MMS BMCM Week 3: First Minor Training Climb and Cooking Festival

Metropolitan Mountaineerng Society Basic Mountaineering Course for Membership Week 3:  First Minor Training Climb and Cooking Festival

Here are the links to:

MMS Week 1: Basic Mountaineering Course for Membership
MMS BMCM Week 2: BLS and First Aid Training and Lecture a Fulfilling and Sad Weekend
MMS BMCM Week 4: Night Trekking and Land Navigation
MMS BMCM Week 5: The 24th MMS Anniversary
MMS BMCM Week 6: Second Minor Training Climb on Tarak


After my return climb traversing the three provinces of Benguet, Ilocos Sur, and La Union in what mountaineers call Kibungan Cross Country last December, I returned to the mountain again last Saturday and Sunday February 17-18, 2018 to join the 2018 Metropolitan Mountaineering Society (MMS) trainees in their first training climb and cooking festival in Gulugod Oink-Oink.

Mau checks Lala’s bags while Anna and Jhed watch

My batchmate, Mark Kenneth Esguerra, the team leader for this climb, created a Facebook chat group for all the trainees and members who would join and ride in our rented vans. Because my group consisting of Cyrus Norman David, Dolfo Roxas, Jhoan Bernabe, Erica Calzada, who returned to training this year, and I were the champions last year, I asked the trainees if they would like a tip from the champions. No one responded. So, I dropped the subject and am now telling the secret here instead.

The sign leading to the paved road to the summit

Last stop and the last time we were all together on the way to the summit.

Our first minor climb and cookfest were on Mt. Daguldol last year. In terms of distance to the summit and the length of climbing time, it was twice or thrice than this year’s minor climb and cookfest venue. At the jump-off, I teased my batchmates about bothering with their props in big bags, when they were going to lose anyway. Ken carried a heavy pack because of their props and cooking ingredients, only to lose to us later. In the end, we were lucky because Frances “Miki” Ayalin, the vegan chef and her group’s rice was half-cooked. Miki’s group, the Ilocos cuisine, consisting of Isaac “Aki” Oblefias, Margo Magalong, Miki’s husband Omar, and Marc Evangelista were the overall food winner (best appetizers: bagnet with pipino ensalada and best main dish: igado). My group, the Davao cuisine, won for our best soup, the crocodile soup, and for our presentation: I and Jhoan alternated reading the poem I wrote the night before our climb while Dolfo and Chi played the kubing for background.


Reminder of our batchmates loss and our triumph


Miki’s protest over our win

On February 6, 2018, a day after our first climb and cookfest anniversary, I posted our group picture in front of our food, reminding my batchmates of their loss to us and remembering our triumph. Miki posted in the comment section the picture of their food in their beautiful plating saying that the event should not have been called cookfest but linggo ng wika because they were defeated by a poem.

Abbie and I

Abbie beside a tree with the mountains as a background.

Ako from Abbie’s point of view with the sea as my background

For this year’s cookfest, the trainees were divided into the Mediterranean, Mexican, Thai, and Indian Cuisines.

Haj, Val, Paula, Erica, and the rest of her batchmates on the trail to the summit

The Mediterranean group consisted of Haj Obado, Marie Kris Felipe, Elcee Carino, and Ruben Soriano.

Abbie and I are welcomed by Aldrin, Mau, Long, Roy, Nina, and Jerry under the tarpaulin they set up for an hour because of the wind.

The Mexican: Hero Baluyot, Mary Joy Salayog, Mary Joy Sumulong, and Christian Loyola

The trainees and members pitching their tents

The Thai Group: Paula De Guzman, Lala aka Kiela Therese Montinola, and Ish aka Irish Danielle Cruz.

The Mediterranean cuisine group preparing for the cookfest


The Indian cuisine group preparing their menu for the cookfest

The Thai cuisine group

The Mexican cuisine group

And the Indian group: Erica Calzada, Ricky Chachapero, Angel aka Maria Angelica Tacorda, and Val aka Paulo Valera.

On the other side of the mountain, 50-100 meters away from the rest of the group is another feast of pork and kimchi wrapped in lettuce leaves sprinkled with olive oil and a little garlic for sharing.

