This is a story about the 3 days and 2 nights of two guys who have a penchant for going against the flow, testing limits and going to places they haven't been to!We Hit the Road
Friday (Feb 17): My roomie Eric told me he didn't want his weekend to be dull and he was all "Dude! How about a weekend getaway?!...I mean let's GO...just GO...I don't care where to...Let's just GO! And for a change, no cameras. Let's not make travelling a sorry excuse for taking pictures!" So I leafed through some destinations in my Bundok Pinoy folder and I kind of had a hard time deciding over whether to go for Mt Pinatubo or Pico de Loro. In the end I figured it wasn't the best time for a six-hour hike under the sun amidst a collapsed volcano. So I studied the itinerary I found floatin' around in the net (thanks to Paul Perez...Dunno him..but apparently he's the creator of theIT).
Saturday (Feb 18) 5:45 AM: Eric arrived home from work. I saw the sunlight again after one and a half hours of sleepless dreamin! By 7:30 we had already finished packin' up. So with some canned goods and Jason Mraz in my ears, we headed for Liwasang Bonifacio (Lawton). We gulped down a coupla eatables at7-eleven (as always...me 'n my siopao). After a quick lookin' around for some more mountain needables..."Ei donis, what do you think?! (holding up a bottle of some local brown booze)" "Nah..forget it. We don't drink that anyway!""(jeeringly) Not even for the tradition?! (he so hates mountaineering traditions and culture)". And so for the tradition, we grabbed that junior bote...along with his pack of ciggies and sachets of shampoo and OFF lotion (bida sa bundok). At 9 am, we boarded the Saulog bus bound for Ternate (Maragondon).
Thirty minutes had passed but still I couldn't see any mountains within my peripheral vision. Another 30 minutes and still the flatness of the coastal plains of Cavite seemed boundless. I started to worry whether we were heading somewhere else. I tried not to show Eric any signs of anxiety but somehow he felt it. So he was like "Are we..." "Yes we are in the right bus. We're notgoing SOMEWHERE so we are always in the right bus!". Another 30 minutes but still no signs of elevated terrain. Finally, after a coupla more minutes, theCaraballo Mountains loomed right in front of us. Around 11 am, we got off atMaragondon. We hired a tricycle that took us to the jump-off point--The Magnet Area along Ternate Highway going to Caylabne Bay Resort. This area of the hill is said to be magnetic that when you put your engine in the neutral or turn itoff, your vehicle will climb up all by itself.The Way Up and The Campsite
At 11:45, we started our trek up. Reaching a nipa hut after thirty minutes,we registered (P10 each) and filled our water bottles with 3 liters of water.After one and a half hours of relatively steep ascent, we reached thecampsites. One under the shade of the bamboos and on the other side, the oneover looking Nasugbu. As we didn't wanna find ourselves (in our dome-type tent)blown down the cliff, we opted to pitch our tent under the friendly shade ofthe bamboos amongst six or so other tents. We sort of woke our neighbors (allguys unfortunately) up as we pitched and had a quick lunch. I'm not pretty sure whether we woke them up or they roused themselves up inquisitive as to who thenew pips were. To their dismay, walang chicks! After some "Magandang haponsir!" "Kayo lang sir?!" "Kelan baba nyo sir? and "Magtatrabers ba kayo sir?"and all, me and Eric headed for the peak.The Peak
The terrain was pretty steep and reminiscent of The Land of the Dwarf Bamboos in the Akiki trail. I didn't put much trust on my grip (on the grass) on accountof the scare I got from The land of the Dwarf Bamboos. (Last month, I developedthis fear of gripping onto little green things on the ground when a dwarf bamboo liberated itself off the ground and almost had the nirvana of killingme). In the middle of the trek we were on all fours and before we knew it wewere already on top. That was around 15 minutes of laughing and racing. Before us was an oohh so (Sorry! The adjective you're looking for cannot be found.Please try again as soon as the English lexicon has been updated!) 360-degree view of Batangas and Cavite. To the South (10 degrees below the parallel), is the imposing maroon monolith. Far beyond the monolith are Mt. Batulao and Talamitam (probably). On the West, with the Sun about to set, is a picturesque view of the shore lines of Bataan and Batangas. You could actually see ships passing by. On the East, a little far below, is the campsite by the cliff. To the North, not much. The crisp wind up there wasn't very friendly. I myself felt like I was gonna be swept away. The acrophobic Eric (with his knees songatog) couldn't get his bottoms off the ground. We enjoyed the view, the wind,the fog and our veritgo with some UPM members (who were already up there...They climbed the peak from the other side--Nasugbu). Shortly, two guys came up. One of them, Jong, had with him an SLR camera which just made me drool. He probably knew that I was so laway na, so he offered to take us a couple of shots and promised to send 'em over through e-mail. Things happened and we went back down(the UPM pips down to Nasugbu and the rest back to the campsite). Jong and his friend went further down (probably to the campsite near the waterfall or back to Manila). At the campsite, we found two of our kapit-tents preparing dinner for the group. The rest were still in sight but they were somewhere else doin some conference stuff. Then they started chanting so I asked the cook of the group..."Is this some kind of a frat initiation or something?!" "Kind of! If you want you could join!". Then I heard the line "Hossana in the highest". It turned out they were doin some Sabbath worship thing. Things happened then me and Eric had our rest.The Socials
