25 Things I Learned In Life On Mt. Ulap

It was the third day of our Ultimate Luzon Roadtrip with Ilocos Region as our main leg. I was unquestionably overwhelmed by the flock of tourists and sea of local crowd, for me who’s meticulous on planning a break away from bandwagons and touristy spots. Well, it’s inevitable since our tour falls on a weekend where travel aficionados spend binge their leisure time and the places we’re visiting are nowhere near crowdless. Still, surprised how far Ilocos is, innumerable individuals endured the painstaking, butt-numbing bus ride just to see how beautiful and rich is the culture of Ilocos Region.

I need a breather. We decided that Baguio would be the perfect point to slacken our muscles a day before catching up our flight back to Cebu. Baguio City was our last stopover. Our flight back to Cebu will be 6:35pm on the next day. We arrived late in the afternoon. The cold weather chilled my body even it was topped with layers of clothing. The smell of the pines made the chilling sensation so perfect. Brainstorming what to do in the city of pines, we ended up with a conventional conclusion, another city tour for our free time. I was like, ‘Crowds, tourists, people!’ I had enough seeing faces of people. I need a real breather from this. “How about climbing on a mountain solo?” I asked myself. Mt. Ulap is the ideal mountain since it’s less than an hour from Baguio. And it turned out to be a life’s realizations.

There are many things I learned; relearned some lessons I often overlooked in my life. I had a time contemplating and assessing myself and these are all worth it.


It was past 3:30am the next morning when I woke up. I was a little bit behind schedule. If I didn’t have a hard time falling asleep the night before, I should’ve woke up earlier and started the trek more than an hour after.

It cost me a money for a taxi from Baguio City to Ampucao Barangay Hall – registration area – where I met up with my guide, Kuya Cons, just to compensate the wasted time. All the fees paid were a bit pricey for a solo trekker like me. My wallet would literally cry if it was animated. But for the love of mountains, I wouldn’t mind a cent especially in times when your two little feet are itching.


Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul. That’s what I think that time. I have nothing to lose but I have everything to gain.

It doesn’t matter what I want to achieve, it won’t come unless I have to sacrifice something. The sacrifices will be equal of what I want to get. I know what I was giving to achieve was so much more – a lifetime of precious memories.

It would be impossible to make life’s choices without sacrificing something. Far better to make conscious decisions knowing that we choose certain things over material ones. Life without a conscious decision is a habit, and while habit can be comfortable for us, I don’t believe living life by rote choices leads to greater happiness. So, think wise for the right sacrifices.

I already set my mind to what might have come in this journey. I have made peace with the sacrifice that I made, it’s the pull of the heart that is so great. And I know the journey will gonna pay the price.


After an hour or less on the slopes of Mt. Ulap, I felt that my legs are burning. I felt that my muscles might burst and shred into pieces in any minute. Taking another step higher appears to be harder than complaining senselessly. It seems that catching my breath is the only thing that matters to me that time.

We all suffer from that same distress and if we put it into our life’s perspective, it is more dragging. Hard-pressed at work, chained down and hysterical about the deadlines, and those ever mood-changing diabolical emails we received. It just keeps on piling up. We thought it would never end. Even a 15-minute coffee break can’t butt in.

Then here comes the weekend. The classic stranger-turned-into-superhero protagonist we waited for that comes after the good guys were beaten off half-dead by the bad ones in a classic movie; the flat terrain we always dreamed of at the mountains on a trek. We’re saved.


Always put in mind that nothing started off easy. If you think what you’re doing in life right now is easy, you’re doing it wrong. Life always starts hard unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. But the thing is, by every elevation we take, we’re getting closer and closer to our goals and what’s waiting for us at the top. Then eventually a resting place. You’ll gonna rejoice soon after.

Disclaimer: Don’t forget that weekend only has 2 days.


Water, food, extra clothes, and other necessities. These are the things you only need that can fit in your pack. Bring things that matter and put down those that are mere helpful. Too much is too much.

