February 20, 2006 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Bluehearts, Travels | Leave a comment

i had my list, but it was no use. packing my bag proved a business in haste. i unhanged about seven shirts off the closet, threw them down as if i was moving out and everything had to be cleared.

Song of the Moment: Separate Lives, Phil Collins
To Do (tasks, not people): paper trail
Current State: whoozy

i had my list, but it was no use. packing my bag proved a business in haste. i unhanged about seven shirts off the closet, threw them down as if i was moving out and everything had to be cleared.

i pulled open the drawers on the cabinet in the other room and took out three sets of underwear and socks and hankies. mom comes up, stands in the door and hands me a bunch of plastic bags. ‘don’t pack too heavy, you don’t seem able to take a bag that big,’ she tells me.

i disagreed. iona’s bag, as it happens, is a 70L backpack, roughed and rugged down by several travels without its owner. iona and i had met up one early morning in october last year. we had pancakes at mcdonalds when she lent me the bag for a trek up pinatubo. i cancelled that trip after my companion, tune, backed out because her mom had a heart attack.

but now we were all systems go for the highest peak in luzon, and iona was quick to point out: ‘it’s the second time my bag will go up pulag, without me.’

‘i’ll tell you all about it,’ i rib her, giggling, on the day i tell her where i was going. and i think about what exactly i will be telling her as i fold my stuff and put them in the bags mom gives me. waterproofing, i heard erik call it. we were not crossing any river, but apparently it’s standard practice to waterproof a bag. ‘expect rains, it’s extreme weather condition, it’s the coldest time of the year there,’ i remember yvonne saying amid the noise of mallrats chattering and patrons dining at the foodcourt during our pre-climb meeting in Gateway a week prior.

the briefing had been quick and direct. there was the imagined fear of hypothermia. ‘you could stay two days in baguio to get accustomed to the weather,’ adviced eileen, as we were drawing up my to-bring list a week earlier. ‘i don’t have the luxury to do that,’ i say. so in a nutshell i was imagining how cold it was, but the chance to do something new was a warm hearth inside that inspired more than cowed one into stepping back and saying, no, i can’t do this, and come up with a thousand reason not to.

when one wants something so bad, the will can and should always trump doubt.

the packing is done. some shirts i had taken out of the closet went back in. the weaving blanket, the rubber earth pad, the skyblue cotton jacket with white stripes running along the sleeves were suddenly weapons against the fear that i would freeze to death up there.

‘if hypothermia sets in,’ explains bong on what the best remedy was, ‘you’ll need body heat to warm you up.’ joseph adds in ‘you’ll just lose focus, your mouth will clatter’.

information none of which, of course, my mother needed to know. i kiss her goodbye, spared some pocket money which was in her pocket by the time i left, and i went to c3 for coffee before heading off to the terminal.

eileen and enteng drop me off, stayed a while when we waited for the team to assemble. “thank you guys so much for supporting me in this,” i tell them in the car on the way to the terminal. i felt like a part of me wasn’t going back. rommel and yvonne were already there, and she turned over my share of the group load, a bag of vegetables with eggplants, cabbage etc., for the sinigang — day 1 lunch.

the terminal is rather cramped and unkept. there were thick, dark puddles where buses stared back at you, unmoving; people sat sleeping on unscrewed chairs, some with huge carton boxes were sitting, all were in cue for business that perhaps varied from visits, to dead relatives, to a long weekend ahead, or to simply get out of the box that is the city.

one by one the team members arrived — bong, then tune, ‘seph and pastor. elaine was nowhere in sight. By the time the bus pulled over to the front and we loaded our bags on the compartment, elaine, tune and I had between us about half a dozen missed calls and received calls and by the last minute elaine shows up and we were off to baguio by 10.15 on the dot.

As the bus slowly made its way out of the streets of cubao to the expanding lanes of the expressway i couldn�t shake the feeling that leaving meant leaving some loose strands hanging behind. And yet forward we went, and I was clueless to what lay before us beyond what I have read or heard. So I could say I was suspended in time between the unfinished and the unknown. But there are times when even if you can’t tell for certain just where exactly it is you’re going, you go ahead. Because as much as you spend time taking in everything you see or hear or feel on the way to that unknown place, the destination is still all there is to the journey.

NEXT: Dawn in Baguio and the Dirt Road to Babadek


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