Monday, January 31, 2011

2011 LAGATAW Adventure Series

As promised, my 2011 will be a very climbful year. And I have just finalized my ten ultimate treks which will be distributed throughout the year. I think I have become stronger and wiser now than I was when I was just new in the mountaineering scene in the country. I have decided to take my previous treks to a higher level and I have added some new major treks in the list. I am not sure if I can do all these but if I can do one of them, then there is a fat chance that I can do the rest.

1.          ULTIMATE PULAG
Akiki-Ambangeg day hike
Unguided solo traverse (Barlig - Pula)
Walkathon from Baguio to the summit of Timbak
Kibungan to Ilocos
5.          ULTIMATE LEYTE
Can’t disclose details
Can’t disclose details
Can’t disclose details
8.          ULTIMATE G2
Solo guided traverse (not so interested)
9.          ULTIMATE MANTA
Can’t disclose details

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Five Years and Fifty Mountains

These are some of the mountains I've climbed within the last five years. Watching this slideshow, I couldn't help feeling nostalgic over the past! In a way, collecting memories is a bad idea. Because every time you look back at these moments, you'll miss those times and remember the excitement, fervor and spirit while you were still in those exploits-in-the-making. And you know that's all you can do now! MISS them. You wish that you could just go back to those days when you were so ecstatic the first time you saw the monolith in Pico de Loro. You'll want to go back to the day you felt like you were in Heaven when you saw the sea of clouds in Mt Pulag for the first time. But wish as you may, you can never turn back the hands of time. You don't find use for your camera anymore when you climb because you've taken a picture of the same vista from all possible angles. You don't feel that happy anymore when you traverse the river from Buruwisan to Sampaloc. All you do is look at those smiles of your companions hoping that those smiles can help you remember and relive the feeling but to no avail. All you can do is to tell yourself "Sigh! I used to have that grin!". Such is the bitterness of the past! And if what I'm feeling now is sweet sorrow, I can't imagine what Sir Edwin Gatia and the rest of those 80's mountaineers feel every time they see pictures of themselves on top of mountains in proud blue jeans!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The famous 'Sea of Clouds' of Mt Pulag (April 2008 )

FEB 4 – 7, 2011

Mt Pulag (a.k.a. Mt Pulog) is Luzon’s highest peak at 2922 masl (third in the Philippines after Mt Apo and Mt Dulang-Dulang). It is a territory shared by the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizacaya. Four trails lead to the summit of Mt Pulag. Three of them are in Benguet: Ambangeg (the easiest); Akiki (the steepest) and Tawangan (probably the lushest; with the most limatiks) and the fourth (probably the longest one) is the Ambaguio trail in Nueva Vizcaya. It has one of the country’s richest biodiversity including species of plants and animals believed to be endemic to the area, the most popular of which are the dwarf bamboo and the four species of the cloud rat. The highlights of the climb include the stunning mountain scenery of the Akiki trail which is dominated by Benguet pines. The mossy forest and the grassland also add to the enchantment. But the thing that most climbers anticipate is the sea of clouds at sunrise.
The park superintendent is stern in implementing rules and regulations in the protected area that’s why it is mandatory for first time visitors to undergo orientation at the Visitors’ Center.
Smoking is strongly discouraged in the National park and is prohibited at the Grassland as this has caused wildfires in the past.
The Akiki trail is known for its steep arduous terrain. Temperatures could also get really low near the summit. The Ambangeg trail, on the other hand, is a smooth rolling terrain.


