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Trekking ManalmonSeptember 3/4, 2005 Saturday/Sunday

Trekking Manalmon (Bulacan)

Outdoor training
Aside from fitness training, UP Mountaineers has programs designed to equip its members with outdoor skills necessary for survival against the elements and fortuitous events. That's essentially what sets them apart from other mountaineering orgs. A UPM member at the very least knows the rudiments of ropemanship, orienteering, fire builing, bolo handling, rapelling and river crossing. From this basic training, others have moved on to pursue more advanced challenges. The select group of elite climbers slated to do the first ascent to Mt. Everest by a Filipino group has some UPM members.

Survival Training
The Manalmon trek isn't as much a climb as it is a workshop in outdoor survival. Led by team leader Jeremy and assistant team leader Choy, we applicants grouped ourselves into 3 and divided labor and resources to make the team going. Special mention goes to Jonas for his invaluable assistance.

The River Crossing
Arrogant adventurism can be foolhardy as much as it is an adrenaline rush. For an orienteering exercise, a rope was fastened securely by members to help us applicants cross the river. My partner and I used it on the first crossing. Feeling gung-ho, I decided to make my return by swimming instead. Unaware how strong the current was, and oblivious to the added weight of my hiking boots, I jumped into the river and started swimming to the other side. My boots felt like an anchor pulling me down. Before I knew it, I was being swept by the current. I got scared...I mean scared shitless! Luckily, I spotted a group of rocks in the middle of the river. I was able to latch onto it and stay stay there for a while as I was recovering from the panic and the shock. A member yelled at me to swim downsteam while inching my way to the other side. I wasn't gung-ho anymore. I was still scared...more scared to jump back into what I felt was a raging river wanting to swallow me alive.

There was no choice. I plunged back and stroked vigorously...still with my boots on (duh!). It wasn't easy but I reached the other side. Faking the trauma like it was another day at the beach, I started my way back to the other side using the rope this I should have from the outset.

Ending Thoughts
I've always had a profound respect for nature...the mountains, the rivers, the elements. Under-estimating them is the last thing I'll do. However, this episode taught me a humbling lesson that arrogance can cloud my judgement into thinking respect is just a concept and not an exercisable act. Once again, I am reminded how fragile life can be. Upon my return to Manila, the colors seem a bit brighter and the air a bit fresher.

--- TheLoneRider

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