I wake up to the monotonous sound of the fan. An unpleasant feeling starts to claw its way out of my chest and I begin to understand why they call this time of the day ‘the witching hour’.
Perhaps because here, in the quiet, we get to sit side by side with the unknown. That feeling of being sad, anxious, drained and lost for no apparent reason. Or maybe we simply just can’t pinpoint.
Many times I have put my heart out only to end up more dejected. You see, when you have all the reasons to be happy, people think you can’t feel otherwise. When you do, they ask you why. As if I am not as equally frustrated finding out the reason myself.
Somebody once told me that perhaps I’m being ungrateful. I have caring friends and family. A stable job. A pile of books. A passion in writing and exploring the outdoors. I have found love and life. So why would I not be okay?
I look to my left hoping that the bare wall knows the answer. It does not. An hour has passed yet there is still a clamor in my head. I want to go out for a long walk. But I fear they might burn me like they did to witches.
The classic story of the phoenix is that of resilience and hope. For centuries, this mythical bird became a symbolic reminder of people who has risen from the ashes. Those who bounced back up after their world came crashing down. Those who built themselves after falling apart.
Most of us talk about the phoenix but rarely of the flame. Just as how in life we see more of the outcome and less of the process. That is why this entry is not just about standing above the crater of Mt. Pinatubo. It is about zooming in to the beauty of the disaster we found during our 42-kilometer hike.
Mount Pinatubo straddles at the tripoint boundary of the provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga. This active stratovolcano is known for its colossal eruption back in 1991. But what once was a site of destruction is now a place of excitement for many.
Organized by Jeffrey of Bandana Stories, I along with James, Chiarra, Carol, Lovely, Belle, Ivan, Intet, Charie, Nicole, Stefan and Maureen packed our bags and headed north of Luzon.
The most popular gateway to Mt. Pinatubo is in Capas, Tarlac. Here, it involves an hour 4×4 ride in a lahar field and a 3km trek to the crater lake. However, there is an alternative route passing through the Golden Trail in Porac, Pampanga, which offers a completely different experience. A relatively new trail compared to the Delta V Trail (via Sapang Uwak) which is known to most hikers, Golden Trail flaunts a 42km trek that would take you to sandy flats, shallow streams and rocky terrain.
We left the jump off point at 1 am. During the first few hours, we hiked through a seemingly endless volcanic sand. The trail was mostly plain and open which can be arduous to those who climb during the day when the sun is up. To the untrained eyes, we’d probably look like predators with our headlamps illuminating in the dark. It was almost 3 hours on dusty lahar before we reached the first campsite. We we were supposed to have our breakfast but due to unforeseen circumstances, it took our porters (who carried all our food and cooksets) 2 hours to reach the place.
With our itinerary delayed, each of us knew that we’d have to double our next pacing to reach our target.
After eating, we continued into the barren plains and soon reached the landslide area which caught most of us by surprise. This used to be part of the mountains surrounding the plains where 4×4 trail mods pass through. Now, they’re huge sand boulders that we needed to walk into.
We skidded and slid, scooting and crawling on fours. At some point, our guides had to take our backpacks because we can’t fit into the gap. It ends with a final descent going to the river.
By the time we reached the riverbed, most of us changed from hiking shoes to sandals. This part of the 42km trek requires multiple river crossings for hours. The water is mostly shallow but the current could be strong at times. It’s a good and refreshing shift from hours of walking on dry sand.
Reaching Inararo Falls, a 50-feet high single-tiered cascade, meant that we were finally close. We took a little time appreciating its beauty then moved forward with the hike.
It was almost 11:30 when we reached Ana-an falls, also known as Mt. Pinatubo Twin Falls. We had to climb atop the waterfalls where the campsite is located. Gathering our remaining strength, we faced the ascending trail and arrived just in time for the light rain.
After having our lunch and pitching our tents, we continued our with hike to the crater lake which was still 2 hours away. In contrast to the barren plains we passed by earlier, the terrain going to the summit was ringed with lush mountains. It reminded us of Dalaguete’s landscapes. Who would have thought spew of lahar devastated these verdant greens?
The trek this time was easier since we were not carrying full packs. Soon enough, we got a glimpse of the crater lake which took our breaths away. It was a sweet reward after a day of long walk, sun burn, and sticky sweat.
The beauty of Mt. Pinatubo is not only seen on its summit. Looking back, we saw and experienced the beauty in its disaster. The long stretch of lahar field that glimmered like gem, the sand boulders that awakened our sense of thrill, the river and falls that made us appreciate every drop of water, and the green mountains that proved us that nature always finds a way to thrive.
