The Mt Sembrano Experience (Part One)

(haha. ang drama ng title no? Sensya)

The first field trip of my college life was the Taal Volcano trekking trip of my Geol 11 class. I thought that was challenging enough. Well, until two days ago.

Last saturday our Bio 115 (Taxonomy of Higher Plants) lab class together with Ma’am L, 3 mountaineers whose names I have forgotten (sorry..), Sir D, and Mang M (who was kind enough to bring Sir D’s things all throughout the hike) embarked on a hiking trip up Mt Sembrano located at Pililla, Rizal. It was uhm.. way higher than Taal (haha). I didn’t really look up the mountain before climbing so I didn’t have an idea how arduous the journey would become.

After registering and eating 2-burgers-for-1 breakfast at the nearby Franks Burgers joint near the place where our rented Coaster (sosyal!) was parked, we started. At first we went through the town, where I guess the people have seen more than enough mountain climbers in their territory in their lifetime. They didn’t look weirded out by us, anyway. The one thing our class did that I think mountaineers don’t do is to actually look at the herbs, shrubs, and trees growing on the slopes and classify them up to family level. Haha. So we stopped many times along the “well-established trail” to listen to Sir D ask us “O, identify! Dali!” while holding a shrub we’ve never seen before in our entire lives.

While the climb went on, the terrain varied; first were small rocks, then big rocks, then mud.. some more mud.. mud+rocks… mud + grass.. mud+ everything. At this time of the year, rain is common so good thing I brought extra clothes.

At the place I called the halfway point (others called it the manggahan, bukohan.. :D) we rested for about fifteen minutes to replenish ourselves. Another good thing Ma’am L and her 3 mountaineer friends were sensible enough to bring lots of water (much more than the required 500 mL which didn’t even reach the halfway point). And so my classmates and I were like dehydrated zebras that suddenly found a tiny pool of water in the Kalahari Desert during the middle of a dry spell. Am I exagerrating now? I don’t think so…

And then we climbed the upper half of the mountain. Looking back now I can’t believe I was able to climb really steep slopes of rock and mud. I think everybody was on their hands and feet crawling up the mountain. I didn’t even dare look down or else I would have been overwhelmed by the height we were in.

The mountaineer who I remember for bringing a coke bottle filled with frozen water promised Sir Dan (who was surprisingly faster than the rest of us) that as soon as the grasses were seen, we were near the summit already. Yey! So up and up we go. The last few meters up were just talahib + mud at about 60 degrees? and it was so steep and slippery but we just kept on going because we were hungry and so excited to reach the top.

No words could describe the relief and joy of reaching the grassy tops of Mt Sembrano. It was noon, and the clouds were just enough to shield us from the sun but not too many to block the awesome view of Laguna de Bay. Many of us were screaming from sheer joy. When all of us arrived there, we ate lunch, rested, said “pityur pityur!.”

I can truly say it was one of the most fulfilling tasks I have ever done. I don’t get to climb mountains often, but every time I do, there’s always a sense of accomplishment. Naks.

(Coming up: The Mt Sembrano Experience (Part Two) – What goes up must come down!)

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