Thursday, May 14, 2015

Seven Lessons from Akiki Trail

Steep. Extremely steep. Long hike.

You do the Google search and these are the famous descriptions unanimously used to portray Akiki. It was my seventh time in Mt. Pulag and I don’t want to make this post a venue for reiteration of such popular adjectives for the said trail.  That’s seemingly a cliché especially for a mountaineer who have journeyed a lot for some time. For the first timers, it could obviously be a total challenge. And yet, whoever does the trekking, that doesn’t change the image of Akiki, it’s still a long, steep journey. So there, I have no choice but to use those words again.

Situated in the municipality of Kabayan in Benguet province, Akiki remains to be the most popular among other possible major and difficult trails to get to the Luzon’s highest peak, Mt. Pulag. It was my seventh yet it was neither my first time to put my feet on its elevated grounds.  In 2011, we did the Ambagiuo- Akiki cross country traverse, that’s from Nueva Vizcaya to Benguet, and from the title itself, our descent took place through Akiki. I may have the idea of the trail already but it didn’t stop me on the desire to experience how it feels to ascend on that trail.

The Participants

It was a fine morning in March 2015 when we were transported to the jump-off point where DENR is also located. Apparently after almost four years, it has changed a lot. The premise is now well-painted and all concrete. We had the best weather on our start of the trek and this perfect beginning along with new acquaintances and companions led me to feel the good vibe of the whole trek.

They said you'll find some sort of solitude in climbing a mountain. And I did, despite climbing in group. I was able to contemplate well.

Let me share with you some of my simple realizations. These thoughts/ideas are not new to us. But because of this climb, I was gently dragged and reminded.

1. It feels great when you are carrying light.

I anticipated a tiring trek particularly that it will be done on a 2D1N itinerary with an overnight stay at Marlboro campsite and resuming the trek very early the following day. This is contrary to the usual itinerary of three days. I only brought the necessary stuff. I admit I am not a heavy loader. I believe I could not stand carrying it for a long hike. Good thing, I have a buddy where I can share some stuff with as our gears are distributed to both of us.

Just like in life, the more you carry a load and a burden, the heavier and the more inconvenient it gets. This is a reminder for me not to carry heavy stuff in my heart, it can only get worsened. So take it lightly and pack light. Just bring in your life whatever is truly essential.

The presence of a good and true friend to share with would always be a relief, an assurance, someone you can rely with and get some help... and just pure happiness.

2. That in this life, you would continue to encounter new people.. and we have to accept that some of them would not be able to stay

If you allow yourself to explore, you’ll meet new people, learn amazing things about them, hear their stories, enjoy company with them even for a short period of time, share laughter, but at the end of the climb event, it’s time to part ways.

Think of any of the closest friends that you had before.  You were once close to each other, but now you feel like strangers and you cannot hear anything even hi or hello from him or her. The point is, in your journey and in the reality of life, people just come and go. Some are only able to play a short role and eventually they are not bound to stay. It seems that their significance in your journey only covers the current moments in your life. And only few people will stay.

But the good thing is, you meet him/her/them. And the memory remains.

Who knows, you’ll bump with him or her someday and you’ll know in your hearts, "hey, we’ve got memories together, right?

3. Life is like a traverse climb, you have to start from one point and end in another point for you to consider that you have successfully completed it.

You have no choice but to move on. Otherwise, you’ll stay from where you are and nothing leads to progress. You may go back from where you’ve started but you would not be able to complete anything.

Just like in life, once you've started your endeavors, you cannot stop, you must continue until the end of the line for you to accomplish and reach you goal.  And yes, brace yourself for a traverse full of challenges. That’s the thrill of the journey. 

4. You will question at least once in your life, “Why am I doing this?”

Life is not a smooth-sailing journey. Undeniably, there are chapters where hardships are inevitable. Life is going to test your endurance and resilience. It will test how strong you are as you climb the ladder towards success.  It’s like a mountain full of steep trails. You have to go through it. And when you reach that moment that you are tired and weary and having difficulties climbing particularly when it feels like you are not going closer to the endpoint,  you seem to just stop and question, why are you doing this? Is this worth it? You hope that you just stay somewhere and never ever attempted to do this shit.

But with such act of questioning determines your next steps. You know from your heart what to do next after overcoming it.

5. Life is a bitter-sweet journey.

They call it Unlimited Assault. Oh yes, that’s Akiki! On an average steady pace, it’s 11-12 hour trek to the summit and 90% of it shall be vertically pushed.

But hey, look at the fine pine forest... the fresh air... the green surroundings... the laughters you shared during “take-5 rest.” They compensate with the difficulties, aren’t they? Much more if you successfully reach the summit and witness the majestic views atop the mountain?  Much more if you experienced the sea of clouds?

Just like in life, there may be obstacles, but if you dig deeper and see the positive side, you’ll see how sweet too is what you’re going through. It's a humbling experience not being able to experience the just finest parts. I guess, it'll make us more human tasting both the bitter and the sweet.

Hey, look at this beautiful creature? It looks beautiful and yet try yourself to get close to it and you'll be alarmed in the itchiness you can get. Beautiful yet dangerous. Well, similar to "sweet yet bitter."

rampant/scattered "higad" along the pine forested trail.
6. It is more victorious if you reached the success as a team

I was one of the first to reach the summit. I think we’re around five to witness the earliest freshness of the morning and the actual rising of sun at the mountain top. Majority of the team weren't able to arrive by 6 or 7am. Perhaps because of the heavy longpack they were carrying and the fact that most of them were relatively new to do a long hike and major climb. But I pay a salute to them! They pushed themselves to their limits and they were able to make it. Only after we’re together in the summit did I experience the pure joy. That we’re all in this success together.

Happiness is at its best when shared.

Wait, here's my seventh! "Always remember that you're one small, wonderful being in this big, wonderful world."

I know, we all have our own share of struggles and difficulties. Problems unsolved. Dream unrealized. You may never be aware of it for now, but the Higher Being above sees the whole picture ---  a beautiful soul in a grand journey to a promising destination.


  1. wish, I can also climb pulag through akiki trail.

  2. go Sir Benedict! taste and see the goodness of this other side of Pulag :)

  3. We climbed the Akiki Trail during our 2015 Valentines climb. Even though I suffered cramps (my fault due to underestimating the trail) and we weren't able to see the sea-of-clouds phenomenon, it was one of the best climbs we ever had.

    The Akiki trail is just so full of features and scenes, and the steepness is a great challenge.

    1. helloooo.. yes, rain or shine, it's always nice to climb Mt. Pulag.. much more with the challenging Akiki trail.. so fulfilling, isn't it? kudos for not giving up despite difficulties encountered.. and great to hear you had a great valentine climb in Pulag. :))


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