We awoke at 7:30 pm and made dinner out of what we had left from lunch.Too lazy to cook! After dinner, with the junior bote and a pack of Boy Bawang,we went to the more populated cliff. We drank under the constellations oblivious of whatever was happening around us (save for, of course, the campfire some guys had kindled). The neck of the junior bote afforded us some two hours of weird Philo talks while enjoying a fantastic view of the glimmering Nasugbu. Reaching the neckline (of the bottle), we made for our tent. The nightwas not very soporific! The ground was bonenreakingly rugged and sloping. The wind was pretty strong that I could imagine it building up from all directions and continually pounding our tent. I'm just 60 kgs and Eric's weight is negligible! There was some wala-yan-sa-lolo-ko kind of socials goin on outside and I couldn't help hearing some of it. One was like "...Ako halos 3 times aweek kung pumanhik". Another was like "...Kasi men pag pababa ka sa slope dapat yung weight mo nasa toes!" And still another was like "...kaya ko inaakyat yang batong yan ey kasi challenging eh...at gusto kung maiba naman...nagcocompete kasi ako sa wol-climbing! last year sa difficult category sa BORACAY, 2nd ako;tapos yung sa speed competition, ako yung champion!...To make things terse, everyone was an awesome climber. It went on for some 3 hours as I went on with my daydreaming 'til I finally dozed off.When Everyone Went Back Down to Maragondon
Morning came and we found our kapit-tents having breakfast. We went to the peak again to catch the morning sunlight and to get ourselves used to the terrain (and eventually overcome our fear). As we had planned to traverse the mountain, we went down to the steep other side. Reaching the base of the monolith, we surveyed the vicinity and reckoned we could do a traverse. We went back to the campsite to get some tips from our kapit-tents but found out they had all left! Eric made our breakfast and I went to the cliff camp to gathersome information about the trail down to Nasugbu. Eric is a friggin' anti-social geek...that I always have to do all the talking. No!...First time nyo dito? Yep! First time nyo ring mag-traverse? Yep (Malamang) Wag nasir!....Naku delikado jan!...and Mahirap jan! were all the encouragement I got(which just spurred me onto going for the traverse...FYI: isa akong suwail namamumundok)! We had a quick repast and washed our hands and stuff with the leftover brandy (for we were running out of water then). A few minutes beforewe finished packing, a guy whom I had previously asked a tip from, came up to me and asked..."Are you sure you're gonna go for a traverse?" "Yep!" "OK then! Just be careful with the Nice People out there....and hey NEVER TURN LEFT!"Cool tip! We bade each other goodbye and, for the third time, with barely 300ml of water with us, me and Eric made for the peak!The Way Down to Brgy. Papaya (Nasugbu)
On our way up, we met this girl Ysah with her orgmates from PUP. They were doing the four-wheel-drive position on their way down with bare hands and feet(They left their not-for-the-mountains foot gears somewhere below). After some getting-to-know-each-other talks, we traded numbers and went our own separate ways. At the peak, we spent some minutes coming up with our MO's (for thedescent). I had to consider a lot of things -- the wind, the steep slope, theloose soil, the protruding dead rocks and my big bag. We agreed that Eric (withjust a day pack) went ahead so I could hand him my backpack (in case I had tosit down) to avoid any unnecessary contact between my bag and the slope (whichcould catapult me to a Humpty-Dumptyish great fall). Miraculously though,through a series of maneuvers with my lightweight body, I managed to go down the slope without having to take off my backpack. Reaching the monolith, I madea sigh of relief -- The difficult part is over! The next phase was a relatively easy trail down. We had to deal with one hassle though. Everytime the clear trail tended to steer us leftwards, we had to trace our steps back, making sure we had not gone past a possible bifurcation (and missed a right turn). We had to do three of these "Balik tayo baka nalampasan na natin yung right turn!" thing until we finally reached the famed right-or-left area. It is a grazing areawhere, we thought, cows hang out. We headed rightwards as I looked back saying"No more of you leftist b*@+ch!"