Everyone would agree that 2020 started with a blast – literally. Taal Volcano eruption, Australian bush fire, US drone strike in Iran and now, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live. Right now, I am in Cebu City under enhanced community quarantine, hopefully only until May 15. Experts say that even after ECQ is lifted, we would have to stand by the #NewNormal -practicing social distance, working from home and of course, observing a higher level of proper hygiene and sanitation.
I know for travelers like me, this quarantine is quite challenging. We cannot do the same activities we usually do like exploring new cities, camping outdoors, hiking, going to the beach and physically immersing ourselves in other cultures but we should keep in mind that staying safe and healthy is our priority now.
For now, let’s enjoy the travel memories we had in the past months and be grateful that we had the opportunity to fully enjoy the outdoors before the pandemic. I pray that everyone would stay safe, healthy and fully nourished physically, mentally and spiritually.
May we all see the world again, hopefully in a better state than it was before the pandemic.
Last August 25-26, we were supposed to hike Mt. Ugo, but our contact texted me that Ugo was closed just 4 hours before our scheduled meet-up. Our organizer, Rai, informed us that Mt. Amuyao in Mountain Province was still open so we pushed through with the climb. As a coordinator, I always wanted to be ready for the assigned mountain, but this time I had little idea about Amuyao. Rai said it would be a “quick” hike since we will not be doing the Barlig-Batad traverse. We planned to do the Barlig-Barlig trail, which will start and end at Brgy. Macalama, Barlig, Mountain Province.
Mount Amuyao, rising above mean sea level at 2,702+ meters, is the 11th highest mountain in Philippines. Well, I didn’t know that until I was already experiencing the challenge of this hike. The trail reminded me of our Kinabalu climb last April.
Mountain specifications based on Pinoy Mountaineer website:
MT. AMUYAO Mountain Province Jump-off point: Sitio Macalana, Barlig, Mt. Province LLA: 17°10N, 120°57E, 2702 MASL Days required / Hours to summit: 2 days / 5-7 hours Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 3
We arrived in Banaue, Ifugao at around 5:00 am and was greeted by an amazing play of sunrise colors. It was still early so we took our time in Banaue, ate breakfast, prepared packed lunch, bought supplies and headed to Barlig, Mountain Province at 7:00 am.
Once we arrived in Barlig, we went to the municipal hall to register. We met our guides, Michael and Jayson, and proceeded to the entrance of Sitio Macalana where we went down a series of concrete steps and stopped by the barangay hall for another registration. After our final registration, we climbeddown the stairs until we saw the paths along Awa rice fields.
The second part of the trail is a continuous ascent to Amuyao’s viewpoint at 2,000 MASL. From the exhausting and intense sun heat in the morning, the rain started pouring heavily when we arrived at the waiting shed. We ate our lunch and prepared to trek through the heavy downpour. I forgot to bring my rain coat so we made a customized rain poncho out of a black garbage bag.
By 4:00pm, the steepness and long trail of Amuyao was already starting to take toll on me. My heavy pack added more pressure on my back and shoulders. Thankfully, Michael was kind enough to offer to bring my bag when we were near the 2nd water source, an hour away from the summit. We stopped by the water source to get extra water for cooking and because I was not carrying my backpack anymore, I offered to bring the 3 liters of water instead.
We arrived at the bunkhouse around 5:00pm and luckily, we were the first ones to secure a good spot for our group of 8. The guides have a separate bunkhouse at the lower part of the summit. It was still foggy around 6pm and we started to heat our precooked dinner and rice. We ate our dinner, prepared our beds and took a well deserved sleep.
I woke up around 5:00 am, stood up and walked outside of the bunkhouse. Eventually, the others started coming out and together, we waited for the famous Amuyao sunrise. It was very chilly but the amazing sunrise warmed up our bodies.
After a sunrise photo session, we started to prepare our breakfast and packed lunch. At 9:30 am, we descended the summit. The trail feels relatively easier because it goes all downwards. The trail is slippery and muddy due to the rain from the day before so extra care should be given. A trekking pole is very helpful so as not to put much pressure on the knees while descending.
The last part of the trail is ascending 200 concrete steps within Sitio Macalana. At 1:30 pm, we arrived at the jump-off point in Barlig and successfully finished this 2 day epic long weekend climb. After washing up and eating our lunch, we went to Banaue for a quick stop over and finally, went home to Manila.
Overall, Amuyao has one of the most beautiful summit views I’ve seen. You can see 360 views of its neighboring mountain ranges consisting Benguet, Ifugao and Kalinga mountains. The guides say that the Amuyao sunset is breathtaking and even more beautiful than the sunrise. It was foggy when we arrived at the bunkhouse, so we were not able to view the sunset but nevertheless we are still grateful to be given a chance to witness the famous Amuyao sunrise.
The hike is difficult and not advisable for beginners. A good physical training consisting of cardio and HIIT is recommended before pursuing to hike Amuyao. The pack should also be well-planned and bring warm clothing since it can be very cold at the top. The temperature can go down to less than 10 degree Celsius during the night.
