Wednesday, January 21, 2015


The BACKPACKERS 2015 Kick Off Climb
By Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.

This activity happened while all the Filipino in the whole country were rejoicing because of the Papal Visit. And we in the Group thought that this activity would be our expression of happiness because of the same reason. Eight BPs (The BACKPACKERS Members) and 19 Guests climbed Mt. Talamitam in Nasugbu, Batangas on January 17 and 18. What made this activity more significant? The fact that this is the Group's kick off climb for the year 2015.

From left to right starting at the front row: Maine, Bev, Ghei, Mau, Heinz, York, Ann, Isabel, Bianca, Luisa, Faith, Nickson, Leah, Boss J, Red, Chat, Rhenn, Shari, Mark, Aaron, Jaimesz, Jeng, Rexie, Ramon, Jimmalyn, Shame, and Emma.

We chose South Gate Mall in Magallanes, Makati, to be our meeting place and scheduled the assembly between 12 noon and one in the afternoon of that Saturday. The weather was perfect. Blue skies and cottony clouds covered Manila. What was not perfect at all that day was the traffic situation. Alternate routes were in place as part of Manila's preparation for Pope Francis' visit to the sole Catholic Country in Asia. And that traffic situation affected our Itinerary as we needed to wait for our fellow climbers who were caught in heavy traffic. For some good vibes, The BACKPACKERS Founding Lead, Ivan Ignacio showed up to say "Good luck and enjoy!"

We were supposed to leave Manila at 1 PM, but it was already past two when our service van was able to start its escape from the metropolis. And because the delay was due to an important event, which is now part of our history as a nation, everybody felt alright about it. Some were even monitoring Papal Visit-related happenings while we were in transit.

Manila to Nasugbu, Batangas normally just takes two to two and a half hours to travel.

That was not our case on that day. In addition to the traffic while we were still within Manila, we passed by towns that were celebrating fiestas with long parades of street dancers and display floats. You are correct! we needed to park to give way, several times. We wanted to hit the jump-off at Sitio Bayabasan of Brgy. Aga in Nasugbu by four in the afternoon, but we arrived at six in the evening instead. It was already a night trek, we thought.

Fiestas Along Our Way

The Climb

We immediately faced making arrangement with our guides as soon as we were able to park our service van. Because we were climbing in a large group, we decided to have three guides. Two guides for this larger group and one who I asked to wait for a second party . Well and good, we were lucky to have those guides who were so willing to help us carry some of the heavy loads that we needed to bring up in the mountain - food supplies, a five-gallon water container, cooking sets, and our family tent that is huge enough to accommodate more than 10 persons. It was named "Marcelino".

My wrist watch registered 6:45 PM when i checked for the time while we were literally making our first steps for this supposed two-hour trek going to the campsite atop Mt. Talamitam. That same time, BP PRO Nick and BP VP York was still on the road on their way to Nasugbu as the second party.

Everyone seemed energized when we started the trek. In my case, it was my second time climbing this minor mountain in the South so I thought that everything would be alright and it would be a piece of cake for everyone.

The trek to Mt. Talamitam can be very easy especially for timers or for those who have been climbing for years already, and much more for those who climb one or two mountains in a month.

They Are Frequent Climbers
Boss J

I noticed that everybody was really just chilling in the earlier part of the trek, where the trail seemed like we were already descending. I consider it as phase 1.We enjoyed the benefit of not having the heat from the sun. The wind that was gently blowing was cooler. And, funny small chitchats were all around. 

We passed by Talamitam River of course and then we hit the first ascending part - a woodland trek. I consider it as phase 2.

There were six first time climbers in the group. Among them, Luisa (Ghei's friend) and Bev (Isabel's friend) were the ones who had the greater difficulty adjusting with this physical activity. They almost gave up. I could not forget how Luisa commented "This is my first and last," while Bev said "Sabi ni Isabel madali lang,"

Real Survivors: Luisa and Bev

But what I am proud of this Group is that it has become a second nature in each member, already engraved in its values, to be completely supportive, helpful, and caring to our guests and fellow climbers.

BP Secretary Ghei and BP Mau were there for Luisa. They carried Luisa's bag and supplied her with water. BP Isabel was there for Bev all throughout.

Generally speaking, Mt. Talamitam is a friendly mountain, especially to first time climbers.

It Was These Guys' First Time
Aaron and Jamesz
Ann and Bev
Luisa, Bianca, and BP Ghei - definitely except her! lol

Good thing that after that ascending part was a long easy trail. This is the phase 3 for me. Some parts of it looked like small green fields. It was definitely a relief for these four already exhausted mountain climbing virgins. They were able to keep up and match the majority's pacing, and even laughed with us when we were talking about poops from those cows that greeted us along the trail every now and then. And, what's more interesting and funny was that scene when a carabao (water buffalo) went chasing after Mau and Bianca! How was the fun run, guys? Hahaha!

For all of us, literally looking back during take fives was a delight as we got to see those tiny star-like lights coming from houses and streetlights of those communities afoot Mt. Talamitam. And when we looked up, there were the stars! And when the wind blew, it gave refreshing coldness.

As I have climbed Mt. Talamitam before, I knew that we were already at the threshold of the final ascent when our direction went heading to the left and cogon grasses started to almost block our way. I consider this as phase 4, the final phase of the trek to Mt. Talamitam's peak. 

