Sunday, February 14, 2016

Stained by Pulag

"May lupa pa yung sapatos mo. Akala ko ba nilabhan mo na yun?" said my mom. 

Before I went to bed Saturday morning, I made sure I washed every little thing I could -- pairs of socks, gloves, leg warmers, bonnets, towels, handkerchiefs. I didn't wash my hiking shoes thoroughly. I learned from newly found mountaineer friends that you shouldn't wash your shoes with detergent, only with shampoo. So I willingly yielded and removed the earth-stains on the sides and the sole. I thought no stain was left. 

Until I saw the marks. I intended to leave them like that.

I want to keep a memory of Mount Pulag in my shoes. It's like a battle scar. A memento of places you've conquered. 

Our view of the summit from the saddle camp after we hiked to see the sea of clouds.
This mountain was no joke: a trek of roughly eight kilometers with steep ascents for five straight hours. The journey was grueling; nonetheless, fulfilling. I remember cursing (in my mind) every step halfway through the hike. We would ask our guide how long it would still take for us to get to the saddle camp -- which was only 30 minutes away from the summit -- and she would say three hours, two hours, one hour. 30 minutes. 15 minutes. Probably the longest quarter of an hour of my life.

After all, Mt. Pulag is proudly standing at 2,922 meters above sea level. The third highest in the Philippines.

The obligatory visitor pose
My acid attack made this climb more difficult. I barely ate dinner during our night at the camp, because all I wanted to do was to vomit. My stomach was churning badly -- similar to how I felt when I was rushed to hospital and found out I had gastritis. The cold wasn't helping either. Our fellow campers from the other group said the temperature even dropped to -4 degrees Celsius through the night. I was chilling. I vomited thrice before I slept. I drank all the antacid tablets I had in my bag and lathered ointment on my stomach. 

But every step, every chill, everything was worth it. Especially when we ascended to the summit and saw the majestic sea of clouds as the sun was rising. It was the most beautiful dawn of my life.

The sun at dawn parting the Earth and the sky as the world eases into another day
Shout out to my friend, Darcey, who took care of me when my acid attack got the best of me. Also, for always bringing extra everything -- sleeping mat, blanket, utensils, etc. She helped me descend the mountain alive and kicking.

Congratulations to Rikki and Nikki for their romantic Pulag engagement. The heaven witnessed your love, and it would surely bless your marriage for life.

Good times with new friends. 'Til the next climb!

Note to climbers: 
  • Leave no trace. 
  • Follow ALL the rules.
  • Stay on the trail -- don't stray.
  • Don't make noise on the mountain.
  • Respect the mountain as you would your parents, partner, self.