Meeting Maria

I spent last weekend in the wild, being dirty and sleeping inside cramped messy tents whose temperature fluctuates between cold and scorching hot, depending on what time of the day it is. I brought some mosquito repellent with me, only to find out that I should’ve feared the ants as well. The only way I could’ve cleaned myself (even partially) entailed going through the cold caress of mountain water. This is adventure indeed, the kind catterpillars sadly forget as they become butterflies.

My muscles are aching as I type like I worked out for a whole month straight without even a few seconds of water break anywhere in between. But the ache reminds me of a good two nights and two days spent in the cradle of Maria Makiling. Clearly, this is the welcome kind of muscle ache, one that is the sign not of deteriorating health but of a life lived in two-days’ worth of adventure. I’m both glad and sad that they’d be gone in a few days. How I’d miss this feeling and the kind of joy the experience brought me. I feel that I’ve lived life, for two nights and two days, as the experience took my breath away.

Before I delve into the fun of reliving the adventure allow me first to wish my left shoe a very solemn “Rest In Peace”. You have been loyal to me for the past two years or so my dear friend, going through mud and shine, opening your mouth that protects the fingertips of my left foot eventually but not making a single sound of complaint. Your twin, right shoe, will have to rest as well, now that you are gone. I regret that he won’t be able to do it in the house though, as we are pretty crowded already.

My left shoe died an honorable death, in the midst of adventure, as I spent the good part of last weekend jumping through rocks and grabbing various plants for dear life, double checking in a hurried fashion beforehand that it is without thorns and that it is not actually some camouflaging fauna. It died last Saturday but I had to abuse it further by using it again for the same purposes the next day after last Saturday which is last Sunday. My vocal chords nearly died as well, as I screamed cheers and whoa’s in flow with my group’s collective effervescence.

And as I know that general allusions to the experience will do the adventure no justice, allow me to compress about two days’ worth of story in a single web page, as I try to set the record for the longest blog post ever. Right. Let the stories start.

Table of Contents
Laying Down Ground | The Trek | Running Again, Some Swimming, and Goodbye Finally

Laying Down Ground
Friday, February 5, 2010, Deep Evening

Tired and exhausted from last night’s academic cramming as well as from the day that passed, I stepped off the bus and was readily greeted by Orion. Arr hunter, I say. Thanks for the greeting as I am here not to choose the events that will happen but to let the adventure choose me. Be my guide.

For the good part of the night we tried to make the provided tents as cozy as possible. Evidently, a man’s idea of “cozy” is way different from a woman’s. A tent is capable of holding six people but seven of us had to share, plus a few battalion of ants. I brought some mosquito repellent but I’m totally unprepared for these warriors, biting us violently for entering the critical zone of their territory. And we had our luggage with us too, taking up a generous part of our already-cramped tent. I remember being told once that pretty men travel light. If that is true, then Maria Makiling won’t be dating any of us by default.

We were briefed of what awaits us. I didn’t hear anything save for the word “exciting”. After about an hour of planning we embark for slumber land and I felt the rough contours of the earth against my back. Adventure here we go!

The Trek
Saturday, February 6, 2010, Morning to Mid-Afternoon, and then whole day

We rose before the sun to prepare for what lies in store for the day. This is the first time we’ll be actually cooking and, incidentally, my stomach’s been lucky enough to have a choice between two culinary sets so that if something goes wrong here, I always have the other group for back-up. It’s a long and complicated story of how come there were two groups but in any case, the two groups merged into one later on, forming what can be considered as our main class, plus a few additions.

And yes, pictures…

Rappel Instructors

As you see, it was still pretty dark when we started cooking that I cannot rely on natural lighting and I had to resort to flash. This is one of the two groups I’ve been talking about. Though not really a part of the group in the strict sense of the word, pictured here are our two rappel instructors.

 

Chemical Engineers

Left to Right: Stephanie Peralta, Ariel Jan Sadural, Cherielyn Cariso, Dyan Canlas. All of them major in Chemical Engineering. All of them are in the group with me even in the strictest sense. And all of them are fun to be with.

 

I’m pretty fond of these people. For one, AJ has been my highschool classmate from year two to year four. Then again, they’re just plain fun to be with. And also, they are the second cooking group I’ve been talking about.

And oh, yes, just to give you an idea, this is where we’ve been sleeping:

Tents

Being the celestial body lover that I am, I made sure that I know what time will the sun rise and set for the whole time we’ve been there, as part of my preparations. Unfortunately, sunrise and sunset isn’t as pronounced as I expected here. But that is not to say that I did not shoot some scenery.

Saturday morning sunrise at camp…

Saturday was scheduled for trek, an activity which I thought will have me clicking through shots and feeling the cool mountain breeze. I was wrong. The trek found me with my shirt glued wet by perspiration on my back. I found myself finally appreciating Gatorade and thanking AJ for lending me a cap. The trail was beautiful, green and overflowing with flora, ripe for some shots. Unfortunately, my hands had been busy looking for firm features to hold on to and breaking the momentum I gain as my feet followed the dictates of the natural laws of inclined planes, too tired to resist. This is where my left shoe died, in service, ever loyal.