This 42km adventure was indeed a golden one. It came with imperfections but our treasure trove was filled with memories, laughter and new bonds.
One personal note, YOU DO NOTE,
Ours was a two-day event. I would not suggest trekking Mt. Pinatubo via Golden Trail in a day if you have no proper training. It’s a very long hike and unexpected things may happen along the way. There was another group hiking ahead of us who opted to finish the 42km circuit trail in a day hike (die-hike). They had to be rescued because (1) they came unprepared, no proper gears; (2) they underestimated the trail, their pacing are really slow to think it’s a day hike; and (3) they miscoordinated, for some reason they only have 1 guide despite their number.
Are you a Summer person? A Winter person? Or one of the other seasons suits you best?
The climate of the Philippines is divided into two main seasons: the rainy season (from June to the early part of October) and the dry season (from the later part of October to May). Despite its melancholy and all its drama, I have never been a fan of the rain. It always makes me sad for some reason. This is why I prefer sunny days. It somewhat calms the chaos inside and makes me hopeful. Though, I hope it don’t get brutally scorching whenever I’m outdoors.
What is your favorite summer time clothing?
Nothing in particular. I’m a regular t-shirt/jeans/cuff shorts kind of human being.
Do you find yourself eating out more during the summer? Or making ‘cold food’ like salads and stuff you can heat in the microwave?
I always think big when it comes to food. I “think” that I can eat a lot but whenever I eat, my stomach can only accommodate a few. Recently, I find myself craving for mango float. Does this count?
Do you like watermelon? What’s your favorite summertime treat?
I like watermelon but I like mangoes better. As for the summertime treat, for me buko salad would be best! It’s a Filipino fruit salad dessert made from strips of fresh young coconut with sweetened milk or cream and various other ingredients. If you want to learn how to make one, check this out!
Are you thankful it’s finally (sorta) dry and warm?
PAGASA declared the start of the rainy season last June 14 on my side of the Earth. However, I am still thankful because the country has experienced a severe drought and it took a great toll on our farmers. Farmers, in general, celebrate rain showers, but not typhoons, as a sign of good harvest in the future. Now is the time for them to get back on track.
“What do you do when there is an evil you cannot defeat by just means? Do you stain your hands with evil to destroy evil? Or do you remain steadfastly just and righteous even if it means surrendering to evil?”
Just recently, I was thrown into an alternate world where a philosophical and moral battle strongly exist. The quote above is taken from the Japanese anime, Code Geass. I’ve heard of the series years ago but I never had the drive to watch it. James successfully lured me into the anime this time. No regrets. 😀
The story revolves around the Empire of Britannia who conquered Japan and now call it Area 11. Its residents lost their rights to self-govern and are now called Elevens. The Empire uses destructive robotic weapons called Knightmares to ensure control, but someone is about to stand up against it. Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student, seeks to use the power of the Geass to build a world based on his ideals. Unfortunately he finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Britannian and the Area 11 rebel armed forces.
Back to the question, I have this weird feeling inside that has been weighing me down. As an INFP whose choices and decisions are tethered on emotion and idealism, I find it hard to agree with Lelouch’s ways. For him, the ends justify the means. This just doesn’t go right with me. However, by the end of the series, I felt like loosening up to his approach. It’s a dilemma still. Can’t one just remain righteous and destroy evil instead?
All my life I’ve suffered from motion sickness. Take me on a car or bus ride and I’d know right then what’s bound to happen. Once, on a van ride home, I tried to withstand it. A few kilometers passed and I started feeling weird as if the butterflies in my stomach wanted to break free. My throat went dry and the air left my lungs gasping. One, two, three. I started counting. I thought I’d make it to ten but I was already throwing up at five. Experts said motion sickness is caused by mixed signals sent by our inner ears and our eyes to our brain. Well whatever it is, curse it.
There is a reason why I love long walks and hate the rides. But carousels are an exemption. For ours was a carousel ride. Your love took this heart round and round and round. You sent my butterflies flying in an uneasy state. My inner ears and eyes were sending mixed signals to my brain. My ears — they heard my scream and told my brain this needs to stop. My eyes — they’re drawn to you and told my brain it is time that needs to stop. Unable to comprehend, the air left my lungs gasping. One, two, three. I started counting. But then you held my hands and I lost count of the numbers. The world stopped turning and the hour hands paused.
I love the carousel but I also want it to end. I want us to go north to see the beaches, south to hike the mountains. I want a destination not just a merry-go-round. I want commitment not just falling in and out of love. But if you ask me on a carousel ride, I’d still take it. I’d withstand motion sickness until you decide to make this a journey instead of running round and round.
