Fam, I did the impossible. I actually climbed a mountain.
If you asked me to do this three years ago, I would’ve ran the opposite direction, mostly because I’m scared of long walks and falling on my butt. But I did it! And it was for a good reason.
One morning during breakfast, my mom told me that she’ll be hiking Mt. Pulag with her friends. And I was like, “cool, have fun.” “Sa June 11-12 kami,” she said. Then it hit me harder than a rock in a harder place (a line from No Filter book) (more on this later): there can never be a better time to hike Pulag –– and celebrate my freedom –– than Independence Day.
Damn, I already heard Beyonce singing Freedom at the summit from our breakfast table.
So I signed up… and dragged two of my cousins with me. I’m not stupid enough to allow myself to be the only beginner there, okay.
… Bumaba ako sa jeepney (wow this blog is starting really roughly)
Because we signed up a little later than the rest, we didn’t have enough time to prep. I only had a week to condition my body. That week was particularly stressful because of deliverables I needed to finish for American Idiot and the No Filter book. I’d like to think that I’m fitter than average, but man, nothing ever prepared me for how cold it was.
Going to Pulag was fairly quick. We took a bus from Victory Liner Cubao to Baguio then a jeep to the DENR office to register. They gave a short introduction about Mt. Pulag National Park and the different trails you can take to get to the summit. The one we signed up for was Ambangeg (the easiest) but I expected that we will be taking Akiki (the killer trail, according to most hikers) –– not that I want to. I’m just saying. There’s another one that they refer to as “The Bloody Trail” but I forgot what it’s called. My mind involuntarily forgets unpleasant things.
After registration, we headed straight to the ranger station at the foot of Mt. Pulag. There are a lot of carinderias and stores there so you don’t really have to worry about starving and running out of your essentials.
We pitched our tents in one of the designated camping sites after having lunch. Unfortunately, it was on top of a hill so we had to go down to go to the toilet (unless you want to try that portable toilet in the form of a Travel John) (the weirdest peeing experience). After that, we just killed time and snacked on a lot of things.
The weather at the ranger station was bearable. It was a bit cooler than Baguio so you don’t really have to bust out your fleece jackets. But come 5 p.m., it started getting really cold. If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s the fact that I don’t like being cold. I get cranky and angry and irritable. Not a good lewk overall. I packed on two layers of jackets on top of my dry fit shirt as soon as I saw the sun set.
After dinner, we went straight to bed because we were told that we’ll start the trek at 12:30 a.m. (Note: DENR determines what time your hike will start. Since our group’s average age is about 42 years old –– our oldest being 71 –– we were assigned slot numero uno.) Sleeping was a bit hard because I napped the whole afternoon but I kinda had no choice. Plus the wind was scary.
12 a.m., we woke up and had a quick breakfast. I only had an oatmeal drink because the altitude made me feel bloated. 30 minutes after, we were called by our local guide to begin our hike.
I have to admit, I don’t really remember much of the hike. (See: “My mind involuntarily forgets unpleasant things.”) What I do remember is that the hike to Camp 1 was the steepest. My mind was still asleep so the most effort I put it into was to make sure I put one leg in front of the other.
Camp 1 to camp 2 was very… wet. We were mostly in the rainforest so the trail was bit slippery. A tip: When you slip, make sure you don’t do it on the cliff side. That’s going to be a problem.
The hike from Camp 2 to the summit was the most challenging. Imagine this: you’re tired, you only had 1.5 energy bars (because your cousin ate the other half) and you’re losing all hope to catch the sunrise because your two months worth of Guavapass workouts is failing you. The sun was set to rise at 5:40 a.m. that day. We were still about 3km away and it was already 4:30 a.m.
I have to admit, what I did next was kind of my lowest point of that whole trip.
As soon as I saw the sun peaking through the clouds, I left the group and bolted to the summit. I still had about 1km to go and I was tired as fuck but I did my best. It was a bit irresponsible of me to go on without a guide but they could see me from afar so that was fine.
I reached the summit at around 6:05 a.m. It was amazing.
I wasn’t able to take a lot of photos because I couldn’t feel my hands. And I started getting really cranky because it was too fucking freezing. I had four layers of jackets at this point but it was still cold for me. I just sat down in one spot where a bunch of plants blocked me face from getting blown off until we left.
I realized a few things about freedom and the Philippines:
- We can never ever achieve absolute freedom.
- There will always be certain asshats who will act on things that prevent other people from practicing their freedom.
- No matter how right the majority think these asshats are, there is still a big number of people who will do everything to make sure that everything is right and humane.
- And I think that’s a good way to live freely.
Sugar, we’re going down really tiiiired
Going back to the ranger station was the hardest part. It was starting to get hot so we were slowly stripping away the numerous jackets we put on. And those were really heavy. But the view made up for it.
In the conclusion and the aftermathhhh
Overall, the Ambangeg trail was fairly easy. It’s perfect for beginners who want to get started with hiking. Just make sure you bring lots of jackets and gloves (!!!) to layer on. No need to bring a lot of food; save that bag space for extra clothing and thermal blankets.
I can’t wait to go back! We (or just me, if they bail out) (which is very likely) already have plans on doing Akiki next year. Watch me.