4/20/2008

Gifts From the Mountain



Such a feeling coming over me.
There is wonder in almost everything I see.
Not the clouds in the sky got the sun in my eyes.
And I won't be surprised if its a dream.

Everything I want the world to be
is now coming true especially for me.
And the reason is clear, it's because 'I am here.'
'It's' the nearest thing to heaven that I've seen.

I'm on the top of the world looking down on creation
and the only explanation I can find
is the 'joy' that I've found eversince 'I've' been here.
This 'joy' puts me at the top of the world.

Something in the wind has learned my name.
And it's telling me that things are not the same.
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze.
There's a pleasin' sense of happiness for me...


It is not my first time here. But the joy and excitement that I feel is just like the first time. I know it always will.

The first time that I'm here was in December 26-29, 1994. I attended the 32nd National Rizal Youth Leadership Institute (NRYLI) held at Teachers' Camp, together with almost a thousand students all over the country.

I am again in Baguio right now – having my creative, meaningful pause from my too occupied, distracted city life. Creative because I am going to shed the pattern of my life in the mountain for two days. Meaningful because I am with Greenpeace, which is joining the Run for Trails 2008 organized by the U.P Baguio Mountaineers in celebration of Earth Day.



It is like an 'integration.' 'Now,' an integration with nature – with the earthlings.

I shut myself off from the fast paced city life in Manila. My mobile phone is off. There is also no way that I can connect to the virtual world. There will be no distractive communication and information overload – at least for two days.

I think the mountain is not the place to read, to write or to think. But, I carry with me a book, clean papers and pen.

Mountains always make feel too close to the creator. Here, you could almost talk to the angels. Also, the beauty of the natural creations always stimulates my mind to think. And, I think best with a pen in my hand. So, I start to write this piece.

The Trip to Baguio

We had a smooth trip to Baguio via the Victory Liner. Our departure was scheduled at 10:00 pm on Friday, April 18. But, Paul Ancheta - who acted as our departure Team Leader - advised us to come at the Victory Liner Cubao station as early as 8:00 pm, for the headcount. I arrived at the meeting place at around 8:30. It was a working day and I still did a last minute shopping of the necessary items I will bring after work. I didn't forget my bonamine and natural vitamin C, my running attire, snacks, energy bars, drinks, ample clothings for two days and toiletries.

We were 41 Greenpeace supporters, volunteers and members on board. Miko Alino of Greenpeace Public Outreach Unit and others went here a day ahead of us to coordinate with the organizers.

I was silent along the trip. I was silently praying for our safe trip while the others were talking, laughing and joking. Paul – who happened to be my seat mate was so exhausted because of the preparation so he was asleep most of the trip.

After we passed the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX), my eyes contently gazed on the view outside. From the bus window, I enjoyed the silhouette of the beauty of the countryside at night. I enjoyed the beautiful moon which I really missed since I cannot clearly see it in Manila because of the thick smokes and too bright street and billboard lights. I also enjoyed the stars. I remembered my childhood in the province when I used to lay my back flat on the ground and gazed at the stars for hours.

It relaxes me.

It soothes me.

It pampers me.

After an hour of lingering on the beauty outside, my tired body demanded a rest. I fall asleep.

When I woke up, we were already in Baguio. It was 4:30 am. As I alighted the bus, I felt the cold deep in my bones. I was chilling.

Start of the Adventure

We were supposed to check in at Benguet Inn but they cannot accommodate all of us so we just temporarily stayed in a transient house on our first day. The ladies and the media personnel occupied the three rooms upstairs while the gentlemen occupied the rooms in the basement of the house. Here, I realized again how little one can get along with. We were more than 20 ladies, so we were seven to nine occupants in one room. I was too sleepy and tired to mind the inconvenience though. I tried to nap a little to recharge before the trail run which is scheduled at 8:00 am today. Then we have to register first at U.P Baguio at 6:30 am. So, we still have an hour to rest.

I was about to take a bath but when I saw the long queue of ladies in the only bathroom that we had, I just decided to change into my running clothes. Most of us did. I was no longer aware of my smell anyway. Here, I have to shed myself of absolute vanity and tidiness.

One needs less in the mountain. In simple living, one needs less anyway. And what a relief it is. Here, I don't need a closet-full, only an overnight-bag-full. So, I don't have to worry about what to wear. I found, I was quite content without those things I think necessary in the big city living. By needing less, we are consuming less. By consuming less, we are saving our finite resources, and the environment.

The Trek

We were at U.P Baguio at around 7:00 am. While waiting for the trail run to start, we bathed on the rising sun, we took pictures and we also had 'taho' and banana for our breakfast. Here, they have strawberry-flavored 'taho.'



The 12 – kilometer run for trails started at around 8:00 am at U.P. Baguio where it also ended. The route covered the Camp John Hay Eco – Trails, Shalan ni Kabajo, Yellow trail and the periphery of the U.S ambassador's residence.



Greenpeace and U.P. Baguio Mountaineers' banners and arrows were placed along the foot trails for us to follow.



At the starting point, it seems everybody was eager to start and win the run while I, my co-supporters Janet, Lorna and her sister Mylene were unassuming because it was our first time. We run at first. But, after few meters, we were already catching our breaths. In my mind, I am already planning to have a practice at least a month before this activity next year. Janet decided to stop before the first station, while, I, Lorna and Mylene continued the walk. Our contingents were running so fast, I no longer see any trace of them in the sloppy terrain of the mountain trails.

