June 20, 2015
“I like the mountains because they make me feel small,’ Jeff says. ‘They help me sort out what’s important in life.” ― Mark Obmascik
I was having a tough time the past week when one of my colleagues asked me to join their trek to Mt. Talamitam. To tell you the truth, I never saw myself going to these mountains as a hobby. I mean, I like nature and seeing different places in bird’s-eye view but I also know how difficult it is to climb, especially steep and slippery mountains. I know I don’t have the stamina for rigorous activities like that 😉 . But I gave in to peer pressure and accepted the challenge. I felt I needed the adrenaline rush to take out the negativity anyway.
Fast forward to June 20. Jaymee, TJ and Deo picked me up at Sta. Rosa Exit. From there, we took the Santa Rosa-Tagaytay Road and Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway until we reached Kilometer 83. The jump off point is beside Brgy Aga Elementary School in Sitio Bayabasan, Brgy. Aga, Nasugbu, Batangas. One should not miss the area since there is a yellow marker of KM83 and the climbers and guides also gather in there. For those bringing your own cars, there is a small parking space in front of the registration area and sari-sari store. Parking fee depends on you. 🙂
Estimated travel time from Manila to Brgy Aga is around 2 hours depending on the traffic and stopovers. My companions left Quezon City at 5:00AM and we reached Nasugbu by 7:00AM. Before we began our trek, we registered first and paid a registration fee of Php40.00 each (I will tell an inspiring story about this a little later). Then we were assigned a lady guide – Ate Imeda aka Ate Papin. Imelda. Papin. Imelda Papin. Gets? It took us the whole trek to figure this out but it was so funny.
After preparing ourselves – putting enough water, kimbap for lunch, some candies, hats and towels in our bags, we began our trek. The trek started on the small alley beside the school. We passed by some houses and a lot of mango, banana and guava trees. Some residents were even harvesting when we passed by. After a few minutes, we reached the bamboo bridge that will help us cross the river going to the mountain. It was challenging since you never know if the bamboo was strong enough to carry us. But it did! Yey!
We were still at the foot of the mountain but it was already steep and slippery in some parts due to the rain the night before. It was harder than I expected. I had to step on some plants not to slip and hold on to branches and grasses so I won’t fall. It was only the beginning but I was sweating so much and my heart was beating so fast.
After a few minutes and one slip, we began asking Ate Papin and her 11-year-old son Regan how far the summit is. Then they told us that we have not covered even 1/4 of the mountain. We just laughed at our situation and continued. Just as we were starting to feel the pain from walking uphill, we reached the grassy and open area of Mt. Talamitam. We were in awe at the beautiful sight that unfolded in front of our eyes. We could see Mt. Batulao, Tagaytay and the rest of Nasugbu. It was beautiful, lush and breathtaking. The abundance of floras and faunas was also amazing and educational. We kept on asking about the plant name or animal specie of whatever was new to us. We slowly regained our strength with the promise of a more magnificent 360 degrees view at the top. We’re halfway there and we’re not giving up. 😀
On our way, we asked questions to Ate Papin and Regan – how many children there are in the family; what Regan wants to be in the future; in what grade he is now and a lot more. It was interesting to know people’s stories especially whose part of livelihood come from serving as mountain guides. It is tough to climb and go down once and Ate Papin even said she sometimes climb twice a day. I salute you Ate! To add to that, sometimes, even Regan takes the responsibility and guides climbers on his own. I admire his sense of direction and balance. I just hope that Ate Papin and her husband always remind him to be extra careful.
I cannot remember how many times we stopped and admired the sight before us and took short water breaks. The climb was about 2 hours but it was never boring. We kept on exchanging stories and the other climbers were very nice to greet us and told us to take care. It felt like we were connected by the same struggle and goal – to reach the summit of Mt. Talamitam no matter how long it will take us. 😀
We were on our final stretch when the rain started to pour. Then it became more challenging for us since we were also in the area where the slope was about 60 degrees. Jaymee, Deo and Regan were far ahead of me and TJ and Ate Papin were also way behind. I was starting to feel hopeless because my shoes kept on sliding and there was no one with me when Regan appeared again. What a ray of light this little boy was! He was even determined to pull my arms when I said I can manage and just asked him to stay in front and guide me where to step so I won’t fall. My hand started to feel the pain and when I looked there was a scratch from holding the grasses. Ouch.
Finally, after a few stops and deep breaths, I reached the summit. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. I was ready to give up but I mustered my remaining strength and pushed myself. It was all worth it.
After a few snapshots, it started to rain again so we stayed at the small shelter made of dried coconut leaves with the other climbers. At the top, there are two shelters where you can take a quick rest. We had a quick meal of kimbap with egg and corned beef. My Korean cooking skills came in handy since it was easier to carry a rolled rice than food in a lunchbox or container. 🙂
The view at the summit was amazing. We were able to have a 360 degrees view covering Batangas and Cavite. It was all green and blue. I can now fully understand my friends who do this as a hobby.
The rain to stopped and the sun started to shine again. Incredibly, the land dried quickly which made going down the mountain better. I figured going down was more difficult than going up. After taking photos, 360 videos and panorama shots, we decided it was time to go back. Many of the climbers were starting their descent as well.
The descent was faster this time. We crossed the same path we took on our way up. We still saw many climbers going up even in the afternoon. We passed by the Ate selling buko juice for a quick refreshment (Php40.00 each). And we even walked with the Kuya selling ice cream at the summit. We also saw Ate Papin’s husband with some climbers.
For our last stop, we went to the river just at the foot of the mountain. It was so refreshing and relaxing. The cold water slowly took the stress away from our joints and muscles. The smalls fishes were also nice to bite dead skin cells from my feet.
After enjoying the sound of the flowing river and taking a rest, we packed our belongings and returned to the registration area. We quickly changed our clothes for a small amount: Php3 for those who will use the CR and Php20 for those who will take a shower.
Before leaving, Ate Papin gave us a plastic full of green mangoes. She said Regan took those so he can give it to us. They are really very nice people. This little gesture reminds me of this very inspiring story that Ate Papin shared to us:
Ate Papin told us about their livelihood and community in Brgy Aga. Guides take turns when climbing depending on their slot. That way, everyone has opportunity to earn money. She said that part of the registration fee actually goes to the rehabilitation of Brgy Aga Elementary School where Regan is currently studying. Just this summer, they donated paints to the school and the guides were the ones who painted. She also shared stories on how some mountaineers gave back to the people residing in Brgy Aga by giving school supplies to the children and by tree planting. It made me feel much better that the money I paid as registration fee did not go only to the pockets of selected individuals but to the whole community and future of Brgy Aga. I will look forward to the day when I can come back to this place and see the guides and their children continuously showing many people the beauty of Philippine mountains while achieving their lifelong dreams of a much better life.
I am not sure when I will climb another mountain again. My muscles are still sore from our climb but I can already imagine myself doing it. I just hope that in the next summit, the sense of community and responsibility towards nature will still be the same or hopefully even more.