My entire lower body is aching and my limbs are itchy from grass blade cuts as I’m writing this.
Last weekend, I conquered the Cinco Picos-Silanguin Cove traverse. Rated 4/9 in terms of difficulty by PinoyMountaineer.com, reaching the summit is but an 881-meter uphill climb but the whole hike covers around 12 km in horizontal distance. It was my first real climb and, as someone who spends most of the day on a laptop and has no concept of leg day, my body was definitely not ready for the almost 11-hour trek.
I know, I could’ve chosen an easier mountain to climb but hear me out. One, I’m a beach boy at heart – I’d choose the beach over the mountain in a heartbeat – and having the beach waiting for me at the end of the hike is my version of a payoff. Two, I really wanted the full climbing experience and this particular one has virtual cake walks, river treks, steep assaults, a sprinkling of “buwis-buhay” slippery descents, and overnight camping. (It also was my first camping experience since high school so yay?)
And three, it was chosen for me by the guy who organized the trip and he is someone I completely trust my life with so it can’t be that bad, right? Right?
But really, I did it because I wanted to find out why people do it. A few of my friends do and, again, being a beach person, I was wondering what kind of satisfaction they get out of subjecting their bodies to torture for a few pictures at the summit. Don’t turn on me yet with that statement because I now know that it’s a shitty assessment. After everything, my perception of it is not as simplistic anymore.
Back to my experience: The mountain is not that high and I’ve been told there would just be a lot of walking. So initially, I thought there would be wide trails and we’d all be walking side by side, laughing our way to the top. But reality would have it so that we’d be in a single line, walking a damp and slippery one-foot wide path most of the time, fenced by relentlessly sharp blades of grass.
Looking at the hill from afar, I had this mental image of us running around the side of it while singing “The Sound of Music.” I told you: I had no freaking idea. But two hours into the hike and we still hadn’t reached the foot of the mountain yet, I began to question myself, and see how sorely mistaken and extremely naive I was.
Mountaineering is becoming an increasingly popular activity among Filipinos. Recently, it has been associated with finding oneself in the midst of an existential quarter-life crisis or a tough breakup. Since then, some peaks have become mainstream destinations and some climbers have decided to make a hobby out of it and have started taking on more challenging summits.
I find that each person has a different personal experience of climbing. There were five of us and we all reacted to the trek differently. I felt like I was in a video game, with my strength and energy levels fluctuating, my momentum building and falling, and how I have to step on certain things but not other certain things to make it through each round.
More than a couple of times, I felt my person wanting to give up from exhaustion and fatigue. At which points, we would either stop for mini breaks to recharge or I just had to power through it. In video game terms, it’s that moment when you use your hero’s rare one-use-per-game 150 percent boost of life.
And I wasn’t the only one. My companions had similar “I can’t do this anymore” moments but we all knew that there was no turning back. Giving up was not an option even if our knees were threatening to stop functioning.
And that’s when I realized that it’s pride. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment when you do something that you think you cannot do; when you continue even when your mind, body and soul are spent; when you soldier on when you feel like there’s no hope. Because one way or another, you will finish that traverse. You will make it because that’s your only option. The alternative would be what? To live at the side of the mountain for the rest of your days?
For me, it’s not even about the view. You take pictures to document what you have achieved. It’s something you can be proud of because your whole being, with a lot of motivation from your friends and the people you encounter on the journey, took you there. For a singular moment in time, you are on top of the world. And that is worth it.
Would I do it again? Ask me again when the pain in my legs subsides. But I have a creeping suspicion that my answer will be yes.
I’m @EdBiado on Twitter and Instagram