Perseids: A Peak To Peak Adventure

Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

“Our greedy senses drank it all ~ the dark night like coffee spewing across a turbulent sky embellished with the Sons of Perseus.”

Part 1 – Perseids Meteor Shower Peak

Whenever the comet Swift-Tuttle passes through the inner solar system, its ices are heated up and softened by the sun. That’s right — ice. I imagine cold fire traveling at the speed of light. Fresh comet material is released into its orbital stream and a celestial debris called the Perseid cloud is created. This cloud is responsible for the Perseids Meteor Shower visible from the earth every year from July to August.

On any given year, earthlings can expect to see stars shooting at a rate of 100 per hour every night for the entire duration of the show. And they put on quite a good show, mind you. However, this year’s shower is an outburst that is double that number, owing perhaps to the comet’s location which is now closer to the sun while inside earth’s orbit. This spectacle will only happen again in 2126 which means that if you witnessed it this year, you are one lucky soul, considering that you probably won’t be around during its next outburst. Think of it as a once-in-a-lifetime Halley’s comet experience.

Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Mt. Naupa. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

To be among the lucky ones, Kim and I, and a few members of the Cebu Spelunking Society climbed Mt. Naupa for a spectacular view of the meteor shower on August 12, 2016 ~ the day that the meteor shower would be at its peak. It was Kim’s third time hiking Naupa, the second time for me, and the first for my CSS family. Kim was the supposed appointed guide for the trek but since she could not join us until later in the afternoon, I took the lead in guiding the group through the trail. Thanks to my wonderfully disruptive sense of direction, it is needless to say that we got lost. But it is also in getting lost that we find the way which we inevitably did.

We made it to the camp site before sunset. The rain made it there too but by nightfall, it began to subside, leaving only thick clouds to veil the sky which nonetheless made stargazing impossible. The predicament did not dishearten us, however, as the night was only in its infancy and we had so much time to wait. We were contented to lay on our tarps spread on the ground beneath the heavens and the 5-billion stars hiding there somewhere.

Later in the evening, when the the wind became unbearably chilly, my friends retreated to their tents. Snug in a fleece blanket, I remained out there with the elements until some time after midnight, growing to love the intimacy between the cold and me. I did not even mind the black bat that kept returning to check on us. I would have let it stay that way had Kim not kindly summoned me to the tent we had pitched earlier.

4 hours past midnight, the sky finally started to clear enough to afford us a view of what we came there for — the meteor shower from front row center, or at least what was left of the show before daybreak. So we were there huddled once again under the magnificent theater of the sky with our spines flat against the solid mountain, mouths agape at each sudden streak of light that ostentatiously cuts across the darkness above us. Those shooting stars were trying to break the fourth wall, or the ceiling in our case. It felt as though for our vigilant patience, heaven rewarded us the encore of a last full show, except that we were the only audience. And it was dynamic.

Pia swinging from a mango tree. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Pia swinging from a mango tree. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

 

Part 2 – Naupa Peak

When morning was all over us, the first creature to greet us was a hawk in flight just a few meters away from us. Over the mountains and trees, he hovered with mighty wings aspread. His head was white like that of an American bald eagle. The rest of the body was reddish brown. He moved along an imaginary circle above the adjacent mountain which stood lower than our camp. So we were blessed with a magnificent view of this equally magnificent creature whose demeanor was so sure, silent and calculating. After several more rounds in the air, he finally made a swoop to whatever it was that he was preying on.

Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

We broke camp and proceeded to climb the other peak ~ the real Naupa peak ~ an almost perfect cone of a mountain settled not far from the camp site. I call it “real” to give it the distinction it deserves as opposed to the camp site which many hikers mistake as the highest peak in the area. On ocular inspection, the cone was clearly the taller one. A local we met confirmed that Naupa is actually the cone-shaped mountain, and that if one had keen eyes, it was visible even from the flyover in Tabunok.

Naupa from the Cogon trail. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
View of Naupa from the Cogon trail. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

The Naga mountainrange is akin to that of Dalaguete. It comprises of several peaks, albeit rising to altitudes much lower than the mountains along Mantalongon, that sprawl across a bucolic landscape. Most articles I have read regarding the subject told of treks going only as far as the camp site. This means that the true peak is one that is rarely trodden by hikers. And the rarity only made me covet it more. The drive to reach the geographical pinnacle of Naga was going to break my heart if left unfulfilled.

