It is one of those days when you're itching to go out and you don't have anyone to go out with because they're either in school or just plain busy. In my case, my climb buddy wasn't available that day when I was so in the mood for a dayhike.
It was a Friday, August 19th, and life had been so good that I wanted to shed that extra energy I had in me the whole week; more so, I wanted to celebrate by doing something that I love best.
Because the previous night proved futile in looking for someone to climb with, I woke up quite late the following morning. It was already around 9:30 AM when I logged in to Facebook and hoped to find a hiking buddy among my online friends... to no avail.
But then I have done solo trips before. My first climbing experience was only with a guide up Mt. Romelo. So after feeding Princess, I packed my small backpack and got ready to leave. It's really a good thing when you already know what to bring. It makes packing very easy.
I was in Alabang by 10:30 AM. I had Manabu Peak in mind. I had been there before and it's the safest mountain I could think of to climb alone without a guide. Also, I wanted to go visit Mang Pirying who I failed to see the first time I went there.
It was a two-hour ride from Alabang to Fiesta Mall in Lipa. It's my first time to go that route and I must tell you it's easier to use than riding a Lucena-bound bus like my first time. Tricycles near Fiesta Mall will take you to the jump-off for P100.00.
It was already 1 PM. There was no trace of mountaineers at the jump-off. I went up to the store to buy something to bring Mang Pirying. It was a good thing I mentioned his name to the store owner cuz I was advised he was not in his home in the mountains that day. According to the store owner, Mang Pirying was fetched by some mountaineers early that morning. They'd have his eyes checked in a nearby hospital.
Such luck. It was my second time to go up Manabu Peak and I still wouldn't be seeing Mang Pirying in the flesh.
I was also informed that no one climbed Manabu Peak that day nor the night before that. I had the mountain all to myself! I was ecstatic. But it was past 1 PM and I knew it gets dark earlier in the woods. After changing into climbing clothes, I immediately set off. It was 1:47 PM.
The stillness of the forest started becoming eerie halfway through the trek. I remedied that by pumping up the volume of my earphones, but leaving one ear clear so I could still be aware of what's going on around me.
I stopped at the fork for a while and looked at the two trails, both going up the peak, one passing by Mang Pirying's hut, the other passing by the grotto. When I first climbed Manabu Peak, I used the Mang Pirying trail in climbing up then the grotto trail in going down. I told myself that just for a change, I would use the grotto trail this time, then pass by Mang Pirying's hut when going down.
Unlike the first time I passed by the grotto, it was clean this time. No more liquor bottles. No more plastic bags scattered around.
My stomach started making funny noises when I sat down for a while. I realized I haven't had lunch. The only food I had with me was a can of San Marino Tuna Paella. I wanted to take it out and eat but the summit was still far. I was so pressed with time that I disregarded my stomach and carried on with the trek.
It rained a little harder than a drizzle when I reached the grassland. It was the loneliest part of my climb. Moreso when I entered the trail between the grassland and the peak. It was the most masukal part of the climb and I was drenched in a mixture of sweat and rain.
I love going out alone at times but I've always had things pre-planned. This was the first time I climbed a mountain alone without even a guide and I was so pressed with time. I really had to get back to the jump off before it gets dark. I had my headlamp with me but even two headlamps wouldn't do for me considering I'd be alone in the middle of the mountains in the dark.
The cloudy skies were not helping. It was making the surroundings darker than what that afternoon could have normally been if there was no rain.
After what seemed like an endless walking, I finally saw a glimpse of the top of the white cross through the leaves. It was such a relief. The white cross was like a light at the end of the tunnel, or in my case, the goal after walking alone in the forest for the longest two hours of my life.
I took pictures at the summit, of course, using my cheap CDR King tripod. I went down to the campsite and brought out my tuna paella. I alternately ate and took jump shots. LoL! After finishing the can, I immediately headed down using the trek that would pass by Mang Pirying.
I was kinda hoping the old man would already be there. But the hut was so quiet when I reached it.
Reaching the fork made breathing a little easier. It had stopped drizzling that time, but the sounds of the forest was telling me it would soon get dark.
I was back at the jump off at exactly 5:27 PM. Exactly three hours and forty minutes after I left. It might have been so lonely being alone up there, but I found myself humming a little while I took a bath. I made it. My mountaineering friends might not be happy with my solo climb even if it was just Manabu Peak, but it was somehow a milestone for me.