Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Almost Died in Mt. Pulag - tale of Experience in Akiki Trail

This article has been published in the summer issue of DDG Magazine. Grab your copy!


“Backtrack or push?” I heard Paolo asking me when we reached the group at the saddle. All were wet and shivering. The temperature had dropped to 3 degrees. I can see fear in each other’s face. Most of us are speechless.

Backtracking is not an option; we have come a long way. This is the second day of climb. The Akiki trail was indeed not a joke. Everyone was tired. Walking back amidst that rain and strong wind is suicide.

“Where are the porters? Guide?” I asked.

“They left us” someone answered. I saw the porters’ bags lying on the grasslands several meters away.

No, this can’t be possible. Pushing through seems not an option either. We have no idea how long will it take for us to reach the ranger station at the saddle camp. We know we need to immediately decide and spring into action. When you are up there, you have to move quickly. Messing around and not properly thinking what to do next can cost our lives. We need to decide clear and quick.

 “Push” I said. However, instead of advancing, we found ourselves hugging each other sitting in the middle of the vast saddle amidst pitch darkness. I saw the earth fly away. I can only hear the whiz of the wind. The agony of the arctic atmosphere is breezing down everyone’s veins.  We are burning in cold and the only way to keep ourselves warm is to stick together. Between tears, I silently prayed; the thing I don’t usually do.

The night seemed like forever - forever beyond infinity. We took our backpacks and created a wall barrier to somehow lessen the strength of the wind that could waft us anytime. After several excruciating minutes I saw the last group approaching our location. They too radiate an air of weariness and giving up. Some were shivering and unable to talk. They placed themselves with the group and silently, we sat there hoping for miracle to happen.

Then I saw Kuya Alex, the guide for the sweepers. I know we cannot convince everyone to leave the area, but leaving them there and checking the distance of the ranger station is the only option I have. We cannot die without trying. I took JimBry with me along with Mafe who was almost unconscious. Like a stream we trekked down the center of the distant light. As we were nearing the ranger station, I felt the life took me with its breath again.

We reached the ranger station and I saw the porters comfortably lying. My initial reaction should be mad, but I didn’t. I respectfully pleaded and asked them to go back and take the group. They hesitated. Only the guides went back to assist the group. I gave Mafe the most promising hug of comfort and decided to go back to the group for I know that it is one of my obligations as an organizer. I saw Mcdo and Samantha’s situation back there. They will die if they stayed there longer. I can’t go back to Manila, and I won’t go back to Manila if something wrong happens to one of us. JimBry joined me.

We stood against the rain and wind and darkness. I can feel the cold deep down my very core and I can barely breathe. JimBry held my hand and looked at me. He did not say a word but I know what he meant - “We can do it”. I stepped a few more, I can see the light from the group. I regained my hope and I blacked out.

When I woke up, I am back at the ranger station. That is when Jeff and the porters hastily went back to the group and rescued them.  We all live.

We failed to reach the summit nor see the famous sea of clouds. We never had the taste of clearing. We did not watch the world from above. And yet we had the most promising experience of Mt. Pulag!

We have every right to brag that indeed WE SURVIVED MT. PULAG!

Group shot the day after, before going down taking Ambangeg trail
We can always go back to the summit but we only have one life to live. 

I would like to personally thank:

Ate Gina for the assistance in transportation
Kuya Alex for not leaving us behind
SoLE people for staying against all odds especially to Paolo, Jhef, Jojo, and JimBry
and our new found friends Manila Hikers/ATOMS (especially to sir Melvin) for sharing the great experience!

"We are immortal beings, part of a natural living system that recycles itself endlessly."


  1. ambangeg trail po ba to? first time ko nakabasa ng aberya sa trail na yan.

    well, it's good that you're all safe.

  2. Akiki-Amba sir. We were caught off guard. And ganda ng panahon pag alis namin ng eddet until sa mossy forest. We were trekking Marlboro when the heavy rain fell then came the strong wind.

  3. Wow congrats despite the bad weather! D ako mahilig mag-climb but Mt. Pulag tickles my inner adventure. :)

  4. It's a first am hearing na nang-iwan ang porters sa trail and even left behind the packs they're supposed to bring. Mt. Pulag guides and porters are know for their resilience, strength and ultimate courtesy.

    I hope it was reported to Ma'am Mereng Albas. It could have caused lives and damages the reputation that the good people of Kabayan keep. Good to know you guys are all well. Pag si Inang Kalikasan talaga nagbago ng isip, wala na magawa but be prepared and survive it.

  5. @Gabs: If you will take Ambangeg-Ambagngeg, not the Akiki-Amba trail that we took, you will be fine. Mt. Pulag is indeed wonderful. You should try it.

    @Mel: I intended to report them to DENR, but I decided not since they helped us when I regained my consciousness after I blacked out. We still owe them our lives. Thank you :)

  6. Good thing you made it safely, I also didn't make it to the summit when i first visited Mt. Pulag. It was raining hard and freezing cold and we didn't get a good sleep the night before coz our tent got flooded. The second attempt was successful though and even sweeter. There's always a "next time" :)

  7. memorable pa rin kahit walang sea of clouds...

  8. while reading your post, it kind of gave me goosebumps for there was also this near-death experience I personally witnessed 3 weeks ago to Mt. Pulag. There was this girl who suffered from hypothermia. Thank God she also survived. :)

  9. Thank God you're all safe. We'll be taking the same trail 2 weeks from now.. This will be my very first hike, so I'll be taking extra care.


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