DAY 1 (Feb 4; Friday)
Assembly @ Victory Liner Bus Terminal (Pasay City)
ETD for Baguio

DAY 2 (Feb 5; Saturday)
ETA Baguio (breakfast to-go and buy packed lunch)
Board the chartered jeepney. ETD for Mt Pulag National Park Visitors’ Center and Protected Area Office (Ambangeg, Bokod); dusty and bumpy ride; (prepare something to cover your face with; you may also want to cover your TNF bakcpacks)
ETA Visitors’ Center (PAO); Orientation; payment of fees
Board the same chartered jeepney for Akiki trail jump-off
ETA Akiki trail jump-off; short orientation; payment of fees; meet the guide and porter; change costume; stretch
Start trek (I was gonna say minimize taking pictures but I remembered my first time in Mt Pulag. I was trigger-happy then. So, OK, you have all the time in the world to capture moments
ETA Eddet River; lunch (bathing and releasing toxic chemicals into the river or any body of water in the National Park is strictly prohibited)
Resume trek (refill trail water bottles)
ETA Cow Country
ETA Helipad (water source). Pitch tents. Petix
Prepare dinner
Dinner; Socials (Smoking is strongly discouraged)
Lights Out

DAY 3 (Feb 6; Sunday)
Wake-up call; prepare breakfast; break camp
Petix; picture picture
Pack up
Start trek
ETA entrance to Mossy forest (last water source); prepare lunch
Lunch; Fill up H2O bottles
Resume trek (through mossy forest)
ETA Saddle Campsite; pitch tents; petix; picture picture
Sunset pictures
Prepare dinner
Dinner; socials (No Smoking at the Saddle Campsite); there’s an outhouse in this campsite
Lights out (or whoever can stand the cold may linger outside)

DAY 4 (Feb 7; Monday)
Wake-up call; coffee; prepare for summit assault (headlamps may be necessary)
Summit assault (only cams and some H2O may be carried)
ETA Summit (wait for the sunrise); picture picture
Trek down
Prepare breakfast; break-camp
Start descent; passing by the summit once more (picture picture); proceed to Grassland
ETA Camp 2 (Ambangeg); 3-minute water break
ETA Camp 1
ETA Ranger Station; board the Chartered jeepney to the Visitors’ Center
Visitors Center; log out; lunch sa Carinderia
ETD for Baguio (same jeepney) (this is gonna be a dusty ride or the road may have probably been paved)
ETA Baguio (change clothes at the Victory Liner terminal restrooms)
ETD for Manila
ETA Manila

Entrance fee
Camping fee
Green fee
Guide fee
[P1800/7pax or below] or [+ P100/ excess head] (Akiki-Ambangeg entire trek)
P8500 (max cap 16pax)
Porter fee
P1500 (carrying capacity 20-30kg)
Mla-Baguio v.v.

Monday, January 24, 2011


First I’m not in the WILD if by wild, you picture Alexander Supertramp! The mountains I climb have trails. It’s not like I have to do bushwhacking if I’m alone in the mountains. I use the trails that either the locals or the unsung heroes of Philippine mountaineering in the 80’s have left us! And I survive not solely because of personal merit but because of a lot of other factors that are not within my control.

My survival is not all due to me and my good judgment! Let me tell you about my Mt Makiling experience. My first climb in Mt Makiling was a solo traverse trek from Sto Tomas, Batangas to Los BaƱos, Laguna. I started the trek at 0700hrs and reached the Arts Center as early as 1430hrs. Check out the same trek by other groups. They usually reach Agila Base in UPLB at night. Was I good because I finished the trek really early? NO. I was just lucky to have gotten lost. Yes getting lost is sometimes an advantage. I got lost in the sense that I didn’t walk the trail used by most visitors of Mt Makiling. Somewhere after station 16, I found myself in a trail which, unlike the clear trail from the peak to station 16, was covered by decaying leaves indicating that the trail is not often used by humans. My knowledge told me to go back and look for the trail that leads to station 15 from station 16. But my instincts told me to push on! And my instincts didn’t fail me.
During my second climb there, I was with a buddy. We weren’t even able to get to Melkas Ridge that time. After the ‘Palanggana’, we couldn’t find the trail through the thick talahiban. I noticed the newly planted trees in the talahiban so I decided not to slit our own trail fearing that we might trample on those new seedlings planted by some concerned individuals. We decided to just spend a wonderful night at the DENR hut before the Palanggana.
During my third climb, I was guiding three companions. We were able to traverse the mountain but I was very disappointed not to have found the trail that led to the Arts Center. After Station 16, I slowed down and was very watchful not to miss that shortcut to the Arts Center. But when I saw the Station 15 sign, I knew we were walking the traditional trail. And I gave up the hope of finding the shortcut again when we reached the Wilderness Zone signage. It was a long walk to the College of forestry in UPLB. We reached the jeepney stop at 1700hrs.
You see, my success during my first Mt Makiling traverse was mainly out of luck. Experience and knowledge of the mountain (especially the likes of Mt Makiling and Mt Marami) don’t guarantee success and survival! When the mountain doesn’t want you to succeed, you won’t. And luck is usually with the beginners and the solo trekkers. My success in my unguided Amuyao and Pico de Loro traverse treks were a lot due to beginner’s luck! So if you’re a beginner, use this luck before it leaves you! I don’t have it with me anymore. My knowledge and experience have slowly replaced luck with fear and caution. I wish I could be a beginner again!

