Why I Climb

The bamboo grass basked in the golden rays of the sun, rolling up the hill and then disappearing on the bend just to rise again on the next. Against that blue sky where the clouds play at the tune of the breeze, climbers walk the beaten path; Celebrating the joy of reaching the summit and bearing witness to an ordinary miracle.

For those who have already witnessed the splendour of Mt Pulag, this would feel and sound familiar. Sad for the mountain, the influx of people visiting it like an urban park, had taken its toll.

The photo that jump started me into mountain climbing was from Ben Domingo, a speaker at a Press conference to which I was a participant for its feature writing contest.

Paired with that photograph of Mt. Pulag is a very sensual poem written in Filipino entitled “Mutya ng Kordilyera”, dedicated to the highest land mass in Luzon. Both, I concede, ignited the desire in me to be in one frame with that scene, so when I was given the opportunity, I signed up for the challenge. Years after that first climb, my reason had evolved to include so many new ones.

I now climb in anticipation of the lessons that the mountains and my fellow mountaineers are willing to impart. I climb to understand for me to be understood. I climb for love and friendship, for camaraderie and laughter. I climb for the sunsets, the sunrises, for the beautiful sea of clouds and everything in between including the physical pain.

And I am very curious to know what had inspired that photograph, what reason lies behind the lens?

Kasi naroon sila, nanghahamon. Kahawig ito ng aking pananaw o pilosopiya sa buhay. Para akong nakikipagniig sa mutya ng kalikasan. Doon ako humuhugot ng mga emosyong tinutuntungan ko sa aking pagsusulat, lalo na sa tula at sanaysay. Doon ko natatamo ang pinakamalalim kong kaligayahan.

~Ben Domingo Jr. / Retired Professor, Sportsman, Poet and Environmentalist

And thus my love affair with mountains started – a journey of a lot of firsts.

For a love that was blessed by the mountains, it is both enchanted and magical and this was the gift of the mountains to John, with it the realization that contentment in what you have is happiness.

Noong nagsisimula ako wala lang eh, dahil trip ng barkada (Mt. Romelo days) pero nung mga time na medyo malayo na din napuntahan ko, mas lumalim na ung kahulugan ng pag akyat ng bundok. Dahil bukod sa ganda ng tanawin ng inang kalikasan, kasama sa nagpapaganda ang kumyunidad na nadadaanan at sa bawat pakikisalamuha ko sa local, kahit hindi sila naabot ng tulong ng gobyerno, ay masaya pa rin sila. Sa bundok ko nakilala ang aking asawa.

~John Osido / Bughaw Mountaineering

wpid-img_7758.jpgIf John met his Joy (the name of his wife) in the mountains, some instead of love, seeks and tries to find solace in the peace and quiet of its environs.

I climb to seek solace. I renew my tired and broken soul, trying to make it whole again. The passion to go beyond human frailty and limitation is another fuel that fires up the passion.

~Jeane Louise Mainit / Sales Consultant and Blogger (Cebu)

In 2001, Manuel started climbing. To date, his most memorable one was the long trek under the hot sun towards the summit of Mt. Madjaas in Culasi, Antique.

I like serenity. It is in the mountains where I find complete silence that cannot be found in the city anymore.

~Manuel Bernardino III / 30, Medical Representative

This also holds true to Rhoge who recently started mountain climbing last February of 2014, his first challenge? Mt. Maculot.

At first it was just like the same reason why I climb trees when I was a child but now, nothing refreshes me but a long day in the mountains. I encountered a lot of adventures, experienced both good and bad. In the mountains, I find peace.

~Rhoge Balundo Jr., 27

And to Ellah, her reason is as lofty as the mountains she wants to climb, to become Mother Nature’s steward and nurturer of its treasures. We all aspire that goal and may she remind us not to forget.

The mountains are my safe haven and I climb not only because I want to conquer myself but to appreciate God’s gift. The mountain itself proves how small we are, so we must protect them

~Ellah Valdez / Analyst, RCBC

Philippine Team at Everest Base Camp led by Miguel Mapalad of Yabag Mountaineering: Ian Tesaluna, Mark Adam, Melva Co, JRubia Vladimir, Lulu Santiago, Enrico Jimenez Ignacio and Lloyd Lagman | photo courtesy of Ian Tesaluna

Pass his youth and 20 years spent juggling work and mountain climbing is a life lived to the fullest – indeed, nothing is left to regret. In that span of time, friendships were forged that would last for a lifetime.