View of Naupa from the camp site. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
View of Naupa from the camp site. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

From the camp site, we studied the structure of Naupa and tried to single out a path that would lead us to the peak. Unlike the camp site which was mostly grass, Naupa had a dense growth of trees and shrubs. From where we stood, a flag, that a previous contingent who reached the peak had apparently planted, was barely visible. Apart from that, there was no clear sign of a trail. But we decided to keep going anyway and adventurous as we were, we endeavored to blaze our own trail should we fail to find one. This is what I love about the group. We don’t back out in the face of adversity and we share an unspoken commitment in achieving the goal.

Descent from the camp site. Photo cortesy of Kim Maribao
Descent from the camp site. Photo cortesy of Kim Maribao

We descended from the camp site and traversed through a corn field. It is interesting to note that the corn fields which now occupy huge portions of the surrounding mountains used to be nothing but empty fields of black ashes in the summer when Kim and I were last there. On those mountains, the local farmers practice kaingin, a farming system in which the remains of old vegetation after the harvest are slashed and then burned to clear and fertilize the land for the next planting season.

Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Following the narrow trail. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

As we emerged from the corn plantation and drew near the foot of the mountain, a very narrow path came into view. It was almost hidden under a thick outgrowth of thorny shrubs, cogon, and other wild plants perennial to the area. This only proved my earlier suspicion that very few wandered into this mountain. The soil in some parts was very loose that we had to crawl on all fours or grab onto rocks and firmly rooted vines to avoid sliding down the incline. We met a lot of colorful butterflies along the way. Finally, after about forty minutes of upward struggle and multiple stinging cuts on our skin where our bodies were unprotected by clothing, we conquered the elusive peak. Whew! We may not be pioneers but we were one of the few who braved it to the top. From there, we admiringly looked over everything below that is within our field of vision. It included the camp site that seemed a little less commanding from our vantage point but beautiful nonetheless. The brown hawk that we saw earlier that morning graced the sky once more with its effortless flight. If his timing there meant anything, what a lovely coincidence it must be. It was the perfect conclusion to a beautiful climb.

Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Descent from the peak. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Obligatory selfie from the peak. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao
Obligatory selfie from the peak. Photo courtesy of Kim Maribao

 

Dear Mt. Naupa,
Thank you for hosting us once more in your idyllic abode.You are more beautiful now than I remember. The stars shine in your hair, my Dear. How many more wonders do you still keep hidden from me? Can’t wait to discover them all. 

Amazed,
Odessa

Fixing Unbroken Things

Today is for fixing unbroken things. A celebration of the earth’s thirty-first safe return to her exact position in the galaxy on the day that I was born. This pale blue dot wanders a lot, but never from its orbit. She recognizes, quite simply, that as the moon refuses to leave her gravity, she is in love with the sun.

One day, I will love like that. Not with the needy tendencies of the wanton earth, but with the zealous compassion of the fiery sun. I will be light unto somebody’s world, infinitely giving without the need of receiving. No longer will I speak about loving so long as the other loves me back. That script is for fools, a partnership based on trade. With me, the significant other will cease to exist. You and I cannot persist as a dichotomy when two souls shall have become one. One. This is the language of the wise, an understanding that can only spring from the highest moral ~ love.

Wisdom like that is gathered from experience. Of course. The kind that walked with bare feet on shards of the fractured pieces of the self. But today is for fixing unbroken things. Not for remembering the person who chose not to remember who nursed the livid bruises on his heart, but eternally remembers who painted them there. Sometimes it takes a heartache to conquer the fear of pain. The wounds of the heart cut deeper than the flesh. That part of history has been forgiven. And healed. That was how the climbing began, the chasing of sunsets, and the skinning of knees against rocky turrets. But only after a deep sentimentality had been cultivated for everything that breathes.

Then came the transition person who never knew that he was. There were long days ached for him. And longer nights suffered in agony of anticipation that planted infinitesimal landmarks of wistful yearning. The affair always unfolding, never quite coming to an end. Until it grew into a bureaucracy of emotions sealed with a tape the same hue as the roses never received. But today is for fixing unbroken things. That too has been forgiven ~ even when forgiveness has not been sought.

