In January last year, I signed up to train for the Basic Mountaineering Course for membership conducted by the Metropolitan Mountaineering Society. I learned about their training when I joined them in three of their open climbs: First in Mt. Iglit, Mindoro; second in Bakun, Benguet; and third, in Mt. Madjaas in my home island in Panay.
The training lasts for six months, once every two week-ends. After the training, the graduates must organize climbs open to the public to put to test their organizing, crowd, and event management skills.
After our two-day training in Tanay, Rizal where we had a crash course in ropemanship, diet, the philosophy why we should leave no trace on the mountains, types of terrain, and many others, we headed to Mt. Daguldol on February 4-5, 2017 for our first minor climb.
We left the bus terminal in Cubao a little past six AM. We ate lunch at the jump-off point in Batangas and arrived on the summit after around 4 or 5 hours of climbing Mt. Daguldol.
Since this is a minor climb, this should have been easy. But no, we were not only to climb Mt. Daguldol, we were to bring our costumes for our group performance and equipment for the cook fest. We were divided into four groups and were assigned a local cuisine: Ilocos, Pampanga, Cebu, and Davao cuisines.
The Ilocos team was composed of Isaac “Aki” Oblefias, Margo Magalong, Frances “Miki” Ayalin, Omar Ayalin, and Marc Evangelista.
The Pampanga team was composed of Nikole Christian “Nik” Uy, Yanica “Nika” Tarriela, Kristine “Tin” Orlino, and Christabel “Karis” Corpus.
Cebu: Mark Kenneth “Ken” Esguerra, Apple Kalalo, Maria Jonalyn “Jo” Lastra, and Naneth “Neth” Pecson.
I belonged to the Davao team. With Dolfo “Dolfs” Roxas, Jhoana “Jho” Bernabe, and Cyrus Norman David.
Some of our batch mates carried bulky bags that contained their costumes and ingredients. So, I told them how cruel life can get. They break their back trying to carry those heavy objects to the top of the mountain only to lose to us.
On the first half of the climb, the trail was dry. Along the way, however, we met fellow hikers who were on their way down. And their shoes were engulfed with mud.
There were three stores along the trail on the mountain to Mt. Daguldol. The first was offering halo-halo; the second was offering buko juice, nilagang baboy, baka, and manok; and finally, the third store which was about 15 to 30-minute trek to the summit and camp site sold lugaw and drinks.
After the second store, we passed by boulders three times our height and size and we crossed a river. And then the muddy terrain up to the foot of the summit begun.
In Tanay, the training was attended not only by us trainees but also by the senior MMS members including one of its founders and considered as the father of Philippine Hiking Itinerary, Long Henson. We all slept in our tents. On the second day, we woke up early to jog around the resort. After the first round, Miki, a mother of two, gave up because she lacked sleep the night before. Her other excuse was she was not physically ready not just for the jog but for all the hikes. Unable to go on without his wife, Omar also backed out.
After the jog, our physical fitness was measured. We were made to push up, do sit-ups, do stretching, etc, etc. Our scores were recorded before we had our breakfast.
I was informed that Miki backed out only about a week after the first day of training in Tanay. I sent her a private message encouraging her to continue. But she didn’t want to delay the hike because she was slow or that she might not be able to finish.
After climbing more than 15 mountains, I know who delays who. Or more accurately, I know I who wants to be delayed by whom. No matter how slow or fast you are on the trail, somebody will accompany you depending on how fun you are to be with. Will of steel, I told her. She has to will to climb the summit.
After a few messages from me and some more from our batchmates, she and her husband Omar finally relented and returned. She also started her exercises to prepare for our batch’s first minor climb.
On the night before the climbed, I wrote a poem:
Ito ang pinakamahirap
Ang matulog bago ang akyat.
Naiwan na ng kaluluwa ang katawan
Sa kama. Nandoon na siya sa bundok
Sa mga talahib, tumutulay
Sa bangin, gumagapang
O kumakapit sa mga ugat ng kahoy,
Lumulusong sa putikan,
Umiiwas sa mga matutulis
O madudulas na bato.
Nilalanghap ang naghahalong damo
At hamog at ulap.
Maliit, mabagal at banayad na hakbang
Karga sa likod ang mabibigat na gamit,
Puno ng pananabik matulog muli sa damuhan
Sa piling ng mga kahoy at tunog ng mga hayop
At insekto sa malamig na lupa
Sa tuktok ng bundok.
Ngayon ay kinakausap ko ang mga binti at paa.
Maging malakas kayo. Dalhin ako at ibaba
Mula sa tuktok. Na walang galos ang kaluluwa’t
Damdamin at maalala lamang ang mga nakipagsabayan
Sa bilis o sa kupad: mukha ng bagong kaibigang
Nakarating sa tuktok sa unang pagkakataon
At napawi ang pag-alinlangan sa sarili,
Nakita ang walang patid na mga bundok,
At mga bayan.
Salamat sa gabing ito
Hinihintay ko ang umaga.
On the summit of Mt. Daguldol, we chopped onions and ginger, took out the lemon grass and opened the container for the crocodile meat I boiled in Pasig for our soup. Dolfo poured the onions and ginger into the salmon meat he soaked in vinegar for three days. Kinilaw will serve as our appetizer. We melted some tablea chocolate, poured a can of condensed milk in it, put some eggs and a bottle of gin for our drink. We called it kinutil. For our main course, Cyrus, did some bulcachong magic with the beef, beef-bones and the marrow. If it were cooked the ordinary way, bulcachong would have tasted and looked like bulalo.
After the food fest our group, the Davao group, decided to perform my poem, Jho and I alternating per stanza while Cyrus and Dolfo played the kubing as our background. For our costume, we took off our shirt and wore malong, while Jhoan also wore malong over her clothes.
When the program started, the fog had descended on our campsite. It took a little concentration to be able to perform and to stop myself from shivering.
In the end, only our crocodile soup won as the best soup, Team Pampanga won the best drinks for their sago at gulaman, Team Cebu as the best dessert for their dried mango in hazel nut, while Miki and her team, Team Locos, were the over-all food winner for having won Best Appetizer for bagnet with pipino and ensalada and Best Main Dish for Igado.
But Team Davao was declared the overall champion because of our poetry performance.
In the morning, we took pictures of the sea below us. The shadow of Mt. Halcon appears from a distance. Dok Thom took my and Miki’s pictures.
MMS conducts post-climb conference where the participants are asked to give their feedback about the climb.
The feedback helps MMS in planning how to improve its future activities. We rented a cottage and conducted the post- climb at the resort by the beach after descending Mt. Daguldol the following day. I apologized to my batch mates for the trouble it caused them to carry heavy objects for the contest only to lose to us. Jhoan found a family with MMS, Miki was in tears for the support and encouragement of her batchmates without whom she would not have scaled her first mountain, and almost everyone complained about the late comers that delayed our departure from Cubao. Afterwards, the winners were announced.
It’s good we won. Otherwise, I would have been sad again. As sad as when we lost to Niki and Neth and her group presentation in Tanay. They danced while we sang. I had a solo part. Still we lost.
Maybe I need to spend more time inside video K joints to win singing contests soon.