the next thing i knew was that we were already in san antonio, zambales. after a not-so-brief stop at the public market for some last minute shopping, the bus made a turn for pundaquit, and before long, we each had our cumbersome backpacks onto our backs, and started out what i assumed would be a short trek to the anawangin beach. i was very seriously wrong.
we weaved through the homes of the locals, walking between the narrow paths decked by bamboo fences, following the guide who was quick on his feet. i was burdened by a 12 pound tent and a host of other accoutrements, which i didn’t think would be much of an issue since the IT predicted a very brief hike. after about an hour, we still had barely gained any altitude. we had crossed a severely parched river and a field of cogon grass where several cows were running wild and free, i was beginning to think that these AMCI types must have a really hardcore idea of fun. the trek was dry and arid, and it may have been a lot worse had the sun been more of a presence. when we started the uphill hike, we were blessed with fantastic views of the town behind and the mountain which rose steadily alongside the one we were assaulting. but there was hardly any forest cover along the trail; only the yellowing blades of grass which made it difficult to guess which way the trail went. the yellow knots they tied at the sparsely distributed trees were unavailing because the color blended with the early hues of summer, and we frequently got lost. this definitely is not a beaten track, and other than a herd of cows, no other group of mountaineers has been along this way.
i began to cast aside the thoughts that AMCI had a less-than-normal conception of fun when a lot of other guys openly declared that they were hardly having any fun. i think there were quite a few women interested in inflicting some bodily harm on jon, the climb TL. just before we started lunch, some members of my group fell far behind, and one bag had to transfer at least 3 guys before we could go on. finally, we reached the ridge of mt anawangin, which afforded fantastic vistas of the outlying barangay of pundaquit, as well as the secret cove which shimmered almost blindingly in the horizon. it was a steep descent, and i could see specks of red, blue, green, and yellow, moving down the rocky terrain. a large group had already made headway, but we managed to catch up with them as they rested, lengthily and leisurely, underneath the shade of a solitary tree.
we resumed our trek even as the group that fell behind just made their initial descent. before long, the trail flattened out, and the brittle blades of cogon disappeared as the exposed rocky riverbed filled most of the trail. arlene, a guy who for the most part had a huge blue umbrella wedged between his back and his pack, and i, were busy placing trail signs on the river, stacking stones atop each other. we may have been too concerned with guiding those who may be behind us that we barely realized that the lead pack had disappeared. we crossed a shallow stream before entering a dense pine forest. walking through it was almost cinematic. the pine trees had slender barks and wispy leaves. they grew almost in uniform order that the woods appeared to be a plantation of some kind. despite their sheer number, drops of sun still fell on the trail. in a few minutes we found ourselves at the beach. it was a most amazing sight. one would imagine rice terraces when hiking through pine trees, but instead we found ourselves facing the glittering sea.
but my amazement was held in check by the exhaustion that i felt. i had been drained by the yoke that was my bag which i had to carry for close to 5 hours. during the descent, my quads trembled a little, and although i picked up a piece of bamboo to assist me, i eventually had to throw it away because it proved to be a strain on my shoulders. i wanted to drop dead like a piece of log and lay prostate for a few hours, but instead, realizing that the rest of my group was still making their way down, i found a spot to pitch my huge tent, which i did alone.
before long, i had changed into my shorts and hurriedly hit the beach. the cool waters of the sea soothed away the pains occasioned by a the pure objectivity of fun. this went on as we awaited the sun to set, and while our cooks busied themselves with preparing dinner. i was thankfully spared any kitchen duties as more able hands were available. i just made myself useful by lending my gear, which included musical accompaniment from my iPod. the space we had allocated for meal preparations was filled with the chaos of 4 grocery bags, 3 rice cookers, about 4 stoves, 3 camp lamps, and a couple of other cooksets. our group had 21 members, and about 5 of whom were responsible for preparing 2 big pots of rice, 2 big pots of sinigang na baboy, several slices of boneless bangus, lechon, and fruit salad. i suppose this is where the fun really started.
after dinner, the contingent gathered round our area and we each took out our bottles of gilbey’s. there was a lot to go around, including several nalgenes filled with a variety of juices. i introduced the sierra way of circulating the evil brew, where shots of gin were thrown around a small resealable nalgene container the size of a specimen bottle. the AMCI guys were more than pleased and fascinated with the highly efficient way of bringing the drink around, although with a group this size, the deeper the night grew, and the more drunk the people became, the chances of catching the container diminished. before long, two containers were going around, which increased the speed of my inebriation. throughout the night, a lot of teasing was exchanged among the AMCI guys, and i pity those who were made the subject of the jokes. they were pairing off most of the girls with the guys. i actually had great fun, but totally got wasted when i made back to back to back shots with no chasers “for anawangin”, “for AMCI”, and “for sierra.”
it was also only during the socials the i got to memorize all the 35 names of the people present. i was being introduced left and right and remembering names had become some kind of a task, but at around this time, i could very well have conducted a roll call.
the following morning, when i awoke, i was almost surprised to find myself inside my tent, covered in my malong, and my head over my pillow. i had no recollection how i got there, and it may have been possible that a good soul carried me there. it was likely that i passed out, but i apparently did not. breakfast consisted of many choices, that i did not even manage to sample all of them. after i had my fill, i went in for a swim once more, and it was possible to walk more than a hundred meters and still have your head above water. the seabed was pure sand, and there was hardly anything there to injure the soles of our feet.
after a while, i joined iton, jon, and wency to walk northward, to look at the quartered rocks at the edge of the beach. a lot of things of some geologic interest were available, but no one was scientifically-inclined enough to explain the phenomenon etched on the faces of the rocks. there was more marine life here than the one in front of the campsite, and i regret that i hadn’t managed to bring my camera. we ran back to where we had camped, and i noticed that even while we hadn’t finished fixing the mess we made from breakfast, the women were already preparing lunch.
after lunch, we packed our bags and prepared to leave for pundaquit. unfortunately, one of the banca owners wanted to rob us blind, and jon had enough good sense to turn down the unreasonable offer, although it meant at least an hour’s delay. two bancas made turns in ferrying us to pundaquit beach, and i belonged to the last group to say farewell to anawangin. the moment we left the cove which kept anawangin a secret, i immediately caught a glimpse of capones island. before long, we were back on the bus, and headed home. but the fun didn’t end there. the folks were still so psyched by the trip, that they decided to extend the socials even while the bus rolled. the jokes and the teasing continued, and they showed no mercy to eden (who’s officially natutuwa sa akin... i am just such a jester!) when they told the story of how she took roland’s nalgene wide-mouth and mistook it for a flip-top bottle, effectively destroying its tethered cap. it was in fact, a funny story about how a remarkably thirsty woman discovered a product flaw. haha. this one is going down mountaineering history, along with the guy who carried the suitcase with rollers up the mountains, and the other guy who spiked his trail water with gin to teach a lesson to a certain buraot.
of course the fun died down a little during our stop at double happiness. the beautiful chic (who insists her real name is chicken, although simon suspects it’s concordia procopia) lost her phone. too bad the incident provided a dent in the otherwise extremely fun hike, camp, and beach. i hope i get to be invited again. i don’t think i made such a big fool of myself, and i do sincerely hope chic doesn’t post the video she took of me dancing. like i don’t have enough of that already.