Mt. Purgatory Traverse Day Hike- The Hexalogy

                        It was another spur of the moment decision when I decided to join one more major hike before I leave Baguio City. I mentioned this to a friend prior, and he was more than willing to join me. We met at four-thirty in the morning only knowing where to meet the rest of the group. I honestly did not pay attention to the invite until the morning of the hike when my friend was bombarding me with questions I did not know the answers. I still remember how he raised his voice at me for not knowing the organizer’s number like I was out of my mind. We met with the rest of the group, and I was intimidated of how they were equipped with all their hiking gear. They looked like professional hikers while I was the newbie among the group who would likely give up halfway. I scooted to my friend and whispered to his ear how he would be the one carrying me if I would not make it to the end of the hike (LOL).

            The goal was to hike Mt. Purgatory along with six other mountains in a day. The hike was called the “hexalogy” of mountains- Mt. Mangagew, Mt. Pack, Mt. Purgatory, Mt. Bakian, Mt. Kom-Kompol and Mt. Tangbaw. It was an ambitious hike of about twenty-five to twenty-eight kilometers of distance with combinations of every level of difficulty you could think of. According to our organizer, Sir Jey-m, Mt. Purgatory is the highest peak in Bokod, Benguet closed to Mt. Ugo and Mt. Pulag. It is well-known for harboring different species of plants specifically mosses, ferns, flora and fauna.

Sir Jey-m orienting us

Jump-off in Bobok

             We started the trek at 8:30 am with the guidance of a seventy-seven-year-old man named Manong Baldo who was born and raised in the mountains of Bokod. With his high-knee rubber boots, he walked like he owned the mountains. I never saw him slowed down to catch his breath. He was just pure, fitness machine who outran a twenty-one-year-old when they did an impromptu trail run. I asked him what his secret was, and he told me that he only eats vegetables and rice- no pesticides and no MSG ever. With his gentle and kind voice, he started orienting us about what to expect during the hike and the different villages that we would be seeing along the way. We hiked about an hour of flat terrains until we reached our first stop, Mt. Mangagew, situated in a modest village. The hike was probably the easiest out of the six mountains, at it was mostly walking on flat terrains.

Mang Baldo with Mark

He walked like he owned the mountains.

Village

              It was already ten-thirty in the morning when we started hiking towards Mt. Pack, the second mountain in our itinerary. This was when the temperature started dropping while the fog rolled down the mountains. Despite the chilly temperature, the mesmerizing beauty of the clouds covering the mountains and the slopes of vegetable gardens you see along the way will make you stall to admire them.

Mang Baldo’s home sweet home

         The mossy forest started halfway of the hike to Mt. Pack. This was where most of the different mosses and ferns cascaded on the trees and branches like waterfalls. As we navigated our way up the mountains to Mt. Pack, we got busy craning our necks admiring the majestic beauty of the mossy forests in front of us. For me, the different types of beautiful ferns, flowers and orchids found along the way which I have never seen in my life were invigorating to look at. It took a lot of courage not to pluck them because I was constantly reminded by my friend of the mountaineers’ creed “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, killing nothing but time, keep nothing but memories.”

         The trek to Mt. Purgatory was challenging due to the drizzling weather, the freezing temperature coupled with muddy and slippery pathways which almost made us lose our sanity. It was an ongoing navigation of a thickly-vegetated jungle that we started joking of how we had been walking on the same muddy trails repeatedly for hours. It was named Mt. Purgatory for a reason. We suffered like sinners and almost died but was brought back to life when we reached the fourth mountain, Mt. Bakian. This was where we saw sunlight again while the rest of us enjoyed a cup of coffee bought in the mini store found in the village.

First group to reach Mt. Purgatory

One of the huts where hikers can spend the night at Mt. Bakian

It was endless walking in the mossy forests.

       The trek to Mt. Kom-Kompol, the fifth mountain, was about forty-five minutes of trudging uphill, muddy mountains. The fog continued to cover the mountains while darkness started to take over. The view in the summit was nothing extraordinary because of the treacherous fog. All we did was took photos and started heading down to chase the enthralling sunset on the way to Mt. Tangbaw, the last mountain.

The view in Mt. Kom-Kompol before the fog took over

First group who made it in Mt. Kom-Kompol

The fog covering the mountains in Mt. Kom-Kompol

Sunset on the way to Mt. Tangbaw

The dude who did his “angel-grass”

         It was almost six pm when we started heading to the municipality of Ekip which was our exit point. The trail going down to Ekip was probably the most painful hike we did on that day, as it involved about two hours of downhill tramping on gravels and paved roads. The Shock it brought to my knees was horrendous that by the time I reached Ekip, I was limping and ready to pass out from the pain. However, the sumptuous dinner of pinikpikan and knowing that we were all alive made the experience worth telling.

