Project “Janet” Phase 1: Cleaning Up Mt. Batulao

Roughly about 2 weeks ago, I got a text from Nanay Nini asking if I’d like to help in cleaning up Ma’am Janet Belarmino’s bahay kubo in Batulao’s Peak 7. At first I didn’t know what she was talking about because the last time I climbed Batulao, I’m pretty sure the kubo wasn’t there yet. She told me that Ma’am Janet had it constructed so that mountaineers could use it to rest, stay in it overnight for free and even hold Basic Mountaineering Courses there if need be. What she had in mind was a communal space for all to share but apparently, an alarmingly substantial lack of ethics from fellow ‘mountaineers’ left the kubo all decrepit and trash-ridden. Nanay Nini, hearing about this, volunteered to clean up the hut and eventually asked for our help. Now, me and cleaning don’t really go along that well together (see my room for reference…) but something about disrespecting the mountains irked me somewhat so it was more than enough to convince me to give one weekend to do what I can.

We agreed to meet up at Pasay Rotonda at 5 AM because the jeepney we rented would be picking us up there. I had to get up at 2 AM to ‘cook’ (ok, fry, whatever) my packed lunch since I’d be coming all the way from Camarin. Thank heavens for killer buses with no regard for speed limits because I was able to get there by 4:30. Hehehe I had breakfast at McDo then met up with Kuya Badong and Jepoy while waiting for the others who would be coming along with us from Pasay. Nanay Nini and the others would be coming from Alabang while sirs RJ and GP would join us at Sta Rosa. Kuya Elpi would be picking up Doc Joyce and ate Anna and would be making their way to Tagaytay on their own as well. It would be about 5:45 before we were able to leave Pasay en route to Alabang since Ma’am Kat ran a little late (a little nga ba? haha). Sir Rowell, Mon, Ma’am Kat and Alex also met up with us at Pasay. We soon headed for Alabang where Nanay Nini along with sirs Ivan and Andrew as well as Ma’am Phoebe and Dei were waiting for us.

Now I’m going on a tangent here (as if I don’t always do so ) and say that I think I’m a pretty smart guy. Or at least I delude myself convincingly that I am. 😀 But sometimes it takes a lot of time before the brain machine functions properly and I guess early in the morning (especially when you’re sleep deprived) isn’t quite the right time for that. And it’s not just me, a lot of people are guilty of having Windows 95 operating systems and still use 3 ½ floppy disks during the morning. 😉

Case number 1: Phoebe’s ‘Climb Against Biabetes’

Phoebe: Nay gusto niyo ensaymada?
Nay Nini: Ayoko niyan nak, mataas sa sugar
Andrew: Eh di magiging Climb Against Diabetes na rin tayo nay!
Phoebe: Onga, CAB!
Me: …huh? Anong climb against biabetes ka diyan?

Case number 2: Si Ben Eleven

Andrew: Yung watch ni Ben 10, di ba kinalaban niya pa yung ghost? 10 aliens yun lahat.
Me: Parang more than 10 pa ata yun.
Phoebe: Ten yun kasi Tennyson siya.
Mon: Oo tapos yung sumunod sa kanya nagtayo ng convenience store. Si Ben 11.
Me: (silent and thinking “What? Huh?” while all of them were howling with laughter then after 20 seconds or so) Ay leche 711 pala, di ko nagets! Akala ko talaga season 2 yun o something!

For the life of me, I didn’t really get it at first since the way they were talking about Ben 10, it was obvious that they watched the show. I, on the other hand, haven’t once so I thought they were serious about Ben 11 and it was a sequel of some sort. Fail.

Well anyway, we met up with Sir GP, RJ, Jec and Bien (Pogi!) at Sta. Rosa then it was off to Tagaytay from there. We stopped by at Chowking (the official sponsor of HLGG hehe) where we met up with Kuya Elpi and the others including ate Chiqui, Anna and Doc Joyce. It also gave the chance for some of our climbmates to get their packed lunches. I actually had my second breakfast there because apparently, one sausage mcmuffin is nowhere nearly enough.

CAC at Chowking Tagaytay

CAC at Chowking Tagaytay

In no time at all, we were already at the Evercrest jumpoff and readying ourselves for our trek. Nanay Nini also gave us pencils that we could give to the kids that we met along the way. She thought it was an opportune moment since we were already there anyway so why not right? So armed with our brooms, sacks and pencils, we commenced our hike up Mt. Batulao. We got to give many kids some simple pencils to use along the way and the kids were very grateful indeed. Sometimes they would be the ones who would greet you first! Maybe they were used to mountaineers passing by their houses but it still doesn’t take away the fact that they were welcoming when they could easily have chosen to ignore you. 😀

Doc Joyce, Anna and RJ...for this climb, we had sweepers. Literally!

