Yep, you got it right, it is not “Bucket” but “Baket” (Tagalog word for Why). Why would I camp out when I knew it would be freezing cold? Why would I trek for hours and risk falling off into a ravine or be attacked by wild animals? But I did. I climbed Philippines’ third highest and Luzon’s second highest peak at 2,926 metres – Mount Pulag.
Having signed up for a weekend trek, I, along with my three other colleagues, hopped on a Baguio-bound bus one Saturday midnight, reached our destination by 5:00a.m. and endured another six hours of jeepney ride to Benguet, Ifugao. All four of us were rookie who decided to go all the way by camping instead of home staying at Ranger Station. At 4:00p.m., it was beginning to feel cold so we donned our fleece and beanies. Early dinner was in order as it would be lights out by 9:00p.m. Two weeks prior to our climb, I started dreading the idea of sleeping in a tent because it would be my first time and I already hated the possibility of wild animals (or mere insects) attacking me. But I shoved everything at the back of my head and dozed off the moment I slipped into my sleeping bag.
By 1:00a.m,. we commenced our long trek to the summit. With four-layer of clothes on, I could still feel the biting cold. Shortly after, my body was producing enough heat that I had to remove my down jacket. We were blessed with good weather but still, parts of the trail were muddy and wet which slowed us down a bit. Halfway through Campsite 1, I lost my colleagues so I stayed close to our guide as I was worried I would fall into a cliff unnoticed. Maybe my routine run helped me physically but really, the five-hour trek to the summit was more of a mental activity. It was a constant battle between my legs and my mind whether I should continue on or make that retreat to Ranger Station.
I was one steep climb away from the summit when I reunited with one of my colleagues. Just like me, she looked beaten and was tempted to stay where we were to wait for sunrise. I was tempted to give in to the idea until one co-climber encouraged us to just go for it as “we have gone this far already”. My colleague preferred to stay and prompted me to go ahead. However, after some coaxing from our guide, we both mustered our tired legs and made that killer climb up to the summit. Yes, there was the most talked about sea of clouds that served as majestic background as the sun rose slowly, beautifully.
For ten hours that I walked and climbed to and from the Ambangeg Trail, I realized:
Learning happens when we go out of our comfort zone. When I decided to sign up to the climb, I wanted to push myself by exploring unfamiliar, uncharted territories. Surely, I stressed out about the long land travel, sleeping and eating arrangements, etc. but every aspect of it contributed to the experience that taught me more than the basics of mountain survival, patience and perseverance.
Prayers, hard work and focus go a long way. Trekking for ten good hours is not a piece of cake but at that time, my eyes were already fixed in reaching the summit. I almost slipped, tripped, constantly grappled on grass and ever tempted to retreat to the safety of Ranger Station until I got to my destination. Remember, once God put a desire in your heart, He will see you through but it does not guarantee an easy ride. There will be times when you will be distracted, sidetracked but if you continuously seek God, He will bless you with the strength and courage to carry on to where you need to be. During our trek, we were grouped with experienced climbers who naturally were faster than we were. I felt I had to be at par with them so I tried to keep up with them but I ended up not enjoying the experience at all. In life, especially with the prevalence of social media, we think we are living a bland life compared to our peers. The truth is, we will never be contented if we keep on coveting other people’s life or properties. Your focus should be your own journey.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. In conquering mountains (literally and figuratively), getting some morale boost does wonder. On our way back to Ranger Station, we chanced upon other climbers who were still on their way to the summit. Albeit complete strangers, we smiled at them and told them the summit was already within their reach. In return, these guys congratulated us for already making it to the top. When I was younger, getting along with as many people as possible was my priority, regardless if there is value-add in these friendships. Through the years, I learned how to filter these relationships and retain those with people who mold me, guide me, sometimes rebuke me and challenge me to always be the best version of myself.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be grateful. We capped off our Mount Pulag climb by checking in to Baguio Country Club to freshen up before hitting the road back to Manila. The moment I opened the shower, I could not help but thank God for such simple joy that I tend to take for granted most of the time. When we open our hearts to be more appreciative of even the smallest things, life becomes a more enjoyable. If we’re lucky, we may even realize that we actually don’t need what we want. I have never seen consumerism hit its peak until now, like putting your stuff in signature bag feels different than putting it in any other sack. I am in a continuous process of maintaining a simple heart and admittedly, it has not been an easy journey. So what I do is I constantly test whether a purchase is a need or a want by waiting it out.
In sum, I enjoyed Mount Pulag experience and if you are wondering if I would be willing to do it again, the answer is yes but I think I need time to forget about how sore my legs were and how much my body ached after the climb.