Last Climb of the Year

Last Climb of the Year

Last Climb of the Year

I won’t lie. I’m not your run-of-the-mill hiker. My idea of a major climb preparation is half-assed jogging. There’s no stopping me now — not my chubby arms and legs, my lack of gear and training nor the incessant nagging from my loved ones. I will hear none of it. #YOLO

So there I was, bright eyed and sweaty at 7PM in the wrong bus terminal. I guess my brain left me as I was traveling since 2:30pm from Laguna. Got off at Victory Liner Cubao because the driver said that’s already Victory Liner Kamias. Jeeze.

After a few phone calls and a lot of walking with my little brother in tow, we’re on our way to Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya. Two restroom stops later, we’re on a chartered jeepney to Kayapa Public Market. Awakened by the sudden drop in temperature, we had breakfast and stocked on water and trail food there.

We began our trek at roughly 6AM. Overeager by the whole affair, I did a noob move and filled my 3 liter bladder for me and my brother. I regretted this when we were into 20 minutes of assault. Tip #1: Hold off the water if there’s a water source after 3-4 hours of trekking.

A couple of leeches claimed casualties from our team mates’ legs and hands. I had one sucking away at my left ankle. It never penetrated my socks. Tip #2: Wear double socks and tights if you know what’s good for you.

After scaling the zig-zag road towards Indupin Village, we finally had lunch by the roadside.

We noticed a couple of shy village kids. We figured they’re too far from Domolpos where we’d hold the outreach. I had to hunt a little girl all the way back to her house to give her a dolly. It was totally worth the extra sweat and huffing.

I noticed the kids there have naturally rosy cheeks, the best that only high elevation and cold winds can offer. Tip #3: Your sunblock is no match for wind burn in here. Keep a petroleum jelly handy for your face and lips.

Off we go with more assaults that reminded me I wasn’t really ready for this. My heart is screaming and it’s louder than my footsteps as we head past Mt. Sarmiento. We started taking turns sharing anything under the sun to pass the time. My little brother and I caught up with our lives with that heck of a stretch.


Under the picturesque sky we passed acres of rice fields and dusty gravel paths. We were almost at our wits end when we heard kids’ laughter. We have reached Domolpos village by two pm, an hour earlier than projected!

After catching our breaths, we proceeded with our brief program. The kids, we learned then, have limited English and Tagalog making the games I had prepared moot.
That’s when the rest of the tribe stepped up to help.

Tip #3: Everything will not go according to plan, embrace it and have fun! From hula race to tug of war – we did it all and enjoyed ourselves as much as the kids did. The winners were declared and we handed out the toys and the school supplies we brought them.

I caught myself smiling while I recalled the delight I saw on the children’s faces when they were trying out their toys.

I had a fun time acting all injured to a group of boys who decided they want me dead and kept aiming and firing a toy gun at me. Imaginary ammos are the best, no reloads required.

Camped in one of the huge classrooms, we spent the night there. It was a non-event save for a discord of snores enough to rival my teeth chattering.

We didn’t waste time and headed straight to the peak of Mt. Ugo early the following morning. It was overcast which made the terrain misty. The top of Mt. Ugo was breathtaking. Too bad the weather did not permit us to see anything below the steeps.

Then came my favorite part of hiking as gravity becomes my friend, it’s all downhill with a few assaults for the next couple of hours or so.

I felt like Naruto running like the wind past breathtaking slopes, humongous trees and scenic paths that can fit 25 people hand in hand.

This part of Mt. Ugo’s the best for me. It’s the perfect balance of eerie, mystical and peaceful which makes for a unique pre-nuptial venue.

(The sweepest team – May Frances Cruz)

We made it to Brgy. Kayapa after getting drenched with slight rainfall. We had a repeat of fun inducing activities with the kids there. We handed out slippers together with the toys that time.

We finally find ourselves heading home. Battling herds of cows which blocked out paths we can’t help but make fun of them with that aged joke: What type of animal’s ugly? ‘Cow’.

I’ve skipped the part of our trip from Baguio to Manila. It got ugly with all the unprecedented events that made us test what our priorities are. Tip #4: Always have a backup plan in getting home.

Utilize online ticketing service from Victory liner because you’ll never know if there’s a pop up teacher’s convention that may ruin your chances of getting back to Manila on time.

For a few days I was stolen away from the ugliness of reality, the sadness that social media and news and the toll of being a responsible adult. It was all feel good moments and the joy of stepping out of your comfort zone to be a joy to someone else.

From a series of post climb misadventures to an unforgettable climb of the year, Mt. Ugo sure is one helluva hike that changed my outlook of life and reminded me to keep moving forward.

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