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My Mt. Apo Journal

Posted by on January 6, 2016

My heart is pounding fast. I could almost feel it going out from my ears. I am out of breath. Sweats dripping all over my body. I feel numb. My eyes blur that I need to blink it away. My legs tremble that I sometimes sway. I am walking but no longer thinking. Suddenly, I feel the anger. I feel the pain. With so much effort, I thrust my trekking pole. I need to do this. I should never stop. I never stopped.


On August 9, 2015, I received a message from Allan, inviting me to conquer Mt. Apo. He had two available slots since the original members of their team backed out. He was so frustrated that all the people he invited turned him down. Then he thought of me. I did not over think. I immediately said yes and ended our message. While I was in bed, I became restless and afraid. In just a month, I will be climbing Mt. Apo. What has gotten to my mind? Am I too depressed and frustrated to go into the mountains which is way too risky? Ample preparations need to be done. And I know I’m running out of time. I panicked. I need to decline the offer. But I’ll do it in the morning. I will disappoint Allan since I already said yes, but what should I do? I chickened out!

As I checked my e-mail, I noticed Allan’s messages which I haven’t read last night. It says that we will be only four, Allan, his best friend Dominique, I and the person whom we will invite. He is the only person I know in the team. He was afraid of going up but he needed to support and fulfill his best friend’s dreams- conquering Mt. Apo. Dom travelled far just to be in Davao. I, knowing Allan’s health condition understand that he needed someone of his pace. Dom is an adventurer and is very fit to climb. As for Allan, he needs a lady friend. Had I declined the offer? Obviously, NO. In the end, we kept on looking for the last person who will go with us. I told myself, if it would be so close and we would not find the last person, I would back out. I considered it as a sign.I’d contacted college and high school friends, previous workmates. We’d even approached a friend of mine at the mall. Few days left to Mt. Apo and not a single person said yes. Three.days before, our friend said she would go but in the evening decided not to.  Two days before the climb, I’d opened it to my cousin and her response was positive. We just had to wait for her boss’s approval, which was a big NO. She will be having a medical mission a week after that. If she wanted to come she needed to give up the mission or otherwise. Great! So it will just be Dom, Allan and I. I should back out. All throughout the month, I never did prepare. And my medical certificate would be my reason not to go. I’d prepared my lines, “Allan, I’m sorry I can’t come since the doctor wouldn’t allow me to go with you. “ Did it go that way? At 3:30 pm on September 3, I visited the doctor. I was very nervous that he might not provide me the med. cert. He almost opted for an ECG because my heart beat fast. My pulse rate was checked and voila! He gave me the “Physically and emotionally fit to go on trekking Mt. Apo.” Heavens! That means I AM OFFICIALLY GOING! I rushed to the mall nearby and bought a red poncho and yellow gloves. The orientation began at 5:30 and I was an hour and half travel away from Davao city.

Anyway, some people knew that I’ll be going but not my family members. I knew they would not allow me. So I told them that I’ll be going on a retreat at the ‘foot’ of Mt. Apo. It’s a gift from a student abroad. How could I not decline the offer when it’s all for free. But before I left, I told my sister where I was heading just in case something happened to me in the trip. At least one knew where I really was. She was so worried. Duh… I let her be. I just carried a small backpack but my real hiking was hidden below so that they would not wonder. Here’s to my ‘retreat’.

Fantastic Four

By 9:00 p.m., I arrived at the “Counter Inn” where we were housed. Allan is my classmate in high school. We have something in common-singing. (We’d entertained the forest and trails in Mt. Apo. We faced the boulders and did our concerts, as if we had audience. We were sometimes left out by the group because of it.) Dominique, Allan’s bestfriend, a French has been working in Wallis and Futuna. He was a very friendly, humorous, generous and entertaining person. (We were amused every time he calls out someone left behind the trail. We know it’s his if we hear a baritone “Woooh.”)  They said that the orientation was done and they will do it for me. Allan told me that we have another companion for the trip, Kristoff. He was an overseas worker in Singapore. Silent and deep, first impression- he’s too serious but as we go on the trek, we’ve seen his bright side. He just saw our schedule for the hike and was interested to go along, alone. That makes four of us now.


