Mt. Pulag: What the Playground of Gods taught us about Taking Things Slowly (via Akiki Trail)

Where am I headed? (c) Dakilanglaagan

WARNING: If you are looking for a detailed itinerary and summary of expenses of our Akiki-Ambangeg hike, feel free to scroll down to the last part of this post. You might find the next paragraphs to be overly dramatic and gross. HAHAHA.

One of the many guilty pleasures of every human being is getting envious on the achievements of other people. In this age of instant gratification, it’s easier to see, in our news feed, photos of former high school classmates getting married, college friends christening their babies, and colleagues completing their Master’s degree. Then we begin to entertain the little devil inside us: what has become of me all these years? Backtrack 2013, I was so solid of the idea during graduation that I’d be wearing the same sablay like the dean and program head years after completing that bachelor’s degree; but look where destiny brought me: in the mountains. Am I in the right track? Am I in the right direction?

How we got to Mt. Pulag

Once upon a Time….


It all started with curiosity. Believe me, Pulag was never in my list of places to visit. With all the swarm it got after earning such attention in social media, its glister started to fade in my eyes. But bandwagon is scary. It’s tempting and addictive. So when the group I was with in Mt. Talinis shared that they’re planning to hike Pulag’s most difficult trail, I suddenly found myself booking a ticket, filing a leave of absence, buying thermal jackets, and reading more and more blogs about the place. Not part of the list? Not interested? Yes, my life is a big joke and a capital of sarcasm.

In a land far, far away…

Caught in act – Dennis, Jeff and Guide
Mandatory Group Photo at the Ranger Station
Welcome remarks by the strong winds and heavy downpour of the rain (c) Dakilanglaagan

                After six hours of a rollercoaster ride to Bagiuo and another two hours to Kabayan, Benguet, the trek to the first campsite – Eddet River – commenced. But instead of getting the familiar Filipino hospitality, we were greeted by the harsh winds and heavy downpour of the rain. Adventure huh? The trail began to get muddy and steep. Our packs got heavier and heavier as it drenched in the rain. And the bones in the caverns witnessed how much we wanted to put a halt on this journey and go back where we started

Photo op of Ate Jah (c) Dakilanglaagan

 But the pines were too beautiful and the scenery so vibrant even with the dreadful welcome. We began to want more, see more, feel more.

There lived a….

Setting up of tent and preparing of dinner
Pitching of tent by Pulag porter-guides
Eddet River (c) Dakilanglaagan
Crossing Eddet River (c) Dakilanglaagan

The night at Eddet River was festive. And like heavy drunkards, we had the best sleep of our lives. We thought everything will be in order for the second day. But after eight hours of combating with the Pine Trail, the rain began to embrace us as we entered the Mossy Forest.

Who wanted to see what is outside of the castle…

Hug a tree goals of Kaye :D :D :D
Lead group – Anne followed by our porter-guide who was carrying a 40kilo load.
Mossy Forest shot of Princess (c) Dakilanglaagan

Instead of joining the lead group, I found myself at the tail of the pack consoling with those who were having a hard time, wanting to go back to Cebu, questioning the essence of what we were doing. But rather than feeling disheartened with each other’s sentiments, we discovered the joy of taking pauses, complaining about life but still facing head on the challenges, and enjoying every blissful moment of it.

Who wanted to fight the dragons and witches…

Welcome to the Grassland!!!
Team Last (L-R) – Kaye, Jen, Cristina, Jovy, and Princess

But optimism has its limits, most especially when you’re in higher altitude, colder temperature, and weaker resistance. A very strong wind lashed us out when we exited the mossy forest trail. ‘Welcome to the grassland,’ it said. At that time, we hardly see each other because of the thick fog that surrounded the area. It’s four in the afternoon but not even a streak of light passed through the impenetrable clouds. We don’t know if the lead group arrived safely at the Saddle Camp. It seemed like the final battle of the game. Facing the master – ourselves. When we arrived at the Saddle Camp, everything was in havoc – no proper site to camp as it was flooded everywhere – moreover, most of our things are already wet. We set the camp and cooked whatever is easy and fast to prepare then tried to sleep. Tried but failed. As the ground sheets gathered all the rain water and fly sheets began to fail from its purpose, it’s as if we drenched in the rain even if we were inside the tent. Our sleeping bags got wet, like the rest of our things; thus, in these situations, sleep was literally for the weak. We heard some of our companions praying for safety, others making the most of those waking hours by chatting, until we overheard desperate whimpers. That was one of the longest nights of our lives.

