September 20, 2013

halcon: in a space between a blink and a tear (pt3)


the "love letter"

that night i had a dream. someone was saying for us to go back home because we don't have food. the words "we don't have food" was on infinite loop in that dream. i felt colder and colder as i was hearing it again and again. then it dawned on me that it wasn't a dream. my back was cold and wet due to the condensed water dripping at the sides of our tarp. i kept my cool as i hear the silent snores of the tired ladies next to me. i continued on listening to the men's conversation and i found out that someone from camp 1 sent us a "love letter" through one of the guides. i slept again hoping it's just another one of those bad lucid dreams.

i woke up as soon as i sensed sunlight. one of the boys said that we should pack up because we're not aiming for the peak anymore... at least that day. they informed us about the love letter and how our team mates at camp 1 were worried sick about all of us who were beyond dulangan river. together with the "love letter", they brought a pot of rice and fried viands for our breakfast. as soon as we finished our meals, we broke camp and headed back to durungawan to meet the rest of our team mates.

as we started walking back to camp 2, migs was shocked to see his rope, the one he left for the other guides and the other mountaineers to cross, gone. we stopped to look for it. then he saw it under a shrubbery, muddied. "hindi ko na magagamit to!" (i can't use this anymore), he said. "hindi ko alam kung pano nila tinanggal pagkakatali o kung pano nila nilapag 'yan 'dyan. ginagamit ko to sa rapelling ewan ko na kung mapagkakatiwalaan pa to. tunaw ang fifteen thousand!" (i don't know how they untied it and how they dropped it there. i have been using it for rappelling. now i'm doubting if it's still safe to use. fifteen thousand pesos down the drain!). he further explains that the rope, in it's perfect condition, is calculated to endure a certain amount of pressure. any micro-fracture in the rope already means death to the one using it so ropes should be handled with hyper care. another team mate said, "isipin mo na lang na ginamit 'yan para magligtas ng buhay pero sana lang iniwan na lang nila kung pano nila nakitang nakatali sa puno!" (just think of it this way: it was used for someone else's safety. but then, they should have left tied to the tree as how they've seen it!)

when we reached camp 1, we were greeted by one of our guides, sir zeus. he told us that he's been worried about our safety and was already preparing for rescue. the camp 1 team were preparing a meal for us thinking that we have not ate enough for breakfast. we had our fill of second breakfast and lunch then joined the rest of the team for socials. while we smothered ourselves with laughter and, for others, with wine, half of our thoughts were on our team mates who we were all hoping for the hopeful were safe and have already taken their summit shots.

later on, sir zeus was cursing because of the lack of coordination. he told us that he ordered everyone to regroup at camp 1; thus the reason why the mangyan guides stayed aside from the very heavy load they are carrying (one mangyan even showed us his blistered shoulders from the heavy pack he was carrying). when we met the lead pack at dulangan river, the lead told us that they are already pushing for the summit. the rest of the mid pack assumed that was also the command until the heavy rain poured and tore us apart. "eto ang kauna-unahang grupong nasamahan kong radyo. pero kahit wala, dapat inisip man lang nila na maghintay!" (this is the first group i have handled without a radio but even if there was none, they should've been cautious enough to wait for everyone) [mistake #13 - no formal means of communication i.e. 2-way radio; mistake #14 - lead team did not mind whether the group behind them is within sensible distance]. only a couple had a walkie talkie, dennis and matelle, but they're only using it for themselves. dennis' walkie died on him on camp 2 pushing him to follow matelle with zero provisions. i cannot blame them. that's what lovers do. they risk everything. i could see myself doing the same.

in the mountains, food is gold

at 17:00 while we were preparing for dinner and zeus and some mangyan guides were planning their rescue, we heard a series of howls from familiar voices. we howled back in excitement because they are safe. we counted all who ascended to camp to know who could be missing. none. everyone complete. the expedition lead came in last. i was happy to see rose but she dislocated her ankle when they were trekking back to camp. i tended her ankle with a few chinese medicines i have to somehow alleviate the pain. after dressing her ankle i went to zeus, who was having some sort of convocation with 3 other sweep team mates. "takte ang yayabang! buwis buhay na iwanan mga kagrupo makakuha lang picture sa dive board. tapos tayo andito umiinom ng mapait na alak" (damn! they're all too proud for risking their lives and leaving their buddies just for that dive board photo they want to post in facebook. while we're all here drinking wine and savoring its bitterness.) zeus replied, "walang masama kung buhay ang kapalit. posibleng mamatay sila. posibleng mamatay din tayo." (nothing's bad when you evaded death. they could've died there. we could've died there.) the expedition lead suddenly came in saying sorry. he then offered a discounted rate if we wish to join a second round on august. "pag-isipan ko, sir. habagat pa rin niyan e baka matulad nanaman dito. tsaka wala na akong leave. no-pay leave na tong ngayon" (i'll think about it, sir. it's still habagat season by that time. it might be the same as this. and besides i'm on no-pay leaves as we speak), i said. he jokingly replied, "nurse ang trabaho ko. ako bahala sa medical certificates pag kailangan 'nyo" (i'm a nurse, i'll be in-charge of everyone's medical certificate when you need them). "sasama ako para sa recon climb" (i will join you for a recon climb), the one who cried last night said sounding so eager for a vengeance climb. zeus broke his litany to the expedition lead. "sa susunod, ayoko na 'tong mangyaari. wala pang namamatay sa sa grupo ko. hindi pwedeng may mamatay sa happy team!" (next time, i don't want this to happen. i haven't had anyone die on my team. not my happy team!) said zeus. "hindi ka superhero. ang tanga mong magrescue nang wala kang dala! mas may equipment pa bisita mo." (you are not a superhero. you're so stupid to attempt rescue without equipment. good thing your guests have equipment). the expedition lead replied back with "sorries," nods, and head scratching.

