September 19 Prompt: Hike
I stood frozen at the giant hollow before me. I watched microns of travelers slowly disappearing from the darkness. Fourteen of my companions coaxed me to get in until they too were swallowed by the abyss. The warmth of the sun rubbed my back with kindness. I can always retreat. Few steps backwards and I am back to safety. Back to the familiar light that was willing to embrace me. But then again, I was promised that it will all be worth it. I looked back at the sunbeams and I found assurance that I will see them again at the end of the pit. So I braved it. I forced myself to march inside the mouth of uncertainty.
This was my very first travel. Two hours before the bus leaves Manila, I excitedly purchased a canon digital camera. This was before iPhone dominated the world. We once lived in an era where the only fascinating thing about our mobile phone was playing Snake and Space Impact. No camera. No multimedia. Monophonic ringtones. Fair enough. At least meeting at the bus terminal won’t be a hassle anymore. There’s SMS.
Macy, Katie and Me were on our first adventure. We rode a bus all the way to Baguio together with eleven of Mona’s officemates. Mona was Macy’s older sister. Her colleagues were mostly old couples [which that time were at their thirty’s and which that time I considered OLD.]
Roadtrips are exhilarating. Endless conversations. The rattling sound of an old bus. Vibrating feather bus seats that rocks you to sleep. An old compilation of love songs in the background. Images by the window seat like fast moving slide show. And plenty of time to contemplate.
There were several stop overs that allowed us to enjoy the cool fresh whiff of the mountain province. When we shifted transportation by noon, we assumed it would be like riding a regular PUV. But no man. The Bontoc-Sagada jeep can fly. Once we started trailing the edge of the mountain, it just soared high. You won’t see any trace of the road by the window. Just wild grass and the cliff. Bad ass driving.
Sagada was refreshing. It purifies you. It cures. It’s a nepenthe. A good recommendation for heartache. You don’t need Lacuna Services to remove your unwanted memory. What traveling to places like this can do to you is that it can heighten your awareness. It allows you to dig deep your emotional core. Thus, you gain immunity.
Inside the cavity exist the titans; monstrous slippery rock formations covered with bat crap that makes the trek twice as difficult. I folded my jeans and tucked my long hair inside my cap. We weren’t prepared for the hike. Macy was for chrisssake wearing a miniskirt – which was an eye candy for the tour guides who are constantly lifting and pulling the three of us up to help us get on some tricky passages. The jacket wrapped around my waist and my then soaked jeans just added more weight and simply slowed me down. Some parts of the cave are water, ankle-deep, knee-deep, waist-deep and bottomless. In the middle of rappelling from one boulder to another, a colleague of Mona – just lost her grip and fell to the dark bottomless water. We all screamed. We waited. We panicked. We were immobilized. She freaking floated after minutes of eternity. I don’t know if it’s part of marketing strategy to scare tourist and make it sound more dangerously appealing, that they claimed that spot to be far deep deadly. Or it was really just three or four ft. deep. She was shocked. She didn’t really know what happened. Did she swim out of the bottomless pit or she just miraculously floated?
Not important. She was alive. That’s what matters. We traverse the remaining rocks under the darkness. Gas lamps clacking and casting shadows against the glazed rock walls. We climbed. We crawled. We inserted ourselves into small cave openings. We walked on waters. We rappelled.
After battling with myself in the middle of the hike, scolding myself why I went for it, witnessing Mona’s friend disappear on water and immerse from it, I decided to make peace with myself that we are all in God’s safe hands after all.
I walked out of the cave fiercely brimming with triumph. I made it.
And as promised, the sunbeams were there waiting.