Extra baggage slows you down and brings burden in the long run. Weigh each importance of those things and decide. It will take time. Don’t get confused and suffice the wants of your ego. Proper discernment is the key and then, learn to let go. At the beginning, this may be difficult but the experience will teach you how to make it.

From a personal perspective, we carry too much baggages in our life. Baggages that don’t allow us to grow nor venture out from our comfort zone. Let go of the toxic things. It’s easier to go along our journey free from things that suffocate us.

Travel light – it’s the best way to be. Leave the unnecessary behind. Alight yourself with irrelevances.

There are far better things ahead than the things we leave behind.


People I met along the trails put a different spectrum of colors in my life. Vivid and explicit, they’ll make the best companions on the mountains with their genuine attitude. I learned so much in life through their own spectacles.

When was the last time you talked to a stranger? To a local you met along the trail with different culture with what you have and with different views about life? To fellow trekkers resting and vigorously breathing under the cool shade of a tree? I know how hard it is to start a conversation. We just have to be willing to put ourselves out there and make an impression.


As for me, I just smile. It captures a person’s interest. It speaks volumes about you and builds rapport before you even say a word. Then have that conversation. Don’t limit yourselves with whom you want to converse with. Talk about their interests, opinions, and ideas. You’ll gonna feel that they’re just as genuine as those you have known for a long time. They might surprise you with their answers and subtly, help you with your life’s struggles. Then respond to what they share. It’s about sharing a part of yourself to them and in return, you’re receiving a piece of their life from them. It’s all about connection.

That’s the eloquent beauty of conversation.


As I pace my foot one after the other, I awfully got a strange feeling. With my adrenaline-packed body and my mind totally immersed in nature, an eerie feeling of something missing prevailed.

I was alone with silence.

My friends are not here as they usually were. It’s awfully quiet. No one cracks a joke and no one burst a laugh that could be heard to distant mountains. There’s no giggling sound and no one’s gasping for air out of laughter. Loneliness slowly sinking in. It really is a different journey for me. Now, I miss those crazy monkeys.

Friends will always have that special spectrum of colors in our lives. We might not appreciate them from time to time. But when we do, it’s the time that we’re alone. So, appreciate them being around. Appreciate them for borrowing their strengths when you don’t have anything to pull out.

Say ‘Thank you’ for their small efforts, say ‘Take Care’ when you sense something’s bugging them, and say ‘Good Morning’ to always remind them that you’re also there for them in times when they need you.


Silence is the best sound you want to hear at times.

A time alone has to be a very personal brave initiative for the benefit of one’s self. It is the least selfish and conceded thing you can ever do to yourself. We need some space to grow. It’s important to gain perspective and valuable pieces of information to help us understand better our needs and wants.

We spent the majority of our lives where we are too preoccupied with commitments, bills, and priorities. They always come first. Neck-deep in work as they say. Stuck our butts on a chair with our faces bathed in that eerie glow from the computers; doing the same boring routines every day over and over again. But do we really need to chain ourselves to those things for eternity? No.


Many of us feel that we’re strangers to ourselves because we haven’t built that intimate relationship with ourselves. I am very thankful that I found some time to myself here in the beautiful mountainscapes of Mt. Ulap. I realized that being alone is a liberating feeling where I can recharge, reflect, get to know myself better, reconnect with myself, accept myself, and say I am enough. There’s contentment in isolation and there’s no better feeling than embracing one’s own flaws and reassessing yourself for a better you.

So, the next time you find yourself being overwhelmed with life around you, mark off the calendar and have that ‘me time’, your solitude.

Maybe it’s time to remember what it’s like to feel alive again.


As I go along in this journey called life, I encountered innumerable little things. We all do and we often overlooked them. We’re too overwhelmed in the great scheme of things and forget the little ones. Today’s society taught us to look on our goals, forget what’s small and focus on the bigger picture. Soon enough, we’ll all gonna regret missing these small details. They are small but small things still matter.

