“Hey Brenna!” a friend called, a few sharp, limestone rocks below me.
“Yeah?” I called back.
“So…do you regret climbing up?” he says, a smirk in his voice.
I turned around, clinging to the sharp rocks, letting its rugged corners sink into my skin as I leaned over to look at my friend.
I grin, steadying my footing and wiped my long sleeve over my sweat, literally raining over my forehead.
“Ugh,” I pause, in between heavy breaths, “get back to me in a few minutes, okay? When I reach the top.”
On the morning of a beautiful Sunday, slightly cloudy, with blue skies peaking slowly at the horizon, my friends and I decided to climb the cliffs of Mt. Taraw, one of the limestone mountains in El Nido.
Mt. Taraw was located right at the corner of El Nido town and according to those who’ve climbed it, the top gives a full view overhead of El Nido at its glory.
As someone who’s too lazy to wake up in the morning just to put myself in sweat and misery, it was a miracle that I was able to force myself to climb out of my airconditioned bedroom for this one.
Funny thing too, because we had a huge drinking party the night before and I was slightly hangover.
But there I was, at 6am in my P100 slippers (I didn’t really want to end up breaking or putting holes into my Havaianas, fresh a gift from Biggs Diner last July) and at my usual, quiet hungover stage.
We found our guide and a foreigner friend who was going to climb with us.
By 6.30am, we were at the jump off point of Mt. Taraw.
“So, guys, this is the start of the climb,” Ricniel, our guide, says.
I look at it, my eyes glazed from sleep.
Looks easy, my brain registered at the slightly muddy rock formation where the start was supposed to be. It did look easy, not at all that sharp like the one in Caramoan.
Half an hour later, I sat on one of the rocks, my butt slightly pierced by the jagged edges, but I didn’t care. I needed a drink. I was parched. My hands hurt from the many edges it had to hold onto for dear life. My leg muscles were about to reach its peak of exercise.
A soft breeze blew from beyond the trees that cowered over the limestone cliffs and rocks that we were climbing. It felt like heaven, over the heat and sweat of the climb.
Pretty easy. PRETTY EASY?! I was sweating like Signal No. 4 storm in Manila! Literally dripping from my eyebrows, down to my equally-oiled neck. I could give habagat a run for its rain!
“So, where to next?” I ask the guide.
“There,” he says pointing to what looked like a wall of rocks to me.
“Are you serious?” I react, a little strongly, a half smirk, half panic over my tone.
One of my friends went ahead. He climbed up easily, his long legs reaching the first rugged step.
“Ugh. Could you make your steps a little shorter, please?” I complain, my short legs barely reaching halfway.
But I reach out, onto the jagged hooks, allowing its rough piercings to scratch onto my palm as I gave it pressure once I pulled myself up. I made the first step up. And continued climbing up the wall.
After about an hour or less, I heard my friend cry triumphantly and I knew we were near.
As I crossed another platform of jagged vertical limestone rocks and into a clearing, I caught sight of it.
The boats. The beautiful blue-green waters. The cream sands. The silhouette of the karst and limestone islands beyond the horizon.
It was magnificent.
“F^ck. It’s worth it,” I say under my breath.
And I climbed up the summit easily, all the pain, the sweat and the hardship gone as I take in the fresh air, the breathtaking view and the accomplishment.