Until we reached a cross foot trail.

No banners.

No arrows.

I persuaded my colleague to take the trail on our right – which only headed us to a cliff. Fear secretly started to crawl from my system.

We were lost!

I should have suspected that we were on the wrong trail because of the tall grasses that enveloped us as we took the foot trail on the right. But I was confused by the warning sign on the left foot trail stating that, “No hikers are allowed beyond this trail.”

We went back to take the left trail. There, we reached the second station.

After an hour Mylene seemed not feeling well. Her sister was worried that she might faint. They decided to stop when we reached the third station. I was hesitant to leave them but I also wanted to finish the trail run no matter what. We already covered a quarter of the whole route. There's no turning back now. So I left them. I run alone for few minutes until I saw and joined another group of supporters and volunteers.



The view around the mountain offers an invitation to stop and linger for a moment. In the mountain, one has to give a time to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature as God's gift to one's unfocused, distracted soul from the fast paced city life.

We didn't run much anymore. We decided to just enjoy the journey. I enjoyed the breathtaking view; the foggy skyline; the pine trees; the yellow bells and other wild flowers; the humming of birds; the chirping of crickets; the cold silly wind which is gently wiping the sweat from my face; the heat of the sun which is keeping me warm in this cold mountain; and the feeling of being on top of the world.

We took pictures. Enrique – a co-supporter – took his pictures as if he is going to tell a story for each subject. I think one could tell a thousand stories from his journey on the mountain.

Finally, we reached the periphery of the U.S. Ambassador's residence. We were almost two thirds of the journey. Here, while resting, I saw Lorna and Mylene few meters behind us. I was happy that they managed to continue the journey. We waited for them.

Another kilometer, we walked with less talking. Everyone was obviously tired, hungry and thirsty. It was almost noon. I already consumed my last energy bar. We no longer had water. One of the UPBM member told us that we were the only group who didn't reach the finish line. So, we were the last group that's why he was following us along the trail.

After another hour of silent walking, he noticed that we were in the wrong trail.

We got lost the second time!

We were already walking on a concrete road instead of walking on the mountain trail. Oh, we've gone too far. We were actually near the last station. We cannot go back. We didn't want to. So, he just talked to the members of the last station's team and allowed us to continue the wrong path that we took. Anyway, that will also lead us to the destination.

We were only four when we entered the U.P Baguio gate. It was passed twelve. The awarding was almost over. The winners finished the 12-kilometer trail run in more or less than an hour.

I was talking with Janet and Jocelyn when I heard the emcee called my name. I didn't hear clearly the rest of what she was saying so I didn't stand up until she called me for the second time. It was really me. I was surprised. I thought, “I cannot have an award.”

The organizers awarded the first three fast runners, the oldest and the youngest runners, the green runners, and the last runner who reached the finish line – and it was I.

Surprisingly funny!

I got the 'Pagong Runner' award.

I finished the 12-kilometer mountain trail run in more than four hours.

I didn't really run, anyway. I just enjoyed the trek and I got an award. Oh, what a thrill.

We had an environment-friendly lunch after the awarding. The rest of the day was our free time. I spent it sleeping like a baby. Then, I conceptualized this piece. Then, I read my book.

My room mates were exploring the downtown of Baguio while I was having a contemplative corner of my own in our room. So that when I go back to Manila I am whole again – focused and not distracted. After all, this is one of my purposes here –to have a creative, meaningful pause for a while.

The Sweet Sore

I got up from bed at around 5 pm. I felt completely recharged. Yet, I felt also the sore all over my body. The run that I had this morning has awaken my muscles from stagnancy. Nevertheless, my whole body aches sweetly that it feels good and rejuvenating.

More Convenience

Before the end of the day, we transferred to a bigger and more convenient transient house. I was able to rest conveniently in a more convenient bed. We have to really rest because we are going to Baguio's highest point the following day: The Mt. Sto. Tomas Water Shed.

Day 2

Gentle knocks on the door had awaken me the next morning. It was Ruben. They were all set for the trek today. I was about to get up but I felt the more intense sore all over my body. Still in bed, Jocelyn told him that we cannot go to the trek anymore.

I have my first bath here today. With most of the guys on the trek, I have enough time to enjoy a bath. But the too cold water prevented me to stay longer in the bathroom.

I have enough time today to buy 'pasalubong' to my family in Manila. I bought fresh vegetables, various delicacies, strawberry wine and bonsai plant – which is now added to my collection.

The Mountain at my Back



I picked up my red overnight-bag. My retreat is almost over.

The winds echo behind me.

Simple living. Determination. Patience. Focus. Appreciation of life's surprises. A time for solitude. Those are what the mountain has to teach.

We are on board the Victory Liner again. This time, I have Jenny Canilao – Greenpeace office staff – by my side. I have a satisfying and fulfilling conversation with her along the trip. I am enjoying the vast landscape of the mount as we are leaving it behind – until it fades from my vision.

As we passed NLEX, I felt the familiar feeling of adrenalin rush and tension in the fast paced city life.

Easy now!

I have to remember my quick retreat in the mountain. And, when draining deadlines, relationships, and family demands in the big city distract me again, I can go back to the mountain – next year.

( This post is one of the entries to the 2009 Philippine Blog Awards: PBA098nor267)


Photo Courtesy: Zat

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