Sunday, December 30, 2012




A major climb separates the usual fun climbs because of its difficulty - longer and steeper trails, and exposure to extreme weather conditions. It may include grueling travels and enduring in a more technical climb. This is one of the requirements before being officially inducted in The BACKPACKERS family. The real bonding happens while you are facing a major mountain. This year, we had three major climbs which paved way to the inevitable growth of The BACKPACKERS family.

In January, the traverse trail of Mt. Cristobal witnessed ten individuals gleefully accepting the challenge of the Devil's mountain from Dolores, Quezon to San Pablo, Laguna. It is one of the most favorite and memorable climb this year for some BPs as they enjoyed maneuvering through the beautiful forest of Mt. Cristobal. It was at its enchanting saddle where we inducted BP Chons and BP Percy.

In May, perhaps the grandest induction venue, we conquered the most sought after mountain that every mountaineer should have conquered (or at least plans to conquer): Mt. Pulag. It is the third highest mountain in the country and the proudest in Luzon. There are several trails leading to Mt. Pulag's summit. Since it was The BACKPACKERS' first time here as a group, we chose to take the Ambangeg trail, more known as the 'Executive' trail. It was a leisurely walk-in-the-park but we all got a taste of  the freezing cold weather when we settled in its camping ground. Here, we welcomed BPs Anna, April, Des and Tin to our family.

In November, The BACKPACKERS went through our most difficult climb for the year: Mt. Tapulao. The sixteen kilometer stretch of rocky, ascending trail seemed endless and the scorching heat of the sun was painfully challenging. But regardless of the elements, we were never down. And this test of patience paid off as we were treated by a magnificent vista of the nearby mountains and the pine forest of Mt. Tapulao was a delight! The heat and exhaustion were foes at noon, and in an ironic turn of events, it was the chilling atmosphere that we battled at night. But nonetheless, The BACKPACKERS prevailed and survived the highest mountain in Central Luzon! In its summit, we inducted BPs Alexi, Ghei, Gerald, Nick and Resty.


The province of Batangas is blessed with several beautiful hiking destination worthy of a visit. This and its accessibility to Manila based group like us are perhaps the reasons why we have been going back and forth to this province. This year alone, 33.33% of the monthly travels (or 4 out of 12 climbs) were held in Batangas.

In June, we revisited the mother mountain of The BACKPACKERS: Mt. Gulugod Baboy. Accompanied by six guests, we dazed through its easy trail and once more, we were captivated by the same view from its wide camping ground. We were caught in awe because of the marvelous landscapes around Mabini, Batangas.

In July, we headed to Nasugbu, Batangas to conquer Mt. Talamitam. This is also the climb with the most number of official BPs present. It was our first foreseen night trek and boy did we literally night trekked our way through its slopes with raging horses and cows around. Some were even provoked by our presence and chased us. The next day, we feasted our eyes on unexpected sea of clouds on its summit.

In September, we set foot in the distant town of Lobo, Batangas to conquer Mt. Banoi. This is the most luxurious campsite ever as we had the amenities which are not usually present in camping outdoors. We had a big and bright light bulb serving us during dinner and socials, mono bloc chairs and an accessible kitchen for our dining needs! The beauty of the views around while we hiked across the hilly trail of Mt. Banoi was also an unexpected treat!

In December, we had another revisit: Mt. Batulao. This time, we traversed it from its old trail to new trail. The bouldering at the old trail to its summit pumped everyone's adrenaline and it was an accomplishment in making it on top once again. This Nasugbu, Batangas mountain is clearly one of the best mountains where a newbie can start to appreciate the sport of mountaineering and we, The BACKPACKERS will not get tired revisiting it.


We vowed to do at least one climb per month. With this vow comes the probability that a BACKPACKER will also be celebrating his or her natal day in the mountains. Or even if it may not fall exactly in the scheduled climb date, there will be a celebration or whatnot for this BP's birthday month. Just like BP Clue who celebrated her birthday in Mt. Pulag, BP Percy who was greeted atop Mt. Gulugod Baboy and BP Bogs atop Mt. Talamitam. Here are the other mountains we conquered where a birthday was celebrated:

In February, BPs Weng and Ivan celebrated their birth month in the relaxing Mt. Balagbag in Rodriguez, Rizal. It was one of the easier climbs of the group. During the night, everyone was asked to wear their best pajamas as the climb's theme. The celebration of Weng and Ivan's birthday was mostly held at the Aportadera's residence. Balloons and bountiful food were present along with the company of the lovable and hospitable Nanay Melba and Tatay Petronilo. This was also where the classic 'retarded pose' and 'Junar pose' were born.

In August, perhaps the biggest surprise for a BP in a birthday climb was done at Mt. Sembrano in Pililla, Rizal. It was BP Mon who celebrated his birth month. Unknown to him, we were all asked to wear a red shirt which is his favorite color. The surprise happened at the barangay hall of Malaya when the first group, mostly composed of guests accompanied by BP Vice Ralph and BP PRO Heinz, blindfolded this jolly fellow. The cake, lunch and a surprise guest in the form of BP Ghei were delivered by the second group, breaking him into tears. According to the grateful BP Mon, it was his first ever birthday cake which made it a memorable event.

