I was 17 when I first climbed Mt. Pulag, and back then, I used to write journal entries during the climb. This is a great practice that unfortunately I haven’t been able to continue. In this journal, take note of the following things:
(1) I mentioned Chica twice. Even while we were climbing, I was really delighted at the company of this dog and I was really sad to hear how she was killed (see Chica’s story).
(2) The MMS marker was still at the top of Mt. Pulag; it was taken down two years later. Also, people used t
Take note that I was just starting to pursue hiking during this time.
October 14, 2003
BAGUIO CITY, 5:33 AM. Though sleepy, I take this time to write. After all, it is not every day that one gets an opportunity to visit Baguio City. We’re eating at Chowking in Session Road, after long hours of traveling from Pasay by Victory Liner bus. The fare was P285 (therefore, 285 kilometers). I was hardly able to sleep. Oh well. We’ll proceed to Burnham Park after this, and then head to Ambangeg, Bokod, Benguet.
Baguio is home to some of my friends. Sara, of course; and Jose, Henry, and Joanna, INTARMED classmates. It is also home to some of my memories, as I’ve been here several times.
Back to breakfast.
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE TRAIL, 9:45 PM. We have camped now, ready to sleep. We failed to reach the Ranger Station, and we have been hiking for at least five hours. The cold is almost unbearable. Our shoulders and legs are tired and worn out. There is really need to rest.
Clouds hover around us. I hope rain does not follow. I pray for a comfortable sleep, a happy day, a safe trip, and a sustained health. [The Norton bus ride from] Baguio to Pulag took 5 hours, and I don’t think we have time for Sagada.
Our group is composed of: Ephraim, myself, the Pastor Steve, Andy and Becky, Ates Rose and Luke, and Kuyas Jeremy and Emil. We are, despite the difficulties, having a great time.
A dog has been with us up to this place, which I estimate to be more than 2000+ meters (the plus sign I use to represent altitude). I got to sleep. I thank God for me being here, and for Him as well.
October 15, 2003
RANGER STATION, 11:59 AM. At long last, we were able to reach the RANGER STATION. The trail, although easy, was unbearably long. The view that we saw today, however, was breathtaking and powerful.
It was a very cold 12 C yesterday night. Since we are camping at a higher elevation tonight, I expect the temperature to go down to as low as 8 C. Although very uncomfortable, experiencing the cold is something new to me.
The dog is still with us. Her name is Chica (Spanish for girl). We had no guide, but when I will look back to this epic adventure I will always remember that brown dog wagging its tail, waiting for a piece of Oreo cookies, and leading the way. Indeed, dogs are man’s best friends. Our dog is now sleeping beside the Ranger Station, resting after almost a day now of hiking and camping.
My tent worked. Otherwise, I would’ve have lasted the cold. I also thank my Nike set: jacket, shoes, and sweater.
We met Kankanay people along the way. Most of them are kind and helpful, even the children. Their homes have no electricity, and they grow vegetables by the slope. Can you imagine, they sell potatoes for P10/kilo!
After having lunch, we will proceed to Mt. Pulag’s peak – the highest place in Luzon. There, we will see the vastness of God’s creation, its beauty, and its immense force upon the human heart, unaccustomed to such a sight.
Now, I can rest. But later – and later – I will walk again.
Ranger Station, Mt. Pulag,
2500 m above sea level
BACK AT RANGER STATION, 10:06 PM. It almost never happened. And when it did, difficulty was everything and everywhere – from almost zero visibility due to darkness and fog to the wetness due to rainclouds. Yes, we reached the Mt. Pulag’s peak, after 7.5 hours of hiking today. It took another three hours for us to return to Ranger Station, where I am now and where we will spend the night.
Reaching Mt. Pulag’s peak is the most difficult challenge I have overcome so far, in my hiking ‘career’ (if you can even call it a career hahaha). Two days ago, we were already going to the top, but only today did we actually reach it. Actually, not all of us. Regrettably, Ate Rose couldn’t withstand the lack of oxygen and cold weather. So she stayed in the grassland with Kuya Emil her boyfriend.
From Ranger Station, one has to proceed to pine forests, (there are trails with only inches left for comfort); mossy cloud forests (more like Banahaw, but with the Pulag-endemic dwarf bamboo); and the grassland where one would feel he is on another world. Although we were initially met with favorable weather, we were blanketed with clouds the moment we reached the grassland. The vapors drenched us wet. And boy it was cold! The temperature was estimated from 3-6 C- the lowest I’ve experienced. And what an experience it was! We were barely able to move our fingers, numbed by the cold. Ephraim was chilling; Becky had to hide beneath the Peak plaque to be shielded from the wind. As for me, I felt an experience so difficult I can’t even describe it.
But of course, there was fun at the peak. Despite the circumstances, we were able to smile, enjoying the fast-flying clouds, and pose for treasured photo ops. But fear was also there, lest the cold take its toll on our bodies. It was really enjoyable, however, and powerful. Although the hoped-for spectacular view of the sunset did not materialize, reaching the peak is great achievement enough. Because first, it is the highest place in Luzon. Second, I have always dreamt of reaching the 2,922m peak, and third and most important, we worked so hard to get there, and in the process, learned about life, nature, and friendship. We also gained a lot of experience in patience, teamwork, how to combat the cold, how to pack efficiently, and many others. I have no regrets, only thanksgiving.
Tomorrow, we go down to Ambangeg and proceed to Baguio. The day after, we return to our own lives, away from the places that witnessed – and will witness – many of our sweet memories.
Praise God for his creation. Indeed, the heavens and the earth declare the glory of God – something that no one can match; something that we can only have a glimpse of in mountains, and the beautiful blue sky.
I love hiking!
October 16, 2003
RANGER STATION – Farewell to Mt. Pulag. In a few minutes, we will be leaving Ranger Station and proceed to Ambangeg. I’m all set to go. The load has become lighter because most of my food has been consumed.
I had a comfortable sleep last night, even as some of my companions actually chilled. Last night, I ate barely-cooked rice and cold corned beef. Almost no breakfast today, but I hope lunch will be good. Of course, the dinner in Baguio is something to look forward to.
Farewell to Mt. Pulag, but I will come back. Akiki trail still has to be overcome. Looking at all the mountains around us, I wonder how many mountains I will get to climb in the Cordilleras in the future. What’s the next step? I will check Long Henson’s website when I go home. Anyway, I’m really happy. This epic adventure is enough to fittingly end to my first semester in the College of Medicine. In hiking as in life, I will reach the top, but only if God will guide me. For He, more than anyone else, is the reason why I am here.