I ask people around…there is always a Jesus in the mountain!
The man at the four-pronged fork in Mt Makiling
Who knows the mountain better than the locals who live in it?! Ask the locals for directions and timing. But always multiply their estimated time by a certain factor. Their one hour is usually a mountaineer’s two hours. And by some freak of nature, you usually find these people when you badly need them—talk about Jesus in the mountains! Get this: in Mt Makiling a man happened to be sitting at the four-pronged fork that would have been a labyrinth for me had he not pointed me to the trail that led to Palanggana. In another case, me and my buddy Alvin Evangelista came across this guy at an intersection of trails in the wilderness of Mt Kabunian in the unlikeliest time of dawn (0400hrs) telling us which path to take. We had actually already started following the wrong way for a few minutes. At a recent traverse trek in Pico de Loro, I was going to follow an unclear trail through the bamboo forest when a local came up from our side pointing us to the right way. I mean come on! Of all the time in the afternoon, we crossed paths at that place and time! I think the mountain treats mountaineers like her children. She will never let anything bad happen to you as long as you don’t hurt her and you are heedful of her warnings!  

I rely on my instincts and intuition.
Climbing down the Ifugao side of Mt Amuyao
I tested my intuition in Mt Amuyao. Somewhere after Pat-yay, my buddy and I came upon a fork—one fork leading downward to the west and another one upward to the east. Both of them very clear for at least 100 meters so I couldn’t use my clear-trail-right-trail reasoning. Moreover, the Lonely Planet tells me that Cambulo (which was our destination) should be to the west. But my intuition told me to take the more difficult uphill trail that leads to the east. I didn’t tell my buddy about what I knew that time, otherwise, he’d have interfered in the decision-making part of our journey through the Mt Amuyao wilderness. And, probably due to beginner’s luck again, we reached Cambulo before sundown and before my last joule of energy dissipated. Another instance in which I tested my intuition was in Mt Makiling as I previously mentioned. Mt Napulak was another test of instincts and intuition. I didn’t fail to summit Mt Napulak. I gave up. Your instincts and intuition flail when you travel with other people. It’s either you trust their intuition or they yours or both. In either case, your instincts are not heightened. This happened in Mt Natib. We failed to see the trail leading to the peak because my companions said YES when I asked them if we should push on (through the trail which I felt was wrong). I’m not blaming them. I’m blaming myself for not trusting my intuition. But we had a wonderful night that time.

I pray.
I am a self-confessed agnostic! I disdain the church and any gathering of two or more worshippers because from two emerges greed! But in times of trouble, I never forget to call on Him! I talk to Him in every step of the way! I always pray for guidance and I never forget to thank Him for all my safe returns. Well, nobody would know because I do it privately.
And I treat the mountain itself as a goddess! I talk to her all the time. I say “Sorry” when my single jerk disturbs the peace and natural order of things in the mountain. Yes I always say “Tabi tabi po!” whenever I take a leak or wherever I sit or I lay my backpack during take-fives. For a philosophy major, yeah, funny but true! 

