We all handle plot twists a little differently. There are those who sit meticulously to plan their next steps. Others don’t give a second thought and just hope for things to work out. There are those who stop dead in their tracks and try to muster the courage to make things happen again. Others can’t handle the change and run away. We can be planners or takers. Drifters or runners. We all put ourselves out there. Sometimes it’s full of regret, but most often it’s full of surprises. Just like this recent hike.

To end the year 2019, my friends and I decided to climb the Philippines’ highest, Mt. Apo (via Sta. Cruz – Kidapawan Trail). We had our activity booked, our itinerary mapped out. Everything was in order for the coming November 21 to 23 — or so we thought.

After months of rehabilitation from the recent El Nino, Mt. Apo reopened its trails for climbers. However, we received a news that travel agencies, guides and tourism office reached an agreement that there will be no more exit to Kidapawan Trail starting October. LGU Kidapawan has declined all exits from Davao. This was our first plot twist. We were given two options instead: 1) opt for the Kidapawan entry and exit [backtrail] or 2) opt for the Sta. Cruz – Bansalan Trail. Despite our anticipation of the majestic Lake Venado in Kidapawan, we chose the latter for a better experience.

And just when we thought there’ll be no more hurdles, a series of shocks followed. By mid-October, an earthquake swarm struck the province of Cotabato. This raised our initial unease because it might trigger the active volcano that we were planning to climb. Unease turned to fear when successive tremors jolted Davao where Mt. Apo is. That was the last straw. By November, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Davao Region and Davao LGU announced the closure of Mt. Apo until further notice.

When you’re in a bad situation, are you going to back out, wait or figure out a solution?

Shiela, the founder of Shiela’s Mountaineering Society or SMS as we fondly call it, would not concede defeat. With the help of our kind guide, Kuya Babu, they worked on a tedius Plan B (this is already Plan C, rght?) which is to climb Mt. Kalatungan (the country’s 5th highest) and Mt. Wiji (Mt. Lumpanag). A much harder challenge with a difficulty level of 8/9! But this was not the end of our endless plot twists. A magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocked the province of Bukidnon where Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Wiji are. Two typhoons were wrecking havoc in the Philippines. With only a few days before our trip, we had no conclusive destination.

Still not backing out yet? SMS says no.

We found ourselves in the airport at the dawn of our flight. All our bags were packed for a five-day vacay. We packed and repacked so as to not exceed the maximum baggage limit. We were jittery and excited at once. Yet again, another plot twist followed us until the very last minute. Our organizer got too disorganized that she forgot her ID. Of all the things that Shiela must forget, she chose the ID. With wary minds, we went ahead and checked-in since our names were paged one by one. Can Shiela catch up?

Shiela and her life decisions.

Never say never! With Shiela finally onboard, we took off to Davao – only to be welcomed by another problem. One of us, who was on a separate flight, was nowhere to be found. All our messages and calls were met with silence. Time was ticking and following our itinerary is important. In the end, we agreed that he may not be coming. He may have backed out for valid reasons but we never really got to know as of this writing. We were ghosted.

Touchdown, Davao!

Anyhow, a 3 to 4 hours roadtrip followed and we finally reached the tourism office in Pangantucan. Ms Joy presided the orientation and discussed about the do’s and dont’s.

We then presented the permit, signed the waiver and headed Brgy. Mendis.

It was almost 5 pm when we arrived to the jump-off area. We were welcomed by Datu Eryong Inahan and were quickly introduced to our guides and porter guides. It was getting dark and we still had 1-2 hours trek going to the View Deck. We didn’t have time to appreciate the open field we passed by since the rain started to pour. Hard. Even with our waterproofing and rain pochos, we were soaked. The world dimmed at there was nothing but our headlamps to light our way. After an agonizing hike that seemed like forever, we arrived at the View Deck. It was a a treehouse built by locals that serves as a stopover for climbers.

Time check, 7:oo pm. What started as a hot and scorching day ended with a full blast gloom.

Will tomorrow be a better day? Find out!

For the meantime, here’s a glimpse of our hike from CJ’s vlog. 😉