I do not know how many of us include climbing the country’s tallest peak, part of our respective bucket lists. Well, I do. I grew that strong desire to climb the Philippines’ tallest volcano, Mount Apo. And well, just a month ago, I made it to the top.
Mount Apo is located in southern Mindanao, Philippines. Known to be the highest point in the country, it is 9, 692 feet tall, making the treks quite long, and certainly exhausting. My dad, perplexed about my plan, asked me what got into me why i decided to climb the mountain. These, I let my dad understand : firstly, I want to prove that there’s more in Mount Apo other than the way I see her in the Philippine postcards; secondly, just like the intentions of the pilgrimage, I thought of this climb as a personal and spiritual sojourn.
So, off i went along with other 11 friends- six of them were first-time climbers, and the others have been going to and fro the volcano. To the latter, the experience itself never fails to nourish the mountaineers’ hearts, so they keep coming back to see Apo.
We were in the wild for four days. We, carrying our huge backpacks, went up and down the steep slopes and cliffs, surmounted the rockies and boulders, balanced our body weights so as not to fall into the ravines, and held on to the trees’ roots or bushes, at least, for dear life. We were drenched by heavy rains but there was no stopping the trek till we reached the destination. We slipped in the mud, sustained bruises and cuts, and became somewhat unkempt for that time being. It was a risky venture especially for amateur climbers like us. Aside from the challenge of the changing weather and the physical exhaustion per se, the terrains were somehow treacherous . One wrong move, and it can cause someone his life.
We found shelter in our tents. We drank the water we chanced upon in the rivers and creeks. There was no a la carte preparation for our meals, not even nice mattresses where we could sleep. Basically, it was a no-fancy-four-day-kind-of-life. But it was there that we realized that we can still be happy in poverty and deprivation of technology. It was fun-filled four days, and just when we thought we would not be able to survive without facebook-ing, BBM-ing, or Tweet-ing, we lived past them all. i was able to talk to people and had good conversations with them, face to face, without phone beeps and rings distracting. Oh, did I ever feel a real social being again, so human.
And as to this climb as a personal sojourn, I was blissful for having made it to the peak. I conquered the mountain and I conquered myself. Climbing a mountain is actually no different from making do of my life. There were instances that I wanted to give up, but the thought of what-might-be-there-at-the-peak just gave me the drive to take more steps, and go beyond the physical exhaustion. I endured for my dream. There were instances when we slipped, fell, and rolled over- some botches we got into, but then we all managed to laugh about the bloopers, stood up again, and went on stride. We really cannot be so serious about the climb, more so with life. Some bad steps can really hurt us just before we know it, but then again, we still can redeem ourselves, if we choose to.
Reaching the peak put me in the state of euphoria. i guess this has been what my mountaineer friends have been telling me: a peculiar fulfillment. The summit is overlooking the vast lands of Mindanao, and its peninsula. I was above the clouds already, freshest wind kissing my face, and blue skies reaching out to me. I was truly mesmerized by God’s creation, and was downrightly humbled because I was able to see His designs.
As I was downward-sloping, I bore that heart filled with joy. For one, it is my personal triumph to conquer the mountain. I conquered my fear of heights, my fear of the unknown, and my fear to shun away from my comfort zones. Second, I was taught by my experience to appreciate the things around me- the flowers, the greens, the fauna, the hills, the lakes, and even the friendly faces of the natives in the mountains- which have gone unnoticed because of an overwhelming career demands or lifestyle fads.
And on a personal note, i told myself that since i made it to Mt. Apo, I can no more be afraid to conquer greater heights, literally or figuratively speaking. Now, I am not saying that you all go and climb the highest peak to experience the same thing I did. If you can, do try. If not, that’s okay, but just live the essence of enduring for something greater than life- your dream, or someone else’s.
And by the way, I’ve proven to myself that the Mount Apo image we see in the postcard is far too bare that the real beauty unfolded when I was there.