I give up.
The Nipple Rock of Mt Napulak
When she says stop, I stop! I was climbing up Mt Napulak alone in November, 2009. For that day hike, the plan was to reach the summit by 1500hrs and head back down. I started the trek at 1300hrs and I got lost around 1430hrs but found the right trail again. Around 1500hrs the ‘nipple rock’ (summit) was very close but I had to follow my ultimatum so I headed back down although the clear trail was going to lead me to the summit! I had to consider many things that time. I didn’t take a lot of food and water with me, I left my tent at a local’s house and the dark clouds threatened me with heavy rains. I felt a new kind of joy as I trekked down. It was the time when I knew how to be mature enough to be scared and scared enough to be a mature climber! You don’t have to push all the time! At times, you gotta know your limits. Otherwise, you’ll be off the edge! 

Personal Merit
I may not be the toughest but I’m pretty sure I’m not a wimp! I maintain a good physical condition. I have quit smoking. I stay as active as possible. I can last 12 hours of trek.
I am a pack-lite trekker! I don’t bring unnecessary stuff. As I have said before, the fun part of the climb is my last priority. I don’t care if I don’t have speakers, i-Pod, tripod, booze and other things that I can live without! I bring at most three sets of clothes. I strictly observe water discipline. I only take a sip when my throat feels dry.
Look back and be ever watchful of backward forks
I have a ‘backward’ orientation of push! I keep pushing when I know I can go back. I always look back to check for reverse forks. You don’t have to worry much about the forward forks that you come across because you can always go back to the nodes. Reverse forks are the ones that you have to be very mindful of when trekking alone. I look back and take a picture of a reverse fork with my finger indicating where I came from. I calculate time two-fold. I measure how much time I have spent climbing up then I divide it by two and the result should be the minimum amount of time I need to go back down in case something terrible happens on my way up! I always think of the things I need when I have to go back. I need something to light my trail downward when night falls. I need enough water to condition my mind not to be thirsty. I get thirstier when I know I have no water. Just the knowledge that I still have a little water quenches my thirst.
I do some kind of a manual ‘macro-orienteering’. I don’t have a compass but I know that the sun rises in the east…and Anthony Hopkins (The Edge) has taught us how to improvise a compass when the sun is not out! I may not have a map but I see valleys, coastlines, peaks and solitary trees! They can be really effective waypoints. Take note where they should be (relative to your major location): for instance, you should know that as per Philippine political map, Nasugbu, Batangas should be Southwest of Ternate, Cavite. When you see a coastline to the west (as you go down Pico de Loro) that should be the coastline of Nasugbu. It’s third grade HEKASI. You don’t need a GPS for this! But you don’t have to worry about all these when you have a Suunto X10.hehehe

Lastly, I share!  
Hope that was worth your time!

Friday, January 21, 2011


The first G2 Expedition...It took them two expeditions to finally summit G2 in June 1982
First summiting of G2 in June 1982 
Blogger's note: All images are courtesy of Sir Edwin Gatia, one of the first to summit Mt. Guiting-Guiting. He was also a part of the team that trailblazed the Leyte Mountain trail in 1982 (about two months after they conquered G2), a member of the first MFPI team up Mt Kinabalu (1983), founder of the Philippine Mountaineering Society (1977), co-founder of the MFPI and the Negros Mountaineering Club, Inc., and the designer of the MFPI logo which is still in use.