Today is for fixing unbroken things. It is free from the agenda of intention. The seconds morphing into minutes sing a phlegmatic tune. The minutes grow into moments that carve the stories of the past into a monument for reminiscing. The universe was, still is, and always will be created out of entropy. I emerge from that. Don’t we all? Life, at the anvil, is malleable. Sometimes a collection of realities that are neither truth nor opinion. I write my own story. One day, it will be a love story. That day is today. I love like the sun ~ so powerful, it reconciles the difference between heaven and earth.

Today is for fixing unbroken things. I am a caterpillar at the chrysalis. Today I realize that I am no longer broken.

Nebula

At thirty, I could get incredibly drunk in front of incredible people on an incredible night. And that is all there is to it — incredible. (Incredulous). Of the many reasons my mind could conjure for allowing this to be, the most plausible is the asinine intent of grieving over the dying cinders of an affair that had died before it even ignited. It amuses me sometimes that a barely lit matchstick could get me so burned when I am this giant ball of fire within, born from the nebula of a sun.

But the naiveté of longing does not excempt even a trigenarian who seeks enlightenment. Or maybe, it’s just that when one chooses to get drunk, even with only the faint smell of alcohol, one would get drunk. That is how powerful the mind is. And that is what I keep on forgetting.

I remember the vague events of that night like bubbles in the half-empty plastic cup of liquor, dissipating the way my sensibility fizzled out. Juxtapose that with the city lights in the distance that looked so alluring to the eyes. The very same lights that illuminate the darkest of crimes. There is an irony there somewhere. The lessons I have not quite learned the first time. So history repeats with a vengeance.

I apologize to the incredible people who witnessed my fiasco. I also choose to forgive myself. And choose to remember, from now on, that I was born from the nebula of a sun.

On The Rocks: Romancing Cantabaco Crag

This is not a typical love story. It involves breaking up ~ a falling apart of sorts ~ and trying over again. It involves YOU.

It starts plainly like the day after the night. One harrowing bus, replete with strangers, brings you 18 miles outside your comfort zone. Off the road, the trail becomes treacherous. It is one steep climb that later descends to a red dirt path. One wrong step and you can kiss your healthy bones good bye. You risk all that much for this rendezvous, making the moment even more momentous ~ a first date.

Lover, meet your Beloved. She is the towering figure whose face is adorned with sunlight. Her body is built upon limestone, perfected by years of weathering and sculpting by the elements. She is Cantabaco Crag.

Your courtship begins as you climb her. You explore her body. Engage her beautiful curves and edges. Fondle her secret underclings. You search her hidden pockets. Time freezes as you, suspended by the ropes that hold your precious life, cling to her dainty horns. Your poor biceps are pumped by your own wooing. You finish one route. At last, you get her resounding yes!

Then the intensity of the budding relationship makes you want to cool off. But only for a while. You lay your sore body atop the autumnal gathering of crisp leaves on the forest floor. She must be difficult to love. Nonetheless, you love her. The passion between you two is a fury that ignites with a bright flame.

You climb her again. A more difficult route this time. Halfway through, your muscles betray you. Strength forsakes you. You skin your elbows and bruise your limbs. You falter. You begin to bleed as your body sways from one slab to another. And at the very minute you want to keep going, quitting seduces you. It is a well-orchestrated treason.

Your Beloved takes a different form this time. For she is one thing then another. She becomes the powerful lust to overcome the impossible crux. Your love story a tell-tale romance of how you conquer the elusive peak. However, the reality is that it is yourself which you have to subdue. The crag merely an allegory for the mountains in life you have to climb. As you brave through the fatalistic boulders, you will have mastered the self.

But what is it about the sublime abstraction of conquering the self? Is the fight that of man versus nature? Of man versus himself? If man is but one of many threads intwined in the grander tapestry of nature, then it must be the epic battle of nature versus itself. These existentialist tropes may continue to hang upon the gargantuan enigmas of life. You can go back ponder upon them another day, one step at a time. Afterall, you are just at the beginning of your love story. And this is your day after the night. For never has the darkness come after the light.

The whole love affair a tango of dancers on opposite ends of one spectrum. Betrayal and pain on one end. Self discovery and evolution on the other. You have chosen which direction to take. And at the end of this day, your smile is the more luminous at the knowledge that whatever could have broken the barriers of your skin could never break the integrity of your spirit.

