Travel + Adventure | First-ever Hike Experience at Mt. Pulag

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that mountain.” -Alexander Sattler

I have always turned down all invitation to hike. I never cared how high is the mountain or that the feeling of reaching the summit would be life-changing. Whenever I hear “hike” I instantly imagine myself directly taking in the heat and burns of the sun, gasping for breath, and it’s just unbearable! The thought never enticed me.

Until, my bestfriend Jorzell asked me for the 3rd time if I want to join her Mt. Pulag trip, started tagging me in sea of clouds photos, and said, “I know if I get to the top I’d tell myself, I wish Carla was with me.” And because the girl knows she can get me with beautiful words (hay), I finally said yes.

But, it’s not just about achieving the perfect profile photo with the sea of clouds in the view. I promised myself to say yes to a lot of first-times this year! Also, I agree that the best way to move on from the past is to create new memories, right?

BEGIN

Our team was composed of me, my bestfriend Jorzell, her boyfriend Jie, workmate Sherl, and Jie’s 3 workmates. As you see, most of us would be meeting for the first time. We got Trail Adventours (TA) as our hike agency for P4,500. They asked us to assemble, along with the other teams, in the Victory liner bus stop to get to Baguio that 9 PM of March 3.

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After some stop overs, chopped sleeps, and a lot of tosses and turns, we arrived in Baguio at 3 AM. We stayed there for a bit and waited for the jeepney that would bring us to Benguet before sunrise.

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We finally arrived in Benguet for breakfast at 5 AM in a carinderia serving hot soups such as Bulalo and Papaitan. With rice, all orders cost P100.


After that, the Trail Adventours team brought us to some of the tourist spots in Benguet: Ambuklao Dam and Sulfur Spring. Time to check in and take snaps for IG!

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At around 11 AM, we reached DENR to have the mandatory orientation before hiking Mt. Pulag. Other hikers c/o different hike agencies were also there.

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These guys said our chosen trail, Ambangeg, is the easiest. I believed them.

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After the orientation, TA brought us again to a carinderia for lunch and we had Battered Chicken. We then proceeded to our inn. Finally, we can take a bath and wash our faces! I’ve been feeling so much dirt in my pores after those long jeepney rides.

This is the view outside our 2-storey inn that fit all of us 19 hikers of TA:

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We had the time to rest while waiting for dinner at 7 PM. Some of us didn’t sleep tho, as we have to sleep again after dinner and wake up at 12 AM. Our hike should start at 1 AM to catch the sunrise at the summit!

During dinner, we 19 hikers got to introduce ourselves, socialize, and receive our name tags and TA shirts. Our hike hosts Kim (alumnae of Marikina Science High School) and JP (very very funny guy!) also took the time to discuss the rules and share some facts about Mt. Pulag.

I think I slept for an hour or two. Next thing I knew, we were dressed up to hike!

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From this moment on, I won’t be sharing a lot of photos because when we reached the Ranger station (entrance to Mt. Pulag), things happened so fast and all I could think of is catching… my… breath… for 5 more hours – excluding the time to go down!

When we began walking, I was confidently carrying my handbag (yes, an Anna Sui handbag!!) in one hand, and the flashlight at the other. My reason for not bringing a backpack other than I only have Jansport is that I want to be able to get things fast. I also have scoliosis. BUT despite all these excuses, please, don’t be stupid like me! Borrow a backpack if you may and buy a headlight instead even if it costs P500+ and my flashlight is only P60+. I seriously believe it could’ve been easy for me had I not been stubborn.

Let me narrate my feelings by schedule:

Ranger Station to Station 1 (1 hour):

I was already gasping for breath after the first 10 minutes. I was thinking, “I should have cardio-exercised! Why am I tired already? Maybe because I didn’t have complete sleep.. and rice for breakfast! Why did the team give us only Lucky Me noodles and egg? I badly need Gatorade right now! *gasps for breath* What did I get myself into??!”

Yes. I already wanted to turn back in the first hour. I sat to rest and they asked me “Kaya pa?” But I figured I wasn’t the only one. We all struggled. Thankfully, we were able to rest a bit (15 min?) when we reached station 1, drink water, and eat chocolate for sugar rush! My motivation was that I paid P4,500 and I AM NOT THAT WEAK!

Station 1 to Station 2 (1.5 hours):

This time, I suddenly remembered how to breathe properly. Seriously. You have to make sure that you exhale with every step that requires effort. Stop shortly if you must to catch your breath. During this phase, my thoughts are torn between how to narrate this experience in my blog and making the perfect step in the stones and not in the deep mud. It was already raining and I didn’t know where my bonnet has gone. I keep covering my head with my hoodie but it’s so hot. I was sweating already.

Me to Jorzell: “Ilang minutes pa? Malayo pa ba?!” x 75

We reached Station 2 and again, the team allowed us to rest for I think, 20 minutes this time. We can pee at the not-so-toilet toilet (it was just a smelly enclosure with a hole), but I didn’t want to. I ate the apple because Sherl told me it gives more energy than a banana. That time, if she told me a rock could give me energy to get to the top, I’d probably eat it also!!!

