When film was the gigabytes

Remember those days when you must pray every time you rewound a film after taking your last shot? Because after those sweat so you can have photos with an outdoors background, an exposed roll most likely means a ruined adventure, even for only the last 5 pictures. 36 shots then in mountaineering is like using MB of memory today, which is not enough considering even the cheapest digicam (like mine) now can record video. You must have at least an extra roll, waterproofed. And when you’re changing film during daylight, you must take your backpack cover and convert it to changing bag.

Social media is now the arena for your climb pictures. You can even post it online while trekking, assuming your smart phone or laptop has signal. Saving your digital images over the internet gives you a sort of back-up. I once brought a JVC cassette camcorder at Mt. Banahaw on 2002, took some really beautiful videos at Tatlong Tangke and Durungawan (summit). Had I digitized the tape and upload it in YouTube, I could have saved the memories of that Banahaw climb from Ondoy’s  flooding of Luzon, September 2009.

I managed to save a few prints. Pictures below would have been better scanned, but one boring day last year, I used my digicam to reminisced the great times when all of us friends were singles (hahahaha!), when mountaineering was the apple of the eyes, when film was the ‘gigabytes’. I could have scanned these at work, but it felt good when I took digital photos of my photograph collections. It was more personal I guess.

Mt. Maculot late 90s, I volunteered to carry my friend’s guitar inside my backpack. The lightest pack but the hardest to bring atop, back then there were parts of the trail that you need to crouch, a slide would break the instrument. That is my first & last, maturity tells me that there’s no place for noise on the mountains. (3rd guy from the left, yup, me)

Ah yes, our first “ligaw” (“lost”), a night-trek of Pico De Loro. Either a one-bulb headlamp or a small flashlight clipped to a head-gear slightly illuminated our ‘back & forth’, we have no extra money for a guide I think. (Well, majority of our climbs then have no guide, but a “ligaw” with friends especially night trek may be thrilling.)

God taught me humility at Mt. Banahaw, Palm Sunday of 2002, our first climb that had rained. After the Tatlong Tangke, I chanced upon mountaineering icon Sir Long Henson. I broke away from our group and decided to trail him to test my stamina (with due respect to sir Henson, he wasn’t aware of it, he even doesn’t know me). With bad karma, I came to have a slight-hypothermia along the trail, and became the last man from our group to reached the summit. Overconfidence is not a virtue of a mountaineer.

I envied my friend for having a backdrop of Mt. Cristobal, now that Banahaw is still closed. I should have handed him the camera. “Hey Joni! Patience is another virtue, you can wait for the opening.”

Mostly fresh-graduates and jobless then, our group can’t afford to do a Mt. Pulag, the so-called ‘poor man’s Pulag’ Mt. Tapulao became the alternative. Delete the ‘poor man’s Pulag’ for it’s discriminatory, Mt. Tapulao has its own beauty.

What I miss the most in using film is the challenge of capturing mountain landscapes by photo stitching to form one panoramic shot. Below has two pictures, I have some that joined 5-7 photographs. (Taken when there was the ‘old trail’ only at Mt. Batulao, it was September 11, 2001, that tragic “9/11”.)

Another photo stitching, the ‘Rockies’ of Mt. Maculot, the birthplace of our group, un-SEC-registered “Samahang Manglalakbay sa Bundok” or SMB of Brgy. San Miguel, Pasig City.

A decade had passed since our group’s last climb, I have one recent climb with my best friend Jun last year. An unexpected tree planting on my friend’s return climb (an unexpected twin hike too). Looking at the picture below, taken from Mt. Daguldol, I wish that we are still in the era of film, when my friends still climb. I know someday we will all be together again, filling today’s ‘gigabytes’ maximum capacity.

(Special thanks to Sonyboy of Stories of My Wandering Feet (& Mind), Ivan of Batang Lakwatsero, and Christian of Lakad Pilipinas for always encouraging me to (blog) keep up what I termed ‘online photo-album’. They are great Filipino bloggers. A half-year response to them via this article is my way of showing gratitude.)

Dream fulfilled in PinoyMountaineer Charity Climb at Mt. Pulag

On 2002, my group climbed Mt. Banahaw & Mt. Tapulao in preparation for our supposed Mt. Pulag the following year. It never came to fruition! I entered government service December 2002 and majority of my friends made their girlfriends wife. Came 2011, After a Decade of Hiatus, I Returned to Backpacking with a new buddy, My Wife. After five (5) mountains this year, I saw an opportunity to fulfill that long-time dream of witnessing the grandeur of Mt. Pulag, by joining the annual PinoyMountaineer Charity Climb. Originally scheduled first week of October, the event was postponed due to storm forecast, a wise decision of organizer sir Gideon Lasco for it went true.

Me and my wife almost missed the climb. An extra-ordinary emergency at work forced me to answer the urgency first than meet the 11 pm departure schedule on November 18. Climb coordinator sir Carlo Nicolas exhausted efforts in contacting me, even when the bus left Victory Liner Pasay, thank God we were able to intercept the bus at the Magallanes bus stop in EDSA. The PinoyMountaineer crew could have forfeited our money, but they are Good Samaritan mountaineers.

