Monday, April 29, 2013

Merrell Adventure Run 2013

Having received a text message from a fellow climber and a friend last March of this year, I learned about Merrell Adventure Run happening in April. I was hesitant at first since I wasn’t expecting any concrete climb schedule which I could use as training for such race, yet eventually, I was convinced. Besides, in the previous year, I was unfortunate  to register in the same annual event. And perhaps, having bought a new pair of trekking shoes of my favorite brand, I was encouraged to say “Yes” to the event. I could wait no more! I wanted to wear it and try it on the trails the soonest as the next sure climb I am expecting would only be in August of this year. (Yes, small things like that! LOL) So, there!  I told myself it’s time to make joining a trail run happen. Trail running? I figured it’s one of my targets in my “not so solid, unwritten bucket list.”

Details of the Race
I may be into mountaineering, and at times, I participate in some running events in the city (though seldom), yet being a newbie to this kind of race still leaves me with an incomplete idea of it. Somehow, I may be aware of something about it. But as they say, “you will never know, until you try and see it for yourself”.

Only upon doing this post did I get the idea to google it. And so Mr. Wiki says, “Trail running is a sport which consists of running and hiking over trails. It differs from road running and track running in that generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascends and descends.”

Oh yes, I was joining an event that may totally surprise me.

I registered for the 21K category. Thinking twice, at first, but still I had to stand for it and were bound to do it.

I am not a super avid fan of running, but admittedly, before entering into various mountaineering activities, I first saw myself in running.  And with so much hype of many organized race events, I participated few of them.  I started with 5k, followed by various 10K’s, and it has always been a 10K for me. So I thought, it would be a nice idea to challenge myself with a 21k… and yes, 21k in a trail running event.

Preparing for the 21K

How did I prepare for the trail run? I got my final decision to register in the event on the last week of March leaving me with only three weeks to prepare.  My recent climb was Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg trail. As mentioned, all my tentative climb schedules for April (due to busy work schedule), remained tentative at the last minute, so everything was postponed. I had no choice but to run and run. I dragged myself to have a work out twice a week (after my "8-to-5" job). The great thing was, our office is only at Bonifacio Global City, one of the popular venues for running events, and it was easy to go running around the High Streets’ small loop. I set additional rounds every week prior to the event.  

The Essentials of the Trail Running

What did I bring during the race event? From a mountaineer’s perspective, I was sure it's like doing a dayhike. So I figured below essentials are the things that I must bring with me, and this get up helped a lot!

>  Hydration pack (also, as required by Merrell, the organizer) – As I don’t have my own hydration bottle just like what the runners normally have,  so I brought my 1 liter-Nalgene and 2 packs of Extra Joss to energize me). By the way, the organizer themselves preferred to bring the participant’s own trail water because plastic cups in the refilling stations were intentionally not available to avoid littering which could break the Leave No Trace (LNT) rule. 

>  Trail food - I brought some biscuits.

>  Head light ((also, as required by Merrell, the organizer) – I brought my Energizer head lamp. However, in the actual race, we didn’t use this as the call time for 21k runners was 5:30am and it seemed that the morning light was already scattered by that time. Anyway, it's an automatic must-have for any dayhike.

> Med kit – Although medics are designated to many stations, I still bring my personal kit which includes liniment/balm, beta dine, alcohol, and paracetamol  in case of emergency).

> Belt bag/Sling bag – A bag which I used to contain all the things mentioned above. Based on this trail run experience, an assault pack with a hydration pack is better and is easier to bring. Small backpack rather than belt bag is even better for a convenient run

> Daypack – which I used to store my things such as clothes after the race and other important personal things.  Baggage counters were properly provided. 

On the Day of Race

Merrell has provided shuttles in Trinoma and BGC as well as jeepney  in SM Masinag which transported us to the venue (with additional cost, of course, I paid Php300 for it). At 4:30am or earlier, participants were there already, hence, giving  enough time to deposit things in the baggage counters, make chit chats with friends (my friend, Bev Jamlig, also joined the race and registered for a 5K) and do some warm ups. The Gun starts for 5k and 10k, just like any other marathon, were 5:45am and 6am, respectively. Of course, for 21k, it was the earliest, 5:30am. Everybody seemed to be excited as we, the 21k runners, waited for the start of the race.