I was supposed to write about how I survive alone in the wild. But a correspondence with one of the biggest names in the early mountaineering scene in the country made me put that post on the back burner in the meantime.
I have always had this aversion toward old-school mountaineers. I even wrote some kind of parody about them in my other blog. Every time I talked with them, they always seemed to give me this air of confidence and condescension as if saying “I’m telling ya! You don’t know what mountaineering in the Philippines is really like!” They start dropping names and asking you about places as if you are in a quiz show in which the quiz master knows you don’t know the answer! Perhaps I was just exposed to the wrong old-school mountaineers. Because when I had this correspondence with one of the first men to summit the mountain feared by many and when I learned about all his other exploits and the exploits of his contemporaries, I knew what respect was! I was utterly humbled. And it made me realize how little I am! It made me think that here we are, new generation trekkers, with our noses up in the air, arraying our solo treks and three-peak climbs, when in fact our ‘feats’ can barely pass for a paltry comparison to their failures, much less to their achievements! And when you see their pictures, you’ll want to hide those Groundzero shorts knowing they climbed the highest peaks in the Philippines a la blue-jeans-gang! I suddenly felt like wishing I had been born before my time that I may have been given the chance to be a part of those tours de force in the early Philippine mountaineering scene. But there is still hope for all of us. Let’s just retrace their steps and do our best to protect and preserve the gift of easier clearer trails that the old-school mountaineers gave us! So that someday, this story will still have relevance to them!  
Sir Edwin Gatia (L) and G2 Expedition leader Art Valdez (R)
Sir Mayo Monteza after whose name Mayo's peak was christened

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mt Marami (New Trail)

taken atop the boulders 1/15/11
Blogger's note: Due to the inquiries flooding the blogger's mailbox, he has decided to create this itinerary. You can still refer to for more information. This itinerary is based on the blogger's most recent climb in Mt Marami. The photo IT he created may complement the information contained here.



Assembly @ Liwasang Bonifacio (Lawton). Buses bound for Naic are beside the Post Office (P70+). (More Naic-bound buses pass by Baclaran P60)
ETD for Naic
ETA Naic. Upon getting off at Petron gas station in Naic, take the right side road and walk about 100 meters. The terminal of jeepneys bound for Magallanes is beside BPI. (P30) There’s a grocery store on the way. You may do some shopping while waiting for the jeepney.
ETD for Magallanes.
ETA Magallanes. Log in at the PNP station. (no fees)
Lunch at a carinderia near the PNP station. You don’t wanna start trek at noon. It’s ideal to have your lunch before you start trek as the water sources in the mountain are unreliable. But the water is safe enough for cooking.
Get a tricycle. Tell the driver you’ll get off at the ‘tanke’ (water tank) or ‘Councilor Filing’s house’ (P60/trip). He’s no longer a Brgy. Councilor.
ETA ‘tanke’. The current Brgy Captain’s house is right across Tay Filing’s. You register at the captain’s place (P10). You may hire guides here. This one's reliable 0909 602 0130 / 0912 501 2736. They charge P400-P500 (a bit high) per climb. The guide may take along another companion if there are a lot of you. Stick together as one group. The trails are really tricky.
Start trek. Or you may start at 1400hrs if the sun is still high up. The heat is really dehydrating. Observe water discipline.
First river crossing. Follow the foot path crossing the river. Right before a makeshift wooden bridge over the river, follow the trail on the left and going up. Stick to the clearest trail. This trail will take you to giant mango trees and banana orchard. Then you’ll meet a wall. The trail then ramifies but becomes one again beyond the wall. The continuation of the trail should be uphill and the wall should be on your right. Then when you encounter a fork, take the left. There will be a lot of forks. Just follow my photo IT and never take the trail which leads far to the right and going down. This will take you to the valley. The valley should always be on your right!
You reach the dirt road (wide trail). [Look back and you’ll see a bamboo arched over the trail and a pile of stone on the exit of the trail. This should be your entry point off the dirt road on your way back. If you don’t take note of this, you will have a hard time deciding which point to enter the woods again the following day.]
Make a left. Follow the dirt road until it cuts through another wall. If you go straight beyond the wall, you’ll reach the chapel (Nuestra Senora de Pigo del Oro) after 3 minutes. You are now walking the OLD TRAIL. But I recommend the new trail.
river crossing after the wall
If you wanna take the NEW TRAIL, take the trail that veers to the RIGHT around the wall (off the dirt road) before you reach (or even see) the chapel. After two minutes, you’ll have to cross a stream which you’ll have to cross two or three more times. You’ll see a big tree in one of these river crossings. Around this area, there are locals from whom you can ask directions. But the trail is really clear as this is the trail that the loggers take.
Last river crossing.
Take five before the open assault
You reach the dry river (not-so-reliable water source at the root area of a big tree). Across the dry river, there’s a hut. Follow the trail.
Until you reach another hut surrounded by trees and at times, dogs. DON’T follow the trail that leads down beyond the hut. Make a LEFT. This time you’ll be treading on a trail along a cliff
Then you reach the last hut. Take five. It has a neighbor a little below it. And below this hut is probably the last water source. The owner of this house (Tay Pilo) gets drinking water from this water source. Just follow the trail downward at his backyard to reach the water source. It’s very near.
Resume trek. After a few minutes, you’ll have to go through a bamboo fence/gate. To open, just push the bamboo poles to the side and remember to put them back. This keeps the cows from straying away.

