Mountains and Volcanoes
Freezing in a Tropical Country: Mt. Pulag, Benguet
Maui Sanvictores | Sep 26, 2016
‘Paraiso’ is the Filipino word for paradise and this word hits all the right spots when we speak about our country, the Philippines. Whenever the Philippines in the spotlight during conversations, one could not help but daydream of its impeccable sands and its pristine seas. You will certainly hear stories of it tinged with tropical vibrations and of sorts. But if one thinks that that is all there is in an archipelagic nation, they are dead wrong. Here.. go see for yourself.
Mt. Pulag is nestled between the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya. Standing ferociously with a height of 2,922 MASL (meters above sea level), this mountain has been around everyone’s bucket list for a long time. It’s the highest mountain in Luzon and the third one among Philippine mountains. It’s been said that once you have graced its pathways, you will never be able to elude making the climb an annual tradition.
One has to be filled with patience if she is bound for Benguet, where the jump-off point for Mt. Pulag is located. From a 5 hour bus ride to another 4 on a jeepney, you could only imagine how anticipation we’re growing inside each and everyone of us. After almost 10 hours of sporadic naps and snacks, we were finally at the foot of the Cordillera’s mountain range. From there one would see the efforts of the local community to protect their home. Visitors have to go through a short lecture (that’s what she said) before heading over to the jump-off point. A short lecture and a long line of registration is what one must go through before you are allowed to step on to the national park. Due to the long winding road we had to endure, some of the people were actually falling asleep. It was a funny sight to see some of them bang their heads as if in a rock concert. I couldn’t blame them, though, for I was almost dozing off at that time.
The rangers of the park and people from the government were reminding us of the ground rules while in the mountain. Taking mental notes on what not to do during the climb, I was particularly drawn to the last prompt displayed on the screen. It said that the mountain is venerated by its locals so clamours would be a sacrilege not just to the mountain, but most importantly its people. The very people who grew up to know this mountain as their home deem it as holy, sacred, and something not to be taken lightly.
As we proceeded with the first few steps of the climb, we felt at ease with the cool mountain breeze. Some of us were even singing all through-out the trail. If you’re undertaking Ambangeg trail, there would be no problem if you’re nowhere fit as a fox but the endurance must be considered. It’s a relatively easy walk in the park, but 3-4 hours of hike is a no easy feat. Add those sleeping bags and tent parts inside your pack, and it would surely be some kind of a challenge.
Upon arrival at the camp site, it felt like all I wanna do was lie down the muddy grasslands. I didn’t realize I was ‘that tired’ for I didn’t sweat hard enough, or didn’t feel much heat building up inside my body. So as soon as we stopped walking, it dawned on me that I was, indeed, dog-tired and famished. The moment we finally put up the tent, all I did was take off my shoes and sleep like a baby for several hours. Good thing one of my friends woke me up before sunset, she said, “Grasslands look exquisitely amazing during these hours, you must come, or you’ll miss half of your life.” And so I did. She had been here far more times than I could make sense why, but man oh man.. The moment I laid my eyes on the clearing, it was no less than magical.
I knew exactly why people make such buzz of the mountain that is Mt. Pulag. It’s no less than perfect and words like marvelous,magnificent, and of sorts would fall short.
But that is not it, just wait until all flashlights and tent lights are off by the evening. That is when one must be ready to lie down outside, in the biting cold weather and not be disturbed by it. For then, you must have been hypnotized by beings, 70k lightyears away, but whose powers does not waver at the distance. The galaxies…
My eyes were sweating in crispy cold weather, in the dark, where no one could see. I was questioning my existence juxtaposed to the celestial’s. How do you make sense of life when your mind is boggled from the atomic to the cosmic perspective. Existential questions and staggering realities were simultaneously thrown my way, “Do you even realize how complex your body’s atomic composition is?” “They work together precisely just so you do not end this dialogue, in here, right inside your brain.” “But how do I make sense of the infinite Universe, that keeps expanding, this very second?” “How is it that the moment I see falling stars, some of it actually has fallen a hundred years ago, and that I only see it now, cause the light has to travel that far before it reaches my vision?”
A gentle tap on the shoulder by a friend pulled me out of the dialogue. It was time to settle down at our tents to sneak in some sleep. It would serve as a preparation for the ascent to the summit at 3 in the morning.
After 3 hours of sporadic naps because my feet were going numb (the temperature dropped to almost 0 degrees), we finally made our way to the summit. Sleepy and shivering, we clung on to our led flashlights guiding us through the pitch-black terrain.
Before we knew it, our guides told us to sit and wait. So we were at the summit? Yes, oh yes!
In here, people take the time to wait for the sun to hover over the horizon, slowly and magnificently.
Take home from such majestic place? Photos, yes. Memories, yes. But more than all these, I went home with more friends. There’s just something about the people you meet above the clouds. Perhaps it’s the shared awe and wonder that the mountains behold in a grand scale. We went as strangers, went home as friends, cliché but undeniably true.
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