2015 Year-end playlist, just because..

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For the sake of tradition, here goes 15 of the best tracks my ears came across this past year. With my pc crashing twice before finally resting for good, I had to rethink  those best downloads, all for this list. And here it goes..

1. Wilderness – Pasaway. Cos kundiman, and the music video is just epic
2. Mumford and Sons – Ditmas. Because.. "Don't tell me that I've changed because that's not the truth, and now I'm losing you"
4. The Tallest Man On Earth – Dark Bird is Home. Because once in our lives, we were taken for granted.
5. Peryodiko – Tayo lang ang may alam. Cos somehow we all know about hurt, and sometimes, there’s no way of escaping it.
6. Hozier – Someone New. Cos Margaery Tyrell
10. Death Cab ForCutie – Black Sun. Because it’s Death Cab for Cutie
12. The Weeknd –Can’t Feel My Face. Because, why not?
13. Ed Sheeran Justin Bieber – LoveYourself. Let’s admit it, the boy's grown up
14. Ang Bandang Shirley – Tama na ang Drama. Because it reminds us that all good things must come to an end.

Meanwhile, a few years back..
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I think that I shall never see, such a lovely tree

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Indeed, the best part of our Mt. Pulag climb was during our way down. While it’s true that the summit is just the half-way point, and we had to go on exactly the same trek once more, it turned out that the descent was a different story altogether. And the highlight of it all boiled down to this uplifting scene, so perfect to end our Mt. Pulag jaunt..



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Mt. Pulag Roundup

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For some time, climbing had somehow become the focus of my existence to the exclusion of everything else. It’s that intensified ambition and uninhibited dream that forced me to reach those loftiest points eventually piling up the numbers to at least 30 peaks, to date. The hunger to climb had really been blunted by those bunches of small satisfactions adding up to something like addiction. And one of the culminating climbs to top them all, was that one cool of a climb to no less than the playground of the northern gods – Mt. Pulag.

Climbing Mt. Pulag is no less than a dream come true. I am quite sure that my dream about Pulag was not mine alone, and that others are aspiring in climbing this most coveted northern peak in the realm of terrestrial exploration as well. With the mountain’s sheer overwhelming mass which is backed with a great deal of architectural grace, I dreamed of ascending it myself after my first Mt. Maculot climb last January 2013. And for almost two years, that wanting remained a buried but burning desire. Until one day an opportunity to conquer it finally knocked leaving me no choice but to accept the invite. Boy, some desires really die hard. Good sense be damned.

Ascending Mt. Pulag is a long but a lovely process. The itinerary for this climb requires much time and effort as one will need to steal away some time from the daily grind; in my case, work. Sorry work :) The road rage to Baguio alone entails some hours off the sched. But everything’s worth it; the process itself is something valuable enough in expense of a few days. The experience from the topload ride, nature treat of wondrous mossy forest sights, the infamous sea of clouds, and so on, were some of the prizes waiting for the bite.

The Mt. Pulag climb is not exactly a walk in the park. Surprisingly, it’s not the hike per se that made the climb hard. Aside from the hefty outlay of cash, the most difficult part of the hike was the huge temperature drop during the rest of the night. True enough, during the past two years I called myself a hiker, I had undertaken more difficult stints than this one – been trapped and lost in the midst of a stormy climb to Malipunyo, buffeted by a hundred knot winds while doing a solo ascent to Mt. Zion, and plastered with other frangible atmospheric rimes. But walking up Mt. Pulag is an experience unique on its own. And upon rethinking about it, it’s not entirely an easy feat after all. But with proper mindset, attitude, and training prior to the climb, everything should turn out fine.

It’s not really expensive. While I stated earlier that climbing Mt. Pulag requires a great deal of cash, I actually mean only half of that. It’s true that it’s relatively more costly than all the other hikes I did in the past, but the cash it wouild cost is still justified. I’m not a huge fan of travel agencies offering tour packages but this one is an exception. With all the rush and hassle and effort that goes along with the whole planning, it’s just fair to spend a little more than the usual.

The whole experience is a humbling one. The culture of climbing is sometimes a mix of competition and machismo. As I see it, some mountaineers and hikers are concerned with impressing one another, with endless comparisons on which and how many mountains they have climbed so far. I should know, because the first time I dreamed of conquering Mt. Pulag I objectified it as a bragging right, who won’t be proud to be on top of the highest point in Luzon anyway. But then, finally reaching its peak made me feel otherwise. The previous night’s cold showed us how little and weak we could be.

