest you’d read the signs in every room you visit — unlike some the parents who wondered why they were offended at the artworks in this room.

If you’re hungry (and had enough money for quite expensive food), you can visit the Cafe Sabel. But for thrifty tourists like me, I’d pass it for the moment. My friend and I roamed around a bit of BenCab’s little garden, which was made to look like a little prototype of Benguet’s rice fields and idyllic villages. We had limited access of the whole garden as the ecotrail tour needs to be arranged at the reception.

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A part of BenCab’s garden

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A little rice paddy at BenCab’s garden

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Strawberry fields forever at BenCab’s garden

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The mist covering the museum building

 

Though the mist soon spoiled the garden’s view, our tour was a worthwhile experience. There are more places to go, but I guess I had to keep you waiting until my next blog. 🙂

Breathing Adventure: Highly Challenged at Mt. Pamitinan

IMG_20150615_144344A lump in my throat rose when I saw the seemingly endless trail of massive, jagged rocks. My water canister now empty, all that mattered to me was surviving this whole ordeal. I struggled along this trail that challenged both my balance and my ego. One misstep could cost my life. Looking at my legs, they now bore wounds and bruises. But until the trek had ended, I never thought that these would become my marks of accomplishment for this day.

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Mt. Binacayan inviting us to come touch its grounds next time 🙂

That’s how Mt. Pamitinan made me remember its steep and challenging trail. Rising with the height of 426 masl (meters above sea level), it sits along with other giants in Sierra Madre. Relatively small compared to other popular mountain peaks in the Philippines, it is not too easy for beginners. But, I’m not here to scare you. Instead, I’d like to share to you the challenge I gave myself on my first visit.

Standing before Mt. Pamitinan in this simple, rural village in Montalban, Rizal, I did not expect that it would be already steep right at its foot. Huge rocks were already bouldering before us along the pathway. I had to catch my breath as I exerted extra effort to take every step towards the top.

IMG_20150615_103519But that’s just halfway to the peak.

These rocks were more merciful compared to the ones toward the peak. Once we got to the middle of the trek, the rocks became edgier and more jagged in form. They can give you a lot of scratches and wounds if you are not careful. Thick gloves are necessary to wear at this point of the hike. A strong grip and a good balance is what you need to cross the rocky pathway.

Photo courtesy: Lans Macwes Scrambling up the trail

Photo courtesy: Lans Macwes
Scrambling up the trail

For the first time, I had to do rock climbing. I had the trouble of carrying my own weight so I was the slowest in our group. Another dilemma I had was my short stature. I had to force myself to reach some of the safest steps. Also, I had to battle my own mindset of falling over. As the narrow pathway revealed steep ravines, I knew I had to come out here alive.

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Mt. Binacayan inviting us to come touch its grounds next time 🙂

If we had come earlier, we could have climbed Mt. Pamitinan’s twin peak, Mt. Binacayan. I am reminded of those stories in my elementary student years of a legendary hero who held them so they would not bump each other. Named as Bernardo Carpio, he was said to be enchanted by his enemies or punished because of misbehavior – whatever legend tells you. Whenever Bernardo moves a shoulder, an earthquake occurs and the mountains move. Glad he did not feel an itch, then. Just look at the size of these rocks that might fall on me.

When we reached peak 1, we knew we had to bask in the glory of staying on top. Right before us was the whole of Montalban, Rizal, where its greenery was mixed with urbanity. Ironically, singing from various videoke stations echo can be heard from the foot of the mountain. Oh, well, that is also part of urbanity.

At our side was Mt. Paminitan’s twin peak, Mt. Binacayan, also a steep and jagged peak. Perhaps another time? Maybe soon.

Peeking at you from Mt. Pamitinan's first peak :)

Peeking at you from Mt. Pamitinan’s first peak 🙂

We could have reached peak 2, which was, I believe, higher than peak 1. But one of our friends did not wish to go further the steeper trail. Well, I could have challenged myself as well. But I guess I’d like to bask in the Wawa dam by then.

It was 2 o’ clock in the afternoon when we were almost at the foot of the mountain. Water and other replenishments were being sold at that part of the trail (talk about urbanity on its sides). For once in our lives, that cold, cold bottle of water became gold for us. Even that cold, kiddie orange juice was something I could have died for at that moment.