Anna cooks the pork, Karis scans the 1001 song hits while Mau looks over

Here are their menu:

For the Mediterranean cuisine:
Main dish – Persian Grilled Kebab
Appetizer – Italian Salad with Vinaigrette and italian bruschetta
Dessert – Fruit Chocolate Dip
Drinks – – Merlot red wine

The Mediterranean menu for the cookfest

For the Mexican cuisine:
Main dish – Chicken Enchilada
Appetizer – Pork tacos
Side Dish – Caesar Salad w/ strawberry syrup dressing
Dessert – Churros
Drinks – Lime juice w/ tequila

The Mexican menu

For the Thai cuisine:
Main Dishes: Bagoong Rice with Mangoes, Egg and Caramelized Pork
Chicken Basil
Appetizer: Pomelo Salad with shrimp
Dessert: Sticky Rice with Mangoes
Drinks: Pandan Tea

The Thai menu

Finally, for the Indian cuisine:
Main dish = chicken tikka masala
Appetizer = tikki aloo
Dessert = julab gamun
Indian tea = chai masala

The Indian Menu

The judges were the founding members of MMS, Long Henson, our current president and vice president Roy Go and Mau Romarate respectively, former MMS President Ricardo Prudencio aka Papa Ding, and MMS member Emoi aka Esmeraldo Dedicatoria.

Judges Long Henson and Papa Ding deliberate the results of the cookfest as the Training Committee Head Eduardo Villanueva list down the scores. Arin looks over.

Papa Ding, Emoi, Al, and Karen set up camp about 50-100 meters away from the group at the edge of the mountain a little higher than us. I was helping some trainees pitch their tent when Jhed asked me to go with her to the other side of the mountain where Anna was cooking pork, mixing it with kimchi and wrapping them in lettuce leaves for everyone to share. Mau, Tin, and Karis were also there. The last time we saw each other was in Infanta and Real, Quezon during Papa Ding’s 56th Birthday Celebration on February 10-11, 2018.

Ish’s back on the summit. Photo by Lala Montinola

Hands down, this year’s cookfest was better in terms of food presentation.

Erica and the sunrise. Photo by MJ Sumulong

Each group had to prepare for food tasting of the four judges. Right after the judges tasted the food, the members were there to eat the rest.

2018 BC Haj with the MMS banner hanging over his right shoulder. Photo by Lei Tabones

Since I love to eat fruits, my favorite was the pomelo salad with shrimp, a Thai cuisine. I also tried the kebab of the Mediterranean group, the tacos and the lime juice with tequila of the Mexican, and even the spicy chicken tikka masala, the main dish of the Indian cuisine.

Angel on the summit with the sunrise. Photo by Lei Tabones

Abbie, Aldrin, Ken, and I cooked and had our dinner of sauted mackerel with miswa and rice so we were full during the cookfest. Yet, we couldn’t help ourselves from joining the rest of the MMS members tasting the food the trainees prepared.

Ish on the summit. Photo by Lei Tabones

After the cookfest were the group presentations. The Mediterranean group presented a Spanish war dance, the Mexican group presented a Mexican Hat Dance, the Thai a traditional Thai dance and the Indian, danced to the tune of Jai Ho, a Hindi song.

Packing our things. Photo by Lei Tabones

It was my first time in Mt. Gulugod Baboy which Al fondly calls Gulugod Oink-Oink. They say the assault to the summit only takes two hours. I was assigned by Ken to be at the lead with my batchmate and batch photographer and my personal videographer, Abbie. Abbie with Aldrin made all my dystonia videos including the send-off video of the MMS members and officers during my dystonia awareness and fundraising bike ride from Pasig to Pilar, Capiz in January 2018 .

Batch 2018. L-R: Ricky Cachapero, Elcee Cariño, Christian Loyola, Ish Cruz, Lala Montinola, Hero Louie Baluyot, Marie Kris Felipe, Ruben Soriano, Mary Joy Salayog, Angel Tacorda, Mary Joy Sumulong, Paula De Guzman, Paulo Valera, Haji Obero

The trainees’ bags were checked before we left the jump off. Ken wanted to make sure that they learned the backpacking lesson conducted by our batchmate Cyrus Norman David on week one of their training. Ken was assisted by Anna Labao (batch 2009), Mau Romarate (current vice president and former training committee head, batch 2013), and Leigh Tuazon (Batch 2013).

