Each one of us turns to the outdoors with varied reasons. One may want to go and climb for health and fitness while others hit the trail to simply while away time. Still others badly desire the sanctuary only mountains can give. It is a sanctuary of silence… of discovery… of the self. In this day and age when the internet amazingly shrinks distances into mere seconds, silence is fast becoming a luxury we can rarely afford. We have everything literally at our fingertips. We swipe; we tap; we pinch. We poke; we follow; we like. Rarely do we silence our minds and reflect.
I found myself lodged so deeply in a corporate rut. I worked my ass off five days a week wishing for the weekends to take a shortcut and arrive earlier than scheduled; and, I cherished my weekends wishing for Mondays to come at least a day or two late. However, despite rarely having a second of a breather from the speeding – yet routine – targets and deadlines, I ironically caught myself drifting away in boredom. Despite hopscotching from one task to another, I was being weighed down into a place between living and non-living — an existential limbo, if you will. I used to compensate all these stifled frustration and discontent in me with booze and hard partying during the weekends, but the alcohol could only do so much. The weekends would usually leave me with a buzzing head and an even more drained spirit to nurse until the next week. And, the circle would complete another turn. After so many years of tiptoeing on breaking glass, I found solace in the mountains. I found my sanctuary.
One of the mountains I spent a night in was Chalet Hills in Busay. This humble hill would usually get snide remarks from seasoned mountaineers complete with a haughty laugh of derision. Comments like: “So, you call Chalet Hills a mountain, huh.”, “Ow, that must be a long hike, isn’t it?” Well, excuse me, Sir, but it wasn’t that bad. Chalet Hills gives an amazing panorama of the city and of its surrounding mountains. It is cold out there especially at night — which is what we all crave during the sweltering days of summer. And, it is easily accessible being only an hour or two away from the metropolis. While it may not give us the much-needed boost to our macho man ego (steroids, anyone?), it offers a quick getaway from the bustling life of the city however briefly.
How to get to Chalet Hills?
Well, it doesn’t get any lazier than simply getting a habal-habal in JY Square Mall in Lahug to take you directly to the foot of the hill. You know you are there when you see a small sari-sari store by the road. You see, you won’t be able to show off your technical climbing skills or your superhuman strength here. This is, as they say, a trail for beginners. Next, you will need to, at least, stretch your legs for a probably ten to fifteen-minute hike on a rather steep trail to the top of the hill.
Others, however, choose to begin their hike from the corner to Mountain View, passing by the Temple of Leah until reaching the same sari-sari store by the road. Still others choose the more hard core trail passing through Mount Babag, summiting at a peak where the array of RCPI towers stand tall and proud, and exiting through Chalet Hills.
We chose, however, the easiest road to Chalet Hills. We took a habal-habal from JY Square Mall which took us straight to the foot of the hill. From there, we negotiated the steep trail to the peak rather easily except for the unforgiving noonday sun above us. It was a quick ten-minute assault. The hill is usually crowded during the weekends but we were glad to see we’re the first campers there. We took a quick survey around choosing the best spot to camp. We chose a spot beneath a small guava tree which was overlooking the city below. We could see the adjacent RCPI Towers and several other mountains rolled into perfection yonder. We could also see the islands of Mactan and Olango from where we pitched our camp. With a beautiful blue sea in front and rolling verdant mountains at the sides and back, the view is a glimpse of perfection.
As the sun slowly perched behind the mountains in the west, we prepared our dinner. Several other campers came. I could see a couple seemingly out for a romantic Holy Week getaway, a gang of longboarders and a group of mountain enthusiasts on a quick climb. The further down the sun went, the more dramatic the display of lights about became. The skies turned crimson blood. Tiny twinkles of light danced across the strip of buildings and skyscrapers below welcoming the night after the last rays of the sun nestled into slumber. We crawled into our tent and called it a night.
We woke up early the next day not wanting to miss the beautiful sunrise. It was cold. It was foggy. The fog is one of the reasons I love camping in the mountains, and Chalet Hills did not disappoint. The fog was thick and the morning air chilled me to the bones. It was still dark but I could already see the rays of the sun slipping through the thick blanket of fog and darkness. I sat there watching its slow rise from the horizon staring blankly, absolutely enjoying the moment of satisfying nothingness. Dolce far niente, so they say. The sweetness of doing nothing, it was indeed.
We had our breakfast early. We broke camp several minutes after seven and decided to start our trek down. We planned on taking a quick detour to the Temple of Leah, which we would be passing by. The trek was easy and ironically invigorating. The cemented path was lined with trees on both sides filtering the rays of the sun, which was not yet hot at eight in the morning. The sweet scent of dew and dirt in the morning complementing the cool wind at my cheeks made me wish I could do this everyday. It was less than an hour of steady descent before we reached the big high walls of the Temple of Leah.
The temple is an architectural testament of enduring love. Mortal as we are, we are doomed to perish — some, sooner; others, later. However, there are still things that seem to defy time. Such is Teodorico Adarna‘s love for her wife, Leah Villa Albino-Adarna, so much so that he had a magnificent temple built on the side of a mountain hoping it will stand fast against time as an undying symbol of his ceaseless devotion to her wife. Teodorico Adarna is Ellen Adarna‘s father. The temple is open for visitors and reservations for events.
Our visit to the Temple of Leah concluded our Holy Week escape. We took a habal-habal at the temple to take us down to JY Square Mall. It was a quick and rather easy getaway but it was equally gratifying indeed.
Here are some helpful tidbits: