Thursday, April 05, 2007


“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

- Sir Edmund Hillary, first man on Mount Everest's peak

The team on Mt. Buntot Palos, February 1, 2007

Enough sleep, they say, is needed before a climb. You’d need the energy. I just realized a few minutes into the “fun” climb that I should have forced myself to sleep the night before, but how could I when the overflowing excitement in every inch of my body wouldn’t allow such sweet sleep.

I’ve been planning on conquering a mountain since my brother bought his first tent (which was ages ago). I was intrigued by his dirty climbing shoes, his long hair and the unmistakable stench of his laundry (dried sweat and dirt embedded in every thread) when he would come home after a climb. My sisters and I dubbed his look the “ermitanyo” look, with a giant mountain pack at his back, a walking stick, his fatigue-style clothing and his long unruly hair.

I wanted to be a physically active person too, to do some things that my small built and weak knees would allow. I started small by trying out simple physical activities like mini-olympics and swimming classes, then went on to try wall climbing, rappelling and knee boarding. It all has been fun! But these are all simple activities so when I saw a teaser for the next climb of the SPi Mountaineering Club, I knew I had to join! I was the only one from the SPi Support Group who braved the climb. Though they said that the activity was just a “fun” climb, I couldn’t care less. I am climbing and nobody and no one is ever going stop me.

Buntot Palos didn’t seem like such a high climb by the looks of it from the bottom of our path but the path is winding and the hard reality struck me a few meters up. Climbing is not an easy thing. I’ve sweat more in the few minutes of climbing then I have ever had in my entire life. I should not have worn jeans and new shoes. I should have brought only the bare necessities and left my extra shirts. I should have brought more water. I could rant on and on but at the end of the day, all the bruises were well worth it!

It was the breathtaking sight of the fields down below that made me forget about my cramping legs and the hot sweat coming out of my pores. The trek up and then down to the hidden waterfalls, watching the log-bearing horses and carabaos, and eating those sumptuous meals are the things that I will never forget. It’s amazing how things so beautiful can be kept alive by nature. If only the pictures could keep the hidden water falls in pristine condition forever, I would have filled my phone with photos of the rainbow across the falls, the surrounding walls of trees and the other wonderful sights.

There are so many things that I would gladly do again. Among them are sitting far from the ledge onto a raging river, falling into the water (when I made a promise never to get my shirt wet), swimming across a small lake and taking a bath under a falls, walking through a half-foot wide path with a canal at one side and the deep ravine on the other (that took some time and self persuasion to achieve). The many pictures that we took of the place will forever be stored in my phone and in my heart.

Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos...

I do not know what makes people want to climb mountains but for me, it’s not just the thrill of facing danger on uneven paths or learning how to do butt-breaks and relying on a walking stick to keep one’s balance. The terrain might be hard and unforgiving for a beginner like me, but every step of the way was an experience worth cherishing and reliving. One day I will be able to compare mountains and paths and elevations, and one day I will be able to really say that I am a mountaineer – finally!

Buntot Palos is my first climb. It will forever be etched in my heart and mind as the first time I conquered a height. I have a list of things to do before I become too old to do anything and now one of them is climbing more mountains; the higher and more mysterious, the better. I have not just conquered a mountain, but I am now slowly overcoming my fear of heights. With that, I’m now dreaming of the next summit I can conquer.

Where is Tarzan when you need him?! The author holding on to a vine. Well, at least that's what it looks like from here. If it's not slippery and scaly, then it must be a vine.

Pia Manzano is the Writers Guild’s Vice President and is the Administrative Assistant to the HR Director.

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