Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mt. Pulag Chronicles: The Climb

With all preparation done, I’m ready for Mt. Pulag. The checklist is reviewed and I’m ready to go.

My team: Kuya Jay, Fourth, Teddy, Joel Madera, Leah, Cyril, Daniel, Leo, Ricky, Rosebel (Ricky’s friend) and Gina (friend from CCC).

The ETD of our bus to Baguio is 9pm. All are already in Victory Liner Cubao Station, except for Daniel. His text message to me is he’s still in Baclaran. I started panicking. Teddy was suggesting that we all wait for Daniel but that would affect the itinerary of the whole group. I instructed Teddy to get some information from the dispatcher so that I could make an informed decision. The next schedule to Baguio is 9:30pm. I was thinking of just having him follow us and have his 9pm ticket as part of the incidental expenses because I have no idea of a trustworthy person within the station to leave his ticket. I’ll just reimburse him for his new ticket.

But Teddy and Fourth volunteered to stay behind for Daniel. So we started loading our stuffs and finding our seats. I was still negotiating with the conductor but he was so stern to leave at 9pm and he started allowing chance passengers to ride the bus.

I firmly instructed Teddy, Fourth and Daniel to get the next trip to Baguio so as not to affect the itinerary. Praise God they got the trip!

I had difficulty getting to sleep. Since I was the team leader, I was thinking about the climb. We are all first-timers and I wonder what we will experience. I was thinking about possible scenarios and how I will address and respond to them.

We arrived at around 3am in Baguio. It was cold. I was reminded of my college days in Baguio. While waiting for our jeepney and for the rest of our teammates, some of us took some refreshments and coffee.

Photo by Jayrus A

About 3:30am, Teddy’s company arrived. We left Victory Liner Baguio Station at around 4am and arrived at Ambuklao Dam at around 5:20am. We had some photo ops and then we proceed to Inidian View Deck at 6am to see the scenic view of the Cordillera mountain ranges and the Ambuklao River. It was also funny that the guys have to push the monster jeepney to jumpstart the engine before we left the dam because it was really cold.

Photo by Jayrus A

From there I decided to join the other guys on top of jeepney and we had a chilling rollercoaster ride. Along the way there are crows, mynas, probably pied bushchats and blue rock-thrushes along way. It was difficult to definitely identify the birds because of the jeep’s speed.

We arrived at the DENR-Protected Area Office in Ambangeg at 7am. We have to register in the office and have our orientation and briefing. We also have to pay our entrance and camping fees and green tax. We bought our souvenir items and applied for our climb certificates.

Photo by Jayrus A

We were quite tense during our orientation because Ma’am Emerita Albas, the park superintendent, is quite serious and strict. But she’s actually kind. She just wants to make sure that we conduct ourselves properly during our stay in Pulag. Take note my readers who will plan to climb Pulag: contact her directly or the DENR office in Baguio for proper and legal transactions, even for the ride to and from Ambangeg or to any trail to Pulag. It will help the livelihood of those depending on Pulag visitors.

After our orientation we proceed at Ate Gina’s residence for our breakfast. We arrived there at 8:30am. We had a treat of fresh vegetables, hotdog, eggs, red rice called kintoman and earthy brew of Benguet coffee. Ate Gina also prepared our lunch and dinner.

We left Ate Gina’s house at around 10:30am and arrived at drop-off point at 11:30am. The jeepney can’t proceed directly to Ranger Station because of ongoing roadwork. We have to hike to the Ranger Station under the heat of the sun. We arrived there at around 12noon. We had our lunch (fried Ambuklao giant tilapias, fresh vegetables and red rice) there and paid our guide fee and took some porters to carry some of our loads. We left for Camp 1 at around 1:15pm.


It was a grueling hike because of the heat and the heavy backpack but our tiredness was blown away by the majestic view of the mountains, the pine forest and the vegetable terraces of the Igorots. We all arrived at Camp 1 at around 2:15pm to have a good rest for the next stretch of hike. We already have a view of the summit so we are motivated again, plus we want to see the sunset on top of the summit. So we left at around 2:30pm.

There are times that I have to hike ahead of the team or be at the tail because I have to check the situation of the team members. I change my pace not just for the video and photo documentation but for the sake of the safety and security of the entire team.

We trekked the mossy forest. There’s a lot wild flowers, ferns, moss, pitcher plant and other plants along the way. Mom said that some of them are actually rare orchids. The second stretch of the hike is more arduous. I really thought that the trail is easy. The fog also descended at around 3:20pm. Along the way there are springs. The water is sweet and cold. Drinking them is so refreshing. Dad said that it’s beneficial to drink mountain spring water because it is high on oxygen and minerals that is good for the body.

I believe that I even saw a cloud rat during the trek between Camp 1 and Camp 2. It was just a brief encounter. It was hopping in the trail and then it disappeared.

We reached Camp 2 at around 4pm. We setup our tents. Kuya Jay, Daniel and Joel were left at the campsite and the rest of us climbed the junior summit. The hike is a good 20 minutes climb. We didn’t see the sunset because the fog was so thick already. We just had a glimpse of the thick cloud parting and sun rays trying to pierce through. I was reminded of Luke 3:21-22, were the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended to Jesus in a form of a dove.