! True enough, it is where corned beef raw materials grazed. We were then following the lead of a series of cow dungs! Forus, at that moment, they weren't just dungs. They were signs of life going down the hill! With the dung plus the Nasugbu coast at a constant 2-o'clock bearing,we were assured that we were on the right path. We ran the rolling terrain forsome thirty minutes. Along the way, we were anticipating the sudden appearance of Nice People and I had to continually take a sip from my trail water bottle.That fear-excitement feeling was suddenly replaced by shock when, once again,we were at the node of an unexpected bifurcating trail. On the left was aclearly human-trodden trail. Problem was, it was near-vertical! On the right was a path covered with dried leaves -- a sign that it isn't frequented bywalkers! We had to decide real quick for I was already too coke-thirsty. So on a dare, I picked the road less travelled! It turned out to be more perilous than the descent from the peak to the monolith. The dried leaves lessened thefriction My shoes were of not much help! Underneath the leaves, vines would occasionally get entangled to your feet causing you to lose balance. The45-degree slope was winding so there was no room for a run-and-brake technique.The trail was alternately bare (with nothing to grip on) and thick (with bambootwigs everywhere...one of which pierced my ultra-lightweight backpack...Damn Ididn't have a cover!). The gruesome 30-minute battle between me and the twigs,and the vines, and the leaves, and the slope was finally over when we set foot on a highway. On the highway we would constantly reiterate (borrowing BradPitt's line) "Is there no one else?!" jubilant and proud that we had conquered a mountain!Barangay Papaya
The concrete highway was more gruelling than it seemed! It was already noon time and the unforgiving Sun was directly above us and the long concrete road reflected the heat from below! In spite of it all, we wouldn't waver thanks to the spirit of conquest still overwhelming us! Once in a while, we would glance back at the mountain (with the LOTR OST in our imagination)constantly reminding ourselves WE MADE IT! Barangay Papaya is typical of the pictures of the countryside I used to see in books when I was yet in my innocent years in grade school! Nestled in a rim-like formation of mountains are rice paddies with clusters of nipa huts(those we would draw when we were kids...with a trees beside them). In the paddies, you could see signs of calm peaceful country life. Those white birds we see flying in a V-formation actually maintain that same pattern on land. And they're not allergic to humans! You could actually come as close as one meter tothem and still they won't budge! The occasional sightings of a carabao manned by a farmer tilling the field made the scenery perfectly country! A lot oftownsfolks offered a tricycle ride, each of which, we tactfully declined as we wanted to savor our communion with nature. No metals please! The first right turn from the highway is marked "PRIVATE PROPERTY" This would be the gateway to Cutad Cove! After some negotiations with the security guards, we commenced the last phase of our journey! Walking the newly-paved long and winding road was how we spent the last 45 minutes of our arduous trek!Cutad Cove (by eric)
After what seemed to be an unending trek on a paved desert, we came to the cove known to me only by its name.
A silly thought of death then crossed my mind when a man with a riffle came in sight. I had remembered what that guy in the mountain had told us about robbers and rebels. I was simply going to die! But I had to take a step and hope that it would be a painless demise. “May tubig ako dito.” He's one of the guards around the vicinity and probably noticed we were already dried up and offered his canteen. I am not going to die with my buddy today!
Adonis and I unloaded our gear under some big tree, grateful that we had finally reached the cove. It was simply stunning! It is not the typical white beach beauty where tall coconut trees jut upwards along the shoreline. In fact, I could make out only three or four of them making the scene even more picturesque. The water has the color of the sky and the beach, though not a perfect white, is rid of the clutters that sea waves usually bring. “Kiss my ass, Mindoro! None of those irritating basura!” Adonis pointed out. The beach is a clean light-beige, encircled by mountains. It is not difficult to imagine we were at a volcano's crater lake if not for the opening at the center. What made it even more riveting is not just the fact that there were only about fifteen people around. They would all soon go home and the cove would then be Adonis' and mine alone! Kings!
We joined the UPM we had met at the peak. They were just waiting for the jeep that would bring them to Nasugbo. “Inom muna, sir! Ang layo ng nilakad nyo a.” We had a brief chat and then Adonis and I went to the pozo to fill our own bottles. A guard approached us. “Kayo ba yung tinext kanina?” Yeah, and could we pitch our tent right here by the pozo? It was fine so I took our stuff. We unpacked, pitched our tent and started preparing lunch.
A man of about mid-forty-years old came by the pump to wash his motorbike. He must have overheard our conversation because he asked whether we were Cebuanos. I am from Zamboanga del Sur but I speak Cebuano. “Kababayan!”, he said. I chatted with Manoy (Manong in Tagalog) and I had learned that he had been here for seven years, used to be a soldier and that he was the chief of the sixty guards deployed around Cutad Cove, which was recently bought by the Sys. After telling me the story of his life for what seemed like forever, he then asked for my calling card. He said that if ever we chance the place again, we just have to drop his name and magic happens. So why my calling card? Weird. I don't have one, so Adonis, instead, gave his number and we asked his. Before he left, he told us to move near the guards' hut where it's safer and if we wanted tricycle for the next day. Adonis and I thought both were good ones, so YES.
