My unforgotten Mt.Napulak Climb
Towering a height of 1200 feet above sea level, Mt. Napulak is cuddled by the towns of Miag-ao and Igbaras, Iloilo City. It stands huge, brown and dusky with a massive rock formation atop, makes it appear like a woman’s breast. It is home to the largest single flowering plant called Raflesca also called the corpse flower because it smells like a rotting flesh.
The Mount Napulak National Invitational Climb hosted by The Higher Grounds Mountaineering And Ecological Society in ILOILO headed by Jay Plantinos and by The Talahib Eco-Trekkers ILOILO led by Edison Aperocho in cooperation with the IGBARAS LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT brought me there together with my climbing buddies Bonedoc, Ma’m Sheila Alcazar and Sir Dawn Alcazar and 50+ (?) other noble mountaineers. Thanks guys! It was achingly awesome!!!
What and how much did it cost me? (1) A week of 16 hours straight hospital duties, (2) an infected ingrown which dragged me to Emergency Room (3) a debate with an MD for an urgent excision/drainage of the pus, an antibiotic argument and a demand that my wound should be healed in 3 days doc. Hehehe (4) sleepless nights (5) and of course 1 aircraft. My early morning plane ride to Iloilo City abandoned me for being 20 minutes late. I was heartbroken Uhuhuhu. I had to buy a new ticket twice the price of my early morning flight…. pocket broken. Waaaahhhh!
It was a cool early morning of January 22nd 2010 when I, Bonedoc and my new friends Sheila and Dawn went to “super”, Iloilo’s famous wet market to catch a jeepney ride from Iloilo City to Igbaras. The organizers of the climb met us at the Tourism Office and from there, we rode a motorcycle which dropped us at a Basketball Court in Brgy. Lab-on. There, I met Mario and Anna who are Spanish exchange students from Ateneo de Manila who are into exploring Philippine outdoors. Interesting!
It was a little over 9am when started to walk and the sun was beaming hot burning my skin. As we passed by the rice fields, I looked up for an ameliorant view of the peak I yearn to conquer. So near yet so beyond far tsk tsk tsk.! We were told that its going to be a 2 hour trek from the tree line to the last water source then another 3hour ascend to the peak. Oh my God! Will I make it? I muttered. I was unfit, untrained, and a newbie for this climb but does Bonedoc knows that I am a fragile, flibbertigibbet cry baby too? If he doesn’t, then I bet I’ll have his brain fried sooner or later.
We’ve perambulated for 2 hours, traversed the lacunas on our way, tried to fit my steps on the little breadth of the trail, catch what seemed to be my last breath and still have not seen any sign of vegetation but this one lonely corps tree. I started to wonder why am I agonizing to push my way up the hill when all I wanted was the Dinagyang fever and my hunee? I may have the penchant for the outdoors but I was never physically prepared for this climb. I was like a wimpy yellow toad with an orange 30liter pack on her back and a dangling tongue trying to leap the cliffs. OMG rabbit!
We took several breaks and nibbled on chocolates and jellies to regain the energies we lost along the way. However, every stop only prepared me for a harder terrain. How I wanted to throw away my bag and just finish the climb. Panting through the open rocky trail, we finally reached the line of trees which clothe us from the burning heat of the sun. For a newbie climber like me, the 2 hours of joggling motion traversing the interiors of Mt Napulak to the last water source was eternity. We sat on a path beside the stream and oh my it was a relief to be inactive. It was only 1pm and we were told to not only to cook lunch but dinner as well and be ready at 3-330pm for the assault. I tried not to move the whole time for my limbs were in throbbing pain. I ate lunch like I haven’t eaten before (kaing karpentero). However, it felt like a dream when my climbing buddy dokie sat beside me as he pointed out to the trees punctured by woodpeckers. Elbows to elbows, we gazed up into the woods and savoured the moment. In forty winks, I dozed off as Bella and him as Edward in the Twilight movie. Ilonggo version.bwahahaha
We started to ascend at 3:30pm and I wanted to rest every after 5 minutes of scaling a 75 degrees inclination. I was gasping and my heart was pounding really hard. The stick Bonedoc got me helped my balance and pushed my bottoms up when my legs are almost locked and stiff. After an hour of assault we’ve reached an open and hot hot trail. There was nothing to hold on to but cogon grass and fervent hope that the nipple peak will be a sweet surprise soon. Halfway through the trail, we took a break and bonded with Sir Jay. We chatted and stared at the bald and brown mountain ranges that surrounded Mt Napulak. I couldn’t help but think of how organized, accommodating, and friendly the organizers of this climb. Never did we feel left out. Someone was always there to check on us.