I can say that we must pay attention to small details because these drive our thoughts out from negativity just like getting fascinated by small pinecones during an exhausting trail. Take a moment to appreciate little things you normally overlook. It slowly diverts your attention and positivity will outweigh the negativity in your mind. Appreciate the songs of the birds, the chilling sensation of the air, and the smell of the trees. These moments can’t be described as splendid but they are precious and you’ll appreciate it someday.

Little things seem nothing but they leave us some of the most important moments. They lead us to the bigger things in life. Your success is the result of a lot of small things you worked hard and seemingly little sacrifices. If you live your life focusing on those big moments, you’ll end up losing the little ones along the way. So, start paying attention to small things now. But not too much. You might get off the track.


Sharp cold rocks almost covered the trails in Mt. Ulap. Each footing was hard to balance and my feet uneasy to traipse. Rocks and rocks everywhere. I barely set foot on a soil. It made me remember Taylor Swift’s song lyric, “People throw rocks at the things that shine.” Well, these rocks made my trek hard as to criticisms made our lives hard, too. Just don’t sway and falter by these.

All the criticisms thrown at me made me feel to not live this life gracefully and want to escape to another dimension. Soul-breaking. All the criticisms that banged in my ears and fragmented my soul totally shaken up my inside and outside. The tough statements that have been thrown to me that shattered my very conscience.

Instead of giving in and drowning on negative emotions, I piled up those criticisms and make full use of them. I think of it as a mountain full of cold craggy rocks. To make it to the top, make all the rocks be a stepping stone in soaring such greater heights. Make it a practice and learn to utilize each rock in achieving the goal to the top.


In life, take criticism to your heart, not into a destructive manner but involve your soul in this criticism and make full use of it in building up a better character of yourself. Moment onwards, it will take you to an influential life such that people who have criticized you will put their heads down and feel guilty and ashamed after your death. Don’t wait for their karma to come. Let your success be their karma.


I can’t clearly explain why sweating buckets like horses feel so good as gobbling an entire box of hawaiian pizza with an extra pineapple toppings on it. There’s a refreshing feeling on every sweat dripped, a rewarding feeling that there’s a progress after those cardiac assaults.

In life, progress is an important indicator of current and future success. It is a sign of your growth as an individual that you learn from your past mistakes and overcomes the hurdles of life. You begin to reevaluate the path you’re using and determine how far you’ve hoped for yourself.

You’re a work in progress. So keep sweating and reevaluating your progress.


Why am I here in the mountain? Why am I trekking these craggy trails of Mt. Ulap? Why am I even pushing my limits to the summit? Because I want to disconnect myself bound by earthly desires, away from life in the fast lane.

I always do this every time I have an adventure. I don’t want myself get distracted from the brisking notification sounds popping from my smartphone or those jiggling vibrations emitting from that 5-inch electronic screen. I’m not here in the middle of a mountain just to reply all those Facebook messages nor bedazzled by those mere thousand heart-shaped Instagram likes. I just want to disconnect from the cyber world occasionally. I find it comforting; free from social media affairs and happenings on the internet.

It’s really okay and I find myself more connected with my life.

I just want to enjoy the sole purpose why I’m here in Mt. Ulap. If I’m doing it for a life-changing journey, I’ll do it.


There are times I slipped on the muddy part of the trail, tripped my feet off by some rock, and smothered my face on some twigs. Those are only obstacles. We all experience those times. They are out there and also in our lives. And we’ll most certainly encounter them as we go through life.

Sometimes you knock your feet off the ground, experience failures and setbacks when you thought everything’s gonna be alright. Maybe you should ask yourself why things went this way, what went wrong, and then figure things out. Think about necessary adjustments and take another try. There’s beauty in every attempt.

