After a challenging day of climbing Luzon’s highest peak, Ken Rivera discovers that the long hike was well worth it
WRITTEN BY STEPH PUYOD
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KEN RIVERA
In search of a big adventure (and to escape the summer heat), Ken Rivera and his friends set off for Luzon’s highest peak: Mt. Pulag. They endured a six-hour bus trip to Baguio, and a bumpy jeep ride to Bokod in Benguet, finally arriving at the DENR-Ambangeg Station. It’s important to drop by the outpost to sign up and catch the short orientation.
At 10 o’clock, it was pretty early to begin the hike. As Ken explains, there’s an appropriate time to begin the hike in order to avoid the regular mountain showers. They waited a bit to pass some time, took a jeep to Babadac Ranger Station, then ate a hearty lunch there. By 1PM, the group started towards the summit in high, energetic spirits.
Through the Woods
Several trails lead to Mt. Pulag’s peak. Ken’s group took the Ambangeg trail, the most newbie-friendly off them all. They trudged through the neatly cleared path that slowly rose towards the summit. In the track lay small stones and wooden planks to make the ascent easier.
The air grew cooler as they walked through the woods. Mt. Pulag is known for its diverse flora and fauna, including the dwarf bamboo and cloud rat. Climbing the mountain felt like treading through an enchanted forest. Trees bent into the weirdest of shapes. Ferns and moss covered the floor, forming a sea of green. A thin layer of mist lightly completed the scenery. In the middle of the nature trip came pouring rain.
Climbing a mountain is never an easy feat. Though trailing the easiest route, the difficulty came with the weather and distance.
Ken recalls it as a clash of temperatures. Amidst the freezing weather and occasional downpour, you feel sweat trickling down your whole body, under the layers of clothing and with the hours spent from hiking.
Feet soon begin to feel sore. Clothes get all muddy. Ken even recounts exclaiming ‘Ilang bundok pa?’ a lot of times, towards the end of the first stretch. It’s moments like these that tighten the bond between fellow hikers—new acquaintances, included. “It’s a test of friendship,” he quips.
Under the Stars
Imagine the group’s relief when they reached camp by four in the afternoon. They pitched their tent and settled in. It was time to relax. Every piece of clothing felt moist from the rain, but the idea of resting was more tempting than changing clothes. (Plus the weather was too cold for an outfit change). Soon the tour guide went around, with steaming bowls of chicken noodle soup. “Lahat masarap sa bundok,” Ken recounts.
Dinnertime meant picnic under the stars. Mt. Pulag is a protected area, so campfires are controlled, and only used for cooking. The hikers enjoyed their chicken caldereta while admiring the moonlit sky above them.
The group retired early to recharge for the 3AM wakeup call. They split up in pairs, snuck back to their tents, and huddled together. The temperature dropped to nine degrees that night, so they were pretty thankful for the additional layers they piled on. It was practically difficult to get up by wakeup call, but the campers got back on the trail for the summit before 4AM.
Serenity at the Summit
Ken and his team carefully trudged through the damp path in the middle of the vast grassland. Only headlamps and flashlights guided them through. The morning hike helped them endure the freezing weather.
They reached the peak before daybreak. Everyone was excited to witness the sunrise that many Pulag-hikers have blogged about. For Ken, not one word can describe the marvel he saw that day.
As the first pink streaks of light ran across the indigo sky, the hikers immediately felt at awe and settled down in their own quiet spots. Every thought, every challenge seemed to have vanished: the early wakeup call, the frigid weather, the long hike under the rain, and the stressfulness of city life. It’s a spectacle no urban masterpiece can beat, as the city boy describes it. A steaming cup of coffee completed the moment.
That hour at the peak capped the break they needed from the city hysteria and heat. As Ken and his friends set off for Manila, they brought with them an adventure-packed experience, and renewed spirits.