Tag Archives: hiking

Fighting Fears: Canyoneering, College and Conquests

You’re standing above a vast landscape of the sea. Clear skies. Cool breeze. Sparkling ocean. And you’re standing at the edge of a cliff. Do you think you could jump?

Have you ever felt so scared that the hairs all over your body stand, butterflies turn into vultures in your stomach, and you feel like you’re going to poop? That’s how I feel every time.

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Heights is one of my worst fears. I don’t know how I got my fear of heights as I don’t recall any traumatic experience. I just found myself one day, around the age of 5, riding Enchanted Kingdom’s Jungle Log Jam and crying my intestines out, begging my father to just throw me over to the crew on the side of the river before reaching the upward rail.

Ironically, 2016 had been full of heights and high jumps for me.

This same month last year, I went canyoneering in Cebu with good fellows. Canyoneering’s main feature is, apparently, the canyons–which are really high FYI. And yet, my super-beginner self did not get any hint that it also involved a lot of cliff jumping!

So, I was there, at the edge of the cliff, and my fellows were already in the water screaming weee!, while I was still up there screaming MOM!!!

After a while, I started to feel jittery. It wasn’t because I was scared to jump though. I was worried that my friends were leaving me behind. They all looked so happy, and I certainly didn’t want to miss whatever fun they were having down there.

I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience.

1… 2… 3…? Uhm, okay, threeee!!! Then I finally plunged into the water. I overcame my fear of heights because I was more afraid of getting left behind. I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience. I don’t always get to visit canyons, and it was scary to miss this chance.

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Looking back to the good ol’ college life…

When I was in college, I stopped schooling for a while and got a job. I was young and totally hooked on earning and spending. A year later, I knew I had to go back and finish what I had started in college.

I walked into my university with the intent of taking the first step of readmission. And that’s when I saw her. She was behind Window 5 (if I remember well) for readmission applications. I approached her and asked with a kitten smile, “Ma’am, may I know the process for reinstatement?”

She responded with stuff like “Did you fill out these forms already? Did you write a letter to the College Dean? Do you have these documents? What, why not?”

I kept getting peevish answers from her that made me feel stupid and so embarrassed, and I got scared of asking anymore questions. She, along with the tedious lot of requirements, made me feel like reinstatement was going to be hell and it scared me.

It took me another year to go back and try again. At first I was hesitant, but I thought, this was already way overdue. I looked back on my freshman year and remembered my dreams after graduation. I thought of my parents who were excited for me to graduate.

At that point, I found a greater fear. The fear of not realizing my dreams and disappointing my parents. I held on to this fear as I walked back to my college and faced the grumpy lady again. She was still as scary as ever, but I held my position, politely and patiently until it was all over. It wasn’t so bad. I got reinstated! And two years later, I finally graduated.

There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

I conquered my irrational fear of jumping into a tedious process of college readmission with a better kind of fear. There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

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Life is a vast, intimidating sea but it is also the most beautiful thing. We should not miss the chance of experiencing life just because we’re too afraid to jump out of our comfort zone.

I jumped off terrifying cliffs. I got one of the best experiences that nature has to offer.

I jumped at the tiresome readmission process. I graduated!

And then, I jumped at my first Toastmasters International Speech Contest. I joined the contest with the fear of messing up and not winning. But I fought it with a greater and more meaningful fear.

I was more afraid of letting the chance pass–the chance of learning and the chance of sharing my message to others.

We all have different kinds of fears. Whatever your fear is right now, take the time to think: is it a good fear or a bad fear?

There are fears that hold us back, keep us confined in our little comfort zone. And there are fears that push us to our limits so we can become better, and stronger.

We should find the latter. When times get too difficult and too scary, let’s use the good fears to fight our bad fears away. Let’s fight fear with fear.

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This was originally my contest piece for my first prepared speech contest. It was an opportunity for me to share a bit of my experience canyoneering in Badian, Cebu, and a bit of my struggles through college.

