COLD MISTY MORNING AND WARM CHILDHOOD MEMORIES.
Morning came in. I could still feel the freezing atmosphere outside from my chamber. I curled up my body, curved my back and bowed my head, just enough that my knees could touch my face under my sleeping bag with my limbs embracing my lower torso. It’s warm and cozy in here as I fondled my cheeks gently onto my knees. My warm breath wreathed my body with caress.
I heard light noises and mumbling sounds from a distance. The metallic clatter of pots and pans sounded like a distant parade outside. My eyes slowly blinked open to the light of new day and got up. I stepped outside the tent. “Good morning!” my voice quivered as I greeted everyone with my smiling face dripping with doziness. The ground was wet sending shivers to my nerves. The air hugged my tedious body. It’s cold. It’s freezing. But it felt good. Sweet vapors rise from the earth. The air was a little bit fresher than last night. I could feel through my nasal the chilling sensation of the dampness of the air from the morning dew mixing the thawed soil. Indescribable. It stirred so many emotions and thoughts like a morning walk in the garden. Everything’s always better here in the mountain.
Early morning mist beginning to clear. Birds simultaneously tweet out to each other in a chorus, singing a soothing, melodic tune. Dew-laden grass and cobwebs spotted near the campsite. But something’s missing this morning. Oh! The sun. The warm golden rays of light of the sun we longed for after a cold night. But I guess mister sun isn’t coming out yet. It’s still too early and the thick clouds blocked the rays of the sun above. My body wrapped with my sleeping bag still enduring the cold air. The cozy feeling inside the tent tempted me to dig in a little bit more. Inviting. More persuading. But a little helping hand in preparing our breakfast would much be appreciated than curling up inside the tent.
Pans clamoring. Noise twitching. Brain-sniffing aroma. The whole campsite caught the faint fumes of the sizzling food drifting up from a nearby feast. It smells like mom’s homemade breakfast. It reeled memories of my childhood waking up on a cold rainy Sunday morning wearing my favorite pajamas. I could picture it out like a scene from a movie a little me sipping little by little a warm milk on the edge of the table while mom’s preparing the food. Isn’t it enticing how this setting from the mountains subtly traveled us to our favorite scenes when we were young?
WE EAT TRAILS FOR BREAKFAST.
It’s past 7:00 am in the morning after we had our breakfast. Secured water and prepped things we want to bring before heading out to the summit. Cameras, phones, tripods, and all other personal necessities needed along the trail. And the Philippine flag of course. Freedom climb would never be a legitimate freedom climb without a Philippine flag waving at the summit.
And then it started. Energy-depleting assaults thinned out our sumptuous breakfast. Breath gasping continuously for fresh air. Sweats dripping from every inch of our skin. The rightward ascending trail was a bit of a challenge especially for us who longed for few more minutes to snuggle inside our tents. Our pace was a little sluggish compared yesterday. But before we got bored and fainted along the trail with boredom, we unleashed the craziness within us to doze off the unwanted energies.
CRAZY TREKKERS. LET’S WALK AND TALK AND JOKE.
Someone started singing a classic tune and altogether we created a choir of shabby performers. We had fun. We laughed our lungs out about our performance. Some stirred the mood by conversing their funny jokes. Brewed some classic jokes that still took our wits away. Then out of silence, someone told a spectacularly bad joke. My lips curled involuntarily and fought back hard as my cheeks momentarily swelled with pressure. But someone erupted their laughter, echoing the forest floor. Then, we all fell about laughing at the awkwardness and the bad joke. A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that we couldn’t help but laughed. Small teardrops rolled by our cheeks. My jaws feeling numb and my head almost cracks open from laughter. We’re like a bunch of high school kids on a school bus in the middle of a field trip. There’s never a dull moment when I’m with this bunch. They said this behavior was caused by altitude sickness as we go higher and deeper into the mountains. And of course, this fact came from their crazy vocabulary.
BREATHE. MY PRAYER TO THE ENCHANTED FOREST.
We talked and laughed that we overlooked the transitions of the trail from woodlands to a mossy forest. As we looked closely, trees are covered with moss and light mist encompassed them. The air was colder and damper. Plants grazed upon me were wet and nippy.
Then golden light rays slowly pierced through the sky behind the mountain ranges, gradually unraveled the enchanted mossy forest for us to see clearly that was forfended by the bedazzling misty white veil. I stood up and stretched in the direction of the sun shining its warm golden light over the mossy forest. I closed my eyes as I immensely feel the warmth of the rays touching my very skin. I smiled with gratitude and calmly sighed. My breathe with the sun was my prayer for that day.
I slowly opened my eyes to the light. Aesthetic silhouettes of trees stood before me with its outlines glistening with delight. I have silenced yet again with the charm of the forest. Truly, Mt. Tres Marias never ceased to surprise me.
Our feet strolled over dead trees and branches. Our bodies sprawled under huge logs obstructing the trails. Trails also transitioned from soil to drenched mossy roots of trees. It’s harder now to set our footings. I clung from branches to branches like at the monkey bars in an open playground. Jumped from mossy logs to more mossy logs. It was risky but mirthful.
