The Monkey
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The Monkey

19th of September

Time. A line we all have to follow, a rule that governs us all. Much like gravity, it can’t be seen, but it’s presence, or lack thereof, surely felt.

Summit view at sunrise

In 2010, my friend, Frienli, and I wanted to traverse the Philippine islands. He had been my climbing buddy, neighbor, and a kuya-figure during my teens.

A couple of our friends had done this traverse in the 90s. Their trips inspired us to see this country, cash-strapped, and crashing on friends’ homes. Actually any surface with a roof was fine by us. We planned to do it like seasoned backpackers.

We had a list of things to do: start off in Ilocos, then Benguet, up Pulag, then Sagada, on to Banaue, surf Baler (or drown trying), rock climb in Montalban. It included the slopes of Kanlaon, rafting in Cagayan De Oro, climbing majestic Dulang Dulang, and finish off in Zamboanga. It was a beautiful plan. This was how we saw our time would be spent for the next few months to a year. We had time to spare at this point of our lives.

But life herself hit us back, figuratively and literally. Frienli met an accident and broke a leg. I had to pursue a career in web design. The plan we’ve been dreaming, put on hold and shelved.

It was a beautiful plan

I had always wanted a life lived out there, wherever ‘out there’ is. A mantra I wanted to follow before I graduated in college was 6 months work, 6 months traveling. The sedentary desk life was not for me. Ironic when I look at in hindsight.

Back then, had Frienli said he was healed and ready to do the trip, I would’ve quit my day job without hesitation. Nowadays, I would find it difficult to do so.

Weeks turned to months. Months turned to years and the plan we’ve been stoking on never came to fruition. It became one of those things that just faded over time.

Late last year, I asked Frienli to at least do the Pulag leg of our plan. A small slice of the big pie. We set the climb to be on the 19th of September, his birthday. He agreed.

As the date of the climb neared. Frienli had to back out due to other commitments. It was disappointing knowing he wanted to do this climb, yet bound by duties. I was set though. I was keen on climbing and dedicating it to that plan that set fire to our ideals — our spirits.

The paradox with time: we tend to waste it away in our younger days. So much time we say. Yet, as we age, we see less and less of it.

I have only recently come to terms of time’s finiteness–time becomes daunting and ominous when you’ve accepted this fact. Our time on Earth is infinitesimal compared to the universe’s grand scheme. We all know this, yet what do we do? nothing.

We scurry with our daily lives thinking time is a boundless resource. The next thing we see? ourselves frail, weak, and at the end of our days, harking back to the days when we could have seen and felt the world more.

That grand plan my friend and I made many years ago? I still dream about it. It has been 8 years on this day I publish this entry. I will not stop nagging my friend to push it through. There really isn’t much time left for him, for I.

As I stepped onto Pulag’s summit at 5am, on September 19, 2017, I uttered under my windchilled breath: Frienli, idol, my time on this mountain is for you. Happy birthday sangkay…

I reached out to Pitman Outdoors, a local outdoor clothing brand, if they wanted me to shoot some of their products during this climb. They agreed, hence the appearance of their branding in some of the photos in this article.

Thank you to my hardy band of mountaineering friends who agreed to do this climb on a whim, even if the weather was unfavorable and we were forced to use the executive trail. Also, salamat to Maam Angela and the Pitman Outdoors crew for the support extended.

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Nick Aguilos’ blog about landscape and adventure photography

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Nick Aguilos

Nick Aguilos

Photographer / UI Designer

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