Mt. Pulag: Kabunian Heeds Our Call

The night before our trek, it began to rain although the weather earlier was fine. It really worried because a rain would reduce the possibility of a sea of clouds in the morning. Maybe what the tourism officer said during the orientation is correct. If you are noisy, you will provoke the gods and they’ll send rain clouds. If only our fellow occupants would tone down their noise. Unperturbed, I sighed a silent prayer.

Later, my companions and I went to take a short sleep in preparation for our early morning excursion. We are to begin our trek at around 12 midnight. However, the tumult created by our housemates made it difficult to find sleep. Thankfully, I was able to sleep in spite of the din. My friends were not as lucky as I was though.

Adventure Awaits

Ironically, the noise that nearly made us bypass sleep was also the very same noise that woke us up at 11:30 PM. We were still a bit tentative and groggy but we did our best to shake our spirits up, and prepare for the challenge that is before us. I don’t know about my friends but the excitement of climbing Mt. Pulag is firing me up.

Outside, the cold is bringing shivers down our body. The temperature during summer is not as low as it is in January and February where it could go subzero. Nonetheless, it was still cold. It was already 12 midnight but our guide has not arrived yet. We then decided to wait for her at the Ranger Station. While waiting for our guide, we drank coffee to warm ourselves up. Thankfully our guide arrived a few minutes later.

It was just a couple of minutes past midnight but the area was beginning to come alive as trekkers were all waking up from their slumber. There were a lot of trekkers even though the tourism officer said that this number is relatively small compared to their previous experiences. Before we began our trek, we uttered a simple prayer for our safety. At 12:45 AM, we were the first group to leave the ranger station for the trek.

It was still dark and we can barely discern our surroundings. Undaunted, we soldiered on, insouciant of the darkness enveloping us. Like a breeze, we swept past the pine forest in about an hour. We barely noticed how our environment changed when we reached Camp 1. Occasionally, we took a couple of minutes rest along the way so that we can all catch our breaths.

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Eerie. Although unique the mossy forest gave a certain feeling of eeriness. 

Once we were able to catch our breath at Camp 1, we proceeded with our trek, making our way through the mossy forest. At around 3 AM, we reached Camp 2, the first group to do so. The view of the stars above filled us with awe. It was as if all the stars are shining brightly to guide us and to fill us with delight. If only we have more advanced cameras we could have captured the beauty that was before us. But for now, we just have to satisfy ourselves by watching the glorious display of the Milky way.

Because it was still early, we rested for about thirty minutes at a hut near Camp 2. It is quite cold at the summit in the early morning. If we reach the summit before sunrise, we might have to wait for about an hour, freezing in cold. Such prospect didn’t daunt me but the guide knows what to expect more than I do. We tried to take a nap but it was all for naught because of the cold and the noise of trekkers who were advancing to the summit. Our goal of becoming the first group to reach the summit is now shattered. Haha.

At around 3:30 AM, we woke up our guide so that we can proceed with our climb. Numerous groups have already passed before us, and in no time a long queue has already formed. When we looked behind, we saw a long slithering line illuminated by flashlights.

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Guide. Follow the road less traveled and you will experience things beyond your imagination.
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Alone. That’s how you always feel but alone you are not for He will always be there for you, even during the darkest times.

The urge to zoom past everyone was overwhelming me. However, my group still came first. Being the most experienced climber in the group, I made it my duty to look after everyone. I don’t want anyone to get left behind. I want all of us to reach the summit even if it means we have to let other groups advance before us. More than the speed, what is important is that we reach the summit intact. We are all in this together.

Fortunately, the climb wasn’t too steep as the incline increased gradually, not drastically. I never thought that I’d take this climb easily. It does pay to be born in the highlands. Had I climbed solo, I’d probably reach the summit in no time. The ease by which I am climbing Mt. Pulag surprised me a lot. The previous mountains I have climbed, although comparatively smaller than Mt. Pulag, were physically taxing. The one mountain I was able to climb with relative ease was Mt. Maculot in Batangas.

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Peaceful. The rolling hills and the grasslands make Mt. Pulag the unofficial playground of the gods.

The grassland was definitely the easiest part, and also the longest part of the climb although there was already a long queue before and behind us. It seems that everyone wants to partake of Mt. Pulag’s majestic view. And in a couple of minutes, I will understand why.

The View at the Top: A Delightful Surprise

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Grandeur. This is a visual feast, something that one can barely find in the urban hubbub. But to see this one is a challenge. The best views, after all, come after the hardest climb.

We reached the summit at about 5 AM or about four hours since we began our climb. Euphoria overcame me as I saw a flicker of light breaking through the eastern horizon. And there I saw it, that sea of clouds everyone is talking about! I was so excited I wanted to pull my companions up so that we can all be at the summit.

Like a child, I was giddy with excitement. I never thought that one day I would witness a sight as beautiful as what I was before me. This child-like enthusiasm made me run from one corner of the summit to the other. The rolling SEA OF CLOUDS is for real! I can’t believe my luck! Indeed, Kabunian heeded my call. It is such an honor to witness Him showing the beauty of His creation.