"We are almost there," I thought. Slowly but surely, we tackled the steep final ascent. Everybody was literally stepping up carefully as the soil was dry thus very slide-prone, and the wind was strong enough to make one lose its balance. The slow pacing helped everyone, especially the newbies, to survive the final ascent and to reach the peak.

At the Camp

Finally, we found ourselves on top of Mt. Talamitam and ready to setup the camp fifteen minutes before ten in the evening. The boys immediately took care of assembling the tents while most of the girls took a break. Knowing that everyone was already hungry, me, BP Treasurer Leah, and Mau started cooking dinner. And, in the middle of cooking for the Group, Nickson and York arrived. The guests automatically found that they're cool because the two came in singing as if they were not coming from a strenuous journey.

Dinner was served. Everyone went out of their tents, joined in the circle, scooped rice and viand, and ate. We had pork adobo and warm rice - just perfect for that cold almost midnight. 

Socials followed.

Socials has become a regular part of every BP activities. It is where we get to know each other more. It is where we check how's the guests' experience in the activity so far. It is where we talk anything under the sun. It is where we play some games. The goal is - to build new friendships or at least to have a memorable way of celebrating an achievement that is for being able to conquer a mountain.

The Social Circle

There was liquor of course. Just enough to help our bodies combat the cold. Each of us introduced self and took a shot. What made that socials special? It was a celebration of Mau's birthday who accepted to drink his birthday shot!

BP Mau
The BPs Who Were There

BP Treasurer Leah

BP PRO Nickson
BP Secretary Ghei
BP VP York
BP President Heinz

BP Isabel
BP Rexie

And, what made that socials so lively and a total fun were the games from Berde (Ghei-Luisa-Bianca friendship). We played "name recall", where everyone was challenged to memorize everyone's name; "mas x", where the group was divided into two and each group would send a representative for each "mas x" from the hosts (example: mas malaki? / which is bigger?). Meaning,  if you have the bigger whatever the hosts were looking for, then it would be a point for your group. The last game we played was the popular "human photograph", where the hosts gave a setting that the players would need to pose and freeze for. The group that had the thing the hosts were looking for won. Imagine playing those games on top of a mountain - it was fun!


Luisa, Biance, and Ghei

And, it did not end there... the drinking session continued up to the last drop. We talked about anything under the moon and stars and laughed out loud almost all throughout the night!

The Descent

I woke up a little bit later than Leah, York, and Mau who were already preparing breakfast for the group when I got out of my tent. Did i enjoy too much in the Socials? Of course I did, but it's actually because I wanted to make sure that everyone was alright before the lights off and before I slept - the reason I woke up later than them. LOL!

Nothing is perfect, right? And things happen, correct? Unfortunately, because of the strong wind, we failed to have a decently cooked rice. Good thing we had bread, eggs, meat loaf and corned beef - breakfast solved!

We helped each other in breaking the camp and cleaning the area after breakfast. Then for the last time for that specific climb, cameras clicked!

BP Officers

The BPs: Mau, Rexie, Leah, Nickson, Ghei, Heinz, York, Isabel

19 Guests
Nick, where are you?
Sea of clouds does show up in Mt. Talamitam; however, not all the time. 

Though Mt. Talamitam preferred that we enjoy the breathtaking view over us seeing a sea of clouds, we all felt so good still. Who would complain about life when what we had that morning was a priceless gift! The view from this mountain's peak was absolutely picturesque. And parts of this mountain itself looked like the green hills found in New Zealand.

Views from Mt. Talamitam

We took left going up, we took right going down. The trail on Mt. Talamitam's right shoulder provided an easier way for our descent. And from that phase and throughout the descent, we only had at most two short rests. It took us more than three hours to reach the peak, it took us only a little bit more than an hour to see our service van again.

Our Frequent Gues

Jimmalyn, Shame, Emma, and Red
Jeng (at the far left)

When everybody's done washing up and changing, we started our way back to home. Our original itinerary included a side trip to Caleruega, also in Nasugbu, Batangas, and is a retreat center managed by Dominican Fathers and Sisters. Unfortunately, it was raining already and we heard that there's a low pressure which brought that rain. Everyone agreed to just have lunch in Tagaytay City before tackling the road down and back to Manila.

it was a great kick-off activity 
for The BACKPACKERS' 2015.

Guest Mark waits for the rest of his fellow climbers.

etcetera... etcetera...

Sharing our original itinerary for this activity:Mt. Talamitan
Side Trip: Caleruega
Created by: BP PRO Nickson

January 17, 2015 Saturday (Day 1)

01:00pm - Meet up Alpha Land (beside Magallanes MRT Station)
01:30pm - ETD Nasugbu, Batangas
03:30pm - ETA Nasugbu, Batangas
04:00pm - Start Trek
06:30pm - Arrival Summit
07:00pm - Dinner/Socials/Light Off

January 18, 2015 Sunday (Day 2)

07:00am - Breakfast
09:00am - Start Descent
11:00am - Back to Jumpoff
12:00nn - Lunch
02:00pm - Caleruega Church
04:00pm - ETD Manila
06:00pm - ETA Manila

Photo credits to Nickson Garcia, Charity Joy Sy (Chat), and Aaron Manuel Fernando Manuel. Thank you, guys!

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