Facebook reminded me that I wrote this piece two years ago this day. In 2017, I attended the two-day Cebu Literary Festival x Komiket event. Back then, my world was only limited to the four corners of my room or the pages of my books. It was a crucial year of existential crisis, all bottled up for so long. I struggled to find purpose and failed. It felt like I was functioning on auto pilot every single day and the only thing that would separate me from a robot would probably be poetry. Reading through my old poems, I could see how I was in a chaotic emotional mess. A hopeless romantic. An anxious human being trying to recreate her world through words. This piece is just one of those. I wrote it while listening to spoken word artists performing in front of me. In my mind I wanted to take the stage and express. In my heart, I just knew I can’t.
PLOT TWIST: Fast forward to 2018, I found myself onstage stuttering to the words of Pasabta Ko Palihug, a spoken word in my local dialect. Time flies! 😀
To some, this might just be an ordinary statement of inquiry. But to those who have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, these four words carry too much weight.
Originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel takes readers to the fictional Republic of Gilead. It follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander and his wife. In an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only for their capability to procreate. They are held prisoners — stripped off their past and future. They are forbidden to read, write, or interact with the outside world. They are meant only to bear children for their assigned commander and failure to do so warrants death.
The book ends with Professor Pieixoto’s final line, Are there any questions? To me this seems a rhetorical question asked not to get an answer but instead to emphasize a point. It forces us to question our role as witnesses, both of Offred’s tale and of our own history of oppression.
Do we forget and stay silent? Do we remain neutral and indifferent? Do we stand up and fight?
There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
You! Yes, you. As The Handmaid’s Tale becomes grimly relevant these days, would you ask a question?
Would (or do) you stop to help (presumably) stranded folks by the side of the road?
As an empath in nature, I would. Of course this does not mean that I don’t feel a tinge of fear or distrust, but I still want to believe that there is goodness in each of us. That, despite all the negativities, people can be kind to one another.
Do you think the world is less mannerly today than in past times OR are we just more touchy and manners are as they’ve always been?
Truth is I’m morally scarred. I would not zoom out to the rest of the world because even just the current situation of the people here in my country, the Philippines, is enough to trigger my cynicism. There is a prevalent disrespect for women and much more disregard for life in general. All these are led by none other than the head of the state. His brand as a populist leader has enticed many Filipinos. Whatever he says, believes or does, people will follow. His rape jokes ripple throughout the country and his bloody war ensues at the expense of the poor.
The Philippines has gambled for an actual medicine-man to cure the nation but I fear that we might have taken the wrong prescription.
What happens if you’re scared half to death, TWICE?
HA! I wouldn’t even try to do the math but I’d probably end up doing the first thing I always do when something scares me: freeze.
If ALL the world’s a stage, where does the audience sit?
This reminds me of a piece I wrote one the first Monday of July a year ago. Maybe life is one big stage, maybe it isn’t. But one thing is for sure, we all have a part to play. The audience don’t just get to sit.
Share your thankful comments here. It’s a gorgeous day most places, so celebrate!
I’m grateful to God for surrounding me with beautiful people who keep me anchored to life. My family, for being my strength and motivation; my friends, for reminding me that the beauty of life can also be found in people; and the boyfriend, for sticking through my anxieties, mood swings and existential days.
I’m grateful for the comfort I find in words whenever I read or write. To my books, for taking me to different worlds; and to blogosphere, for allowing me to have my own little world. As most of my friends here in WordPress know, I haven’t been writing much — by writing I don’t mean blogging about my escapades out in nature. What I mean is gone are daily poems and flash fictions.
This is why I am also grateful to Melanie for this prompt. SYW for me is a chance to introspect. It allows me to get in touch with my inner self and my muse. Who knows, one day, writing may come easy. 🙂
We are all familiar with its irregular crevices, multiple galleries, entrances, exits and shafts. Its fossil passages are adorned with various stalactites and stalagmites. It’s dark and it’s cold. It’s eerie with its chambers full of secrets awaiting to be unraveled — or not.
Yes, you got it right. I’m referring to the morphology of caves.
Personally, I have not gone to many caves in the country. My up-close encounter would only include Hito-og Cave in Matalom, Hinangdanan Cave in Bohol, Titip Cave in Cebu, and Bontoc Caves in Hindang. The latter, I would say, is the most interesting by far.
A month before our Mt. Talinis climb, I went to Negros Oriental to celebrate a special day. I was supposed to feel a year older — a year wiser — but coming into this strange place awakened the childlike excitement in me.
Where to go? What to do?
I do not have a good sense of direction and James did not have a strict itinerary. In the end, we only relied our sense of wonder and wander. But guess what? It was all that we needed.