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On Mountains and our Love-Hate Relationship

Back in college, I thought I wanted to be part of the group who seemed laid back and looked like they had most fun. I attended a couple of meetings with my university's mountaineering club but I didn't stay long enough to get to the application phase. I couldn't see why I needed to run 5 times around the campus perimeter with a time limit as preparation to a climb or why I needed to bring a backpack that's a dozen inches over my head when hoisted.  

Fast forward to 2005, our Theology professor required us a to do an outreach program. And while we all just wanted to grab a kid from the neighborhood and make him pretend to be a beggar so we could take pictures, our class president that time proposed to climb up to Sitio Mabilog instead.  Sitio Mabilog is UST Engineering's adopted community. It is a small Aeta community in Bamban, Tarlac located in the middle of the mountains. It was a 2-hr trek from the jump off point and a lot of times I was gasping for breath.  Thank goodness for the nice view that we had to stop every 10 minutes or so to snap a photo. I climbed up because it was a requirement I needed to complete.

The next year I joined a couple of Radio Club friends who went back to Sitio Mabilog to build houses.  I climbed up because the idea of building houses seemed fun.

The year after that my first official climb happened in Mt. Batulao, Batangas.  A couple of my friends and I joined a group who apparently had a knack for misfortune.  We arrived at 6pm at the jump-off point and when we finally started to trek, it rained. I wasn't prepared for anything more than a sunny day hike. I didn't have a raincoat with me, a rain cover for my bag, a headlamp, or extra socks for my wet feet. Thank goodness for garbage bags.. they make excellent makeshift rain coat/ bag rain cover. I slipped a couple of times, panted like I was having an asthma attack, and cursed every single minute in the uphill trail. It rained the whole night and the wind blew hard on our tents. I remember laying on my back in the tent dead tired with my feet wrapped in plastic bags. I couldn't even drag myself outside to join the socials.

The next day, my friend hauled me out of the tent and I was immediately overwhelmed with what I saw outside. Lush greenery every where I looked. We climbed up and saw the ocean on the other side of the mountain. All the memories of the difficulties I had the night before were gone in less than a few minutes. That day I climbed up because I wanted to be with my friends and see what the fuss was all about.

Mt. Batulao camp site
As of writing, I have only climbed 3 summits. I've chickened out a couple of times for fear that I'm not technically adept to go up and get myself going on the trail. I fear that eventually I'll run out of breath and drop dead. Those two other times I climbed up for no other reason but to reward myself with the view at the summit.

The grassy hills of Pulag
Mt. Ugo's summit
It's a cycle between me and the mountains. I know I will never stop gasping for breath or cursing myself every time I'm in an uphill trail but I also know that feeling of pushing my limits and seeing the world from several meters above leave me in high spirits long after the descent.

"It's a round trip. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory." (Ed Viesturs)


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