Guess what?

I did another epic shit recently. I HIKED MT.PULAG, the third highest peak in the Philippines, in the name of friendship! And I'm not even a hiker!!! I may have taken crazy to a whole new level this time.

So, my friend Jeff, the one who started this crazy adventure has been inviting me to hike a few times but since my hobbies (for the last two years) only include sleeping, reading, blogging, watching anime and sleeping some more, I usually turn him down saying shits like hiking is not for me, I'm too lazy to get out there and be uncomfortable or maybe next time. He started hiking over a year ago and he's been trying to tell me about the things he has learned from it. I am thrilled to learn about the benefits of getting out there and being with nature, that's actually one reason I once moved to Baguio - to be closer to nature. It's just close to impossible to chill and relax when you're living and working in the city. The city lights, skyscrapers and the busy streets have their own charm but I just can't appreciate that ALL THE FREAKING TIME! 

So, when shit got real and I hit that almost lowest point (yet again), I knew I needed a change of scenery, even just for a short time. I know that I can't move back to Baguio any time soon, but I just need to get a whiff of that fresh air once more.

When he invited me last May to go hiking around early June, I still said no because I didn't have leave credits at work yet that time since I've only been working in my current company for less than a year. But then he mentioned about Mt. Pulag as well, which would be on the first week of July and I got excited as hell. He found a way to make me say yes and I also ran out of excuses, so, right after our chat, I immediately filed for a two-day vacation. I agonized about it for about a week, thinking about the worst-case scenario - that it will not be approved. He asked me to stop being such a pessimist and just wait for it. Meanwhile, he went on that hiking trip on his own last June, he's used to it. He's usually a solo traveler/joiner. When he sent me his photos from his trip to Mt. Sawi, I got even more stoked. Good thing that my vacation leave was approved! Yay!

Aside from visiting my grandparents' hometown and that recent company trip last April, I haven't really packed by my favorite backpack to travel on my own the last two years. I've been doing too much adulting sheez. The last epic adventure I had was when I moved to Baguio, but when I moved back to Manila, I was pretty much back in the rat race. I am back to making ends meet and dealing with the daily heat which is extremely bad for my physical and mental health. 

In a lousy attempt to save the limited senses and patience that I have, I jumped head first on this challenge. And you know what? The only regret that I have is not doing it in my 20's. It was a REALLY tough experience though we trekked through the beginner trail. It got me thinking that maybe if I started doing it when I was a bit younger, I would have built a better stamina by now. My sister's friend who's been hiking for quite sometime now actually advised at least two minor hikes before getting on a major one. But the daredevil within me played deaf. 

That was quite a long intro again, but I just want give you a good backstory about how I got myself into this adventure before I share with you the things that I've realized before, during and after the hike that we could also apply in our daily life.

Here we go...

#1 Focus

I have a very limited attention span; I get bored easily. Routine might be comfortable, but it's not something I can stick with for a very long time. My mind usually drifts somewhere else when I'm doing mundane things. However, there are times when we really have to train our minds to FOCUS solely on what's ahead of us if we want to get to our destination safe and sound. When you're trekking around a crazy cliff at 1 AM with nothing but a flashlight to light your way, boy, you gotta stay focused if you want to stay alive to see the crack of dawn. It's way too different from a therapeutic walk on a beach. When you are hiking, you have to maintain your balance and keep a stable pacing as you walk through the rocky trail while carrying your backpack. 

It's quite normal to get lost in our thoughts, I do this a lot especially when I'm listening to music. But from time to time, we have to remind ourselves to actually be PRESENT, live in the moment and be mindful and aware of what lies ahead of us so we wouldn't be caught off guard in a lousy stance.

#2 Resilience

The first hour was really fun for me, but from the second hour onward, I was already living life at the speed of five WTFs per minute. I lost count of the times I asked myself "Why am I doing this again?"

It was cold and dark and at some point I got hungry (homeless feels, yo!) but I had to keep going otherwise I'd be left behind. I tried my best to stick close to the tour guide; I was really stepping on whatever she's stepping on. I even tried to start a smalltalk with her to prevent myself from cursing. Ascending the mountain felt like an endless torture for my tiny feet, short legs and scarred lungs. At some point, Jeff had to carry my backpack for me. I couldn't have gotten out alive if he wasn't walking right behind me most of the time. Taking breaks in between was necessary. I realized that it really is possible to do hard things as long as you take time to catch your breath, hydrate and stretch. We can't go back halfway through the trek. So, I had to suck it up and keep moving forward. 

I was physically drained after about 11 hours of hiking (back and forth) but we made it back to the starting point alive. Sore and barely moving, but alive. I guess we can apply the 'bamboo mentality' in here. No matter how strong the wind blows, after quite sometime, the bamboo would get back to its original state no matter how low it goes or how close it gets to the ground. I think we should be like that. If we keep on taking new challenges and constantly step out of our comfort zone, we would probably develop resilience against life's heavy blows. Bend but don't break! 

#3 Being decisive

I'm the type of person who would literally flip a coin if I can't make up my mind. Other times, I would look for 'signs' before I do something. I like to leave it up to fate or destiny. Sometimes, we just want to follow someone else's lead and go with the flow. Well, that's not exactly wrong but you know what? We were given free will and I think it is our job to use that more often. We were given brains and instinct so we can decide for ourselves and maybe go somewhere safe in the face of danger.

