The windy afternoon was starting to metamorphose into dusk. We were walking along the steep ravines of Rio Grande de Cagayan on the outskirts of Santo Thomas in Isabela when I happened to glance down at the jagged boulders below, approximately 20 feet high. The gushing sound of the waters slapping the rocks, which got me curious, suddenly muted. The sight of such sent an unimaginable shivers up and down my spine. I trembled in fear. Every move I made weakened me more; my knees surrendered to the ground. My easy gait during the first part of our travel, by foot, from Cañogan to Malapagay turned into a nightmare. Then I heard my grandparents approaching as they were asking what happened—not too far from me. I wanted to step back paces but I was already crawling when they overtook me. My grandfather had to hold my left hand. The other was held by my grandmother. Simultaneous to that was they were telling me to just look straight and everything will be fine. I was hobbling until we got past the river area. I never wanted to catch that sight again.
The thing is, that fear spiraled over time. Nineteen years later, I got to face a bigger form of the fear when I partook in this climb for a cause called the “The First Annual Amputee Climb“. I could vividly remember that I had second thoughts about joining as the climb’s actual day was nearing. Life though has its twisted way of letting me reconcile with the things I fear; it dragged my feet to Mount Batulao last 28 November 2009 (“Moment of Impact“).
When we started treading the jump-off point, the excitement enveloped me more than my hesitation. I looked directly ahead and focused on the goal: to reach the distant, highest peak. The four amputees who joined us in this journey motivated me a lot truth be told. Conquering my fear actually became easier as I was seeing them become more and more resolute when we were reaching the trekking point even when the climb was already getting steeper. I could not also disregard the full cheerfulness on their faces as they were facing different forms of struggles along the way.
At one time or another, we were kissing a sharp cliff not because of fear but because it was how it was being done. I realized just how firmly attached we were to the rest of the mountain. The feeling of being attached to it overwhelmed that one of hanging in the midair or losing control. Looking at everyone, especially the amputees, displaying will and determination to conquer the mountain had made a big difference all the more in my acrophobia. Sometimes, all we need are people who are more physically challenged than us to know how capable we are in pushing our limits. These people are doing it fine, we might as well be like them. I did not even notice I summited the highest peak after almost four hours of trekking the sinuous, steep, and zigzagging trail—with ease. The anticipation of crabbing down a slanted rock face with fear went into the river of oblivion.
The way up to the summit of a mountain is arduous but once you get there, your entirety will be hugged by pure raptures of joy.
The fear of looking down from that vantage was gone. I felt like I became part of the mountain and of the whole view around. My eyes went feasting on the breathtaking panoramas rising from the ground instead.
Thank God my feet succumbed to the universe on that fateful day. I could have not experienced this exquisite feeling of amazement—seeing the world atop of the shoulders of the giant.
I owe that to our great amputees who had proven that physical limitations, not to mention fear of heights, can be overcome and we can go beyond what we are already capable of. I know there are people out there who had much harder time subduing acrophobia yet in the end, they were able to. It is a matter of facing the fear not channel it to somewhere or something. I felt like I suddenly achieved balance in the four aspects of myself.
The amputees led the way towards battling my fear and winning it and the mountain was the battleground where I achieved a new form of myself. The amputees were the teachers while the mountain was the instrument used for my rebirth.
The experience of overcoming my fear of heights and being able to reach the summit is larger than life. I may have verbally described the adventure but I could not fully put across the enormity of what I felt and lived through with those amputees and more than 50 other people who have become part of my rebirth transformation. I was never the same person since I descended from that mountain.
I saw an entirely different world out and up there. A world that opened so many life-changing lessons and possibilities.
I saw so many places and astounding views that very few people get to see; I realized the big difference between seeing them from magazines or on the internet to that of making time and effort to actually see them. The latter is what cuts a lot of people out of the chosen few.
After climbing 16 mountains for almost three years (2009-2012), I was able to forge a bond that lasts a lifetime with cool and positive people from different walks of life; we are still keeping in touch.
I got to know how far my stamina can go; I became stronger and more inspired to keep a fit and healthy body.
The physical and mental difficulties entangled in every mountain I climbed made me more patient, persistent, prepared, and grateful—most especially for the small things I and my family have.
Seeing a multitude of beautiful places or views atop and along trails made me comprehend how much of a distraction little and big garbage are in the picture; it boosted the high respect I already have for nature. I have been doing ways to recycle more and avoiding pile up of non biodegradable items.
I gained a lot of stories and I shared them to the world; I inspired a lot of my friends, former students, and my brother, Kelvin, to brave the mountains. I became a travel blogger.
For all of these, I pay my respects to our great amputees for showing me that extraordinary will and determination. I also make obeisance to the mountains for always calling me to explore the bigger world out there.
The travel that changed me: Edurne Pasaban (atlasandboots.com)
A Trip to the Mountains with my Dad Changed Me Forever (mountainblog.ski-doo.com)
Why Everyone Should Climb a Mountain (becomingminimalist.com)
Why Do I Climb Mountains? (twomonkeystravelgroup.com)
Opinion: Why I Climb Dangerous Mountains (new.nationalgeographic.com)
9 Mountain-Climbing Movies To See Before You Scale (blog.indiewire.com)
Hikers Ask to Snub Mt. Batulao (iamvhin.wordpress.com)
Start 2016 with A trek to Mt. Batulao of Batangas (cleveryoungguide.wordpress.com)
Mt. Batulao Mountaineering (nicerioadventures.blogspot.com)
Mt. Batulao: Behind the Boycott (followyouroad.com)
How I Conquered My Fear of Heights and Climbed a Mountain (peacefuldumplin.com)