From the hit of gun at exactly 5: 30am to the first 6K portion of the race, everything seemed to happen rapidly. It was a descending trail that everyone had lots of their energy to run as fast as they can. The only thing that temporarily created stops and traffic to the race was, first: during the portions that the trail is very steep with a very dusty, loose soil. Yet it never became a hindrance to the runners as they strive to descend safely yet continuously run fast. Secondly, the obstacle course of the trail run included various river crossings that eventually became sort of muddy as many runners cross on it. It was very risky stepping on the slippery, mossy the rocks. Although one should be trying himself to run fast, more focus is needed, otherwise, he can easily slide on it. The third one is the portion where you would be crawling in muds under a man-made bamboo obstacle. Everyone had no choice but to undergo  such and enjoy the thrill of the trail! By the way, though I am used to walking at different kinds of trails (except the alpine one, of course), I preferred to slow down whenever necessary or not being reckless enough to avoid injury.

Afterwards, several long ascents followed. Most of us could not even sustain the running. Most of the time, I just walked. Yes, it felt like I was doing an assault on a Mt. Balagbag dayhike. The wide trails are also similar on the first part of trails to Mt. Tapulao in Zambales.  There were moments of descending but due to long time of earlier ascents, I was tired enough to resume running.  Majority of my time was spent in hiking. I met my friend, Rose de Leon (the one who texted me to join in this run), as she stopped in a sari-sari store. From that point, we were trekking while having some chit chats (what a great time and place to exchange ideas while finishing up with the run, hehe, at least we were surprised we almost trekked few kilometers more without too much minding the long hours of trek).

More assault ahead!

Two of the last obstacles were taking the muddy rice fields and there were watchers so that no one would try to cheat and instead walk on the rice paddy.  It was only quick. But the mud’s level was below my knee and it was really hard to walk on it that it was so funny of me stumbling twice. The secret to continuously walking on it and not heavily get the shoes deepened is to walk just lightly, not making every step stay longer on the mud. 

I  ran. I trekked. I crossed the river. I crawled in the muddy trail. And I soaked... soaked myself  in the rice field???  Photo credit: Thumbie O. Remigio

And the last one was a not-so-narrow trail with bamboo hurdles.

Passing through a residential barangay and more grassland under an extreme heat of the sun, we finally went through a final assault. 

Rose De Leon and behind her was me while hitting the finish line
Photo credit: MangHusi PhotoShop

Few more steps and we ran to the finish line with staff welcoming us and putting medals on us. It felt so good to finish my first ever 21k race, safe and strong!

We grabbed our freebies and did some wash up.

Few Notes from a First Timer Like Me

I have realized that to be able to perform better in this race, enough preparation is needed. In my opinion, mere running practice is good yet having the trail runs designed with uphill and downhill as well as with various obstacles, I believe, a climb (a dayhike at least) is a helpful preparation and could be a great advantage. One should prepare to endure the lengthy trail. Warm up is certainly a must. Non-preparation for this can only lead you to unusual muscle pains and cramps. And worse, not being able to finish the race.

It isn't like mountain climbing where one can extend the “take 5” rest as time is everything in this race. Your only goal is to finish the soonest time possible. Also, you can only take pictures quickly yet you can feel and enjoy the views as you do the running and hiking.

On the practical side, I will ensure next time that I wear proper gears to protect myself against the extreme heat of the sun. But hey! there’s another way, I must increase my pace so that I  would be able to finish early! And this is definitely a major challenge.

Whether you do trail running for fun or for any specific reason, it is truly a healthy activity and indeed, a test of discipline, endurance, and perseverance.  For the competitive ones, it also encourages a lot to do more and provides rooms for a passionate heart to achieve their targets and dreams.

