Mga Kwentong Padulas: Mt. Candalaga, Compostela Valley

Note: All photos are owned by our group’s official outdoor gearhead / photographer Cecil Morella. Cheers to you, Paps! 

This update means I’m finally out of Kansai (missed the earthquake by a few hours, thank yeezuuus) and I’m trading some precious snooze time to write what’s been due since early November. Delayed report: we are finally done with the induction climb at Mt. Candalaga. I have no words for this mountain.

No–actually, I have a lot. There’s a famous Bukowski quote that says: Find what you love and let it kill you. It’s obviously figurative, unless you love guns, cigarettes, or a psychopathic ex-neurosurgeon who likes experimenting on people.

But Candalaga, my goodness, it will kill you.

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See what I mean?

The summit elevation is only at 2,116 MASL, the trail distance a measly 8.25 kilometers, and the trekking type, according to our itinerary, is 30% upstream river crossing, 30% ascent, 40% descent, 0% chill. On a normal day, you would cover this distance by just walking around The Fort or Makati–but by Maragusan, Compostela Valley standards, three whole days.

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Looking back, the only painless time we probably had was the scenic walk from New Albay Elementary School to the trailhead. After that, it was @$C@Q_*&%^ &^@!!!!

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Day 1 is an 80% river trek and the few short breaks I got from it were wicked roped verticals, including one instance when I just held my breath and dangled from a tree. There are two ways to picture the situation: 1. just hanging on for your own dear life, no biggie, or 2. like holding the world in its entirety. Cup is half full or half empty. Choose na lang. 

Two seconds from tree-assisted airwalk and I found a nice little root to clip my foot on and then pulled myself up. I have no idea why I found it appropriate and so completely necessary to look down right after, but the whole act did send a nice chill up my spine. Had my arms failed me and the scenario would’ve been similar to an ugly piece of pakwan.

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Get it?

The 8-hour ordeal included having to throw my pack off several times to get across some boulders, because there are things I have to live with like short legs and poor genes. All in all, we passed by 15 waterfalls beginning with Marangig and ending in Tagbibinta (end of trek). 

In several occasions, I stopped at dead ends–thought I’ve gone off trail–only to realize that the dirt wall in front of me is the trail. Really—I mean reaaaaallyyy, how many times did we have to say ‘Bahala na si Batman’ in our short, inconsequential lives and there I was trying to Spiderman-the-shit out of a mountain. Kaya nag homo sapien ‘di ba? Bipedal. Kailangan pa ba magpa-tubo ng extrang paa sa ilalim ng boobs? 

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Down from the summit on the second day and we had a taste of rain, mud, and a night trek that spared some from the ghastly view of deep ravines. I learned not to trust rocks too much after Day 1, but on Day 2, my goodness, I learned that logs are no better. No matter how solid they look, logs can collapse faster than your heart post-break-up and they be as soft as motherfucking cotton candies from Dante’s hell. Excuse the mixed-metaphors. I can’t help it. 

By then end of Day 2, my limbs felt like jello, my trail food was almost out—even a double serving of rice didn’t do the magic. I was fucking done. 

And then, there was Day 3. Still. More. Rope. Work. 

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These fuckers burned my hands so bad, I couldn’t use them to write, or shampoo, or do laundry for a good two days. I always say, what’s done is done, but up to this day, I regret not learning how to use gloves even after three training climbs.

What the hell was this for, anyway. 

Let’s try to do a bit of accounting. Mt. Candalaga earned me: multiple scratches, sore legs and shoulders, two deep cuts—one each hand—three bruises the size of a fake Fuji apple, and a deep, deep, deep hole in my pocket. Hahaha!  

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And a dog tag. To those who would ask: Nakakain ba yan? I tried. That shit needs more time inside a pressure cooker. 

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P.S. Ganda ng summit view. Hehe.