Saturday, March 26, 2016

"Someday" became "today"

My brother and I hiking up Mt. Pinagbandirahan aka Mt. Gulugod Baboy(photo credit goes to my sister, Tata Francisco!)

Yes I'm still alive! And so is this blog! And what better way to celebrate Easter, a day of rebirth and renewal, by posting about an incredible experience we had last Good Friday?

I've always been a square. Predictable. Safe. Consistent. I've always been the type to plan everything out to the last detail. Always prompt for appointments. Always scheduling coffee dates or meet-ups with friends AT LEAST a week ahead. In short... a regular bore.

And then, on Good Friday, I woke up and felt like climbing a mountain!

Well okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration. What happened was, on midnight of Good Friday, I proposed to my siblings the idea of going on an out-of-town hike up a mountain. It's something I've always wanted to do but never did. Somehow, work would always get in the way.

The amazing thing was, my siblings went along with my uncharacteristic, spontaneous idea!

And so it was that we set out for Mt. Gulugod Baboy in Mabini, Batangas, with barely any research, barely any preparations. Just a crazy "let's do this!!!" attitude and the bravado of the ignorant. Oh happy ignorance!

We commuted all the way. Carrying enormous backpacks stuffed with provisions bought from the convenience store at the corner, we left the house at the incredibly late hour of 9:00 am! It was so late that someone told us, "I don't think you'll make it there. You should have left earlier."

After riding a jeep, a bit of bus-chasing and some negotiating, we found ourselves en route to Batangas at 11:00 a.m. Because it was Good Friday, there was NO TRAFFIC! And we got to Batangas City proper at around 12:30 pm. 

From the Diversion Road in Batangas City, we took a jeep to Bauan, then got on another jeepney to take us to Mabini. From Mabini, we took a trike to Anilao and got dropped off at the Registration Center opposite Philpan Resort at 1:30 pm. 

Our simple pre-hike lunch of rice, lumpia and Coke!

After a hasty lunch washed down with Coke, we set off with our guide, Alex, at around 2:00 pm. We wondered at his mountain climbing footwear: tsinelas!

What made the climb difficult was the heat. Most climbers set off as early as 4:00 am, while we had the afternoon sun beating down on us! And being newbies, we hadn't experienced how the weight of a backpack could seemingly increase exponentially, the steeper the climb. 

There's nothing quite like it. My memory of the climb itself is rather a blur of sensations...of the seemingly never-ending push ever forward, with one's heartbeat pounding in one's ears, throwing down one's backpack in exhaustion for every break. One becomes grateful for the littlest things... for a friendly tree's shade where one can rest, for a helpful lady selling iced water in her nipa hut up the mountain, for gentle cows and noisy goats and enormous ravens circling overhead, silent witnesses and cheerleaders for the puffing humans encroaching on their domain... and above all, for siblings whose unflagging optimism cheered me on and made me continue when I know that I would have given up, if I had been on my own.

We reached the top of Peak 1 (there are 3 peaks!!!) at 4:30 pm, only to feel anger at the sight of a parking lot, a paved road, and the crowd that obviously DROVE up the mountain instead of climbing it. I don't think driving up a mountain on your Ford counts as "conquering" it, despite all the selfies one takes at the summit.

Then again, thank goodness for the paved road, because we were able to secure a trike that brought us down the mountain. And at the bottom, which was part of Gasang, Mabini, we were lucky enough to find a jeep that took us all the way to Batangas Diversion, from where we took another jeep to get to Batangas Grand Terminal. We had to stop for several minutes, several times, due to all the processions going on. The longest stop was for 30 minutes! That must have been the longest procession I've ever seen in my life. Catholicism is alive and thriving in Batangas!

Thanks to manong driver's amazing Fast and Furious driving, we got to the Grand Terminal just in time for the last bus going home to Manila for the day! Talk about lucky stars.

Left Batangas at 7:25 pm, and got off at Magallanes MRT station at 8:40 pm.

Got home at 9:00 pm, just in time for a late dinner. That's right, we commuted all the way to Batangas to climb a mountain and got back to Manila, all in 12 hours! Whew! What a memorable day!


1) It's better to go all the way to Cubao and ride a bus from there, because by the time the provincial buses get to Alabang, they're full!

2) Don't believe the ratings on the internet. They gave Mt. Gulugod Baboy a 2/9 rating, saying it was an easy hike. Trust me. IT. WASN'T.

3) Physical fitness is everything. I was in awe of the mountain's residents, looking so wry and sprightly even at 70 - 80 years of age. They climb to the summit almost every day, apparently! And if I lived there, so would I. Who wouldn't want their daily dose of that beautiful view? Blue ocean, a canopy of lush vegetation, and the fresh mountain breeze?

4) The best-tasting Sprite in my life was the one I drank on top of the mountain, after the climb.

5) I need to change who I am. I need to take more risks, to have more faith in my own abilities. The confidence boost is amazing, post-climb! 

6) At the end of the day, there's no place like home. It's just like what G.K. Chesterton said: "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” Only a mere 12 hours elapsed from the time we stepped out our front door, and yet it seemed as if it had been years. I was sooooo happy to see that blessed gate, which had seemed like an obstacle but now seemed so welcoming!

In summary, you don't need weeks of preparation, nor a car to go out and have an out-of-town adventure. You just need to COMMIT to it, and have trusted people to go along with you for safety.

Here's to more exciting adventures with the Tres Muchachos!
But perhaps, a little less spontaneous next time. Ahihi. :)

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