Backpacking with a Book
Stories in Budlaan River
June 7, 2010
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2nd Friendship Climb: Befriending Nature and Mountaineers

Backpacking with a Book

Text and Photos by Jona Branzuela Bering

The world itself becomes a habit in no time at all. ―Jostein Gardner, Sophie’s World


The world is a constant wonder. I could still remember the professorial voice of Alberto in Gardner’s Sophie’s World. “Sadly it is not only the force of gravity we get used to as we grow up. It seems as if in the process of growing up we lose the ability to wonder about the world,” he narrated.

The higher one climbs, the better the reward is.

Although I am reluctant to give my nod, there is some truth to it. It is a tragedy people are entangled with their life without appreciating its ironic yet blissful, poignant mundanities. There are few exceptions though―these individuals who wander into routes and trails and find happiness in any trivial experiences they encounter along the way.

“As mountaineers, we are responsible of our environment. At least, we should have a contribution to alleviate the persistent environmental problems, thus tree planting and clean-up drive are always present in every FC.”

It was last year when two mountaineering societies―EWIT and ZETS, with the aid of Ridge Surf and Outdoors  Shop and KOLA―initiated the annual friendship climb with the goal of unifying the scattering outdoor communities in Cebu.

Around eighty outdoor enthusiasts, both veterans and neophytes, participated this year’s Friendship Climb.

Paul D. Torregosa―who is considered as a guru in outdoor activities—supported EWIT and ZETS on their project.

“This project aims to unite the old and new mountaineers, to promote climbing spots and new routes, and to help in promoting environmental awareness to the locals,” he said.

“As mountaineers, we are responsible of our environment. At least, we should have a contribution to alleviate the persistent environmental problems; thus tree planting and clean-up drive are always present in every FC,” Nikki Ann Cabido, one of the founders of EWIT, shared.

Mountain climbing is not only for individuals, rather it is best for couples who want to escape the city life for a while.

Silent, Silenced Budlaan

A river is a source of mystery: it is a sanctuary of raw emotions. Its current sometimes articulates happiness, desolation, sometimes a dangerous silence. A river is―can be―a master of deceit and pretension.

Budlaan River, the witness of my initiation in river trekking last year, was the first destination of this two-day event.

Yet nothing prepared me for the unexpected changes in the river.

“Jon, dako kaayog kausaban,” Tyler “Lex” Borromeo, the head of ZETS, called out before I could spot the falls in my periphery.  I could tell.  Falls lives a rip-roaring existence. Anyone could easily determine its presence even from afar. Yet even we were hundred meters away from the highest falls, I could not hear its leaping sound.

The river itself was almost dead.  There I was, as excited as a child who was about to receive a gift. Yet there was nothing lonelier than receiving a sophisticatedly wrapped present with nothing inside but emptiness.

The falls cannot be called falls anymore. It has forfeited its very existence, nothing falls anymore. Is falls not a river falling?

WATERLESS. The falls cannot be called falls anymore. It has forfeited its very existence, nothing falls anymore.

I could not blame anyone but we, humans―we are too selfish, too greedy to the point of sacrificing our own home.

Was it Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, who said, “We cannot step in to the same river twice?” Nobody could blame me if I would take it literally this time.

Dealing with Gravity

Walking through the shoulder of the mountain has its drawbacks.  Gravity can be a silent yet restless enemy. Without any realizations, one can easily fall for it. It is nature’s dismal fate to surrender to gravity: a leaf, dust, a mighty falls surrender to its power. Everything abides.

How to face it without falling off from the cliff then? Do not face it―ignore its presence. Eavesdropping could be a source of learning. I overheard a mother-daughter conversation.

“Don’t face the cliff, Ma. Always face the mountain,” Barbie, another veteran in this field, advised her mother, a retiree who equaled the endurance of her own daughter.  Mommy, as we fondly called her, amazed me with her strength and grace especially after learning from her that it was her first climb.

Mountain climbing is not a question of age and pace; rather it is a matter of vitality, patience, will. Mommy taught me well.

The Pursuit of Happiness

We were divided into three teams considering the big crowd who joined this year’s friendship climb. Baogo–Dao–Malubog trail, according to Lex, offered the perfect scenery of Mt. Kan-irag―the final stop of the climb.  Baogo–Ka-insing Falls route allowed the trekkers to pass through the highest falls, which undoubtedly had no water at all.

PEEPING MOON. With the young dusk, the moon appears as a dot in the horizon.

I could not speak for those who experienced the abovementioned trails. In our team, we had to journey the ridge of the mountains, wherein we had to face the angry stare of the sun. I could understand how it feels to be barbecued alive.

As we trekked on, we were rewarded with an afternoon cityscape; and the higher we ascended, the better the reward was. It worth the barbecue feeling we had earlier. There was no shortcut, I realized, to happiness. Or perhaps happiness became more sumptuous and rewarding when one could feel she deserved it. Or perhaps happiness became worthwhile and memorable when one earned it in the hardest way possible.

Sharing One’s Load

It cannot be helped a comrade need assistance in his heavy load. Sharing is a common scene in mountain climbing―either it is water, food, or load. Although independence is highly valued, in time of necessity, expect a heartwarming help from everyone.

WILL. Mountain climbing is not a question of age and pace; rather it is a matter of vitality, patience, will.

It never failed to make me smile the camaraderie of mountain climbers even though it was our first time to meet one another.  To make everyone comfortable, each tried to adjust his own pace and cracked a joke once in a while in the midst of ascent to lighten up the mood of everyone.

Friendship blooms not in the peak but along the trail. ©

2nd Annual Friendship Climb: February 27–28, 2010

Published in Sunstar Live.

Jona | Backpacking with a Book

Hi, I'm Jona! I write stories and poetry and take a lot of photos, which I'm too lazy to upload. If you want to receive some photos that I don't share here on the blog, please leave your email here. I'm crazy about cats too. Feel free to browse through BWAB, and I would love it if you say hi! For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com For more stories about BWAB, check here. Connect with us through

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4 Comments

  1. […] Crowdless, Mantayupan Falls looked and sounded scary. Virhenia the clown thought I wasn’t scared. As I mentioned before: A river is a source of mystery: it is a sanctuary of raw emotions. Its current sometimes articulates… […]

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  3. Sony Fugaban says:

    It’s nice to hear, or should I say, read, your thoughts about mountain climbing and all the fun and all the invaluable lessons it teaches us. I’d like to share with you these blog post in case you have no choice but to read:
    http://yobynos.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/amid-the-rains-and-darkness-at-mount-marami/
    http://yobynos.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/why-do-i-love-mountain-climbing/
    No pressure though. 🙂

  4. Sony Fugaban says:

    It’s nice to hear, or should I say, read, your thoughts about mountain climbing and all the fun it gives as well as the invaluable lessons it teaches us. I’d like to share with you these blog posts in case you have no choice but to read:

    http://yobynos.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/amid-the-rains-and-darkness-at-mount-marami/
    http://yobynos.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/why-do-i-love-mountain-climbing/

    No pressure though. 🙂

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