The first time I went to Bukidnon in April, I saw mountains. Lots and lots of mountains. And I figured, surely I can climb at least one of them. And I also figured I might as well climb the highest one because I’m stuck-up like that. So five months later, I was back in the province on my attempt to climb Mount Dulang-Dulang, the Philippines’ second highest peak at 2,938 meters above sea level.
Let me be clear: I’m not a mountaineer nor am I the epitome of physical fitness. I thought of joining a mountaineering org in college but when I learned that their “fun jog” is a 10-kilometer run, I had a vision of my lungs collapsing at the first 500 meters and dropped the idea. But I still like climbing mountains and I did grow up traipsing along muddy trails and crossing rivers in Sarangani during the summer. I may not be a toned, Vibram-wearing fitness buff but I am as scrappy as they go. I didn’t survive countless habal-habal and toploading rides as a kid in bandit-infested mountains for nothing.
One doesn’t get by on a major climb just on sheer scrappiness, however. You also have to have things like planning skills because apparently, planning is a big part in ensuring you don’t die while on the mountain. Unfortunately, I suck at planning. I got away with climbing Mt. Iraya in Batanes on a whim because it was just a day climb and the jump-off point was only a few minutes ride from the town center. Dulang-Dulang is a two-day climb and Sitio Bol-ogan, the jump-off point, is about 2-3 hours away from Malaybalay, depending on the jeepney or bus stopovers. On the positive side, I got another blundering space cadet to go with me on this crazy undertaking so at least I wasn’t going to die alone.
The weekend before the trip, we went nuts buying a tent (and figuring out what the hell a groundsheet and flysheet were for), hiking pants, dry bag, and enough canned goods to feed an evacuation center for a week. I had a few camping experiences before but I always went with a group and was mostly a parasite who depended on more responsible people to take care of things. Chiara was also relatively inexperienced at this gig so we just figured things out as we went along.
When we got to Malaybalay, the provincial capital of Bukidnon, we went straight to the Protected Area Management Board office in DENR to get a permit for the climb. The staff couldn’t believe we were serious. The Kitanglad mountain range is a popular mountaineering destination in Mindanao so they’re used to processing permits for climbers but apparently, it’s not everyday that two girls walk into their office asking to climb Dulang-Dulang. We stand at a little over five feet, we could barely carry our backpacks and we had this perpetually clueless look on our faces so we couldn’t really blame them for not having a lot of faith in our mountaineering capabilities.
But our pitiable looks did pay off; Ma’am Sunshine of PAMB offered to let us sleep in their office for the night. We planned on staying at one of the cheap inns in town since we were on a budget so the free accommodation was a welcome treat. We also scored a lot of cheap food from the karinderias and food stalls near the cathedral. The food of climbers (to be): maruya and kwek-kwek.
I was pretty confident in pushing through with the climb since I already had a contact at the jump-off point: Sir Henry and Ma’am Perla Binahon, the owners of the agro-forestry farm in Bol-ogan. When I first went there last summer, Sir Henry said he’d help me out if I decide to come back for a D2 climb. But it turns out I came back at a bad time; they were both very busy and Sir Henry was somewhere else doing a string of speaking engagements. He gives lectures on sustainable farming and agro-forestry from time to time.
So the day before our scheduled climb, we were left with no guide and no clue on how we were going to do this. We went back to PAMB and asked if they know of any guides who could take us. I got a few contacts and started calling them but one was not available and everyone else was probably stuck in a mineshaft 500 miles below the earth since all I got was an automated voice telling me the subscriber cannot be reached. After so many disconnected/unanswered/unsuccessful calls, we finally got a guide to agree to go with us on such short notice. That was a big relief at least. But the pre-climb ordeal didn’t end there.
Before reaching the jump-off point, we still had to go through two absolutely epic bus rides but this story would have to be on another blog post. This one is getting too long. Until next time. I hope.