My slow walk up Mt. Pulag… (Part 1)

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I had only known about Mt Pulag from facebook photos of people above the clouds, I am not a mountaineer and was not aware that this was the 2nd highest peak in the country.  My interest is getting away with a bunch of friends and what could be farther from the great Manila shithole than climbing a mountain that’s above the clouds.

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The trip was marked for early May, then it moved to end of May and then it moved again to early June. Up until the very last day, I didn’t know much about the details of the trip. I had just gotten back from a US trip and a 12-day film shoot so my mind sort of arrived late as my body was back in town days earlier.  I admit that I just put my utmost trust to my friends Jason Moss, Mylene Dizon and Agot Isidro.  I knew that they would not put me in harms way.  Jason Moss referred to the trek as “banayad”.

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Weeks prior to the trip up Mt Pulag, and the very first day of my movie shoot, we went up the waterfalls in San Juan. It was gorgeous but the trek was deadly for us normal big city folks.  What was described for us as a 30-minute trek took us 2 hours and some of us got sick because of the heat.  It affected our whole 12-day shoot, in both good and bad ways that 2 days after we wrapped our shoot, I had to go back to the waterfalls and take the longer but kinder route and enjoy the falls just to get rid of my trauma.  So the longer route was about an hour and 15minutes and I was exhausted but I enjoyed it. Trauma forgotten.

Cut to me asking how long the trek to Mt Pulag is—“it’s only a 4-hr trek.” BOOM!

Again, you just have to trust your friends.  I followed a short list of things to pack and admittedly packed a little more—2 more shirts, an extra shorts, and being paranoid about my diabetes, packed 3 times the required trail food.  Here lies the problem.

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So we drove up to Baguio, ride a jeep another 2 hours across the mountains and then we begin the trek.  Jason lent me a 45 pound backpack which I estimate would have been easily 50 lbs as I packed it to the brim. 5 liters of water, a heavy tent, winter clothing and lots and lots of trail food enough to feed a small family.

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I remember bringing my pack to the car and telling myself “shit, how the hell am I gonna carry this for 4 hours?!” and then moved on ignoring that most important warning off an inner monologue that could have saved me all the trouble that was about to come.

Lesson 1 learned:  listen to your inner monologue.  Stop, shut up and listen.

Lets put it this way, the trek was, yes they were right, “friendly to say the least”.  It was not at all hard.  We had 10-year old Tomas, son of Mylene and he was fine all through out.  I was dying literally and we had only walked an hour.

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At the first stop, Jason realized that my bad was too heavy so he took out and transferred the tent to his backpack. That’s how defeated I must have looked.  And then we went on, my pack was more manageable. And then his pack became too heavy so we split the tent between us.  But my pack was just too heavy that I remember walking like a grandfather taking one step at a time literally and we weren’t even half way. I was saying to myself, how the hell will I get there?  It seemed impossible. Seriously. That’s what was in my head.  My shoulder were in so much pain.  The air was so thin already that I was panting almost the whole way which I think took us a little over 5 hours from the regular four hours.

I constantly asked Jason who stayed with me all through out—if what I was feeling was normal and he would constantly reassure me… that I’m far from being in trouble because I hadn’t stopped cracking jokes and laughing.

I realize that a big part of me is really crazy because I distinctly remember feeling like I was dying and in so much trouble I couldn’t walk anymore but always laughing and having a fun time still.  It’s kind of schizo!

So I wasn’t in trouble.

Lesson 2: my sense of humor kept me alive.

(to be continued)

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