Photo taken by: MangHusi PhotoShop
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

The 3rd Annual Mt. Pulag Climb via Ambangeg Trail

For the past three consecutive years, I've vowed to do an annual climb to Mt. Pulag, the third highest mountain in the country. Mission? To witness a perfect sea of clouds and to become an instrument to both the newbies and revisiting climbers in witnessing its unique beauty by organizing a climb event.

our event shirt

Year 3 came for this climb event, we decided to invite friends and friends of friends which happened on the second weekend of March 2013. This was actually my fifth time in Mt. Pulag including its trails other than Ambangeg. By the way, I normally opt to take Ambangeg, the easiest trail, to provide more relaxing climb so that newbies can easily cope up. For a regular Pulag climber, its beauty may be the same a year after year after year; similar itinerary has always been followed, familar types of trail are encountered and even views are still the same. And I guess, yes, what makes it different are the moments, the way you finish the climb and the memories with new-found friends and companions. And even if there are the same and familiar views, this sacred mountain still brings a fulfilling experience in many ways. 

some plant species in the mossy forest of Mt. Pulag

In this 3rd annual climb to Mt. Pulag, here below list of thoughts is what I'm going to share instead of the usual narration of the sequential happenings of the climb event:

1. I was able to share the passion with my colleagues in HSBC. It was an opportunity to know them more and enjoy their company.

jhun, myself, gretch, honeypie and von

2. The last time I tried to do a topload, I think, was during my childhood days. I never tried it again because I was a little afraid especially when the vehicle is already moving. But not until this event. On our way from Baguio to Ambangeg, I tried it again and the experience was awesome particularly that the road trip was more of Benguet's highlights -- the mountainous views passing through La Trinidad and Ambuklao Dam. Resuming the road trip after orientation at the DENR, almost all of us didn't go "toploading" anymore as the road to Ambangeg is already steep and even more bumpy. 

that's what we called --> topload!

3. Somebody has a birthmark on their ass (just kiddin'). What added on such weekend adventure was that our chartered jeepney wasn't in good condition and it was more than twice that we stopped and waited for assistance. On our last stop, we had no choice but to transfer to another and share with other group. And of course, it could only be on topload since it wasn't the one we've rented. 

road under construction -- this was during the waiting time for another jeepney to pick us up and would bring us to Ranger station

4. As mentioned, the way to Ambangeg is still under construction as it is being made concreted. Good to know that in the future, it would be more convenient to the visitors of the mountain. However, currently it's just a little annoying and incovenient as there's a portion that you have to walk for a few minutes to transfer to another jeepney. It should have been bearable but the time wasted for waiting another jeepney promotes boredom and creates impatience. This is my second time to experience this. The first time was last year and we were completely unaware that There's currently road construction being done. Although there's an alternative route but it would consume an additional one hour or two. I am now thinking if my 4th annual climb next year would still be via Ambangeg since I just find it inconvenient to take the road under construction. Well, not the road itself but the interval and availability of the jeepney for the transfer.

5. It was my first time to have socials in Mt. Pulag during the night. There was a fog rain yet the low temperature was bearable. Unlike my past overnight climb there before, I am normally zipped out and locked already inside the tent as I cannot tolerate the getting colder and colder temperature. This time I am proud to say that I'm just wearing a thin dri-fit long sleeves (comfortable and bearable and and I can't believe that it sustained me through the coldness. Even in our windy Mt. Sicapoo summit assault last climb, it did!)

foggy camp 2

6. Just like my first time in Mt. Pulag, it was a peak season making a count of more than 200 climbers for that weekend in Ambangeg trail alone. We were even assigned to Peak 3 for sunset viewing since summit was already "fully filled in" But what happened in the actual dawn assault was since everyone must have been thinking that it would only be foggy up there, so the number of climbers to have summit assault declined and we were able to proceed right away from peak 3 to summit.

the trail to the summit

7. We didn't have a clearing at the top! It never gave us a great view. It was just like my first time where the background were all white due to thick fog that even some were jokingly saying that you can even take ID picture. We were all able to reach the summit anyway :D

the group at the summit

peak 3 (no sunrise :( )

Having said all the goodness and hassle of this weekend adventure, still Mt Pulag continued to amaze me... and it always does! So how about Akiki- Ambangeg trail next year? Come and join me!

