Of Peaks and Pals

It was a year ago when I picked up again the pieces of my passion for mountaineering. Putting a verse of my earthly existence in sync with what I think I should be doing, I decided to finally retrace my paces to high up there in the mountains. That monolithic Pico de Loro was like the best appetiser in any great feast of rocky roads and tantrum-titled trails.
Do I need to elaborate more on the delightful desserts – captivating corollas, fascinating floral fragrances, amazing animals, pleasantly perplexing paths, and of course, that much-sought sea of clouds? Just in case you need more for you to feel the king of your own world, search for the place where the raindrops end… and witness how seven colours beautifully form an arch.
It was in Mount Makiling where I met a group of mountaineers for the first time. Since the majestic mountain literally and figuratively formed my career, I was more than enthusiastic to see its enchantment beyond exposition. Prior to setting my foot over its earth, I was given a guide to its trail components – mossy branches and trunks, slippery passageways, roped routes and that rather friendly extended exit walk. The organisers did not invite me. I invited myself through a friend, whom I thought also invited herself to the event through one of the friends of the organisers. In short terms, I joined with a limited knowledge on the event itself. The hike went well and my mountaineering realm started to get peopled.

But I felt a bit of discomfort from the way they addressed each other – Sir and Ma’am – which is completely and logically incomprehensible from my point of view. I think of such endearments as signs that there are hierarchies or castes – that I translate as manifestations of oppression.

Hiking rendered me weak to the calls of sunrise and sunset. Many times, I failed to repel the temptation of natural spectacles. To which I do not regret until now. With these aesthetic cravings I caved into, I can still reminisce how my eyes flickered with the bright night lights around Mount Arayat.
Three is never a crowd as the Bakun Trio provided me picture-perfect panoramas. It was at this journey that I came to know about the trading trail in Mount Tenglawan between Benguet and Ilocos Sur, with a portion passing through pines near an ancient burial site.
I even did not mind the pouring rain and strong winds over the Tarak Ridge of Mount Mariveles amidst the strike of typhoon Falcon. This, by the way, yielded me a scene of strengthened Papaya River and seasoned waterfalls along the way.

Tagged as sacred by some Filipinos, Mount Banahaw remains to be one of the popular hiking destinations in the country. Its lush landscapes never fail to surprise guests. Trekking through loose rocks and boulders, maddeningly slippery trails and strong water currents in the middle of a typhoon (again!) made me realise that life indeed is worth living for.

Mount Batulao, from my own experience of green peaks adorned with white panicles, is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen.
 With all the climbs I did, disappointment never visited my heart even at the slightest tick of time. I offer not a single remorse over the five hypothermic experiences I had with the possibility that any of those could have warmed me under six feet of clayey soil. With all the happy faces I saw under the scorching beams of the sun and, sometimes, soaked in rainwater, I did never expect that the tale of the Roman Empire coming to its end could unfold right before my eyes. Everything is so blurry now. There are moments that I clamour for a ray of light flashing all the happy memories. I even commenced connecting my carabineers to other hooks just to fill the growing desire to see the view from up there.

The paucity of bond between us is precious. Let us make mountains the harbours of our camaraderie beyond imaginable intensity.

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