Trips - Mt. Banahaw 

Camp 1 - Mt. Banahaw, Central Luzon 

By Noam Winter 

Today I made the ascent to Camp 1, on the mountain called Mount Banahaw, about one third of the mountain's total height, maybe 6,000 ft. Some call it a holy place, or a magic mountain, and the local superstition of the place is that it will rain whenever a foreigner is on the mountain. It surely was true, this time. 

   The local effects of the periodic global weather pattern, anomalous and mysterious, called El Niño, are unusually high temperatures, and drought conditions. Before my arrival, it had not rained for some weeks. It rained steadily during our descent from Camp 1. A blessed event, at least for this year. 

   My guides, and companions for this trip were Reverend Noel Suministrado, a premier rock climber of the Philippines, and his climbing student, Ojett ( I am spelling his name phonetically ), who acted as sweeper, making sure I did not get lost or fall too far behind. It was Rev. Noel who suggested that he thought the mountain loved me, because we had cool, cloud covered weather for our ascent, and the rainfall that was steady, but not too heavy. It very well could have been the weather pattern typical at that time, hot and strong sunshine beating down on us, at 98 degrees. 

   We took a local bus to the foot of the mountain, in the form of a diesel fueled, jeep based, van like vehicle, called a jeepney. Its window holes have no glass, to let the air flow through while driving.  Once at the mountain, we all signed the guest log, and registered our climb, checked in with the ham radio operator at the base camp, so they would know that there may possibly be a distress call from Noel, on his portable handheld amateur radio. 

   We now began our ascent on what Noel called "the highway," which was a trail through the mountain valley, between the mountain's major peaks, that terminates at a village on the other side of the mountain. There was a heavy cloud cover, that touched the top third of the mountain. The higher altitude winds were bringing thinner clouds from my right side to the left, while the surface winds were blowing in the opposite direction. We reached the first watering hole, and filled our canteens with clear cool fresh river water, and my guides packed them away. My necessaries were carried by Noel, and they included Vaseline Intensive care lotion, to soothe the skin: cortisone ointment, to alleviate persistent itches: a roll of duct tape, to immobilize a limb, should a fracture occur: Three cans of corned beef, two loaves of bread, and three forks, for our dining pleasure near camp one: A 35 mm camera, to record moments of the trip: A T-shirt, and shorts, dry clothes for later. 

   The pace was moderately fast, made possible by the coolness of the day. The trail had a moderate upward slope, with short sections that were very steep. This was my first major mountain hike over the last seventeen years, so we were unsure of the pace that we could maintain. The lower part of the highway had been constructed from poured concrete, to prevent slipping, which had been a persistent problem, on the muddy trail, before the cement was poured. These conditions persisted until we turned off the highway on to the trail that would take us to Camp 1. We passed a small hamlet of huts, where villagers and farmers kept their homes. We also passed rice terraces, where the rice is locally grown. We met a number of people on the trail, many of whom Noel knew. Some were carrying loads, others leading their horses to their destinations. 

   Despite the cool weather, I was breathing hard, and had already sweated through my clothes by the time we turned off the trail. The trail led to the left, toward the middle peak, the highest one, and the uphill grade of the hike became steeper. We took several rests, but since I was not carrying anything, I felt it was wrong of me to take long rests, so I never sat, and tried to keep them short. I kept up our rapid pace, slowing down only because I had difficulty seeing the trail through the moisture collecting on my glasses. Nothing I owned was dry enough to wipe my lenses completely clean, so I dried them the best I could, and pressed on. About one hour from base, we were a little more than half way there, when Noel expressed pleasant surprise at being ahead of schedule. I was keeping the pace well. 

   Periodically I would turn back to see a view, but the forest cover was too thick. We eventually came to a clearing, from here we could see both the summit, and back toward the town of Lucena City, where I was staying, as well as the town of Tayabas, and the peninsula where the Pacific Ocean meets the South China Sea. It was awesome. Here, Noel unpacked my camera from his backpack, and took a number of pictures of me posing in front of these grand views. Some of the pictures had me and Noel, or me and Ojett posing together. 