In October, The BACKPACKERS climbed Mt. Tagapo, the beauty that lies in the heart of Talim Island in Binangonan, Rizal. It was during socials when we all learned that it was BP Gerald's birthday! And no birthday celebrant is exempt from taking the infamous 'birthday shot' where each present individual expresses his or her wishes while pouring an amount of wine in a cup. When everybody's done, the celebrant will drink (could be in installments) which ever amount is on his birthday cup. After the shot, he or she will deliver a birthday speech. BP Gerald is the first BACKPACKER who is not based in Manila. It is an honor to have him and his dedication coming all the way from Baguio City whenever there is a climb. Cheers!


That season of the year everyone's waiting for, other than Christmas,... SUMMER! Here, not only mountaineers, most travelers draft and execute their best getaway to enjoy the season where the sun shines radiantly in the sky opening up an avenue to enjoy the outdoors. Summer of 2012 was a big one for The BACKPACKERS. Thus, a 'Tatlong Hirit sa Tag Init' was created, three trips during the summer months March to May.

In March, to open up the summer season, The BACKPACKERS headed to the historic town of Bataan to climb Mt. Samat and spend the night at Raven Resort. The BACKPACKERS enjoyed touring the mountain a la educational trip where we were treated with the view of the Bataan mountains and a nice glimpse of the past. Part of the site of death march, we recounted the courage and strength of the Filipinos during the Japanese occupation. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was riding the elevator inside the famous big cross where we saw more breathtaking surroundings.

In April, The BACKPACKERS visited Oriental Mindoro's popular beach: Puerto Galera. Summer is about hitting the beaches and here, we swam at the waters of White Beach, rode the banana boat and hiked up to Aninuan Falls. But the most exciting thing which White Beach is more famous for is no other than its night life. The BACKPACKERS partied beach style! With the help of a candle and an improvised mat, we huddled around the sand while shots of Mudslide and Mindoro Sling were being passed around. Party party!

In May, The BACKPACKERS visited mountains of Tuba, Benguet, the biggest rock dam in Asia, inducted new members in Mt. Pulag, crossed a long Cordillera hanging bridge and dined at Baguio's finest: Good Taste during our Ultimate Benguet Adventure. We took part in a memorable morning jeepney ride in a death defying trail that leads to Tuba's twin mountain: Mt Sto. Tomas and Mt. Cabuyao. Then we explored Ambuklao Dam, the dam itself was a nice place but the picturesque surrounding made it even more enthralling! We really felt the Cordillera vibe especially while toploading while we were on our way to Mt. Pulag National Park. The highlight of the trip was making it on top of Luzon's highest as a group.


October of this year when The BACKPACKERS had a major five day backpacking trip in the Eastern Visayas region.

In Matalom, Leyte, we enjoyed the small and calm island of Canigao. We had a blast touring the entire island and were surprised to see an enticing sandbar on the other side.

In Maasin City, Southern Leyte, The BACKPACKERS survived the Cagnituan Challenge - trekking up to Cagnituan Falls and reaching the other end of Cagnituan Cave which has become a death defying activity due to the deep waters inside the cave. We also reflected on top of the beautiful Jalleca Hill overlooking the city.

In Sogod, Southern Leyte, The BACKPACKERS faced the Sogod challenge - surviving the longest zipline in the Visayas region, and the steepest in the country. Some had the luxury of enjoying a cable car ride across the canopy and over the country's tallest bridge: Agas Agas.

In Palompon, Leyte, The BACKPACKERS enjoyed beach bumming in one of the pearls of Eastern Visayas: Kalanggaman Island. We enjoyed camping a la Survivor, complete with torches lighting the campsite. Next morning, we travelled to Tabuk Marine Sanctuary where we saw huge bats flying above mangrove trees, seasnakes in the water (and along the bridge) and walking in the middle of a vast mangrove system.


The BACKPACKERS aims to show the world how beautiful our country is. Our primary activity is conquering mountains but we also enjoy visiting other natural wonders - particularly in this section, islands and waterfalls.

In June, The BACKPACKERS went to an accessible majestic island near the metropolis: Sombrero Island in Mabini, Batangas. The island is named after its shape 'Sombrero' which is the vernacular term for a hat.

In October, part of our Eastern Visayas itinerary was getting to two of the most beautiful islands in Leyte. We realized that we were long way from home waking up in the morning at Canigao Island in Matalom, Leyte. This island is small but captivating and we certainly enjoyed touring the entire island with a sandbar bonus on the other side. One of the most sought after islands in the region that we visited is Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte. 'Langgam' in the Visayan dialect means bird, and this island resembles a shape of a bird when viewing it in the sky.

