“If this will be my last day lord, please take care of my love ones.”- words of Almost The Late Great Dokie, “Ugat-Ugat Trail”, Mt. Matutum 6 pm May 19, 2007
“Tuloy natin yung Mt. Matutum Dokie! Kahit anim lang tayo” These was the excited words of Sir Joy when we talked over the phone 2 days prior to the climb. “Sure” I said. “So who’s going with us?” Of the ten people, only six pushed through with the climb. Chris had to stay for his son’s immunization, Ian is in Davao attending to some important business while Onin backed out due to work conflicts. The three new comers backed out all together because of health problems.“We will be there Friday Dokie.” JoAnne said through text message. “Michael (from Bukidnon) and Merril (Digos) will be joining us. Sir Joy and his son Chuck are all set to go. Six is more than enough I thought. “Mas okey nga yan bonding tayo”
It’s already 9:30 AM when we reached the Kablon crossing. We rode a habal- habal towards the jump off site. We registered and took our tree for planting at the local DENR/PAMB office then proceeded to get our guide. Mang Duroy, is a veteran guide. Eight of his sons were all guides in this mountain. But he looks rather weak and cachectic now. I would surmise he fits a category III PTB patient. I sigh in disbelief, not underestimating Manong Duroy’s experience but I (and Sir Joy) thought he needs to get admitted to a hospital rather than guide us in our climb. “Sus maria”.Still, the local official insisted we bring Mang Duroy. He is on deck on he should be the guide. We abide by their rules less we are banished in this area forever.
We started trekking at 11 AM. The trail to the first camp near the water source is all too tricky. It’s an open trail on rolling hills flanked by corn fields and lush green vegetable plantations. There are more forked paths than I could remember and we got lost twice because our guide went ahead of us. I was also busy avoiding horse dung on the trail. There were hundreds of them!At 12 noon we reached the first camp near the water source. We took our lunch there. We also planted our trees near the area as instructed by the PAMB official. The water source is a 5 ft by 3 ft shallow well located at the edge of the clearing just at the foot of the mountain. It is the only water source near the mountain. I was horrified when a native suddenly went naked and took a bath near the well while another one shouted “picture, picture!” obviously cajoling us to get the naked picture of the oblivious man. Our jaws dropped seeing his dirty water trickling back to the well contaminating the water source! So there goes our potable water!
After our lunch we started ascending towards the first camp. It was an easy trek for the most part and I manage to get some nice pictures of unusual plants and large trees. “Sana ganito lang kadali ang trail!” again, showing my ignorance of the trail. The first camp is a large clearing with a huge boulder at one side. There’s nothing much to see in this area save for some birds frolicking high above the trees and the unsightly vandalism around. The skies was getting darker so we just rested for a while and then started to climb again. “Mukhang uulan na!” I shouted. “Get ready with your rain gears!” True enough after about 15 minutes of trekking, the rain started pouring. We rushed putting our rain gears on and continued trekking merrily. We were supposed to enjoy trekking in the rain. But this appears to be short lived.
After about another 30 minutes of trekking, I found Joanne helping the guide shivering under the tree. “Anong nagyari?” I said. Mang Duroy is soaking wet in the rain and is chilling. He stopped near a tree to wait for us. Apparently he didn’t prepare any rain gear at all nor did he pre wrap his clothes with cellophane to avoid it wetting in rain. He was also complaining of his heavy load. “Bad sign” I said, “a very bad sign”. We gave him plastics to wrap his clothes and blanket. We also took some of his loads. He suggested leaving a gallon of our water under the tree since it is too heavy for him. We have no choice but to agree. This was a folly on our part as I learned later.The trail became increasingly difficult, with the rainwater eroding much of the trail and tree roots become slippery. Passages shrunk increasingly low and light overhead is becoming dimmer. My rain gears failed to stop the torrential rain from soaking my clothes. “Basa pati brief ko!” I half jokingly shouted. I was dripping wet and was beginning to feel the cold weather. I began to feel uneasy. I know this is danger in the making.Chuck, Sir Joy’s son, began to feel the cold creeping in fast. He complained his hand frozen “Frostbite kamot ko pa! Di ko na mahulag!” Chuck would complain. They have no choice but to trek slow, allowing time for rest after every difficult trail maneuvers. JoAnne went ahead so she can reach the peak fast, leave her pack and go back to help Sir Joy with his load. Our guide also moved on, oblivious to our predicament and he perhaps also in dire situation. I stopped to wait for Sir Joy and Chuck but after about 15 minutes. I felt really cold. When Sir Joy and chuck was in “shouts range” he told me to just go ahead and they were trekking slow. I was shivering already so I decided to dash for the peak thinking it was just above us. This is the biggest blunder I made in this climb. Trekking alone, soaking wet, in the dark and in an unknown difficult trail. I was inviting death.
