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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!