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Blessed. Finally we reached the top!
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Picturesque. Views like this will remain embedded in the mind of the traveler forever.
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Tranquility. Embrace the beauty of nature.
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Evergreen. The charm of nature lasts forever, if only we learn to preserve it.

I was in awe. I was euphoric. I made it through to the roof of Luzon and He gave me a bonus, He showed me a marvelous sunrise and sea of clouds. I’ll probably exhaust all superlatives and adjectives trying to describe what I saw so I won’t even try. It is best to go there yourself to be able to appreciate it. Indeed I am lucky and blessed. Many have climbed Mt. Pulag numerous times but have never witnessed the sea of clouds. I, on the other hand, got to witness what they long yearned for on my first try.

Taking advantage of this rare opportunity, I ran around the perimeter taking one picture after the other. I took many pictures that my phone’s memory nearly got full. My phone also overheated causing the battery to drain quickly. Fortunately, we brought our power banks. My companions and I were all full of awe that we stayed at the summit for two hours, taking one picture after the other.

Aside from the sunrise and the sea of clouds, we also got beautiful views of the mountains of the Grand Cordilleras. From afar, we saw Mt. Amuyao, Mt. Timbac, and some other mountains which were peaking above the clouds. In 360-degrees our eyes were filled with majestic views we can barely keep ourselves from taking pictures.

When the excitement began to die down, we proceeded with our descent. As we were going down, the full grandeur of the grasslands came into view. The rolling hills of the grasslands were reminiscent of Mt. Ulap, also in Benguet.

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Accomplishment. Here’s to more mountains to climb!

 

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Playground. A tour of the playground of the gods wouldn’t be complete without the “play” part.
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Pose. You’ll never get tired of snapping one picture after the other from the start till finish.

As we went down the mossy forest, we were taken aback because the mossy forest looked eerie, a coming to life of the Black Forest we often hear in children’s books. Nonetheless, the mossy forest provided an entirely different texture to Mt. Pulag’s overall beauty. It is just one of numerous reasons why Mt. Pulag is a photographer’s haven!

It was about 10 AM when we finally reached the ranger station. I can’t help but be sad as our trip is drawing to a close. Mt. Pulag gave me so many wonderful memories that my enthusiasm for climbing mountains tripled. Here’s to more mountains and to more wonderful views!

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Camaraderie. The best part of every climb is getting to meet new people along the way.

Mountain Thoughts

Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg Trail is great for starters, especially for those who want to witness that sea of clouds. However, the cold in this part of the country is very suspect so never forget to bring thick jackets or windbreakers, regardless of the season.

Leave No Trace. Again with this reminder. I got dismayed when I saw candy wrappers scattered around the area although there wasn’t much. I picked them up and placed them on my pockets, for disposal once we reach the ranger station. Some climbers are just too stubborn. These are probably the ones who didn’t listen during the orientation – WHAT YOU BRING UP YOU MUST BRING DOWN!

Tour guides are required. Moreover, prior reservations are a must before climbing. Lastly, medical certificates are REQUIRED. There are clinics near the are which can give you medical certificates if you forgot to avail one before going to the Visitor Center. For the rest of the reminders, please read here.

Itinerary

Day 1

0600H Meet at Baguio. ETD for Visitor Center
0800H ETA Visitor Center. Registration and payment of fees
1000H Start of Orientation
1100H ETD for Baban’s homestay
1130H ETA Baban’s homestay. Settle down
1145H ETD Ranger station. Registration and payment of fees
1200H Lunch at Baban’s
1300H Siesta
1500H Ocular inspection of Ranger Station
1800H Dinner
1900H Lights out
2330H Call time

Day 2

0000H Proceed to Ranger Station
0045H Begin trek
0145H ETA Camp 1
0300H ETA Camp 2. Rest
0330H Proceed with assault
0500H ETA Summit, photo-ops
0700H Begin descent
1000H ETA Ranger Station
1100H Cleanup and preparation for trip to Baguio
1230H ETD for visitor center
1300H Visitor center for debriefing
1400H ETD for Baguio City
1600H ETA Baguio City

List of Expenses

Our Mount Pulag trip cost us about PHP 2,433 individually, broken down as follows:

PHP 450 – Bus fare from Manila to Baguio
PHP 858 – Round trip van rental (PHP 6,000 divided by seven)
PHP 175 – Entrance fee, paid at the Visitor center
PHP 120 – Guide fee, paid at the Ranger Station (PHP 600 for a group of five or less, PHP 120 for every additional person)
PHP 80 – Environment and Cultural Heritage Fee, paid at the Ranger Station
PHP 300 – Homestay charge, rate is per night
PHP 450 – Bus fare from Baguio to Manila

This breakdown doesn’t cover meal expenses. Moreover, the arrangement for our van rental was made by our homestay.

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Signature. Here’s a stamp of approval to one of my best and most memorable climbs to date.

Photo Credits: Pictures without “The Pine-Scented Chronicles” stamp are owned by Miss Ziv Nadcop.

 

 

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