TEXT AND PHOTOS BY EUDEN VALDEZ
AROUND the same time last year, I hiked my first summit: Mt. Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal. At 739 meters above sea level (MASL), it was classified as a minor climb yet I felt like my body would break from every step and slip that I took.
But not my spirit. I continued hiking other mountains and subjecting myself to physical pain while finding reward in the wealth of experiences that I gained along the way.
So that a year later after my first minor mountain, I found myself climbing my first major mountain, and not just that! The hike was part of RAK Ph Mountaineers’ first-ever, much-anticipated “The Great Cordillera Cross Country.”
The six-day adventure saw our team of six trek three provinces, Ifugao, Mountain Province and Abra, by foot, face tough weather conditions, carry full packs heavier than ourselves, and test our limitations. But more than the challenges, it also showered us with random acts of kindness from the locals we met along the way.
Meet our guide, Jun
The Cordi adventure began last October 31 upon arrival at the municipality of Banaue in Ifugao province. From there, we met with our local tour guide, Jun Patawon, who took us by jeep to Batad town where the jump off to Mt. Amuyao was located.
Mt. Amuyao, at about 2,800MASL, towers among the mountains of the Cordillera as one of the highest. Our group decided to reverse traverse it, passing at Cambulo and then staying at Pat-yay—both sitios—for the night before summiting the next morning. Staying overnight at the summit until finally, descending and exiting at Barlig on the third day.
Yummy Jun, as we fondly called him, was one of the best guides we could ever have. He really watched over our group all throughout.
We first experienced his best traits during our difficult trek to Pat-yay! He described it as “patay sa Pat-yay” or dead at Pat-yay because we had to summit an unnamed peak before arriving at our first campsite.
Due to delayed arrival at Banaue, our heavy load and a long, ascending trail, we ended up trekking at night. Jun stepped in and helped carry our packs. He also patiently followed our slow phasing until we reached Pat-yay by 9:30 p.m.
The werpa of Mang Jose
Exhausted from the first leg of our reverse-traverse, we delighted in the fact that we were the only crazy team that climbed Mt. Amuyao during a low pressure area (LPA). This meant that we had Mang Jose’s hut all for ourselves for the night.
Mang Jose is the infamous Pat-yay local who offers home stay to Mt. Amuyao hikers. We didn’t let the chance to know him more pass. He and Jun joined our socials and they had plenty of stories to tell. We listened intently not knowing it would have a Part 2!
Because the next morning, we decided to hire Mang Jose as our group porter. Take note that we were carrying clothing, food, equipment and other important stuff worth a week.
Petite as he was, Mang Jose carried around 20kg of combined belongings and food. Of course, he went ahead of us for climbing Mt. Amuyao was easy peasy for him. We met up with him at lunch, and then at the summit, which we reached by 6pm.
Again, we were relieved to know that Mang Jose negotiated our stay inside the summit’s bunker. This saved us from setting camp and staying overnight in the cold and rain! (Mt. Amuyao has a bunkers because it has TV and network towers.)
As we settled inside, the old man with a fountain of energy helped us prepare our dinner, and once again, joined our socials. He sure knew how to make visitors feel at ease.
A warm welcome at Barlig
After safely—an understatement—descending Mt. Amuyao, we arrived at the municipality of Barlig in Mountain Province (usual jump-off for back-trail hikes).
As we entered civilization, we were greeted by the smiles and warm greetings of the locals. Often, they would ask us about our wet climb and then sometimes give us an incredulous look.
Yes, we were happy fools, I’d tell myself.
Then it was a climb again—this time endless stairs—going to the main road and municipal hall. The tourist officials had been awaiting our arrival. Needless to say, we had a pleasant registration at their office.
After which, it was time to finally rest. We stayed at one of the local inns where we had another round of socials only quieter because curfew was until 10pm only. Lights off!