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Mount Cristobal March 11-12, 2006

Mount Cristobal in Dolores, Laguna

Mt. Cristobal conjures imagery of dark spirits, ghouls and elementals. Folklore tags it as the dark mountain. On the other hand, its sister mountain, Mt. Banahaw, is widely regarded as the good mountain where benevolent spirits cast their blessings on believers who take on a pilgrimage to its hallowed ground. Geologically, both of them are extinct volcanoes. Their peaks are essentially craters.

The Trail
Cristobal is a level 2 climb with steep continuous single-track trails. Its rooty terrain had eroded the soil to form a step-like feature on the trail. Close to the crater rim, the soil is mixed in with volcanic stones. Vegetation is lush providing covered shade on hot days. On some parts, it was necessary to climb on all 4s.

The Team
Cristobal Team
Climbers: Aisa, Allan, Niko, Orens, Ferch, Pia, Choy Aquino and TheLoneRider.

Mt. Cristobal has been assigned the 2nd destination of UP Mountaineers' training climb for its current batch of applicants. Three applicants, team leader Pia, group leader Orens, Mt. Everest trainee Choy Aquino and Group X, me and Ferch, met at the Jam bus station to commence the trip. We were fortunate to be able to join the Pilipino class of UP Mountaineer member, Prof. Nilo Ocampo. They were headed to the foot of Mt. Banahaw to experience the Rizalista believers and the natural features of the mountain.

Alamid Coffee
The trail itself is littered with interesting animal droppings. For the first time, I saw alamid coffee. When bearcats eat coffee berries, the coffee bean part is passed through the digestive system as waste - they can't digest it. This waste however, is hand-picked, cleaned, roasted and sold in the London retail market at a dizzying price of English Pounds: 400/kilo (that's a whacking P35,700.00 pesos per kilo!). At that selling price, I won't mind eating the berries myself and pass it on as Alamid (he-he).

After traversing the rim, we finally reached the flat crater. Except for a swampy area, it was perfect to pitch tents. There was open space that allowed us to view the constellations. One eerie distinction of the site was a large white cross that stated the presence of 5 elementals. It requested that the place be respected...which of course, we did. I went as far as offering some nuts with a wish to make their presence felt. Well, nothing strange happened, but the offering was gone the next day (probably wildlife).

Choy Aquino
I'm thankful he came with us. As a veteran climber and one of the rare few who was invited to join the Everest Team, he brings with him his experience, expertise, and familiarity with the place. The level of confidence is high with him around.

On a social level, having Choy around is like having 5 party animals around. The guy is hilarious and outrageous. He's quite a mouth too. Like the mountain itself, Choy has to be experienced.

Orens and Pia comment.

Town of Kinabuhayan
We descended into the town of Kinabuhayan, the jump-off point to those trekking Mt. Banahaw. It's interesting to note how this town amalgamates national heroes, dieties and commercialism into their culture. Local stores sell organic matter with claims to healing properties, love attractants and the like. They sell water containers for the pilgrims to fill in using the spring water coming from a natural formation they call the footprint of Jesus. The entire place is charged with spiritual attributes, of course, with the corresponding commercial opportunities...though not crass.

Jose Rizal is the nation's national hero. The Rizalistas however, kick it up a notch. They regard Rizal as diety. They claim that Rizal's life and Jesus' closely parallel each other...right down to the stations of the cross. They say Rizal was pre-destined to die to free the people in the same way Jesus was to die for the sins of man. I find this immensely interesting. As an atheist, I can only appreciate Jesus in the context of man. Yet here, we have the Rizalistas who appreciate a man in the context of God.

The Jeep Ride
This remains one of the highlights (in addition to Pia and Orens) as we shared the jeep with the students of Prof. Nilo. Initially, there was a cold sense of unfamiliarity, but not for long. As cool beverage was being passed around, and Choy adeptly breaking the ice, people loosened up and and laughs were shared. It reminded me of hot-house people where dendrites connect. It was chill.