August 24, Saturday 09:00 PM – Meet-Up at Greenfield Shaw 09:30 PM – ETD for Banaue, Ifugao
Day 1 August 25, Sunday
05:00 AM – ETA Banaue/Breakfast 07:00 AM – ETD for Barlig, Mountain Province 09:00 AM – ETA Macalama, Barlig–Registration and Guides 09:30 AM – Start Trek 01:00 PM – ETA Kubo; Lunch 05:00 PM – ETA Summit. Camp/Dinner/Socials
August 26, Sunday
05:00 AM – Wake-Up Call/Sunrise Viewing
07:30 AM – Breakfast
09:30 AM– Start Descend
01:45 PM – End of Trek (Barlig, Ifugao Mountain Province); Late lunch; Wash-up
02:30 PM – ETD to Banaue Viewpoint
04:30 PM – Banaue Viewpoint; ETD to Manila
Day 3 02:00 AM – ETA Mcdo Greenfield Shaw
GUIDE AND FEES
Registration at Barlig Municipality : 25 php per head
Registration at Brgy. Macalama: 50 php per head
Guide, good for 5 pax: 2,000 php for overnight ; 1,500php for dayhike
Porter, good for 15 kgs: 2,000 php for overnight; 100 php per excess of 1 kg.
Jansen of Municipal Tourism Office (Barlig) : 09264004759
2010 was the year I was introduced to mountaineering when my college friends organized a minor trek to Mt. Sembrano in Pililia, Rizal. I joined the Sembrano trek but I was not fit to climb. I had worn the wrong shoes and I was both physically and mentally not prepared. It was definitely not love at first climb, even hated it so I was not keen to climb a mountain again.
At the summit of Mt. Sembrano in November 2010
I found my way back in 2015 when I began to travel more often and joined my high school friends for a preparatory climb for Mt. Pulag. It was Mt. Daraitan where I was pushed to my limits but instead of giving up, I felt excitement. I never felt more alive.
In December 2015, I finally fell deeply in love with the mountains when we climbed Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg Trail. I even cried when we witnessed the famous golden sunrise at the summit. Genuinely grateful to God for His beautiful creation, I prayed out loud and thanked him for giving us an opportunity to ascent safely.
But still, we were not able to hike frequently because of conflicting schedules and a year passed before I was able to climb again. In October 2016, I was invited by my roommate to join their group for a climb to Mt. Maynuba and Cayabu. It was the first time I joined a climb with strangers. I was always a bit of an anti-social but took this chance to meet new people and let them see me in my most vulnerable physical state. This climb have opened my heart again to be more trusting and accepting.
Looking back, the mountains have continued to challenge me to get out of my comfort zone. I learned how to make new friends. I learned the discipline to make myself stronger for the group. I’ve always wanted to express my gratitude to nature and hopefully, through this blog, I will get to share and inspire other people like me to find time to discover nature and let it change their lives.
I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” and I honestly was not able to finish it because I found it boring at the near end but there was a particular line that caught my attention.
According to her book, your inner passion is something you like doing when you were ten years old. Something struck me hard, I haven’t been doing the things I used to love for the past decade.
I haven’t been being “Mangie”for the longest time.
When I was a lot younger, I used to draw and write a lot. I loved storytelling so illustrating my own comics was a dream for me. I made my own “manga” using bond paper and folders. The first comics I did was a Pinoy version of Magic Knight Rayearth when I was in 6th grade. Throughout high school, I would make mini-comics and the theme would range from sad love stories to parodies of famous mangas that time. I made a parody of Juppongatana characters in Ruruoni Kenshin. I also made a short story comics centering on a sad Pinoy Christmas song. I would make characters out of my friends and classmates. My creations would circle around the class and my peers would give constructive criticisms.
I wanted to take up Fine Arts in college but my parents did not want that route for me. For UPCAT application, I decided to put Architecture as my first priority and Fine Arts as my second. I figured that if Fine arts was really for me, I would not be accepted in Architecture. Knowing that Architecture was a quota course in UP Diliman, I was confident that I would not be accepted and end up in my 2nd priority. I ended up taking Architecture instead.
Architecture is a totally different field. It was both an art and science. As an architect, you have to balance both your creativity and logic. It was hard for me. Designing structures and appreciating architecture did not come naturally to me. I had to learn to love Architecture. When I was a freshman, I took up a subject on creative writing in Filipino called “Malikhaing Pagsulat” and it was the only subject in college where I achieved complete attendance. My passion for storytelling continued through my personal private blog.
Honestly, up until now, even with a double license for Architecture and Environmental Planning, I still find it challenging and frustrating. I always find myself trying to improve myself as professional by taking graduate studies and taking on projects I never handled before. I will always be grateful for becoming an architect. I will always be proud of what I have accomplished up until now but I want to finally take time to do the things that made me passionate and ignited my soul when I was a lot younger.
I guess the point of this blog is rediscovering my inner passion and balancing it with my current hobbies. I’m at my thirties and I realize that I might have only 30 years of my life left and I’m not even sure about that. I want to rediscover myself and see what I can do beyond my profession. I want to revisit the things I was never tired of doing when I was 15 years younger. I want to get into hobbies and projects because I wanted to do it and not for anyone else.
So here’s how I want to end my 2018, I’m calling it my Passion Project. I am planning to renew my passion for storytelling. At the same time, I will strengthen my relatively new passion for mountaineering, beach bumming and exploring new places.
My goal starting this year:
1.) To climb at least 10 mountains every year.
2.) To write just about anything under the sun – travel, hobbies, books, movies, architecture.