Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘Mt. Province’

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!)

Cultural Immersion (First Stop): Mt. Province

On a hike to the top of Mainit! :)

On a hike to the top of Mainit! 🙂

“Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.” (“Never be a stranger in your own land.”)

Here is a line always stated when we talk about culture and tourism. Just like most Pinoys in the central part of Luzon, I get only a limited view of the overall culture the Philippines have. But once I get out of my Manila domain, I’m just amazed at the variety of language, food, and culture that all these 7,000 islands contain.
I had a taste of cultural immersion in my own country when a friend invited

One of Mainit's public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

One of Mainit’s public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

me last two weeks ago to Mainit — a district in Bontoc, Mt. Province. For those who are not familiar with Mt. Province, it’s located in the Cordillera region, about five hours from Baguio (which is familiar to most of us).

Mainit quite known for its natural hot springs (“mainit” in Tagalog means “hot”, perhaps where the name came from). Just like any other towns in the Cordillera, Mainit has a lot of mountains to hike and explore (which I looked forward to). But the main event is a peace pact gathering of two families.
Now, it’s like a huge reunion of two clans (the other came from Abra, another far region in the North). Together, they reviewed and renewed their pact and friendship. But the most interesting part are the songs and dances that every family performed. But they did not do it with some cheesy,

The gathering for the "Peace Pact". Aside from the renewal of this pact, it's also a reunion of two clans.

The gathering for the “Peace Pact”. Aside from the renewal of this pact, it’s also a reunion of two clans.

upbeat, dance music with sexy dance moves (like what kids in the Metro or in our town would perform in yearly Christmas parties). They performed it traditionally.

I’ve seen Ifugao dances being performed only on big commercial events, special school programs, or only when your elementary school teachers prompt you for the sake of passing your PE exams. But these people are a natural. Wearing their traditional clothes, each group graced before the crowd without hesitation, dancing to the rhythm of gongs. Even the children themselves were not shy in dancing. I was amazed with the pride they held in upholding

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon's traditional courtship dance. It dosen't matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon’s traditional courtship dance. It dosen’t matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

their culture. But they would be more pleased when foreigners — like me — would join in their dances, even if you do your own version on the traditional “courstship dance”.

I’m impressed how these people in the far-flung provinces kept their songs and their dances for generations. I haven’t seen much preservation of the traditional culture in the Manila area. Manila is the melting pot of people from different regions in the country, but it’s rare to see each one carry an identity from their own provinces. Perhaps with the “globalization” instilled in this modernized area, we try to move to another kind of culture without upholding the old ones that our ancestors had proudly held. Sadly, it’s like regretting identities that we’ve never had in this industrialized culture. Or copying from the Western world.
After the children performed, the man holding the mike told the smaller

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

children to follow their example. I guess it’s better than teaching your kids how to doggie at school.

I’m proud that these Northern folks are my countrymen. I guess they are richer than most of us here in Manila who keep a wrong impression of who and what they are. We just need open eyes to see that culture is richer than wealth. It’s something that we can carry and can be identified with no matter where we tread.

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