Sleeping through the night wasn’t easy but at least it wasn’t as uncomfortable as last year. It took a whole lot of willpower to go to the restroom though because then you’d have to go outside and work your way through the freezing cold just to get there. The weather pretty much stayed the same all up until the day broke. The rains were not as strong as before but the winds and the fog certainly were. But when morning came, the group decided that come hell or high water, we were going to the summit. I mean, it was still wholly manageable and the trail was not dangerous or anything. We initially went about preparing breakfast but since it took a little longer for the soup to cook, we decided to just leave it and just resume it once we get back down from the summit.
The trek to the summit didn’t take long. It had to be half an hour at most. I wore my poncho on the way up though because the weather didn’t let up even after that. Midway through the trail, just past teacher Jocy’s house, rain even poured. Not strong rains, but enough to add to the discomfort. This continued up until we reached the peak. We reached the altar-like structures in the summit but because of the weather, no clearing was to be had that day. But hey, we still made it to the peak! 😀
Up at the summit, everyone convened to offer the CAC prayer. This was one of the culminations of the whole event after all. Every time we do the prayer, I get a pang of sadness for everyone we are praying for and those who care for them. Because I understand how it was and I guess… how it still is even when it’s all over. I know that even at the best or worst of times, thoughts are the only thing we can offer them. It was the only thing people could give to me. So I have great respect for others who are willing to give a little time to give others their thoughts and prayers. Because however much you look at it, it is still asking a lot to give consideration to people you barely or hardly know who are suffering from an incurable disease. I guess I’m thankful for that. It doesn’t even have to be religious because I, myself, am not religious at all. I’d like to think I’m spiritual but I’ve long known that religion is not for me. But for cases like this, just those pure sentiments are already more than enough.
I actually choked up a little (a little lang :D) while at the summit. It just made me miss my mom is all. And as melodramatic as it may sound, the height does help make me feel closer to her. As it was for me, I’m sure it was emotional for some of the group as well. I swear I even heard a break in Nanay Nini’s voice as she led the prayer (iyakin Nanay hehehe) 😀 I know it wasn’t much but if offering our thoughts was the only thing we could do to help, then I wouldn’t mind doing it over and over again.
After our prayer, the group headed back down and decided to go straight to the mummy caves before going back to the school. Before that though, I brought Tin to the campsite which was on the other side of the summit. I showed her where we camped the previous year before the rains made our tents inhabitable that we had to sleep inside the school. I told her she might as well check the campsite out since she was already there anyway. After that, we caught up with the rest of the group before heading to the mummy caves.
We weren’t actually sure where the mummy caves were but we were instructed to just go along the main road. Mam Maritess and I went ahead and after of about 30 minutes of doubtful walking since we couldn’t see much (due to the fog cover), we finally arrived at the station where visitors were required to register for the mummy caves. Apparently, the area was gated so an escort was required to open the locks and guide us through them. During the trek downwards, the winds suddenly became stronger that it could actually throw you out of balance if you weren’t careful. Anyway, visitors were not allowed to photograph the actual mummies themselves. You could take pictures of the area around it but for respect, it was forbidden to take any pictures of the actual bodies. Personally, I didn’t feel as though it took away anything from the experience. Just being in the presence of tradition such as that was more than enough for me. There were two caves along the mountainside and they contained more that 20+ mummies in total.
After we were done viewing them, we headed back to the school once more where a sumptuous breakfast was waiting for us care of Phoebe (she and Nanay went on ahead and did not join us in viewing the mummies). It was actually lucky that we were among the first ones there because we got to sample everything before some of the food ran out! 😀 After having our fill, it wasn’t long before we were packing our bags and heading down to the waiting shed once more to await a Baguio-bound bus. That’s where we learned about the existence of the bag.
Apparently, when we alighted yesterday, the operator unloaded a bag belonging to a foreigner heading to Sagada who was aboard the bus with us. He assumed that it belonged to our group and since were were quite many, I guess it was easy to assume it was one of ours too. And since we left our packs to be picked up the jeepney the day before, there was no way to check if someone from the group did own the bag or not. So anyway, it turned out that we inadvertently made one foreigner’s trip to Benguet unforgettable (in a not so good kind of way) by basically ‘stealing’ his pack and depriving him of all his stuff. That guy would probably hate travelling to the Philippines ever again now. The group decided that we would just return the bag to the bus line at the station if ever the owner comes back for it. To the owner of the bag: we are deeply sorry but please know that there was no ill intent involved. It was just a combination of pure happenstance and bad luck. 😀
We rode a bus at about noon and after more than 3 hours of travelling (due to traffic and the bus seemingly stopping at every corner imaginable), we finally arrived at Baguio. We went on our separate ways at the bus station with those from CARB Mountaineers agreeing to take care of the bag first while Nanay Nini and us went to Oh My Gulay for lunch. Tin and I were actually quite excited to go there since we planned to do so 2 days before if we only arrived a little earlier from our Ugo climb. After climbing five flights of stairs in the La Azutea building along Session Road, we finally arrived at Oh My Gulay.
I guess this is the part where I tell the story on how everyone got so amazed at how much Tin can eat. Hahaha I’ve only eaten at Oh My Gulay once before and that was a long time ago but I knew it was a good experience and this time it didn’t disappoint. Both presentation and taste wise. They actually looked so good that it was almost a pity to eat them. Almost 😀
Both Tin and I ordered two dishes and shared one dessert. I told you we didn’t plan on scrimping when it comes to food. By the end of the meal, Nanay Nini, Phoebe, Joyce and Raymond couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw what Tin had ordered and how she neatly finished them all. She even ate the veggie burger that Nanay Nini ordered but couldn’t finish. Hahahaha I was also able to chow down both the veggie club and mushroom omelet that I ordered (they were so good!) and fell in love with the banana and peanut butter crepe that Tin recommended. Unlike the one with Good Taste, the victory with this food battle was with us hahahahaha
After eating at Oh My Gulay, we went to the market to buy some much needed pasalubong. Joyce and Raymond went on ahead to check out the bar (Iyaman) that sold mountaineering apparel while the rest of us headed to the market. At the market, we even met some of our climbmates there who were up to the same thing. I bought some strawberries and ube jam for my sister, various pika pika for my father and of course, jars of chocoflakes for myself. Hehehe After basically exhausting what’s left of my budget, it was back to Victory Liner to head for manila. Come midnight, I was already back in my comfy bed feeling dead tired and so ready for a proper night’s rest but feeling quite happy and fulfilled at the same time. I honestly can’t wait to do it again Hehehe Many thanks to Team SAGUL, Climb Against Cancer Philippines and CARB Mountaineers for an awesome 4-day Benguet trip! More power to each and every one of you! 😀
*Photo credit: Nay Nini Sacro