02 January 2014

Mt. Zion - Long Ride, Long Walk, Long Rest, Longsilog, and the Longing to be Home

December 26, 2013 | The more we think we know a person, the more we realize we don’t know them at all. This is the same case with how I see the land which had been my home for my first fifteen years on earth, the playground I knew for so long, yet remained very much foreign to me. Little did I know that there are more things Pangasinan has to offer more than the overrated Hundred Islands (and they’re brutally slapping me straight to the face right now, one after the other). With this, I’m thinking of a vow to take a closer look on my own land before further going anywhere else.

And I’m starting somewhere from the west―Mt. Zion, the famous Pilgrim Mountain, situated at Brgy. Laguit Padilla, Bugallon, in line with my 2013 year-round goal of conquering 13 peaks, which I’m still trying to fulfil even at the year’s nearing dusk.

Long Ride. It’s pretty normal of me climbing mountains from a previous sleepless night. Thus, after a little rest freshly from some ROH-ic after-Christmas session, I got up with an eager heart, in spite of the overcast sky, as soon as the clock struck 5 o'clock, strengthened myself with a cup of coffee and a piece of pan de sal, and walked that long and still pitch blackout, rugged cemented road towards the highway to wait for something to ride. There are actually two ways to get to Mt. Zion: northward (via Dagupan) and southward (via Urbiztondo). Having been more familiar with the former, I chose to go Dagupan-bound. It took me more than an hour from San Carlos to Dagupan because the jeepney I rode was travelling turtle-pace, plus the countless stopovers, and add the still-unfinished renovation of the Doyong-Malabago Bridge which requires transport groups some extra kilometres of travel, thereby extending the ride by a couple of minutes. Upon arrival at Dagupan at the junction just before the jeepney turned west down to the busy street at the Downtown (A.B. Fernandez Ave.), I searched for Mhel-Bhen Bus Station and rode an Alaminos/Bolinao-bound bus. I was then dropped off to a certain terminal somewhere in Lingayen and finally transferred to a Mangatarem-bound bus before the final touchdown to the foggy municipality (at that time) of Bugallon, Pangasinan.  

A few meters away from the Bugallon Municipal Hall, I rented a tricycle for a lift to the Mt. Zion jump-off. I opted for a special trip as the heavens started to really go dark though there is actually an option to wait (for a lesser expense), economically talking. The way to Brgy. Laguit Padilla was the usual scenic rural setting, an archetype of the simplicity of living away from the busy lights and heavy traffic in the metro. Over the plains and fields was a soothing breath of fresh air finding its way to my lungs. After nearly three hours of ride from home, I finally reached the jump-off―the point of no return―amidst the possible danger, as dark clouds rolled, enveloping the isolated range I was about to triumph over.

Long Walk. The long walk jaunt started as the tricycle pulled over and I set foot to the base point. My heartbeat’s tremendously racing as a mixture of anticipation and anxiousness crept off me knowing that this would be a solo climb. Plus, I barely know anything about the mountain since only a few write-ups and articles are available to dig online. What made this climb even creepier was the heavy downpour as soon as the tricycle left, which I positively (sarcasm aside) found way too welcoming. This, however never prevented me to pursue with the clamber. Eventually, the angry skies cried almost incessantly, minus the thunder, lightning and the heavy blow of winds. But it rained really hard almost preventing me the proper sight of the trail, despite the fact that the trail is generally hiker-friendly. Nevertheless, I still managed to ascend at a faster-than-normal pace as the rain sweetly indulged on me. The rain did not cease for the next 50 minutes (or so) until I reached the peak. I admit, there were lots of instances of me being torn whether or not to pursue with the hike. Much as I raced against gravity on my way up, my thoughts were racing too, if I could stretch a few more minutes of solitude up there to wait for the hope of documenting things out. But minutes have passed and there was no clear sign that the rain would stop or at least slow down a bit, anytime soon. With a heavy heart, I decided to descend evidence-less. Too bad for me since I don’t have the best of technology yet to immortalized such precious and victorious moments since all I have in hand was a cheap camera phone, which is obviously not water-proof. 

It was such an agonizing descent for me being admittedly largely unprepared and miscalculating the difficulty of the climb especially with the unforeseen external hindrances. I was wearing chucks (which made the entire climb extra slippery) and maong pants (which started to feel really cold and heavy) the moment the rain poured. Mystically, the rain stopped as soon as I reached the clear trail part. I took the hint that maybe; I wasn’t supposed to be up there walking alone. But I took the liberty to catch this shot of that mountain I just conquered.

I walked a few more meters thinking of finally heading back to the jumpoff until I felt that invitation for an ascent to the pilgrim stations. The white paints of the sculptures were already wearing out and the trails towards each station were already wildly covered with tall grasses indicating that only a few people were visiting there for quite a long period of time, possibly. In fact,I assume I was the only hiker to visit that mountain that day since I see no one the whole time I was up there. At that time, the rain was dripping a little too soft, enough for me to took some shots.

As I hopped from one station to another, I experienced an immeasurable gladness I never felt from previous climbs, until I unknowingly reached the peak. The moment I set foot to the end of the pilgrim stations, I felt the serenity and peace I was longing for for this particular climb. For a spirit at an all-time-low, with lots of unnecessary thoughts running through his head, this solo climb at such a perfect place is a perfect experience. There was a moment in which I was literally jumping for no apparent reason way up there. I had a different vantage point of the land I neglected for years, with all those pretty sights of the surrounding areas included. And before my sanity leaves me at that point, I captured this inevitable selfie shot (the first of its kind to leak online).