Along the journey, we were accommodated and helped by our guide, Albert and our bubbly porters Roy, Buboy and Kuya Allan. They were a great team, sensitive to our needs. After our day long walking, trekking and climbing, our tents and meals were prepared. We found friends in the heart of the forest.

Ready. Set. Pant.

September 4, 2015, by bus our team travelled to Digos city where later we would be riding on a ‘habal-habal’. We also had Albert as our tour guide. With him was Roy, one of our porters.He said we would be meeting the rest of his men in Digos. Dom was very curious how a habal-habal looked like. He expected that it was similar to a motor bike but he got furious when told that it was a motorcycle that could carry six people. Well, he managed to meet a habal-habal with seven loads as he counted which made him more amazed. On our way to Kapatagan, we stopped over a ‘marang’ counter. It’s a milky fruit that seasons in Mindanao every August to October.Dom and Kristoff had their share of ‘marang’ experience.They preferred it than eating durian which they found stinky. So we continued our habal-habal adventure.



Lessons from the Grandfather

Even with company, I was alone with myself. While walking, trekking and struggling, I found time to be with my self. How did I see my journey in Mt. Apo? I wanted time for myself in as much as I tried to hide it. Before the hike, I was anxious, in search for something. This journey helped me discover more of who I really am. How do I see things I encounter along the way?

We need to experience different trails; and honestly, I so hate the jungle. Its narrow, slimy paths, grasses taller than humans brought restlessness in me. It was very humid! I became their laughing stock when it started raining and I happened to have bought a red poncho for kids. This left me being like little red riding hood! I had to hold on to the roots and trekking pole just to be on the trail. I didn’t like what I was seeing, all but green jungle, so dark. That moment made me realize that I couldn’t always hold my head high. Once I raised my head and tried to see what’s ahead I ran out of breath. Our guide told us that we needed to see at the eye-level if not eyes on the ground to stabilize our breathing. No need to rush things. We had to be in our own pace.Also, there are things bigger than me and who I am. That some good things are valued because it was hidden and discovered. The pacing I have in going up and down reflects how I do things. I saw my patience and felt my patience going out during the tough parts. Some things would block your way. Thus, in life, you need to be humble, patient and cautious.


The next trail was the boulder. We were greeted with humungous boulders. And I feel my drive awaken! This is the part that I most like. Going through the different sizes of rocks, transferring, balancing and grasping on them makes my adrenalin rush. I see rocks as the challenges in life. There are times I choose on passing through the small ones but at times dare to defy the big ones. It is a mountain of rocks and life is a mountain of challenges. There were times that you feel like giving up because it’s too steep and almost unending but unbelievably, you managed to pass all of it. I remembered Dom telling me that whenever we will encounter bigger boulders, look around and you’ll see easy way out. Problems and challenges aren’t solve in an instant. You have to decide and discern or else you might fall into the cockpit. Names were written on the boulders. It’s a reminder of people who hurt and gave the challenges you’ve been through. They may or may not be forever etched on the rock, but it has managed to leave a mark your life. What even makes the trail difficult but interesting is the annoying and disturbing smell of sulphur. It sometimes choked us. This reminded me of things, our darkest secrets which we can never hide forever. Just like the sulphur, it would find its ways to be revealed. And revealing would really help a lot. It lessens the weight on your shoulder. In life, we need to show and leave our excess baggage in order to carry suitcases, in order for us to be successful.


