Day 1, May 18, 2012
“Will it really be just four hours to Culiang?” That was the first question we asked at the pre-climb meeting. We know as mountaineers that when locals give an estimate of how long it would take to get to a destination, most likely the figure doubles. We were hopeful that it would indeed only take four hours, or a little past that. And when we asked our perennial guide and C4C veteran member Engr. Kolbel this estimate, he was certain it was the “C4C pace.” He would know; he’s been climbing with Climbing for Christ Philippines since the founding of the group in 2007. And so we were settled. Four hours to our first camp, first day.
On the eve of May 17, Thursday, all eight members of the exploratory team converged at the Partas Bus Station in Cubao. This was a group consisting of veteran climbers with the exception of Karl, the youngest member to join the team. But he certainly fit the group because a young man like him has energy that equals that of a more seasoned climber. We were sent off by three more members, our team nurse Arlene, who for the first time is missing a climb; Jherwyn, a core member who is in charge of our shirts and other logistical preparations; and Celso, Karl’s dad and probably the most energetic and active member of the group. The team was composed of C4C Philippine Chapter Coordinator Ace, Doc Cecil, Doc Joja, Gutch, Jherald, and the two women of the group, Jael and yours truly. All have been to Kibungan on mission climbs in the past four years.
Bekes and Culiang are the farthest sitios in Tacadang, Kibungan. C4C Philippines has been serving in four villages in Kibungan since 2007: Tacadang, Les-Eng, Badeo and Dalipey. Because of their geographic location and the difficult ascent to these sitios, none has so far set foot in this part of Kibungan. In fact, the locals are always astounded by the fact that we’ve gone to all four, when most of them have never even visited the neighboring villages. What mountaineers call Kibungan Circuit, C4C calls “home”, for we’ve gone beyond the circuit and penetrated deep into the villages where the locals reside. C4C’s ministry to these communities has always arisen out of a need. In Tacadang back in 2007, what prompted Sir Ace to come back after a very traumatic first survey of the area was the reminder that people were expecting him to return. They had need of pencils, notebooks, cartolinas, but mostly they had need of a message of hope. As C4C’s presence grew, more and more villages were hearing about the ministry work. And that’s how eventually we were able to reach all four villages. This same story weaved itself in reaching Bekes and Culiang. Sir Ace met Pastor Marcus in Dalipey last February and he voiced out a request to visit Bekes and Culiang. C4C has not once turned down a request, so it only made sense to extend our ministry and expand our borders to these two communities. But just how far would it stretch us to reach Bekes and Culiang?
The first setback actually took place in Cubao. The trip to La Union was delayed for more than an hour. We weren’t falling behind schedule yet but delays can have significant impacts on climbs. Last year in Dalipey, the team was stalled for three hours because the jeep got stuck on mud on our way to the jump-off point. That resulted to 3 more hours of night trek and additional exhaustion. I also happened to experience my own setbacks. The day before, my schedule looked like a whirlwind. I had been running some errands for work and unfortunately skipped meals, and by the time we arrived in Cubao, I was having my acid attacks. I have ulcer and GERD so it’s really not advisable for me to miss meals. Even with meds, it took a while for my acids to be regulated and I was dreading things like, “will I stall the group?” “Will I be able to deliver my responsibilities as team cook?” “Will this pain go on and off in the mountain?” I thank God that as we left Cubao and I fell into a deep sleep, the pain also left.
But the setbacks didn’t stop there because upon arrival at La Union, the vehicles the municipality of Kibungan sent to pick us up were again delayed. Even on the road, we encountered more setbacks: a flat tire and an engine that won’t start. Doesn’t it just seem like someone doesn’t want us to get to Culiang and Bekes? I smell spiritual opposition.
But God will enable His people to go where He calls them to go.
We arrived at our first stop over exactly four hours since we started trekking or almost 10 in the evening. Bekes would be trekked the next day at sunlight. The rain didn’t hinder the team’s pace, but it was a long stretch. The road leading to our jump off point in Santol was dangerously steep, which can only be tackled by a very able driver. As we went higher and higher, the weather became cooler. The trail after the jump off point was familiar. We passed through mossy forests and grasslands and were threatened by sporadic rains. We arrived at the Inasan river where we were to river raft to get to the other side. Insects of all sorts flew towards the light coming from our head lamps. The rocks were slippery and the ascent was no joke. Finally, when we reached the house that would serve as our camp for the night, we were all relieved. Tomorrow was going to be a long day of full ascent to Culiang, and we were just thankful that we have a cozy place where we could rest our tired bodies.
For related mission climb stories, visit my Mountain Climbs page.