Story by Cedrix S. Hay | Photos by Faye Pablo
IN pain, you gain strength—basically, that’s how you’ll survive a day or two at Mount Daraitan.
I wouldn’t have had the slightest hint of its existence if not for my friend—my colleague to be exact—who further planned this journey. We were four then, but only the two of us made it for some reasons. Moving on, a first in our lives, it took us tons of courage to try mountain-climbing without thinking about the whats and ifs, not until we were on the spot surrendering our all to nature.
Easier said than done, be it a rookie or pro, conquering the world above heights is only few steps away. But how few is few? Google says 739 meters above sea level. Only a fraction of the Sierra Madre range, Mount Daraitan covers the massive grounds of Tanay, Rizal, connecting to the far-flung town of General Nakar, Quezon. Not only that, the province of Rizal is also a trekking and hiking sanctuary with its interconnected group of mountains reaching as far as Laguna de Bay. Now, that’s too much for a race of your life.
A three- to four-hour walk is done before reaching the summit. There are two trails to choose from: the shorter one that leads to the middle part, and the longer one that passes through the mountain’s entire curve. Yet, depending on the person’s stamina, the early bird may finish last, and the late comer may even pass you by without notice, or vice versa. Time is of the essence, so better start the ascent before sunrise, or let the heat be trapped in your body and cause your untimely “rest”.
On the way atop
According to Miss Imelda, our tour guide that day, not all climbers have gone to the mountain’s summit. Some gave up in the middle; others decline to continue even when they are about to begin. The same goes with my friend who, upon reaching a quarter of the climb, would have fainted if we did not let her take a seat for few minutes. Both of us were not used to brisk walking for hours, but a few techniques helped us pull ourselves together:
Don’t talk too much
The higher the altitude, the bigger the chunk of potential energy losses in our body, same with the intake of oxygen. Since Mount Daraitan, considering its Level 4 difficulty for amateurs, has four campsites, each with 30 minutes to an hour or so of estimated walking distance, Try not to speak when you don’t have to say something good.
Breathe in, breathe out
Just because you’re making a record for yourself doesn’t mean you should entirely put yourself in extreme danger. Having ample air intake prevents the body from suffering oxygen shortage due to lower concentration, If not given enough time to rest, oxygen shortage may cause anything from a headache to heart failure.
Anyway, the cold dew of Mount Daraitan at 6 in the morning gives you a refreshing breath of life before reaching the first station—the underground grotto. You’ll definitely not want to miss the chill outside of the Metro.
Slow down the pace, then
We were the last in our group to fully complete the route. I was feeling good then, though caught off-guard at the downhill, but my climbing partner almost cried and slid in pain, injuring herself while sauntering the rocky road to Tinipak River. Before that, Miss Imelda, with her utmost hospitability, gave us hours of rest—almost a sleepover—at the second and third stopovers.
In contrast to the plains way above, Mount Daraitan is blessed with a steep slope on their way to the river, challenging those core muscle groups to their extent. So, better not to fracture your legs and arms on your descent. This would mean a shame you wouldn’t want to tell, right?
Stretch, and just flex
Before proceeding, it is best to have a 10- to 15-minute stretching first to lighten up those uneasy muscles and joints, and let your blood flow smoothly; daily short walks will also do. Having cramps and sprains is your least concern in the middle of fun, right?
Don’t get us wrong. Having at least 3 liters of bottled water is enough to replenish our drained bodies. Better be warned: Try not to drink too much or bring those empty bottles with you. No need to ask what to do next.
It’s all in your head
We’ve conquered that nine-hour parade with our heavy equipment and bodies bathing in our own sweat, in pursuit of our own happiness, yeah. I wasn’t even bothered to be the last in line, for all I cared about was to live in the moment, while my partner sufferred from a mental breakdown.
Asking yourself first definitely helps assess your readiness, physically and mentally. However, never commit to the things that you aren’t well-prepared for. are eager to do but. We didn’t give up; trailing the path to Mount Daraitan pushed our limits to the extreme, yet, we’ve personally made it until the end.
‘Clean and Green’ as you leave
The Provincial Tourism Office of Tanay strictly provides measures on maintaining the sanctity of Mount Daraitan. Kuya Willy, as known to guests, is the chief tourist guide, and is responsible for the review of “No Garbage” policy before heading to the climb.
With its reserved tropical forest, caves, springs and natural pools that have made an ecotourism location for the province, the 11th Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) of the Department of Tourism (DOT) have recognized on October 27, 2016, the municipal government of Tanay as the first runner-up for Best Tourism-Related LGU Award, with Jeffrey Pino as Most Outstanding Tourism Officer. The district of Palompon, Leyte, was last year’s champion in the municipal category for three years in a row, cited by ATOP-DOT as a Hall of Famer, according to the Philippine Information Agency.
Even though it’s for beginners, I would consider Mount Daraitan as a place for people who could handle themselves. This above-sea level mountain will test your stamina, presence of mind and body coordination; its slope downward is way harder to traverse than its way upward. And we’re so grateful that we didn’t give up on ourselves.
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