Of faith, fate and chance; a journey to the magnificent Mount Apo
Of faith, fate and chance; a journey to the magnificent Mount Apo by Daenna Angela Ah
Wednesday. I started the day stuffing my bag in a haze, forgetting one too many things, oblivious to what is to come and become of me in the next few days. Bound for Davao to meet the majestic grandfather of all Philippine mountains, I felt panic finally struck me en route to the airport. I have my reasons to doubt if I were built to survive ascending a staggering 2950+ Meters above Sea Level. Then it dawned on me that I spent the first quarter of the year training for this; the Green Mountain Tribe (GMT) made sure that the group as a whole was ready and prepared. My faith restored, I sighed in relief and smiled. Apo, I’m coming.
A merry mix of friends, outdoor enthusiasts and members of GMT completed our intimate group of thirteen, the men outnumbered. (Girl power, yeah!) After settling in our hostel, coincidentally named Green Window, there was no time for proper sleep or rest. We packed and repacked the things we needed for the three-day hike, then we’re briefed on the itinerary and introduced to our guides Kuya Larry and Kuya Chen. Most of the names in our IDs for the climb were misspelled, but I was dumbfounded upon seeing mine. Written in black marker ink is Damnation instead of Danna. It’s as if the Universe was trying to send a message, a precursor of some sort, that or it’s just having a laugh at me (and personally, I really think it’s the latter). I couldn’t help but be amused, but was determined as hell to prove the Fate and all the deities wrong.
After having a quick breakfast the next day, we immediately boarded a decent-looking chartered jeep. When the jeep halted to a stop at the Toril Junction, we were told we’ll be changing vehicle. We went about it nonchalantly until we saw what the replacement jeep looks like. A multicab of sort that has seen better days, like it came straight from the animated film, Cars, and played the part of rusty tow truck Mater’s grandpa. I held on to the railing like my life depended on it as the jeep drove off to the town of Sta. Cruz. We arrived in one piece, jeep included, an hour later at the jump off point of Cabarisan (Praise God!).
The trek started off with a view of golden hemps getting dried here and there along the trail. We crossed Sibulan River slowly but steadily, careful not to slip on the mossy stones.
The trail changed from mossy and wet to a winding, uphill climb that gradually led to a stretch of dirt road in Tudaya where the habal habal awaits. A mini truck brought us to Sitio Baroring for lunch then we resumed trekking thereafter. There were patches of carrot plots and scattered cotton trees along the way to the small community of Sitio Colan where we registered.
we reached Sitio Tompis, the base camp, at around 3 pm. Kuya Larry, one of our guides, decided against pushing any farther as Tinikaran camp 1 was already too crowded. It poured hard later that afternoon, after everyone had set camp.
Tinikaran is a steep, canopied trail littered with fallen dead trees and big roots hiding in the muck everywhere. We reached camp 1 dense with moss, ferns and people at around 7 the next morning.
Being situated in the last water source before the summit camp site, we waited for the rest and regrouped. It would’ve been a sweet paced trek from Tinikaran to the summit camp site had it not been for the traffic. Yes! You read it right, human traffic. See we happen to have climbed with 3,000 other outdoor enthusiasts, give or take; it was nothing short of a mass climb.
The ascend was so slow, you can feel the throbbing pain coming from every aching part of your body with each step, but our group continued on like real troopers. After a quick rest at camp 2, the trail gave way to a mesmerizing lichen wonderland.
There were luminous looking mosses in varying shades of green covering some big, porous rocks on white sand. It was magical.
This short trail led us to the boulders section where Fate decided to put the name in my ID to action.
The jagged boulders looked menacing, shrouded in thick fog and suffocating sulfur smoke, as we started to follow the slow procession of climbers press on.
For some odd reason, edible wild berries flourished there and were found in almost every other boulder cranny along the trail.
With the slow progress and ascend, Ceejay, our group’s team leader, took notice of the berries and begun picking some. With damp buffs masking half of our faces, the rest of us followed suit, looking like a band of berry bandits.
The berries taste like Aratiles when ripe and became a welcome distraction. We moved slowly still but as we got farther to the trail, it got trickier because of the fog and confusing trail signs. And as Fate would have it, the rain poured with no sign of letting up. We were all soaking wet even with waterproof jackets on, most of us chattering from sheer cold and chill, when we had our late lunch. We were grossly behind on our IT and everyone’s cold, wet and exhausted. Ceejay herded us back on the trail to keep us from getting any colder and our momentum slowly came back. it stopped raining by the time we reached the 87 degree section, a nerve wracking ascend to the crater lake, a stark contrast to the magnificent view.
We were almost always on all fours going up and took us more or less another hour to reach the campsite from the crater. It was almost dusk.
The camp site was packed to its brim by the time we got there. a local rescue organization had set up a rappelling system on one side, tents of all shapes and sizes sprouting everywhere with people drinking away the biting cold and makeshift stores selling soda, liquor and ten peso per stick Marlboro Lights. It’s like a mountain fiesta. The locals were very accommodating and helpful when we scouted for a place to set camp and were quick to help my buddy, Jerica, and I put up our tent. Most of our group chose to skip dinner and sleep, but I wouldn’t pass up on Sir Dan’s famous pork binagoongan. It was around this time when everyone in the camp site started creating a raucous. Our group, literally camped in the middle, was confused and a little alarmed. Head lamps, flashlights and all sorts of things that produce light were beaming back and forth from all sides of the camp, some people hollering at each other in their local tongue. It lasted for a few minutes and faded into the night like nothing happened. Kuya Chen, the other guide, later on explained that the “light wars” is also done on other mountain camps and is an unofficial tradition of the local mountaineering community that’s been around even before the time he started climbing mountains in ’98.
We started off late and already lost the chance of seeing the sunrise but we’re still hoping for a clearing. Straight out of our sleeping bags, still bundled in layers of clothing, we made the 30 minutes or so hike to the summit. And on that day, in that hour, Apo did not disappoint us and finally proved Fate wrong.
We were blessed to chance upon a double rainbow over the rolling sea, no make that ocean of clouds. The clouds, the sky and even the sun all seemed within reach.
It’s one of those memories you’d want to capture in a moving photo, Harry Potter style. It was beyond beautiful, it literally took my breath away (Okay, so maybe that’s the altitude). Then as if on cue, it cleared up and we were given a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, Mt Matutum in sight.
It was worth every centavo, aches, pain, dead toenails included, to be able to sit there and bear witness to God’s amazing creation. We have endured and earned that moment, it was priceless.
It took us the whole day to go back down then we exited via Kapatagan on another mini truck ride that eventually drove us straight to Digos City. After an hour long bus ride to Davao City, we were back in the hostel late that night.
The last day was spent on your typical pasalubong shopping, packing and killing time with endless banter and laughs. As we sat in the airport waiting for our delayed flight home, I realize that I made acquaintance with the Green Mountain Tribe around the same time a year ago and what made the journey memorable is the company I keep. For once, Fate did me good and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Photo credit goes to Sir Arnold, Sir Arjedh and Sir Dan of GMT)
Bloggers blog page:http://lakwatserangkutingblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/of-fate-and-faith-a-journey-to-the-magnificent-mount-apo/