Photos courtesy of Von Rodriguez and Edz Isabela


Day 0 Friday

2000 Assembly at Victory Liner Pasay(Php460.00)  or Cubao Station (Php450)
2100 ETD to Baguio

Day 1 Saturday

0300 ETA Baguio City/Buy Provisions/Contact Rented Jeep
0400 ETD to DENR
0530 Stop at Carinderia/Breakfast/Buy Packed Lunch
0630 Resume ETD to DENR
0800 ETA DENR/Register/Seminar(30mins)
0900 ETD to Ranger Station
1000 ETA Ranger Station/arrange guides and porters (Php330/person-guide fee,green fee,camping fee, registration etc)
1100 Start Trek
1200 ETA Camp 1/Rest
1230 Resume Trek/ETA Camp 2
1300 1st Watersource/refill water bottles
1400 ETA Camp 2/setup camp/Rest
1700 Prepare Dinner
1900 Dinner/Socials
2100 Lights out

Day 2 Sunday (Summit Assault)

0230 Wake-up call/Prepare Breakfast
0330 Start Trek/ETD to Summit
0430 ETA Summit/Sunrise/Sea of Clouds/Picture
0730 Start Descend going back to Camp 2
0830 ETA Camp 2/Prepare Breakfast
1000 Start Descend/ETD Ranger Station
1130 ETA Ranger Station/Prepare Lunch/Wash-up
1400 ETD to DENR
1500 ETA DENR/Logout/Buy souvenir shirt
1530 ETD to Baguio
1700 ETA Baguio/Buy pasalubong
2000 ETD Manila

Day 3 Monday

0200 ETA Manila

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mt. Sicapoo Revisited (Traverse via Timarid & Simagaysay )

Solsona, Ilocos Norte, Feb 23-25, 2013

River trekking, the first part of traverse
Back in 2012, I made a promise to revisit a dream mountain that really caught my heart. Yes, it's been only a year yet it felt like I'd like to do it again the soonest together with the fact that my buddy and I actually planned to organize a climb in order to share with others the great experience of climbing this scenic mountain. It was my first dream climb, as I became intimidated by the feeling of accomplishing a very serious major traverse. The entire traverse is comprised of 8-peak ascent, hence it was given a difficulty level of 9/9.

From that first Sicapoo climb and on, I’ve always wanted to walk again and wander in its beautiful pine forest and I’ve wanted to see again its penguin-shaped rock at the summit.

Came 2013, same month as previous year, that was February, everything happened according to what should happen and what has been scheduled and expected—the night trip to Laoag City as well as the ride through a chartered jeepney to a town in Ilocos Norte, which is Solsona.

The adventure had only begun earlier than what I’ve expected. Instead at the jump off point, it started already in the city. On my quest to arrive on or before the meet-up time (9pm) in Farinas bus terminal in Manila, I experienced all the possible hurdles I could ever faced on such fateful Friday night -- from the defective train to my misfortune at the taxi stand, wherein, when it  was my turn after almost an hour of waiting and waiting, I would hear from the dispatcher, "I'm sorry but these taxis are for southbound only." I almost cried. I even swore that if ever I could not make it to arrive on the reserved trip schedule, I wouldn't simply join the climb  owing to the fact that I was still there in Makati at around 8pm.  But luckily when i took the risk and went back to MRT, the train was back to normal operations already. I almost flew as I double my time to take another train in  LRT and get home to get my backpack and hurried up to the terminal. I arrived at the bus sobbing. Realization: I wish I had filed a half day leave instead.

Not good to kick the journey off.

I only realized I was definitely back to my once Dream Mountain and now my all time favorite hiking destination, was when I was chasing after my breath while doing the first assault in Balbalitok, the first major peak  after the river trekking. I can’t believe that the same shoes I wore last year were still the same shoes walking at such challenging trail. Kudos Salomon shoes! You are so great and reliable! I was the happiest that time. Time flies so fast and it’s truly great to be back!