Enie Yonson leadclimbing a route called Jeepney
Enie Yonson leadclimbing a route called Jeepney
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My teammates ascending routes Kapihan and Jeepney
Area 3
Area 3
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Me climbing Jeepney

 

May 11, 2016. Cantabaco Crag, Lutopan, Cebu. Area 3. Routes Jeepney and Kapihan. Class 5.8. Guided by the illustrious Enie Yonson.

ALTERNATIVE ITINERARY
**We started out quite late. Plans were originally made for Poog Crag but there was a trail run (or something) at Poog that day; so we headed to Cantabaco… And wow!

08:00am – 08:30am Assembly at La Nueva -Lapulapu
08:30am – 09:00am Ferry ride to Pier 3 & PUJ ride to South Bus Terminal
09:00am – 10:00am Bought groceries for lunch and snacks at E-Mall
10:00am – 11:30am Bus ride to Eskina Landing, Landing
11:30am – 12:00pm Habal-habal ride and hike to Cantabaco Crag Area 3
12:00pm – 12:30pm Lunch Break
12:30pm – 05:00pm Rock climbing
05:00pm – 05:10pm Aftercare (Leave No Trace)
05:10pm- 05:30pm Habal-habal to Eskina Landing, Lutopan
05:30pm – 07:00pm Bus ride to Minglanilla

**Note: On our way home, we had an unplanned side trip to Villa Rammelyn Garden & Resort in Minglanilla.

Damage (php):
80.00 Back & forth bus ride (South Bus Terminal – Toledo)
20.00/head Habal-habal ride from Eskina Landing to Cantabaco (back&forth)
400.00 Rock climbing fee inclusive of guide, ropes, hardware, rock shoes
30.00 Back & forth tricycle ride from highway Minglanilla to Villa Rammelyn
100.00 Entrance fee to Villa Rammelyn, inclusive of swimming pool use
15.00 Jeepney fare from Minglanilla to E-Mall

Dapithapon

Lost in you.
Somewhere between a minute to sunset and the rest of my life, there is a gentle kind of quiet. Like the rhythmic settling of dusk over the horizon. The lullaby of rustling leaves blending with sonorous bamboo overtones. The orchestral stridulation of crickets who have woken from their sleep. And the burgeoning chorus of rainy days over the sultry waves of summer. This is nature’s autotune.

Lost in me.
Am I nature observing itself? With thirsty eyes drinking in the magnificent diaspora of white river boulders? Or the glimmer of light caught in the waters that caress them? Beauty seen from these lenses has no boundaries. Not even at the edge of my skin. For there is a waterfall that flows through me. And the Universe that lives within.

 

Dear S,

Because I know you like the back of my hand ~ which is not that well, considering that I’m a stranger to myself sometimes ~ I got lost in you and found myself here. Time and space, you can suspend the continuum for once. For me.

P.S. I love you more each climb.

Momentum

There was no epiphany in the simplicity of graphite stroking the welcoming body of the papyrus’ child. Rapture was the graduation of slow and reckless caresses. But it was also the sudden and the precise. It moved like that ~ a contradiction unto itself.

You used to be my catharsis. Come, cleanse me again.
Come to the…
Come to the…
Come to the still mountains with much love.

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Naupa

Just the three of us. We had the boondocks all to ourselves. What we witnessed is our own little secret…

Naupa sunrise
Naupa sunrise

The cool Naga night wind washing away the sweltering fever of the fading day. The slow and wicked rising of a red moon ghastly peering from the clouds. And the stars ~ long dead but only now reaching the acuity of the eye. White and yellow bodies burning against the dark cloak of eve. They seemed to be only a twinkle from afar. Myriads of them were there. But only one decided to shoot down its trajectory ~ a first sight for me ~ perfect in its own best time.

Just maybe, a cosmic battle was fought in outerspace and those were the remnants. The metropolis far down below could know nothing. They were drugged with oblivion. From the mountaintop, what transpired was visible only to those with eyes to see. Alas, sleep was a visitor too. A lull that seemed to be eternity in one moment. Til finally, the gentle sound of white-bellied black birds cracked the silence of morning. Welcome to Naupa.

Naupa trail
Naupa trail

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April 26-27, 2016. Trek and overnight camp at Mt. Naupa, Naga, Cebu. Stars were plenty. Star-gazed and starstruck. Identified the ISS, Orion, and Sirius. Saw a shooting star. One day, will catch one. Salamat, Kim and Sol, for the beautiful photos and the lovely company.