Water falling from high ground - WATERFALLS! A waterform wonder that never fails to enchant us. Each waterfall that we encountered has its unique beauty. And this year The BACKPACKERS witnessed and shared the beauty of ten waterfalls. In Los Banos, Laguna, we saw Dampalit Falls which lies at the outskirts of Mt. Makiling. In Baler, Aurora, the captivating beauty of Mother Falls won the heart of BPs' amazing photo-King, BP Frank. In Rodriguez, Rizal, the group answered to the reverse-traverse challenge of Balagbag Falls and conquered it in a top-down manner. In Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, we strayed away from the beach on day two and hiked our way to Aninuan Falls, where a nice basin is open for swimming. In Pilar, Bataan, BPs Marion and Nick found Dunsulan Falls, half an hour away from Mt. Samat. In Maasin City, Southern Leyte, Cagnituan Falls where water is extending from a cave was a beauty. Some BPs visited Daranak Falls and Batlag Falls in Tanay, Rizal. In Batangas, we explored Manggahan Falls and Balite Falls in two different climbs.


The BACKPACKERS climbs mountains as a group, explore caves as a group, hop from one island to another as a group and check out magnificent waterfalls as a group. But what if there are no scheduled activities and the member is in itch for an adventure? This year, we saw a lot of The BACKPACKERS spirit in several members. They took time off from work and from the group and explored the outdoors by themselves. This was the year of the Solo Backpackers.

BP Chons conquered Mt. Samat and its famous cross after following the group in our March adventure. BP Clue, notorious in embracing the challenge of solo backpacking to the fullest, conquered Sagada, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon alone. BP Frank went on his first solo expedition at Mt. Pinatubo. BP Marion's first solo trip was also in Mt. Pinatubo. After their trips, they shared the beauty of this volcano to the group through the pictures that they have taken. BP Heinz had a very memorable solo backpacking in Caramoan triggered by a loss of a loved one. His trip somehow was an inspirational one where he drew strength from this event.


The BACKPACKERS Headquarters in Mandaluyong City easily became an avenue where we can eat, sleep, drink and party. This year, the HQ had seen a lot of memorable events and celebration which only proved that the group's bonding is not only done in the highest of heights.

In February, two celebrations were held in BPHQ. On February 4, perhaps the grandest surprise this year was for BP Angel. She never expected the HQ to be full of greeters when she got home. Hosted by BPs Bogs and Ralph, they had a program. On February 6, a triple birthday celebration for BPs Weng, Ivan and York was conducted with a surprise number from BPs Ralph, Mon and Percy.

In May, one of the most memorable birthday celebration was with BP Tin's birthday. This is memorable in the sense that the group cooked and celebrated without the birthday celebrant. Unfortunately she could not come due to family commitment but she sponsored the event.

In July, a birthday celebration for BP Bogs was executed at the BPHQ. Hosted by BP Ivan, a mini program and a game show was set up. The game show revolved with the BACKPACKERS guessing Bogs' age during some of the memorable events in her life.

In September, BP Frank had his birthday celebration in the BPHQ which witnessed another round of memorable conversation and smiles.

In October, another BACKPACKER first: a quadruple celebration for October birthday celebrants Chons, Jovy, Liz and Heinz. It was one of the shortest gathering but it was one of the happiest as laughter were all around.

In December, BP girls surprised BP Conts during her birthday at BPHQ. Unknown to the latter, they stayed at the HQ for the night and arranged a Happy Birthday greeting pasted across HQ's wall.


The BACKPACKERS is also about reaching to the communities in need. We foster camaraderie through these programs which aimed to help children and other fellowmen who are not fortunate in their status in life. 

In October, led by BP Chons, The BACKPACKERS held We Care, We Share and visited Nayon Ng Kabataan and sponsored and conducted a christmas party for one hall there. Each hall in Nayon Ng Kabataan houses kids which are abandoned by their parents. It was a memorable one interacting, playing and dancing with these kids. The event was hosted by BP Nick which was his first hosting stint in the group.

In November, the group held the second season of Be Loved Give Love. Another facility that takes care of street children and those who are in need, overall project head BP Marion immediately tackled it as the venue for our next outreach. The event was hosted by BP Nick. A health related talk was conducted by BP Angel and (fun fun fun) fun games by BPs DeePee and Mon. BP Liz spearheaded the major event which was an art activity. The kids were given art materials and were asked to draw something with the theme Caring For The Environment.

In December, The BACKPACKERS collaborated with other groups for the ABC+ Benefit Gig. Five organizations united and aimed at raising funds for the flip flops of more than 270 schoolkids of Balagbag Elem. School, in Rodriguez, Rizal, and for Hyacinth N. Cadiz of Siliman University, who just had a kidney transplant worth P1.5M courtesy of family and friends and still needs medication for her fast recovery. Talent was overflowing that night. The BACKPACKERS' very own Tin Santon, Weng Topasi, and Dennis Piano graced the stage for some song numbers. BPs Marion Macapagal, Chons Zosa and Ghei Agoncillo set the dance floor on fire with the only dance performance of the night. The most important thing that transpired during the night was that it was The BACKPACKERS' first collaboration with other groups and we definitely bonded with a lot of the other members of the other groups that night.


In December, The BACKPACKERS celebrated two years of growth and friendship during our Wild Wild West Anniversary Party. Held in The Ascott Hotel in Makati City, everyone put on their best cowboy costume and partied our way until morning. 


It was a very memorable 2012 for The BACKPACKERS. 
And we are looking forward to what's in store for us in 2013!


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