In my case, it was my second time to do this Mt. Sicapoo expedition. For buddy Dennis, it’s his third, hence, his event was entitled as 3rd Annual Sicapoo climb. We were 12 climbers for this event, the remaining 10 were first timers to this mountain.

Jump off point (Photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)

Buddy Dennis, the light backpacker and organizer :)
We survived the first day, however, we started behind our itinerary, we doubled our time by reducing our time of rest yet still we arrived at the campsite, Saulay junction, almost late around 8pm already, thelast man was almost 10pm, I think. The river trekking, which lasted for long hours, went out fine and thankfully, the water level was very much tolerable as it was only below our knees and it was a very sunny day. February, indeed, is still a good time to schedule a hike up Mt. Sicapoo. As always, I found serenity trekking in such wonderful place. The water is so calm and everything around is at peace. Approaching nightfall, the weather seemed to become weird although before we left for Ilocos, there was a typhoon in Mindanao area moving out of the country’s area of responsibility. Perhaps, that could be the effect on the northern part of the country. What we’ve noticed was, the portion of the mountain ranges beside Balbalitok was very windy. That’s why upon doing this first major assault coming from our river trekking, we encountered more challenging trails. Can you imagine trekking in a knife-edged trail where the strong winds seemed to push you on the other side which is a cliff? In that case, we exerted more effort and became more extra careful while doing the trek.

a breathtaking cliff crossing, (photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)
I had the same snapshot last year of this great assault moment from river trekking to Balbalitok peak, the only difference are the participants involved ^_^

strong winds coming our way
Stepping  up in Saulay junction (where we set the camp), I was surprised by the lights around the mountains. My first thought was there must be many climbers on that day which of course impossible since the nearby campsites there are just Saulay and Bubuos, the latter can be viewed from the former. The second thought was, it must be that, the lights of the town can be viewed from there. But it is also impossible since such side of Saulay is all-mountains. Then I realized that it was forest fire. I was stunned.  What a sad thing! I asked around especially Tatay Emilio who was already there as guide of another group (UP Mountaineers). He said it could be the hunters or anyone from the place but unfortunately they could not catch them, neither the DENR could. He added that if only somebody from the local government or the DENR who wants to really solve it, there must be people assigned at the mountain itself to capture the irresponsible people attempting to destroy the mountain.

Photo taken by: Albert Relativo Rangel
On the second day, it was our summit assault of course! We had a very good weather on the first part making us feast tremendously on the beauty of pine forest while trekking.
The leaves of the pine tress which to me, seem to depict "calmness, simplicity and happiness". 
The Hiding Rainbow on the side of the mountain upon our trekking to Pakpako
Arriving at Pakpako, we encountered again the strong winds . Until we passed through the forests, both the strong winds and rains became our struggles. It was very cold that even two of our companions decided to go back to the campsite and decided not to push through. One guide had to accompany them back to Saulay. Admittedly, such rainy and windy condition added to the challenge of the trail. We faced not only the very lengthy trek but also we had to fight on with the cold temperature. As far as I remember, our climb last year (when we were so blessed to have a very perfect weather), it was already very cold at the forest especially upon passing the Pakpako, so how much more with such kind of windy and rainy weather? The 10 of us, however, successfully reached the summit.  And yes, once again, I met the penguin-shaped rock perched on the very summit and which marks the highest point of Mt. Sicapoo. We only spent a very few minutes taking pictures since it was raining and we were chilling. Apparently and unfortunately, there were no clearing. No views were given to us.  We reached the top anyway. Moving back to the campsite, some of us had minor injuries which caused some of us to slow down. By nightfall, we already passed the Pakpako. We had to take some rest in the middle of the pine forest. We were so thankful that rains and strong winds eventually ceased. But we had some difficulties since two of us had to lend the headlamps to the two guides, who did not bring one. Apparently, there were two guides left for us.  But the first one whom we lent the headlamp to, went ahead of us. The other guide had to accompany the last man who had an injury. Understandably, we, the remaining climbers in the dark trail experienced a little inconvenience as we had to share the headlights.We arrived at the conclusion that the guides assigned to us were not properly oriented and trained. We also learned from our companions that on our first day, one guide also left them complaining and pushing them to trek beyond their capacity.

