Sunday, April 22, 2007


February of 1993 was a period of healing. The tumultuous era of a musicale called LAHAR had everybody who was involved scurrying away from each other. Friendships have been tested --- some would endure, others shattered. But we have grown wiser. And much, much older.

Oyet and me were picking up the pieces of our fractured friendship when we came up with a collaboration to hold a poetry writing contest among my senior students at Hogwarts’ University Science High School (USHS). The prize would be a chance to conquer Mt. Pulag --- the second highest Philippine peak along the Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya border after Mt. Apo in Mindanao.

It was an awkward moment when Oyet came to the USHS for a talk on poetry writing. Words were difficult to come by then. So we just went ahead pretending that all is well although it was not. Not yet.

We were both surprised at the contest result. I for one was expecting the Hermoines and Harry Potters to rise. But it was the Ronald Weasleys, and even Draco Malfoys, who turned out be-mused. They are, in many ways, Abet of Almaguer’s kindred in spirit.

I can’t recall where we slept during our first night in Baguio City (although I’m almost sure it was a bus station). What I remembered is meeting the legendary Frank for the first time and hearing that the climb would not push through. Of course we were disappointed. But the next day, something turned out and we were off to Kabayan for the push to Mt. Pulag.

The climb took us 5 days: (DAY 1) the trip to Baguio City, (DAY 2) a half day ride to Kabayan and another half day walk from there to the base camp, (DAY 3) almost a day’s climb from the base camp to the second camp site near the summit, (DAY 4) the final push to the peak and a walk down to base camp, (DAY 5) the trip back to Nueva Ecija.

It was difficult for us especially with the primitive tools that we had. No high tech mountaineering gears except back packs that were bummed from some relatives in the army, a heavy borrowed common tent, and the everyday de lata and Payless for our food. We made up with lots of heart and a load of cuatro cantos to keep the cold away.

Mt. Pulag’s ancient forest cover is magically eerie with its gnarled trees, creepy sounds, and hazy mist. Then suddenly just after the tree line, the dark forest gave way to a carpet of grass-like dwarf bamboos and the cloudless deep blue sky. The most dramatic encounter was at the peak where after forcing our tired bodies up by 3 AM and washing our gin-laced mouths with water thickened by soft ice formations and crawling our longest 1.4 kilometers, we came face to face with the most beautiful sunrise in the world. Below us, a sea of clouds boiled and licked at island-like peaks that broke through the firmament before cascading like a waterfall in slow motion along the steep slopes, the vegetable gardens, and the silhouette of the Halsema Highway.

We have been healed…

PHOTOS: Top photo show Team Hogwarts at the forest between the base camp and the summit camp site while center photo shows them above the tree line just before the summit camp site. The last photo shows them on the peak of Mt. Pulag where they hoisted the Hogwarts’ color with the most beautiful sunrise in the world for a backdrop. They are the first all-CLSU team on record to conquer the second highest mountain in the Philippines.

Profiles: Baguio City’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Sagada’s Anglican Church

Before climbing Mt. Pulag, we seek the deity’s blessing in a popular Baguio City landmark: the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that was first built in the middle of what is now session road by the Congregation Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM) who established the Catholic mission of Baguio in 1907. Fr. Florimond Carlu (CICM) initiated the construction of the present church in 1920 until 1936 in its current site that was once called Kampo by the Ibalois. The church was transformed as an evacuation in 1945 and has survived the carpet bombing of American warplanes saving thousands of lives who took refuge there.

For those who would plan to climb Mt. Pulag someday, it would be perfect if a trip from Kabayan to Sagada via the challenging Halsema Highway will be inserted in the post-climb itinerary. Sagada is a perfect place to pamper aching joints and reflect. The Anglicans who evangelized in the Cordilleras established their Sagada mission in 11 October 1901 through Rev. John Armitage Staunton, Jr.

1 comment:

meg manubay said...

reading about this legendary hike is a refreshing change from hearing it from you. the artistic narration made me really feel mt. pulag. and the pics are great too. totoo nga when you said that the clouds were rolling from under your feet...

i like this post.