Mt. Wiji stands at the height of 2819.78 meters above sea level and is located at the southern part of Kalatungan Mountain Range. The mountain is named after the first Japanese who made it into the peak, but locals refer to it as Mt. Lumpanag or Makaupao.
The early morning wind greeted us with a chill and by the time we sipped our coffees, we were wearing layers of clothes and jackets to counter the very cold temperature. We were supposed to start the ascend at 8 am based on our initial itinerary, but Kuya Babu and the guides suggested that we start early for us to witness the sunrise and [probably] the sea of clouds. So there, in the darkness of the dawn, we started our trek.
It was 5 am when streaks of light started painting the sky with shades of pinks and purples. Although Mt. Wiji is less than a kilometer away from Bamboo Camp, the trail going to the peak is very steep. But despite our huffs, pants and coughs, the gorgeous view made it a whole lot easier.
We didn’t mind our aching muscles or joints. We didn’t mind our heavy loads. We didn’t even mind when our knees and chin almost touch with every step. We were just thankful for a blessed day.
As we hike further, the sky turned from hazy burgundy to rose then to rich yellow. By the time we reached the peak, we were face to face with the sun. It was a blend of cold and warm feeling reaching the top, looking back how far we have gone.
All small moments came rushing in and there was nothing but a sense of pure, unadulterated happiness that filled our hearts.
Sunrise at Mt. Wiji is the most beautiful I have seen so far. Just as what I always say when people ask why I love sunrises, “not every gold glitters” (a reference to a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien for LOTR). Everything the light touches turns golden — the grass, our skins, our hairs. Everything becomes priceless.
The infamous tree at the summit was already damaged from hundreds of hikers who climbed it to strike a pose. Still, we were amazed by its resilience having stood its ground after all these years.
At 7 am, we bid Mt. Wiji goodbye. What goes up must come down, so they say. We prepared ourselves for another long hike. This time, it’s on a descending trail.
We passed by what they call Dead Nail’s Trail. In the Filipino language, “dead nails” means “patay na kuko.” This is self-explanatory and we hoped none of us would be saying a eulogy for our dead toenails.
The trail going down is an interplay of open grassland and mossy forest. We reached a ridge that is considered as danger zone. Although there were signages scattered along the path, the thick and tall vegetation made it hard for us to see the trail.
At first, the descending terrain was a good change. But soon, the long rigorous downhill trek took its toll. Our muscles were sore from sustained contractions to stabilize our steps. Our joints started to make a sound. And yes, our nails could be dying beneath our socks.
By the time we reached Lisihun Creek, our knees and feet were wobbly and in pain. Rolling hills were rare, so were flat surfaces. Some of us even a wished for a quick ascending hike. We emptied our remaining trail food and with John’s vita cubes, we tried to survive.
After 3.971 kilometers of walking on torturous trail, we finally arrived at So. Mahayahay. It was quarter to 11 am and the heat was scorching. I cannot say how long we’ve been dragging ourselves to take another step. Most of us were already on autopilot mode — walking for the sake of walking.
We took two more kilometers going to Brgy. Mendis. When we finally reached the Manobo community and the covered court area, we let go to gravity. It was all done. At last!
Perhaps what this hike [and life in general] has showed us — through all the plot twists and turns — is how we can always become better and stronger individuals. That the reward is always sweeter when we put our hearts in whatever we do. That happiness and moments are best shared with friends.
Our Kala-Wiji Chronicles ends here. 🙂
Complete the journey with these two: