Dear Oca: Why I climb mountains


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Gamlay, Lira Batch 2012 on top of Mt. Napulauan. I, Cupkeyk, and Soc. Lira stands for Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo, an organization of poets in Filipino. It holds the country’s longest (from June to December) poetry workshop where Cup, Soc, and I met. (Photo by Andy Favis.)

On July 4, 2015, I scaled my first mountain. I scaled mountains before when I was in high school as a seminarian. I assisted our parish priest in saying mass on the mountains. But Mt. Napulauan was the first mountain I climb for the sole purpose of climbing. It was a 9-hour walk to the summit that I almost gave up. We started at about 10:30 in the morning. We arrived on the summit almost 8 pm. It was raining, the wind was cold. I was shivering.

As I laid my head to rest that night on the summit, I was surprised that I was still panting. Was I sobbing for joy without tears and without me knowing? I shared the tent with an experienced climber, my classmate Cupkeyk. I confided I was dead tired. He said, maadik ka rin.

Cupkeyk’s comment was strange. Ako, maaadik sa pag-akyat ng bundok? Nakakaadik ba ito?

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This is on Mt. Pulag, the highest (2,922m) peak in Luzon and the Philippines’ third highest after Mt. Apo (2,956m) and Mt. Dulang-Dulang (2,938m). I will remember Mt. Pulag not only for its chilling wind and freezing temparature, but also and more so, for its majestic sunrise and the famous “sea of clouds” that rolls and disappears on top of nearby mountains.

Here’s a video that was shown to us during the orientation before climbing Mt. Pulag.

But since Mt. Napulauan, I have climbed eight more mountains. The highest peak in Luzon, Mt. Pulag, the Mt. Yosemite look-a-like Mt. Marami in Cavite, and the 5 peaks in my hometown in Pilar, Capiz, and a mountain in Dipolog. I’ll be climbing Mt. Apo this April. And before Mt. Apo, we’ll climb four or five mountains more as our practice climb. I’ll also climb more mountains in my hometown. Have I been addicted? I’m still in denial.

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On the summit of Mt. Marami in Maragondon, Cavite.

In one conversation with a friend, he asked me, “what is it in climbing mountains that you love?” I was stunned by the question. I never thought about it. “Are you able to reflect on the summit, does it make you write more?” were his follow-up questions.

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On top of Mt. Linabo in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte

I joined my first climb because it was Cupkeyk’s birthday climb. But the rest, I just did it for the heck of it. But I do love climbing mountains now. So, I should be able to answer his question, right? Wrong.

I can articulate why I love to drink beer, because I get tipsy and I love the feeling of being tipsy. I can articulate why I love to walk because it’s a form of exercise and it will make my life longer, etc., etc. But I don’t know why can’t I articulate my love for climbing mountains.

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Ako and Anong on the summit of Mt. Loay in my hometown, Pilar, Capiz.

Perhaps because I like to challenge myself. But isn’t this a standard answer? Is there no better answer than this? Let me try again. Because I love to walk and I love to challenge myself? If I climb mountains, I can walk as well as challenge myself and I get to the summit and enjoy the view. Is this good enough? Parang may kulang pa din.

So, I was so happy to read an article about a german forest ranger, Peter Wohlleben, who wrote a book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World. The article said about Mr. Wohlleben:

“PRESENTING scientific research and his own observations in highly anthropomorphic terms, the matter-of-fact Mr. Wohlleben has delighted readers and talk-show audiences alike with the news — long known to biologists — that trees in the forest are social beings. They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the “Wood Wide Web”; and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.”

I climb mountains perhaps because I grew up with trees. It’s like going home if not to talk with the family of trees, at least to be with them.

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Ako at Dear Oca, critic, scholar, and wise friend. (Picture from Oca’s fb.)

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