It was a first, something to look forward to and prepare for, if not physically, mentally at least. Five Rotarians signed up—Pres. David Ackerman, IPDG Pepito Bengzon, PP Reggie Nolido, PND Bimbo Mills, and Dir. Chris Ferareza. Leaving Manila at midnight on March 31, they arrived in Baguio four hours later, and got to Mt. Pulag in time for the break of dawn.
It was cold, but no one seemed to mind; the view was too breathtaking to complain about the weather; the view alone was well worth the trip--the world as God created it.
They were all there for the main event—a look-see at the Mt. Pulag Elementary School, which had been damaged by Typhoon Lawin in October, and the turnover of building materials, school supplies, books, and a P109K fund assistance for its rehabilitation. The money had come from donations collected from club members after the typhoon.
The atmosphere must have awakened the child in every one of the Rotarians, as they gamely donned native costumes for a tribal dance to the beat of drums and even played games with the children.
When the time came for the recommended rest before the climb, only IPDG Pepito and PND Bimbo checked in at the homestay inn. PP Reggie and Dir. Chris had to motor back to Manila--with Pres. David who, it turned out, was nursing a fever and had decided that begging off from the climb was the prudent thing to do.
The trek up to the summit--in pitch darkness, numbing cold made colder by blowing wind, through trails and pathways no one was familiar with and could not even see--was, at the very least, arduous and challenging. To make things tougher, it rained—making the pathways more slippery and the weather icy-cold. It was getting more and more crystal clear that this climb—to the peak of a mountain 2,922 meters above sea level, the highest in Luzon and second highest in the country--was no walk in the park.
They moved slowly, gingerly, holding on to one another, lighting each other’s way, and their own, with their head torches. Alas, the objective—to get to the crest in time to catch the first rays of the sun—was not to be. The sun had hidden behind the clouds. But they got there, alright, to the top of the proud mountain, with a carpet of white clouds at their feet and a thick blanket of fog around them.
There they unfurled, with pardonable pride, the Rotary Club of Makati banner! Mt. Pulag had become their Everest!
The descent proved to be another test. Even with the obstacle of darkness cleared, the downhill hike didn’t come any easier. This time they could see the trails and avoid the stones and muddy potholes. This time they could see the way very clearly and gasped in horror. They couldn’t believe that this was the same path they took on the way up, and how dangerously close they were to the precipice. One wrong step and . . .
The ascent took six hours, the descent five—a punishing exercise even for the young. Neither was a breeze. But both were tests passed with flying colors by two Rotarians past their prime—IPDG Pepito, who is 57 years old, and especially, PND Bimbo who is 70! It was by any measure a triumph of the spirit.
The Mt. Pulag adventure was shared by other courageous souls with physical strength to match—IPDS Doris Ensomo and the RCM secretariat staff—COS Ron Dotaro, Sandie Sacris, John Palmiano, and Richard Manilag.
Guess what—another trip is being planned in May to visit the school, observe the progress of the rehabilitation work, and bond with the children again.
And while there, perhaps take another stab at adventure with a trek to the summit. Who’s fit enough in mind and physique to take the challenge?