Get yourself from the dirt. We must learn from every tripped down in our lives so that we do not run the risk of repeating them. Our failures and mistakes are our guideposts in our learning and growth as humans. Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new in their life. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. You could only fail if you didn’t try.


Climbing mountains is not a race, so is life. If you rush to the end, you’ll never gonna make it. You’ll gonna run out of breath and appreciate nothing with all the distances you paced. Hike harmoniously with nature. Feel the breeze and marvel the distant mountains around.

Same goes with life. It’s not a race to stardom. It’s not a race to fame. It’s not a race for wealth. If we keep rushing ourselves to the things we lust, we’ll never last. Take it slow. Meticulously paint that empty canvas of yourself. Stroke slowly the details you want to highlight, from the seemingly striking aspect that keeps everyone from staring to the finest details like dots and thin lines.


Slowly, savor that real-time movie called life every day because things will never be same. You might have that split second experience. Witness it before it’s gone forever. Second chances rarely come and chances are next to never. Savor and appreciate life.

No matter how slow you take to reach the summit of life, what matters the most is that you’re making one step at a time, without faltering your way to get there.


Before the trek, I did a little research about Mt. Ulap. I saw a lot of pictures posted online and I couldn’t deny that Mt. Ulap had me amazed to see its raw beauty and marveled its rolling landscapes. I had that mountain lust on the small screen of my phone even before seeing it personally.

But it didn’t meet my expectations as the trail slowly unraveled its real beauty – it exceeded my expectations on so many levels. It took my breath away. I left myself speechless. No matter how I’ve come prepared for the views I expected, standing and seeing it in person gave me a myriad of feeling.

Truly, everything in life is full of surprises. And without knowing how or why, life always ends up surprising us even when we little expected it. This proved that no matter how we define our lives in the destiny that we want, the universe still comes up with more astonishment.


We don’t have control over our destiny. Let life surprise you. Sometimes the unexpected can bring with it so much more joy and happiness than we ever could have hoped to create. Embrace everything that life throws your way, there are a lot of unknown gifts that life has to share. We’ll never know when. It’s better not to expect too much ’cause sometimes, ignorance is a bliss.

Yet it always does surprise us – even in the mountains. And surely, you’ll gonna love the mountains even more.


I know how tiring it is from those cardiac assaults. My body drenched with my sweat and my legs can’t even move one step further. There’s a time when I want to go back but it seems that the summit is just a few meters in front of me. If your motivation’s draining, just take a deep breath. Pause and rest for a while.

When life’s too hard on you, don’t give up and waste all the blood and sweat you’ve shredded. Rest even if it’s a little.

Time to sit down and reflect for a while. Appreciate the stillness, and listen to the silence. Reset your mind and replenish your motivation. You don’t know how a little rest can do. You’ll be glad if you did.

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against every challenge. Pause and rest for a while.


When I think about the things in life that makes me the happiest, it’s always about the people, adventures, experiences, and the warm feeling I felt inside my chest when I’m with those things, not the material things in the universe.

When I took a rest in Mt. Ulap, all I can see are grandiose mountainscapes and beautiful forest of pine trees. I can’t believe that this is really free. These mountains are one of the most underutilized treasures in life. It surely unburdens hearts and reconnects us to that inner place of peace.


We’re blessed with an exciting opportunity to explore it, to admire it, and to appreciate for all that is. Trekking gives us a perfect opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this world in silent contemplation. As I was enjoying the bounty that nature has bestowed and immersing myself in it, a subtle realization came up to me that nature’s beauty is enough to keep us going forward.

And the beautiful thing about that is, it’s for free.


Kuya Cons told me that the summit can be seen when trekking the trail after the first summit. It is an open trail with Mt. Ulap’s magnificent grassland and rocky paths where Kuya Cons pointed out the highest peak.

It looks like we’re just less than an hour away from relief. But the reality is, it’s not. From what my guide told me, it will be more than 3 hours away. I was shocked but nothing to complain. This is the part where going back isn’t an option anymore.


