It was my birthday, the sun is shining brightly and the mountains are calling me. I promised to be happy for this year’s birthday, I was. I need to celebrate my birthday with all the people I love especially with my family. So I decide to open a climb in my hometown. There is only 1 mountain available that is the dormant volcano MT ARAYAT.
Few days before the climb, I set a day hike with my friends coming from all my walks in life. A friend from high school, college and office came along with me to celebrate. Catching the last vibe of the summer and the heat of the sun. We found ourselves hopped in a bus to Pampanga. From Cubao to SM Pampanga will only take you an hour for Php120.00 fare / $2.68. From SM Pampanga in Mexico to Arayat Poblacion might take you 1 hour – 1 hour and 30 minutes via Public Jeepney due to various stops and delays. PUJ ride fare cost Php 30.00-40.00 / $0.90.
We cut the trip by visiting our house in Santa Ana Pampanga for breakfast and leaving things that are needed on our pack. After breakfast we decide to take tricycle from Santa Ana to Arayat. We are able to secure our guide for Php 500.00 and started the trek around 0900 which became pain on our butt.
It was hot, the humid is killing us one by one. I totally forgot that I brought newbie friend which is tremendously tired on the first hour of the trek. Trail signs are all over the place, getting a guide is not mandatory and you cannot never get lose during the day. YELLOW painted trail signs are placed on the trail path. They are useful and helpful but its a bit uncomfortable for me since Leave No Trace Policy was violated big time.
Two hours on the trail, the heat is wearing me off. Its burning my skin and I feel like all the sweat in my body coming out. I easily get tired if the weather is above 32 degrees Celsius. I get worried because my friends start to pant heavily. I got plenty of water for myself, securing 3 litres of water and some trail foods.
I want to laugh at myself because instead of celebrating comfortably at home I chose to walk on a boiling trail. After enduring so much with the heat, we finally arrive the FOREST area, the heat wear off but unimaginable assault comes our way. I wish I stayed at home, videoke with cold juice on my hand (I wish it was beer but I don’t actually drink).
I now believe in FOREVER. I was about to cry when we were able to hike at least 2 hours, the never-ending assault trail makes my legs weaker every step. I keep on asking Kuya (our guide) “Mga ilang oras pa Kuya papuntang summit?” (How long it takes to reach the summit Kuya?). Then Kuya will reply, “Malayo pa tayo Mam! (It’s still a long way Mam). I think I ask about hundred times. This is the most difficult day hike I ever encounter in my life. The heat, the assault and the insects are rioting inside my brain.
Arayat trail is a bit hefty. Most of the hiker we meet on the trail, Traverse from Magalang to Arayat National Park while we beat the damn South Trail furiously. My energy level is depleting plus I need to carry my friends load because the trail is most likely splitting him half. Testing my endurance and physical fitness, we need to speed up otherwise we will not be able to go down early. The fatigue we all need to take give us excruciating pain all over our body.
It took us 6 or 7 hours before we reached the summit, I do no longer mind the time. All I want to do is reach the top and finish the damn hike. The South Peak serve it well. The Kapatagan (Plateau) is really fascinating from the top. I fell in love with it and I don’t think I will do it again without proper training. He He.
My friend even brought a cake to celebrate my 26th birthday at the top of Mt Arayat. After taking all the selfie I deserve, we decide to descend. Around 1600, we started trekking down. We are actually fast, then the darkness cast into the forest. Good thing someone brought a headlamp and cp led lights are very useful.
Two hours into the dark trail, it became 3 hours and we are still walking down. Most of them chugged down their trail water upon ascending. The remaining water in my bottle, I need to give it out to my friend otherwise he might faint due to dehydration. So imagine trekking down against humidity of summer for 4 hours without water. It was a combination of heaven and hell. The last hour of the trek makes me want to puke but I forgot I haven’t drink for a while now. The forest is like a loop and maze which doesn’t have an ending. It seems like we are lost but we have our guide leading the trail-way. After 3 hours, we are able to reach the grass trail, I thought this will be over. But I guess I need to suffer more.
I timed our trek down, we only stop at least 4 times on the way down for about 3-5 minutes. We are going down relentlessly for the last 3 hours and it seems like the finish line is still distance away. Killing time it is. Reaching the star-studded night sky line from the grass trail gave us nothing but FALSE HOPE. 30 minutes passed and we are already numb. My body is on auto-pilot mode. I think all the endurance I have were totally snatched from me because of this hike. I was not prepared, the blogs I read underestimate this mountain or I was just weak. All I want is to drink water!!
We are actually talking about water while going down, on how we should save water and never consume more than what we need. I will appreciate the endless grass trail if only my friend is not fretting all the time. I want him to go down immediately. He did not enjoy the hike as much as the others like it. It makes me sad though that he don’t like climbing. Most of the people I knew who join me, love being on the top and they were too happy to join me with my next climb. I guess this climb went pretty bad for him. Nevertheless, if you did not stop and tried to continue with your life. The next thing you will know is that your there because you move forward.
It took us 10.5 hours to hike this mountain. The homey mountain is really treacherous to me. It was a darn tiring day for me to celebrate life and coming to new age. I am happy to break the sad birthdays I had. For the past several years, I mostly celebrate at home. I want to make my birthdays to come to be this adventurous and outstanding. I want to remember all of my birthday and I am sure deserve to be glorious for this day.
Lesson learned from the trails of Mt Arayat, be prepared more than ever. To celebrate birthdays is to cheers with life. I must continue to seek all the things this life can bring regardless of tragedies. Amidst all negative vibes, I learned to continue again with life WITH OR WITHOUT YOU.
Source: Personal Photos Jerleen Custodio Copyright
Manlalayag is Seafarer in Filipino. I want to be a pirate who travels to Collect Memories and Steal Happiness from the places I want to go.