climb

prana escalante

i wrote a short narrative detailing the events which took place prior to the disappearance of prana escalante in the trail leading to halcon. i posted it on the MFPI yahoogroups in response to queries from some people who were clearly in the dark about what exactly happened. the narrative, i learned later, was copied and pasted in other yahoogroups of which i was not a part. without much exaggeration, but with characteristic drama, the article reads:
an article appeared in the inquirer yesterday about prana escalante, the young woman who is still missing in the slopes of mt. halcon. i was unfortunately not able to read the article, and for some strange reason, it cannot be accessed on the www.inq7.net site. nonetheless, i can share with you what i personally know.

on friday, 29 october, my outdoor group left manila for a four day trek to the summit of mt. halcon. we reached lantuyan, the jump off point in the municipality of baco at around 4pm. we decided to spend the night at nanay cherry's house (aling mary was not around). at around 1am the following day, saturday, amid rain and darkness, prana who was by her lonesome, arrived. she was ferried to lantuyan from the calapan port by a tricycle. even at that ungodly hour, prana was already eager to begin her hike. she insisted that her group had already left that friday morning, and she wanted to catch them before their assault. nanay cherry talked her out of her silly plans, and succeeded in convincing her to wait for the first light of day.

at around 4am, my group prepared breakfast, and we invited prana to eat with us. she left some of her clothes at nanay cherry's house for safekeeping. at 6am, we started our hike, and prana left lantuyan with us. she stayed with our sweeper group. prana was visibly ill-equipped for the trek. she was wearing a non-descript cotton shirt and what appeared to be greenish rainpants. her bag was a small daypack, and inside her pack's kangaroo pouch was a folded blue ground sheet. other than that, she had no other outdoor equipment. her small pack, at least according to her, contained food and some clothing. she was wearing a pair of brown sandals, and early in the hike, she stubbed one of her toes.

at a little past 7am, the midpack, of which i was a part, took a few moments to rest while one of our members assisted one of our lady companions in unburdening her load. prana overtook us. we tried to ask her not to hike too far ahead from us, but she just smiled and waved goodbye. just after the first water source, right after we crossed the first stream, we decided to take 10. we talked about prana, and the fact that she had also overtaken our lead pack, who tried to convince her to hike the rest of the way with us, but she was adamant about not taking a moment's rest in order to reach her group's campsite as early as possible. besides, she said, she had been to halcon once before.

she even confirmed if the trail consisted of taking a series of lefts. one of our more experienced members said that there are forks up ahead which might confuse her, but she didn't listen, and left even as rain was pouring.

after a few hours on the trail, we met the members of another mountaineering group who were on their way down from aplaya. they said that they failed to cross dulangan, which was swelling due to the persistent rains the past two days. we asked if they had met a young woman along the trail, and they said no. we began to feel a bit of concern. a second group was also descending while we took our lunch, and they said they didn't meet anyone save our group.

when we reached aplaya, we set up camp. it rained almost the entire night until the following morning. we decided to abort our hike to sialdang, and decided to spend another night at aplaya before finally going down. there was another group of mountaineers in the campsite. after lunch that day, sunday, some of us decided to go down to bathe in dulangan. when we got there, we noticed that there was another group further upstream. we suspected that this may have been prana's group. after a while, i and another friend decided to pay the group a visit, mainly to ask if prana managed to join them, but as we were making our way, it started to rain again. the group left their station on the banks of dulangan. we didn't manage to speak to any of them. also, the rain forced us to return to our campsite.

on monday morning, we began our descent at around 10am. we reached lantuyan just before 5pm. no one in lantuyan could confirm if prana managed to return. her things were still at nanay cherry's house. at around 7pm, while we were preparing our dinner, the group which we saw in dulangan arrived. they confirmed that prana belonged to their group, but added that they had no knowledge that she would follow them. they said they would never have allowed her to do something like that. they used the word "pasaway" to describe prana's attitude.

some people, with the benefit of hindsight, also observed that prana appeared to be emotionally disturbed. nanay cherry said: "mukhang namomroblema sya nung dumating sya dito." that same evening, prana's group made plans to find her. the following morning, at around 8am, a handful of prana's friends left for manila, while some of them decided to launch their own search. with our assistance, they had already informed the authorities about the incident, and search and rescue
operations were already in the works.