   We pressed on to the final push toward Camp 1, and a half hour later, through heavy thorn filled brush, we made the clearing of our destination, and took some more pictures. Noel then asked me if I wanted to go to a place he called "the Twilight Zone" where you could feel the energy of the mountain. I jumped at the chance, and we were off, still maintaining our quick pace over slippery steep portions of the trail, twisting and turning through thorn covered branches. You could hear the sound of rushing water at places. We finally came to a clearing, where there were many rocks and boulders, and a small pool of still water. Here was the Twilight Zone. 

   When you stand in the middle of the place, and quiet yourself down, you can feel the presence of a strange kind of energy field. I mostly felt it as a sensation of heat in the palms of my open hands, despite the cool breeze blowing across my skin. When you sit there quietly, you may notice another strange phenomenon. Usually one is completely surrounded by the sounds of the forest, a cacophony of sounds of birds, insects, and other creatures all around you in the forest. In this place there was a semispherical area of a diameter of maybe 10 to 20 meters where there was almost a vacuum of activity. Here there were no sounds being generated in the area. In a place where flying insects are all over, here there were none, except a single fly, and it was there because it had followed us there. The animals seemed to sense the energy of the area, and remained clear of it. 

   I know this will sound superstitious to my fellow westerners, but I always try to make it a habit to ask permission of the place I am visiting. So before the journey at the foot of the mountain I made a silent prayer to God, and the local spirit of the mountain, asking permission to be there, and for favorable conditions for our climb, and for our safe passage. I also asked for my own energies to be balanced with those of the area. This might also seem strange, at least until we consider that we are indeed all of us energy beings, surrounded by multiple interacting fields, such as infra red, magnetic, electrical, electromagnetic, electrostatic, and gravity fields, to name a few of the ones we know.  They are all necessary and integral to our health and well being. 

   We left the Twilight Zone to travel to the place where we were to dine. So we backtracked a bit, and proceeded on the trail down past a beautiful waterfall, to a small lagoon, filled with beautiful clear cold water. Here we unpacked our lunch and ate sandwiches of corned beef on white bread, and Noel took out some cans of diet coke he brought as a treat. Lunch tasted wonderful after a long strenuous trek. 

   We all undressed down to our briefs, and swam in the cold clear water. Noel laughed and said that we would pay handsomely to drink bottled mineral water, but here we were bathing in it for free. It was about this time when it began to rain, so we dried off as best we could, and got dressed. 

   The trail was now muddy and treacherous, traveling uphill over the mud, back to Camp 1. When we arrived at Camp 1, we encountered a very skinny bull, who didn't seem to like our trespassing on his grazing field, and so he charged at us several times, forcing us to circle around him, giving him a wide berth. The rain became quite heavy, and we were all completely soaked through to the skin, but the rain was cooling and refreshing so we traveled on, until the rain ceased an hour later, when we once again reached the main trail called the highway. We once again passed the homes along the way, and could tell civilization was near when we could  see the local electric lines above us, and hear the TV sets. I saw several sets of mares and their babies, just a few days old. 

   When we reached base again, we went and had a cold San Miguel beer, at the resort near the start of the trail, called Lost Paradise, and we toasted our successful journey. We changed out of our wet clothes into dry ones, as Noel pointed out that we would be riding with dry people. Though it gave me pause to exchange my cool wet coverings for dry ones, returning to the blistering heat of the sun drenched day. 

   After our return, the local lore proved true... It rained heavily that night. The foreigner had visited the mountain... 

(c) by Noam Winter May 6, 1998. All rights reserved. 

Noam Winter resides in New York City, where he makes a living as an equipment technician for a telecommunications company. He happened to be visiting friends and family in Quezon, when he made the trip to Mt. Banahaw, and wrote the article.
Noam Winter <
Submitted by  Rev. Noel A. Suministrado <
More photos in Noam's Website

See Also:  Take me back to Bundok's  Trips Page