As we pushed up, the tall and sharp edges of cogon grass, and bonedocks outbursts of “hunee don’t look down” my stubbornness made me turn my back and see that my life is hanging uphill and one wrong move could plunge me back to the lowlands. The never ending assault and exhaustion under the searing temperature got me frustrated and spilled my line of the day “hunee, have u forgotten?” For the others appeared to be walking in the park. Sheila and Dawn have traverses so easily, making the mountain their playground while I clustered all my strength and climbed with my legs, arms, and chin. I’m lucky to have bonedoc as my shock absorber, my guide and to have dragged me when I could no longer push and pull.
The sun has started to set when we finally reached the summit. Alleluia! I joyfully posed for pictures with the best climbing buddies I could ever have..Bonedoc, Sheila, and Dawn. It was my first “real climb” made even more remarkable for it was a national invitational friendship climb the view was spectacular and I could not describe the feeling of happiness and accomplishment inside me. A wonderful, astounding beauty, calmness, and mystical twilight seeping into my soul.
We scouted for a site to pitch our tent and took photos of the diffusing sun. After dinner, we squatted on a rock for a chat and savoured the night cap, city lights below, the swaying cogon grass and the cool breeze of Mt. Napulak. It was getting really cold so we decided to sleep. I was awakened by storm like wind hammering our tent but then Bonedoc must have pegged it firmly to be blown away.
At morning, my climbing buddies explored the huge tinselled rock atop Mt Napulak while I stayed at my favourite spot savouring the agonizing but sweet feeling of successfully climbing with the person I love most all the way to Iloilo. It was an incomparable euphoria.
As the sun radiantly evinced to shine, we gastronomically loaded ourselves, packed, and joined everyone for the group picture. It was really fun. I wish I could have met everyone. We said our prayers and started to descend. The trek down was harder than I thought. It was a narrow lose trail, almost nothing to hold on to. The slopes were steep, the small stones and rocks makes traction even more difficult. It was really a dry slippery t rail which needed absolute power to keep me from tumbling down. My toes are all curled up, my plantars blistered, and my ingrown was dreadfully in pain. I crawled down Mt. Napulak, and slid with my bottoms. I complained not just once but always. Hehehe
It was a relief when we’ve reached the lunch site where we treated for a free lunch by the hosts. It’s been years since I’ve tasted stewed chicken with ubod. Thank you guys! Mario and Anna ate with us. I was amused of how well they blended with us…the indios.hehehe.
After lunch, the flock of Napulak climbers descended to Nasadjan Falls. It was another leg of steaming trek up and down the hill. But then I thrived all the zigs and zags. All the jumps and bumps. All the heat and itch. All the pain and aches. After all, it was all part of the climb. Our group forewent the cascades because of too much heat and exhaustion. Ma’m Sheila texted Sir Jay of our plans and we hopped into a habal-habal and headed to the city. I landed on our accommodation floor and almost nailed my body to ground but Bonedoc reminded me of the socials at the Barbeque Park.
The post climb party was short but merry. Everyone was given with certificates, souvenirs, and shirts. I so love it. Each group were given a chance to air their comments of the climb. Indeed, it was successfully well organized. Congratulations to the hosts. I will forever be grateful to all the people (Sir Jay and company, Sir Jigs, Sir Mouse, Senior Mario, Seniora Anna and many others) I met to and from Mt. Napulak. To Ma’m Shiela, Sir Dawn and Bonedoc, that experience could have never been fun and possible without you. So much thanks for the loads of memory and friendship I will forever keep.