|my "successful" halcon expedition climb. mt halcon is located at the back of the mountain range. thanks to "el tarik" for the correction.|
like any other newbie in a sport, i was highly passionate about what the experienced ones tell me not even knowing whether they are all tattletales. last 2007, my hiking mentors who are oldbies in mountaineering have been raving about the infamous mt halcon or sialdang, as what the mangyan calls the place. they said that the mountain is known as the "most dangerous place" in the country with deaths counted to at least 3 every year (correct me if i am wrong). however, none of those untimely deaths intimidated me in spite of only having 3 minor climbs in my record back then. in fact, i took it as a challenge! moreover, since they are experienced mountaineers, i have my full trust in them in taking care of me in my climbs so i did not reject ivan's mt halcon climb offer. after i quit my 6-month contractual job, all i had in mind was spending my backpay on adventure. with only 3 weeks left before i start my new job, i packed my stuff for a great adventure that never was.
everything started wrong. ivan told me we should meet up at batangas city port at 1am. being the naive and excited early bird that i am, i arrived at the port at 12 midnight with the thought of "preparing for the unexpected." yet, the word unexpected manifested itself as a rusty nail drilling down my spine. i received an sms from charlie that he and ivan will be late because they have to fix some issues about business. i asked what time they will arrive but got no reply. i guess i have prepared for the wrong "unexpected" event. so i waited. after an hour, i received an sms from charlie saying their bus just left manila. great. then i was asking myself what bus they took: is it the express one or the one which passes via tanauan? if they took the latter, that means more agony for me. after 2 meals, 2 cigarette packs (during the time when i was still a "black dragon qi gong practitioner... of course the term is a joke), 3 random strangers, who included a takatak boy from whom i bought my second pack, i had lengthy conversations with to keep me company, and 5 buses which passed by the port entrance, it seems that they took the bus that travels the longest route. i was pissed. big time. so far, that was the greatest test of patience for me as far as people's tardiness is concerned. upon their arrival, we immediately bought our tickets and guess what? earliest trip to calapan leaves at 4:15am. i would not have lasted another long waiting time but since my newly found friends are with me to endure it, i did not mind anymore.
|mt halcon view from the ferry|
|mt halcon view from the ferry|
upon arrival at the calapan sea port, we took a tricycle ride to calapan town proper which costed us 30 pesos. in calapan, food establishments open at 8am. we tried going to the only fastfood chain there which is jollibee but it also opens at the same time. we had no other choice but to travel to denr hungry and hoping by the time we arrive there we'll see an open carinderia. we first visited the halms tambayan but found no one. we went straight to denr but the caretaker told us that no one's there and doesn't know where our permits are. ivan asked him what time the denr personnel would arrive so he could also discuss his tree-planting project with them before we climb the next day but the caretaker is unsure of when they will arrive. as a contingency plan, ivan thought of going straight to the barangay for early registration and to the mangyan chieftain at dulangan to hire a guide so that everything will be all set since he already talked to the denr to secure our permits.
|the rocky road towards the jump off point|
our trip to mt halcon jump off was a series of jeepney and tricycle rides with the latter being the longest. we arrived at the barangay and was greeted by a lady in her late 40's (whose name i forget) who also served us the best coffee barako i have tasted. ivan, our spokesperson and the one who's been to halcon before, greeted her and informed her of our plans of climbing halcon but she replied, "hindi ba kayo nila nasabihan sa baba (denr)?" (weren't you informed by them?) "tungkol saan po?" (about what?) ivan replied. "sinara na ang halcon. bawal na muna umakyat." (they have closed halcon. no one's allowed to climb for the mean time) she continued, "sayang nahuli kayo kasi may pinayagan pa silang grupo na umakyat noong mga nakaraang buwan" (it's too unfortunate that you came in late because they still allowed a group to climb a few months ago). our hearts dropped when she said the word "closed" but she told us we can hike up to dulangan perhaps the chieftain would still allow us since we're only 3. hoping still, we hiked up to dulangan and was able to meet the chieftain. ivan informed him of our plans but was referred to another chieftain at dulangan 2 as he is not the mangyan chieftain who decides about ascents to mt halcon. we climbed further as advised and met the chieftain who was supposed to help us secure guides but was told that they are closing the mountain from hikers because the mountain goddess and the faeries guarding mt halcon are furious at people cutting down their trees. he further said that they cannot permit another human life taken as a sacrifice for every abuse the illegal loggers are doing to the mountain. then the chieftain saw me and said, "yung huling namatay ay babae" (the last one who died was a woman) perhaps to scare me. after knowing the reason behind the mountain's moratorium, ivan proposed his tree-planting project. he accepted the offer and was advised to hike up again to another chieftain to inform him about the "good deed" we are planning. however, ivan has to attend a wedding at noon and needs to go back immediately so he told him that he'll come back again some other time. charlie told ivan jokingly that we could instantly climb the mountain by visiting all the chieftains residing in the mountain since we're almost just a few hours to the first campsite. a very nice proposal but ivan has to attend the wedding and we can't climb until tomorrow -- if denr gives us our permits. he plans to go back to denr as soon as the wedding reception is over.
after our long trip back to calapan, ivan told us that he'll work his way to have us join the wedding reception so we could eat lunch for free. at that time, i never really cared where to eat. i was really hungry. we went to the place where ivan's friends had their wedding reception. obviously he was late and is underdressed for the occasion. charlie and i were at the corner of the street waiting for his signal for us to come in. good news came when ivan and the groom invited us to come inside. wedding gate crash. yeah! the groom had us sit at the table occupied by priests and nuns, who were surprised at how the food disappeared in an instant at the sight of us eating. they new we were really hungry so they offered us more food. hehehe.
