Travel

13 Hours

I haven’t been to a lot of mountains, and of the few that I’ve climbed (Pico De Loro, Daraitan, Maculot), Cinco Picos in Zambales has got to be the most scenic and most memorable.

There was a two-day work break last November due to the APEC Summit here in Manila, and so my officemates and I went on a hike and beach trip to Zambales. The destination was Puerto Silanguin but instead of driving to San Antonio and taking a boat to the cove, we decided to do a traverse trek passing through Cinco Picos.

13 hours. That was how long it took us to reach Silanguin. I’ve completed other climbs in six hours (eight hours maximum) so this one was intense — and emotional, and tiring, and draining. We had to hurdle several challenges that really tested our mental and emotional strength but those things are what made this climb my most favorite, by far.

We started early, at around 4:30AM, and the millions of stars that filled the early dawn sky were majestic. We noticed early on that there were a lot of talahib in the trail, but didn’t really care much because we were off to a fresh start and the stars were really just so beautiful.

By 6 in the morning we were already having breakfast at a lovely spot by the foot of the mountains. Imagine sitting on a rock, eating a sandwich, and looking at hills of green and brown that invite you with their splendor. Yup, it was pretty fantastic.

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All smiles. We still didn’t know what lay ahead.

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We hiked and hiked and hiked and along the way we kept passing through small streams that mixed water and mud. Good thing I was wearing semi-sandals for hiking shoes and the cold water proved to be refreshing. Somewhere along the way though, I began to ask, “Malayo pa ba?

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Mukhang malayo pa nga.

I didn’t expect the climb to take forever and so by 10 in the morning, I was already starting to wonder how far we are from the camp site (the point by which we’ll descend going to Silanguin). We’ve been hiking for 6 hours already and still no sign of even a small peak. The talahib along the trail also began to irritate a couple of us (including me) because they were tall and thorny and some even began to scratch my lower legs.

We’ve been climbing to cloudy skies all morning but by the time we started our ascent to the camp site, they already showed signs of spitting out rain. Droplets began to pour and so we hurried, with the thick, thorny bushes and all.

We stopped by a tree somewhere, and since it was already a downpour, the rest of us who didn’t waterproof our bags had to make do with the garbage bags so our stuff won’t get wet. Mine ended up getting a little drenched eventually, while we soldiered on through the rain.

The rain continued to pour and at this point, everyone was just so eager to at least reach the camp site. The overcast skies spilled upon us and everyone was no longer happy with the climb that was already taking close to 8 hours. Add to that the fact that we were all carrying heavy bags — some of my officemates even had a ton because their bags contained all our food, water, and tents.

The final ascent to the camp site was depressing because it was raining, our spirits were down, and we were all just tired. The cloudy skies didn’t afford us to see the view (which would’ve been spectacular) and by the time we reached the camp site, everyone was just in a bad mood.

It was cold, we were hungry, and we all just want to lie down and finish it already. But we still had a long way to go to Silanguin. We were just halfway done.

So after what passed off as lunch (sandwiches, chips, and what have you), we started our trek down to Puerto Silanguin. The sun was up by this time and it’s funny how the turn of weather also spelled a turn in all of our dispositions — everyone was sunny and cheerful again!

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The beach! It’s there!!!

Not long after getting re-energized by the blazing heat of the sun, one of us slipped and got a sprain. Uh-oh. Another setback. Add to that the scorching heat which drained our energy faster than anything else can.

As water was running out, mental and emotional fuel were running out too. We kept on stopping every 10 to 15 minutes to restock on fluids. I even found myself napping on a big boulder by one of the rivers just to regain a little strength. At this point, we were all just too exhausted and the reappearance of the thick, thorny bushes didn’t help either. (I was already cursing them.)

When you’ve been climbing for close to 12 hours, it will definitely take its toll. Past climbs have taught me that my knees aren’t exactly the strongest and my back was beginning to ache like hell. We don’t know for how long we can still keep walking with a heavy load and the heat and pressure of making it to the cove before dark all added to our dour mood by 4PM.

I could already notice the guide picking up the pace since we cannot, at all costs, be still far in the trail by the time dusk sets in. It was at this point that I think I lost it and began to question why the hell I was doing all of it in the first place —

When we could’ve just taken the damn boat.

I’ve never experienced having to control my emotions as much as I did during that climb when I willed myself to walk even if I felt like my legs will get detached anytime. My legs were just too painful, my spirit broken, and my body drained — I’m like an iPhone running on low power mode at 1% battery. It could be any minute that I might cry or whatever shit.

And then after walking, walking, and more walking, we saw a carabao. A MOTHER FREAKIN CARABAO. And that’s when I knew that we were near Silanguin. Praised be the heavens!

When I finally saw a speck of the beach, it was when I was filled with overwhelming emotions. WE MADE IT. WE MADE IT!!! I was on the tail end of the hiking group and looking back from where we came from made the moment even sweeter and filled me with pride and joy with what we have accomplished.

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Con’s bear Tedric was so glad he made it.

A 13-hour hike, baby!

And then there it was, the imposing sunset that enraptured me so much I began to cry. Hahahaha. Looking at the sunset, the beach, the rocks, the boat, and feeling the sand in my toes after a punishing 13-hour hike made me realize how that hell of a hike was so worth it.

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A true #nofilter beauty.

After a few minutes of taking it all in and just reveling in all of the scene’s beauty, we walked and rode a boat going to the place where we’ll be spending the night. After a nap, a good, real meal, a bath, swathes of Salonpas, stretching, and housekeeping,  we were finally able to relax. We even had bonfire and s’mores before sleeping!

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We’re alive — except for Bea who was already knocked out in the tent. 😛

I didn’t mind the uncomfortable surface we slept on that evening because everything was just a welcome departure from the difficult encounters we had in the mountains. Plus you know, when you’ve finally rid yourself of all the stench and sweat for the day, your mood just becomes instantly lighter.

The following morning was spent enjoying the beach, which was 10 times more alluring because it was practically inhabited. We weren’t exactly alone, but it felt like it, and it was wonderful. We ate, swam, spent time under the sun, and I tell you, there are a few things in life more glorious than sitting in the sand, looking at an amazing view, while sipping some coffee.

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The gorgeous vistas we’ve seen definitely made this trip worthwhile, but what made it memorable were all the things we had to go through to see them. That cliche they say about it being about the journey, and not the destination, may be true after all. Although I won’t mind just riding the boat next time.

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(Note: Half of our group is composed of first-time climbers and the other half aren’t exactly mountain masters thus, the 13 hours.)

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