”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
MANILA PHILIPPINES – We, a group of 22 people, step foot onto this country with great eagerness, looking forward to the great Philippines outdoors and get some good trekking done. For many of us, joining a ‘Trek for Hope” expedition is our 1st time, and though we are aware of the community service segment of the trip, most of us do not really know exactly what we will be experiencing, other than trekking through the mountains, staying in some villages along the way and being involved in some community event.
So lets start with the TREK segment: We started with our 4DAYS 3NIGHTS trek to conquer the The Twin Peaks of Grand Corderilla, which consist of Mount Pulag (Difficulty 3/9) and Mount Ugo (2,150+ metres, Difficulty 5/9), located in the province of Benguet, which requires an overnight public bus over from Manila City.
Despite lack of the soundest sleep/ or any sleep for that matter through the night, our team was all psyched and ready to start our trek on DAY2. Glad for an entourage of guides and porters to lead the way and help us with some of our craziest load, we started our ascend shortly after a hearty breakfast. Though the weather is sunny and breezy in the day in the Philippines in this season of March, it can get quite chilly at night depending on which point/ altitude we were, so everyone had to bring a couple more load of warm layers to get through the night.
So here begins what makes this TREK for hope expedition something worth experiencing. I will share the HOPE aspect following which.
Trek for Hope
The Physical Test: Endurance and Consistency
The 1st 2 days on the way to Mount Ugo peak was a gradual but tiring hike. Perhaps factors like – body was just warming up to the heavy backpack load ( which mine was 15-20% of my body weight) and lack of sufficient stairs training before the trip, everyone was moving at a slightly different pace. Eventually, we moved in staggered speeds and groups slightly apart, with the faster ones leading the pack.
I was at the tail end of the pack, however, those lagging behind aren’t actually lagging for the sake of it. We were really breathing in the moments, capturing lots of photos of the best views of the mountain and pine trees. The cloud movement was brilliant – constantly changing, with sunshine straight in our faces one moment, overcast skies the next and then before we know it, the grey clouds sailed away with the wind. White wildflowers line the pathways of our trek and really add to that natural woody forest element.
The Cold Test: Braving the Chill and Ice
The days are warm, but the nights get cold.
We stayed at 3 different villages/ shelter throughout the hike –
- Domolpos Village, Camp in Elementary School by Mt Ugo Baptist Church
- Lusod Village
- Ranger Station (Pulag) Home Stay
Each village/ shelter came with its own natural unspoiled beauty, and we are greeted by a skyful of twinkling stars every night.
The majority of us tried to shower before the sun sets at each village, but that doesn’t stop you from going crazy when the ice cold spring water touches your bare skin. Reminds me of my much younger days when I was in Thailand on a mission trip, the difference is – I feel much less adaptable now. But still, every shower leaves you feeling so snug clean after a long day of hiking in your muddy boots and sweaty gear.
The Unison Test – United we fall
Sticking together as one unit throughout every segment of the trek wasn’t easy. 22 people of varying speeds, varying goals and objectives did lead to some compromises made in the name of team spirit. But we learn, endure and at times and putting others before self. The group though different and imperfect as we are, have definitely proved to have great compassion and kindness for each other, even in periods of illness and fatigue of some of our team along the way.
The Fear Test – Feeding that Euphoria for speed
Other than foot, our next most common form of transport is the Jeepney – a colourfully painted vehicle that we squeeze into to navigate ourselves up and down the mountaintop roads.
The Sweet Victory
Reaching the top of Mount Pulag at the end of our trek and witnessing that stunning sunrise with a sea of mysteriously moving cloud below it – is beautiful and definitely mind blowing.
All snug in our windbreakers and posing for beautiful sunrise and bursting sun ray shots.
Hence, concluding the sharing on the TREK portion and what we got out of it, but trekking with a purposeful intent to give back to the community was the next challenge we have. Having gained so much, what are we giving back in return to the people of the Philippines?
Click here to read about the HOPE segment – Discovering Happyland – The Painful Irony
Where’s the Hope, in the mountain of neglect and despair?
This trip is made possible in partnership with organizer Trek for Hope, which conducts trips to the Philippines, Nepal, Chiang Mai, Japan and more yearly. Find out more how to join a Trek for Hope Expedition today.