It was the hardest climb I made so far in my life. The situation I was in at that time is an accident in the making. I chose to trek in the middle of two groups climbing a difficult trail. I was alone; soaking wet, and was a first timer in this mountain. I can barely see any light ahead. The trail is blocked with root parts that looked like humongous tree trunks itself. It is slippery and there are no foot marks to guide me in the trail. Adding to that, I was beginning to shiver in cold. Sooner I would be in hypothermic catastrophe if I’d be in that state for long. I couldn’t just stop because I don’t have a lighter with me or a tent. No possible emergency camp grounds visible. And I couldn’t wait for Sir Joy and chuck because probably by time they get into me, I’m frozen to death. It was an ordeal of some sorts, I was in danger and there’s not much choice for me but to continue.“God, if this would be my last day, please wag mo pabayaan mga minamahal ko sa buhay…” I prayed for guidance. It’s not just thrice were I had to trek aimlessly because the trail forked to nowhere. The peak is no where to be seen, the rain never stopped and my heart beat faster. “Don’t panic!” I said to myself. “Concentrate, think! Just climb. Don’t stop!” I fell several times, bumped my head more than 5 times, crawled almost endlessly and ran when I can. I was breathing hard, my hands shaking and my mind frozen.” Lord, Tabangi ko!” As if He headed my call, I saw Joanne’s figure after about 45 minutes of aimless trek towards the peak. “I trekked the right path”. I was near the peak and my friends were there for me. I almost shouted in joy when I saw Joanne. “Oh, God I made it” “Thank you so much!” Joanne is going back to fetch Sir Joy and chuck. It was an ordeal I can never forget. I wouldn’t put myself in that situation again, ever!
Ten Minutes more of trekking and I was in the peak already. I jumped in happiness. The sweetest peak ever, out of danger and I survived. I hurriedly change my wet clothes off and warmed myself near the burner. I saw Michael, Merrill and the shivering guide under the makeshift tent. Ahhh! I’m here at last!After about another 45 minutes Sir Joy and chuck arrived with JoAnne. We hurriedly warmed Chuck inside the tent. He slept like a log after eating a noodle soup! Thanks God we’re all safe and warm! The rain slowly drizzled and the wind grew stronger. We started cooking for dinner while some of us pitched tent. After all of us changed clothes we ate our dinner. I savored the Sinigang so well I burped even while sleeping. “Sarap!” was our unanimous comment.I fell asleep almost immediately after I lay on my sleeping bag. The wind was strong outside with the rain still pouring. The famed 360 view of Mt. Matutum is nowhere to be seen in the thick fog. So we snored to sleep. My stomach woke me up at around midnight. I was surprised when I went outside the tent and saw the beautiful lights surrounding the peak. The sky cleared up and I can clearly see the well lighted Gen Santos City, Polomolok and Koronadal City. The view is fantastic! I tried to wake up my other friends but they were too tired to even lift their heads. So I went alone savoring the sight. “What a glorious sight!”
When I woke up in the morning, fog still covered most of the peak’s view. But after 30 minutes, it slowly cleared up and again, I was awed by the 360 view. The seas beyond Gen San, Mt. Parker, Daguma Ranges, Mt. Apo and so many other mountains can be clearly seen from our vantage point. I was busy taking pictures. I was wondering, if these mountains were alive, are they talking to each other like neighbors? -Just my stupid curiosity.
“Breakfast na” Jo Anne called. We had so much for breakfast but with little drinking water left. So I ate carefully or I die of indigestion! After we broke camp we took some mug shots and went around the peak once more.
Then we started going down back trail. We passed by the trail “ugat-ugat”, where I had the harrowing experience the day before. I’m still shocked at the thought of me stuck there. It was really a difficult trail after all, even in broad daylight. Here I recounted my ordeal to my friends, and concluded not to do the same stupid thing again! We all laugh in jest!
After that portion of the trail, it was mostly an easy trek for us down the mountain. We were expecting our usual “coffee break” at camp one because the water we left there. We don’t have that much trail water anymore. To our dismay, our guide took the water container, threw all the contents and went ahead of us! “ Anakmpusa! Anooooo!?” That was the worst thing he did! For a paid porter guide, I can understand if he can’t carry more loads because of age, but to be oblivious to our thirst, that’s disgusting. And we cared for him when he seems dying of cold on top of Mt. Matutum. He was our guide for Christ’s sake!We carried our thirst to the water source and drank water ad libitum when we got there.
The sumptuous lunch prepared by Michael and Merrill all smell so good. We feasted on our canned foods and smoked fish with rice on banana leaves. It was a happy picnic after all. I took some more pictures on the way and wore my sandals. We were at the jump off by 3 PM. We paid our guide and then hurriedly went off. I forgot to complain because Mang Duroy gave us fresh Chinese lettuce for salad. I was thinking he really didn’t know we were without water anymore at that time. So I just shut my mouth off. “Silence, is the better part of courage”