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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mount Pulag, Philippines

Mount Pulag, Philippines
2 Days 1 Night Trip

Climbing mountains has always been fascinating and daunting. Why go through the trouble to see the sunrise when you can take the elevator to the highest building or simply drive to the nearby beach. It's due to humans craving for accomplishment and satisfaction. However, climbing mountains goes deeper than that, it intertwines with the love of nature and love of taking a challenge. Getting what you want and reaching your goal gives you an intense feeling of euphoria. It's like reaching school in time before the gates closes or being able to copy your seatmates answer without getting caught- this I can totally relate as it is mine. For some people it might be getting high scores in a test without even studying or graduating with honors, where you find yourself lost in words in that certain second on stage. This is just a part of that feeling when you reach the summit. Mix it up with fatigue, high volumes of happiness and there you go Addiction to mountaineering. I've had this urge to climb mountains way back in 2013 after I did my first hike at Osmeña Peak  which is considered as the highest Peak in Cebu, Philippines. The rest followed Mount Manunggal in Cebu, Mount Batur in Indonesia, Gunung Gombak in Johor Bahru, Gunung Jasar in Cameron highlands and Mount Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, Mount Hallasan and Mount Seoraksan in South Korea and for this trip Mount Pulag and Mount Pinatubo in Philippines. 

Mount Pulag stands 2,922 metres above sea level and is located between the border provinces of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya. A few years ago it was the second highest mountain next to Mt. Apo in Davao, however according to the new standing it is officially the third highest mountain in the Philippines. We have booked a travel operator for our climb which will not be mentioned in all my blog post due to bad service rendered. 

Departure Date/Time: April 29 - 10:30 pm
Assembly place: Victory Liner, Pasay 
No. of participants: 4 pax
Package Rates: 2,750 php /pax (Manila-Baguio-Manila) / 2,300 php /pax (Baguio-Pulag only)

Package Inclusions:
- Roundtrip Bus fare (Manila-Baguio-Manila) or One way fare Manila-Baguio , depends on package. 
- Jeep Rental (Baguio- ranger station-Baguio)
- Service of Tour Coordinator
- Conservation fees
- Tour guide fee
- Entrance fee and Permits
TENT: 450 php/tent (2-3pax) or 650 php/tent (4-5pax)
Sleeping Bags: 200 php /bag
Additional: 300 php/person (2 lunch and 1 dinner) 
Porter Fee: 600 php

Climb Itinerary: 
April 29 Day 00  - Friday
0900pm ETD Victory Liner Pasay (bus delay change to 10:30 pm)
Travel time: 4-5 hours

April 30 Day 01 - Saturday
0200am ETA Baguio arrange jeep
0500am ETA kabayan *Breakfast
0730am Briefing
0900am ETD DENR to Ranger station
1100am ETA Ranger Campsite
Set camp freetime to explore ranger

May 1 Day 02 - Sunday
0100am ETD Ranger to summit
0500am ETA Summit
0900am ETA Ranger
0100pm ETA DENR *Lunch
04.00pm ETA Baguio (Baguio to Tarlac Bus Fare: 250 php)

The bus took off around 10:30 pm from Manila, thus arriving 5 in the morning the following day in Baguio. First words that woke me up that day was a guy shouting Strawberry Taho. My senses was brought to life after sleeping in the bus for hours. But then its not advisable to have some soy milk early in the morning especially for someone whose lactose intolerant just in the morning, and embarking on a climb expedition. I like the sound of the word 'expedition' thou it doesn't fit the climb we're partaking. I let it go which is something I shouldn't have done. They said once you bump into something good, get it and have it. Anyways, its not really a bad call, I knew that but my craving was pushing me to go for it. I can't afford a serious toilet break up in the mountains. The bus drop us off at a certain point where a van was waiting to send us off to the basecamp. We went for breakfast and had our orientation in the DENR office. 