Recommended itinerary for the Mt. Pulag (Ambangeg trail) is readily available at http://www.pinoymountaineer.com, I will just share some insights from a first-timer. First, I was forced to use the extra 10L of my 60L backpack just to bring viands (maybe my fault because I failed to attend the Pre-Climb). Well, an eatery before the DENR office serves as the breakfast area for climbers, just tell the driver to drop by “Pinkan Jo Eatery”. You may take-out lunch, even dinner which can save you space for packing and time cooking, food doesn’t easily become spoiled in cold environment. You can have your lunch at the Ranger Station before trekking for the base camp. Next, from what I’ve learned from sir Gideon’s friend Sir Martin Cortez, if you’re gonna buy a souvenir shirt, compare first the design and price of that at the DENR office and some stores at the Ranger Station, then decide where to buy after your descent.

Top loading to marvel nature’s beauty .

The mandatory stop at the DENR office for registration and park rules orientation was very informative. Principles briefed there are not only applicable to Mt. Pulag but to all outdoors destinations. I now consider my fifteen minutes there an important part of my mountaineering.

After the final briefing of sir Carlo at the Ranger Station, sir Gideon led the prayer before our trek, I must say the most beautiful prayer I heard from a doctor. Our first stop along the trail was at Camp 1 where you can have the first view of the Mt. Pulag summit.

One great feature of Mt. Pulag is majority of its trail to base camp is forest that will let you forget the stressful traffic in the metropolis.

I told myself before that if I am going to do Mt. Pulag, (or if God permits and so do my pocket, Mt. Apo), I must bring at least one Filipino outdoor product, and as for this climb, an Apexus tent.

Even at the base camp, the views are a feast for the eyes.

The following day, we started our summit ascent at 4 am, by the time we reached atop, our headlamps were still on.

I wanted to take an early picture of my wife but she refused to uncover her face, she was chilling real (according to sir Gideon, it was 8 deg C plus some cool winds).

My cheap digicam cannot take a good direct shot of the sun so I just panned somewhere else, this at the great mountains of the Cordilleras.

A great mountaineer-photographer whose Facebook climb pictures I’ve followed ~ Sir Martin Cortez (this was his 7th straight lucky and clear Mt. Pulag).

I never thought I will have a photo taken by Martin. I love this shot!

… and never thought that I will climb with today’s proponent of guide to hiking and mountain climbing in the Philippines, PinoyMountaineer himself, sir Gideon Lasco.

My camera doesn’t have zoom capabilities so I failed to snap that “sea of clouds” visible afar when we’re on the summit. Well, the following were still “sea of clouds” for me! (or maybe stream of clouds!)

I am always mesmerized by Martin’s Facebook profile picture of the “Lonely Tree” and thanks for the Charity Climb I saw it personally.

Below are some of my panoramic shot, click the picture to enlarge.

In the penultimate, let me discuss a little about the annual PinoyMountaineer Charity Climb. It started on 2009 held at Mt. Pulag for the medical supplies in Bokod, Benguet. The following year, beneficiaries were some Philippine General Hospital patients and a medical mission at Gregorio del Pilar, Ilocos Sur; the featured mountain was Tirad Pass/Peak. And for this year, held on two mountains, Mt. Ugo and Mt. Pulag, the Charity Climb aimed to raise funds for the health information website, Kalusugan.PH.

I can vouch that Kalusugan.PH is very informative, concise, and “maka-masa” very grass-roots! I hope the Department of Health give it sponsorship. Might become the best website in the country, and for information the site is in Tagalog. I feel proud to have contributed a little to this endeavour.

Please bear with my “not-so-good” videos.

~ Sea (or stream) of clouds.

~ According to sir Gideon, it was 8 deg C plus some cool winds.

~ Hope to come back and focus on the other side.

After a Decade of Hiatus, I Returned to Backpacking with a new buddy, My Wife.

“World War III??”

“Two (2) planes crashed into the Twin Towers”

Returning to the base camp after summiting Mt. Batulao in Batangas, my Nokia 3210 cellular phone was filled of SMS informing said tragic news. “What an anti-climax to a great climb!” Instead of cherishing the beautiful views from the mountain, my friends and I headed home worried, further trembled by new information that another plane crashed into Pentagon, then that ill-fated but heroic United Airlines Flight 93. The rest is history.

Busy at work, Mt. Batulao became my last climb. Then I met Rowena early 2004, married her December 8 that year. She was a widow before, with a five years old son, now ours, Aaron, who served as our ring bearer. We were blessed by two more boys, Jonmer and Adrian. My wife always knew my favorite recreation, but work schedule wont let. Unfortunately, all my backpacking equipment perished when tropical storm “Ondoy” flooded wide areas of metropolitan Manila on 2009.

Christmas of the same year, my wife gave me a blue North Face belt-bag. Although not intended for climbing, she smiled when she saw me found out the brand is connected to mountaineering. I gave her a smile too. Valentines the following year, Rowena brought home a 20L rucksack. “Hey! that’s good for day hike!” But the nature of my work wont permit me to even file a leave. Came the good year of 2011. My new assignment now allows me to manage my work schedule. So I bought a 60L backpack, borrowed some lacking equipment from friends (who are all absent from the mountain since 2002) and trained Rowena through daily jogging. On June 2, twenty days before my birthday, I returned to backpacking with a new buddy, my wife.

Click the image below for a larger view.

Mt. Batulao taken that fateful day of 9/11 (two pictures stitched together).

Click the image below for itinerary of Mt. Batulao from “Pinoy Mountaineer” by sir Gideon Lasco.