the dogtag mystique: AMCI B2K5's second induction climb

my AMCI dogtag once looked like a high school project. it is a thin rectangular strip of metal, rounded at the corners, and hanging from a beaded metal chain which quickly lost its luster on first contact with seawater. my name is etched into the metal and kissed with red. i’ve now chipped away the cheapening color. much to my disappointment, i had no particularly life-changing realization, or profound catharsis when i wore the dogtag for the first time, which officially marked my admission to AMCI. perhaps i felt too cold, and perhaps i was more concerned with what would take place in the next days after the induction rites. we still, after all, had to go down from the summit of mount apo. but nevertheless, regardless of the seemingly inauspicious circumstances, the dogtag is something i wear with a lot of pride, what with the intangibles that i ascribe to it: months of toil and hardwork and sacrifices. so it is no wonder, really, that some of my batchmates went to such great lengths just to be able to wear theirs, after they missed the boat to apo.

so on a drizzly tuesday evening, i asked my brothers to drive me to victory liner’s kamias station. it certainly did not bode well for the climb. agaton was whipping some southern provinces, and it wasn’t impossible for it to reach even the highlands. while at the station, things got a little more complicated when at 10pm, 3 inductees and 1 member had yet to be anywhere near the moving vehicle. and these buses happen to be on time. so regardless whether we had already paid for their tickets, the bus left, and not far behind us, a red cab was on hot pursuit. surprisingly, just before we left the diversion for the north expressway, the taxi overtook the bus, and we were happily sailing towards bayombong in nueva vizcaya. but wait. something was still missing. marlon was still leagues away. he’d left bicutan at 9pm, and when we turned for san miguel, bulacan, he was still in EDSA. he’d commandeered a cab to take him to the bus stop for 2,000 big ones.

i tried to sleep soundly even as the hitches to the trip left me smirking, for some odd reason unknown even to me. we stopped momentarily at double happiness where everything is marked up. very expensive chocolate drink, if you ask me, but you’re left with little choice. the 15 minute stop was extended to as much as 25 minutes, and the bus was amazingly slow the minute it left the NLEX. so marlon, by some expensive miracle and maximum speeds of 140kph, managed to join us just in time. he made a taxi driver very happy that evening.

with the entire team already loaded, we sped for bayombong, and although i was most eager to get some sleep, the winding roads at the dalton pass and all along the highway prevented me from getting some sufficient shuteye. ava kept whipping her head on my shoulder each time the bus maneuvered those wild turns and curves, until finally i decided to move to the back. it was bumpy there but at least i spared myself some bruises.

so very early in the morning, where nothing but darkness reigned, we were offloaded on a lonely road. i saw a gas station, a church, and a bland burger joint. our jeepney followed soon after, and i distributed more load to already grumbling climbers. well, don’t load that and we don’t eat. everyone has to carry his or her share of the burden.

the jeepney managed rough roads to the jump-off in ambaguio. by the time we’d reached the place, it was still a little before 8am. we were early and there was still time for breakfast and some last minute packing. this climb would take us on an unpopular route to the summit of pulag, down what’s touted to be a killer trail, and spreading over 5 days, by far my longest single hike. i braced for the worst, and the worst, in fact, arrived. the days that followed, and our resilience to what rain and mud have come to symbolize, are a tribute to the indefatigable spirit that possesses us all. the trek began with an emotional prayer from beng, where she had to hold back tears.

ambaguio is a particularly lengthy, dreary, unattractive, and bordering-on-boring trail. it passes through a few sparsely-populated barangays connected by scores of hanging bridges. the river below winds around these places that have strange-sounding names like ammoweg, binalhi, napo. perhaps i’m being too judgmental on ambaguio by saying what i just said. there are, actually, some hints of beauty, had it not been for the consistent slight rain which accompanied us all throughout this trek. one either looks at the rain as enemy, or as ally, and while i generally regard it as a hindrance to appreciating views and photography, it may, unknowingly, have helped us majorly. blotting out the sun, pouring only sufficient light, we quite literally fought exhaustion and thirst. i had loaded only half a liter of trail water, and this was sufficient for the hike which lasted 8 hours. my body’s thirst was quenched by the gentle drops that fell from brooding clouds above.