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Mt. Pulag for First-Timers: Budget Guide & Tips

I am not a pro. Pulag was only my third time to trek. But I have learned a lot, which I am taking note here just in case some first-timers come across this entry.

Like I have shared in my previous entry, Mt. Pulag is intense for the heart and body. It is important to be prepared against the cold weather and the backbreaking trek.

For first timers, we are most likely not prepared with the gear and other implements needed for the trek. I had to do some shopping myself. So, I am sharing here my shopping list divided into categories, along with some notes.

Group tour package

It was only I and my college friend, but we joined a group tour so we also found new friends! There are a lot of group tours offered online. You can do a quick search on Google or on Facebook and compare the deals. One friend told me that he availed a Php2,500 tour package during his time.

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Recently, the park management set stricter rules for hikers. Based on our orientation at the DENR regional office, the number of hikers per group has been limited to 20 and the total number of climbers per day is also limited. It is advisable to ensure that reservations at 09291668864 or 09199951316 is made before the scheduled trek. Mt. Pulag National Park also has a Facebook page that serves as a bulletin where they post updates on weather conditions and other announcements to climbers.

Basic Gears

I was on tight budget, so I took the time to scout cheap gears.

gears

Lazada and Daiso became my good friends. The bag I bought from Lazada was not very durable but it stuck out to the end. It was easy to carry, mind you. You are not going to carry the bag during the hike anyway. We left our bags in the tent and brought a smaller bag to carry important belongings and some trek food.

The hiking shoes I got from Fila (always on sale!) were for casual hiking but they lasted gracefully! Now, I use them for jogging.

If you plan to make hiking your regular activity, then you can invest on more expensive, certified trekking gears like Merrell, Adidas, etc.

Personal toiletries

I also did some shopping for toiletries because I refused to bring big bottles of shampoo, lotion, etc. that would only make my baggage heavy. Mostly, I bought sachets or pocket-size bottles so that they all fit in my kikay kit (small pouch).

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Armory

Yes, we need armory—against the cold!

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I’m going to tell you now, above is the list of only the things I brought. They were enough to endure the chill during the trek (we actually had to remove our jackets along the way; it gets a bit hot as you tire yourself out) and the low temperature at the summit. But definitely they were not enough for me to sleep peacefully in the cold night.

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So, be sure to pack what I failed to bring: a fleece blanket, a thermal jacket and a sleeping bag. An insulator sheet is also very important, but local stores rent them out so just renting will also help lighten your baggage.

Other expenses (mostly food *wink!*)

I tracked my spending along the way, so I’m also sharing it here. Food at the ranger station is not only delicious and reasonable but also healthy. They have a lot of vegetables and use brown rice. My favorite snack was vegetable ukoy, a must-try!

Notice that a medical certificate is included in the list. It’s because it is now required by the park management.A lot of groups usually stop over Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital to get a medical certificate. It is much cheaper than getting one in the city.

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For a worn out amateur climber like me, massage was much needed. So, upon arriving in Manila, I took a taxi straight to a hotel, took a shower, availed a room-service massage and went straight to sleep. Worth it!

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For Php8,000 give or take a few bucks, you can avail a Mt. Pulag tour package and complete your checklist of gears and armory (which you can use again in the future). Not bad for a first time!

Intensity lvl: Trek to Mt. Pulag

My Mt. Pulag experience was intense. Intense for my poor legs and intense for my heart, literally and figuratively. My favorite and the funniest part was the blowback of my underestimating the climate and the trails of Mt. Pulag.

Baby it’s cold outside ♪ ♫

I knew the temperature in Pulag could hit below zero. I knew it could get much colder at night. I knew because I had been warned. I, however, had been overconfident. I come from a relatively cold town. I have endured the cold and wet weather in Baguio City with one piece of jacket. I’m in a tropical country that has never seen snow. How much colder could it get up there?

On the drive up to Benguet, I was wearing regular leggings and a long sleeve shirt. When we reached Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital in Bokod, Benguet to get our mandatory medical certificate, I donned my oversize jacket. Once we reached the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office in Ambangeg for registration and orientation, I grabbed a cute Pochacco fleece scarf from the roadside stalls of local sellers. When we arrived at Ambangeg Ranger Station to set camp, I could feel faint quivering in my hands and chest.