At the peak of the pilgrim stations, I paid respect and offered a thanksgiving prayer before making my way down, rain-soaked, chilling, and freezing. Minutes later, I found myself standing back at the jump-off point, with a burning and love-filled heart. Extremely puzzled, the locals were largely examining my wet-look as I took a few strides to search for something to ride on back to the town proper. The place was quite isolated and there were a few chances that transportation would find its way at that part. Unfortunately, it took me another 30 minutes before I finally found one. It never occurred to me until this moment I’m writing this climb’s transcript that maybe, there were unknown forces that constantly prevented me from finally pursuing a solo climb. It actually took me five attempts before finally putting such dream climb into reality. The turn-out of events, the untimely downpour, and all other hindrances I’d rather not talk about during the entire clamber remains a mystery to me. I’m just thankful and proud that I made it through. I believe though that as long as you respect the mountain and everything (including those unseen by our naked eyes) thriving in it, then you could never go wrong. However, I’m afraid that this might be my first and last solo climb after I first-handly experienced the feeling thinking it would be much of a risk to try another one. Nevertheless, I’m not closing doors. My nature-loving spirit might urge me to hit the road alone again for another lone mount somewhere else in the future.

And as a piece of confession, this is by far my best climb to date. The mere thought of climbing alone crept me off at first, but merely eliminating that itch right on my bucketlist was such a fulfilling task. And just a piece of advice, should you have things you are yearning for, stop making excuses and do them now. You don’t have all the time on earth to continually screw things over, especially those that really matter, especially those things that make you happy.

Long Walk (again). As soon as I reached Bugallon Town Proper, I hopped to the first Lingayen-bound ride as a chance passenger. While riding the bus, the shivers’ penetrating down my spine, never feeling such cold ever before. When I reached the Lingayen public market, I rushed my way to the nearest department store as my body obliged me to buy new garments to wear as I forgot to bring any extra clothes. I was relieved the moment I got rid of those drenched shirt and pants off me.

After suiting myself with the comfort of a warm robe, I eagerly searched for another ride back to Dagupan. Surprisingly, the sun brightly shone. In just a split of a second, eureka moment hit me, and there was the sudden change of plan. From that spot where I stand at the Lingayen Market, I walked that long road towards the Capitol, where I was welcomed by those displayed war wreckages, reminding and reliving on me a part of the rich history of Pangasinan. Meanwhile, I was sweetly touched by that NYR-banner which on the other hand, drove my thoughts back to Elbi (and all those unfinished business back here).

Long Rest. From the Capitol Building, just a few walk would lead to the Lingayen Beach. It’s been n years already since my last visit on this beach and it was really reminiscent reuniting with the sands that witnessed my first taste of The Bar Tequila, which was really, not tequila. Anyway―

For nearly an hour, I let minutes slip away by just sitting cosy at the sand while watching those beach-goers swimming in full delight at that time. My back’s almost glued to the sand already as I nearly fell asleep when raindrops started to fall against my face. I got the cue that it’s time to go. Besides, my intestines were largely rallying against my mind already. It was past lunchtime and I needed to reward myself of that good lunch I believed I really deserved. I walked that long road again back to the main road where buses were picking up passengers, Dagupan-bound.

Longsilog. Coincidentally, in the name of the mother of all coincidences, my lunch was something long also. I did not intend to have longsilog for lunch for this post, but I did. While walking along A.B. Fernandez Avenue where series of childhood memories were rushing through me, I passed by that Jana’s Foods, as I was initially intending to buy a slice of cake. Fortunately, they were as well, offering pancit and rice meals. And to save me from further searching for somewhere else to have lunch, I opted to take a meal there with a longsilog order. Unfortunately, things did not go as I wanted them to be. The food wasn’t good and so with the service, relative to the price. The service was terribly awful and the crews were chaos-ly disorganized. My ordered longanisa was overcooked, they couldn’t even offer me the condiments and the drinks I needed, on time. But since I’m hungry to death at that time, I just shut up and ate down to my stomach’s complaint content. I just let things pass that day but not from this blog, of course. This is not some sort of grudge, but I warn you to think twice when you happen to go by Dagupan and have your lunch at that food stand (if it’s a food stand at all).

Moving on―

Longing To Be Home. It was nearing three o’clock when I found myself riding a San Carlos-bound jeepney, which was a clear manifestation that my day’s journey was nearing conclusion. My eyes were also drooping already due to tiredness after soaking under the rain and bathing under the sun for the past nine hours. Fifteen more minutes away and I was home then. But moments later, I caught myself lurking down the dreamland.. dream.. and before I realized, I was way past my destination. Rather than taking another ride back, I just paid for the extra fair and went all the way to San Carlos City town proper and dropped off to the New Public Market.

Surprisingly, my feet brought me to another home―that home which served as my cradle for four years, where some of the best memories were made, best lessons were learned, and all sorts of both serious and unworthy problems prepared me for a tougher university life―my beloved, Speaker Eugenio Perez National Agricultural School. The round tables where we spent hours while waiting for classes were already gone. Instead, they have those new, and better (fashion-wise) ones where I rested for a while.

I then treated myself with a jaw-dropping campus tour where progress is vividly cascading in front of me as I walked around. And as soon as I left my school’s portals, I glanced at my phone―the clock read five and I really needed to go home. And so I did. Little did I know, my long day was just really starting.. to be continued
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