prana, 21, who is graduating from UST this schoolyear, started her hike on the morning of 30 october, saturday. after 8 days, her whereabouts are still unknown.
yesterday, an email was sent to me by a certain kijabot <tsinelasik@yahoo.com>. he said:
alam mo ba na sa panahon ng pagsasabi mo nang iyong nalalaman e may kasalukuyang news-blackout? ill-equipped? how can you be so sure.. i can show you ano pede ko ipagkasya sa isang daypack sir. ndi ako nagsasalita sa ngalan ng ustmc. akoy kaibigan ni prana. sana siguraduhin mo muna pinapublish mo next time. im willing to show you ano pede ikasya sa daycpack. enough to survive mt halcon. enough for a four day climb.
my response was a little too diplomatic:
well, the conclusion that prana was ill-equipped was made based on her own admission. one of our members asked what she had inside her bag and she said that she only had food and clothing, and the blue ground sheet or tarp. i was also able to speak to her, albeit short. when we asked if she had a tent or a stove, her response was merely to say, it's okay, maabutan ko naman mga kasama ko. i do not doubt that you can put provisions inside a day pack good for four (or even 5) days. but i had no intention to make it appear that prana was unduly exposing herself to risk by being ill-equipped. however, this is the observation reached by everyone in our group, including aling cherry. i apologize if you feel that i may have painted a skewed picture of prana. rest assured that when we were talking about her after she left us, we were in agreement that she appeared to be strong and independent, which is why we allowed her to walk ahead. some of us may have felt that what she did was really dangerous, but you can only do so much to convince a person. tying her to your backpack would have been illegal.

anyways, i still maintain that even her small daypack itself didn't appear to be full. it was smaller than the one i usually bring with me to the office.

best of luck to your climbs. i can only hope that prana's family and friends would be able to deal with this loss.
although i was careful not to offend the anonymous person who sent me that email, my actual thoughts were a little more impertinent. for the life of me, i just could not imagine bringing a daypack, even to a modest mountain such as gulugod baboy. indeed, he may have been correct in saying that a daypack would have been sufficient to climb halcon, that is if you are not alone. but prana was alone, and the possibility she would not find her companions was all too real, and hence, the daypack would not have sufficed. that is why i said (and many agreed) that she was ill-equipped.

nonetheless, others are a little more appreciative of the effort i took at giving details of prana's disappearance, since the news reports both print and broadcast have been all too inconsistent and inaccurate. here is an email i received lately from <rdarancana@lapanday.com>:
Sir, thanks for a more detailed info.
This is the most we can get, from us here, down South.
May we all learn from this.

Jun Arancana
Davao City
it does feel a little spooky, now that i've had occasion to think of prana's disappearance and death. we were likely the last to see her alive, and there were far too many portentous things we could not ignore. i am thinking of my short narration, and i've just found a launch pad for an article on halcon. now, i just need to find time to write it.
when i saw the news that she had disappeared, i immediately thought of you. i had wondered whether she was supposed to be in your group. that's so sad. and yeah, spooky.
there's this far fetched story which posits that prana was already a ghost when we met her, and that her only intention was to inform us that she had climbed the mountain so that a search could be launched. at least two people who did not know each other insisted on this version. i don't believe in anything too supernatural but thinking about it sort of gives me chills.
chills
(Anonymous)
almost two years ago today - after you wrote this, a chill just went up my spine and spread throughout my body.

that sort of phenomenon actually happens from time to time. the mysteries of the universe, i guess.

--ike




Prana Escalante
(Anonymous)
MERON KA SANANG MAGAGAWA NUN DI BA...
Prana Escalante
(Anonymous)
Ghost ba ako nun? kayo yung huling taong nakakita sa akin... konsensya mo maayos pa?
Missing 411
Hi when I heard the news way back I was really sad about what happened to Prana. It's really weird though. Strange disappearances documented in Missing 411 by David Pauludes outlines people who went on hikes and trail runs alone that goes missing and found dead on areas that search and rescue groups have already covered. What's really creepy is the bodies that are found most of the time are completely naked or parts of their clothing are missing, shoes are missing and the bodies are found adjacent or in bodies of water like lakes or rivers. David Paulides also has a lot of videos about missing person cases on youtube.