September 16, 2013

halcon: in a space between a blink and a tear (pt2)

  • before reading this post, it is highly advisable to read my hoping my HALFcon will be whole someday blog entry so you'll know what my previous halcon adventure was like.
  • part 1 is halcon: in a space between a blink and a tear (pt1)
  • annotations on learnings are highlighted rather than adding more side comments.
  • some names have been omitted per request. should there be more names that needs to be deleted, feel free to message me.
  • i am not on adsense so i am not cheesing for hits.
"failing to plan is planning to fail"- alan lakein

more bad omens

"hoy gising na!" (hey! wake up!) shouted someone while clanging his cookset. i took my other phone and it was still 01:30. bad. it wasn't 02:00 yet so i attempted to snooze back but the sound was way too annoying you'd be forced to wake up. "anong oras kaya yung mga lasing natapos uminom?" (what time did the drunkards finished drinking?) rose asked, "pero sana gising na sila kasi sila may plano nito." (i just hope they're awake now. this was their idea.) i told her.

dennis was already cooking our rice while someone else from the mid team cooked our viands, menudo, hotdog, and sausage. those were our packed meals for breakfast and lunch. gp was my food buddy that time so we doubled up our packed meals for breakfast and lunch with myself in charge of the former. although we'll be eating our breakfast en route camp 1, we still fed ourselves a bit for our early morning trek. rose told us that they are still curing some spoiled meat as adobo so their meals weren't prepared yet. later, one of our buddies from the mid team started calling our guides to get their packed meals.

as soon as our team disassembled our tents and about to leave the place at 0300 as planned, the organizers were still preparing dinner. we also got advise from one of them that we'll all go together so we laid dennis laid his ground sheet and we all took a nap while waiting for them to finish up. we started trek at 04:30 [mistake #8 - did not follow planned revised itinerary]

i have always enjoyed starting trek at dawn. at this time, while your energy is still at 100% you can walk as long as you can without worrying about heat which primarily causes dehydration and exhaustion. actually, dehydration is not a problem in halcon as there are springs and rivers along the trail. the second timers only brought with them small nalgene jars while the first timers, like myself, brought a larger container. 

we reached the forest line in less than an hour. limatiks (leeches) began attacking most of the people. one of our female buddies, the most fully covered of all as a defense against leeches, started shrieking at the creepy crawlers, which she sprayed with alcohol as soon as they landed her skin. she then comforted herself by saying, "pero ok lang kasi sabi nila hindi ka mountaineer kapag hindi ka nalimatik!!" (but it's ok because they say you're not a true mountaineer if you haven't been bitten by leeches yet). yet she continued shrieking. at 05:30-ish, the sun lit our path.
lunch at aplaya
at exactly 11:00, gp and i reached camp 1. we noticed 2 of our porters resting near the bushes. these were our lead guides. most of the guides and porters were behind us. i greeted and asked, "nasan na po sila?" (where are there?) "nasa dulangan na po sila kumakain nanananghalian," (they are at dulangan eating lunch) said the guide.  our conversation continued:

"ah, nagpapahinga po kayo?" (you're resting?) 
"ang bigat po kasi ng dala namin," (our load is heavy) 
"ang dami niyang dalang tent" (he loaded a lot of tents), the second porter told me [mistake #9 - guides and porters were overloaded].

then, there was silence. all the while i was thinking: did everyone really trained for this climb or am i just with a bunch of pampered tourists? i know matelle and rose have their tents and thermal clothing and are almost self contained. is it safe to assume that the reason why others were hiking fast is due to their ridiculously lighter loads? 

