Sometimes in our hasty world, we need to slow down, unwind, relax and just be one with nature. That's what I exactly did last weekend with nineteen of my colleagues from work ! JR, our group leader, had been telling us about this not-so-high mountain in San Miguel called Mt. Manalmon. Initially, I was hesitant to go since he has this reputation of downplaying everything ! The first time I climbed with him in Laguna, his "30 minutes more" became 2 hours !!! And his beginner's climb turned in a major climb which led me to climb BAREFOOT(!!!) because my "for-beginner's-climb-only-sandals" succumbed to the treacherous and muddy trails.
Anyways, he had been selling Mt. Manalmon to us with really beautiful pictures of the river which is supposed to be around the place also. When I saw them, I right away bought his stories and with the thought, "To hell with his 30-minutes-more promises".
Ever since I came back from the States, I had been rarin' to go someplace where I can shoot(pictures, I mean). I thought, "This is it !". So come Saturday morning, we were all packed up and ready to go. But I was still drowsy because I attended an overnight get-together party in Pansol, Laguna and I just went back to my apartment to get my things for the climb.
Things didn't go as planned when we met up at the Baliwag Transit Terminal in Cubao. The driver of the jeepney that was supposed to take us directly to San, Miguel Bulacan had a miscommunication(darn cellphones!) with our group leader. He waited for us alright... at the Baliwag Transit Terminal... but in Baliuag, Bulacan !!! So we took the bus and got as much Zzzz's as I can. Finally, we reached Baliaug and our transpo was there to take us to San Miguel. Then we realized that it was a blessing in disguise that we didn't take the jeep from Cubao. Imagine fitting 20 persons/20 mountain climbing backpacks in one jeepney. What do you get? Numb feet !!! I couldn't feel my legs when we reached the starting point of our climb!
After a few minutes briefing from our MADLUM(the org that was taking care of the mountains there) guides, we proceeded to climb. It was nothing difficult really. What was exhausting was the HEAT ! Being summertime, it must have been about 36ºC or more as we were trekking at 3pm !! It took us only an hour to reach the summit.
Immediately, my tent-mates set up our tents for the night. Another group already set up camp when we got there. Some guys and gals from U.P., I think. I begged off from tent-duties first because I had a sunset to catch. It was exhiralating to be at the summit. You get a 360º view of everything around Bulacan. You could even clearly see Mt. Arayat of Pampanga. So I fiddled my aperture and shutter settings and shot away. After two rolls of film, I called it a day.
Dinner consisted of all the canned goods you normally keep in your cabinet for emergency purposes only. But they're a staple when your mountain climbing and much more, they all taste like gourmet food! Hahaha! After the traditional "tagay-tagay" and everything, everybody went off to sleep... but not so soundly. Sometime around 1am, I was awakened by a grumbling sound. My stomach! And you know what that means. I was frantically groping for a flashlight but couldn't find any. I didn't want to attract attention at first but when the "grumbling" wouldn't stop, I had no recourse but ask for a flashlight from another tent. Which I did. So I did my "thing" and it was a relief. Somehow my stomach was so bummed that I did it two more times that night.
When morning came, I thought I was gonna be the "butt" of jokes(no pun intended). It turned out that most of us also suffered the same fate. We each had our own "survival" stories. Hahahaha! And we each had our own "special place". Hahaha! It was really funny. It turned out that our cooks used water that they got locally. Seemed that boiling the water didn't kill all the bacteria mixed with it. What a way to catch a bum stomach!
Luckily, later in the day most of us felt better. But it was still scary. One "grumble" is all we needed to send us careening to the next available toilet or if not, the next available "special place".
Sunday afternoon, we got back to Manila but not without leaving some "mementos" in Bulacan. It was a good experience though. Never trust local water. Always carry PuriTabs or something. Bring enough mineral water to last the whole trip. And lastly, remember that there's never a perfect climb.
Oh! did I mention that my Nokia 8310 together swam with me in the river? I did. But it's okay now and working fine as before. So grab yourself one. It's definitely waterproof. Hehehe! Later.