I had been successful in evading my friend Francis’ invites to join him in his mountain hikes. One day, though, I woke up and the thought of hiking a mountain intrigued me. Coincidentally, he invited me once again to join his Mt. Ulap hike, where he is one of the hike leaders (Up up and away). My playful friend was very encouraging up until I secured my slot. After that, everything just went berserk. I remember him telling me nonchalantly “please do not forget to bring a knife, we need to hunt a wild pig so we can eat dinner” or “oh, if we get caught in crossfire, just lay flat on the ground.” Of course, I am quite confident none of that would happen but the unknown still stressed me out a bit.
The day of the hike came, and I got to meet amazing people—strangers who greet you with “Ingat po” (take care) as they pass you by, or people who offer you coffee and whiskey to warm up your body temperature. Side story: You never really know “luxury coffee” until you camp up on a mountain and Mother Nature playfully obliges to your I-just-wanna-chill plea, complete with clouds and rain. I would have paid thousands to get a cup of 3-in-1 instant coffee and hot water—THAT is luxury coffee. You meet genuinely good people whose main agenda is just to fall deep in the cradle of Mother Nature.
I think, people like me, who live most of their lives in the city, could learn a thing or two from the provincial lifestyle. Metro Manila traffic can take a toll on people, to the point where one would want to denounce one’s citizenship; but a change in scenario like mountain hiking can ground us back to the real beauty of the Philippines. We expand our horizons and expose ourselves to a larger slice of the country, people whom you would be more proud to be associated with as Filipinos, and a different lifestyle. We can learn tons of lessons by detaching ourselves from the city and immersing in the rural life.
1) Paranoids will rule the world
One of our witty hike leaders said our group was lucky that we were able to experience the whole shebang. It started with a perfect, windy hike (because I could not really imagine myself hiking for five-and-a-half hours up a mountain under intense heat); beautiful sea of clouds that greeted us at campsite despite its rarity this season; chilly and rainy sleep where even several shots of whiskey could not quite heat up my body. It was a wet sleep—if I had slept at all; and finally the three-hour muddy descent. I am just proud to say I did not slip! Sandugo hiking sandals, you a savage MVP.
Lots of scenarios happened during the hike and one needs to be prepared to weather these changes. Among the things I prioritized, I gambled on not bringing enough cold or rain wear to lessen my bag’s weight—a decision I fully regret. We are used to doing that gamble in Manila: Do I bring an umbrella? Meh.. I do not think it is going to rain. Paranoids expect the unexpected, that is why they will someday rule the world. I could have gotten hypothermia that night (no kidding), but in the wisest memes of Mr. Chow: Did you die??! I DIDN’T! But yes, lesson learned: less YOLO next time, I promise!
2) Not a hike, but a conquest
I was tempted to put “Conquered Mt. Ulap” as caption on one of my Instagram posts. Better judgment prevailed and I opted not to as the whole experience made me realize that you never really conquer Mother Nature. You conquer your limitations—your anxieties, fears, disabilities (one of the hikers was one-legged and climbed with freaking crutches. Absolute beast. Much respect!), physical fitness, and most importantly, your belief in yourself.
3) You’ll never be ready, only brave
A popular philosopher in Ateneo by the name of Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. said “Lundagin mo, beybeh” which translates to take the plunge, baby. On the way to the meeting place, I was thinking of backing out. Why did I even try to stretch out my comfort zone??! I could very well be eating dinner and relaxing on a weekend! My friend told me that hiking is the perfect activity to exercise my will power; because quite frankly, you cannot just quit in the middle of the hike when you are tired. You muster all the will power you have and soldier on.
I had been rehearsing my mind on the possible stress I might encounter while hiking (which I am glad to say is non-existent because I get to curse at Francis every time I had a hard time. LOL! Okay, honestly, halfway through the hike, I was too exhausted to even get mad at him). I also made a check list of all the things I thought were essential; but up to the last minute, there were still jitters. I thought to myself, I will never be ready, only brave—just be open and embrace the whole experience!
You will meet a lot of people from different walks of life, bound by a camaraderie forged from an unforgettable, humbling experience. We know our own limitations, and most of us are lucky to have friends—even acquaintances you just meet on the hike—who know how to push them further. Appreciate those people who have unwavering faith in you, and repay them by believing and pushing yourself. Mountain hiking is a great life teacher, and I will forever carry the nuggets of wisdom I learned throughout my active lifestyle journey.
P.S. Salamat Francis, pero leche ka pa rin!