If walking on the Great Wall was the most epic thing I did in my 20's, I'm guessing this would be the most epic thing I'll remember about my 30's. I never actually imagined I could do it, until I did. When I was living and working in Baguio, the furthest I've been was the Cafe in the Sky. From there, I was already able to see clouds slightly lower than where I was standing. I thought to myself that that was enough - I didn't have to hike Mt. Pulag in order to see that beautiful sea of clouds.

I also never thought that peer pressure could still get to me at the age of thirty, but it did! Haha! Just kidding! Seriously, I am really grateful for my friend, Jeff who insisted that I hike this majestic place though he knew I was a beginner.

We planned about this hike sometime in May and we had to wait for more than a month before it finally materialized into what you can see now in the photos. The mental preparation for me was quite tough. From the moment I started packing my bags up until the last hour before the hike, there was a huge question mark on top pf my head - CAN I REALLY DO THIS?

We left Manila the night of July 5th, we met the other joiners/hikers somewhere around Quezon Avenue MRT station. We just slept in the van for few hours and the next thing I knew, we were at our first stopover. The others had rice meals, my friend and I just had noodles since we already had some midnight snacks at McDonald's before the trip. I dozed off the moment the van started rolling again. The next thing I knew, we were in Baguio! Woohoo!

Those few hours in Baguio brought back good memories. It was my home once upon a time and I totally missed the pines, the cold temperature that calms every living shit out of me, the simple life and the awesome mountain views. I actually wanted to stay there longer, visit my old dorm and my former co-workers but we had to get going. It took us a few more hours to reach the jump-off place. We also had to get medical certificates, register and attend a quick seminar about hiking Mt. Pulag. The seminar was very informative and the video that they showed us was pretty much like an epic trailer for what we're about to do. 

Something horrible actually happened on our way up there. Though I really tried my best not to, for the first time in a long time, I threw up in a moving vehicle. So gross! I know! The driver was trying to make up for the hours he lost. He wasn't able to make it to our call time the night before, so, he tried to even things out by driving like he's auditioning for the Fast and Furious...along a zigzag road!

I actually thought we were going to sleep in tents before we start hiking but I'm glad that we didn't because boy it was freaking cold up there! We rented rooms at one of the 'home stay' places. I almost passed out the moment we got there. I was still weak from throwing up and my back hurts from the long hours of sitting in the van. All I really wanted to do was curl up in bed.

After sleeping for a few hours, I heard the others calling us for dinner. After dinner and chitchats, we only had about one more hour to rest before the hike.

I set my alarm at 11 PM on July 6th, we were supposed to start hiking at 1 AM on July 7th. I summoned all the nerves I have left to take a freezing shower that left my hands numb for minutes. It was probably one of the bravest things I've ever done in my life. It helped me to get over my drowsiness somehow and it gave me more time to internalize what I was supposed to do. I wore three layers of clothes for my upper body, and a legging underneath my denim jeans for the bottom part. I didn't think I can stand the cold wearing just those pair of leggings.

When we started putting on our thermal jackets, gloves and bonnets, that's when it finally hit me - THIS SHIT IS GOING TO HAPPEN, FOR REAL!

And so the adventure begins...

There were ten of us in our group. We started trekking at around 1 AM, with the tour guide right ahead of us. She told us to stick with the single file and be careful of the cliffs. I tried to keep up with her pace, I made sure that she's only a few steps ahead of me. The first hour was fun, honestly. The second, however, was the start of my emotional roller coaster. 

I started asking myself what exactly was I doing. At around 3 AM, I am usually taking a shower, getting ready for work, but that time, I was in a totally different reality. I was hiking the third highest peak in our country, with people I just met a little over 24 hours ago. WHAT IS GOING ON?!

