I had many plans for my birthday. In fact, I was invited to many, many adventurous events for March 5 and 6 which just happens to fall on a Saturday and a Sunday that happened to be my birthday. I had so many plans, I wanted to join the Trippers for Gulugod Baboy and diving in Anilao, I was invited to a Tubing trip in Montalban, I had a lot of choices.
I was sure though that I wanted to spend my birthday with my family so as much as I wanted to skirt my way to the Gulugod Baboy climb, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. So instead, I made plans with Gervic and Darwin about visiting Wawa Dam on Saturday, March 5, just a day hike so I can spend my real birthday with my family. I had a back up plan for this too, just in case the Wawa Dam event didn’t push through I planned to go to Mt. Tagapo for a solo climb.
With all my plans made, none of them happened. I had a special exams scheduled on March 6 – my birthday! I was taking an exam on my birthday, how lame was that! And so that was how I spent my birthday weekend. LAME!
So I was dying to get out. Then, on an impulsive note, I made quick plans to day hike Mt. Tagapo, on the evening of Friday, March 19, 2011. I made plans with a friend who I knew wanted to climb as well and we agreed to meet up at 5am in Big R Junction.
The next morning, I was already up at 3am. I was ready and excited.
I was at Big R Junction, early 5am in the morning, and it was still very dark. Unfortunately, my hike-mate wasn’t there. I’m not the one to wait and the boat in Binangonan was leaving at 6am. I couldn’t miss it. I was mad at my friend, but I couldn’t wait around. I boarded a jeep to Binangonan and paid P28 to the port. The ride to the port was long, took about 30 minutes. I was feeling lonely and angry because my friend had stood me up – let alone, let me wait around at 5am in Junction (which wasn’t a very safe place, either), although I couldn’t help feeling that excitement build in me again. I decided I would push through the climb. Even if I was alone. It was going to be my first solo climb! Finally, I was going to get one of my many birthday wishes. So I admit, I had something to be thankful for, even if what my friend did was really unappreciated (my friend was a guy, and he’s usually nice so I didn’t expect this from him).
I arrived at the port at a few minutes before 6am. Whew. And I thought I was going to be late. I asked around for the boat going to Janosa and some really nice men pointed me to a big boat that was loading a lot of stuff into the boat. I took a seat in the boat and waited. The waiting took long, about 30 minutes and just as the boat was pulling off the dock, I received a text from my friend who explained he had overslept. I was willing to let him follow but I wasn’t going to wait. My blood was starting to rise again.
Beforehand, I had read in www.pinoymountaineer.com the page about Mt. Tagapo and I knew that there were some hikers who would be hiking the same day. I was hoping I’d get to go with a few of them. I had seen some people who were dressed like they’d be hiking board the boat but I didn’t talk to them, out of shyness and out of the fact that I may just be assuming.
The boat ride to Brgy. Janosa was a very relaxing experience. I loved every minute of it, the sound of soft water as the boat brushed through, the boat’s engine roaring, the sound of birds and just the cool morning breeze. It was a long ride, about an hour or so because we had to stop over other barangays as well. I was able to talk to a local who was going back to her home in Janosa that day. I asked her which one was Janosa and she said I could just follow her because she was headed that way as well. We talked for awhile, but then the cool breeze was driving everyone sleepy so we both fell silent and I was able to doze a bit.
Finally, we arrived at Janosa and I paid P30 for the boat ride. I was nervous and I saw the men who were dressed to hike, climb out of the boat as well. I knew they were company. They headed for the barangay hall first and signed up with Ka-Eddie and I followed behind. I couldn’t tell what they were thinking but I don’t think they expected me to be alone. Ka-Eddie introduced us, I paid P20 for registration fee and signed my name.
I got a chance to talk with the Setneconni Mountaineers, although there were only three of them there. We headed to Ka-Eddie’s house where he let us use his CR and he showed us some posters of other mountaineers who annually climb Mt. Tagapo. He introduced Sir Archie to us and then I told him I had a friend who was supposed to follow. He said he’ll wait around for my friend. I thanked him and we started off. Mind you, I’m not a mountaineer, just a climber and an adventure seeker so hiking and mountains were practically new to me.
We started off. The trail in Mt. Tagapo can get a little confusing so a guide is a must. We were lead up by Sir Archie and the trail was much harder than that in Mt. Taal where the trail was clear.
The path in Mt. Tagapo was covered with grass, plants, vines, rocks and the trail also runs through the side of cliffs that spelled “DANGER ZONE”.
The trail was also very steep. There were times when I literally had to reach up and push myself just to get a step higher. By then, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. I wasn’t even taking many pictures anymore like the Setneconni Mountaineers who stop for awhile for pictures. I was sweating like hell and my blood was running high with every text I got from my friend who was asking me to wait for him.
We made a few pauses but the longest we made was in a steep clearing that opened into a cliff. The view was already amazing. I could see the lake from there. It was beautiful. Every time I would be this close to giving up, all I had to do was look back and see what I had climbed and I was ready to climb even higher.