It isn’t all about the sea of clouds. And it’s not always the peak that’s the best. When I finally plodded up my last few steps to the summit, I had that tingling sensation of excitement, until I found both of my feet nowhere higher to climb. Reaching the summit triggered a surge of intense elation, for against all odds I attained a goal that was once a mere of a dream. But it’s not the peak that’s the best part, it was actually the descent that made me appreciate it more – the views across the trails that we failed to have a good look at during the ascent due to darkness . 
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Mt. Pulag Summit

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Straddling the top of Luzon, I hunched a shoulder against the cool breeze, stared in awe at the vastness of what seemed like a well-maintained grassland, and see to it to capture memories through photographs, in hope to provide a valuable record of how special such place is. I have been fantasizing about that moment, and the release of emotion that would accompany it, for many months. And right then when I was finally there, actually standing on the summit of Mt. Pulag, all the struggle from that long shivery night just faded away. The view up there on top was a beauty of truly monumental proportions. Right at those very moments, I could safely and selfishly say that nothing could come between me and those seas of clouds cascading over the hills. True enough, we were lucky to have a good weather that day and take a birds’ eye look at the immensity of the panoramic slopes.

But all good things must eventually come to an end. The sun’s brightly shining already, so we began to finally descend and go back to the campsite.
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Sea of Clouds

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While the sub-zero wind chills tortured me the whole night, I could still positively feel the glorious morning coming ahead. The Mt. Pulag night cold struggle continues with that 3 AM call-time for the final assault to the panoramic view point. It was cold inside our tent but the colder reality is, it was obviously colder outside. But left with no choice, we had to defy Newton’s first law of inertia, and get ourselves going. Still too dark, we needed headlamps to work our way up the muddy trails across those hills. Along the hike, flashes of great scenery were greeting us once in a while but the entirety’s not fully revealing itself yet. We strolled for a little over an hour until we finally saw that one last push of a hike and get there right above the clouds, with us momentarily being the tallest things in the entire Luzon island..


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The Long Pulag Night

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Moments later, I was awaken by the intolerable temperature drop, the storm booming without in solemn swells. Then the air seemed wailing from inside the tent. I could hear the ice cold dews striking and dripping over our now nearly useless tent. I checked my phone for the time only to find out that it was only a little over an hour since I fell to that shallow slumber. My body was chilling and I could feel the ground freezing. It was literally the coolest moment I have ever been and unfortunately I wasn’t prepared.

Well I fell asleep a few more times but woke up just as often. Whenever deep sleep was about to arrive, I would shrink back and wake up due to the unsettling cold, then sleep and woke again, in endless repetition. It felt dreadfully cold, but there was no help for it. So I pulled my freezing self together, got between the sheets, and pushed myself to the best of my ability to fall asleep again. Every waking hour was a déjà vu growing worse with every turn, more of the same, one more time around.

For the first time in a long time, I uttered some evening prayers for the Pulag gods or whomever out there exists. I keep my vigil, but to no expense. And then a notchlower temp began to squeeze on us further, while the clock spanks me with the fact that it was just eight o’clock. It was the longest night I should know.

I hardly had a good sleep since then. I laid there dismally calculating the remaining hours I had to endure. Seven, six, five.. and the night was getting far even colder. The thought nearly caused me hypothermia, but then I had to endure, along with the lesson on how the cold could such inspire fear. And I swore not to do that ever again.
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Mt Pulag: The Initial Assault

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It took us time and effort – from planning for the perfect date, the necessary arrangements, budgetary considerations, and the availability of ourselves, to finally make Mt. Pulag no more a dream. For some time, we were stuck on those waiting games for the stars to align and make this long overdue Pulag climb happen.

Months swiftly passed since the planning stage and the next thing we knew, we were finally climbing those very trails of that magical moss of a forest garden of floral blooms and green lush of pine trees across that sea of northern Pulag clouds. The climb per se was an easy feat as the trails were pretty clear and downright easy to recognize. But the catch – it’s unseasonably cold, with the subtle brisk of crisp air turning into a brisk wet wind swirling down on us and the trails.