Batch 2017: Aldrin, Abbie, ako, Ken, Erica, Karis, Tin, and Aki

We left the jump-off at 2pm as per our IT. We started on the paved but steep road. Later I realized it was going to be an uphill battle up to the summit. Little by little, Abbie and I gained our distance from the ground. Since there was only the two of us, we had many pictures together. An hour and 25 minutes later, we were on the summit approaching Long Henson, Roy Go, and Long’s daughter Nina in the tarp which took them an hour to set up because of the wind. Roy gave us our welcome drinks. Aldrin and Mau were already there as they rode in Aldrin’s pickup truck to the parking lot near the summit.

The Tasadays

The following morning, we woke up past 5 o’clock and cooked our breakfast. After breakfast, we broke camp, had our batch pictures and then the whole group picture. To show my dystonia battle scar and the battery on my chest, I did not wear my shirt.

With the 2018 trainees and all the MMS members present

At 7:40 am we started our descent. I trailed Jess Mar Pontillas, my trail buddy when I was still a guest in MMS open climb in Bakun. In 30 minutes, we were at the jump-off looking for a place to take a bath. At the right side of the end of the paved road from the summit of the mountain is a house Jess remembered they took a bath before. So, we settled there followed by the rest who arrived. Since there was space enough for all of us, we conducted our postclimb conference there, the announcement of winners, and 2018 batch officials.

The 2018 trainees with some of the members on their way down from the summit

Here are the winners of the cookfest as announced after the post climb:

Appetizer -Thailand
Main course -Indian
Drinks -Thailand
performance – Mediterranean

4th – Mediterranean
3rd – Indian
2nd – Thai
1st – Mexican

The following day, I felt the pain in my leg muscles. If it were an hour more of descent, I’d be crawling perhaps to the jump-off as my leg muscles were already feeling the nonstop pressure to stop me from falling over on the trail because of the steepness of the descent.

The cookfest champion. The Mexican cuisine group: Christian, Mj, Hero, and Mj2. At the middle is the Team Leader Mark Kenneth Esguerra and the Training Committee Head Eduardo Villanueva.

The 2018 batch officials are the following:

Batch Coordinator – Haj Obado
Assistant BC – Christian Loyola
Secretary – Paula De Guzman
Treasurer – Angel aka Maria Angelica Tacorda
PRO- Val aka Paulo Valera
Photogs/Vid – Cindy Ferrer
Ish aka Irish Danielle Cruz

I turned over to Haj the MMS banner I had been carrying during the training season last year. The banner was with Ken, our batch’s Assistant Batch Coordinator, when I was sick during the open climbs.

I hand-over to Haj, the 2018 BC, the MMS banner which had been with me all through out our training period last year. Photo by Lei Tabones

As the BC of batch 2018, Haj will make sure that every problem his batchmates face about their training will be addressed by him first and elevated only to the training committee for help if he couldn’t handle it by himself or with the help of his fellow officers and batchmates.

Christian Loyola’s position is that of my Assistant BC Mark Kenneth Esguerra who stepped up and led our batch in my absence during the open climb at the height of my dystonia sickness.

The 2018 officer: Ish, the photographer and videographer; Haj the batch’s BC; Christian, the ABC, Paula, the Secretary; Val, the PRO; and Angel, the Treasurer.

Paula’s role was that of Jo Lastra who recorded our attendance during each activity and kept those records so that when anyone from the training committee needs it, she is ready anytime.

Layout by Jayson Jogno

Angel’s role was that of Miki who did all the legwork for the ocular of the graduation venue, negotiations for the amount of the venue, printing of the graduation tickets designed by Karis and retouched by Ken, collecting payments from all of us her batchmates, scouring the Mountaineering shops for the tokens we gave the members who helped a lot in our training. Finally, Miki founded Project Care for her outreach program where not just batch 2017, but the whole of MMS are involved.

Val’s position is that of Marc Evangelista who dropped out of training for personal reasons towards the end of our training. And finally, Cindy and Ish’s positions as the photographer and the videographer of their batch were Aldrin and Abbie’s role. This couple was so good in what they are doing that they made us look our best in their videos. They are like those professional wedding photographers and videographers who shot in the morning and by the evening their product is done.

There will be more to come for batch 2018. And as they continue their training, batch 2017 will be here for them as batch 2016 was there for us, too, and the whole MMS family.

Their next training will be land navigation and night trekking. We are all excited to see and bond with them again.