Kidding aside tho, I was proud of myself already for being able to endure 2.5 hours of straight walking. I figured it’s too late to turn my back now and I don’t want to be like the one girl that didn’t make it. #pride #ego #NeverSayNeverbyBieber

Station 2 to Mt. Pulag Summit (2.5 hours):

They told us it would only take 45 minutes to get there. IT WAS A LIE! Yet, I think it was an effective motivator to get us going. The steps were not as steep. But we were starting to feel really tired this time. The trail was starting to get super muddy. We had to stop once in a while, until we came to accept that the 45 minutes promise wasn’t really true.

Out of exhaustion, I blurted out these words, “Uy tawag na tayo GrabHeli, please.” “Sa pagod ko naka-move on na ko, guys. Hindi ko na maalala pangalan niya!” Then we walked again, and walked, and walked, and walked.

That point, I was imagining myself at the office. Working hard in front of my laptop and thought it was a better situation than where I was. LOL. I was starting to run out of energy and the sun was slowly revealing itself.

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To be honest, I was being bratty already. I began having negative thoughts to what we were doing. I hated the mud, I hated that I’m already wet all over (even my feet), and I hated the dress-like thermal jacket I bought in the ukay-ukay. I have never been so uncomfortable in my life.

Yet, I continued walking.

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I, however, decided to not take much time in the summit since there is no sea of clouds anyway. I was only thinking of how to go down from up there. I need to pee, I need to po*p, I need to sleep… I need to go down now!! So, I left my TA team and went together with the Vegetable Guy (looks like Carrot Man) in slippers who came out of nowhere. I didn’t know why I trusted him so easily. I thought he was an angel God sent to help me go down safely from the summit.

END

Mt. Pulag Summit to Station 2 (2.5 hours):

Going down from the Summit to Station 2 was THE GREATEST DIFFICULTY I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED IN MY 25 YEARS OF EXISTENCE. No sh*t. I thought I was going to die. I wanted to kill Jorzell. I regret my decision. There was a rainbow like 2 meters away from me, yet I didn’t care. I couldn’t bring my hands to get my iPhone and snap it for IG. I am not myself anymore. Maybe I died.

The Veggie Guy was so nice to stop and wait for me. He also offered to carry my handbag, yet I refused because I would only add to the weight he’s carrying. Awww. “I’d give this guy P100 when we get to Station 2,” I told myself. But, he disappeared when we did! He was really an angel!! God is with me huhuhu!!!

Station 2 to Station 1 (1.5 hours):

I started slipping a lot in the mud. I took the toilet and it had this smell that got through my soul. I still wanted to kill Jorzell and doubting our friendship. I am mad.

I went along these group of nice people and I discovered they’re a group from Victory Ortigas. “How funny,” I told myself. I think my ex attends that church! More importantly, it cemented my belief that God is walking with me to make me cross paths with those church people. HUHU. It gave me the strength to go on.

After a while though, I gave up walking with them and decided to sit down on a big rock for a while. I badly needed to rest. I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. My Anna Sui handbag is muddy already. I ate the remaining chocolates I have until another alone woman sat with me. I told her it’s my first time, I only had Lucky Me for breakfast, and I hated my friends. LOL. Then, I saw Jie (Jorzell’s boyfriend) running and he couldn’t wait for me because he need to catch the motorcycle at Station 1. YES THERE IS A MOTORCYCLE AT STATION 1 AND I WANTED TO CRY!!!

I continued to walk and finally, I reached Station 1. But, the locals told me I still have to walk for 20 minutes to get to the road. WHAT??!

So okay, I walked for another 20 minutes and it was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I ran when I saw the motorcycle line-up.

It costs P150, yet I didn’t mind. I would pay them P500 to bring me to our inn! I got there at 12 PM.

For the record, I walked for 11 hours (1 AM to 12 PM).

– – –

Key Learning:

1) Indeed, a journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step.

2) One step to the wrong direction can cost your life.

3) Don’t forget to breathe. Rest if you must, but do not quit.

4) If the ground is too muddy, step on the grasses.

5) Wet wipes is life.

6) Do a lot of cardio exercise prior to your hike! (I should’ve!)

7) Buy lotsa Gatorade!

8) Invest in a good pair of shoes – one that’s water/mudproof like Merrell.

9) Mt. Pulag – the tallest mountain in Luzon – is not advisable for the not-so athletic, first-time hiker like me.

10) Make sure that it wouldn’t rain on your hike. But, how can you?

Sure, I felt like a walking dead after our hike, but the exchange of stories afterwards was priceless! It was a memorable experience, like I’m Katniss in Hunger Games, and something I would proudly narrate to my kids. I don’t regret it after all. Jorzell, Sherl, Jie and I restored ourselves in Baguio afterwards.

We had breakfast in Cafe By The Ruins, went for a Swedish massage in Nuat Thai, and shopped in the night market.

This Pulag experience deserves 5 stars! As for Trail Adventours, I really loved our moderators, Kim and JP, but I’m disappointed with almost all the meals we had. Can we not get a Gatorade instead of a name tag? Also, the sidetrips were unnecessary, for me personally. Better if we rested in the inn instead and get a full sleep.

Still, a BIG THANK YOU to you, guys!

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