after we’d crossed all the bridges, we stopped momentarily at a store. nearby, schoolchildren had amassed to look at us. we were strange curiosities, it turned out, because the entire hour we spent there to eat lunch, they were there staring at us. near the store was a schoolbuilding, which was listed in our IT as camp 1. and it wasn’t even noon yet. we in fact started an hour early, but being ahead of by at least 5 hours was something i hadn’t expected. particularly because we had slow folks in the group. i took this as a good sign, in spite of the rain. and while they talked, someone suggested we camp at binalhi, which the guide said was around 3 hours away, after a tough ascent. oh grief, i thought.

less than 2 hours later, we passed binalhi, and after a bout with serious muscle cramps, which kept me bending my knees, i was thinking, yeah this looks like a nice place to camp! i’ve been having muscle cramps on a regular basis since TC3. always on the first day of a multi-day hike. heavy loads. they’re a bane.

when the entire team arrived, the big bosses assessed the situation: whether it was still possible to push the IT farther. it was still pretty early, and save for marlon, rizza and myself, none had any major difficulties. i’m not sure whether it was at this time that the guide happened to mention that he has a house in napo, which he said would be 3 to 4 hours away still. since TL bossing wanted to drastically shorten day 3, he said napo, separated from binalhi by rolling terrain, seemed to be a good destination for day 1. so off we headed for an imagined campsite, hopefully not too wet.

since after leaving the lunch area (supposedly day 1’s campsite), we started encountering the pesky limatik. i’ve never seen 1 in a long time, not since halcon. and it was not something i expected from pulag, so i was very surprised, as well as ill-prepared, by the presence of far too many of these bloodsuckers. when i reached napo, i hesitated about taking off my pants. i guess it didn’t sink in as fast as i thought that we’d be spending the night in a big house. our guide resides in this upland sitio. they have a rather huge dining area. a pale bulb powered by a solar panel provided some light. in a corner was a 21” TV set probably still awaiting the arrival of power lines. i had fattened about 3 limatiks around my legs. more bites. more flare ups. more scars. sigh.

that night, we cooked my chili con carne. my batch headed to the inner room. as we went about preparing dinner, the steady drizzle turned very ugly. it became a very insistent rain, pouring sheets over napo. i imagined the tasty but terribly-difficult-to-prepare meals that barbs suggested. i imagined what an absolute joy it would have been watching her doing the tortang talong in that downpour.

after dinner, we proceeded to one of the rooms. ava, barbs, and beng shared the big wooden bed. the rest of us slept on the floor: i closest to the window, then janet, carlo, ed, nestor, jay, and rizza. in that order. before sleeping, we chugged my tequila. other than the liter that i brought, only a bottle of gold reserve fundador was available. too little alcohol for the time available, if you ask me. since we had nice accommodations, we had ample opportunity to talk. one topic of course was the election. coaxed bossing, bojo and bert to campaign for themselves and to talk about their platforms, if ever they get elected. we turned in not exactly at 10pm that night, since there were some very serious discussions raging which kept us awake. i just wanted to drink more of the tequila, really.

very early in the morning, 2am i think, i opened my eyes when i started hearing this puppy complaining underneath me. the house stands on stilts, and the puppy is tied almost directly under the window. i would weave in and out of sleep after this. damn puppy. i wanted to wring its scrawny neck. finally, at 6am, we had our wake-up call, and i very gingerly got out of bed. ugh. still, an entire bag to pack. ordered people around. i’m not GL for nothing.

at 8.30am we started the trek to the ranger station in babadak. we hoped to reach it by 5pm, which would still make us more than half a day ahead of the IT. we were informed that the trek for the morning would be the hardest: a steep ascent. followed by more steep ascents in the afternoon. having had my dose of cramps, i figured it would not be too difficult. i had the duty of sweeping a few of the girls, so i had to put the breaks on my hiking speed. this portion of the trek promised to be a little less ugly and depressing. nevertheless, the rain was still a huge factor why i couldn’t take out my camera as often as i would wish.

marching along, we replicated some scenes from previous days: rain, limatik, many rabid wild pigs blocking the trail. we had lunch at the area where we were supposed to camp that day. there were hardly any flats. thank goodness we’re far ahead. at around 2pm, finally, there was a change of scenery, from lonely, wet, dipterocarp forests, we had better things to look at. trees became more erect, pine needles were strewn on the trail, and little flowers were in abundance all over. and the weather started to cooperate. beng was behind me for the last hour or so up the ranger station. she had this distraught look on her face, and i had to ask her several times if she was still up to it.

