23 April 2014

Mt. Balungao

Fresh from my solo Mt. Zion climb, that mountain-climbing spirit in me was in red alert during that Rizal Day morning. I woke up as early as 4am and was already fully geared up by five thirty, gunning to momentarily depart myself from the conveniences of humanity, go hiking once again. But unlike my other climbs before, this particular climb’s beyond squeezing-time-for-adventure for me. I was about to make a history for myself that has ironically started out as a crazy idea. Being an inexperienced hiker (with a whole lot of other responsibilities) at the start of 2013, to climb 13 peaks throughout the year was a self-challenge I wholeheartedly accepted. That having said, I decided to end my short yuletide sojourn with that Mt. Balungao (my 13th climb) ascent, with a little help from a few friends.

Few hours away from my treasured hometown (San Carlos City), we initially travelled through a Carmen-bound bus, rode a jeepney, attempted but failed a tricycle topload ride (and rather hitched on a pick-up) before finally reaching the base of the inactive volcano we sought in the Municipality of Balungao. The sun was already burning hot up as we reached that certain street leading to the jump-off point. We were all ready to go when the tires of the tricycle we rented got flat just a few meters from the national highway. We decided to take some walk while waiting for some ride so as not to further waste our time waiting. We were lucky however as a delivery pick-up truck agreed to give us a lift after a quick explanation of our inopportune situation. In an instant, the unfortunate event we just faced turned into an advantage on our part―a memorable ride, all for free.  

There’s more to Balungao than its mountain. It’s true that the mountain-ness of the mountain is immeasurable but other things it offers are also worth checking out, especially if you’re not that huge fan of hiking and mountain-climbing. At the jump-off point, other adventure-filled activities were also available for the taking such as their 620-meter-zipline, ATV riding, bungee jumping, etc.  In our case though, reaching the mountain’s peak was the major priority.

The base of Mt. Balungao is a pre-developed adventure recreation park (Balungao Hilltop Adventure), instigated through the efforts of the local government to boost tourism in the province. In fact, rehabilitation of the road leading to the resort was on-going during our visit and construction paraphernalia were scattered alongside the road. Given the natural beauty and its strategic location (which is relatively close to Metro Manila), I think the whole place might turn to a gigantic tourist attraction once the construction of the road and the facilities are fully done.

The sun was already scorching as hell when we reached the resort’s gate. Unfortunate events further unfurled upon us as there were no available guides to accommodate us for the climb which obliged us to wait a little further. Minutes passed and it was a hopeless wait in vain, but not until Kuya Frey-di came to our rescue. And like a lightning sparking the birth of a great fire, my feet’s excitement to hike just burst in flames. Step by step in haste, I knew I was near to fulfilling a once-in-a-lifetime goal―the realization of my dream #13PeaksFor2013 Project. Keeping in mind that I was just a mountain away, I knew there was no room aborting the climb, for any cause, at any cost. And that feeling of finally walking that trail to finally seal that self deal was no less than heaven to me.

The trail was an endless uphill climb. My lungs and ears could not deny the altitude shift with the landscapes on constant change, while partying my eyes with the grandiose gift of nature not everyone could actually have a chance to enjoy. Difficult it is, but we persevered. To cut the long story short, with faith at every step, I (together with five other supportive people who climbed with me during this one despite the fact that hiking wasn’t their thing), managed to set foot to its peak a few hours later  despite the laborious fight against the steep slopes. The #13PeaksFor2013 Project gloriously found itself crossed out from my ambitious bucket list.

The view up there was a lush green landscape and picturesque scenery. For some moments, I freely let the wind and the sun kiss my burnt skin while enjoying at staring such glorious sight that gazes upon me that time. Then again, facing the daylight, bearing a smile of triumph, in an unspeakable feeling of victory, I was but a happy kid. 

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