We took some pictures, they did anyway and then headed off again. Sir Phil of the Setneconni Mountaineers gave me some trail food.
I took a bite and we headed off again. Our next stopover was longer and I paused awhile to drink water. Thank God I had bought a 1L bottle of water which I proved was not enough if I was climbing a different mountain. We spent longer in this pause, but this was because we were about to enter the third part of the climb – the steeper hikes.
While the first part was considered easy with less rocks and an easier trail, the second part included dangerous cliffs and hurtful vines that I didn’t notice until the end of the climb, the third part was the last part before getting to the camping area. It was a really steep hike, Sir Archie had to help me up at times and I was half scared I’d fall or slip or slide back down. The mountaineers were behind me and I didn’t want to fall on them or anything. However, they were very courteous to stay behind me just to guide me if something happened.
After about 10 minutes, we reached a clearing and I could finally see the summit. Oh, it was beautiful. And the feeling, was absolutely amazing. I made my first solo climb! Mind over matter, true. I really thought I wouldn’t make it, but I did.
From where we stood, I could see the area that was burnt during the grassfire in early March. Such a sad tragedy.
We headed to the camping area to put down our bags. One side of the summit was burnt; you could see the grass with dead yellow colors and burnt floors. However, on the other side, was healthy growing grass that blew simultaneously along with the wind, creating a beautiful view for us nature lovers. It was amazing. We didn’t waste much time, we just put down our bags, carried along our water bottles and we headed up to the summit.
The trail to the summit was easier to spot, however, it was a really, really steep climb. This time, there were no rocks to hold on to or trees to balance you or help you up. I had to use a lot of leg power to help me up. I was so excited to get to the summit that I dismissed the fact that my legs would probably ache after.
Once we reached the summit, I was in awe.
At the summit of Mt. Tagapo, there is a 360 degree view of Talim Island and the Laguna Lake. Not only that, the wind was so strong that I was afraid of being blown away, I just didn’t admit to it.
The summit area was pretty small, only a few people could probably stay on it for some time. There was a hole or an open pit at the summit, and somewhere along the way that had been a mining area many years ago. Unfortunately, no one’s been down there in years and the last was Sir Archie. We took a lot of pictures, even if it was a cloudy day and we couldn’t see much of other mountains that can be usually spotted on the peak.
We did see the Laguna Lake, a bit of Mt. Sembrano and only a bit of Makati’s skyline. We couldn’t see much of others because of the clouds.
We stayed at the peak for about 30 minutes or so, enjoying the view, taking pictures, talking and just taking in the summit.
Then we headed down, where I was even scared because I had no idea how I was supposed to go down such a steep hill. I had visions in my mind to do an egg roll.
Sir Phil ran all the way, but he was wearing hiking shoes, which is unfair compared to my Tribu sandals. I made my way down, slowly with Sir Melo and Sir Ariz behind me. We rested again at the camping area for lunch.
We shared lunch together, thank goodness because my friend was supposed to bring sausages and I was supposed to bring rice. I ended up bringing only rice and shared with Setneconni Mountaineers their food. We chatted a bit with Sir Archie and laughed with his stories about other mountaineers and the danger that put half of the summit in fire.
After cleaning up, remember the mountaineering creed – “Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints,” we made sure to clean up well and put everything back into our backpacks. We rested again before descending Mt. Tagapo.
I found that my climb up was easier than my climb down. It was a really steep path getting down the mountain and I even wondered how I got up in the first place. I slipped twice and found it hard to use rocks as stepping stones. My new-found friends taught me to walk sideways if I found it hard to go down.
Back at the Janosa Hall, Sir Archie got us chairs and drinks to cool down. He even asked his son or daughter, I think to get us water if we wanted to clean up. I didn’t take a bath but I cleaned up and changed clothes. I was grateful for the drinks and the very kind acceptance into their home. We asked Sir Archie how much was their guide fee, they told us, that there was none; just any donation would be fine. We gave them P300 (we read in www.pinoymountaineer.com), thanked them again and they had a boat readied for us to take us back to Binangonan port.
It was a great day. My friend didn’t follow (the boat wouldn’t leave early enough), but I definitely had a great time meeting a great group of people.
It took us about 1hr and 45 minutes to go up and about the same time going down.
This was my official birthday climb, happened on March 19, 2011 with the Setneconni Mountaineers.
I was able to make my first solo climb, meet great people and do an actual climb – it was adventure.
Thank you to Sir Eddie and Sir Archie for their utmost hospitality and the mountaineers that accompanied me even if I was a complete stranger.
When you’re climbing a mountain, it is not always the summit that will make up the destination – it’s the journey to the summit.
This climb up to Mt. Tagapo’s summit gave me strength to believe in myself despite my asthma, an experience that I will never forget, realization that I am strong enough to climb and friends that I would love to climb again with someday.
This is my entry to the December Pinoy Travel Blog Carnival to be hosted by Kara Santos of Travel Up.