Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mt. Pulag 2012


CONQUERING LUZON'S HIGHEST PEAK
THE BACKPACKERS IN MT. PULAG




few kilometers from Babadak Ranger Station was closed due to some roadworks. Because of this, we were forced to walk this distance which served as a warm up before we truly start the hike in the relatively easier Ambangeg trail. Before hiking, we ate our late lunch, got two guides and hired porters to carry some of our stuffs. Guides are mandatory for those who wish to climb the majestic Mt. Pulag. It is 100Php per head for a group of eight persons. Porter fees are 250Php one way and 500Php for a round trip service.


Conts trekking this part of the road because it was closed
A nice leisurely walk at Mt. Pulag National Park




AMBANGEG TRAIL



There are several trails available that serve as the hiker's doorway in conquering Mt. Pulag. You can even try a cross country combination of these trails which will make your trip more challenging and interesting. Since most of The BACKPACKERS are meeting the towering Mt. Pulag for the first time (second timers were Angel, Liz and Ivan), we decided to use Amba-Amba trail.


Resting at Camp 1
Ambangeg trail is straightforward and relatively easy. The first section involves a leisurely walk at the small tribal community at the Babadak Ranger Station. You will be slowly immersed with the forest after that first (and only) steep portion of the trail. There is a clearing here wherein the summit of Mt. Pulag is visible on a nice day. The forested portion is the longest part of the trail. But here, there are no steep phases. The path is relatively easy eventhough it could get a little muddy sometimes when there is a downpour. And we learned from the DENR office that weather is unpredictable in Mt. Pulag that is why bringing in a poncho is recommended. Inside the forest are a variety of interesting flora. The trees are comparable to that of Mt. Cristobal which are covered with thick moss. One third along the trail you will arrive at Camp 1 ~ a conveniently built resting station for trekkers and can serve as an emergency camp for some. It has a hut big enough to accommodate a group of twenty persons - my personal estimate. We rested and mingled with our porters, ate and recharged our spirits for twenty minutes. After that, we were back in business and headed for Camp 2 through the lush forest of the park.


with our friendly porters and guides
Angel as a sunflower, Mt. Pulag National Park Camp 1
Trail buddies Tin and Clue
Resting along the trail


The other documented Mt. Pulag trails are Akiki Trail aka Killer Trail, Tawangan Trail and Ambaguio Trail.



CAMP TWO


Because of the road mishap we encountered at Kabayan, Benguet, we were behind our itinerary and reached the campsite when the sun almost left the sky. We immediately set up our camp and put on several layers of clothing as we started to feel the effects of the chilling atmosphere at the campsite. Some had a combination of a shirt and two jackets, two shirts and a jacket, and some even had three shirts and a jacket ~ all to combat the cold weather. Our very nice porters went back to the Ranger Station after a quick snack. Thank you for accompanying us and carrying our things ates and kuyas

Our nice and friendly porters


Marcelino - our trusted tent which can accommodate all BPs! =D

Our kitchen managers started to prepare dinner. We had hot miso chicken soup, tocino, hotdog and adobo for that night. The hot miso soup was the early favorite as it provided a soothing warm feeling inside our shivering bodies. But it was the tocino, which I bought at the store in Bokod, Benguet near the DENR office, that was the box office hit. To those who worry about bringing in fresh and frozen goods from Manila all the way to Benguet, you can just opt to buy your supplies in Benguet. We huddled together inside Marcelino (the name of our big tent. After all, body heat is still one of the best natural warmer in a situation like this. Marcelino was also the venue of our dinner and socials. And to keep the warmth inside our bodies we helped ourselves with shots of GSM Blue.



A note to those who plan to bring alcohol inside the park: the Kankana-ey tribe at the Ranger Station are discouraging and confiscating alcoholic beverages while you arrange for your mandatory guides before you depart the jump off point. They started to impose this strict measure after the occurrence of a heated discussion and a physical bout between a local and a drunk mountaineer (or should I say monkey-neer) a couple of months back. Our guide, Kuya Robert told me that banning alcohol in the park is to prevent a similar instance from happening. He narrated another story when a drunk female climber started to act crazily by shouting and doing her loud monologues at Camp 2 which disturbed everyone. We are not perfect as we do get drunk too in some of our socials, but reaching the point of disrespecting your local guide is way too unacceptable. Plus, Mt. Pulag is a sacred mountain to these fellowmen of ours. Let us respect them, follow their customs and culture, and respect the mountain. The officers in Babadak Ranger Station generously allowed us to carry at least two bottles of GSM Blue which we drank during our socials after a negotiation and a promise that we weren't those type of campers.


The BACKPACKERS sacred Socials motto: 
Ang alak nilalagay sa tyan at hindi sa ulo.


DeePee, Weng and Liz inside Marcelino
During our socials, we got to know more about the four adventurous souls who would be joining our family, The BACKPACKERS. Our sole guest climber, Marion Datu also had a chance to formally introduce himself to us (it is our group's custom to formally get to know our beloved guests during socials). We heard the history and reasons behind their decision to climb with us for two or four times, their favorite trips, their expectations and impressions on us, individually and as a group. After that, the discussion was shifted to many topics, anything and everything under the sun that engaged a couple of people to speak up and contribute to the colloquy. I have never blogged any of our group's socials as it is one of the private moments that we get to enjoy. I just want to stress out that socials is not always about the alcohol or the chips.. or the alcohol, repetition intended. The alcohol is there to provide warmth from the beating of the cold that torments our skin which makes us shiver from sheer, freezing temperature. Socials, for The BACKPACKERS is about the intellectual, emotional and interesting exchange of ideas, stories and conversation that help us bond with each other. What a nice venue to discuss some things, reveal your vulnerabilities and open yourself up to others than on top of a mountain.