On our way to the boulders, we stopped on a clearing. Set forth in our eyes is a very steep and rocky mountain we thought as the peak. We relaxed for thirty minutes, one of the longest rest we had. Thinking that this is it, we climbed it. We came across the crater. The wind started to whistle and blew hard that we need to hold on to our pole and grasped roots in going higher to the peak. Cold, excitement and tiredness started to rule our system. It was difficult for us to climb. We had our sure and slow steps. Finally, we’ve made it! But was later on disappointed as Albert told us, “Welcome to the summit! This is the fourth highest part of Mt. Apo.” I feel our smiles fading. We look around and saw nothing but clouds. We hadn’t seen any other part. “ SurekaKuya? Asanmandiayang peak ani? Di ntomasakaang highest part? Dirirakutobtnan hikers?” I’m starting to get disappointed. He said no. After saying it, the clouds paved its way and we saw a higher part. “That’s it? That’s the peak?” We can’t take it anymore. Our knees our tired and trembling. He said no. “It is the center peak, and at the back, covered with clouds was the highest part of Mt. Apo.” No way! We are not going in there. Dom complains having only a hundred more step and has not plan of conquering the peak. In silence, we felt the same. So, as if our guide hadn’t heard us he managed to start walking. We scrambled on our feet. We felt tired and hungry. But we continued to follow Albert. We consoled each other that it would take us 200 steps to the center peak and 300 steps to the highest peak. Darn! We had the center peak for 20 minutes and the highest peak for 40 minutes. We could not almost believe we’ve reached the top not until he started shaking our hands and saying, “Congratulations, you reached the peak of Mt. Apo!”


We succumbed to the beauty of Mt. Apo. We took pictures and videos of the exhilarating view. After our high moment, we had geocache hunting. We need to look for it within the 10 meter radius. If we saw it, we can write something in the notebook and leave things with sentimental value and get something from the box as well. So we’re off for a treasure hunt! It was Allan who saw it under a big rock. We wrote our emotional messages and left some things which need not to be with us as we go home. To be full, we need to be empty. We let go of our negativity and looked forward to whatever tomorrow brings.Then, we started our descend.I looked at the trekking pole I am holding. Of all others, this is the most significant thing to me in the journey. As I was searching through the meaning of a trekking pole, I came across MacNamara and Nale’s (2014) reasons for trekking poles.

  1. Trekking poles, like ski poles, allow your arms to help propel you forward and upward. Whether walking on flat ground or up steep hills, poles can help to increase your average speed.
  2. Poles reduce the impact on your legs, knees, ankles, and feet.
  3. Trekking poles can be used to deflect backcountry nuisances. They can push away thorny blackberries and swipe away spider webs that cross trail.
  4. Walking with poles can help you establish and maintain a consistent rhythm, which can increase your speed.
  5. The extra two points of contact significantly increase your traction on slippery surfaces like mud, snow, and loose rock.
  6. Poles help you maintain balance in difficult terrain such as during river crossings, on tree root-strewn trails, and on slippery bog bridges. Staying balanced in turn helps you move more quickly and more easily.
  7. Poles can act as a probe to give you more information than you can get with you eyes.


God is our own trekking pole.The following are what God does in our lives. I remembered the times I was walking and leaving my pole, in frustration, I often snap it away, throw it first and becomes annoyed holding it. Despite it, I managed on holding on to my pole.

While we were in camp, realization hit me. The Grandfather had given his lesson. We are our own Mt. Apo. We stand tall, proud and unpredictable. Not everyone knows who we really not unless conquered. The hikers are the people we encountered in our daily lives. We draw attention. For every person who wish to know, we have put down our defences and shown who we really are. We don’t always look very welcoming just like Mt. Apo. We revealed our beauty and ugliness at the same time. We exposed our slopes, steeps, boulders and sulphur smelling attitudes. As a person, we promised a lot of things. Not all is a brave soul who dares to discover our very person. Some had tried but failed and left. Some had conquered but never returned. Yet there are just few who had had conquered and kept on going back. If you wish to like the person, admire the view and marvel its aesthetic aspects. But if you wish to love the person, discover its beauty, know its crevices, dullness and ugliness. The way in knowing a person’s true being is to discover and reveal even the muddiest, coldest and most dangerous parts hidden.

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As we headed back to the foot of the mountain, Taylor Swifts song played on my mind. A song I felt was dedicated by Mt. Apo to us hikers. “ Someday when you leave me, I bet this memories follow you around…Say you’ll remember me…even just in your wildest dream.”


Drained of strength and energy, I bade you a blissful smile. Cheers to achieving one of my wildest dreams. Cheers to conquering Mt. Apo.


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