by 4pm, more than half of the team had already reached the ranger station, and i had already bought soda and pancit canton from a nearby store. looking around at our supplies, i already informed everyone we’d probably be having shortage issues with fuel and rice. and this was just our second night. another 2 days and a half to go. but some provisions can’t be sourced at that altitude. so we made do with what we had.

we drank a little more of the tequila that night, after eating beef broccoli. by this time, the vegetarians carlo and nestor (a recent and reluctant convert) were feasting over their moondish cans, since we were on an almost strictly-meat diet. once again, the 2k5ers occupied the room. almost all of us fit nicely inside. i lay again near the window, and bunched with me were ava, rizza, barbs, janet, carlo, and nestor, in that order. marlon and beng slept perpendicular to all of us. the serious conversations the previous night continued, and when we were finally tucked to sleep, for some reason, we broke the dead silence of the night with unstoppable laughter. no one talked, or cracked a joke, but laughter just left our zipped mouths. i think it started as a joke about barbs looking like a rellenong bangus, wrapped in aluminum foil. each time she made the slightest movement, her emergency blanket made a crinkling noise, and the cheap humor was just far too infectious. bossing had to go into our room to remind us that it was already very late. the postclimb just got pushed ahead of schedule. everything in this climb’s many steps forward.

i also had a hard time sleeping that night. although a board was propped up against the window, there was still a crevice sufficient for air to creep in, and every now and then, a cold draft would waft to my face, rousing me from slumber. covering my face with my bonnet helped a little. at around 5am, i felt someone holding on to my foot. it was beng, who was looking for a stove. breakfast was prepared rather quickly, and by 6am, with the sun up and the sky blue, most of us were awake and have had either a coffee or hot chocolate fix. we expected to leave the ranger station at 9am, so we were moving on very slowly. the boys bought another ten packs of pancit canton, and after preparing only 4 for lunch, the other 6, it turned out much later, went missing. i called it an AMCI mystery 06-001: the case of the missing pancit canton. everyone was a suspect, and although we had leads and ideas, we never really put our finger on who was guilty of either appropriating the pancit canton, or leaving it behind.

we had a few photo shoots outside the ranger station, and started walking with a bright sun present above us. the thin air was no help, but overall, it was a good day to start a hike, and i looked forward to better weather. i’ve been through the ambangeg route twice before, and i know it well, so i had nothing to worry about. the trek to the grassland campsite is short and extremely pleasant. i remember encountering a man who lugged a sewing machine all the way from lusod coming down this trail. but on my third time, it seemed lush, and little used. i was still trailing behind janet, who was more than happy to discover that no limatiks would bother her the rest of the way. she’d began the trek holding up her orange backpack cover, drying it in the sun. still many hours ahead of schedule, it seemed like a walk in the park – a national park, that is.

the first turn from the road, we immediately got to see the summit: large, looming, and green, with hardly any trees near the top. that was our last vision of the summit for that morning, since again, the blue sky was overpowered by gray, and fog accompanied us till we lunched at campsite 2. again, we were way ahead of the already adjusted IT. we marched on, no longer in a hurry this time, since the saddle just below the summit promised to be a short 3-hour trek. when you’ve clocked in more than 20 hours of walking time, 3 hours are short. in spite of the gray company, the hike was still a treat. my load, even after 2 days, didn’t feel lighter at all. i haven’t even put up my tent yet. marlon seemed to be faring a little better this time, having taken a bag with very little back support and almost no load-distribution features.

then we came to a point where we were about 200 meters from the summit (less than 20 meters below, in terms of altitude). from there, the saddle campsite was around 30 minutes away. it lay between the pulag summit and what bossing called “baby pulag”. from that vantage point, it looked like a very appealing place to spend the night, although there wasn’t water around. we’d been instructed to load at least 3 liters of water, though i doubt everyone took this to heart. tsk tsk. another point for the postclimb.

when we reached the saddle, it wasn’t even 3pm yet. we waited for the whole team to arrive, and for the fog to lift before even starting to pitch tents. it looked flat from far away, but on closer inspection, the campsite had lots of bumps -- mounds of earth and clumps of grass that would punish anyone without a thermarest. but such was not an issue for my group, since more than 50% of us had inflatable mattresses. talk about mountain luxury!