Those who stayed up until the very last conversation during Mt. Pulag socials hit the hay at around 3:00AM, approximately an hour away from our outlined wake up call..!




SEA OF CLOUDS



We started the assault to summit at around 4:30 in the morning, not what we planned because we targeted to witness sunrise when we are at the summit. A lot of bodies were shaking due to cold. Some had to re-layer their clothes, put on arm, socks and leg warmers, and caps to beat the cold. It was a really chilling situation that whenever I remove my gloves, my palms would be numb after a minute. But everyone on a Mt. Pulag journey should bear this part of the trip because the tolerance can bring something worth remembering: a breathtaking experience at the summit of Luzon's highest mountain.


Ambangeg Trail, Mt. Pulag National Park


The group was initially divided into two groups. One of our older guide, Kuya Ramon was with Conts, Jovy, Anna, York, Frank and Ivan at the tail pack while Kuya Robert was guiding the rest as the lead pack. However as the trail progressed, many stopped to marvel at the beautiful and engaging views and breathtaking sights. We got divided into several more groups. And soon we were like kindergarten students roaming happily and freely into a very huge playground.


The trail was well established. Its initial portion from our campsite was very easy. We just had to follow the rocks that served as an obvious path. Executive trail, yes it was. We were halfway along the trail to summit when I realized that the sun is already peeking into the sky. I was about to feel frustrated, for we messed up with the itinerary on being at the summit at sunrise, when Anna shouted in awe: 


Annalyn was very overwhelmed with the inspirational and breathtaking view
"Wow! Look! Ang ganda!(beautiful!) Sea of clouds nga!



I turned my head to the left and what I saw was an amazing rush of literal sea of clouds approaching and brushing our faces. We were in heaven. Another emotional remark from Annalyn who was one of our inductees then,

"Gusto kong umiyak. Ang ganda talaga.. (i want to cry. this sight is really beautiful)"


Incredible Hulk in the sea of clouds candidate #1 : Frank
Incredible Hulk in the sea of clouds candidate #2: Ivan
The pace became slower as many took the opportunity to maximize their cameras and inhale the astounding view around them. One by one, the other peaks of the Cordillera region started to show up, some were even half-eaten by the sea of clouds. While walking, The BACKPACKERS had the opportunity to witness a very beautiful natural phenomena: the moon hiding the sun from the earth: an eclipse! THE SOLAR ECLIPSE ON MAY 20, 2012 WAS WITNESSED BY THE BACKPACKERS ON TOP OF LUZON! Our eyes and hearts were already satisfied from the whole Benguet adventure and we still were not at the summit. For all the money, effort, time and all that it took, it was ALL WORTH IT.




ON TOP OF LUZON


A beautiful rainbow emerged at the summit of Mt. Pulag
- a warm welcome from the Playground of the Gods
After a long easy to moderate hike, we finally reached the rooftop of Luzon - Mt. Pulag's summit! The dwarf bamboos were there, the scenic 360 degree view around, the nearby mountains of Panotoan, Timbak, Napulauan, Tabayoc, Cabuyao and Sto. Tomas (we were just there a day before!), the inspiring panorama of the region, the vast grassland, the rolling hills of the park, the view of the trails, the sun, the sea of clouds, the horizon, the Philippines, the earth... In standing on top of a mountain, you would realize how big the world is and just how small we are. Bury all that feeling of insignificance, burden, problems, pain while you are standing on top of a mountain so beautiful like Mt. Pulag. You realize that there's more to life than doing and thinking about ordinary things. You appreciate yourself and the gift of life. You appreciate God for creating an accessible heaven like this that only those who are brave enough have witnessed. I can not get the perfect adjective to describe more what is in store for you on top of Mt. Pulag. Those who wish to witness these feelings just need to actually be there. And again believe me, it is going to be worth it.


Taking their friendship to new heights - Jovy, Liz and Conts

Taking their love to even greater heights - Ivan and Angel

April and Des and the dwarf bamboos













A paradise on earth
York at the summit
Marion's jump for joy
DeePee marvels at the view



INDUCTION RITES


Welcome to The BACKPACKERS Anna, Tin, Des and April!

Chons and Weng spearheaded our third induction rites on top of Mt. Pulag. Here, we welcomed four friends who share the same passion in discovering the wonderful gems of our country as they became true blooded BACKPACKERS. They were not just welcomed in the group, they were embraced as new members of our happy family of adventure seekers and amicable travelers - all united in one hope, one dream and one goal...

BP April receiving the welcome gift from BP Chons
Weng and Chons welcomed BP Tin!
Weng and Chons welcomed BP Des!
Weng and Chons welcomed BP Anna!

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY ANNA, APRIL, DES AND TIN!
MORE CLIMBS! MORE TRAVELS! MORE ADVENTURES!


The BACKPACKER girls who conquered Mt. Pulag

The BACKPACKER boys and our guest Sir Marion Paulo on top of Luzon

Hiding behind the dwarf bamboos





It was a very relaxing, inspiring, motivating, beautiful, wonderful, majestic and breathtaking experience!

After our photo ops, we went back to camp, ate brunch, rested for a bit before breaking camp and finally descending down from the highest mountain in Luzon. It was a very memorable experience to all of us. Many of us had Mt. Pulag in our bucket list and this dream climb was finally fulfilled. 

Benguet gave us a nice escapade, away from the busy metropolis. These three full days we would forever cherish and remember as we browse the pictures which reflect the amazing moments we had together.

And this culminates The BACKPACKERS Hirit Sa Tag Init series.
We are looking forward to what the next summer has in store for us!


***Special credits to Tin, Liz, Des, DeePee, Clue and Frank for the pictures

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