Follow the clearest trail. When you’ve reached the ‘talahib’ trail, this IT can’t help you anymore. The cows have made a lot of trails that crisscross this area. Rely on your instincts and be sure to distinguish the mountaineers’ trail from the cows’. One solitary tall tree marks the assault to the ‘talahiban’. Somewhere in this talahib pastureland, you’ll reach the campsite. This campsite is wide enough to accommodate around seven tents. From this campsite, you can see the boulders on your left beyond the little valley. On your right is the “Mataas na Gulod”. This is higher than the boulders. You may wish to continue trekking. Find the trail that leads to the boulders on the left. After this you’ll have to go INTO the bamboo forest. After less than 3 minutes, you’re out of the bamboo forest. The main trail should be on the slope (cliff). A lot of trails would lead down to the left. Ignore them. NO steep descent in this area.  The boulders are very visible now so just head for it! Move fast to catch the sunset!
There’s a little campsite right before the assault up the boulders. This could accommodate around three tents.
The summit is just five minutes away. Around three tents can be pitched here. But beware of the strong winds at night!
Kelangan pa bang i-memorize yan? Tandaan niyo na lang ang mga dinaanan niyo paakyat.

Altitude Profile (Brgy Ramirez-Nuestra-Boulders)

My track logs

Brgy. Ramirez N 14˚ 11.029’ E 120˚ 43.647
Elevation: 724 fasl

Mt Marami Summit (boulders) N˚ 14 11.917 E 120˚ 41.164
Elevation: 1957 fasl 


I don’t have a clear itinerary.
As a traveller, I usually don’t have an itinerary. Well, I have an ETD Manila and an ETA Manila, if you consider that an itinerary. As long as I can project the expenses, I’m good to go. That’s pretty much all I do—GO! I sometimes don’t have a clear destination. As I have said elsewhere on the internet, anywhere could be a destination. Every place has its own beauty. And with your obsession to reach your ‘planned destination’, you fail to see the beauty of the little things that greet you along the way.
I travel on impulse.  And it is during these spur-of-the-moment trips that I discover something other travelers would die for. Carabao Island, Mt Napulak, Mt Timbak, Nogas Island, Alto Peak, Samboan, Mt Tabayoc (which led to Luzon 3-2-1), Valderrama (which led to an attempt at Mt Baloy and my introduction to Igcuron), Badeo (which led to my discovery of a cross-country trail from Benguet to La Union) and a lot more were all out of caprice!
I used to say “I love getting lost!” but on second thought, I never get lost. I JUST FIND MYSELF IN A NEW PLACE. And then I find my way back home. It is really not the destination, never the itinerary and not even the journey anymore. It is simply GOING! The moment you GO, there your adventure begins!