"tara, kain tayo!" (come on, let's eat!) gp invited the guides to join us for lunch so we could all go together at dulangan.
"wala po kaming pagkain" (we don't have food) [mistake #10 - no packed meals given to the guides and porters]

gp and i stared at each other intuitively sending each other a message that there's something wrong. overloaded and hungry guides and porters will never be a humane act! i didn't ask anymore form which team they belong. gp still has some left overs from breakfast while i opened one of my emergency foods, a can of tuna paella, so we could offer our packed lunches to them. gp went head as soon as he finished his lunch. i waited for our guides to finish eating so i could get my mess kit. then shortly, dennis, doc, cy and the rest followed. dennis  did not rest but joined me to dulangan river to chase matelle, who can't be reached through their radios.

separation anxieties

we reached dulangan river at 12:00. as told by the guides, we still met the some of the people from the lead team. actually, our line-up is already messed up. some people who were from the mid went to the lead, then there were also members from the lead team who went to the sweep or to the mid, and so on [mistake #10 - uncontrolled shifting of groups]. i would understand if these were team leads changing their posts to check on every team member or to set the entire teams pace. during the climb, people were beating time by overtaking everyone the could, if not, enjoying it way too much taking breaks for more than 5 minutes. at the sight of the lead team, i thought of joining them since i already had lunch and would be able to move forward. yet, i was also thinking of safety within the proximity of the mangyan guides (who i thought would be there in a few minutes), so i removed my backpack and swam in the calm crystalline waters of dulangan river. 

the mysterious dulangan river
selfeet at dulangan and my sock raising the bird.
other climb buddies washing their soiled clothes
a few moments later, there was rainfall. everyone packed their stuff and immediately crossed to the other side hoping they could find better covering there. however, the rain drops grew bigger that no tree could shelter us better. we decided to take advantage of the rain and proceeded walking. after threading the trail of vines and branches, we crossed another section of the dulangan river going to camp 2. as soon as the last person crossed the monkey bridge, dulangan proved to us why she was every mountaineer's 1st qualifying test before reaching the summit. in less than 2 minutes, camp 2 became an island to be engulfed by raging waters.

my dslr was foggy at that time. i tried recalling what the color was like through adobe raw and this was the best i could get. from the emerald green-like color, the dulangan river's color became similar to coffee. you will also see in the photo that the 3/4 of the monkey bridge is already submerged in water.
"naku! sana di na tayo tumawid! ganitong ganito yung nangyari sa amin sa zambales!" (we should not have crossed! this is exactly what happened to us in zambales!) migs said. the spectacle was not new to me too. 3 years ago, during my neighbor, benj, and myself first mindanao 321 (mts kitanglad, dulang dulang, and apo), the organizer that time was trying his best to boost our confidence by telling everyone that the rain was only brought by a passing cloud and would be gone in a few minutes. yet, truth prevailed by manifesting as the mud colored agco river knocking down the first monkey bridge. we waited for 5 hours chilling in our wet clothes until the river was waist high and somehow safer and manageable to cross. i almost said good bye to the world when a loose rock hit my left shin during our 3rd crossing, which caused me to fall on my knee and almost got swept by the raging current. thanks to a buddy, who calls himself "master morya", for proving to me and the rest of the world i'm a bad seed. remembering all these, i said, "wag naman sanang ma stranded tayo ulit." (i hope we won't get stranded). "pero wag kayo mag alala," (but don't you worry) migs said, "this is an actual survival situation! i'm gonna show you how to survive!"

we did our mini logistics check and to our surprise, most of the people we're with were not prepared for this kind of situation. i then figured out why the guides were stuck at camp 1. their tents, warmers, and sleeping bags were with our guides. [mistake #11 - people's equipment were mostly with the guides] if it's not for migs and myself, we wouldn't have ropes, carbiners, emergency food, and thermal blankets. moreover, without us, some of us would've pushed through unequipped against the wilderness (although some did). i had a very quick realisation that the new batch of mountaineers now don't care about safety. they are numb and blind to what their uncalculated risks may impact the people around them on a larger scale. they only care about the value of money and how it could give them awesome selfies, peak shots, shares, and likes in social media. this is not a question on generation gaps since i am part of the majority's age group. but for us who have already risked the untimely season of climbing halcon, it's already a lack of common sense to forget your survival "lifelines" and leave them with the guides instead.