by 4pm, we’d all pitched, and were at a loss at what else was left to do: binging on food was out of the picture, since we’d carefully planned the meals (except for my blunder on the rice allocations). not much extra food to chomp. at the first hint of a clearing, we decided to climb the hill beside baby pulag. from there, it was possible to see the outlying towns of benguet, even the halsema highway. this part of pulag doesn’t slope down at all, and the drop is steep. there’s a gorge down below and the mountain range which separates us from halsema. looking behind me, i saw how magnificent it was to look at pulag’s summit: no longer the massive mound of earth which rose above the already high shoulders of the cordilleras, but a meek, barren hill, topped with a few chunks of rock, and dressed in a somber green. below it, our tents looked like colorful m&m’s dropped on a small area.

finally, just before 5pm, with barbs unable to get out of bed, feeling sick, i started dinner. everything was calculated: we had to scrimp on rice and fuel. there was an excess of meat, of course, since carlo and nestor settled for their canned laing, bicol express and ampalaya. after an early dinner, we were again accosted with a dilemma: what else do we do? still early, a drizzle forced us to retreat into our tents. 3 people fit nicely into my tent, but 3 thermarests don’t. nevertheless, ava and i sandwiched janet. i had just given some instructions to the inductees on what would take place early the following morning. although we were all just inside our tents, flat on our backs, we spent the slack time talking. i had to remind the then inductees that they were lucky since when we were in apo, we were still plodding through ankle- (sometimes knee-) high mud till after 9pm. whereas, at 8pm, everyone was comfortably calling on morpheus. also, i must’ve have made one too many jokes since janet was cracking up. we occasionally eavesdropped on the conversation between rizza and bert, and we were singing “getting to know you”. we slept laughing that night. we were delirious.

at past 3am, noise started stirring outside the tent. i’ve had difficulty sleeping. for some odd reason, i didn’t bring an extra pair of pants for sleeping and although i had thorlo stockings, 7 degrees can creep into your bones. we weren’t scheduled to assault the summit till 4.30am, but i went out anyway to see what was going on. stars were out that fine morning, and it was cold, though not quite as cold as the previous times i’ve spent there. the temperature was just right. so as instructed, i arranged the inductees in a line, and we started our trek to the summit. beng was behind me, and although i was generally conscious of their differing speeds, i guess my pace and the thin air were too much for beng. she wheezed and huffed and puffed each step she took. this brief moment would earn her the moniker “muning”. before long, nasty jokes started to swirl among us about her unusual noises up the summit. well, she’s the same person who claimed “14 years na akong married, magaling talaga akong magpatayo.”

the induction rites were over rather quickly. i’m not sure if it was colder in pulag, or in apo, but the new members survived the ordeal. we stayed at the summit for a while longer, awaiting pulag’s much ballyhooed sunrise. it was less dramatic as my 2 previous times, but we were nonetheless treated to the usual sea of clouds amassing below. it was a very pretty sight. i exposed 2 rolls just on summit photos. in the distance, we noticed other climbers who had either decided against proceeding to the summit, or were so winded, they’d decided to stay near the grassland. the views were really fantastic. marlon looked behind us and remarked that another group had camped below and wondered where they were. i very quickly told him that he was looking at our campsite.

then we went down back to the campsite. by this time, the chicken tocino breakfast had been wolfed down, so we had a lot less for lunch. those who ate their share had to sacrifice their midday meal. they couldn’t complain since i’d warned them previously of the consequences of eating the breakfast ahead of the intended breakfast time.

at 8am, we started loading. the first assignment was to scale baby pulag (it’s actually called junior pulag, but bossing’s name for it sounds funnier). it seemed less daunting than the task that we’d already accomplished, but everyone seemed to be winded and tired right after. i pulled myself up the minor summit with this weird feeling that i was going to get sucked into some gorge. my head felt heavy, and my breathing was heavier than my pack. 10 minutes into the uphill battle and i was so spent. finally, when i reached the top, all that negativity went away. the view was fantastic, and the feeling was incomparable. it was like reaching the summit for the first time. from there, it was already possible to see the edet river down below. i couldn’t imagine going down that steep slope and reaching the riverside by 5pm. it would be punishment to my already weakened knees, i thought.

as we began the “punishing” descent, a promise drew itself in the sky. half of a rainbow appeared, sort of hinting we’d be having no rain on our last night in pulag. but it turned out to be a half promise only, as a drizzle visited us again once we were past the enchanted mossy forest just below baby pulag (i started this lecture on montane environments, until i realized it was no longer possible to bluff my way through my second-hand knowledge). after the mossy forest, we descended to the pine forest, and the surrounding vistas were no less amazing. switchbacks criss-crossed all along the trail, and had there been more of us going down, it would have been a great photo opportunity.

