Just when I thought 2016 could not give me more, it did! And it ended my year with a bang!
December 30, 2016 — Our ascend to Mt. Pulag was scheduled to start at 1AM, so as soon as I finished my dinner, I went straight to the tent to attempt having an early sleep at 7PM. That time, it was raining hard, the wind was pushing our tent really hard. With that condition, I only had an hour of sleep (preceded by only 2 hours of sleep the night prior) because of anxiety.
I put on 5 layers — shirt, rashguard, a thick sweater, my main thick jacket (for winter), and a poncho for the rain. I also wore 2 socks, bonnet and gloves. In short, I had the gears to protect me from the cold and the rain.
We then started our ascend from Ranger Camp, 8 KM from the summit, at 3AM after many reconsiderations if the Team would really want to push through with the hike. For perspective, on the way to the Summit from where we started, we had two major stops: in Camp 1 and Camp 2. Compared to the Ranger Camp, the environment to Camp 1 and Campt 2 became more bearable because there was no strong winds because the trail was filled with trees and plants blocking the wind. It even came to a point that I was perspiring and said “Parang ang-init!”.
It was after two and half hours of hike when we reached Camp 2. We took a quick rest, had CR break, and ate my first pack of Sky Flakes. That time, I was already exhausted. I was also feeling extra sleepy that time, that if someone dropped a bed, the team would just have found me sleeping instead of finishing the course. But then, I reminded myself I am already two-thirds done, and I just need to activate the last bit of my energy.
After that, timecheck and it was already 6AM. Mt. Pulag’s environment changed (it has multiple vegetation pattern per elevation bracket) — from a very woody to a grassland. I turned off my headlamp as the sun started to show up and light the surroundings. From trail that can fit two to three persons side-by-side, the trail narrowed to fit just one person. There were no trees anymore, just grass all around! And to make it more ‘different’, the wind freely did its job to blow really hard, making the cold temperature feel double. Just imagine a typhoon!
IT WAS EXTREMELY COLD.
To add, the path was muddy, and there were parts that were knee-high. I even slipped a few times. The trail became a water duct making the path even more difficult.
After a few minutes, I asked the Sweeper Kuy a Felix if I can just go back to Camp 2. My eyes were already seeing but blur, that if I kept on moving, I was sure that I would faint.
“Dito, upo ka muna dito. Hindi malakas ang hangin dito.”
I sat against taller grass, and the Team went ahead. “Kuya, sobrang lamig po. Hindi ko na po talaga kaya. Gaano pa po ba kalayo ang Summit?”
“Isa’t kalahating oras pa. Mas malamig doon.”
“Anlamig-lamig na po talaga.”
Then Kuya Felix removed his white raincoat and gave it to me. He had three layers of raincoats! That time, I resolved that I would give it my last try, because I wanted to show him that his act of kindness will not be ignored, and that I would still push through the trail.
“Kuya, sige po, kapag hindi ko na po talaga kaya, balik na po tayo.”
The rain and the wind never stopped. It even felt like the situation became more challenging every minute. I asked Kuya Felix to stop for three more times. And each stop, I asked Kuya Felix where the Summit was, and he only replied to me one thing: Doon pa! Hindi natin makita kasi maulap.
At 730AM, we stopped, but a bit longer. We were still not that close to the Summit.
Kuya Felix then said, “Gagawa muna ako ng kape.”
Did I just hear that right? He will prepare coffee? In the middle of all these things, he’ll prepare coffee? HOW?
He opened his magical bag and TADA, he brought with him a portable butane burner!
“Subukan ko nga ito sindihin.”
He put it in the ground, covered it with his body, and lit the burner! It worked!
I was struck that time. We were just a few inches off the cliff, and he was working on his coffee.
He took out his aluminum cup, poured water, and started boiling. I could not help but be amused with what was happening. From the very anxious me, I started laughing out of joy.
It did not stop there, he took out Lucky Me (noodles on a cup). On my surprise, he gave up his noodles, and only sipped his coffee. I just ate his breakfast!
That moment was gold. I was having breakfast somewhere on top of Mt. Pulag, with the wind blowing hard, the rain pouring non-stop, and sitting by a cliff. I was energized and inspired that time.
My whole 2016 just flashed through my eyes because of Kuya Felix. I was reminded of my favorite line in Mulan “No matter how strong the wind blows, the mountains will never bow down to it.”
I think a handful of people will agree with me that 2016 was really a bumpy ride. On my side, I could say that 2016 is my most challenging year yet in many ways, plus the political and social turmoil that the new Admin brought. For the personal stuff, tara catch up tayo! For the socio-political ones, just read my FB wall!
Despite everything that happened in 2016, I am looking at the bigger picture, and I think everything just fell to its place right. While I was sipping the soup of noodles as I finished it off, I realized that I am blessed personally and professionally. I think one key thing that I can share is that when you are sincerely good to people, it will find its way back to you. That no matter how the wind howls and tries to disable you, doing the right thing and standing by what is right will make you a mountain.
I would like to thank everyone who made 2016 a very memorable one for me.
With this post, I would just want to specifically honor two people — Viktor Fontanillaand Ivy Morrok — in my life who made 2016 a very enjoyable roller coaster, and I would not know how I could have made it through with out you. Kayo ang Kuya Felix ko!
I am challenged on how to be a ‘Kuya Felix’ to more people this 2017. Would I be willing to give my noodles, too? Will I give that extra raincoat? At the same time, I am inspired. With all the brutal and unkind words that you will read online, there are people like Kuya Felix who put high value on other people, and believes in clean hardwork — he owns a farm, but tourguides as well.
One more hour of hike after that when we reached the Summit. I may have not witnessed the famous sea of clouds on top of Mt. Pulag, I think I just witnessed way beyond that.
Happy New Year everyone! Hoping 2017 will be the year we can be Kuya Felix to more people!
Descending will be a separate gold story.
PS Good job to Samsung S7 for the water-proof phone!