our little shelter
shit happens
as for the question of whether we are pushing through, migs decided to wait for the guides to cross. we thought that they'll cross in less than 30 minutes than how we did. yet, 2 hours have passed, there were still no signs of mountain guides only heavy rains and the ever rising dulangan river. for safety, we moved up and searched for flatland to eat and pitch our emergency tarp. our food that time was some orange chewies migs was supposed to bring home to his son kidlat. gp then decided to scout a location at a higher place. moments later, we heard a whistle sound. our instinct told us that the sound came from the guides, we tracked back but we did not see them in the trail but on another side where the waters were a bit calmer but deeper. we were right after seeing our lead guide hailing and shouting to notice us. he didn't bring with him his pack. only a jungle bolo and a small drysac. obviously, he did not have the intentions of pushing for the summit. instead, he only went to check on us and ensure our safety. shortly, our expedition leader came. he brought with him migs' equipment - his carabiners and ropes [mistake #12 - organizers solely relying on participant's equipment]. we exchanged shouts to communicate and we agreed on setting up a safety line for them to cross. the mangyan guide inflated the drysac, clipped it on himself as a floatation device, and then he jumped into the deep waters. everyone was silent mostly fearing for his life. a few strokes struggling with the current. the scene was like those in the action movies then our thrilling shifted when he lifted himself up showing everyone that the water level he is in is just half-shin high. then he shouted that he knew the place quite well that he already knows where the water is deepest and where to stand to make his grand entrance. when he successfully crossed the river, our exped lead hurled at us migs' red rope. everyone helped in pulling in and tying to the rope to the tree. after the rope was secured, he took his turn in crossing the river.

setting up the rope
our e-camp. the place is the midpoint between camp 2 ang balugbog baboy

err on the side of safety

of course, he told us that we won't make it to the summit considering how we are and how we're lagging in the itinerary. and since we're secured at where we were, we decided not to back track to camp 1. instead, he'll have the mangyan guide return to camp to bring us dinner and breakfast so we could push the next day while he (exped leader) would be chasing the people ahead of us. dennis, at that time, was desperate to contact matelle, joined our exped leader. "sigurado kang susunod ka sa kanila nang yan lang dala mo? (are you sure you're moving ahead with only these?)" migs said. so we prepared to pack him a few stuff we had which will help him survive the night at least. i also had him bring the half of my tent so rose can have shelter. that night, i was only worried about her safety since most of the lead team had their tents, food, sleeping bags, and clothes with the guides. it was so depressing that it took only minutes of rain for us to be separated from each other. at that point and time, i was having thoughts of joining them already. then again thinking of the worst, if something happens to my buddy, who would communicate to her loved ones, friends, and the ground support about what happened if i would be hurt too? i decided to stay.

after our exped leader left, we settled in for the night. some of us were just enjoying the company. some were crying over at the loss of his "summit sunrise". we greeted the climbers ahead of us who were passing by to reach camp 2. we informed them of our situation and of dulangan river for their safety since we noticed that there were children with them. that night we were thinking of plans of whether to push through or not since most from the e-camp team are working for bpo's and we can all afford an entire day of stay compared to those working at day. that night, i had a lot of things in mind -- going home, my buddy rose and the entire lead team, dennis, gp, and our exped leader, and the team at camp 1. thinking of them were like counting sheep. my night, i thought, ends.


  1. Bitin... Please continue your blog please

  2. :D I love every detail of the story and cant imagine the crystal clear water of dulangan turned into coffee like. :D
    Waiting for the next episode. cheerz!

  3. hi all,

    sorry was busy with work and other priorities. parts 3-5 are in draft mode. i have been delaying it for editing and of course, asking a few people if they want their names or their side of the story to count.

    i can't promise you a specific date when these will be posted but you could always check my page for updates.