Two years ago, I decided to work outside of an office because of a number of things. Mainly because apparently I was so stressed out that I fainted on my way to work at one time. I’m making it sound more dramatic than it actually is but let’s just say GERD, funeral, office politics etc. just piled up at the wrong time and it resulted to what it was. In any case, I found myself having lots of free time because I work from home and only occasionally go out to the field when what I’m working on necessitates it. I told myself that I would find a hobby because up until then, I had none. Thinking back, I’d say most of my vacation leaves were spent to make up for guard duty during emergency hospital confinement trips, which is another story altogether hehe
So I decided to try mountaineering. I decided that I would find out what I could, learn the basics if nothing else, join a good group then scale as much peaks as I can. I started browsing Facebook for reputable groups to join who offer BMC (Basic Mountaineering Courses) then start from there. I found out about Eastern Mountaineering Society or EMS and decided to enroll in their BMC which was to be held on the coming August. Fortunately enough, they were holding a fun climb where everyone can join that July so they asked me if I was interested in it. Before then, I haven’t really gone on trips with a total group of strangers. When we go out of town or anything like that, it’s usually with friends. So I was pretty anxious but I thought to myself, “What the heck? We got to start somewhere right?”
Admittedly, I had no idea what I needed to bring or to wear during my first climb. I had an old Kathmandu backpack which was given to me by my aunt a long time ago, a rudimentary tent that my sister and I used camping one time and that was it. I climbed wearing cargo shorts, a white cotton t-shirt (the horror! hahaha) and a pair of Sandugo sandals. I didn’t even bother waterproofing my bag or thought to bring a poncho. I didn’t bring that much food as well foolishly thinking that I could survive on what little I had. Newbie at its finest you could say.
So there I was one July morning, hovering outside a group of obviously mountaineers until I recognized sir CJ (the one corresponding with me online) and introduced myself all the while thinking what the hell I am getting into. I actually don’t remember where it was exactly in Rizal but we took a hired jeep from Shaw then after 2 hours of so, alighted at an elementary school where the whole group convened. I remember sir CJ asking me to lead the prayer to which I politely refused since I don’t think I should be leading that particular activity. I actually don’t know if I explained my belief very well (or at all really…) regarding the matter so they might have thought that I was just being snobbish wahahahaha So they prayed, assigned Lead Men, WFA and Sweepers (terms that I had no idea what the meanings were) then began the trek. For my part, I was contemplating whether I would be able to survive physically because I was never really into sports. I think I resolved that I will not show weakness no matter what since I was the outsider of the group wahahahaha
As we were trekking flatlands, slopes and crossed numerous rivers, I realized that I was enjoying it immensely. Sure it was so tiring that I had to catch my breath several times but I found it to be the good kind of tired. The views were amazing and somehow, I felt that all the sweat was worth it. I always loved being outdoors. I lived in an island community for my senior year so after getting used to the beach and fields every day, I became easily annoyed by all the metropolis hubhub when I returned. I always wanted to ‘commune’ with nature more but after graduation, the opportunities to do so were kind of scarce. So I guess my enjoyment of the climb was pretty much in the making for quite some time.
During the trek, I also didn’t feel like giving up. Of course, back then I was still reserved with the jokes of being too tired since I don’t know the people I’m with that well. Now, it’s easier to pseudo-complain and make fun of being tired although deep inside, you know that you won’t give up until you reached the peak. Hehehe After 4 hours of so, we reached the campsite by the river. I set up my ‘tent’, helped prepare dinner, participated in a very memorable albeit alcoholic socials, encountered a snake while fetching from the water source then it was off to sleep.
I woke up early, evidently much earlier than anybody else as I found out then went to the river to take a dip. As serendipity would have it, I had the river all to myself. That moment was quite sublime and I will never forget it. There I was, soaked in the clean waters, trees all around me, listening to birds chirping and the rustling of leaves. I know that sounds hippie and pretentious but it didn’t feel like it. I felt simply calm and at peace…as cheesy as that may sound. Hehehe
When the day finally broke, we crossed the river to the other side and explored the caves there. It brought me back to my first time in Sagada’s Sumaguing Cave back in 2004 because admittedly that was the last time I went spelunking hehe. It was not a long cave, about 20 minutes or so and the end of the cave, there was a mini pool that you can take a dip in. After exploring the cave, we headed back to the campsite and readied ourselves for the trek back. We actually didn’t go all the way back to where we started, they had the jeepney pick us up at a nearer barangay. Apparently, the itinerary was setup that way so that we could experience the various river crossings the day before. It was 4 in the afternoon when we left Rizal and was back in Manila by dusk.
After that, I guess I’ve been bitten by the climb bug. I’ve climbed a substantial amount of peaks since then and loved every single minute of it. No matter if the rain is constantly pouring over you or the heat of the sun is bearing down on your neck, in the end it really doesn’t matter. You also get to meet a lot of interesting people and feel part of an imagined community which each one of them respects. It isn’t competitive and people would certainly debate if it’s a sport but it’s definitely something worth doing.
Although, I think climbing is still a very polarizing activity. After going on one climb, you would either not want to repeat it again or soon can’t get enough of it. I certainly became the latter and the friends I got to meet along the way seemed to support that theory. Heck, even my own sister is proof of that! 😀