It became a passion where I discovered my inner peace because I am truly a nature lover. Missing the beautiful sunset, unique scents of grass, awesome flowers and trees, the quietness of the night, the wonderful sea of clouds and even the sound of the tent being zipped up makes me sad.

~Nick Lumban / Tatay Nick & Friends and Admin-Let’s Unite all Climbers in the Philippines (LUCP)

Everest Base Camp (EBC) will be a dream becoming true if it happens for Tatay Nick.

Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale. 

~Robert Falcon Scott in ‘Scott’s Last Expedition’, 1912 Antartica

Edgar Ian Tesaluna at Mt. Everest Base Camp | photo courtesy of Ian

Known to take life at a whim – a devastating effect of its lure, Everest or even just its base camp (whether you admit it or not) is a goal in every mountaineer’s heart, this may be true or not. Obviously, this is a small step to a dream for those who were able to set foot on EBC. It doesn’t need someone to be extraordinary, just an ordinary father that has extraordinary stories

Most people even me do not have any good answer. The quick answer would be ‘because it’s there’. I always keep on my mind that I will go many places as I can and share all the memories to my little ones.

~Edgar Ian Tesaluna / Davao City

And for an ordinary man who was lucky enough to have summited the worlds’ highest on 17 May 2007, speaks of mixed emotions. Humbled by the mountain, Regie attributed standing on top of Everest as akin to Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes claim to fame – which would be forever etched on his mind. With that 15 minutes came the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and highlight his social advocacies.

I climb mountains because it allows me to celebrate life and everything it has to offer. It comes in the form of challenges, rewards, failures, fulfillment and exploration. It gives me the opportunity to appreciate what is normally taken for granted in the lowland. It also allows me to know my physical and mental limits and how to overcome them. Climbing for me is an expression of freedom in its purest form.

~Regie Pablo / Father, Husband, Mountaineer, Social Entrepreneur and Environmentalist (click on Regie’s Revolve)

For those who puts off Everest or EBC from their mind, Jon Krakauer’s introduction in his Into Thin Air, comes to mind.

There were many, many reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act – triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.

Whether it is the highest, an international climb or one of our country’s mountains – loving, appreciating and protecting the mountains is the main ingredient of the sport.

It connects me to nature, there’s something when being close to it. What matters is not just reaching the summit but the journey or trek in the woods. It’s as if you’re discovering the unknown and conquering yourself while pushing yourself to the limit. It’s a self-discovery.

~Angelo Duran / Payments and Risk Analyst, Sagul Mountaineering

Mt. Pulag grassland, Kabayan, Benguet | photo courtesy of Jonel Mendoza
Mt. Pulag grassland, Kabayan, Benguet | photo courtesy of Jonel Mendoza

And from someone who loves to travel solo,

Hinahanap ko ung challenge ng pag-akyat, kapag stress sa buhay, aakyat ako nang bundok. It is also a way to meet new friends.

~Jay Manabat / Backpacker

 Climbing mountains had built me. It shaped my personality, my attitude and outlook in life. ~Iggy Fernandez / 26, Outdoor Adventure Coordinator

For someone who had made it his living;

I climb mountains because I want to challenge myself. Every mountain has different challenges. Once you reach the summit there is fulfilment. How I was able to cope with those challenges is what I apply in my life.

~Edzel Herrera / Extreme Outdoor Club

And we become romantics or poets. You won’t expect that from a guy who loves to kick another guy, right? But it is Julius’s own way of translating the beauty of his reasons into words.

Noong una mo akong tawagin/ Walang muwang ng ika’y akyatin/ Namangha sa taglay mong angkin/Naakit ang aking damdamin/ Sadya nga naming kakaiba ang iyong taglay/ Sumasalungat sa matatayog na gusaling walang buhay/ At tila ika’y nariyan lang at naghihintay/ Sa isang tulad ko na nais kang malakbay. Kaya mahirap kang talikuran/ kahit karamihan puro babala sa akin at paghadlang/ Sapagkat mistulan kang magnet/ Hinahatak ang mga paa ko tuwing walang pasok at weekend./ Bukod sa taglay mong kagandahan/ Kapayapaan sa aking isipan/ Hinulma ang pagkakaibigan sa mahabang lakaran at akyatan/ Ang isang malalim na dahilan/ Kung bakit patuloy kang magsisilbing sa akin ay tahanan.

