THE CLIMB

I have climbed many mountains in my lifetime, either by choice or by necessity, always different, eternally difficult and most of the time, surprising. Almost always, at the middle of the trek, I ask myself why I allowed myself to be put in the situation of catching my breath, thinking if I will die of a heart attack or a heat stroke, I call it “A Why God Moment.” Asking the almighty, what my purpose for the climb was, because in the exhaustion of the ascent, amnesia sets in.

I climbed Mt. Pulag the first time, believing a friend when he said it was a “walk in the park,” so I gingerly came along with the assigned food in tow, they asked me to cook adobo, for my group to have packed sustenance at the summit, I blindly obeyed, putting the Filipino stewed dish in a big container, oblivious of the rules of packing light. I dressed for the climb as I was told it would be cold and yes, I borrowed a tent.

At the start of the trek, it was easy enough as a scaled the slow ascent of the Playground of the Gods, I slowly lost my breath as I was about to enter the mossy forest and realized my light walking shoes was not going to make my life easier, there was mud and puddles I had to navigate, of course there were no handrails at the time and I almost backed out of the trek when I had to cross a thin footpath at a curved portion of the mountain with only the a freefall to your death at my side.

Very reassuring colleagues told me a misstep would mean my downfall and was informed by my colleagues that rescue would take a few days, citing the chances to my survival as huge, considering I would only fall and land on greenery, cushioning my fall. At that time, I was at my dumbest and did not know it was a national park. Least I say, it was not a NOT a walk in the park. When I mercifully reached the
campsite, exhausted from the climb, I saw from afar the summit, realizing the early morning climb
would be a different kind of difficult.

I took out my tent and waited for it to pop, to the utter amusement of my colleagues who by now, realized that I was extra baggage they had to carry the entire climb as they acknowledged my ineptness. As they pitched their tents, I waited for mine to assemble itself, thinking it was a pop-up tent that would magically set up alone, they snickered as they pitched and set up my deplorable borrowed tent and said I watched too much cartoons.

The night was cold and the thickest jacket I could find was still not enough to keep me warm, again I underestimated the warning that it was going to be cold, I thought it would just be colder than the usual
Baguio weather, but NO, I was again wrong. The next early morning ascent was a different story, as it was still dark and I did not have the view to the expanse of the mountain, making me walk faster, following
the person in front of me.

From the campsite to the summit, the remaining 2 kilometers was not as lengthy but was a bit steep, I
realized again as colleagues told me that it is the meaning of a summit, there will be a steep climb before
you reach it. At this point, I had no strength to argue anymore, with my ego bruised from my ignorance.
The Summit was an experience by itself, with the difficulty of the climb disappearing once you watch the sunrise from the Pulag peak. Spectacular to say the least. So, for a few minutes of euphoria, I stood looking at the mountain peaks and a sea of clouds.

Reality will nudge, when it is time to descend, again realizing that you come down the same way you come up, but contrary to popular belief that it would be easier, it will not. My lightweight walking shoes finally gave in and were split, with the sole partially removed from the shoes and my colleagues again laughing at my fate, saying that I can still use the shoe, provided I pray to the Mountain Gods that it does not disassemble entirely.

So, to the heat of the midmorning sun, I humbly went down. So slower than my pace going up, there I went down the mountain, thankfully, reaching the base and indulging in a cold shower. Cleaned and alive, I readied for the trip going home, happy with the thought that I had given my colleagues the happiness of my
presence for a night, stamping my Pulag story will go down to the annals of media history as the most
hilarious.

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