In the same manner, don’t be impatient of your life goals. Never underestimate its magnitude and how long it will take to get you there. You’ll be experiencing challenges and roadblocks in achieving your dreams but you need to have the power of patience and the zeal to overcome the challenges.

Don’t be intimidated by how long the time to reach your dreams. It’s all about patience and perseverance to reach to that spot.


I was thinking about backing out on this trek on Mt. Ulap. I can’t eat. My stomach is terrible. The food I brought doesn’t taste good and everything. I’m constantly worrying about summiting Mt. Ulap and if I could make it in time for my flight back to Cebu. Then at some point, I realized I wasn’t here to worry stupid things.

Why should I? Does it add an hour to my life? No. It adds up problems.

Life may, or will, not favor the timeline we made for ourselves at our comfort because time change and all we need to do is to respond and cope up with it. We must set our minds that life is disorderly. We can’t control every single detail we want it to be. Worrying won’t stop the bad things from happening. It just stops you from enjoying the good ones.

So free your mind from negativities. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to do something that scares you ’cause it will eventually level up your life. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

The world is too beautiful to worry about.


The bad thing about going solo is that you can’t get help from other people. But you will learn to support yourself fundamentally. You will have yourself to fall back on, so it is extremely important to be able to handle things on your own.

Sometimes, we rely on others far more than it is necessary. This is a fatal error too many people make these days. We awefully forget that everyone’s busy picking up their shattered pieces from the dirt. We’re fighting our demons; different demons in different levels. They’re busy making a brand for themselves. We must learn to detach and be independent.

To be on your own, you’ll learn great things you thought you couldn’t do by yourself. You will learn to take actions on your own will without fencing yourself in the demand of the society.

You’ll gonna realize that the most trusted friend you’ve got is yourself ’cause nobody’s better on fixing you than yourself.


Life is like a very long hiking trail with different types of trail. In our battles of conflicts, we give up on our hopes and dreams easily, and we envy everyone around us for their success while there we are, dead-cold silence on the corner overcome by dejection.

No. This shouldn’t be.

Anyone can give up ’cause it’s the easiest thing to do. But to hold it together when everyone else in the world would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.


So don’t stop! At any given point of time, moving forward is the best decision. On the trail, you’ll gonna learn that if you move your feet one foot in front of the other, you’re going somewhere, you’re getting closer inch by inch to your destination.

Keep moving forward, one of the few lessons I learned since I began scaling mountains. It’s very simple. You just need a little push, even if you’re near your breaking point, keep moving forward.

Mt. Ulap throws so many challenges at you that the best option to complete your itinerary is to keep moving forward. Look back and you can get stuck struggling for life.


Is climbing difficult? Well, difficult is a mediocre thing to describe. Will I sweat blood on this? Yes! Will I breathe my lungs out on this? Absolutely! It’s a freaking mountain of course.

During my hike on Mt. Ulap, my mind constantly juggled if I want to summit this mountain or stop walking, climb down to lowland and catch my flight back to Cebu. Then I told myself, “I can do both.” Turns out, I did both.


Everyone’s fighting a dilemma in themselves without knowing their capabilities of confronting and capacities of dealing with them. The key is to set your mind to see things optimistically rather than thinking about what other negative external forces would come out. It’s just a matter of perspective and how you see things in life.

Just believe in yourself. Everything’s possible with a positive mindset.


Summit at last! It took me awhile but I did. All I just wanna do is to celebrate, take pictures, and victoriously marvel the panoramic view at the top after those assaults.

I reveled my hard-earned success upon reaching the summit. I suffered a lot along the journey because I worked hard for it; because what awaits for me at the summit is magnificent and worth it.

Suchlike life struggles, the learning, the experience, and the person that you have become are worth all the scratches and bruises. Celebrate to your heart’s content. I know what it’s like to hold that trophy and believe me, it’s worth all the blood, sweat, and tears. It’s worthy of your time, action, and effort.