Sweats dripping from every inch of our body again when we reached the summit of Naliwatan. All the hardships paid off as we accomplished our very goal to finish our expedition at the summit of Mt. Tres Marias. Indeed, I am now part of history as an individual who conquered Mt. Tres Marias.
THE MOUNTAIN OF MEMORIES. CAN WE STAY LONGER?
It was almost noon when we descended from Naliwatan summit. On the way back, it was swifter since we’re already familiarized the trails. But still, some of us fell down along the trail a couple of times. We laughed in derision each time when someone fell before reaching our helping hand – or maybe not. That’s how friendships work nowadays.
We broke camp after having lunch. All set and ready to descend. We’ll be departing late from the campsite base on our itinerary. We marched our way down. Before that, I took my last look at the campsite; my last glimpse of the place before I’ll move down the trail. This place now left a remarkable imprint in my life even if I just stayed for a short time. Few more seconds, I indulged myself in enjoyable recollection of memories during our climb. The laughter we had shared during ascents. The food brawl during meals was literally a hunger game but fun. I like how this mountain drawn my memories as a kid. It was all precious and I am grateful for that. Part of me wanted to stay. “I want to spend longer pa”, I said to myself. And I know some of us felt the same way as I am. Maybe we just love the mountains too much; too much that it became part of our lives. But we don’t have the luxury of time to stay and do as we please. I put up a huge grin on my face, looked away from the campsite, and traversed down the trail. “Three peaks next year”, I whispered.
THE DESCEND: THANK YOU MT. TRES MARIAS.
It’s 5:00 pm and we’re traversing down the trail. I wasn’t exhausted but maybe some were. I’m still in awe by the views and trails we passed by. The falls, the rivers, the streams, and the mountain itself never got me bored. I was hopeful then that we could still make it to Sambawan Island before the sun sets on the horizon. But by judging the time and our current location on the trail, it’s hopeless. So we revered the moment and enjoyed the overlooking views from distant islands as the sun slowly sets on the horizon.
This mountain slope reminded me of a similar scenery back in our province. Golden light encompassed the whole mountain. Rice paddies with coconut trees aligned on golden hour. This mountain never seized to draw back my memories as a child. I got a lot to say thank you to Mt. Tres Marias.
CHASING SUNSET AND TAILING WITH THE STARS.
Our vehicle to the port for Sambawan Island was waiting at the jump off point. We survived the climb with nary a scratch. It was almost an hour transit to the port. We secured our island provisions and rode the boat we rented to the island.
Everyone fell asleep on the boat, despite the loud sounds from the engine, while I enjoyed the sky changing colors. We’re literally chasing sunset. From the bow of the boat, the beautiful silhouette of the bangkero was cast by the faint sunset on the horizon. Sea breeze grazed my cheeks. The air was warm. It was salty. Heard the waters splashing against the boat. As I leaned my body towards a wooden pole, I could feel the engine vibrating the entire boat giving a massage to our worn out body. Then, I looked back at the direction of the port. Caught by surprise, clusters of stars came early and greeted us with mass splendor. Stars sprinkled all over to this side of the night sky. I witnessed the transition of the sky from day to night. Golden sunset sky to starry sky. A magical twilight ended our day.
We made it to the island. Pitched our tent on the beachfront facing Maripipi Island. Freed tons of loads from our shoulders then had our sumptuous dinner later that night. We’re all stuffed and our energies replenished. Cold sea breeze prevailing the night. The crashing sound of the seawater against the shore soothed our ears. The alluring waters of the sea were so inviting and tempted us to take a dip. The water was warm. Just what our worn out bodies needed. I lay down on the shore with my body dipped into the water. I can see the clouds above rolling like cotton candies. The moon was pearl bright along with the stars sprinkled on the deep blue night sky. It was like the island was lit by moon and stars. Later on, we changed clothes and hit the sack.
TWILIGHT MELTED. SUNRISE AT THE HILL.
It’s almost 5 in the morning. I woke up earlier than the rest. I made some deep, grunting noises as I twisted my back and stretched my neck. I enjoyed the soft and slow process of waking up after sleeping on a beachfront. I woke up my friends and had a morning walk on top of the hill to witness the sunrise. The view on top was splendid. The whole island can be seen as well as the neighboring ones.
Fluffy clouds glide across the pale blue sky. The sun had awakened and was promptly emerging behind the shoulder of the bulky mountain of Maripipi Island. Now draped across the sky was a beautiful, vivid arrangement of colors. Pinkish glow. Then oranges and reds painted across the clouds as if by the celestial hands.
The colors spread across the sky sounding a new day. Twilight melted away. Powerful rays flood over the landscape of the island, lighting every grass turning them into golden blades of the morning. The sun shone brilliantly and the water in the sea below glittered invitingly. Under the gentle summer sun, its rays warmed my skin like kisses from the divine.
This sensation is so addicting. I could drink it up like a tonic. Instead, I spread my fingers wide and open like I did when I was a kid trying to fly, only now it’s just something that makes me smirk. Winds whispered in my ear; cold but not too much. Just enough to breeze my soul. What refreshing way to start my day!
We headed back to the mainland after that. I bid goodbye with my lips curled into a slow smile to the island once lit by moon and stars.