(Author’s notes: I’m writing a 4 part series about my adventures in the northern hemisphere of Mindanao. The first series will be about an outlandish bus travel from Tacurong City to Oroquieta City. I’ll then narrate my Mt. Malindang climb as it dawned on me. A personal evaluation of the 15th Mindanao Forum and Climb constitute the third of this series and I will conclude with our MOAP/Ozamis side trip)
I got excited about 15th Mindanao Forum and Climb when its was announced a year ago by the hosting bid winner Mar “Marimax” Mira (Mercy Mountaineers-Oroquieta City). During the 14th Mindanao Forum and Climb held in Mt. Hamiguitan/San Isidro Davao Oriental , the Marimax promised a party like atmosphere to entice participants. Mar coined “The Reunion” as the forum theme reflecting this party like gathering of boondockers. Mindanao Forum and Climb is the biggest gathering of Mindanao mountaineers every year, so no wonder almost everyone is looking forward to attending it.
I am a bit more interested in climbing Mt.Malindang‘s North Peak also. I didn’t have the chance to scale any of Malindang’s several peaks in the past. Considering its distance from my place and the scarcity of climbing buddies wanting to go there with me, my chances of climbing this peak before was close to nil.This forum gave me that opportunity, so I went caboodle grabbing this opportune moment. Should I succeed in this wish, Misamis Occidental will probably be the farthest place I went to north of Mindanao and Malindang the farthest peak I’m going to scale in Mindanao.
In fact, my odds of scaling Malindang North Peak is slim. I would be lying if I’d say I’m prepared for this climb. I did not have adequate fitness preparation aside from playing badminton regularly. My climb buddies nearby backed out early on due to time and financial constraints. Timing is not on my side either as I was suddenly plagued by VA patients for surgery. Lastly,the Ampatuan massacre which happened nearby almost single-handedly convinced everyone ( but me) its not safe to travel in Mindanao. Nonetheless, and except for the Ampatuan Massacre, these circumstances are no different from my previous pre-climb dilemma. I felt the challenge of going to Oroquieta (and climbing Mt. Malindang itself) is so great in itself I need to conquer it akin to conquering peaks and heights themselves!
So for the first time I went to Oroquieta City, I traveled alone on a commuter bus,cutting trips to save time, chasing passenger buses and a barge while being guided by my friends’ text messages. To say that I’m a risk taker is a a bit too calculating. Still, aren’t we all risking our lives in exchange for something we like to do most? I happen to like the outdoors. This one, this one ride happen to be one adventure ride I am bound to experience. Lessons learned from this travails are far more valuable than what I could learn from just sitting in my desk.
Pain in the ass sitting galore:
I took the second trip bus from Tacurong City to Cagayan de Oro (CDO) after making rounds at 4am in the morning. This 8-9 hours sitting trip to CDO is uneventfully taxing. The long bus sit will atropy your leg muscles and contract your joints. Thus, a good stretch every hour is advised. Onin Banzon is supposed to wait for me in Malabalay City as the bus will pass that place. But since I’m more than 2 hours late, he wont make it for the 3pm last trip to Oroquieta City from CDO if he’d wait for me. I advised him to go ahead. Onin Banzon is aiming to reach Oroquieta City early, in time for the club president’s meeting . His group will be bidding to host the next Mindanao Forum.
Cutting trip, chasing buses, or sleep in the road?
I reached CDO past 4pm already, shooting up my adrenaline. Now what? Joan texted that I can still go to Iligan and try if there are any buses there. If there are none, I could take a westbound bus and drop by “Mukas” where the passenger barge cross to Ozamis. The problem is, the last barge trip is 9pm and at 5pm,I’m still in CDO. Shifting buses and cutting trips both save and add up time depending on your timing. I’m in a bad timing right now.Taking all these into considerations, I ran out of options and head out for Oroquieta City. Or I’d sleep on the road. I took an Iligan bound bus and prayed I’d reached there in time for the last bus for Dipolog or Ozamis. It was almost 7pm when I reached Iligan terminal but no westbound bus is insight. Holy Macao! I’m going to sleep in Iligan??? While waiting, I chanced up another mountaineer waiting for his companion and in the same situation as I am. “Climb pud ka?” He asked. “yes” I said. Funny I felt relieved someone else is also in my predicament! “Hopefully, kagukod ta sa last trip na barge!” He said. I’m nerved.
Here I am, in a place I’ve never been before, with no one else I knew of (except Bobby Timonera who’s cp I don’t have in my puny climb phone), rushing up and waiting for a bus that is nowhere in sight, or would never come up. I was already dreaming of a sumptuous dinner in Oroquieta. Luckily, by seven thirty a bus showed up. In one blink of an eye, passengers (or sit fixers-wtf?) filled in like it was Noah’s ark. The chaos and hustling is so intense, I sat near the door so I can jump easily if ever It was the wrong bus I took. Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t even know where I’m supposed to go to. I heard something like “wukas” or wakas or what-in-a-name-rhyme it would be. Not until the bus conductor told me it is “mukas”. Maybe the guy has harelip but I have no plans of riding this bus “bukas” or tomorrow! But since a fellow mountaineer rode the same bus, I figured this is the right bus. I felt like dragging the bus to run faster so we can reach Mukas in time for the last trip. Or, I would be sleeping in a place I never heard of.
Time to chase a barge!
It’s almost 9pm when we reached crossing Mukas. I almost drag the tryke we hired going to the pier because it’s darn slow! The ticket booth and lady was already cleaning up her table when we arrived. The barge is also moving out while honking. “Holy caboodles!”So we all ran as fast as we can in time to get our feet on the barge’s back stairway. It was more than twenty years since I last out ran a boat and get in in time for its last part to separate from the pier. Now I’m going to repeat it. I felt like bungee jumping. Without the ropes! If I still have my luck,I’m going to need it all now! Up in the boat I grasped for air and was heavily panting. That was really close. Really close to stupidity.
A not so good second glimpse of Ozamis City.
I am faced with another obstacle when I arrived in Ozamis City. There are no buses going to Oroquieta City anymore ,only “striker” vans. Knowing this and the perceived not so friendly atmosphere in Ozamis, I went uptight and on the lookout for scoundrels aiming for my pocket. True to its reputations, pakyaw trykes charge their passengers exorbitantly when sending them off to terminal from the pier! Php80 pesos for 2-3kms around the city? What are you, chauffeurs? Since I still wanted to go in one piece to Oroquieta City and that I’m new to this place, I beg for a 5php discount. It’s like loosing a leg though. Gawd these bandits!
The van operators where no better. Those dilapidated L300’s which do not issue passenger tickets, jam-packed seats, reckless drivers and irritating travel schedule. The passenger hustling and haggling and the long waiting time for the interval is shameful. Two passengers begged off because they’ve been waiting too long for the van to go. The terminal “fixers” where just giving us the circle of lame excuses. I would still want to believe majority of people in Ozamis city are honest and good people, but if these shrewd individuals show up at their doorsteps and meet tourist and newbies to their place, they’ll put Ozamis to shame.
At last, Oroquieta Jollibee!
I’ve reached Oroquieta City around 11pm. I went directly to ABC gym where the participants are housed. It was a relief seeing familiar people- Mar, Onin, Haron, the guys from South Cotabato who were just 2 hours ahead of me. I almost forgot I never ate since the previous day’s lunch, out of toxicity and excitement. I dragged Onin along and hunted for some edibles around the city. Every carenderia seem to ran out of food and rice so I landed in Jolibee a few blocks away from where I landed in oroquieta City. So this is what I been hustling all along,a chicken joy from Jollibee?
Well, you’ll find out in my next post!