        The long and arduous hike to Mt. Purgatory is not something meant for beginners because of the long distance, low temperature along with extremely, muddy and slippery trails. Being with kind people who can tolerate your “swearing” as you navigate the trails is necessary for you to survive. Also, what made me last were the hilarious puns and “complains” of some of the people I was with on that day. They were god-sent, as they made the hike laughable, tolerable and bearable. As I chuckled my way down to conclude an ambitious, eleven-hour hike, it made me realize how blessed I was to share the brutality and beauty of Mt. Purgatory with awesome, “down-to-earth” and comical people. I look at my hiking shoes covered in mud sitting in a corner, and I feel proud for conquering one of the longest hikes I have done in my life. Thank you all for the experience!!

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Hiking The Majestic Badi Falls

           There is always something about the mountains beckoning me to explore their hidden beauty every time I come home. After my sanduning, beaching, sun-bathing and snorkelling shenanigans in Coron, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Norte, I decided it was about time to visit the mountains again. Hiking the majestic Badi falls was a spur of the moment decision, and I never regretted doing so because I met awesome people who have the same interests and quirks as I am. The falls are located in Barangay Sagubo, Kapangan, an hour and a half jeepney ride from Baguio City. According to Mark, our organizer, the word “Badi” came from the Kankanaey word “Bad-badi.” They are a type of insects measuring about 3-6 inch in length and a diameter of around 6-7mm. They look like earthworms either blue or brown in colour. They used to live in the rivers sticking on the stones especially the ones beneath the falls.

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“toploading”

    I met up with the organizer at 5 am in the morning thinking the rest of the group would be on time. And yes, more than half of them were definitely on “Filipino time” which I’m still getting used to until now every time I meet people here. We left Center Mall at six-thirty in the morning beating the cold weather of Baguio City. The sceneries in Kapangan reminded me of my hometown, Besao. The spectacular mountains covered with greeneries were refreshing to look at. Despite the cold breeze enveloping our bodies, some of us decided to “topload” on the roof of the jeepney. This made the experience extraordinary because we could see the misty clouds covering the mountains, the breathtaking rice fields and lush vegetation around us. I sat there enduring the cold breeze whipping my face while relishing the glorious sceneries in front of me and the serenity of Kapangan town. Yes, the overwhelming emotions were almost unbearable because I felt like I was indeed home.

The view in front of the Sagubo barangay hall

         We headed to Suvanis Avong, a heritage house made from cogon and bamboos where we enjoyed our breakfast and did mini introduction of each other. “Avong” in Ibaloi or “Abong” in Kankanaey means house. Like in Besao where I came from, we have “abong” where elders get together and do rituals. It is the same idea except Suvanis Avong is for guests to stay in and experience the traditional living of the Kankanaey and Ibaloi with a fee. There were guests staying over, but I got the chance to roam around and marvel at the traditional equipment found inside.

Enjoying our simple breakfast

We were welcomed by the very accommodating barangay captain of Sagubo, and he did a little talk about the place, the current tourism and popularity of Badi falls, safety and guidelines that we need to abide to. It was a good orientation for me, as I really did not know what to expect.

Lining up to register at the barangay hall

          We arrived at the jump-off, and I was skeptical about how I was gonna survive the hike. The start of the trek was cemented pavement albeit grudgingly downhill. Yes, my knees were already begging me to stop but the vegetation we passed through along with the rolling clouds covering the distant mountains were worth the pain on my knees. They were invigorating to look at while I was trying to keep up with our guide. This went on for about half an hour of concrete road until we hit the real pathway where the excitement and challenge began. I was having trouble walking down the hills because of my Sun Beach flip flops. Good thing our awesome guide was kind enough to swap his smaller slippers with mine after coercing him to do so (LOL). By the time I arrived at the bottom of the mountains where Badi falls were located, my feet were covered in blisters. Hence, for people planning to hike Badi Falls, wear a good pair of hiking shoes, as you will be crawling your way down the mountains, literally. It is slippery and slightly muddy not to mention some of the trails are still being paved. However, you will get to bask in the mesmerizing beauty of the Kapangan mountains as you navigate your way towards the falls. You will be stalled and hypnotized by what is in front of you once you reach your destination.

