last friday, at around 7pm, while i was busy packing my backpack for a weekend in anawangin, i got an SMS from sigz. he was asking updates about the storm. it had been raining since wednesday, and he, like i, was concerned we’d be drenched in zambales. my response was not unlike what i heard on the news: there is no storm, but only an active low pressure area directly over iba, which isn’t too far from pundaquit. my AMCI batch isn’t a stranger to rains, so i continued packing.
before 10pm, i was already in ayala tower 1, teaching folks about backbearing and triangulation. it’s something i would later regret, since this was, after all, a competition. my group made strategies, and before long, we’d come up with a presentation based on the ethnic and pop crossovers of the 80s. mosscake thought of the song “high energy” while we did some muslim courtship dance. we called our group carlo’s angels, because he is, after all, our GL. and so at past 7am, the first groups took off for the first phase of the race: land navigation.
i’ve been to anawangin before, and i remember it to be very dry and arid. this time, however, we were accosted by rivers and lush vegetation. we had trouble with the first point, but quickly found the rest, until we found ourselves in CP1. from there, we encountered other problems in getting to CP2. but we continued pushing on. at this time, we learned that the members -- some of whom were unprepared for a hike -- weren’t ferried by banca to anawangin. the waves were just too large. the trek to the saddle from CP2 isn’t really long, and the elevation isn’t really high, but it slowed us down a bit. there are 3 very competitive people in the group: myself, carlo, and moss, so i was having a hard time hot wiring ava to hurry up. she was slowing us down on the ascent, and she had this: God-i’m-exhausted-i-shouldn’t-even-be-he
from there, we had to trek down to the valley below. more river crossings, and the chances of getting lost were upped. we had to peel our eyes and watch out for trail signs, which were not aplenty. when we reached the skills station, there was some confusion as to the bearings. we complained about this a lot since it prevented us from accomplishing our stations in the speed that we wished. we did well in all the stations, and all of us passed, although i had to “help” out some of my groupmates particularly in the ropemanship station. i performed the rescue breathing part at the first aid station, and JC was my victim.
at the beach, we did our high energy number one last time just after we improvised a makeshift tent using a trekking pole, 4 tarps, and carlo’s bag. we managed to pitch our tents and start cooking dinner before sunset (and after we were evicted from the members’ area of the beach. lyn remarked that there was some power tripping there, which was kind of weird because this was immediately after sir oca told our group that they invest time in us because we are their future climbing buddies. anyway, this was good, since we had really good food, courtesy of chef moss. for dinner we had his black bean chicken, a tofu dish, and a japanese soup. felt refreshed that i didn’t have to interfere with the kitchen since someone more able was around.
i just sort of went around for chitchat and for a few shots. and the shots continued while the other groups trickled in one by one. by the time we’d finished dinner, some were just starting to cook. we had already bathed in the cool river nearby and changed to more comfortable clothes while the rest weren’t even done with some of the skills stations. this group was a good balance of brains and brawn. not to mention creativity.
i hadn’t managed to look around too much, but i could tell that anawangin had not lost its charm. it is still very unique: very erect pine trees spread out, invading the beach. the sea looked menacing, with waves of a size to crush small boats performing in synch to an unheard and unseen orchestra.
when night fell, the parties finally began. there were small parties in this camp and that camp, and i jumped from one to the next. by 10pm, my speech was a little slurred and i knew i couldn’t take more, lest i find myself drooling, once again, on the beach, with hot sauce on my bellybutton and spit -- or worse: vomit -- on my chest. the full moon was just over us and i searched for moss who promised to give me a reading. he was already very wasted, and sleeping. so i just went to the parties. had some of that middle eastern smoke which i first tasted in friendly’s. by midnight (no lights out! all climbs ought to be like this!), things were turning weird, and i -- being sober and in full control of my senses -- became a mute witness to all the delirium brought about by these bacchanalian rituals. quite a handful of girls were so wiped out, they had to be carried to their tents. i put my first aid training to good use when i carried a very wasted tintin to her tent. she’s not even 100lbs, although i swear she was heavier than 200 pounds of lead. many minutes after i listened to her incongruous speech, my hands were still shaking.
most of the things i became witness to are the kind of things you try not to remember. alcohol has strange effects on some people, and it could very well disrobe people of their inhibitions, or release some hidden desire, or uncover the unconscious. but there are also some happy and funny things, like dyake, who refused to rise from his sandy bed, because “sarado pa ang PNB” and he couldn’t withdraw.
in the morning, we woke up before 5am. moss again prepared breakfast and lunch, while i took care of putting down the tent, going around and telling people i was completely sober the previous night, making people laugh, and practicing moss’s cheeekah! we had breakfast, which was really good!
after that, we did backpack rafting along the river. in no part of the river is it deep enough to drown anyone, so it was easy to actually cheat. i had difficulty with my propulsion and i could hardly move forward. ava and lyn had to be towed by the underwater hockey boys, while i swam like i sick turtle. when i opened my pack: voila! wet! my stuff was completely dry, but my first waterproofing was drenched. i think my bag became twice heavier immediately after that.
at 11am, we trekked back to pundaquit. although the valley and anawangin itself is filled with cool surprises, this was most difficult. the sun was an overpowering presence all throughout, and we took extended pauses in all the places where there was water. trekking back up the saddle was an absolute chore. my bag was heavy! i wanted to throw something away. getting down though was less difficult, but since there was absolutely no trail (someone removed the straw), it was basically every mountaineer for himself. i broke away from the group, and for some reason, found myself not exactly on the trail but somewhere near it. i also got there ahead of the group which left the saddle at least 30 minutes ahead of me. i found a nice pool which was deep enough to actually jump from a 10 foot rock. coaxed people to join me, and quite a few obliged. we had fun there and stayed a long time. from there, we went straight to pundaquit and washed up.
it was already very late in the evening when we reached ayala tower 1.
i had a great time in anawangin, and we may not have finished first, but we certainly finished well. the place itself is very special and unique, and i will not mind returning to it, even when waves are bigger, and even when the chances of getting lost are higher.