19 November 2013

Mt. Makiling Benefit Climb (Part 2)

It was one bracing November dawn when my precious sleep in my cramped bed was disturbed as my hands automatically searched for my phone to check the time. Upon glancing at the screen with my clock that read 5, I made a mad dash downstairs as I was supposed to be up by 3 to prepare for the team’s lunch for that day's climb. Surprisingly, the burger patties were already fried, my good-hearted housemate solely did the entire frying job. That morning, we were slated for the Mt. Makiling Benefit Climb, our own way of helping the Typhoon Yolanda victims.

Several minutes later, we were already busy packing our personal stuff to bring for the climb. I took the liberty for a cup of coffee, treated myself a quick shower, then flew to the atm to grab some cash to pay for the reg fee. Just a few minutes before the call-time, we were already at the meeting place. One after the other, the rest of the participants arrived safely much to our hearts’ content. For a few moments more, we waited a little for the others to come. A brief orientation was  held regarding the climb. Then we finally asked for His blessings and guidance for a safe climb before heading off. 

At around 6:30 am, we left the meeting area and walked our way to UPLB Forestry where the jump-off point was located. It took us around 15 minutes of semi-uphill climb to reach the reg area when some of us were all ready to go back judging from the looks on their warmed-up faces. Right then, our team of 23 hikers was divided into three groups (lead, mid, sweepers), with me leading the sweepers. Mt. Makiling was very inviting that day, the familiar chirps rolling over the shaded trail was pleasantly echoing as we walked upwards. The sun was also shining bright as if giving us the assurance of a dry and safe climb. As we walked, I realized I was walking the very same trail I was walking three weeks ago. I had no idea Mt. Makiling could amaze me that way that day, even more than the first time I set foot to it. We continued with the long walk until we reached our first major stop:

We spent a couple of minutes to rest before resuming with the march. Some took the opportunity to energize by having their breakfast while others chose to treat themselves the luxury of comfortable seats. The hike itself was strenuous due to the required long walks. It’s manageable nevertheless, especially with the sufficiently paved road during the first hours of the climb. In addition to the nice trail, the good thing about the Mt. Makiling trail is the presence of tall trees keeping the entire lane shaded against the raging heat of the sun. Despite the seeming endless walks, our skins were safely guarded from the potential hurt that could be caused by the sun.

Things started to really get a bit hyped as some of the participants were already showing signs of tiredness  as we further ascended. The laughing and trading of stories were almost gone at that point of time. Everyone’s serious with their own businesses. Additional paranoia about the limatik (a local term for a certain species of leeches) invasion further made the trek difficult, as Mt. Makiling trail has been a favorite playground for such creatures. Despite the fact that those leeches are indicative of the forest’s health (I read it somewhere before), they were a major annoyance and hindrance to us on our climb. We have to look down every once in a while to check if one (or more) of them were already taking an advantage, sucking blood out of us.  

We resumed with the hike following the usual drill: the leaders on the lead and the sweepers on the far end of the trail. A couple of minutes later, the initial groupings started to slowly rearrange. Some were demoted to the sweepers team as they fail to keep up with those on the leads’ pace. This is expected especially for a large group comprised majorly of first time hikers. But then we were a team, we had to wait, push, and watch each other’s back until we all successfully reached the peak.

A few more walks and we reached Stn. 20. The aair get a bit colder, the trail get even narrower, and the assault started to get steeper. The mere sight of the uphill trudge in front of our very eyes drastically changed the mood of some of the participants. The fog also began to thicken blanketing some parts of the trail, shrouding our way, inhibiting us the scene of a grandiose view down below.

At this point, I lost count of the number of limatiks that tried to suck blood out of me. I also lost count of the number of ###### from fellow hikers every time a limatik touches their skin. Along with this are the countless lies I so far told them. haha. For the past two hours, I have been constantly telling them that we’re arriving at the peak very soon when in fact we weren’t even half way there. haha. Moreover, a hoax that the hike ends at Stn. 25 circulated giving them false hope. Disappointment was evident at their faces as we reached the said station, though; they still managed to crack a smile, thus this pic:

As we arrived at Stn. 25, I believe that our team’s lead group were already at the peak. In our case, we had two more stations to conquer including a major assault, holding on to that vague anticipation of arriving at the top. AT that point, I knew it wouldn't be long before we reach the day's destination. The adrenaline started to kick in as we approach the peak, already feeling that sense of accomplishment. A few more steps against the raging gravity and we finally set afoot the peak. I saw some unfamiliar smiles from my climbmates’ faces and those were enough reasons for me to enjoy my meal. 

We grabbed some more minutes to rest at the peak and document a few more things, We had this pic among us organizers to capture another success we shared (along with that cross we made during our previous climb).

It was past 1 already when we decided to descend. After another 5 hours of excruciating walk, our new group of sweepers finally reached the base. It was dark already and we had to make use of our flashlights. We logged out from the reg area and drove our way back to the real world. We had a cheap but satisfying dinner and claimed the much needed rest before calling it all a day. Again, with our goals attained, despite the calculated danger, and a prize of another unforgettable adventure at hand, I’ve proven I’m stronger. And prouder. 
It was one tiring November night when I found myself with aching head and legs, back at my cramped bed. I searched for my phone and the clock says it's already 7. The next thing I knew, I was defeated by the darkness of my own room.

PS. We climb mountains for various reasons: to challenge ourselves, to have that abstract self-fulfillment, to kill boring hours during some nothing-to-do-days, to celebrate, and so on. But my (second) Mt. Makiling climb was dedicated for an entirely different purpose. Regardless of various motivations, I, with a bunch of 22 other first-time and not-so-first-time climbers, climbed for a single mission: to extend a helping hand. The onslaught of #Yolanda (Haiyan), the worst typhoon to make a landfall in the Philippine history of typhoons which left a devastating situation down south with nearly 5000 lives lost and unimaginable properties wrecked, was the reason for such climb. Knowing the fact that some people we know (and their families) were actually directly affected by the calamity, we took the initiative to help through our own little ways ― one of which was the recently concluded Mt. Makiling (Peak 2) Benefit Climb last Saturday, November 16, 2013, where we ask for kind-hearted individuals to hike with us at the expense of a reasonable registration fee (250 pesos, inclusive of lunch). Through the said climb, we were able to raise a little amount that we hope would be a help to those who badly need it at this point of time. 

PPS. In behalf of the organizers, I would like to thank everyone who have participated and contributed for the success of this activity; from the hikers, sponsors, and donors who unselfishly shared a part of themselves by lending us their time climbing with us up to the peak and by providing resources necessary towards the realization of our purpose. We know that a simple thank you would not suffice, but from the bottom of our hearts, thanks anyway.
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