From Starting Line to a Volcano’s Summit
I breathe heavily, wondering how long this has to go on. I look up at the trees and the sky instead of my suffering legs and tired feet, who make me feel 60 instead of 27. Why did I say “Yes” to this? I lift my thighs, knees, and feet together, mentally taking note of how they felt separate from each other.
I recently climbed a volcano. Literally. While climbing up the volcano, I was asking myself why the fuck I decided to do it. I could have been sleeping on my bed, or reading a book by the beach, but instead I was trying to catch my breath as I continued to walk upwards. Fuck! Why did I agree to climb this volcano?!
In the beginning, I never really planned to climb Hibok-Hibok, an active volcano in Camiguin, a province in the southern part of the Philippines. I simply wanted to travel around the islands. When my friend, whom I was traveling with, said he really, really, really wanted to climb the volcano, I initially told him I would not go with him to Camiguin and I would go instead to Siargao for surfing. I’ve been to Camiguin several times as a child, and I had no interest then to visit the place again, much more climb one of its 7 volcanoes.
But somehow, in the middle of our adventure, we agreed that we would both visit Camiguin, and then proceed to Siargao. So, fine. But I still didn’t want to climb the volcano. I was secretly looking for an excuse not to.
Despite my hesitation to climb it, we were trying to look for a guide through friends and the hotel. On the day before the climb, we sort of decided not to push through. Because it was too expensive. Because we didn’t know what the weather would be like. Because we didn’t know if it was going to be worth it. We just gave up and decided to go sightseeing instead.
At 7 in the evening of that day, our hotel receptionist told us that the guides were already in the lobby. Since I wasn’t interested anymore, my friend went to talk to the guides, while I didn’t bother at all because I was certain we wouldn’t push through. Five minutes later, my friend comes back to the room, lets me know the price, and asks me to go down to the lobby because the guides wanted to meet me.
What the fuck? What’s happening?
The events that happened next remain blurry, but I believe my friend explained that we would push through. At 5 in the morning the next day.
Seriously?! We have been waking up at ungodly hours for the past few days! We need sleep!
Anyway, we paid our environmental fee to the guides, who told us what we needed to prepare: 6L of water. PHP 1,200 for the guide’s fee.
How about courage? How about stamina?
I drank a bottle of beer and then slept right away despite the loud music coming from a live band on the rooftop bar. Luckily, I didn’t have nightmares even though I was very scared and anxious. The last time I climbed a mountain was August last year, and it was very exhausting that I felt I would die. (Maybe an exaggeration.) I had been running for 3 to 4 months, but stopped just three weeks before the actual climb to travel.
Can my lungs handle it?
While trying to sleep, we agreed we didn’t want to do it anymore because it was too early… but we still managed to wake up at 4:30AM to get our shit together and wait for the operator, who arrived on time.
Ditching any small talk, we rode on his motorcycle and he brought us to the jump off to meet the actual guide, who said, “Sugod na ta!” (Let’s begin!) And without hesitation or delay or drama, we just started walking up the volcano.
Fuck, yes. That’s how we started it.
Amidst all the doubts and questions and fear that I had, I started walking up with my friend at the back and the guide in front. After the first three minutes, I was already tired and breathing heavily. During the first thirty minutes, I was already planning to go back and not proceed. Actually, there had been numerous times when I just wanted to give up and stop, and just wait for my friend and the guide to come back.
On certain occasions, I would stop and ask myself why I even did it in the first place. At some point, I came to resolve that I would walk and climb on my own pace even if I would have to be at the back and the last one to climb. I wasn’t comfortable being in the middle because it put too much pressure on me and doubled my mental ordeal. Hence, I walked slower, respecting my own pace at the back of the pack…
A little over three hours later, we arrived at the volcano’s Ilihan Crater, which is the site of the 1950 eruption. We paused for a few minutes and took some happy jump shots. I smiled as though I was never harassed in the first place.
Less than an hour later, we arrived on the highest point of Hibok-Hibok (1332+ MASL). I triumphantly kissed the rocks on the summit!
Yes, folks. I was able to climb a volcano for the first time in my life!
And that’s how you get past the starting line: Just get past it. Just begin. Yes, acknowledge the questions, what-if’s, doubts, fear, anxiety. But fuck them all. Just begin anyway.
Of course, this does not guarantee that when you’re climbing or doing your task, you won’t doubt yourself every now and then or wonder if you could finish it. But still, we’ll find our way somehow if we just keep pushing. Take control of the mind.
If we get tired or get stuck, we take a break. We breathe. Then begin again.