as they all settled in camp, they were telling how hard it was for them to reach the summit. they had no clearing. one couple was pissed off at the personal guide they hired because they weren't able to follow. all their safety gear were with that specific guide. one person from the sweep team replied, "e pano? e ang bigat ng dala nilang mga gamit niyo samantalang kayo ang gagaan makapag summit lang!" (his load was heavy because you left all your gear with him so you can hit the summit). the atmosphere of excitement suddenly turned to heated arguments. why they did not wait. why they did not follow commands. why most people on lead had light loads. why they weren't carrying safety gear: their tent, their sleeping back, stove, food. why they all went ahead of the mangyan guides. "pwede bang kumain na tayo? lahat tayo dito pagod!" (let's just eat already! we're all tired!) someone said, which brought frowns, waving eyelashes, and whispers. zeus broke the commotion and shouted, "good vibes! good vibes" as if he did not blurt out bad comments about those who made it to the summit.

after dinner, i stayed at the same spot under the tree where we waited for everyone. the guy-who-cried called my attention to come to his tent. he wanted to tell me something, "sabi mo di ba nakaleave ka pa? tingnan mo kung anong tinago ko." (you said you have extra leaves right? look what i hid). he unwrapped a plastic bag full of canned goods enough for the entire team to last for two more days. even enough to have fed us at camp 2 so we could push forward the next day and even send provisions for gp and the rest of the guys at the summit team to endure the cold night. why would someone do this? "oh my..." one of the ladies in the mid team said in shock. he hushed all of us. he told us that when they were packing at jump off, the canned goods wouldn't fit in one of the guide's bags so he offered to carry all of them. "bakit 'di mo sinabi 'to nung nasa camp 2 tayo?" (why didn't tell about this when we were in camp 2?) i asked trying my best to bottle-up my anger. "'di na importante 'yan. ang point ko e pwede tayo mag push bukas. ngayon, gusto kong malaman kung sinong mag-oo. kung walang pera, pwede tayo maghiraman pambayad sa guide tapos saka na tayo magbayad pag nasa bayan na o sa susunod na sweldo." (it doesn't matter anymore. the point is, we can push for tomorrow. now, i just want everyone's 'yes'. we can lend each other some money for the guide fee then we pay back when we reach the city or when payday comes). people were giving back their 'yes' answers. zeus and migs came in curious about what we were huddling about. "gusto niyo magsummit bukas?" (you want to push for summit tomorrow?) whispered zeus and everyone nodded. "imposible. walang bituin." (impossible. no stars). he then points at the cloudy night sky. "agresibo pa ang tubig. bahala kayo kung gusto 'nyo mamatay. mas alam ng mangyan 'yan." (the waters are still raging" he then points at the white puffy lines that scratched halcon's dark massiveness. if you want, you can go ahead and die. the mangyan's know better), zeus continued. the guy-who-cried said, "e 'di kukuha kami ng isang mangyan para i-guide kami. magsimula kami ng alas tres ng umaga. malalakas naman kami sa mid. walang maiiwan. 'yung sweep pwedeng umuwi kung gusto nila. wala namang mawawala kung sususbukan namin." (then we can hire one to guide us all. we start trekking at 3am... the rest of us mid pack. we are all strong. no one will be left behind. the sweep team can go home if they wish. there's nothing to lose. at least we're trying). "hindi kaya. may iba akong lakad. kelangan kong umuwi. 'sensya" i can't. i have other commitments. i need to go home. i'm sorry), migs said. "pwede naman sa ibang araw. andiyan lang naman ang bundok. makapaghihintay 'yan" (i can try another day. the mountain can wait), he added. "kung determinado talaga kayo magsummit, suggestion ko lang maghintay muna kayo ng signos. pwede ko naman pakiusapan ang isang mangyan na bumaba sa bayan para bumili ng dagdag pagkain. kulang 'yan." (if you're that determined to summit, i suggest you wait for more signs. for the mean time, i can ask one mangyan to go back to town to replenish your provisions. that won't be enough).

later, the word about our second attempt reached the sweep team. a few people approached me to tell me that they want to join. i doubted one, the guy who was the cause of delay in the sweep team, murhab. zeus told him not to join us. our exped lead lend some of his equipment to us and offered to stay a few more days to await our return. we huddled again at the tree and repacked our stuff. our strategy was to have the mangyan guide as lead to set our pace and to ensure that we all have our safety lines. we only packed 2 tents, 2 stoves, and the canned goods which we equally distributed among ourselves. everyone is required to carry a sleeping bag, trail food, and jackets. the rest of our provisions will be packed as soon as the mangyan zeus assigned to buy our provisions arrives. 22:00 the mangyan guide and zeus were drunk. he said he'll go to the village later. the guy-who-cried and i exchanged stares. later i was having second thoughts. i slept my thoughts away.

