Mt. Pulag: My First Climb

Hi! So I rediscovered my old…ancient blog. I found this entry from 2012 and wanted to share this with you. Here goes:

First Published on  June 2, 2012

“It’s not the mountain we conquer- but ourselves”

-Sir Edmund Hillary

That quote proved to be true during my trip to Benguet and my first official climb.

Mt. Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon and the third highest mountain in the Philippines. The highest peak in the country is Mt. Apo in Mindanao. The second  is Mt. Kanlaon in the Visayas.

I went to this trip knowing only one person in the group, my boyfriend. While I look forward to meeting new people, I consistently grapple with my shyness and introverted nature. To explain its extent, let me just say that once upon a night out by the beautiful Dumaguete sea, I lost track of how much I drank because I was scared of being socially awkward. Of course that was a once-in-my-teenage-life mistake which I hope to never do again.


the campsite at sunset

And so I began to hike the Ambangeg Trail* with fellow beginners and two seasoned mountaineers without my teenage years to blame for my reclusive behavior. My boyfriend would sometimes walk ahead of me and eagerly chat with his friends. It would have been absolutely alright if I was on my turf but there I was, uncomfortable and as prickly as a porcupine.

My friends, that is an example of a bad attitude. I have to admit that it is one I have to get rid of. I can be irritable and easily worried. At the time, I was caught up with him “leaving me behind” that I failed to realize that he was just being his outgoing and happy-go-lucky self.

I don’t remember when my irritability faded. Perhaps I was distracted by the immediate things we had to do like prepare for dinner. I helped peel vegetables with our companions.

Maybe it was also when I saw the magnificent view at the campsite. Everyone was also very accommodating and it helped that they had a stash of good jokes. Dinner was delicious because we were lucky to be guided by Kuya L, a mountaineer who was probably a cook in his past life. Imagine slurping on a warm serving of sinigang na baboy in the sharp and cold mountain air.

The sunset bathed the trees in soft light as though Midas had touched the whole mountain and turned it to gold.

Mt. Pulag summit at sunrise

We all got up early the next day to witness the famous Mt. Pulag summit sunrise. We inhaled the fresh morning air and took in the breathtaking view of the clouds rolling below us.

It’s true that nature humbles you. How could something so beautiful exist? And you are just filled with gladness that it does. There is no wonder that our indigenous peoples, with their wisdom, consider certain mountains sacred.

My bad mood frittered away through our descent. I was having fun and had grown comfortable with our companions.

We discovered this “underrated” fruit the locals called Japanese tomato. They peeled it so that the peelings would look like petals. It tasted like a cross between a tomato and a green mango.

Our local tour guide also showed me which berries I can eat and I happily munched on yellow and black ones. We arrived at the Ranger Station feeling exhilarated, happy and fulfilled.

Japanese tomato

As for my so-called social ineptitude, it was this trip that made me aware of the differences between me and Mr. Leading Man and the fact that such differences in character should be celebrated. I should have known a long time ago that there is no need to worry about achieving social butterfly status if that isn’t your personality.

We have many figurative mountains to climb and each time, there is something we have to conquer in ourselves too: the negative, the awful and the ugly. It would be helpful that along the way, we sing songs, talk to people, tell jokes, discover new things, eat wild berries and be grateful for the view.

Confidence and self-worth will eventually make a person become at ease with a crowd. And that is all I really want: to be at ease. The climb to Mt. Pulag was a beautiful experience and I am glad I shared it with the people I was with.

*The Ambangeg trail is the easiest trail among three that lead to Mt. Pulag’s summit.

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