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Foggy Ambangeg Ranger Station!
The place was beautifully foggy! The people looked pretty with their naturally glowing red cheeks brought about by the climate they live in. Am I in Iceland?

At first, I and my college roomie, who was my companion this time, were resolute on using only garbage bags as groundsheets inside the tent. Later on, we grabbed an insulating sheet for rent in one of the local stores and borrowed one fleece blanket from our group leader. Later in the night, that insulating sheet and that blanket were going to be life savers.

Unfortunately, one blanket was not enough for two roomies. We were scrambling for the blanket. In the end, I positioned myself by my roomie’s feet, close to the bags which helped warm me up a little, and curled up inside my oversize jacket like a hedgehog. Shaking like a leaf, I slept restlessly.

I was thankful when our leader started banging on people’s tents, which meant it was time to get up and prep for the early morning hike. We got up around 12:30 AM, gobbled up some creamy hotdog macaroni soup, and set out to trek.

It’s the climb ♪ ♫

After the first few minutes of upslope trekking, my chest started to pound rapidly and I had difficulty breathing. I thought I was going to faint but willed my legs to keep walking as I didn’t want to get left behind. I know, it was crazy. Every time there was an upslope, my heart began to race and I had to struggle to control my breathing. Luckily, it got better as we got farther. But I wished I had actually trained before the climb. I had previously trekked to Mt. Batulao in Batangas a few years ago and it was child’s play. Mt. Pulag, on the other hand, is not Luzon’s highest peak for nothing.

Mt. Pulag actually has four peaks, Peak 1 being the highest and where you can find the legendary wooden “Welcome” sign post. After about three hours of trekking, we settled at Peak 3 to wait for the sunrise.

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Sun is peaking, I am looking
It was exciting and refreshing. While the sun was taking its time to reveal itself, I took the time to shut up, while everyone else was busy engaging in group selfies, and appreciate the surroundings. We were surrounded by Mt. Pulag’s trademark of sea of clouds. If we actually analogize it to the sea, this time was at low tide because the sea of clouds was a bit far away from us but nonetheless did not fail to amaze us at all. The surrounding ridges were like rocks sprouting out of the beach during low tide. Looking from a distance, the grassland seemed so soft; for some reason, it reminded me of Bohol’s chocolate hills.

Taking pictures was a funny struggle. Everybody was wearing thermal gloves to fight the heat, but we had to take them off if we wanted to take photos using our touch-screen phones. My hand was turning pale and numb, but it would be such a waste to not take photos. The magnificence of the sunrise on top of Mt. Pulag was a memory I wanted to remember in my photos.

At 6:45 AM, we started the trek again and reached Peak 1 after almost an hour. The sun was already shining brightly above the clouds yet we could still feel the icy chill in our skin. Once again, there was nothing else better to do than take in and appreciate the gift of nature. Before trekking back down, we fell in line to take a mandatory photo with the “Welcome to Mt. Pulag” sign post.

We endured the pain in our legs and feet and continuously trekked downhill for the next two or three hours. It was okay, although whenever there was an upward slope, even the slightest, we automatically stopped for a break because every time, it made us feel the exhaustion.

So I face the final curtain ♪ ♫

After the trek on the long wet and muddy trail, we definitely had to clean up. If I had a choice, I would rather not get in the shower. But with all the sticky cold sweat inside my sweater and all the mud on my legs, I knew I could not bear the filthy feeling.

There are shared bathrooms right at the camp, but don’t expect them to have a heater. I jumped all around after my first splash of water. After a few minutes, my hand turned pale white and I couldn’t really feel much anymore. I couldn’t tell for sure if I still had soap on my body because I couldn’t feel it!

I went out of the bathroom shivering—but satisfied. It’s time to go home, and I’m going home refreshed!

Tips and tricks for first-timers on my next post! ☺