we reached cow country before 11am, and had a long, leisurely, lengthy lunch. well, the others sort of just dried their gear since they’d eaten lunch earlier and only had trail food left. previously, there was some discussion on whether it was possible to push for the poblacion, but that was shot down since the jeepney was scheduled to pick us up only the following day. so down we went to edet river, zigzagging from this corner to that corner. the sound of the raging river was already audible hundreds of feet up, but still it seemed like a long way to go.

finally, 2 hours later, we were already down by the river, cooling ourselves, soaking our bodies, washing our clothes, and playing in the small, cold pools. i didn’t know the campsite was just 5 minutes away. it wasn’t even 3 yet, and everyone had already reached edet. it didn’t quite sink in that i’d just descended what others have called the killer trail. the barlig descent in amuyao was far more punishing than that. for barbs though, the observation came very quickly, and she said “yun na ba yung akiki?”

at the campsite, the only issue was how do we get rid of the cow manure? everyone else avoided them like the plague. i threw them away using my bare hands to clear space for my tent. the ground alongside edet though is pretty hard. several pegs ended up bent and crooked. not my TNF v-stakes though, courtesy of dindo and lyn, hehe. so by 3.30pm, i’d already pitched, hung my clothes out to dry, set up a kitchen, and clipped my fingernails. what else was there to do? carlo was getting really impatient by this time and kept saying, “boring” like clockwork. “boring”, and i had to tell him to find something to do, like fetch water.

since a lot skipped lunch, and we had slack time longer than patience can endure, i instructed barbs to prepare her tuna alfredo early. she was frantically looking for milk, although i swore we didn’t have any milk in the load. she said it’s no biggie, and then she went about having the garlic chopped, the packs of cream opened, etc. and by 5pm, we already had this big batch of steaming pasta hot and ready to eat. i suggested we eat it later. we looked around and the suggestion was very quickly shot down. i apportioned our shares (gosh, this is the first time we had to measure our food), making sure we each had an equitable portion of the pasta, and man, what a pasta. it was pretty good, the missing pack of milk notwithstanding. so before 6, we had already finished eating and washed the cooksets. and there was nothing else to do! a slight drizzle again forced us into our tents, but when it stopped, i took out the last few mls of tequila i saved for the last night and secretly called out to my drinking buddies. we munched on whatever trail food was available: apricots, peanuts, chocolate. then ed, who’s always looking for champorado, suggested that we have champorado.

we only had over half a kilo of rice left (donated by the climb staff), and very little fuel. i had swiss miss. so on the condition that no one complain the following day, we improvised champorado. and it was good champorado, actually. or maybe we were just famished. we paired it with tuyo. yum. that last evening along edet lasted forever, and we preoccupied ourselves with songs. i reckon we didn’t disturb anyone, save for spirits and unseen forces around. but that was a really fun night.

by 9pm, we had ran out of tequila, turned over the champorado, had no songs to sing, and still little to do. we’d cracked jokes earlier about changing tentmates, but no one seemed to take it seriously until i finally ordered nestor to move out of carlo’s tent. so while janet lit prayer candles (the candles we bought in baclaran) at a corner in the campsite, i very nonchalantly transferred all her stuff from my tent to carlo’s. he didn’t seeme to mind, and i’m pretty sure janet just pretended to not know. i zipped my tent closed and prepared to sleep. then janet attempted to get in, and i basically told her what are you going to do here, you’re not allowed in my tent. in the big brother vocabulary, she’d be the first evictee. she feigned surprise, i think, and i told her that she’d be having accommodations in carlo’s tent. “ano?” she exclaimed. “bakit?” she had this litany of things to say, and carlo was just inside the tent, fidgeting with his cellphone.

now there’s a psychology lesson to be learned here, really, considering the commotion which took place in makati republik 2 days after my birthday. the first stage is denial, and it manifests itself, sometimes, in the form of disdain. so all that pent-up sexual tension has to be relieved, eventually. and these 2 have been surprisingly close to each other since day 1, considering they’ve consciously avoided each other since september. but then, carlo once told me: “past is past.” and yes, the future is another thing. was it beng who told me she woke up to find the two in an embrace at the ranger station? it’s really not for me to say since i didn’t see it for myself. what i was witness to was something else. now to continue.