While occasionally gracing ourselves with some stops along the way to catch some breath, the temperature was further dropping as well. In between the biting cold, far ahead of us were those towering pines and woods, merging into the green distance on the slopes as if it goes on forever. Then the next thing happened; the microclimate spoke of rain showers, and true enough we had sporadic rain showers. But we continued walking those moderately slippery terrains hoping to soon reach our destination.

Soon it was time to stop as we set foot to where we were supposed to stay the night. We reached the designated camp site, luckily with the sun still up. We were able to take some photos before celebrating the climb with a sumptuous meal to end the day. In no time, tents were pinched, dinner’s served and we were more than good to go for the precious sleep. Soon it was dark, though my clock just read 17:30. And in no time I fell asleep and found that peace in all the world I badly needed.
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Prelude: Back in the North

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I always make it a point to become better, or at least, happier, at everything. Or Not. Truth is, I’m just perennially bored, and those things called mountains alleviate this fear called stagnation. 

With the ubiquity of slopes and hiking destinations scattered all over the archipelago, I think Philippines has become a mountain-mad country already, thus, this lot of hiking enthusiasts out there, and mountaineers, and those pretending to be one, that which includes me. Anyhow, after crossing-out at least 20 peaks off my list for the last two years, I finally had this golden chance to meet this fine, boisterous giant at the north last year, no less than the highest peak in Luzon, Mt. Pulag.

So we drove up to Baguio the night before the actual climb which means we won’t be having a good night sleep for the remainder of that day. And it’s hard climbing a mountain without enough of a rest to say the least. Nevertheless, I took every opportunity to snatch some nap while taking that long bus ride from Manila to Baguio in preparation for the rough day coming up. In no time, we arrived at a freezing Baguio City at around 3 AM, a little early than our scheduled trip. A little over an hour of waiting followed, then we rode off in a jeep bound to the jump-off point.

Not long after, we hit the road again and it was already the birth-stretch of the sun. I found myself on that reminiscent winding road of pines and ridges on the sidelines once again. I have been travelling the same road for a number of times already yet the travel high it caused me was still madly intensified. Every single time. I still had those little chills of excitement like it had always been the first time. And just before falling to a deep slumber off the jeep, the gloom towards the north perfectly matched with the darkness on the far south. So then I tried to capture on memory every twist of the road in awe with every turn of our wheels.

Few more turns and we stopped for a sumptuous breakfast at a local eatery along the way, then stopped for awhile at the DENR office for some reminders about respect through a quick briefing on how to rightly conduct ourselves while braving the chilly trek. We finally continued on our ride to the Rangers Station at the base of the mountain, had a quick lunch and proceeded to do the three-hour trek to the camp on top.

And that’s where it all began – right there on the playground of gods, ready to play some goddamn games of our lives.


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Baler, on shades of gray

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Sometime on a cold midyear night last year, I was at Baler for the same old reason – to runaway, lol. It was a quick but eventful weekend break, to say the least. Actually, all there was was the whole night of Friday to travel, whole day of Saturday to tour, the remainder of the night to beach around, and the next day to travel back to reality. But mind you, that quick getaway, for some reason, was actually one of the most celebratory ones, like a long overdue basketball win over bonfires.

Until now, reminiscing about it still leaves me clueless how simple talks over a bottle of beer across those Pacific waves gave me faith and helped me clear some clutters off my head and come up with some huge realizations like a real and matured adult at that time – that some things aren’t written in the stars, that somehow everything will eventually make sense, and that all those shits there was will all be worth it in the end. 

On other news, behold, here comes the great photo dump.


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The Hermit Crab and His Home

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I am I live and crawl and love
As I am free and wild as fire
With my days spent in ocean’s arms
There still this something, more than meets your eye

Every now and then I crave for new
An abode to fit my growing limbs and toes
Some shells that snails leave far behind
A second-hand home for me to thrive

See I don’t have a home I own
But still I live the way I love
I may not settle for a one true house
Cos I always leave, later find another one

But don’t you judge and call me things
That I am not, and will not yield
It’s just the way things come and go
I need to move and be alive

But too, afraid I’m aware that I
Could never own what I pretend to have
That I may soon break, and wither, and die
And someone else will take away this shell I’m at

The above photo was taken at Diguisit Coral Beach last 3rd of May 2014
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