03:00 i believe i was the first to wake up. i poked tents to wake up the members of the recon team. the guy-who-cried approached me and whispered, "wala tayong dagdag na provisions. hindi pa gising ang guide. lasing sila ni zeus!" (we have no additional provisions. the guide isn't awake yet. they're all drunk including zeus!) the rest of the mid pack came in prepared for an early trek that never was. another lady in my team said, "pwede naman tayo mag tipid. tingin ko pwede naman tayo mag push. hindi naman nakakaligaw yung trail e. kung nakayanan ng mga bata 'nung naunang team, kaya din natin" (we can budget our meals. we push, i think. the trail isn't that hard to find. the children from the other team did it. so can we). a few moments later, zeus woke up then joined us. "sigurado kayong susulong kayo na walang guide?" (are you sure you want to push without a guide), he said then points at the sky. "ulap. naghihintay pa ako para sa safety ng lahat" (clouds. wait for signs. i am waiting for more for your safety). "dini-discourage mo naman kami e. kaya namin 'to" (you are just discouraging us. we can do this), the guy-who-cried said. "kakaalis lang ng guide 'nyo para bumili ng pagkain. hintayin 'nyo na" (your guide just left to buy your provisions. just wait for him), zeus left. two hours later, the mangyan guide hasn't gone back yet, some people started to wake up and preparing breakfast. some were packing their bags. the rest of the mid team except for migs, who stayed at one corner. "mag push na tayo kung gusto niyo! walang iwanan." (we can push now if everyone wants! let's just stick together), the boy-who-cried said, "nag aaksaya tayo ng oras. makakasummit na tayo ng 11 am pag nagsimula na tayo ngayon!" (we are wasting time. we could make it to summit by 11am if we push now!) he added. "pano ka nakakasiguro na magiging mabuti nang walang guide. hindi ito batulao. hindi ito basta basta lang na bundok sa batangas. halcon 'to." (how are you so sure we can go on without guides? this isn't batulao. this isn't just any other batangas mountain. this is halcon), i said. "hintayin natin 'yung guide." (let's wait for the guide), suddenly popped murhab. "ang sabi ni zeus 'wag ka na sumama. umuwi ka na lang kasama nila." (zeus said you can't join us. you better go home with the rest), said the boy-who-cried.

sunlight slowly pierced the clouds, the rest of the mid team broke their fast with the sweep team. zeus approached me, "'yan ang sign na hinihintay ko. andito na ang guide 'nyo!" (that's my sign. your guide has arrived!) "talaga?!" (really?!) i said in glee. "i'll be joining you." zeus marched at the center of the camp and shouted for huddle. "'ayokong may naiiwan. gusto ko lahat makasummit. eto ang happy team! nag pa dagdag na ako ng pagkain para sa dalawang araw. 'yung mga gustong magpaiwan, sumama na kayo. 'yung mga gusto nang umuwi, sumabay na kayo sa pagbaba ng summit team. this is a good day for happy team!" (i don't want everyone left behind. i want everyone to reach the summit. this is the happy team! we've replenished provisions enough for two more days. those who want to stay, join us! those who want to go home, you can leave with the summit team. this is a good day for the happy team!) everyone clapped and cheered. everyone in camp was happy. everyone in the sweep team stayed and prepped up while the summiteers cooked another batch for our packed lunch before they left. we gave our manager's and supervisor's numbers to the ones going home so they can call each of them that we were all stranded soon as they reach the city. we all repacked our stuff for the new group we're in. since zeus was joining, we had our spark of hope. it was a very sunny 06:00. 



  1. Mam, san yung continuation nito? :)

  2. Your climb was all CHAOS, must be due to the group size. With safety as priority, I must say fewer is safer.

    My buddy & I summited Halcon in Jun 2013 with one guide each (not porters). During our ascent, right before Dulangan River, a couple of guys from a big descending team asked for food. We countered with a lie that we didn't have extra. Who the hell would climb this mountain without bringing enough provision!?

    Some fever befell my partner on the summit, and his guide agreed to carry his luggage halfway of the descent.

    I still look forward to your Halcon finale.

    1. yes it is. it was disastrous in many ways. i've organised a couple ever since that incident and calculated the risks exhaustively. they were successful climbs.

      i agree with you the number of participants is a factor.

      i'm planning of migrating to another host in the next few months and blogger is giving me more clutter than i should. once it's done, i'll let people know.