On our way back to the starting point, my friend and I increased our pace and kept our distance from the pack so we can talk about more serious shits. It was fun because we rarely get an assload of time to talk face to face these days. We just rely on Facebook/Messenger most of the time. Anyway, while we were in the middle of our chat, we came across a fork down the trail, which is exactly what we need that time - another WTF moment! My wobbly legs searched for a good spot to rest. We decided to take a break right there and just wait for the tour guide and the others. Though we were having fun catching up, the sun's rays, rumbling tummies and our exhausted bodies forced us to get off our asses and start moving again. We have to get back to the starting point, have lunch, pack our stuff and head back to the city - we have to pick a trail if we want to keep moving forward and do all those things that we have to do. 

Turns out, both those trails lead to the same route anyway! We wouldn't know about that if we did not make a conscious decision to get up and keep moving. Sometimes, it's acceptable to take your time or sit something out. If you are trying to heal or trying to recover, that may be the best thing to do, but if you are aiming for progress, you need to make a decision before it manifests.

#4 Patience

Of all the virtues in the world, this is the hardest for me to acquire. My impatience plus my inability to focus most of the time are great recipes for disaster, I know! Living in a time wherein "instant everything" is the norm, you can't blame people like me for learning how to spell impatience using just our brows and lips. We were raised in a time wherein everything is edible if you simply add hot water or heat it in the oven for about a minute or two. We can shop while we are in our pajamas and we pay bills without having to queue. The world is almost literally on the tip of our fingers. We hate to wait! 

Walking up a mountain for hours is not something you can just quit from halfway through the journey. You either finish it or don't start at all. I've experienced an avalanche of emotions on our way up and going back down. I wanted to cry, I wanted to give up, I wanted to scream, I wanted to keep quiet, I wanted to sing out loud, I wanted to brag and at some point I wanted to go home. It's amazing how I felt all those emotions almost in one go. And I had to deal with the crazy switching of emotions while keeping a stable pace. The trail seemed endless! No matter how many times we check the time, it felt like we were not going to make it to the summit and that the darkness could stretch to eternity. (Insert dramatic song here!)

I am no longer used to this - waiting and suffering for a long time to get something or go somewhere. However, hiking helped me to get back to the real world wherein everything takes time and everything must go through a process. It was one of the most humanizing experience I've ever had. I had to wait for a looooong time and endure physical discomforts before I can see the breathtaking sunrise from the summit. And it was all worth it! That leads me to my last realization...

#5 Enjoying the view

On our way up to Mt. Pulag, we were solely focused on our steps making sure that we're staying on that single file and that we won't fall off the cliff. We started trekking at 1 AM - the entire place was pitch black! We're only relying on the tour guide's instructions and the signs along the trail. There were three beginners from that group of ten; I am one of them! I had no idea what I said 'yes' to but, I am proud to say that my daily walks to and from the office finally paid off. But still, walking up a mountain and walking up on a high street are two worlds apart. I had to catch my breath every time we go through steep, slippery and rocky part. It was the most emotional walk I've ever had! On our way back, it was sort of a different story. Since it was already broad daylight, we finally had the chance to see what we missed on our way up. Yeah, I'm used to seeing mountains while I was living and working in Baguio, but I've never seen it from Mt. Pulag. It was a whole new world up there! (Minus the magic carpet!)

As I write this post, I'm still trying to remember what I felt 5 minutes before reaching the summit and what I felt while I was at the summit. It's indescribable! Maybe I was a bit more confident (but still a bit scared) as we descend the mountain. Why? Because after doing an epic shit, you have the privilege to feel that power within you that only you can gauge and that you can keep for the rest of your life. Yes, I also felt exhausted, sore and not to mention hungry on our way back to the starting point, but when I took a few minutes to appreciate the mountains, fresh air and pine trees around me, I can only think of one word - euphoria!

Most of the time, when we are in pain, all we can focus on is that horrible, agonizing pain that's keeping us down. It's normal to cry, frown, whine, scream, kick something or mentally punch someone. But while you're at it, while you are treading through some of life's greatest blows, I urge you to take your time to look around you. Take a good look at what's going on around you and I'm pretty sure there is at least ONE thing that would take your mind off of whatever it is that's bothering or hurting you. Find that magical moment wherein you'll forget about absolutely everything and just focus on whatever it is that fills up your soul. Treasure that!

There's actually so much more to say about this trip, but I have to end it here for now. I will be writing probably two more posts featuring The Tough Hikers - the ones who made this hike possible and easy for a beginner like me. I would like to end this post with some of the photos from the summit. I hope you guys learned something from this! 

Have you tried hiking before? Or have you been hiking for quite sometime now? If so, I would like to hear something from you! Care to share some tips in the comment section below? 


  1. Nice one! You did a good job! hahahahaha :) Well, I've been a member of a mountaineering group and went to different mountains (some of them are not that famous :)) I always find myself fulfilled when I hear stories about "hiking". And this is one of the things I'd like to do again. Despite the fact that it's tiring since you have to carry a heavy pack while pulling and pushing yourself up, it's a relaxing activity. Your line "Maybe I was a bit more confident (but still a bit scared) as we descend the mountain." is one important part of realization. It must be helpful to develop one's self-confidence that covers various issues like problem-solving, decision making, etc. :) Aside from preparedness and being goal-oriented (to reach the top :)), it lets us witness and appreciate the beauty of the nature. It's good to bring gadgets for taking photos but forget about using them for other purposes to focus on what you have to see and what you need to do. Interesting photos, Cyndrel!Let's do it together next time!

    1. Thanks duuuuude! I really missed Baguio, the pine trees, the mountains! Urgh! The fresh air! I just had enough of the toxic city life but I'm back on my feet, hehe! I actually couldn't believe I did this! While I was packing my stuff, even a few hours before the hike, I was filled with self-doubts! Hahaha~ Next time, I'm planning on hiking mountains near Manila. It's pretty tough to set a trip because of our schedule, but if we can pull it off, why not! :D Thanks for the comment again!!!


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