Summit at last! -- at the foot of the penguin rock  (photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)

Stormy assault! -- At the back of the penguin rock (photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)
The third day was the most anticipated traverse day via Mt. Timarid and Mt. Simagaysay. This is absolutely not easy since we were gone tired of the previous days’ trek and such third day completes the scale of difficulty of this climb expedition. For the secondtime, I had to undergo again with more assaults on such very steep mountain and endure the difficulty under the very extreme heat of the the sun. Can you imagine we were doing the assault at around 11am onwards  in the pursuit of arriving at the summit of Mt. Timarid? This mountain appears to be somehow bald as pine trees are just minimal and it’s more of grassland feature. In addition, some parts of the trail are technical. When I say it's technical, it means the trail requires more focus and extra cautions on every step you make. The extreme heat of the sun plus the very steep trail makes the very core of its difficulty. The fact that this is the day of finishing up with the climb so obviously, our backpacks were loaded by all of our things unlike the previous day which we only brought assault packs for our summit assault. The last water source we had was only the point before doing the bouldering up Mt. Timarid. We had to limit our water consumption and hydration from lunch time all the way to One-degree plateau. Because of being dehydrated, it took us more than 6 hours to arrive at the plateau. Apparently majority of the group’s started to slow down.

Mt. Timarid as viewed from Bubuos campsite

surviving the steep Timarid
Mt. Timarid Summit
Mt. Simagaysay going to One-degree plateau
One day, hopefully on my next visit, I wish to arrive at the One-degree plateau before twilight so that I would be able to take picture of it.

The petty yet wonderful thing? It happened that it was full moon. I was happy gazing up such magnificent thing. Also, when the trail is open,the moon seemed to shed us enough light in our night trek.

Sunset Year 2! :) my 2nd photo of sunset in Mt. Simagaysay
I am truly grateful. Despite such challenges, all of us have survived and were able to finish the traverse, safe and sound.

The next day was more time of sleep and rest for some of us who spent the night at Tatay Emilio’s house. Others decided to travel back to Manila by 3am. For the rest, we spent some side trip at Calle Crisologo in Vigan and had some pieces of the famous empanada. We also had a coffee break. If you happened to read my post on my first time in Mt. Sicapoo (Mt. Sicapoo: An Extreme Dream), you would realize that majority of what happened here in my second time seemed to be just a complete rewind. From taking the Farinas Bus to the last part of the 4-day trip, the sidetrip in Vigan. The only different experience is the memories left and spent with new companions in the trails. I am thankful to all of them for the laughters and joy we had during the climb.

It was very tiring, admittedly. I was asking myself why I did it again,well , I just risked myself and tired myself especially on such extremes in Timarid assault. Yet to me, who had a beautiful share of memories with this mountain in my first time to climb it, I think it only deserves to be revisited and  tell the world of the stories of what and why  I have been awed by its beauty and the victory of its 3-day successful  journey.

Again, there are always good stories and memories created in every climb, in every visit, in every journey and expedition.Congrats to all of us in this 3rd Annual Mt. Sicapoo Expedition. God truly blessed us a lot!

Group pic just before descending from Saulay junction

Participants for this climb:
1. Dennis Hisanan
2. Matelle Rivera
3. Yeth Autor
4. Deng Varona
5. Albert Rangel
6. Brian Caparas
7. Erwin Aspacio
8. Erickson Recto
9. Erick Villamor
10. Nadia Santos
11.Ienne Villaverde
12. Benedict Chavez

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Someone’s Lost and Must be Found: A Hopeful Write Up Dedicated to a Missing Fellow Climber

UPDATE as of April 13, 2013:  A human body was found in the lower portion of Rockies this morning and eventually identified as Victor Joel Ayson. Praying for eternal peace of his soul. Sad news, it really is! May the good Lord grant more strength to the family and loved ones of sir Victor. He'll always be remembered as someone who stood firmly for his great passion. 

I still have two pending posts for my Sicapoo and Pulag climbs (and yes they are already long overdue)  but it seems like I am dragged to do an essay for the recent news that crack the silence of the Philippine mountaineering community a week ago.

