The semestral break offers us a great way for diversion from the serious study of philosophy in our desks to the vast world outside the study hall where we can stretch our hands and our minds. With the blessing of our rector, we contacted Fr. Noel Sumagui of the Batulao community if we can base camp in the retreat house and then scale the ridges of Mt Batulao.
We had an overnight stay in the retreat house and enjoyed the company of our confreres there, Fr. Noel, Fr. Ernie Cruz, and Fr. Jess. The altitude offered a good rush of cold wind. The setting sun offered a beautiful spectacle of the peaks that we would scale the morning after. Later, Bro. Ves of the college community joined our group. He wanted to take a second try at climbing Batulao. A good meal, lively conversation, and TV made a good home out of that short encounter.
We rose up early and started our trek. Nobody really knew the way. We got lost before we found the trail. The locals set us right on our path and for two hours knees and legs worked hard to reach the peak. We had breakfast in one of the ten peaks. The lechon manok and eggs replenished our depleted energy. The morning sun was just rising in the horizon so we had a golden view of the vista around us. It was surreal experience, in fact one of the brothers commented like St Peter before him that we should stay and not come down.
A few more struggle and we reached the open summit of Mt Batulao. We passed by some campers below and met some other mountaineers at the highest peak. It was a beautiful place to remind us of heaven in an All Saints Day morning. I was greatly amused by the courtesy shown by the other trekkers who unfailingly greet out each other a good morning when meeting a stranger along the trail.
Flashes glared and the photoshoot began. The wind was strong in the summit. It offered a 360 degree view of Cavite and Batangas. From up there you can see the distant waters of Taal Lake and one of its volcano islands, the sprawling harbor city of Batangas, and the vast green fields of Cavite bordered by the mountain ranges at the rim much like a pizza.
We can’t stay for long. The sun was climbing up the sky and the heat started to bite into our skin. We knew we were being roasted alive. Going down we took another trail, one which they call the ‘old trail’ which I believe is notorious for one of its almost 90 degree rock wall accessible only by a rope and rappelling. Did I mention we have to pay P20.00 for our entrance through the new trail and another twenty for our exit in the old trail?
Before finally descending we stopped by a makeshift hut where the locals set up a store where everything is bought at P20.00. Mt Batulao seems to be stuck to the P20.00 bill. Some took a cold swig of Mountain Dew while the rest, including me, enjoyed a P20.00 halo-halo.
We came back to the retreat house half past noon and took our lunch. We rested for a few hours before finally descending back to the place where we belong, Canlubang. The climb was moderate and enjoyable. It tested again my perseverance which is essential to us religious. It was the company that made that climb more beautiful.