I travel only with my equals or my betters. Otherwise, I travel alone.
A companion already diminishes the flavor of adventure in your trip! Make that companion slow, picky, clumsy and ‘windy’. Your trip becomes a disaster! How do you enjoy a trip when your buddy keeps looking for good food, a comfy bed and a nice hot shower? How do you enjoy a trip when someone beside you keeps asking ‘What time do we get back to Manila?’ My trek in Mt Marami and the four lakes of Ballay wouldn’t have been adventure-filled if I had not done it with a buddy as brave as Nixon Olbes (R.I.P.). My conquest of Mt Arayat and Mt Tenglawan would have turned out to be just another stroll around Quezon City Circle if me and my buddy Alvin Evangelista had not been able to steer clear of the services of a guide. I wouldn’t have seen Mt Baloy and Mt Napulak up close if it hadn’t been Myand Abao with me on the island of Panay! But when these daring individuals aren’t available, I prefer to travel alone. I love travelling alone primarily because the adventure is maximized. Until now, nothing beats my solo traverse trek in Mt Makiling. My solo climb up Mt Marami, during which I camped alone in the mountain, comes a close second! And my solo cross country trek from Benguet to La Union will remain a milestone in my ‘mountaineering’ life in the Philippines.
But more than the thrill of adventure, I love travelling alone because I want to meditate. I want to be one with nature. And I want to commune with the place and the people I visit. It is in this interaction with people that I find solace and learn more about LIFE. They’re more open when you’re alone. But when you come like an armada of hungry rhinos, they’re more aloof! And what could have been just a simple visit becomes either a stampede or an invasion or both! 

I avoid guides.
As long as they are not required, I don’t take the services of a guide. The more you rely on guides, the more your instincts fail you! Courage and adventure becomes synonymous with safety and fitness training programs. The first unguided trek I did was my Pico de Loro traverse. I had been trekking for less than a year then and it was only the second mountain I had climbed. I trekked Pico de Loro up the Ternate trail and descended via the Nasugbu trail. I was with my friend who was also not a hiker. Everyone in the campsite tried to talk us out of it! That’s the thing with old-school mountaineers. They think only they can do it! Then, with the same friend I climbed up Mt Timbak (for the first time) via KM 54 entry point and went down the KM 55 road. Four days later, we trekked from the peak of Mt Amuyao down to Pat-yay, Cambulo and Batad on our own. Our guide refused to accompany us on the traverse trail because he had never trodden that track! And almost all my other treks were accomplished without a guide! The only mountain I failed to summit without a guide was Mt Natib. I think that was because I climbed it with other people who interfered in the planning. It is always a good feeling to test and push your limits. You realize that Mother Nature really ain’t that tough! You just have to get to know her. And she will take care of you. She has left signs along the trail. It is for you to learn how to read them!

I survive
It’s never a perfect adventure if you never come back home! How I survive is not really an enigma! There are things I rely on to survive! And I will discuss them on my next post!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Which Climber are You?

In general, there are three priorities when climbing a mountain in the Philippines: survival, comfort and fun.

Pro-Survival climbers always think of being able to get back down safely. He doesn't really care whether the climb is fun or comfortable. He doesn't mind whether he eats the instant pancit canton instead of a sumptuous dinner because he thinks about the weight difference between the two. He sometimes sacrifices his craving for pancit canton and brings salted eggs instead because he is worried that he might run out of water. He doesn't care even if he can't contribute any booze to a socials because carrying bottles (of liquor) might exhaust him.

Pro-comfort climbers are a lot similar to survival climbers. Only, they won't trade their comfort for anything. They don't care whether five people are crammed in one tent so long as he sleeps comfortably (alone) in his tent. He doesn't mind the price of TNF products because he just can't stand the hassle when zipping or loosening the straps of low-technology local backpacks. He is not bothered by the cost and/or the shame in hiring a porter as long as the trek is safe and easy. It's OK for him not to summit and miss the sunrise as long as he can indulge in his sleep.

Pro-fun climbers probably won't climb alone. Where's the fun in being alone? A pro-fun climber doesn't mind whether the straps of his backpack snaps as long as there are at least ten bottles of GranMa (or Tanduay for climbers in the South) in it. He'll wait at the summit until the sun goes down just to take the best sunset shots even though he knows he doesn't have a headlamp on his way down. He doesn't mind the hassle of climbing He doesn't care whether his neighbors get a good night's sleep as long as he gets a good night's laugh (or howl)!

