See that mountain in the background? That’s Mount Natib, the highest peak in the province of Bataan – and I was able to reach its summit.
Last June 12, I joined this year’s Freedom Climb, a timely gathering of mountaineers for the 113th anniversary of Philippine independence (I know, shame on me that I am wearing a shirt with a US flag on. I didn’t realize that, and I wasn’t able to get an official Freedom Climb shirt because it was too late for me to register). That event eventually broke a Guinness World record for the most number of people at the summit simultaneously. It also got overseas participants, making it a huge success. I am so glad that I became part of this momentous event. I say momentous because this climb made me realize that I can do it, and that it’s good to push yourself to the limit because it will eventually give you a rewarding experience.
An officemate of mine, Chin, invited me to join several weeks ago, and I was honestly a bit hesitant to join because I really am not used to climb, but I actually missed hiking. The last hike I had was like 7 long years ago with my cousins in Benguet, which I enjoyed so much. So when Chin told me someone backed out from their group and I can already join them, I said yes. So off we went to Orani, Bataan one early Saturday after our Friday night shift, in a jeep load of participants along with other officemates as well.
With my officemates at the HQ, before going to the jump off site
About to start the climb! Let’s do this!
Of course the start of the photo ops every time we take a rest from all the walking
After roughly four hours of hiking through rocky and sometimes muddy trek, and after numerous stops to rest, drink water and wait for our heart and pulse rate to beat in its normal rate, we were able to reach the camp site!
The trek becoming rocky and steep
We were able to stop by a mini-water falls. The water is oh so cool!
At our tent, after hours of tiring but fun walk/hike (photo courtesy of Chin)
We arrived at the campsite around 4 pm. We spent the night there. And since me and my officemates were from our Friday night shift, we can’t help but sleep right away. We just woke up for dinner (my canned tuna paellas were very helpful!), then went back to sleep. Come night time, it was freezing cold! I didn’t even bring a jacket or a blanket (yes, you can tell I am not prepared), I just used the blanket of Vian, the one I am sharing the tent with. We were the first to wake up around 4:30 AM, since we were the ones who slept first. Breakfast was served at 5:30 AM then we headed to climb Mt. Natib at 6 AM.
Breakfast time in the tent
Us with the other 8 groups, I think, before the actual climb (photo courtesy of Paolo Belleza)
And this is where the real challenge began for me. I was informed the other day that this is a major climb, meaning not just hiking and we will really climb the summit of Mt. Natib, and the level of difficulty is 6/9. Chin was also telling me that there’s a part where we will use just a rope to climb. I really didn’t set any expectations before I decided to join, but upon learning those information, I told myself not to think about it that much coz it will just stress me up. Whatever happens will happen. The first 30 minutes alone of the climb is exhausting, well for me at least. My friend Vian didn’t force herself and went back down the camp site after about 20 minutes (yeah, she’s also in the heavy side like me). So I was like, “Great. Will I still continue?” As the trek became steeper and steeper, and more and more difficult, I was really close to giving up. But I’ve been climbing for more than an hour at that time, so I told myself why not try and try. So I did, even though I feel like I am going to faint any moment. Thanks to Jason for staying and keeping up with me.
This is just one of the many hurdles I was able to pass through
Yes, I was the one who took that picture. I still am capable of taking photos even though I’m running out of breath haha! And then the rope part came. At first I was dreading it, but I actually kind of enjoyed it and secretly wished it would be like that for the entire duration of the climb til we reach the summit. After one more rope, and after seemingly endless fighting the gravitational pull, and telling myself I can do it, I reached the summit! Yes, after I think two hours and 15 minutes. It was bliss! Of course most of our peers were already there, but still it was quite an accomplishment for me. Up until this very moment, I still can’t believe that I did it!
After reaching the summit, picture agad! Maligayang araw ng kalayaan!
the Freedom Climb baller
Team R4TS (Reach 4 the summit) of Stellar. We made it! Woohoo!
With our other mountaineering peers
It’s a foggy morning. Clearing is a slim chance.
Isa pa, bago bumaba
After staying at the summit for about an hour, it’s time to say goodbye to the peak. The way down is equally challenging, especially that some parts were slippery. But it was all good, and fun too. This time, Kyt and Sab stayed with me all the way down. Thanks to them, with a little help from Edwin of course. Halfway through, it seems like my knees, thighs and legs are not cooperating anymore as they become weaker and weaker. So we would rest for a while along the way, not forgetting about capturing the moments of course.
Picture muna, kahit pagod pa. Nice view eh!
Using the rope on the way down. Sab is not feeling the pressure, not one bit haha (photo courtesy of Kyt)
I lost track as to how long we made it down to the camp site. Most of the time Sab and I would just break out into a song, and Kyt would share a lot of stories about the other climbs she’s been a part of, that’s why it seemed like a breeze. When at last we reached the camp site, our team is the only one left as the others already proceeded to the “mini water falls” for lunch. So we just rested a bit, fixed our stuff up, changed, then walked anew for about two hours I think. My feet are aching from all the walking, so when we reached the falls, we gave in frolicked in the waters! The cold water is just so refreshing.
Mga tambay sa falls (photos courtesy of Jason)
After having fun at the cold water, we had lunch at stayed there for a couple of hours. I tried to sleep, but I just can’t. Around 3 PM, we started to continue our way down to the jump off site. It was another 2-hour walk, but since we all had our share of rest and have eaten, it felt like it’s just a walk in the park haha!
Jump shot! (photo courtesy of Kyt)
Pahinga at kuwentuhan muna
Seeing Mt. Natib from afar, I still cannot believe it that I reached its summit!
Another hour and a half of walking, we are finally back to our jump off point. We just rested a bit, stuffed our things inside the jeepney, made a pit stop at the HQ, had some lomi under the rain, then made our way back home. I made it to our house 11 PM. Tired, exhausted, but happy. It felt good, really, and rewarding, for me to be able to experience and be a part of this event. I gained new friends and acquaintances, but most importantly proved to myself that I can do anything as long as I put my heart and mind into it. So, thank you to all who made this event possible. To Chin, first of all for inviting me. To Jason for keeping up with me on our way up; to Kyt, Sab and Erwin on our way down. To Vian, for sharing Cha’s tent with me and for her mini monay haha! To Joyce, for the breakfast food. I cannot thank you guys enough (naks, parang awards night ang dating haha!), seriously. I’m glad to have known all of you through this event. Looking forward for more!