“Kill nothing but time, Take nothing but pictures and Leave nothing but footprints…”
It all started when a friend of mine asked me to climb Mt. Batolusong with her and another friend, for Independence Day. However, on June 10, she said that they had to cancel the hike due to another event. But still, I wanted to climb a mountain even if it’s only me. So I asked my best friend if she wanted to go with me.
Surprisingly, she said yes. And since she was a first-timer, I opted for a beginner-friendly mountain, and so I finally picked Pico de Loro, even though I’ve heard that the old trail has been closed.
So off we went, but I was a bit uncomfortable, mentally that is, as we climb up the mountain. I think what I’ve been longing to see is the old trail. I don’t know if it’s just me or the new trail has a different feel to it compared to the old trail. It even felt like climbing a different mountain!. Aside from the fact that it’s muddy, the new trail has a fragile feel to it. It was so unlike the old trail, with its old age gifting it with a sense of character, of dignity, which makes it somehow more alive, as if nature itself put I there right from the start.
So all the way up, I was thinking “Why did DENR close the old trail?”
It breaks my heart to know that the old trail has been closed. I remember how I’ve always thought that it has the most beautiful trail of all the mountains I’ve climbed (next to Mt. Napalauan). Or perhaps it’s just because it’s the second mountain I’ve climbed, so consequently, it will always have a special place in my heart. And don’t even mention the waterfalls! I’m a huge fan of waterfalls, and I miss it. The waterfalls of Pico de Loro is the first ever waterfalls I’ve been to. And you know what they say about ‘firsts,’ how it may not be the best but as it is, your ‘firsts’ will always be the most memorable.
“Kill nothing but time.”
Arriving at Pico de Loro’s campsite was just like arriving at Luneta Park. Literally. Craving for Halo-halo or Mais con Yelo? Well, there’s a stall at the campsite and another one along the new trail. Wanna hear loud party music while hiking along the trail? Chances are, you’ll meet a group of hikers who’ll play such songs because we certainly had.
That group of hikers definitely killed my sense of enjoyment for the natural calmness of nature. My best friend and I even had to walk faster so we can bid goodbye to the loud music they’re playing. We were on our way to the top, when a guide at a rest stop told us that there were about 500 hikers up at the summit, and if you count the hikers who already started to trek down, the number would be closer to 700.
“Pitong daan?!” I probably raised my voice unintentionally when the guide said that, I almost went back to the registration area and ask for the official number of hikers but since we were almost at the campsite already… I didn’t. But I wanted to. I’m crazy like that. As we reached the summit though, I suddenly had an urge to laugh out loud as I took in the sheer number of people at the campsite, at the summit, and at the monolith. Honestly, I just didn’t know what to feel they’re that many. Looking at all those people in one place is disabling. It’s crazy.
I’ve never climbed a mountain top with that many people. The most is 40, I think. I’ve been away for quite some time in the climbing scene that it took me awhile to process the fact that mountain climbing has certainly gone mainstream. Too mainstream, I guess. Or maybe, it’s just because it’s Independence Day. But holiday or not, climbing a mountain these days is becoming a lot easier, or rather, more convenient.
“Take nothing but pictures.”
Awesome photos with the blue skies and the mountains as your backdrop are definitely worth a double tap, but it’s definitely a problem if it’s all that you’ve ever considered when hiking. Hikers definitely couldn’t resist taking pictures, and it’s okay, but respecting other mountaineers and the mountain itself should be on the top of your priority.
“Leave nothing but footprints…”
According to a guide I’ve talked with, he said that when people from DENR went to clean up the campsite, the locals helped too and by the time they’ve finished picking all the trashes left by irresponsible hikers, they’ve collected about 20 garbage bags, with each bag holding up to 50 kilos of trash!
“Seryoso po?!” I heard myself saying. I was that shocked.
He must have caught my dubious expression because he even continued his ‘kwentos’ with more conviction, saying that the campsite has thousands of wipes, napkins (yes, sanitary napkins), and plastic trashes all over the place.
God, I hope he’s lying. Trashes everywhere… At my beloved Pico?
*Kindly note that the use of possessive adjective above is intentional.
My Pico de Loro.
Because even though most travelers are quite generous and kind-hearted, you can’t deny the fact that there’s still a certain amount of possessiveness involved in traveling. Any traveler experiences that feeling and it’s only natural. It’s as if just by being a destination, you already feel like you’re a part of that place, and it has become a part of you.
That kind of feeling might be compared to what San Tsai must have felt for her tower, or Scarlett for her Tara, or Alice in her Wonderland, or Harry Potter for his Hogwarts, or Mary Lennox for her Secret Garden…
A haven of your own, a place in the world to belong, isn’t that what everybody wants?
At the same time, you wouldn’t want to deprive others, especially the ones you love, of such beauty. That’s why we even post pictures with the caption “wish you were here” and then tag our loved ones.
And that’s the dilemma. We hate it when a beloved destination becomes mainstream, but at the same time we just can’t stop ourselves from telling others all about it, for wanting to bring our loved ones there.
It’s frustrating. Protecting nature, and sharing the blissful experience of traveling shouldn’t even be a conflict in the first place. But it seems like it.
See what happened to Mt. Palay-Palay/Pico de Loro. DENR needed to enforce stricter rules just to protect the mountain. If only people become more responsible and considerate, then there shouldn’t be any issue at all. After all, to quote Christopher McCandless, it’s true that “ Happiness [is] only real when shared.”
About the Writer
Arteliz Puti is probably the craziest psychology major out there. She’s a bookworm and loves Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. Never ask her what she wants out of life because she still hasn’t figured it out yet. Loves everything blue. Obsessed about dark chocolate, black coffee, and poetry. Thinks, she’s the reincarnation of Christopher McCandless. Auxiliary member of UST Mountaineering Club.
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