There were a million cicadas singing the song of summer, the heat piercing the skin but warming the heart; the jovial ditty serenading the exhilarating ascent ahead.
It was my second peak. The moment I decided to leave, I left for good. Whether it was because of heartbreak or boredom, I could not recall. Perhaps it was the latter, because travel, indeed, makes the heart humbler.
We were 26, jam-packed in a jeepney headed towards a destination only Stanley was familiar with. Stanley was a good spirit, always mindful of the task while the others frolicked about and left the trail to secondary relevance when convenient, opting for the familiar chat-and-go. Perhaps, we each had different goals.
I was with some people I know – Grace, Maie, Maying, Ryan, Jett. Former workmates turning good friends. But I know I’m alone. They were strings of lovers, sisters, college friends. I, the usual wheeler.
We were bound for Manunggal, the historical mountain that claimed the life of former Philippine President Magsaysay. This mountain is visible from my parents’ house. From there, it looked promising for someone who looks for the right amount of torture. But what I expected to be an arduous climb turned out to be a trail laden with a foot-friendly-path. I was disappointed – I hoped to kill myself before noon.
I am not really foreign to mountains. I grew up among them, taking for granted their might because I thought anybody could take to the skies if they wanted it bad enough. I still believe so, but now with utmost respect for peaks, for trails and wild flowers. I have discovered that the lofty does not bow.
I liked it. I liked the feeling of chasing my breath, watching my steps, avoiding thorns. I liked being able to leave my thoughts and concentrate on the moment, minding the minutest detail of risk. I don’t remember how long the climb lasted, but the vivid image of the shear rock at the peak still thrills me. The view was fantastic; the wind, a humid fan of reward. The gigantic rock looked like an enormous coral dropped from the sky.
Of course, who could forget the pictures.
What do we look for when we put away a day to get intimate with intimidating facades? I still ask myself the same question. I still look for logic. But there is a certain contentment to be found in the paradoxical vice of running away in order to get to know yourself. And the people you meet along the way: their twisted faces, their sweaty brows, their genuine laughs. Somehow, those moments are when you find them most beautiful.