Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘sea of clouds’

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: 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.

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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