Of the 5 communities we visit in Kibungan each year, Badeo always seems to be the most challenging for me. The ironic thing about that is that it’s the one village that already has cemented trails –trails that, well, defy gravity. One must understand that at some point in your trek, you will inevitably slip or fall because the cemented trails are too mossy and unleveled. So you end up walking off-trail, which renders these cemented trails useless. I had totally forgotten what the trail looked like until we got to our jump off point in Polis Junction, usually traveled to by a jeep or van coming from La Trinidad, Benguet. The travel is a little over 2 hours. If one takes the first trip from La Trinidad at 5:00 am, and depending on how fast the van is filled, you can arrive in Kibungan Polis junction in less than 3 hours.
Badeo is one of the 7 barangays in Kibungan and is located in the outlying area, about 13.6 km from Polis Junction. Trekkers tend to underestimate the mountains in Kibungan because of its short distance, but distance fails when elevation and the actual trail are taken into consideration. Badeo only stands roughly at 1,200 meters above sea level, but the steep ascent from the jump off and the descent made harder by the cemented trails make it a very challenging climb. Unlike other villages we visit, Badeo is more prominent for its slippery trails and long traverse exiting to La Union. From the main road going to the barangay proper, locals hike for 4 hours. To trekkers, it usually takes 6-8 hours, depending on the pace. C4C usually takes it at 8-9 hours, with as many breaks and “take fives” as possible. If trekked during early morning, the pace would be much faster. And the sights are nothing short of majestic as in the whole of the Kibungan mountains. The highest mountain in Badeo is Mt. Amanayao which serves as the watershed of the area.
Badeo is beautiful; to that I concede. But beauty comes at a price, and to trek to Badeo, one must endure the long travail and come out even more resolute with reasons that sometimes do not make sense. Why do we go this far out to a community and what propels us to move ahead? If it were just for the summit or the sceneries, which are breath-taking in their own right, we can get those in other mountain ranges and even in other villages like Dalipey or Les-eng, which features more waterfall actions and numerous peaks and valleys. Which is exactly why, after returning to Badeo twice and enduring what seems to be pain that stays with you for a long time, you realize that it is NOT the summit nor the sceneries that make Badeo such an unforgettable, even significant climb. More than anything, it really is the purpose behind it, the people, the mission. On a personal note, to me it was about revelation and closure. In Badeo, God spoke to me of a promise made months ago, and declared it fulfilled.
Doc Joja and I followed a day after the first team of 6 left for Baguio. Everyone was going to trek on Saturday, with our two-man team about four hours behind since we were coming straight from La Trinidad and no longer stopping over at Poblacion. We started our trek at 9:30 –already late in the morning and with the sun just about ready to pour on its full strength. We met with Kolbel in Baguio so I was confident we would trek at a much faster pace. But Badeo always tests my patience, my balance and my resolve. There would be times I’d be separated from Kolbel and Doc Joja a good 10 minutes’ behind, because the trails were too slippery for me and I was too cautious to not hurt myself. But for the most part I loved that I was on solo trek. It gave me the time I needed to reflect on why I’m doing this, where I’m going, and what lies ahead. Even as I struggled on the cemented trails and slowed down the pace, I was just thinking to myself, “Enjoy this moment, KZ. Not everyone gets to do this.”
As I picked up my pace, and around 3 in the afternoon, I found myself alone again in the trail. I was about 15 minutes away from them when I suddenly had an epiphany. I took a good look around me: the lush green mountains of Kibungan that stretch on as far as the eye can see, the verdant peaks, the peace and quiet all around me, and the clear blue sky with foaming cotton-candy clouds. And then, without warning, I blurted out, “Lord, I am ready to leave Manila.”
As soon as those words escaped my lips, I broke down. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and I was crying as though a big rock was lifted off my shoulders. I finally understood it. I was here in Badeo for my last climb, and it didn’t matter what pain or difficulty I was going through, because the climb has always been about that: enduring, suffering for the sake of a greater calling. Didn’t Jesus suffer and die for the world because He had a mission to fulfil? Didn’t those martyrs I’ve read about in the Bible suffer in deeper ways, because they were fulfilling their calling? And me? I was NOT suffering in that Biblical sense, but I was fulfilling a mission which entailed going through some suffering. But there was much more at stake here. God spoke to me on my way to Badeo, confirming in my heart promises made months ago: I was leaving Manila, I had already fulfilled my mission in Kibungan, and I am ready for a new life in Palawan. Those declarations were not audible but they rang loud and clear in my heart. That’s what He wanted to tell me. And that’s what this climb is for.
We arrived at 4:20 in the afternoon, only an hour behind from the first team. Even we were surprised at our pace, considering we had a lot of stops here and there. As we settled and unpacked our things, I opened the Bible to reflect. Once again, God’s word jumped out of nowhere.
Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.
When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts (consolations) delight my soul. – Psalm 94:17-19
I knew then that it was the Holy Spirit that spoke those words to my heart. God seemed to tell me, “Look at what I’ve given you these four months. You didn’t think you’d be able to climb again after your surgery. You didn’t think you’d get to join another mission climb. But you’ve already gone on three mountains already in just one month! Did I let you slip on the trail today? Was your footing secure? Look back on all your friends, remember how you got to enjoy my creation, and look who you’re ministering to: the locals of Kibungan. Look how far C4C has gone, how we have penetrated the community with My word, My spirit. Be happy for you have been part of all these! These are all my consolations, my comforts to you.”
And that was all I needed to hear from God at that point. I had that resolve in my heart that we were going to get our franchise soon, and that everything will just fall into place at the right time. Badeo was more than just my last mission climb in Benguet; it was the climb where God confirmed my calling and where God would reward my faith.
A day after we returned from the mountains, I got a call from my sister. We got our franchise. I was leaving for Palawan.