Mt. Malindang: The Simple Life 7,887 Feet Above Sea Level
The Simple Life
The icy wind easily pierced through the four layers of clothing I had on. After hours of perilous bike ride, a couple of it spent walking in the dark under a heavy downpour, and a night spent is a good Samaritan's home, I heaved a sigh of relief, finally arrived at my destination in one piece.
Home for me for the next couple of days is a small wooden home perched in the midst of a clearing a few steps away from the crater lake. I was welcomed by the loud orchestra of cicadas singing as if the whole area is transformed into an open theater. Did you know that a single cicada can make a sound 100 decibels loud? Imagine a thousand of them chirping in unison and it sounds like a jumbo jet is about to take off.
I will be spending most of the time near Lake Duminagat, the crater lake of Mt. Malindang. Mt. Malindang is pre-historic complex volcano characterized my multiple ranges hot springs, and a hot or cold crater lake. The mountain is home to a considerable number of unique flora and fauna and was declared a National Park in 1971 by virtue of a law. It is considered a complex volcano and deemed as inactive since it has no recorded eruption in known history.
The area is home to local ethnic people called Subanen. They work in coordination with the local government to protect the area. The biodiversity is just amazing and the locals have proven to be very supportive of maintaining the area for generations to come. I learned that the Mr. Malindang National Park has been the subject of many research expeditions to take account of the various endangered species living therein.
Where electricity, cell phones, and internet are non-existent
The area near the clearing is a place where electricity, cellphone and internet signals are virtually non-existent. At first, it felt like going back to the dark ages. It seems unimaginable for me to be without any connection to the web even for a few hours. I was thinking how will I survive not being able to check my emails, do my job, and more importantly, call my love ones.
Considering that I am in a remote area, I did not have any expectations when it comes to facilities and amenities. There is no shower, much more an auto electric heater. Besides, I learned that our host has to manually fetch water from the deeper part of the lake for the household need so to lessen the burden, I decide to simply take a dip in the lake as soon as the sun rises. All is fine by me because I already planned to bathe in the icy crater lake waters to complete the experience.
Honestly, just having a roof over my head to protect me from the freezing rain, and walls to shield me from the cold and fog, is already something I am very thankful for.
Entertainment took a different meaning in the lake. Without electricity television is unheard of. In this place owning a battery-operated radio is a must. It is your only connection to the outside world. At night, when the numbing cold comes with the creeping fog, entertainment means huddling around the lone in the house. The station played what locals call a radio 'drama.' It is a radio series that kept us entertained until everybody calls it a night.
As expected, all the techno gadgets I know of like android phone, tablet, much more a laptop, will find no use here. I was asking a day before this trip if I could bring my laptop, or a phone with silly hopes that there will still be signals considering I am way up high.
You bet I was able to use my mobile phone for two purposes, first as a flashlight to help me find my way at night and second as a camera to take shots of the magical nooks and crannies of the lake. When the sun sets, the concept of 'going out' later night is not such a good idea unless you want to risk getting hypothermia.
R&R to its truest sense
I realized during my first night that sleep will be an activity I will be doing quite often. I would rather keep warm under the sheets when the fog starts descending. It was still summer time in the Philippines when I left my city so the colder temperatures up in these mountain took a lot of getting used to. On another note, it was a chance to finally get a much-needed respite from the late nights and overtime.
Weight problems begone
It struck me as strange that I have not seen anyone here on the heavy side. I remember my eating more than usual because the freezing cold has an uncanny way of tripling your appetite. There must be something in their food which keeps their weight in check. Here, people find it strange that where I came from, people need to go to gyms to sweat out and lose weight. The locals would have preferred having extra weight because it helps the body regulate temperature and aids in keeping warm.
No need for exercise
Exercise is not so popular here. When people walk at least 2-3 miles to get to the nearest market, who needs a treadmill? Transportation which could mean a horse or a motorcycle is considered a luxury and many people are used to the idea of walking from point A to point B. They must find it amusing that city people have a hobby called 'hiking.'
Plant food is abundant at this time of the year. The villagers obtain produce from their small farms and this includes cabbage, sayote (water gourd), and some even have strawberries. Understandably, their source of food are mainly their produce.
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The journey ends but the lessons remain
The three hours trip back down from the slopes of Mt. Malindang is no less spine-chilling. I managed to hitch a ride on the weekly delivery truck. There seems to be an unending stretch of narrow, winding dirt roads, with cliffs and deep ravines in every turn. I trained my eyes to look as far as I can into the horizon praying hard I would arrive on the plains safe.
Trudging down the dangerous curves and slopes with a ten-wheeler truck full of produce and people is not an easy feat. The journey was made more difficult with the heavy downpour brought by the moonsoon turning the unpaved roads into muddy pits. With one wrong move, the truck could easily overturn and roll down into the abyss below. In fact, the rain caused small landslides which covered some portions of the treacherous road.
People often take for granted many things. The chance to get a glimpse of another world has changed me in a lot of ways. Life up there in the mountains is far removed from the city existence I came to know. Up there 7,887 ft above, life is slower yet more simple and hence much meaningful. I am looking forward for another chance to experience it once more, maybe longer.
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