Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mt. Makiling Dayhike via UPLB: "Akyat Para Sa Tagumpay"

BACKPACKERS join and facilitate...  

Mt. Makiling: "Akyat Para Sa Tagumpay"



April 15, 2012 - Four members of The BACKPACKERS (BP) namely, Clue Fajardo, Weng Topasi, Chons Zosa, and Heinz Alvarez joined and facilitated a Mt. Makiling dayhike for UPLB graduating and soon-to-graduate students.

BPs Clue, Weng, Chons, and Heinz



Dubbed “Akyat Para Sa Tagumpay,” the climb was based on the proverb that every UPLB student must reach the university’s highest peak before graduation. The group consisted of senior Biology students Carla Bertulfo (cum laude), Esther Anne Bueno, James Alvarez, Maxine Prado, and Ruth Bicaldo, and their friends Dana Salonoy (BS Development Communication), Chino Mercado (BS Agriculture), and Ida Sierra (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine).

UPLB Students: (L-R) Ruth, Ida, Max, Chino, Carla, Dana, James and Esther

The organizers, Max and Esther, invited and tapped The BP to help facilitate the said event. Collective efforts brought success! Everyone descended with expressions of accomplishment knowing they were able to reach Peak 2, the highest of the three summits of this UP-protected mountain.

"This is a celebration for those who are graduating from UPLB, and a gesture that means 'good luck' for the rest. Reaching the  final year in college is something to be proud of. Hence, for all of you, we have this Akyat Para Sa Tagumpay," BP PRO Heinz said to the participants during the mini-socials atop the legendary Mt. Makiling.

The BPs and participants
All of the participants were non-regular climbers, except for Ruth. It was her first time to conquer a mountain. Still, she never complained throughout the course, despite her swollen toes that worsened during the descent. When asked "Kaya pa, Ruth?" she consistently replied, "Kaya pa, salamat." Spell D-E-T-E-R-M-I-N-A-T-I-O-N and S-T-R-E-N-G-T-H! Upon reaching the peak, she cried tears of joy for a well-earned experience of a lifetime. 

BP Chons is always ready to assist a first-time climber.
The Preparation by The BPs

Four BPs were available and confirmed attendance to facilitate the activity. The plan was to make the climb memorable for the UPLB students. Thanks to the technology, we were able to prepare and organize an itinerary via SMS and email despite the distances. And thanks to Weng's creativity, personalized souvenirs were made for each participant!


The Preparation by The Organizers

In UPLB, Max and Esther planned the climb and invited their Cave Ecology classmates and friends. While Esther attended a convention in Naga City, the others had fun helping Max prepare the group's food for the hike.

The Organizer
Co-Organizer

The Climb

Everybody was extremely excited to climb Mt. Makiling that day. The weather was perfect, and the students were looking forward to a great adventure after surviving another year of academic battle. On the other hand, we BPs were all hyper since it was our first time to set foot on this enchanted mountain and facilitate a climb for the students. Aside from that, Clue wanted to celebrate her promotion to Level F;,Chons wished to celebrate love, Weng wanted to extend help and gain new friends, and it was our (mine and Esther's) first climb as sweethearts.

The group left Max's place at 08:30 AM and started the trek from the Guard House (Station 1) at exactly 08:45 AM. It was a moderate pacing that allowed everyone to enjoy Makiling's fresh air and gentle cold winds. Mountain cyclists and other day-hikers shared the fun along the trail. Near the trail to Mud Spring, we had several stops for some fresh buko juice, the notorious jelly ace brought by the BPs, and cool mountain spring water. The students and BPs enjoyed taking pictures and sharing trivia about Makiling's diverse array of plants and animals.



We hit the Malaboo Campsite  by 12:00 NN where we enjoyed a sumptuous meal of spicy tuna shanghai rolls and well-cooked rice, a specialty of Max's (no pun intended). It was not a silent lunch; we had fun guessing who gets to pick the empty "lucky shanghai." Also, BP Clue made it relevant by discussing some post-grad advice for the students.

"Graduation is just the beginning. Expect more challenges to come along your way. The good thing is, being a graduate of UP is an edge. However, bravery to face the realities outside will define what you are made of," said BP Clue.
        

Aware that we were already behind schedule, we resumed the trek to the Wilderness Zone by 12:30 PM. We quickened our pace so as not to lag behind our schedule. Most of the students were fast hikers and  even walked farther ahead of the BPs. We grouped together only on breaks when we have reached marked  stations.


Trekking the Wilderness Zone brought me both excitement and fear. Excitement, because I knew that we were getting closer to the peak. And fear, because I knew that we were entering "Limatik" Zone as well. 


On Limatik
Mt. Makiling is undeniably famous not only for its legends of Mariang Makiling, richly conserved biodiversity, breathtaking views, and challenging adventures, but is also notorious for its bloodsucking "limatik."  

video

Several nasty stories from previous hikers have increased the infamy of these small creatures, such as their ability to crawl up to your eyes to suck blood. Still, the presence of "limatik" indicates a healthy, undisturbed forest ecosystem, a characteristic found on very few mountains in the Philippines. Therefore, being bitten by a limatik will always be a unique and unforgettable experience on Makiling.

The hikers had mixed perceptions about these leeches. Most of the biologists didn't mind them much; others seemed to have developed phobias of them. During the climb, five were victimized by "limatik." It was simply ironic that most of the climbers who encountered them were the ones afraid of even the sight of just one leech. Chons found a "limatik" sticking on her camera case. Esther had one inside her shirt on her back happily sucking blood. But these two were not frightened all. On the other hand, Ruth screamed out when a "Limatik" tagged along with her. Clue lost her words and just kept on shouting as if in agony when one bit and swayed left and right on her fingers. And I, the most fearful of them leeches, looked completely stupid when I freaked out during my third "leech encounter," which caused bleeding on my right foot.



The Peak
We reached our ultimate goal, Peak 2, by 02:20 PM. We made the most of our time by having some photo ops, small talks while having snacks, and mini-socials where the souvenirs from The BACKPACKERS were distributed.



We started the descent at 03:10 PM, planning to make it out of the dangerous Wilderness Zone before dark. We originally planned a sidetrip to Mud Spring, but were already in darkness upon reaching the Nursery (Station 8). The rest of the descent was done with headlamps and flashlights. Locals living near the Nursery offered "habal-habal"/motorcycle rides down to the Guard House, but we were determined to finish the hike on foot.

Somewhere around Station 5, we were surprised to see BP Lead Ivan riding on one of the "habal-habal" bikes on the way down the mountain. We thought he was climbing Mt. Tarak that day with his UE friends Shyne Caballes, Louie Baccay, and Wilson Galapon. As it turned out, Ivan and his friends actually went on a traverse of Makiling via the Sto. Tomas - Los Banos trail, and planned to surprise us at the peak. But since their Maktrav took longer than expected, they did not catch us at the peak and decided to ride down the few remaining kilometers of the trail instead. The motorcycles returned to fetch us remaining hikers, much to the relief of Ruth and Chons who had a difficult time picking their tracks in the dark, rocky path.



We were finally back at the Guard House (Station 1) by approximately 09:00 PM. Everybody deserved the good dinner at Eat-Sumo- Los Banos. Despite the aching legs and feet, everyone felt the sense of achievement, the appropriately named, "akyat para sa tagumpay."




Climbers In Action 

 
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