I'm in pain, I'm tired, I'm thirsty and at some point maybe a little bit sleepy. I couldn't see well through my foggy glasses, my legs hurt and my backpack's quite heavy. I'm exhausted and I find it kinda hard to breathe especially when we go through some steep, rocky part of the trail. I wanted to lie down, no, I wanted to turn around and go back to where we started and be safe, warm and comfortable again. These were my thoughts the whole time we were hiking in the dark. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who felt these emotions. It was not all bad though. I do have some favorite parts, like when I heard the sound of the natural spring water and when the sky was starting to light up and we didn't have to use the flashlight anymore. We'd take 3 to 5 minute breaks now and then, we have to make sure everyone is within our sight. We also stopped for water breaks and Jelly Ace moments, and of course, to take photos!

After 5 and a half hours of trek, we finally reached the summit.

I almost cried five minutes before reaching the summit. I actually thought for a moment there that I couldn't make it to the top. I was at my limit, or so I thought. I was just simply moving one leg in front of the other. They were wobbly, but they were moving. I was the fourth from our group to reach the summit. And though I know I was so close to giving up, when I saw the sign that says 'Welcome Mt. Pulag', I forgot every single rant I've blurted out all the way up there. I literally hugged the sign with a victorious smile on my face. I couldn't really explain it, but good thing Jeff was able to capture it!

The sunrise was breathtaking from the summit and I couldn't believe I was seeing it with my own eyes. And all the negativity that I probably brought me with me all the way up there were washed away by every single ray of sun that hit my face. I was literally thousands of miles away from the toxic city life. I was in a place that knows nothing about my past nor my future. 

Once again, I was living in the moment! 

It might not happen again, but at that moment, I engraved in my mind that I was standing right there, on top of that mountain, living and breathing the best way I can. 

We stayed there for about an hour, patiently waiting for the clearing so we can get good shots. We had some snacks, took videos, the other girls danced, I froze at some point, and when the cold got too much for us to bear, we decided to descend. It was a different story heading back down. It was equally tiring but, this time, we got to enjoy the majestic view that we missed on the way up. 

We took more photos and though it was not recommended by the tour guide, we kinda went on our own pacing all the way back to the starting point. We were no longer in a single file, we started trekking yards apart from each other and at some point, my friend and I even got lost. 

Once again, our patience was put to test. I had no idea we have walked THAT far going there. We took more pauses on our descent I guess, since the heat of the sun has been sucking up most of our remaining energy. It also gave me some time to vlog since the lighting was better and my hair was drier.

The first thing I did when we got back to the starting point was to crash on the bed. My legs finally gave up and I found it really hard to move, so, I just laid there for minutes while I check out the photos and videos we took that day. I felt like every single ligament inside my body was stretched during that 11-hour hike. Needless to say, I was in pain...good kind of pain! You can just imagine that arrogant smile on my face while I was browsing our photos. I couldn't wait to show them to my friends and to everyone who never thought I would come out alive after that event.

I just tried to sleep on our way back to the city, well, most of us did. It took us several hours and a couple of stopovers but we got back to Manila safely. I have no idea when I could travel with the Tough Hikers again since I have a very weird schedule, but all I can say is that I will never forget that day, that mountain and that feeling that I felt while I was hiking with them. Getting on top of that mountain made me realize that it really is possible to do hard things as long as you keep your focus, if you stay strong and if you extend your patience. It also made me realize that there is so much more to life than self-pity and self-doubt. Realizing how big this world really is made irrelevant shits so small. All you can really focus on is how to get through whatever it is that's trying to break you or slow you down. Standing on top the mountain made me feel powerful and humble at the same time, if you know what I mean. I was such an emotional wreck on my way up there, but when I reached the summit, I realized what those physical discomfort and indescribable emotions were for. It changed me in so many ways

I would really love to go hiking again but next time, I would probably just go somewhere near the city. If you're living in the Philippines and if you would like to try hiking or traveling around the country too, you might want to contact The Tough Hikers. Check out their page on Facebook or contact the organizers, Ms. Luna Bellarmino and Ms. Sarah May Miranda. 

Here's the vlog version of our hike!


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