Our exhaustion was washed out by the warm, soothing waters of the Wawa Dam.

Photo courtesy of my friend, Tina. Refreshed in the relaxing current of Wawa Dam. :)

Photo courtesy of my friend, Tina. Refreshed in the relaxing current of Wawa Dam. 🙂

Although it is not used as a water utility supply system for the public, people can still enjoy its waters by bathing in it. For about an hour, we waded in its shallow currents and let its relaxing waters pour over us. It’s like our reward after that strenuous trek.

The sun now about to retire in the orange, Western sky, we knew we had to return to Manila. I realized that not all mountains are easy to trek. Even in this challenging journey, I knew that the Lord had a powerful revelation for me. With that difficult and heart-pumping trek, I am reminded that I never have to give up whatever I’m treading on. Once I am already in such a difficult path, the only way to get out of it is to move on. I had the realization that for a long time, I had been a couch potato. Now, it’s time to get out of the comfort zone.

Even those rocks were used to teach me a lesson. Although rough and dull, they mirrored much of my own personality and the changes I need to make for myself to become a better person. So, I guess, it’s time to move on to another mountain. Let’s go! 🙂

Breathing Adventure (Mt. Pulag Climb Part 2): Into the Flora and Fauna

11131791_924304300955047_831847193_nBeing one of the most exciting treks in my life, this Mt. Pulag hike is also one of the longest and most tiring trek I’ve experience.

After the basking in the warm sunlight and the freezing air at the peak for about an hour, we began our descent. The trail going down became quite unfamiliar, perhaps because we saw it differently when it was dark. Still, it was the same trail.

Our tour guide told us that Mt. Pulag was from a local word which means “bare”. It was named as such because its peak had no trees at all, save for one that I saw at Peak 3. But the peak was covered with tall grass and a tiny bamboo species called the dwarf bamboo. But there are more plant wonders ahead. Amazingly, this mountain was littered with plants, flowers and ferns that you could not find in Manila. But no one is allowed to pick anything…not even a shoot.

By not picking plants and flowers, the flora and fauna of Mt. Pulag is preserved. This is

Some of the flora at Mt. Pulag. Top left is the bugnay berries, or bignay in my Tagalog dialect. Top right must be a dried dwarf bamboo, I guess. Below are some pretty flowers I haven't seen

Some of the flora at Mt. Pulag. Top left is the bugnay berries, or bignay in my Tagalog dialect. Top right must be a dried dwarf bamboo, I guess. Below are some pretty flowers I haven’t seen

important so as not to put these plants species in danger, for some of them is only found in this area in the country. It’s also one way for tourists to respect the places they visit, one lesson everyone is entitled to learn in their tours.

But I just wonder why I have not seen any animals around. Not even the birds that were chirping behind the thick trees high above us. I guess these animals are too shy to be looked at. 🙂

And so, to immortalize these rare sights we had our cameras ready (except for mine that drained immedietely that dawn). Because of that, the five-hour trek going down became a six-hour groupie tour.

The locals said that Mt. Pulag was a woman. If one would look at its contour in a certain angle, it look like a lady lying down, looking up at the sky. Perhaps, this is why her feminity is scattered around the place, making it a haven of the flora and fauna we humans are privileged to see.

11148896_924302860955191_1204472494_nBut with the sun going higher and the temperature getting warmer, the walk back became a bit difficult. Thankfully, these plants gave us a wonderful and cool shade while we were catching up with our breath. My legs wanted to give way, especially when I saw that steep trail at Camp 1.

At the end of the trek, I could say I survived Mt. Pulag. Glancing back at11132100_924302977621846_1520638946_n the height of its peak, I never had an inkling at I could go all the way to the top. To achieve reaching the top of the Philippines’ 3rd highest peak is a dream come true. Despite of my throbbing feet and almost lost energy, this experience gave me the encouragement to go higher and beyond. Perhaps, I may conquer the Himalayas one day. 🙂

Breathing Adventure (Mt. Pulag hike): Playing Upon the Clouds

20150404-183715.jpg Photo Courtesy of Highland Travel Crew

Ever dreamed of touching the sky as a kid? I thought of it as impossible. For me, to see them swirling as cotton-candy like castles above me was a satisfaction. The closest thing I could get near them was on an airplane. Still, they were impersonal, dreamy beings, as glass panes always get in the way of their existence and my own world.