~Julius Kevin Japlit / Taekwondo Athlete

Glenn Molano at Mt. Makiling
Glenn Molano at Mt. Makiling | (c) VenAp

I love listening to birds, monotonous they might sometimes be but their tweets are relaxing. It makes you want to sit beside the trail and listen to them for hours, enchanted not by Mariang Makiling but by the sweet exchange of love birds.

Our mountains too are so blessed with teeming flora and fauna and a variety of leeches.

Napakasarap sa pakiramdam na makita mo yung magagandang tanawin na meron tayo na hindi ma-appreciate ng iba.

~Eugene Huyo-a / Student

Experiencing and missing the sweet physical pain can also be addictive and for the young (and those not too young), pushing their mental and physical strengths to its limits is one of the major reasons most are doing the sport.

I climb mountains to challenge myself and see the creation of God – sky, stars and clouds.

~Jover Regua / 25, MIESCOR

Sky running or popularly known locally as trail running perfectly answers and addresses this hunger and it has been slowly taking over our mountains like a brewing storm.

I never used to be a mountaineer before but when I got hooked into trail running, I started to respond on the “calling” of endurance sport. A week never gets complete without any single trail run. For me, running in the mountains is not a hobby but a lifestyle and an opportunity to praise our Father God. To be close to Him is my number one reason why I love to run in the mountains.

~Rai Cabanig / Banker and Running Coach – PNB Running Club

But beyond the summits and test of physical strength, there is more to mountaineering.

Climbing mountains fuels my adventurous spirit. Iba yung pakiramdam. Special because you are able to do something normal people won’t dare do.

~Ivan Dean Vicencio / Civil Engineer

tnf100(2014baguio-benguet)nix pelekai
Trail runners running on the mountain trails of the Cirdilleras during The North Face Trail Run or TNF 100 in 2014 | photo courtesy of Marvin Evasco

And for Ramon, mountain climbing is a good training ground to achieve something in life. It is a personal journey and a humbling experience. He reminds us that mountains are just representations of our aspirations in life. Some people compare mountains to medals but Ramon says, we should always remember that challenges are not made for trophies but are made for us. We always have to put our best foot forward. The challenges we encounter in scaling the highest peak, makes the summit special. And when we reach it, we are not conquering the mountain, we are conquering ourselves.

Climbing mountains illuminates what is important – the simple beauty of life and the people who make life meaningful to us. Mountaineering rewards me with wonderful experiences that fuel my everyday life – it is about being a better person. As I climb, I adapt to the challenges of nature. And in the process, I overcome my weaknesses, fears, doubts and limitations.

~Ramon Jorge / Businessman and CLIMBER’s Incorporator

And for one who lives and breathes the passion of mountain climbing and exploration,

I climb mountains not only because it is one of my passions but because it is a part of me as an artist. I climb to support the visual needs of my eyes, to create, to compose and to satisfy myself of what I am. Without the mountains, incomplete ang buhay ko and trail making for me is also a form of art.

~Sky Biscochio / Visual Artist, Musician, Mountaineer and Adventurer

The veteran mountaineers or who we respectfully call as ‘old school mountaineers’, whines at social media and the world wide web’s impact on the sport. They remember the times mountaineering is just for the fittest of the pack, when itineraries are needles in a haystack, where survival is the name of the game, where being a self-contained mountaineer is the trend and that wearing cut-off jeans is a mountain fashion.

Whine not, dear veterans because the new breed of mountain climbers maybe equipped with the latest climbing gear i.e deuter bags, nalgene bottles, salomon shoes, gps etc. and that itineraries can be obtained at a click on our smartphones, the sport retains some of the qualities you hold close to you hearts. Last time I checked, it is still the fittest who survives and enjoy the trek, having survival skills too is still an edge and self-sufficiency assures one a warm night and happy stomach.

10th Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) hosted by CLIMBER

Mountain climbing may have become a fad and one could hear Bob Dylan as he croons, for the times they are a-changing…. thus, disconnecting and hiking up a mountain is a stress reliever as Louie of Xplore7107 Outdoor Gears affirms.

