Three years ago, I climbed a mountain for the first time. It was in Mt. Mabilog in Nagcarlan, Laguna. I was with a bunch of people from work and about 20 other strangers. It was organized by a mountaineering club I knew nothing about.
It was an easy hike; no steep ascents, no slippery trails, no horrific risks to life and limb. The campsite was chilly but nothing too uncomfortable. At the base of the mountain was a beautiful lake where I went swimming and got an ear infection.
My Sandugo backpack and sleeping bag were still fairly new then. I didn’t have any hiking shoes so I just wore regular rubber shoes that looked more at home in a mall than a trail. I was clueless about managing water intake so I often guzzled half a liter of water in one go. I later learned that you’re supposed to take small sips now and then so you can make your trail water last and so you won’t be hiking with a full bladder. I had no idea how to pitch a tent so other people did it for me. I didn’t think of bringing any trail food so I fed on other people’s stash of peanuts and Jellyace. I was told that I should waterproof my stuff so I put them all in Ziploc bags. I still hadn’t heard of a dry bag.
The great part about the climb was the food. We had none of those canned sausages, instant noodles and cold tuna flakes. The organizers were prodigious cooks who prepared great meals from scratch. This was also where I had my first taste of lambanog. That stuff is wicked. I swigged about a fourth of a cup and was woozy within minutes.
I’ve gone on to climb a few more mountains since Mt. Mabilog. My Sandugo backpack has been subjected to much abuse and now has a few rips and tears. I have a pair of proper hiking shoes that can withstand sharp rocks and muddy trails. I can make a liter of water last for hours. I have figured out the structural intricacies of pitching a tent. I always have ample stock of my favorite trail food: lychee-flavored jelly with nata de coco. And I now own a dry bag although I still put my stuff in Ziploc just to be sure.
Despite these improvements, I still have a long way to go in this mountaineering thing. I’m not yet one of those hardcore climbers who can maneuver the toughest of trails with the ease of a mountain goat. I’m more like the dorky-looking runt who’s on her hands and knees, crawling her way to the peak. That’s alright. What I lack in physical prowess, I more than make up for by being scrappy as a badger and stubborn as hell.
Note: Photos are not mine. I just grabbed them from other people’s Facebook and Multiply accounts but it has been a long time so I couldn’t remember anymore who they were from. Apologies for the lack of proper attribution.