My team and another group were the only group up in the mountain. So basically the mountain is ours.

We descended and had our chicken adobo dinner. Of course, we still have fresh vegetables and red rice. We decided to rest because we were all tired and the fog is thick. Teddy and Fourth were left outside and they were having some sharing time while boiling potatoes.

At around 8:15pm, Kuya Jay and I were awakened by Fourth’s remark that there were so many stars. We immediately setup our cameras to do our target photographs. Kuya Jay wanted to do a star trail. I wanted to capture the Milky Way Galaxy. But it was so cold and our gears are gathering moist. Our shots are even blurred so we decided to sleep. I even saw a comet in the northern sky before I slept.

At around 11pm, I was awakened by the extreme cold temperature. It was extreme for me because it’s my first time experience such cold temperature. We have no way of measuring the temperature that time. I found an article of another group who went a day prior to our climb and it is indicated there that the temperature range is from 3 to 14° Celsius. So it’s really cold! If our temperature experience is 3° Celsius that night, then it almost freezing point. Daniel was also awakened.

Kuya Jay, Leo and I were alone on our respective tents. Those who were together are Daniel and Joel, Ricky and Rosebel, Teddy and Fourth and Leah, Cyril and Gina. It was so cold I have to wear my second jacket, second bonnet and second pair of socks. What I don’t have is a second pair of pants. I was already coiling myself like a fetus but it was still cold. The moist is also penetrating my tent too. I guess my experience is representative of the entire group.

Good thing that I had a long hair then. It added insulation and protection from facial and nape sunburns.

At 3:30am, we have to wake up and prepare to assault the summit and see the sunrise and the sea of clouds. We had our headlamps prepared. I had a chance to capture the magnificent Milky Way before we left the camp. I was just having a lot of blurred shot. It was difficult because I’m time constrained and I can’t see the stars through my viewfinder. I just have to make estimates and some twist and turns with my kit lens. I have to make a lot of trial and error to achieve one or two keepers.

We left the camp at 4am and reached the summit at 5:15am. By God’s grace I was the one who first reached the summit. Kuya Jay and Joel got lost but they were able to reach the real summit as well.

From the campsite to the summit, the terrain is now covered with dwarf bamboos. This part of the mountain is called grassland. It’s funny that I’m now taller than the bamboos.

It was simply breathtaking up there. The sun is slowly breaking through the horizon and slowly, dramatically bursting forth warm rays on the sea of clouds. The crescent moon is also rising up and slowly disappearing in the overwhelming light of the sun. At 2,922 meters above sea level, the view is simply awesome and majestic. The only words I kept on saying are, “Praise God!” The only appropriate response for such favor from the Lord is worship! Since Pulag is the highest summit, we could see the other summits in the sea of clouds.

We also have a blessed time of devotion led by Kuya Jay up in the summit. It was really a blessing!

I’m so proud of my team! We endured and our dreams were fulfilled. My toils of anxious preparation are paid with smiles filled with joy. These things will never be taken away from me.

We descended the summit at around 7am. The descent is one hour. Upon reaching the campsite, they ate the potatoes boiled by Teddy and Fourth and the food items brought by Teddy. Rosebel heated them up for the team.

It was only then that I learned that Daniel didn’t have a sleeping bag. We are thankful that God sustained him through the night. He only had a sleeping mat and blanket. I told him that he should have informed me so that I could have borrowed one before we left Manila or we could have rented one in the Ranger Station.

We left the camp at 9am and reached the Ranger Station at 12noon. We settled our porter fees and went to Ate Gina’s house for our pinikpikan and grilled Ambuklao tilapia lunch.

I paid the food prepared for us and we left Ate Gina’s house by 3pm. We have to go back at the DENR-PAO to logout and to get our climb certificates. Ma’am Emerita signed them so it means we met the standards of proper conduct. Our certificate of achievement says,

“In recognition of his/her daring trek to Mt. Pulag Sacred Ground, the highest mountain in Luzon and the second in the Philippines from April 16-17, 2012 using the Ambangeg-Ambangeg Route.

He deserves commendation for observing the Cultural Code of Conduct in the area and the Mountaineer’s Credo. He/she is now included in the Mt. Pulag National Park’s book of honorary climbers.

Only the brave and the daring survive!”

As the certificates were being distributed, I could really see the big smiles on my teammates’ faces. I promised them that I will treat them for a Magnum ice cream because they deserve it and majority of the members, including me, have not tasted it yet. However, there was no stock of Magnum in the 7-Eleven store near Victory Liner Baguio Station. So I still owe them a Magnum treat.

Photo by Jayrus A

What more can I say. We are so blessed! Perfect weather condition, all my target photos are taken, fellowshipping and bonding with brethren is achieved, good food, safe travel, no injuries, no sickness, we had fun, dreams were fulfilled, prayers were answered, servant and male leadership is exercised, character is refined and God is glorified!

Here's a video compilation of our adventure: Mt. Pulag National Park (April 16-17, 2012)

Here's a the final edited video and photo compilation of our adventure: Mt. Pulag (April 16-17, 2012) - LR

In my next post, I will share how God dealt and is continually dealing with my heart issues using the climb adventure.


  1. You did it! Congratulations!

  2. nice one... hope you can visit our beloved Pulag some other time...