I was pondering on how to begin the account of my Mt. Kanlaon climb while in transit from Bacolod to Manila. I began with a title that sounded so sad. I stared at it for a moment and let out a sigh.
Was it a bad climb? Outside the plane’s window, I saw the fluffy white clouds, the setting sun painting the horizon with yellow-orange color and a star brightly shinning amidst that dusk.
None, there are no bad climbs because nature will and always would be neutral.
Wind and rain are neither good or bad and mountains has its own temperament because she is free, a part of nature.
We are free and so is the mountain. Yet, we expected it to give us the pictures we created in our minds. In the process forgetting that the mountain is part of nature, operating on its own internal cycle. We are free beings and so is nature.
As with every mountain in the country, Mt. Kanlaon is sacred to the locals. Our team led by Sir Migz of Yabag Mountaineering or lovingly called by the team as Mang K, reminded us of that before we started the climb.
The Guintubdan trail offers a moderate ascent and sometimes called an executive trail. It sports trees with moss clinging on every available space, of lush ferns growing tall as humans, of birds tweeting merrily from branches high above our heads, of streams following its path and of blood leeches coming in several variety.
The abundance of leeches or limatik causes mini uproar in our team. With its rubbery resilient body, it stretches when forcedly detached. Luckily for me, all through out the climb they left no mark but some went in as far as the inside sole of my hiking shoes. However, leeches are part of nature and it is their habitat that is being disturbed so I got it off my mind and enjoyed the trek.
I huffed and puffed mainly due to lack of exercise and was thankful that a trek pole was there for support.
We walked on the path established years ago by the ancestors of Brgy. Ara-al. We followed the footprints of fellow climbers. We held on to handholds smoothed by their hands as they hauled themselves up. We slipped on soft earth as they did. We washed our shoes on the stream. We reached the summit just like they did.
At the camp, we were greeted by a strong blast of wind while the fog surrounded us.
Cold and shivering from the low temperature, setting up tent became an ardous task.
Once set up, drinking coffee while waiting for the food to cook is always a novelty during climbs. All minds are at rest, focused only on the conversation where topic ranges from mountain climbing experiences -mostly Mang K’s, to politics to the technical aspect of safety and rescue and then to jokes.
The minutes passed as the conversation heated up and mellowed down, laughter rang amidst the howl of the wind. Droplets of rain falling on the make-shift kitchen and the banter went on.
The infamous two-headed goat which the locals believe to be residing on Mt. Kanlaon must be listening somewhere grinning from ear to ear too. How can our laughter agitate him when those laughter comes from hearts which are happy, like a childs’.
Another moment spent, a string on the numerous strands of time.
While the wind howled, we succumb to the invite of the night. Relishing on the warmth of our tent, sleeping bag, thick pants, winter jacket and socks.
I started reading a book by Haruki Murakami titled Norweigian Wood and in no time I was absorbed. An hour had passed and then two as my ears got accustomed to the rhythmic breathing of Coleen, I, too drifted off to sleep leaving Nauko and Watanabe still walking the streets of Kyoto on sundays.
Morning did not offer any change on the weather. The sun rose behind the veil of fog and wind and coffee was served.
There was no viewing of the perfect cone nor the crater but laughter again filled that part of the mountain as we took commemorative photos to take home.
The merriment went on after breaking camp and down the trail. Novelty songs like Lolo Jose, Huling El Bimbo and Bahay Kubo echoed through the dense forest with the voices of Kim and Adrian aka “Ace Vergel” taking the lead vocals.
The lightheartedness of the songs lifted everyone’s spirits. Minds already planning for the revenge climb.
But it was a climb not wasted, for moments spent on a meaningful journey of connecting with people living their lives to the fullest is also living life to the fullest. Experiencing new trails and landscapes are the best gift from nature. Recieving unexpected warmth from strangers proves that love can still be given without expecting anything in return.
As the human heart tends to expect more from nature or from others, it neglects the small yet beautiful gifts which are being freely given.
I was reminded of this excerpt from the Wiccan Rede.
Live and let live,
Fairly take and fairly give.
Mt. Kanlaon will always be there ready to give what she can and since paths had crossed, somehow it will cross once again.
I learned how to perfectly open an alimasag to reveal its tasty meat. Thanks to Mang K’s tutorial.
My special thanks goes to Sir Tolits Adasam, it was nice meeting you and ye shall meet again. To our guide, porters and the owner of Balay na Bato at Marapara Heights for the warm welcome known of Bacolod.#