Hold Your Own
Others had more than their fair share of the fun...and paid the price for it. Exhausted and sleepy, we would have gone home already upon reaching Sarah's. But not if we had to leave someone wasn't an option. Puke-washing had to be done in addition to baby sitting the ones who got hammered. Bubuy, founding member of the UP Mountaineers provided temporary refuge to the casualty. He had this all-too-knowing smile on his face...yeah, I'm sure he's seen it before. He was the sheppard ensuring the safety of this flock.

The Walk Back Home
When all was looked after, myself, Pia and Orens could finally go start the trek from Sarah's to the dorm with our backpacks behind us. I don't remember exactly what we talked about, but insights and anecdotes were shared. It had a calming effect on me. I came home at exactly midnight. It was a good walk.

Ending Thoughts
This climb had so many things going for it, it's difficult where to start. Climbwise, Pico de Loro was a fun climb. Tarak Ridge was an eye-opener. Pulag was a test of limits. Cristobal, I would say is the most meaningful climb...on many levels. Instead of feeling afraid, I found peace and comfort camping with the 'elementals'. The mountain itself was stern but kind, not unlike a benevolent father. I don't even know where I get these words to describe it, but it's the lingering feeling after having climbed it.

The entire team was spot on. Everyone carried his own weight and functioned like well-oiled machinery. Interacting with Sir Nilo's class added immensely to the experience. It was bonding on a collective level, as it is with every climb.

I was fascinated by the local culture and its belief system. It takes certain fortitude to elevate man as divinity. I wonder what else the locals believe in, contrary to conventional thinking.

Lastly, it slowly unfolds what being a UP Mountaineers is all about. From what I've seen and experienced, they're self sufficient, they know how to have fun and more importantly, they look after their own.

--- TheLoneRider

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Coffee Blogs

  1. Vietnamese Phin Coffee Filter Dec 2, 2021
  2. 'Must Experience' Cafés of Chiang Mai Nov 30, 2021
  3. Exploring Nong Khai's Cafe Culture Jun 10, 2020
  4. Cafescape of Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam Jan 6-24, 2019
  5. Rediscovering the Cafe Tradition of Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
  6. Exploring the Cafe Scene of Tagbilaran Oct 7, 2017
  7. Discovering the Neighborhood Cafes of Singapore Aug. 8-22, 2016
  8. Discovering Saigon's Cafe Culture Nov 9 - Dec 17, 2014
  9. The Perfect Coffee Brew Feb 13, 2008
  10. Exploring the Emergent Cafe Culture of Penang Jun 18, 2016
  11. Coffee Review: Himalayan Java Coffee Dec. 18, 2013
  12. Homemade Bread Breakfast Aug 1, 2006
  13. Alamid Coffee Jul 9, 2006
  14. Communal Forest with a Newbie May 4, 2006
  15. Civet 'Coffee-Shit' on Mount Cristobal Mar 11, 2006
  16. The Afternoon Coffee Ritual Dec 12, 2002

Reader Comments:

Tec Nacario
(22 Mar 2006) hi, thanks for posting the pix : )

Dian Carlo - UP Mountaineers '92
(17 Mar 2006) Twas great to see your site. Saw your name/site b4 but never got the chance to surf it. Amazing Life! (love your Burningman section). Although still a virgin and been contemplating about it the last 5++yrs. Glad to read you had experienced MT. Cristobal...was one of the last places i went b4 moving to Canada. If you're ever in the area and planning a Toronto adventure, give me a shout (maybe meet a fellow mountaineer with kinda simillar lifestyle in Canada). Hear from you soon. Cheers to LIFE!

Ferch SantosFerch Santos
(Mar 16, 2006) sana lang you can expound more on that portion after nung kay Choy Aquino and before the town kinabuhayan....maganda yung had a lot to say despite you not commenting on it...-wink-

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