And the fairy godmother granted the desire of the heart…

Mandatory Group Photo at the Summit
Mt. Pulag Sea of Clouds

I can’t recall if I was able to sleep that night or it was all a dream but I woke up with a heavy head. It was five in the morning and instead of sulking in frustration, I went outside the tent, checked if everyone’s doing fine inside their tents, then suggested to prepare for breakfast. Hot chocolate or coffee for that matter. Funny thing is, just when were about to drink what we prepared, in an instant the hot chocolate and coffee turned sour cold. Yes, that’s how cold the weather was.

But even in that nasty situation, one by one, my comrades went out of their temporary shelter and fought the mist and the rain. ‘Bagyo ka lang, Pinoy kami’ HAHAHAHA. And as if heavens have heard our silent prayers, the fog began to wear thin and the drizzle came to halt. Clearing! Everyone rejoiced in jubilance, danced like crazy, and trail ran to the summit. There were a number of hikers, from Ambangeg Trail, who were already at the summit but who cares. We have undergone far worse than complain about the crowd. Everything on top was breathtaking, mystifying, enchanting, captivating, enthralling… you name them all.

Am I in the right direction? Who knows. But I guess, whatever the mountains and these trips have taught can never be learned in the four walls of the classroom and in any academic book. Life lessons that I can always live by, experiences that I can always hang unto, and strength that would keep me sane amidst the harsh truths and quick pace of the city.

To Jeff, thanks for continuously organizing our climbs (most especially the weekend major climbs). To Lovely, Dennis, Wendy, Dennis, Javy, and Ate Jah, thanks for keeping up with the group. To the Team Last: Kaye, Jen, Happy, Ate Jovy, Princess, and Cristina, thanks for having a listening heart and for continuously supporting each other all through the whole journey (and for the unlimited trailfood). And for everyone who were with us, thanks guys. You’re the best. I know the Gods allowed us to hike together for a reason.I have always believe that God is preparing people for something bigger; bigger things that can unravel only as I go along these journeys that I hope I can still manage to update on this blog. Let’s get to know them together? Keep in touch with me on Facebook and Instagram!

What’s your say on this? Feel free to comment below! Ideas are always welcomed. Here’s a quick peek on what happened that day. :) :) :)

Mt. Pulag Sample Itinerary

Day 0
2200 Travel By Van From Airport to Baguio City/ Dinner at any food chains in any stop-over
Day 1 

0400 ETA Baguio City. Breakfast then proceed to jeepney terminal/chartered jeep.
0700 Take chartered jeepney to Akiki, Kabayan. Breakfast at any stop over
0800 Proceed to DENR Station/ Visitor’s Center
0815 arrival at DENR Station, for Orientation and Last-Minute Shopping
0945 Depart DENR, ride to Akiki Jump-off (Brgy. Doacan)
1015 Arrival at Akiki Jump-off in Brgy. Doacan and start Trek
1030 ETA Ranger Station. Register. Secure guides.
1045 Start 2-hour trek to Eddet River
1245 ETA Eddet River; set up camp. Prepare for Lunch
1345 Lunch
1400 Tour around Eddet River For Picture Taking
1530 Prepare Dinner
1730 Dinner / socials

Day 2 
0400 Wake up call. Prepare breakfast.
0430 Breakfast
0530 Break camp
0700 Start 3-4 hr trek to Marlboro Country
1100 Have early lunch at Marlboro country (water source)
1200 Commence 3-hour trek through montane forest.
1430 End of forest line (2600 MASL); Reach Grassland.
1600 ETA Saddle campsite; set up camp.
1730 Assault to summit. Sunset.
1900 Dinner / socials

Day 3
0330 WAKE UP CALL/ Prepare for Breakfast
0430 Early Trek to Summit
0500 Arrival at summit just in time for sunrise, picture-taking with sea of clouds
0600 Trek Back to Campsite
0630 Back at campsite; Breakfast
0730 Break camp
0800 Start descent via Ambangeg trail
1200 ETA Ambangeg Ranger Stn; Settle guide fees; jeepney descent
1230 At DENR-PAO; tidy up/ get certificates (optional)/ log-out
1300 Lunch
1400 Head back to Baguio City
1530 stop by Ambuklao Dam, Take Pictures
1730 ETA Baguio City. free time for side trips
2200 Head back to Manila

Day 4
0400 Arrival in Manila