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The Springboard to Mt.Apo

Because that’s the closest that I can get to heaven.

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          Back in Laguna, I had the privilege of having a third father in Mang Joe or Mang Joki as students alike me would call him. Our dear service driver in school. He would always horse around with us while waiting for co-students to board his striking red jeep with orange trims and the usual metal horse sculpted at the front boosting its already macho image.

One day, he uttered something. “Bagay sa iyo maging aeronautics engineer,”

“Ano po yun? Pilot na lang po. Member ng Air Force at PAL,” I exclaimed. I though that being a fighter pilot and being in Philippine Airlines is one.

But then, dad brought me to Mt.Makiling and Mt.Banahaw. I can’t recall when and what we did during the trip. All of them dayhikes. I can only remember the lush greenery of my surroundings aboard a rusty old cramp jeepney plying Laguna.

Am I destined to reach the skies? The loftiest goals there is, the highest accolades one could receive?

I found myself Saturday morning, June 3 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. I am about to board a Cebu Pacific flight for Davao City. Alas Davao City! After five years, I’m finally heading to Davao still with my love. My love hiking that is!

Been waiting for this day! I can’t hide my excitement even when I’m lacking sleep. The adrenaline caught up with me. Straight from the office (I even have to repack my belongings for additional items like my FC2012 kit in the office lobby) from a hard night’s work, here I am finally even with an aisle seat.

By the way, I would like to thank my mom and my dad for being very supportive of my outdoor endeavors. My dad for providing airport transfers and added terminal slash gas fee. My mom for preparing my stuffs and trail food. Can’t help but to think twice whether they really wanted to see me away and have fun or they just wanted me out of the house. 🙂

I need to remind myself the next time to get a window seat every time I fly in the morning to my destination. But then again, this is a 1-peso seat that I’m flying in. I can’t complain much. The FA’s could more than make-up for it. 🙂

Destination: Davao City, Mindanao Philippines. Target: Mount Apo. Philippine’s highest. Supreme mountain in the Philippines.

“Sir andto npo ako. w8 4 u at SM Dvo. C U :D, one SMS read from my companion Dennis. He took the 4am flight. He for sure wouldn’t love waiting at the airport with the gloomy weather. But another companion rejected the idea. He got me updated with Mindanao’s weather for the last three days he’s been there. “Maaraw. :)”

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          Lo and behold, it’s indeed sunny! Manila was a pathetic gloom piercing my trip with red signage exclaiming ABORT! ABORT!.

Not to waste any time, I went straight to SM Davao to meet Dennis and Alvin, proceed with a preclimb meeting (A preclimb held a day before the climb itself?! Seriously? A resounding yes!) and to grab some much-needed supplies.

While we keep ourselves in touch through short messaging and Facebook.com, my teammates were diligent enough to conduct their own research on our daunting task ahead. Studying our itinerary and keeping themselves in tip-top shape. As Ed Viesturs would say, “Mountains don’t kill people. They just sit there.”

We need to seriously consider the challenges we’re facing. How do we face these kind of challenges? A 2932meter or 9619feet of a trial with virtually no experienced member in the team but our trusted guide named Mang Jojo from New Israel Makilala North Cotabato who has reached the summit 15times since he was 14. Mentally and physically. You just have to put your mind and body into it. Leaving nothing to chance.

An hour after lunch and having a king-size meal at Mang Inasal, we went to board a Weena Bus at EcoLand Terminal bound for Midsayap North Cotabato. Our jumpoff destination, the municipality of Makilala. It was a two and a half hour ride from the city. Bumpy most of the time, our bus driver even rammed an unfinished section sending us airborne for a split second. Sleep halted, babies cried. We passed by Kapatagan Digos City, one of the more famous trail going up Mt.Apo.

We reached Makilala well into the afternoon drizzled with rain. Alvin even lost his phone after another airborne-ramming trip of manong driver. So we decided to explore the poblacion  to kill time and get me some kerosene for my wonderful little buddy Coleman Apex II.

         After dilly-dallying around the poblacion and trying on new stuffs from a local outdoor shop, we went back immediately to the municipal hall for our orientation with Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Walter Ruiso and the very amiable Ms.Susan.

          Entering the hall, we failed to recognize the town’s highest official Mayor Rudy S. Caoagdan. He even was the one who first approached us.

          “Oh! Kayo ba ang mga bisita na aakyat bukas?” he humbly asked.

          “Yes sir,” we responded while shaking hands with him until an aide from his behind said “he’s the mayor,”.

          Now to feed on vital information and retrieve our permits, we went to see the people behind Makilala-MENRO.

          A one-hour orientation ensued with a sidetrip of two baluts and a grain of salt, Sir Walter and Ms.Susan gladly showed us the town of Makilala and our intended trail to blaze. It was packed heavily. They provided us with all that we needed. We can’t help but be amazed with our soon-to-be journey into the wilderness.

          “Happy hiking and notify us immediately of your descent to Lake Agko,” Ms.Susan bade us farewell into the evening.

           We reached our jumpoff New Israel. The community is already asleep but Mr.Sammy Paraiso, son of Chairwoman Bae Paraiso gladly welcomed us with a warm smile together with our supposed-to-be guide Sir Jojo. He led us to our hut for the night. Everything was kept short and sweet and he soon said goodnight to the three stooges from Manila.

            “Yung maliliit na bagay ha, itabi nyo baka pasukin kayo ng mga unggoy.” Sir Sammy reminded us as he faded into the night.

            Inside our peaceful hut (Alas, we are here. A 1000+ metres above sea level and tomorrow, we will jump on the gun), we prepared our simple dinner and stuffs. Keeping little things tidy, away from our comrades. These Philippine macaques are abundant here in New Israel, even was a subject of a documentary by a local multi-awarded reporter.

             New Israel is a quaint little town of a religious sect called Moncado Alpha and Omega. They promised to protect the environment and it’s rich resources. From the moment they set foot here, they cared for the land. Thus the name New Israel, the new paradise. And so, these primates became a part of their lives. Moncadista’s as they are called, live peacefully and happy. They thrive on their community-driven agriculture of different vegetables, flowers and raw rubber. As Sir Sammy would boast, they knew everyone from this community. One more thing they are proud of, smoking and drinking is avoided totally avoided but not when there’s a feast or some visitors.

             For sure, I will be able to sleep peacefully. ZZZzzz

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