But as with all trends, it too will soon pass and right now, to counter the digital world on nature and the mountains we need to use the same tool to battle its negative effects. In this, everyone has the responsibility to educate.

I climb mountains for the scenic views and the adventure. I love taking pictures of nature and views on the peak of the mountains to inspire people to go out and travel. My passion is to inspire other people, see new cultures and meet people from different walks of life.

~Pio Johann Pamintuan / 25, Digital Marketing Manager

Johann learned the basic principles of mountaineering and claims to be walking the mountain trails by example.

17 May 2007, Regie stood on top of Mt. Everest to claim his 15 minutes of fame | photo courtesy of Regie Pablo
17 May 2007, Regie stood on top of Mt. Everest to claim his 15 minutes of fame | photo courtesy of Regie Pablo

It is known that mountaineering is a male dominated territory and I bet you wonder about the reasons Filipino women also enjoys climbing mountains?

But women climbers who are truly passionate about mountain climbing are as rare as a taxi on EDSA during a downpour. Among the large number of women in Philippine society, most would rather choose to be surrounded by sturdy walls and the comforts of their homes, of heels and make-ups, of beautiful clothes and glittering chandeliers. This not a folly; it is merely living by the norms set by society.

I’ve been with a few women climbers and sadly, the passion could not burn any stronger. However, there are a select few, who wriggles free, leaving other men literally eating dust on the trail.

Rashel is indeed running high and running fast, what fuels that passion?

I climb and sky run because it is where I celebrate my God given strength. Like most climbers, it is where I find my quiet moments to reflect on my life and be thankful for whatever I have. And all these things are my motivations to keep climbing and run in the mountains.

~Rashel Pena / Trail Runner; Annapurna 50k Finisher

For those people who look up and see mountaineers trudging up mountain trails, let them think and snort “what the heck is up there in the mountains?”. For us who stand on the peak, we say to them “what does it feel to be waking each day not having seen the sunrise on top of a mountain?”

We have shared our various and diverse reasons, some were profound, some just being chill, some twisted, some bordering to a emotional, but they are what fuels our passion so let us continue to nurture that fire; letting it burn strong until it overflows and spreads to positively touch more lives.

Lester Susi for Basic Mountaineering Course during the 10th BMC hosted by CLIMBERS | photo courtesy of Bong Magana
Lester Susi for Basic Mountaineering Course during the 10th BMC hosted by CLIMBERS | photo courtesy of Bong Magana

For people who wants to try, feed more fuel to their reasons as this might ignite a warmth in their hearts to last them a lifetime. It may become a reason for staying alive because there are some who lives yet dead while some battles their demons alone. It may add white, yellow, green and brown colors to their life, converting the loud sound of bars or nightclubs and blinking lights to sounds of crickets and insects, to the stillness and silence of a night at a summit camp.

Let us also refrain from casting judgement to those who wants to learn, to those who ask endless questions because learning is a noble quest for both student and the teacher.

Be wary always of yourself and to not let the passion choke and squeeze the fun out of the sport.

Heed a mountaineers’ message:

 “I for one also started as a newbie. The important thing is to be open to new knowledge, share what you have learned and throw away all the negative things that come your way. Newbies are now very lucky because they have the benefit of social media so learning is easier. But the best teacher will always be nature. Learn from her, respect her and take good care of her. For me, mountains always represent the Supreme Being. So you’ll never ever conquer mountains because by saying so is akin to saying you also conquered God. Everyone makes it to summit because the mountain allows us to experience it”


Author’s Note:

My gratitude to our fellow mountaineers – newbies and veterans alike, who were courageous enough to share their thoughts – reasons for climbing mountains. Hats off to everyone as this write-up would not have been possible without you. The honor and pleasure is mine to transfer your thoughts into a narrative.

Read also the part 1 of this blog here.

Disclaimer: In the Philippines, we have adopted terms such as mountain climbing, mountaineering and mountaineers to depict us and the sport. I’ll leave it to other people to debate on the right usage of the terms.


2 thoughts on “Why I Climb

  1. On all aspects in life’s unique twists, I still would go back and find solace in the mountains. And as what Sir Regie Pablo stated, climbing is expressing freedom in its purest form. Big ups to this man who served as my inspiration in mountaineering.

    Thanks Mam Ven for the feature. Always honored and humbled to be a part of your blog. ☺ Hoping for more collab soon.

    — JL


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