That all said, I still managed to take some pictures while trekking.

Dyan and Che, with a flower they find pretty

Dyan and Che, with a flower they find pretty

 

Don't faeries bathe in here?

Don’t faeries bathe in here?

 

Taken just before we stopped to eat packed lunch live at the trail.

 

Ging and Baki. Not taken by me, most probably taken by Dyan.

 

Dyan and me. If you stop for a moment and think, it will become clear to you that I obviously did not take this picture. Taken by either Ging or Baki.

 

Chilling out live at the trail

Chilling out live at the trail. Taken by Dyan.

 

Returning to camp, I found myself slumped dead near the entrance of our tent, not minding the heat, nor the flies buzzing around, nor the ants who seem addicted to my shirtless torso. I know not how many miles we walked nor how high a height we reached. I did not take a bath immediately which was lucky because our group had someone to sprawl on the ground when we were taught how to rescue someone down in a cliff with a possible spine injury.

Darkness bit the skies again and soon we were cooking and eating by flashlight. It’s such a shame we were not able to light a bonfire because all the firewood around can only be found along the trail, and our own legs might just kick ourselves in protest if ever we plan to return there just to gather some firewood.

Running Again, Some Swimming, and Goodbye Finally
Sunday, February 7, 2010, Morning to Mid-Afternoon

AJ and me woke up at around 4AM. Being one of the two group leaders, AJ spent sometime going around the tents of our group, retrieving their consciousness from slumber. A few minutes into the activity and we were entertained by someone’s semi-consciousness and made-up terms courtesy of the spirit that is alcohol: “Lutuin na yang mga AJ na yan!” (Cook those AJ’s now!), and, “Lagyan ng isang metrong wetness yung shroup” (Add a meter of wetness to the shroup), she’s been saying (yes she’s a she). We laughed our heads off from that episode for about a couple of hours, until the person concerned regained full control of her consciousness and…you should’ve seen her face.

I spent two hours doing nothing but walking around and eating breakfast, breathing fresh mountain air. It feels and sounds so bummer to relate that I ate instant noodles on a moment as fresh as that. Instant noodles is the only junk food that remains in my system after all. I’ve kicked my addiction to soft drinks and cheesy potato chips but not to instant noodles. Note, however, that I suggested, before Saturday’s adventure, that we hunt for snakes along the trail so that we’ll have something to cook in camp–a suggestion that was met with yeah-right faces from my groupmates.

Breakfast at Camp

Sunday morning breakfast at camp.

 

Sunday’s most anticipated activity is map navigation, an activity very similar to trekking sans the almost-vertical slopes, packed lunch, and instructor guides but with a lot of competition, a lot of tasks and a single compass. I cannot decide what is more memorable between the trek and map nav. They’ll most probably tie. The trek is memorable because of the ooh’s and wow’s generated by nature’s beauty; map nav, on the other hand, is memorable due to all the adrenaline and willpower involved. We were so competitive in map nav that I really wasn’t able to take any pictures.

We were misguided and so we were lost for about a good half an hour. Nonetheless, we returned first in camp and you can only imagine with what euphoria did we tread around the still-empty tents, willpower being replaced by effervescence and cheers. Unfortunately, we didn’t win Best in Navigation because start times are not the same for all groups and so there are some chronological translation involved.

After lunch, some refreshments, and a few hours’ rest, we proceeded to the pool to cross about 100 meters, with an optional break after meter 50. Not the most anticipated activity because swimming isn’t really something you’d learn in a few meetings. At this point, I would like to thank one instructor who gave me some last-moment pointers on how to conquer water. It’s thanks to him I crossed 50 at my first try and almost made it to 100 at the second one. I am most grateful.

And what did our group get after this whole adventure? Aside from bonding moments, we got also got this,

Best Group

Best in Navigation went to the group who made their way past all the tasks and points fastest; it does not necessarily mean that they did the tasks best. Best Group, on the other hand, went to the group who did everything best; since they are best in everything, it also means that they have the best time in navigation (it need not be stated since it is already implied). Quod Erat Demonstrandum. That I want to show.

 

It’s been fun and I am thankful for this adventure, this opportunity to bond with nature and other people. I didn’t travel light but I guess Maria Makiling still dated me. I saw her beauty and I hope I’ve been the gentleman Nature deserves. In about two days I’ve seen cliffs, walked a forest and drank mountain water–lived all my boyhood dreams, in short. After such an experience, it feels so bummer to say “Damn! I have a Calculus exam this Saturday and a Data Structures exam this Monday”.

I shall not forget, the day I met Maria.

 


Colophon: I keep on saying that the adventure lasted for about two days when my story is divided into three chapters. The explanation is this: we only spent one whole day (Saturday), as Friday and Sunday was arrival day and departure day respectively. Hence, about two days.


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