He is Victor Joel Ayson, a mountaineer who went on solo hiking up Mt. Maculot in the early morning of Easter Sunday just last week. He was about to go home after his recent successful climb in Mt. Guiting-Guiting in Romblon and I guess since the proximity of pier in Batangas city and Cuenca is reasonable (perhaps that he was already in Batangas), he decided to proceed and witness the crack of dawn in Mt. Maculot. Since it was a suddenly-made invitational climb to his friends, no one must have been readily available that’s why he decided to push through with the said climb. Besides,it was not his first time to do a hike there and  I believe, he had his own good reasons and intentions for doing that. For photography, apparently. The only thing that went wrong was that either something really went wrong in one of the steps he made or he did not have any control on what had supposed to happen.

I am not directly related to him nor am even a Facebook friend. I just can’t take it that somebody is dubbed as “nawalang parang bula.”

I was sort of keeping myself updated day by day of the progress of the Search and Rescue operations. Although my only contribution is to simply pray for him, I really wanted to know what happened to him and I was and is continuously praying that may it never be too late and may he finally be found. I felt the sorrow it brought to his family and loved ones.

A week has passed and I've found in the news that the family has called off the SAR. I believe they are not giving up but perhaps they might be thinking that it could be enough for the moment. There must still be feeling of hope but the human efforts have been maximized already, they must be leaving it alone to the Almighty God who really knows what really happened.

But I am really curious how it is possible that in just a matter of hours for no known reason, a person was gone --- tangibly gone . An no one could tell, no one could trace his whereabouts. No one could trace back what really happened. --- leaving everyone a question mark. And his disappearance became a mystery to both aspiring newbies to seasoned mountaineers; creating arguments as well on the different opinions about doing solo climbs.

I could really feel the situation: perhaps that the mountain is so close to my heart (it’s one of my favourite hiking destinations) and that I also once did a solo dayhike there back in 2011.

I was much hyped up to do more challenging climbs back then that’s why I must have been having a strong guts. Deep inside I was weak , and throughout the climb I was praying for my safety and protection, yet it taught me to be self-reliant and at the same time more all-reliant to the Giver of Life. All I want was to have a “me-time,” a test of my limit in the wilderness and a moment of solitude along with enjoying the trail and the nature alone. But despite that, I was also expecting to meet fellow hikers since Maculot is truly one of the most well-hiked and popular climbing destinations. During the trek, yes I actually met a lot of people, both aspiring newbies and regular hikers. There are times that  I was with them but most of the time I was alone in the trail.

That must be the same moment of being alone in which the instance of Sir Victor’s loss happened. According to the news, he was allegedly spotted at around 7am and even claimed to be seen decending at around 9am.
This is why solo climbing is a hot issue to many of the mountaineers making them to raise an eyebrow on this idea. To me, solo climbing is just a matter of finding your inner self, finding your limit, finding more adventure, finding a certain kind of pleasure, finding a unique definition of achievement,  finding courage, finding yourself in the right/safe track and finding your way back home. Many has done and experienced this and many has survived. Nothing is wrong with that but still, it is not encouraged. It requires a strong decision to pursue, a lot of self-assessment to the danger that is absolutely certain, readiness and being responsible to oneself. Sir Victor, in one way or another must have been a reason of finding something like that.  The only thing is that everything along the way is uncertain and actually became unexpected for him.

Just like everyone else, I am puzzled. I am really curious. I wish it could have been only a movie, and with that, there would be a flashback and everything that happened could have been revealed. And more importantly, he could have been found and led back home. But it is not. 

Yet there is something more powerful -- it is Prayer. NOTHING is impossible in God. God is all-knowing God. He cares. He understands. He knows the best. To the loved ones, it means a big amount of faith and really a test of the value of patience. I am one of those who still have a big HOPE in #findingbiki. 

A picture posted in his Facebook account dated March 25 where he took the New Trail to Rockies
A picture tagged to him - this was his most recent climb prior to his "being missing" in Mt. Maculot

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