Jump-off

The start of the trail

Our awesome guide, Kuya Magnu

Trudging our way down between these bamboo trees

The falls peeking through the vegetation

A group photo of the people who arrived first at the foot of the mountains where the falls were located

Selfie

           After an hour and a half of going downhill, we finally made it to our destination. The clean water cascading in the first falls was refreshing. We playfully made it up the river while hopping on one rock to another. We took photos while dipping our feet in the revitalizing water. While most of us decided to swim, I was contented sitting on a big rock admiring the cascading waterfalls.

My “moment”

Swimming

Keith’s “moment”

           The second falls was bigger and more stunning than the first one. It reminded me of the Bridal falls in Vancouver but larger in size. The boulders were covered in mosses and other various plants. People were swimming in the pool of water at the bottom of the falls while we were busy taking “instagramable” photos.           The challenging assault going back up was not something to joke about. It was exhausting but the friendship I made with the people I met for the first time is not something I could trade off. We bonded over a lot of things, big or small. From dissing each other like we’ve known each other for years, to the brewed coffee in Suvanis Avong, the shared breakfast of red rice, pancit and buttered chicken, the pinikpikan during lunch time, my R&B music blasting inside the jeepney, the huffing and puffing going down and up the mountains while basking in the breathtaking beauty of Kapangan and Badi falls . As what the barangay captain said, “we start as strangers and should finish as “badi badi,” and boy did we do that!

STRANGERS NO MORE

“wacky” photo

Sir Manny Fermin, the mayor of Kapangan, welcoming us.

           It was already dark when our trip was concluded by the hospitality and humility of  Sir Manny Fermin, the current mayor of the municipality of Kapangan. Thank you for welcoming us with your down-to-earth attitude, your witty remarks and informative knowledge about your town. We surely had fun!

Life Goes On

             It’s almost one in the morning, and you’re under your crumpled sheets tossing and turning like the world is about to end. The lack of sleeping hormones in your body right now is giving your bed unbearable tantrums. You could consider its creaking sounds swearing at you for not having an ounce of pity. Lying on it without being gentle means it is bound to move in any direction while emitting those annoying creaking sounds enough to wake up the neighborhood. However, it’s an ancient bed not designed for sex according to your friend, so giving the compassion it deserves is a no brainer. Besides, it does the job of being always there when you’re about to lose your schizophrenic mind like right now.

            This is one of those nights when your mind becomes a separate entity from your body. Despite wanting to sleep, your mind decides to be selfish and start having its own battle of overthinking. Yes, the power of being engrossed in futile thoughts enough to beat a scientist’s mind. You become fixated with mundane thoughts of how going through life sometimes is such a herculean task. You become bombarded with thoughts of “WTF am I doing with my life?” until you end up getting pissed at yourself and raiding the fridge at one in the morning as a distraction.

            The cycle of waking up every day, going to work, surviving a 12 hour shift, and being robbed at the end of the month by your bills has become mundane nowadays. That you start craving for something exciting and new like the time when someone gave you giddiness and butterflies in your stomach. You wonder about the people you are closed with who have lost their love ones and who are grieving right now, the families you encounter at work who are being brave as they watched their sick loved ones recover, and your friends whom you haven’t seen for a while but are also trying to navigate “adulting” like you are.

          Of course, you also marvel and question yourself of when to meet society’s standards. You ponder on when to give in to the pressure from your parents and aunties who are more vocal than anyone else of wanting grandbabies like you can easily buy them in Forever21. You entertain those incessant thoughts of when to start being smart with your money and add the word “saving”  to your vocabulary, when to purge those travel bugs of yours, and when to buy your own place like a responsible grown-up. But then, you imagine what life would be like if you were somewhere travelling without worrying about the responsibilities attached to being an adult. Yes, the enticing potency of travelling which you can never have enough of like a heroine.

            Life can become quite taxing whether you like it or not. There are those “not so great” days when overthinking becomes your nemesis. When you ache for a change and excitement to break the monotony of life, to fill the void in your heart, and to redeem yourself from not meeting the abysmal expectations imposed on you by the people around you. That despite feeling like some days has no Fluff of summer clouds to look forward to, you learn to accept what life has stored for you. You rant. You spout profanities. You write to get through these dismal days.

            You learn to convince yourself that there are other things to look forward to (or not) like future sleepovers with your girlfriends, your next trip to the summery land of sand and beaches, the increasing numbers of wrinkles on your face which are starting to mock you, and those begrudging years you have left before hitting the half of sixty. These things might be big or small, positive or negative, but they still give you a reason to live. Life goes on as it should. That despite those moments of incessant mulling over worthless things, you still get the inspiration to live or write no matter how crappy it gets because life goes on indeed.