Engulf yourself with fulfillment. Shout triumphantly for joy. Reaching the top teaches you not to hesitate on celebrating victorious moments and appreciating life’s little achievements.

Reward yourself with the view only a few have seen.


Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. I thank all the mountains in my life, not only Mt. Ulap, for presenting the challenges I had faced. Without those challenges, I might never know the true strength of my character. And that is a precious gift for me.

Trekking Mt. Ulap taught me to value my own life and reminding me simple but significant things. I was so lucky to witness Mt. Ulap’s landscapes that I couldn’t thank the Mother Nature more. Life is precious, and the mountains gave me a wild taste of livelihood.

I think ‘Thank You’ wasn’t enough. It wasn’t the words I exactly looking for. Maybe the words I wanna utter wasn’t invented yet.

We must also be grateful for every person that helped us build our character. Let’s take a minute to think of the people who have done something nice to you, to think of everything that made great about you. One minute might be short, but it’s enough. And it will instantly make your day better.

We are given 86400 seconds in a day. Have you used one to say ‘Thank You?’


Everybody wants to reach the summit, but there is no growth on the top of the mountain. It’s only a place to savor one’s success. You cannot stay on the summit forever. One must go down again.

So why bother to climb in the first place?

Just this, it is in the craggy trails that we struggle through and the steep terrains we risk are the learnings. They are the excellent schoolmasters that taught us more than what we could learn from the textbooks and internet. Learning is a never-ending process and one must not thrive to grow with a single lesson for years.


Don’t settle on life’s accomplishments. All the success enable us to prepare to summit life’s next peak. The peak of the mountain serves as a resting place for our heart and soul, contemplating and planning for the mountain ahead.

Be motivated, go down, and ready for another journey to the next mountain in our life.

What is above knows what is below but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One who descends sees no longer, but one has seen.


I read something on the internet that says, “Don’t edit the stories you’re telling. Edit the life you’re living.” We’re the main protagonist and the author of the book called life. Telling fake stories don’t go you anywhere.

Does it really feed your self-satisfaction? Or is it just your ego?

Rather than learning to become a great liar to make my boring life interesting, I got off the couch and went for an adventure. I will promise myself that I’ll do something interesting in my life. I’ll collect amazing moments and interesting memories to be told. I’ll immortalize it through frozen memories in squares and vivid write-ups on the net.


‘Cause I know one day, my memories will fail. But the stories I wrote don’t lie. I’ll just gonna relive by scanning and reading it, again and again, to feel what it is to be alive and free in my prime.

After all, life is short and youth is finite. Live the adventure and be a storyteller of your life.


Promises are made to be broken. Cliché as it sounds but the promises you made for the mountains are steel-hard can’t be.

There’s always something that connects my life with them. Nature had this strange calling out. We sometimes hear it from a soft breeze of the air grazing our very skin, in the fresh smell of the air after the rain, and sometimes it just pops out from the back of your mind yearning for some mountain lust.

Mt. Ulap earned a soft corner in my heart. I left a part of me there and I would want to keep coming back there.


As I was on the summit, I spent some time of nothingness. The lullaby of nothingness echoed in my conscience. I made a promise – to be back whenever I feel the need to be surrounded by these timeless beauties.

Maybe I’ll come back solo again, or with people with the same interests as me, or with my goodie old friends. Or maybe with the one that I love.

It really is true that once you climbed a mountain and seen their beauty, you’ll go back to them again and again. After all, the mountains are my first love and will always be.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful content james. These life lessons are really applicable to anyone out there. Thank you because for some reason, this article reminded me of so many things in life.


  2. Freedom Wall says:

    You are an amazing storyteller James!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you sir Ian. I’m so flaterred that you really bother reading this blog post eventhough it’s kinda long. Thank you again sir Ian.


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