Team Pahinga Conquered the Playground of the Gods: Mt. Pulag
The 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Pulag standing 2,922 MASL, had usual visitors who dare to reach its peak. And then we came: This group that maybe made the gods laugh and happy. The group that loves to rest, but didn’t quit. This is my journal on how we came, walk, rest, trek, rest again, another walk, trek, rest again for the nth time (that’s why we’re called Team Pahinga), until we saw and at last, though tired and freezing from cold, conquered the playground of the gods, Mt. Pulag.
It was APEC week and holidays were declared in Manila, so as busy as we were that needs a breathe of fresh air, off we go to the mountains! And as expected as holidays could be, a lot of people were there ready for the climb.
Mt. Pulag is known for its biodiversity ranging from pines, mossy trees to dwarf bamboos, and home of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna (I just looked this in the web). As the highest mountain in Luzon, who would have spared the “Sea of Clouds”? The cold will never bother us, nor the walk. So off we go, to the mountains of the north!
We stopped first at the Visitor’s Center to register, show our medical certificates for it was required, and had a short but interesting and really informative orientation. I admit upon seeing the DENR representative, an old lady maybe around 50’s, guessing her age from her looks, I thought the orientation would be boring, but I was wrong. Sleepy as I was from the long hours of travel, she kept me entertained.
We were supposed to camp at Camp 2 but by the time we arrived, Camp 1 and 2 were already full so we ended setting our camp at the Ranger Station. We got a bit disappointed and would like to push to camp at Camp 2. Because, hey! Camp 2 sounded a bit exciting than the Ranger station. Little did we know the luck we had, until we start our trek at night.
We start our trek by 11 pm together with our supportive guide, Kuya Roli Wakit. By that time, the wind was so strong, the cold is unbeatable. And because I don’t follow proper dress code rules by not wearing thermal gloves, jacket and pants, I still shiver despite three socks, two gloves, three long sleeves, a bubble jacket and three layers of pants.
So, lucky for us that we didn’t start our trek at the rangers station, under the heat of the sun to camp 2 which took us 4 hours of trekking. Thinking of the things we’ll be bringing with us along the way, our huge bags, not just one bag but more. Thinking of the heat of the sun around noon, walking for hours, your own body producing heat and perspiration but so cold because the cold wind could not be stopped, until the body could neither decide if it’s too hot or too cold — the gods still favor us.
Along the way, we encountered trials, though not much about the trail, the Ambangeg trail — it was the easiest trail among five if I am not mistaken. Still not yet getting far from our campsite, one of our friends got sprained but still continued to walk. And just a short while after, another friend chose to return to campsite, accompanied by one of the guides because she’s not feeling well. Better to return for safety, one can always come back to Pulag.
Though incomplete, we still continued to go on. And so the long trek began, and the many rests we did as we wait for each other along the trails were always worth taking, no guilt feeling. What I liked most about the trek is how we climb Pulag as a team. We had fun during the trek, no one’s being left behind, though last, but not left behind. We enjoyed chatting occasionally during rest periods and joked at each other. We even thought at one point that we’re being enchanted by the forest. We’re never shy to accept Kuya Roli’s wafer though we have food with us. Eating while trekking is of course allowed. Although we rest a lot, and shivering from cold, we never stopped. Slowly but surely, we did reached the peak.
We reached Peak 2 around 5:30am and waited for Mr. Sun. And slowly, as it shows himself to brag its beauty, the weariness and tiredness of the body, somehow disappears with the darkness of dawn. The stars of the Milky Way finally surrenders to the sun.
Days before, we prayed for a good weather for the climb. Prayed it will not rain so that we will see the clouds. But the gods granted our prayers as exactly as we prayed for it — the sun shone brightly, smiling at the irony of it, the sky is clear, no clouds, not even a ball size cloud poking at somewhere. No sea of clouds for us unfortunately, we prayed for too much sun.
Mountain ranges fills the view. But still, there’s nothing more heavenly like this. The gods must be flattered, looking at us amazed by its beauty. And at some time, as the sun rises, I thought of nothing, but thankful to God for such a wonderful creation like this. At one point on top, you will just silently stare at the beauty. Your mind can never grasp its wonder; it will suddenly stop thinking and will just allow your soul to see the view. And your soul somehow will reach into the clouds, into the sky, into the mountains, into the wind and into the air you breathe. And you’ll tell someone mightier, “You are greater in everything else.” That’s how the magic of Pulag works for me. That’s worth the climb and the cold of course.
Not getting enough of it and taking the chance and opportunity, some of us continued to the summit, while I stayed with the rest left at Peak 2 and chose to start the trek back. Four of us walked another trail down and went to Peak 3 together with Kuya Roli.
We reached our campsite around 12 noon and found our tents being blown away by the wind. Again, the gods must be playing and chose our tents to be their playground as we ‘invade’ theirs. We heard local tribes around said there’s no clearing because the gods doesn’t want too many hikers in the mountain. It is quite interesting, I would have listened to many local stories of the mountains from them.
Alas, the end has come and we have to leave. We left nothing but footprints and memories. And as we go, we take a look back, to the mountains where the gods play, to the mountains that gives us so much memory and experience, that no one would never expect a mountain could teach you. It is a memorable hike, a worth taking rest. A life changing journey.
So thank you Mt. Pulag, for such a wonderful experience. Thank you to the gods, for letting us see their playground. And thank you to the Almighty, who created and lets us experience its magnificent beauty. We’re ready again for another climb. We will not stop, we will walk, climb, trek and rest if we must, to conquer the wilderness, and to see the beauty beyond. -jle111915