When I climb (especially when I'm alone), it's always the survival-comfort-fun hierarchy. Sometimes I leave out fun. Climbing alone is actually sometimes more fun for me than climbing with a bunch of slowpokes! But I love to have pro-fun climbers around. I don't refuse a good laugh. When I organize climbs, however, the participants are usually disappointed because I don't give them enough time to take pictures. But sometimes, I give way to fun. I want to accommodate as many people as possible to the extent that I even shoulder someone's expenses. I think most of us have a little bit of all the three factors when we set out on a journey.

Which kind of climber are you?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Do I Climb?

Do I?! As far as I'm concerned, I just travel. I was a beach bum until my right eardrum got perforated. And I have long given up my dream of becoming a surfer! I don't know what a real climber or mountaineer is. But I do know what traveling means. Some people tell me "You're a hardcore mountaineer!". I'm not! I just have the money and the time. I have climbed with individuals far tougher than I am. No, I'm not trying to sound humble. One of my buddies actually carried my backpack while I was dragging my legs up Akiki trail back when I was younger (and stronger)! Another could barely wait for me while we were exploring the four lakes of Ballay in Kabayan, Benguet (I was trailing behind him with my sprained knee)! There are a lot of 'tambays' who deserve to be called a 'hardcore mountaineer' more than I do. Most of them just don't have the money. Some others just have other priorities. And still some just happen to be in another place.

I am just an average Joe trying to test my limits while experiencing and learning from LIFE! I just have this unquenchable thirst to discover new things and just be alone in a new place! And in the midst of that place, see myself in a different light.

Climbing is not just for the tough ones. Learning is for Everybody! You can do it too!

Start Exploring and Find Yourself!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


My first communion with Benguet was in the summer of the year 2000. I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Manila so I called up my mother (in Leyte) and asked her for directions to her sister’s place in Benguet. The first thing I got from her was this whole reggae/hip-hop rendition of “Are you outta your mind?! Get your big behind here you young man and I’ll tan you good!” with three choruses of “You don’t know what you’re doing!” Well, as all mothers do, she eventually gave me what I wanted. My aunt (who is also Waray), for some reason, never was able to leave Benguet. Twenty or so years ago, she and her friend decided to set up a dry goods business in Abatan, Buguias (the northernmost town of Benguet). Now they have more or less five shops along the stretch of the Abatan highway.
I hadn’t been to Baguio then (or the North for that matter). All I had with me was the name Abatan and a faint picture of my way there.  So technically, this trip was Lagataw’s first legitimate adventure. The Halsema (I love putting the article the before Halsema because I feel its life the way I feel that of the ocean and the river) was still unpaved. Most parts of the highway could only accommodate one vehicle at a time. Occasionally, the bus you’re on would get stuck at one end of the one-lane highway, which was never a hassle because they always had this really cool country music on that you’d feel like you’re not in the Philippines. With that kind of music, and those locals in tight blue jeans, heavy leather jackets and cowboy hats, you’d ask yourself “Am I in El Paso or something?!”. But this sweet musing is intermittently disturbed by this sudden pang of vertigo every time the bus maneuvered along sharp curves on the highway. If you stuck your head out of the window, you’d know that the thin line between life and death can be seen on that inch-wide gap between the bus and the deep ravine. No wonder The Halsema made it to the shortlist of the World’s Most Dangerous Highways. But with this risk factor The Halsema adds the flavour of adventure to your journey in Benguet. What’s more, you get to see this stunning scenery of the calm tumult of blue, green and white on the horizon which city-dwellers can only see on the covers of Paolo Coelho’s books. From time to time the bus would literally vanish into the mist making you feel like you’re in Heaven! Well, that was back then! God I miss the old days!

YOU deserve a holiday!
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