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Sunday, August 01, 2010

LTC Pick for August: Mt.Pulag - A Pilgrimage to the Ibaloi’s Heaven

We would like to acknowledge Johzen Barleta for providing us with this Feature Blog of Mt.Pulag. All photos and the article were provided by her.

The shifting veil of mist allows only glimpses of what lays ahead – a steadily inclining course lined with green grass and thriving vegetation; vague forms of companions fading in and out of sight; and silhouettes of distant pine trees pretending to be monks robed in black, joining us in our slow march. I rub my gloved hands and exhale puffs into the cold air as my mental timepiece unwinds to about twenty hours ago, when we were rushing through paved streets on our way to Park Square to purchase a pair of thermal gloves from an outdoor shop and raincoats from a Japanese store. At that time, I didn’t really grasp what those frantic preparations meant. Now I do, we are climbing the highest peak in Luzon on the cold, wet month of July.

More details and pics of Mt.Pulag inside...

I turn my attention to my feet as I take careful, measured steps around a murky puddle that occupies almost the whole width of the path. At a distance to the left, a slight rain shower falls from an oddly tiny patch of cloud which, on a closer view, reveals itself as a broken water pipe suspended high above us to connect two mountain slopes. As we approach the first campsite, a real rain shower begins to bless the earth. It turns into a downpour without much warning and lowers the temperature even more. We reach a shed and join many others who are resting and munching on chocolates and jelly to restore energy for a few more hours of hiking. After sometime, we set off again, aiming to arrive at the second campsite before the last ray of sunlight dies out.

The next half of the trail seems much more difficult or it could just be exhaustion settling in. Still, we keep on walking the incline, climbing assaults on wobbly legs, sloshing on soft cold mud, and slipping on smooth rocks, until we finally make it to the campsite. It is a flat grassy area nestled between hills and relatively near the summit. A make-shift comfort room stands atop a nearby hill. It has a 6-inch wide square hole in the middle, four walls and an open doorway. No roof on this one, so hello google earth. Needless to say, it offers a marvelous view of the mountain range while personal business is being done.

No time is wasted as tents, pitched as quickly as possible, sprout like mushrooms in the dimming light. Soaked clothes are shed and dinner is prepared. I wish I could tell of the sounds of the night but only pattering rain, a huffing dog, and pop music from another tent lull me to a dreamless sleep.

Freezing toes and the icy morning air get the best of sleepyheads. It gives me enough reason to miss the sea of clouds phenomenon, which is the highlight of the climb. I doze off without any intention to go out until the sun is high enough to offer its glorious warmth. At 5am, I pull myself out of the tent, teddy bear blanket in tow. The trek to the summit is easier and much more enjoyable than expected. Stone steps leading from the campsite to the trail seem carefully placed and very inviting. The delicate beauty of the mountain is uncovered in every step I take. The dwarf bamboo by my feet and ripples of grassy green and golden brown hills dotted by white wild flowers feast my eyes on our way. Bursts of sunlight generously offer the much coveted warmth while the cool air gives chills when passing under the side shadows of hills.

I catch my breath upon reaching the summit, gradually taking in the 360 degree view of the hills below and what remains of the sea of clouds. The clouds are like floating cotton balls, detaching from the sea white fluff and journeying heaven bound. I bask under the sunshine and take some random shots. Amidst the fun and excitement of reaching the peak, I don’t feel a sense of pride in “conquering” a mountain. It’s actually a peculiar feeling, amazing and somewhat humbling- to know that I am stepping on someone’s sacred ground, the heaven of the Ibalois; to be so vulnerable to nature and detached from my comfort zone, and yet find peace and acceptance. On a little less than three thousand meters above the sea, I rest my mud-soaked feet on this heaven and shiver as the playful gods of Mt. Pulag blow cold kisses on my face.


Zaide Uy said...

nice article johzen! galing mo magsulat :) i hope to reach pulag's summit this year too to see for myself the sea of clouds..

Anonymous said...

Sweet website, I hadn't noticed earlier during my searches!
Continue the great work!

Pam said...

Thanks anonymous! =D

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!

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