we went back to the denr office at calapan after our hearty meal. we were able to meet the denr personnel finally but told us that they they won't give us the permits anymore since the mangyan tribes have decided to close the mountain. by law, if a group of people are able to prove that the place is their ancestral domain, the government grants them full sovereignty of the place. because of this law, denr says that they have no power over the tribes' chieves consensus in closing the mountain. as a suggestion, the denr told us to befriend all of them by doing charity works or whatever if we are that eager to climb, which i think is what some mountaineering orgs have been doing to get backdoor access to mt halcon, however it will be illegal. since it's bad news for us not to climb the mountain, we took a bumpy jeep ride to puerto galera and drank our frustrations away.
|a great way to end a trip which started wrong|
i guess puerto galera was not successful enough to remove my frustrations at climbing mt halcon but it was a nice ender for a trip that started way too wrong. since i left mindoro, all i had in mind was to prepare to climb it since 5 years is long enough to build myself up as a mountaineer or at least a hiker. i have been reading articles and blog entries about other people's successful climbs at halcon and collecting pictures of people stepping on mt halcon's very famous dive board. they say that if you don't have a pic standing or sitting on the dive board, your halcon trip will never be complete. i have read itineraries and visualized myself arriving at each stop as stated then finally stepping on the dive board and shouting until my vocal chords rip off or perhaps a romantic moment with a significant other -- a boyfriend or a husband, whoever i will climb with when the time comes -- while waiting for sunrise or sunset.
|halcon dive board photo*|
|halcon diveboard photo*|
|halcon dive board photos*|
3 years have passed since my mt half-con climb and when i have been climbing all the mountains in the country aggressively as pinoymountaineer continues to post more itineraries, i received a message from one of my hiking buddies, who have contacts with the sialdang mountaineers, asking me if i want to join the low-profile mountaineering trips to mt halcon with denr. he said that they were inspection climbs just to check whether the place is ready for opening but i doubted the climbs' possibilities since i was told before that it will be the mangyan's decision to reopen the mountain and not denr. i continued doubting until i was shown pictures of their successful attempt. however, i did not feel any regret since my job back then won't permit people to take week-long leaves due to the business' demands. yet, the feeling of reaching mt halcon's summit in my visualizations rises up in me whenever i return to puerto galera and seeing halcon's facade or seeing its shadow enroute sibuyan while in a ferry. most hiking buddies of mine know my dreams of going there that some of them offered me backdoor climbs including a traverse but my respect to the chieftains i have met still remains. i want my climb legal.
|freshly cut trees at mt halcon*|
came 2011, a mountaineer posted a link to philippine daily inquirer's article about mt halcon being exploited by loggers. all the while i thought that the moratorium was to rehabilitate the mountain. before, they were also blaming the mountaineers for the heaps of trash being left at the trails but it seems that the place would have been in a better state without the moratorium. indeed there are asshole monkeyneers not complying with the lnt and low-impact standards as taught in bmc's; however, most mountaineers are still grounded with the idea of conserving nature and is always on the look out for unlawful and abusive acts done by other people. then a few weeks ago, the news about mindoro flood due to lack of trees spread like wildfire in the mountaineering community which made all the mountaineers think that there's something fishy with the so-called moratorium. almost everyone has been blaming the government because the illegal loggers would not have been there if not for corruption. i am also surprised at the photos of the mangyan people carrying coal back to the city for a small sum of money. my conjecture about the situation is that someone has been giving x deals to the chieftains for the logging companies to stay longer in their area. as what i have mentioned before, the mangyan tribes have full sovereignty of mt halcon and the baco mountain ranges so the chieftains must have been mesmerized by cash offers.
on the other hand, the halcon moratorium spectacle reminded me of a teaching of one of my mentors in mountaineering and photography, sir benjie jovero, saying that the mangyan tribes culture won't be corrupted had "concerned" people stopped helping. helping is good but sometimes, some help involves comparing one's situation to the other. city life is way too different and as city-dwellers, we have needs which are applicable to our lifestyle, which most concerned people try to instill in people living in the provinces and the mountains. they do not need shirts, shoes, or canned goods as they are already self-sustaining. sir benjie said that true help involves understanding and is not assuming. since the mangyan people have already been conditioned that cash is good and cash is a means for them to sustain their lifestyle, it must have been easy for the logging companies to provide them x deals of trading coal from wood they have burnt to the city proper. as proof of the corrupted mentality of the tribe, i was told by a businessman that he was able to bribe a mangyan tribe in mindoro a box of sardines so just for him to do his thesis there because the chief won't let him push through with his study. reverting the mangyan tribes of mindoro's mindset back to their original culture will be a tough one now that they have known the power of money.
going back to my mt halcon dreams, a lot of people told me to quit it since i have done climbs which are of equal gravity or tougher. my friend, wox, even told me that our mts kitanglad-dulang dulang traverse is even tougher and with the cheap flights to davao being sold to people like hot pancakes in the morning, it is possible that a mountain has already replaced mt halcon's title being the "most dangerous" hiking place in the country (perhaps mt candalaga?). in spite of the advises people have been giving me and how the rate of destruction at halcon has risen to an exorbitant extent, i am still motivated to climb the mountain so that i could say to aspiring mountaineers in the future that "i stood on the dive board and tasted heaven in that barren wasteland that was the most dangerous place in the country". nonetheless, i am praying hard that i would still be able to climb but won't say those words.
*the dive photos are not mine. i only googled them
*the dive photos are not mine. i only googled them