anyway, janet had no choice but to sleep in carlo’s tent since i told her she’s banned from mine. i fell asleep soundly that night. the weather was great, it was peaceful, and no cold drafts crept into the tent. the following morning, i woke up, went inside ed’s tent, and spoke about halcon and many other things. we’d unzipped his tent, and the pantry was visible from where the 3 of us sat. janet was also already up and busy tending to breakfast. when beng got up she observed that janet appeared to be unusually perky. i’m a woman, she said, and i know when another woman is satisfied. yet again another memorable quote from muning. so who should i be thanking for janet’s energy? hmmm…

at 7am, we made 1 final trip to edet river where i exposed my last shot. the school wasn’t far away, we were told, and we hoped to be there by 11am. while we packed, we heard a loud rumble from somewhere -- either an explosion or a massive landslide. but we didn’t worry too much. the guides pointed out the location of babadak. we’d made a large U to get to where we were then. so our final trek began after 8.30am, and i was humming some songs for janet. “sana maulit muli” and “kung maibabalik ko lang” were some of them. getting to the pick up point from edet river needs one small push up the hill. the outlying views are no less wonderful here, and there is an overabundance of beauty all around. too bad i’d ran out of film. we marched on confidently, and some coffins underneath a big rock was pointed out to us. we also paused awhile at the large bench. when we reached the school, we came upon bad news: our jeep was going to be late. the problem was compounded by the fact that we were too early. so we thought about what we were to do with the generous time that we had. some of us decided to go to the store. it was some distance away, probably a kilometer, and we had to manage a steep flight of stairs from the PAMB’s visitor area.

at the store, we ordered chips, the last 2 remaining bottles of lukewarm soda, and some cans of sardines. the lady gave us the rice for free. when we returned to the visitors area, we had to run back up the steep flight of stairs. it was short, and we had no bags, but it took away the little wind that was left of me. we were so very bored for all the extra time we had that we tried to find things to do. one of them was to go through the visitor logbooks. looked up familiar names, read comments, laughed at people’s remarks that it was “a killer”, and similar things. we were quickly running out of things to do. the afternoon was creeping in slowly, and we amused ourselves with the invisible mountaineer, beng giving bojo love and cultural advice, janet and carlo, among many other things. we waited anxiously for any hint of a jeepney arriving. we were trying to create scenarios to show the driver that we were less than unhappy by his tardiness. and when he arrived just before 2pm, he was profuse with apologies, and we would have none of it, interested only in reaching baguio the soonest.

i toploaded from the pick-up point till past ambuklao dam when a drizzle started to set in. when we reached baguio, we headed for cottage C inside the supreme court compound, courtesy of umberto carpio-morales. i had no idea that SC justices had such nice cribs in the summer capital, and i was more than happy bert found a way for us to wash up in style. there were at least 5 bathrooms available, and although water pressure was low, we all finished in under an hour. we walked to SM to have dinner -- and in the last 2 years and my several visits to baguio, it would be only my first time to visit the much talked-about mall. 6 of us decided to have dinner at a chinese resto to accommodate the vegetarian needs of carlo and nestor.

after that, we marched back to cottage C and had our postclimb. everyone seemed positive. there were no injuries, not an instance of delay insofar as hiking was concerned, and it turned out to be a great climb, the rain notwithstanding. of course we were given formulas to avoid food and fuel shortages. most of the team was scheduled to depart baguio at 11.15pm, but 5 of us decided to extended for 2 more hours for a few bottles of beer. it was actually janet’s suggestion, and although we had no idea where we’d get our fill, we figured we won’t go wrong in session road. we went to this bar with folk singers and expensive beer. the singing was not better than average, and the food was boring, but at least the beer was cold. i had 2 bottles of strong ice, and when we went boarded our bus, i was knocked out before it even left the bus station. next thing i knew was i was trying to figure out where i was. we’d actually reached the end of the NLEX when i woke up, some 4 hours later. what a quick ride. at quezon avenue, i boarded a cab, and went home. my mom was already up when i arrived.

i’d been away nearly 6 days total, and that much time had given me an opportunity to ponder the future. although, to be honest, i failed to draw any answers or conclusions. i know i said this might as well be my last multi-day climb for the year, but that certainly sounds regretful. having endured and suffered and enjoyed a climb of this scale and magnitude, i ought better to know the few things in life that are truly essential. i shall never ignore the call of the mountain. so definitely not the last, not this year. the dogtag has got to stand for something.