My friends and I were prepared for a serious hike that day little did we knew we were heading to the basecamp by van. The tour coordinator mentioned two hikes. We didn't know we were literally going to the basecamp, so it turns out we only have one hike and that's the summit climb. I was really dissappointed. A part of it is my fault I choose the easy route which is the Abangeg Trail. I inquired about the Akiki Trail but I don't know for what reason they've given that I settled for the other trail. It was still a good thing as we still had the energy after Mt. Pulag to make it for our Mt. Pinatubo hike. We arrived 4 in the afternoon at the basecamp, everyone set-up camp right away except for us as the tour coordinator left our tents and sleeping bags. Good thing we were close to a Homestay where the owner allowed us to rest comfortably in their veranda. The rain poured that afternoon we were close to saying yes to the Homestay owner yet the call of adventure outdoors remained in our hearts. I love setting up camp, the poles, the hooks and the zipper excites me in some way. Dinner was served candlelight in the Homestay, electricity doesn't reach this part of the mountain. The tour coordinator somewhat convinced the Homestay owner to prepare our meals along with their guest. I wanted to eat outdoors. Despite being deprived of eating out in the tent the food served was delicious, we had chicken adobo and pork singang for dinner. As early as 9 in the evening we were inside out tent dozing off to dreamland. My friend and I did some funny, horror stunts before turning our backs to the cold earth. I'm blessed to have a friend whose funny, down to earth, generous and understanding in so many ways. Once you find that friend whose willing to put up with all your crap, literally those stupid things you do and say keep him/her close to you. There's only one needle in the haystack, rather its hard to find a needle in a haystack. The guide told us wake up call is around 12:30 yet we were woken up as early as 11:30 in the evening. 

The hike in the early cold morning is not tiring, it's intoxicating. Adrenaline for adventure stirs up inside you, not knowing the path ahead gives the thrill of excitement. I walked with a smile plastered on my face until my headlamp stopped working 30 minutes later from where we started. As what they say during live shows on TV having technical difficulties 'the show must go on.' Good thing my iphone was fully charged. This phone has seriously never let me down, it showed me the way till we reached the summit at 4 in the morning. It even helped me get through my first full marathon, the music and distance tracker played for 6 hours straight during the run. Even thou I triple check my headlamp who would have known what happens in the hike so better to equip yourself with a back up plan. Lesson learned: Next time never leave a handy flashlight when hiking. I continued the hike with my camera on hand till we reached the top. The trail along the way was dark yet calm with a glimpse of the moonlight in the sky. We arrived an hour early before the sunrise, we sat down, ate our snacks and facing each others back while shivering in the cold. This is the time where your appreciation for friendship goes to full level. As I saw the first rays of the sun I stand in awe once again at its magnificent beauty, sunrise up in the mountains are always momentous in my eyes. It's like seeing heavens door open for everyone to see, a mere peek-a-boo session with God to show us whats in store for us if we're kind and generous here on earth. I stared at the sunrise as it positions itself in the horizon then my friends kept pulling me for a group picture along with the other climbers we've met. I almost lost that moment there, I strongly believe this is one of those moments in your life that you have to stand and stay still- that's just me and my opinion. 

Talking about what goes inside my mind, here's another thought: Sometimes I have a feeling I was born an eagle in my past life that explains why I love to wander, or maybe a turtle due to my patience and positivity no matter how bad things go wrong, perhaps I'm part of the ocean or the sky team because I'm so inlove with the sun. 

Surprisingly the crowd wasn't that bad, I guess the control committee implemented just months ago was a success. The rangers noticed the abuse we've done with the mountain, now they're strict with the number of hikers each day. We have to respect and preserve the mountain's grandeur beauty. More people reached the summit after sunrise, a good sign for us to descend down the mountain. It was already pass 6 am when we left, then went to a waiting shed for breakfast and back to basecamp. Along the way we played like little kids, rolled over to a small hill, laid down on a bed of long grass and ridiculously crawled our way back to high land. At the end of the climb we meet a mother along with her four kids selling ice candy and coconut juice, a nice treat to officially end the climb.

The Mt. Pulag climb was successful, by 5 pm we already took a van to Tarlac City to meet a friend of mine for dinner. While my friend's sister took the bus back to Manila along with fellow climbers in our group. Next on our itineray is Mt. Pinatubo, a famous active volcano located in between provinces of Tarlac and Zambales. 

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