After the mid-afternoon lunch, Adonis was already itching to go swim. Though I thought the sun was still a bit too intense for my blood, I went after him. The water was just too irresistible! Adonis could only go neck-deep, ever so careful that no water get in his ears. They are perforated and if he got stubborn again and water found its way through, I was just not ready to carry a paralyzed nor a dead roommie! A pity, he could only watch me have the time of my life, doing the flips, the torpedo, and the sommersault. He probably got so jealous he said,”Ey look. Lumulutang yung sandals ko!” Of course they do, they are made of metal! “Let's play. Yung itatapon natin yung slippers and let them slide and bounce on the surface.” Hell, that's fun! It was possible to do it because the wave was so gentle I could almost not hear it.
After about some time, we went out of the water. “I've turned really dark!” I room with a vain adventurer, what can I say, although I do admit we were starting to turn as dark as hip-hop singers. We went to the pozo to rinse off. In haste, we washed our clothes and hung them, hoping we still had more time to watch the sunset. I knew it was going to be regretful! I didn't have the means to immortalize it. I simply didn't have my camera with me.
Adonis headed for the perfect spot first. It was at the leftmost part of the shore facing the sea, where boulders of rocks clutter. I followed with my smokes and found a rock to sit on. Moments later, the king of the sky started the romantic play. It was the most beautiful!I saw a giant sphere of glowing orange dome that became more and more in focus as it slowly descended. It seemed to be floating in the sea. Top that Manila Bay! “Yeah, This is even better”. We were there watching how the day made a beautiful acquiescence to night at a shore that was ours for the moment. A pity it had to end.
Dinner came and then we moved to where Manoy wanted us to camp. It was already dark. What used to be a soothing sky blue water had now turned into a somber gray and dark. Not the kind that scares nor haunts but the kind that makes one realize how beauty can dwell in darkness. The trees rustling in the wind, the sea breeze and the gentle waves create a sense of music that I listen to when the world turns to nothing but noise. The mountains that enclose the beach, though dark, don't seem ominous at all. They merely outlined the way out of the cove to the open sea. And the water, a silver gray rink where I could probably speed skate forever.
We placed our stuff near the hut and decided to sit at the shore for a while. For some time, we thought we would not have the starry sky we had at Pico the previous night. It was rather cloudy and the moon was nowhere in sight. Fortunately, after moments of laughing like hyenas at our cheesy jokes and talking about big bang and its flaws and our recent adventure, the sky started to clear. Stars came in sight one after another and constellations began to form. Saggitarius became Orion; Scorpio became big dipper as clouds receded. Is there no one else! I yelled alluding to the movie Troy. It had become our motto all throughout the adventure. Is there no one else! Though a case of malapropism, I said it one more time to ascertain that I was really there facing the calm sea and looking at a sky that tells of nothing but conquest!
Before we turned in, we washed our feet at the beach and was almost tempted to take another dive if we were not just too lazy to dry our wet clothes. “I'm sleepy as hell!” I knew it was going to be a good deep sleep, though I was wondering how I would be able to close my eyes while thinking about how long the day had been. The moon had just started to rise from the mountain when I finally resolved that even victories have to end some time.Conclusion
In retrospect, that adventure was just one of the many adventures I've had!I mean, if you look at it, Pico de Loro is just another mountain and Cutad Coveis just another beach! Perhaps the difference there is, the sense of fulfillment! With barely six months of mountaineering and seven mountains undermy name, I have led a two-man traverse expedition rivaling my one-man birthdayclimb last October! And more to this is, there's this thrill of delving into"the unknown"! Pico and Cutad used to be nothing but mere names to us. And whenwe set out for that weekend getaway, we saw the real thing! We experiencednature at its best -- undiscovered...undisturbed! Indeed adventurers get thebest of everything! And the best things are free! They're for free and they'refree -- free of the bondage of destructive commercial tourism! On our way back to Manila, streams of thoughts came flashing through mymind! The locals, the peak, the trek, the trail and the beach. I found it hardto believe that we were already leaving them just like that! We were alreadygoing back to the "real world". But hey! I think it was actually the real worldthat we were turning our backs to! A world where man and nature coexist inharmony and balance! A world where I could find what I've always been lookingfor -- peace and the fundamentals of life -- LIVING! Truly that Pico-Cutadadventure will always remain a hallmark in my mountaineering history!