Doc Joyce, Anna and RJ…for this climb, we had sweepers. Literally!

still feeling vigorous at the trail

still feeling vigorous at the trail

Ma'am Alex giving out pencils to kids along the way

Ma’am Alex giving out pencils to kids along the way

Nanay Nini doing the same :D

Nanay Nini doing the same 😀

We hiked up Batulao using a very relaxed pace. During the beginning of our trek, we came across Kuya Ivan, Grace and Sir Alfred! Kuya Ivan was among the pioneers of HLGG as well and was actually the one who got us involved with CAC’s efforts in the first place. Grace joined us when we reached out in Marinduque last year and Sir Alfred was the one who guided us when we ascended Mt. Arayat for Big Boy and Ed’s Birthday climb. Apparently, the three of them trekked the night before so they were already on their way down. Talk about serendipity! Anyway after that, we continued up the mountains, resting once in a while until we reached the bahay kubo at Peak 7. By this time, the sun was bearing down so hard it was actually dizzying. Pity that the winds weren’t as strong as the other times I’ve climbed Batulao because it would have helped alleviate the discomfort. When we arrived at the hut, sweat was literally pouring down our skins. We found out that Ma’am Gulay and Sir Raymond were already camped there as well. Apparently Ma’am Gulay was a frequent Batulao climber since I was later told that it was her 11th time there…this year. I think she already pays rent there or something. 😀

With Grace, Kuya Ivan and Sir Alfred! And me in blue (ika nga ni sir Rowell:, "Sir, ayaw mo ng blue?" haha)

With Grace, Kuya Ivan and Sir Alfred! And me in blue (ika nga ni sir Rowell:, “Sir, ayaw mo ng blue?” haha)

Upon arriving, we inspected Ma’am Janet’s kubo and found out that the description was not exaggerating in any way. Trashes were everywhere, haphazardly thrown in crevices and the rooms above were littered so much that there was no space to actually use it for comfort. It looked like one giant garbage heap atop the makeshift beds. The space below was not better. The fixtures were broken and the floors were littered as well as the chairs. Even the spaces between the pillars were used for dumping alcohol and plastic drink bottles. It was actually quite disheartening. I wasn’t surprised to hear that when Nay Nini volunteered to clean up the hut for her, Ma’am Janet actually cried in gratitude because looking at it, I doubt nothing short of a collective effort can actually do something about it.

these were the rooms meant for mountaineers to rest in

these were the rooms meant for mountaineers to rest in

around the back area

around the back area

plastic and alcohol bottles everywhere!

plastic and alcohol bottles everywhere!

Now, I know that it could be argued that since not all so-called mountaineers have had BMCs or training before climbing up the mountains, they don’t know that leaving trash the way they did was outright stupid and disrespectful. Personally, I don’t think it’s solely that. That’s a valid point and all but I also know a lot of mountaineers who, despite not having any BMC or training, still have the common sense and decency to realize that when you litter in the mountains, no one would clean up for you. Really, you need a seminar to tell you that throwing garbage anywhere is wrong? Simple ethics man! The lack of mountaineering basics is no freaking excuse to act that way and for those ‘mountaineers’ who act likewise, then it’s utterly shameful in my opinion. I know being called a true ‘mountaineer’ is ambiguous at best but if there are people who don’t deserve to be called that, it’s those who don’t mind the trash they leave behind, BMC or no. It’s just sad when you think about how the disrespect snowballed into how the bahay kubo turned out. I mean, it was obvious that the trash wasn’t left behind by just one group. What? People saw that there was garbage there already so they thought it wouldn’t hurt to add a little more? There was trash of every kind, even an unfinished McDonalds meal left behind atop one of the benches. It was really sickening the lows that some people would go to.

After absorbing what we had to do, we cleaned up an area of the makeshift hall so we could setup our lunch and eat before starting all the work. Everybody shared what they brought so it ended up being a feast for everyone, mainly thanks to the fresh salad (akin yung mais! hehe) that Phoebe took all the trouble to carry atop Batulao (complete with dressings and everything!) There was Ate Chiqui’s beef and broccoli (which people flocked for the broccoli only), ate Anna’s sinigang na hipon, salty shrimps (na gumuguhit sa lalamunan ika nga ni Kuya GP haha), salted eggs, fresh tomatoes, fried nuggets and more. By the end of the meal, we were so full that we joked that we would be too tired and sleepy to work anymore so we’d better just head down hahaha

Project "Janet" Phase 1: Cleaning Up Mt. Batulao

we had to repair the roof in order to use the space below

an initial sweep so we could use the area to setup our lunch

an initial sweep so we could use the area to setup our lunch

even with all the trash around, we still got to enjoy a meal as sumptuous as this! Care of Ma'am "Bing"

even with all the trash around, we still got to enjoy a meal as sumptuous as this! Care of Ma’am “Bing”

After everyone has had their fill, it was time to work. Thank heavens that there were many of us so it didn’t take that long to clean up all the trash, sweep the floors and basically make the kubo presentable at the very least. After an hour of sieving through dirt, picking up bottles and plastics laying around, heaving bamboo logs and sweeping wayward grass, the phase 1 of Operation Janet was done! We ended up filling more than 10 sacks of garbage to bring down but at least the bahay kubo was, for all intents and purposes, way cleaner. We also temporarily barricaded the space below to not give any climbers the idea that it would be okay to start using it as their dump site once more. Sure, it would take a lot more work to be able to restore it but we reserved that for latter phases. A lot of ideas were even thrown around like building a library; making the kubo a toll gate that climbers would have to pay to be able to pass through; making it a coffee shop with free WiFi and employing Mam Gulay as its resident warden (all in exchange for a plaque that names her “Employee of the Week” every week haha). I’m pretty sure they were serious about the last one.

