After hundreds of messages exchanged in Facebook for the final itinerary of the climb, we were all set. I boarded the bus from Cagayan de Oro at 4AM on the 19th of August and arrived in Matalam at 12NN to meet up with the crew.
The crew of nine (9) good souls are as follows. Maam Joan, our principal sponsor and the meanest girl ever was the force behind this excursion. Sir Val, my trail food partner. Helen, a.k.a UPHEL/DANHEL whose mending her broken heart by climbing mountains among other crazy things. She’s my link to these wonderful people. Neneng, who became the victim of the bullies. Bong, our guide/cook/counselor, who held on to me when I almost fell onto the river and cooked veggies for me the entire time. Ironman Ramil, who hands us our morning coffee right at the doorstep of our tent, you are heaven sent. Rico and Junald, our porters who fetch us water every time, and childishly strike yoga poses whenever they would see us do one.
I was pampered for this climb. Only having to pay for my bus fare and registration fee, everything else was provided for. These guys lent us and brought our tents, and everything else. They cooked me veggies separately in every meal, and never did they force or tease me to eat meat. All I needed to bring was my self, and the clothes on my back.
These bunch warm my heart into pieces. How these guys were and are kept reminding me that there are people left in the world whose hearts are so big, it overflows, and I’m just so blessed to receive their kindness, love, joyfulness, and generosity. There was never a dull moment when I’m with these people, I could not have asked for a better group. They all made the climb worthwhile.
We took the Bongolanon/Magpet Trail, and we took four (4) days and three (3) nights for the climb, to have a relaxed pace, as it was the first major climb for three (3) of us.
They said it was the easiest trail, but it was by no means easy for me. With no proper training, other than my daily mysore practice; I prayed for my sanity not to evade me and my heart not to fail me.
Among the trails, the summit assault on our second day was the hardest for me. My hips were already hurting, my shoulders felt like they were being disconnected from its socket, my knees felt like it’s about to break, my feet had blisters from all the walking and were becoming numb from being soaked in mud. Not only that, after being exposed on the heat of the sun from the start of the trek, it rained on the last hour before we reached the summit camp site. It was cold and I was starting to become disoriented that we almost got lost from the trail to the camp site. When we arrived strong winds then started to blow, and it went on and on until morning. It was so strong that if I had been the only one at the tent, I would’ve probably been blown away to Neverland.
It was during those times that a voice from my head kept blaming me “Why am I doing this to myself?” and then just right in time, another voice comes over arresting such thoughts, assuring me that I can do this; that I can push through my limits.
That whatever pain I was feeling will all come to pass. That if I just hang on, just one more step, just one more day, then I’d see His gift, the beauty and wonder that is Mt. Apo, and it will all be worth it. That whatever pain, dissatisfaction, regret that has built up in my body, in my mind and in my soul, it’ll all become like a tiny speck, so insignificant, for me to even worry about.
My truth had always been that I’m weak. For a long time, I used my weak heart as an excuse for building up a wall to protect myself from such activities that might worsen my condition. I thought that by doing this, I’m being responsible and safe. But I didn’t realize that this same wall is also caging me in from great things in life that I could ever experience. I hid in my pain, limiting myself to my own little comfort zone.
Listening to these ramblings in my head, I used to cry, for all of it to stop. But this time around, I was able to just observe my thoughts, not even trying to silence them. I just listened, and the words trailed off on their own lulling me to sleep.
I woke up feeling refreshed on the 3rd day. Just in time for Ramil to call us out for coffee, and breakfast.
With the weather looking better than the day before, we then headed off to one of the peaks where we can see the crater and the boulders from afar. When I reached the peak, the ramblings from the day before were now unheard of. There was just the morning sun, the sound of my breath syncing with the sound of the wind. And it was beautiful. The kind of silence that I longed for.
That peaceful feeling went on until we camped out on our last night at Lake Venado, and off to Agco for our 4th and last day. On some easy parts of the trail, all I could hear was my heartbeat, my breath, my footsteps, and the loud sound of the crickets and the birds. I can see the vibrant colors of every plant and trees that I pass by. Some I even took the time to touch for a minute or two, and just feel. On the harder parts of the trail, all we had was everybody’s laughter of Neneng, and of everyone pulling each others’ spirits up. And it was even more beautiful.
After soaking our sore bodies at the Agco Hot Springs, we headed back to Bong’s house where we started and on to our post climb socials and review over beer, wine, chips, and chiffon cake.
When I was asked to share my experience, all I could say at that time was that “I was happy”. But thinking about it now, to say that “I was happy” is definitely a grave understatement. “Surreal” is probably the closest word that could describe how I feel. So surreal that this post is not even enough to describe a fraction of how the experience has moved me. It’s almost like trying to quantify infinity. It all hasn’t sinked in just yet.
So many other things will continue to be revealed to me as a result of this experience in the next coming days, weeks, and months. And if I’m fast enough then maybe I could articulate it into another post. If not, then it’ll just become one of the many secrets that I only get to share with Mt. Apo.
When people talk about conquering a mountain such as Mt. Apo, I realized that there’s no such thing. One could never conquer another, be it a person or a thing. One can only conquer the different facets of your own self that is being clearly revealed to you by such an experience. You can only conquer you own disappointments, regrets, pain, fear and doubt. And only when you can peel through these layers, only then you can see the true nature of your own mind, your Self. Then you’ll truly see that you are enough and you are perfect just as you are now.
THE BIG QUESTION/S
So, not having taken a clean warm bath for four (4) straight days, having to take a leak and take a dump in the woods with my bare bottom vulnerable from the attack of the limatik and the freezing cold, and inappropriately farting in front of everybody every time the trail gets hard, the question is…
“Was it all worth it?” Hell yeah!
“Would I do it again?” Hell no!
Hahaha, just kidding. Till the next climb guys!
Photos courtesy of Joan Natividad a.k.a El Alpinistas, Amy Cervantes Montehermoso, Helen Prieto.
More Photos Here