When a friend invited me to hike Mt. Pulag, I obliged, longing to unleash the adventurer in me. But I never thought I could catch a great prize from that exhausting, five-hour trek.

Mt. Pulag is Philippines’ 3rd highest peak. It is located in Benguet, Mt. Province, which is six to eight hours away from Manila. If taking the Ambangeg trail (the one we had taken), it would take you about five hours before reaching the top.

As Luzon’s highest peak, Mt. Pulag has the reputation of having an extremely low temperature. Upon hiking, one needs to wear a windbreaker jacket. With that, I had to wear two layers of clothes and warmers to make sure I won’t get in trouble. I even covered them with a raincoat.

20150404-182741.jpg When we arrived there on March 26, we decided to stay in the ranger house as it was drizzling cold. We abandoned the initial plan of taking the first part of the hike that afternoon to stay at Camp 2 for the night. Should we have insisted on that plan, all of us might catch hypothermia without reaching the top.

Excited, some of us tried to explore part of the trail. Notice how the mountains consist of lush vegetation and plants not found in Manila. People here live a quiet living through agriculture and tourism (most of them work as tourist guides or porters for Mt. Pulag). It was a flourishing community, without the stress of infrastructure.

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After a night of getting-to-know new friends in the mountain group and a few hours of battling the cold while sleeping in that warm cabin, we started the hike at 2 o’ clock in the morning. The advantage of this Plan B is that we don’t need to carry our heavy bags to Camp 2, which would take about three hours from the mountain ranger site. All we need are our phones, cameras, and flashlights and our cold gear (not to mention hiking shoes to get sure footing on the muddy trail).

The hike to the top was dark and risky. Some parts of the trail were quite narrow. Steep cliffs were lingering at the sides. But somehow, the trail was easy to follow. I would have loved to gaze at the stars but I had to keep my eyes on the muddy and sometimes slippery track. The rain had passed but the ground was still wet.

Mt. Pulag is known for giving its visitors a view of the Milky Way. Upon reaching Camp 2, the skies uncovered the blanket of stars and wonders. But it did not end here. After resting for a few minutes, we continued our trek to the peak.

My legs were almost giving way. I’m not used to long trekking adventures such as these. On occasions my friends and I would trek mountains, two hours would be at most for me. But the head of the mountain group challenged me to reach the top, even though I was pointing at the mountain’s third highest peak nearby.

Mt. Pulag reaches the sky at 2,922 meters above sea level. It contains three peaks, Peak 1 as the highest.

The sun was peeking above the clouds. I wanted to stay where I was as my pace was getting slower due to exhaustion. And I was already screaming angrily and stomping my feet because I could see the rest of the group reaching the top and only two of us were left behind.

But I don’t want to be left out. The way near the peak was so steep, my friend and I were crawling on ground. If it weren’t for that nightly jogging sessions, I wouldn’t have survived the thin air at the top and rolled away down the mountain.

The sun was quite a bit high when the reached the top. Still a bit dazzled, the couldn’t grasp the reality that I was already at 2,922 meters high. Not until the sea of clouds danced before me eyes.

I was above the clouds. I never, never, never I could reach this top. And watch a wonderful phenomenon before my eyes!

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Photo Courtesy of Highland Travel Crew

Imagine the sea of clouds falling upon the mountains like waterfalls. I never thought I had passed right through them and be above them. Below us are the mountains beautiful and green, as if they’re miniatures that I could fascinate with. But those clouds were a treat. Such was the prize of taking a risk to touch the heavens and behold the creation secretly intertwined with our being.

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Photo Courtesy of Tina Sison

Picture taking and selfie sessions were not missed during this moment. While everyone was taking coffee, I gulped on my friend’s tomato juice. But, I couldn’t help but endlessly gaze at the sight around me.

When the time to descend had come, I secretly did not want to go yet. But I promised myself to go back one day and gaze once more at the sea of clouds with my own eyes.

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(Pictures on the peak courtesy of Highland Travel Crew. Thanks, guys, for challenging me to reach the top!)

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