CAC volunteers in action

CAC volunteers in action

each volunteer busy with their tasks

each volunteer busy with their tasks

Doc Joyce, Kuya Elpi and Phoebe...all smiles despite the work!

Doc Joyce, Kuya Elpi and Phoebe…all smiles despite the work!

barricading the space with the extra bamboo logs

barricading the space with the extra bamboo logs

to a certain extent, the kubo looked presentable after the cleaning was done :D

to a certain extent, the kubo looked presentable after the cleaning was done 😀

The main event occurred after that which was the ribbon cutting and raffling of the Nalgene water bottle! Of course everyone wanted to win but as fate would have it, Kuya Badong (who was the first to draw from the bag I might add) would end up winning it. The reaction was quite violent actually and I think it wouldn’t be as such if anyone other than him won. 😀

ribbon cutting for Project Janet Phase 1's success! hehe

ribbon cutting for Project Janet Phase 1’s success! hehe

the winner of the Nalgene raffle: Kuya Badong!

the winner of the Nalgene raffle: Kuya Badong!

We packed up soon after the raffle was done and each carried a sack of garbage on our descent. I successfully put one sack in my 40L bag but it was so huge I ended up not being able to close my bag. I actually got a little off balance because I was not used to having an overhead full pack. We got held up by the rain so we rested and bonded at a bahay kubo on the trail until the rain let up. It was almost dusk when we left Evercrest with the lot of us deciding to just wash up back in Manila. We decided to head to Mahogany Market for a quick Bulalo dinner then it was off to Manila after that.

Ma'am Kat and Anna each hauling their sacks of garbage (galing umarte ni Ate Kat oh! haha)

Ma’am Kat and Anna each hauling their sacks of garbage (galing umarte ni Ate Kat oh! haha)

CAC family back at the jumpoff! (I don't know why I look like I'm crying in this photo, wagas kasiyahan ko ano? haha)

CAC family back at the jumpoff! (I don’t know why I look like I’m crying in this photo, wagas kasiyahan ko ano? haha)

All in all, the climb was tiring because of the work that needed to be done and there were times that the weather didn’t help at all. The sun was scorching at times or else impending our progress with downpours. But all of that was nothing compared to the crazy company of the guys from CAC. There were many moments to latch on to that made Project Janet an awesome experience and certainly something I’d jump on the opportunity to do again. There was Kuya Elpi’s “bumusina naman kayo, may feelings din ako” moments and Ate Chiqui’s seemingly fluctuating devotion to him (sometimes defending him, sometimes leading the others in the teasing). There were the childish antics of mam Alex and sir Rowell (as in parang bata haha)

Rowell: Alex, alex, alex, uy!
Alex (napping): Ano? Bakit?
Rowell: Ginising lang kita…

Of course, Kuya Jepoy and Badong’s jibes (and practically everyone actually haha) about Nanay’s age and Nanay Nini firing back.

During the ‘ribbon cutting’:

Badong: “Ribbon cutting to ng Home for the Aged”
Jepoy: “Magtatayo pala dito ng branch ng Golden Acres.”
Nay Nini: “Oy Badong magtigil ka, 10 buwan lang pagitan ng edad natin. Ako nagbook ng ticket mo!”

Kuya GP and RJ’s incessant jokes and stories all the way up to Mahogany Market.

About the salad dressing:

GP: “Uy tingnan mo, para yung sa bata.”
Bing: “Onga eh parang yung gerber.”
GP: “Hindi, parang yung sinuka niya yung kinain.” (Try hearing that when you’re in the middle of chowing down chicken nuggets!)

At Mahogany:

Ateng tindera: “Bili na kayo sir, pasalubong.”
RJ: “Eh mag-isa nga lang ko sa bahay! Kanino ko naman ibibigay yan?”
Ate: “Sa biyenan niyo sir.”
RJ: “Wala pa nga kong girlfriend biyenan agad!”
Ate: “Kala ko kasi kayo ni madam (uyyyyyy….) pero di nga sir, pramis minsan lang ako magsinungaling, ang gwapo mo kasi kaya bumili ka na.”

(I’m guessing that was one of the rare times na nagsisinungaling si ate although pumalakpak na tenga ni RJ after that haha)

I could honestly go on and on about how awesome that climb was because of the funny and hilarious people who joined the event but I fear I won’t be giving them enough justice. All in all, it was a worthy cause coupled with amazing company…what else could you ask for right? I hope I could join in Phase 2! 😀

Credit for all photos used in this blog post belongs to Nanay Nini Sacro. 😀

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