I find it absurd when people begin crying for help to save the Earth. While the intention is noble, I cannot help but laugh at our apparent arrogance as MAN. Earth doesn’t need any saving. Earth demands respect, however. Why would the Earth – which outlived the dinosaurs many eons ago, and would outlive even time itself – seek help from puny little creatures who can’t even agree among themselves? Friends, the Earth needs no saving. We, on the other hand, are lamentably in need of salvation from our own misdoings. Let us save ourselves. Respect Mother Nature. Respect life in all of its forms.
I came vis-a-vis the different realities our fellows in the mountains face day after day when I joined the jaunt to Mago Peak last weekend. Some of these realities are harsh; others, less — but harsh all the same. It was also the first time that I got the opportunity to go camping with a big group. There were more or less forty people at the campsite, but it was worth noting that the camp was orderly despite the big number of participants — except, perhaps, for some lost viand for which the dog took the blame.
We were initially a group of seven people wanting to take a trip to the place where you could be in three places at the same time (cool!). You see, Mago Peak is the boundary for towns Carmen, Danao and Tuburan. I expected to simply just go, take photos for my Facebook (like any other poser does), live the moment for a brief time, forget it and move on. After all, wala ngang forever, ‘di ba? — as our fellow campers would fondly say (hugot!). We opted to do the trek in the afternoon as we were told that the trail to Mago was an open grassland. Green rolling mountains covered with grass is a great sight to behold, I know, but trudging on them with the unforgiving sun above is another story — a story which I would rather not tell myself. We met at the North Bus Terminal at around 1 PM, took the air-conditioned Ceres bus that left for the north at 2 PM. As expected, we arrived at the public market in Carmen at around 4 PM. Thanks to the traffic jam stretching from Mandaue all the way to Consolacion. From the Metro Store in Carmen, we hired four motorcycles to take us to Santican, Danao – which was our jump-off point. The ride to Santican was an adventure in itself. The road was made of loose stones and dirt. Some parts of the road were under construction making it narrower than what it already was. I had survived childhood without Ferris wheels and roller coasters (I know I’m a loser!), but here I was courting death on a motorcycle. We reached the jump-off point at around 4:45 PM.
We didn’t have a guide yet. Apparently, the trail to Mago was more complex than we thought it would be and we had to get someone to take us to the peak before the sun would set. Our boss offered to fetch us but, knowing that we’re not seasoned hikers as he is, we decided to get a local to take us to the peak and just meet him on the way – which didn’t happen since he was on a different (shorter but more challenging) trail. Our guide took us to a longer and easier trail which wound around several hillocks giving us scenic views of the mountains (and the Lhuillier‘s vast farmlands). This was where Danny, our guide, shared with us some interesting pieces of history about Mago and the mountains surrounding it in general. He started by telling us that Mago used to be home to several families tilling their lands until the insurgency that haunted many of the mountains in Cebu primarily in Tuburan and its surrounding towns. I asked him if he hated the rebels for driving away people from the mountain. He responded rather quickly that he didn’t. At the time, he said, it seemed like what the town needed though he was not happy with the gunfights and the killing. He added that theft was commonplace back then. The place was too far for the government to respond quickly. The road riddled with potholes and humps did not help one bit. It was when the rebels came to get rid of the miscreants. However, insurgency also brought along with it the fight against the government, and this led to several encounters in the mountains scaring people away. But, that was a decade ago. The mountains are now declared insurgent-free. Danny, hopeful, further said he would love to see people coming back to Mago. Perhaps, when the roads are better and their potable water supply, abundant.
We reached the peak several minutes after six. There were several camps pitched and the campers were busy preparing dinner. I came last with the girlfriend. (We were not that fit, you see, but we were trying. And, I guess, we would have to try harder next time.) I felt like my body was pulled in several places. I was too tired to even feel hungry. We set up camp and ate dinner after a quick nap. Our boss came and invited us to join a small gathering with the other campers. We were a bit hesitant to join being the introvert, shy people that we are. But, we joined anyway despite ourselves. That was our first. It was fun. We were asked to introduce ourselves, to share our reasons for climbing, and to tell the group of any hugot lines we might have. It was great meeting new people. The hugot lines these people shared definitely broke the ice.
One interesting trait I instantly noticed among mountaineers specifically in the group that camped with us in Mago was their congeniality toward fellow campers. Everyone seemed to be eager to know us better. It was true that there were several characters I found a bit too strong for my comfort but all that it took for me to feel at ease was simply to know them better. I am far from being funny but we all felt like we were in our funny selves when we talked.
Also, these people were very helpful. I remembered almost giving up at the last stretch of ascent to the peak. I was carrying a gallon of water in one hand (water we took from the water source at the foot of the peak) and four liters of mineral water in another – not counting the backpack I had. One man from the camp above went down to help me bring them up. I was so relieved I could not stop thanking him for the kind gesture.
Lastly, I admired the group’s advocacy for the environment. I saw several signage posted informing mountaineers to leave no trace.We were told that campers belonging to the same mountaineering club posted the signage a week before. I just recently knew about the Leave No Trace campaign mountaineers have been tirelessly advocating. And, seeing people sincerely observing the principle inspires me to do the same. It is great seeing people finally giving the mountains the respect they are due without asking anything in return. As I have always said, Earth owes us nothing. We, on the other hand, owe Earth everything. Helping nature is not a matter of choice. It is our responsibility. Let us protect our home. After all, it is the only one we have.
Thanks to the NCR Trekkers for letting us join the camp! Thanks to our boss, Ritch, for sharing with us some of the photos. Thanks to Dianne and her partner for the hospitality. You guys rock!