Or my 10-step hopscotch from foot drop to eye sty.
1. On the hot and humid night of May 10th, I did three dumb things that would forever change the way I look at my feet. After a tiring and busy day commuting from work, I came home and took a cold shower without bothering to heat the water first nor take some time to rest. To save up on the electric bill, instead of turning on the aircon in my hobby room, I just slept on the floor with only a thin mat (banig) between me and the cold tiles. And to make matters worse, I set the electric fan to 3 and directed its spinning blades to my legs til dawn.
2. Friday morning of the next day, I woke up with a numb left foot and couldn't move my ankle and toes upwards (dorsiflexion). The next few hours saw me dragging my foot and limping to work. I went to see an orthopedic doctor and he told me I have "drop foot" which might have something to do with the lower back pain (sciatica) I was complaining about. Thanks to sitting nine hours a day, five days a week in my pig-fattening pen (cubicle), and to the stupid things I did the previous night, I might have just suffered from a very mild stroke.
3. For the next few days and a week to go before our scheduled climb, I wore an ankle support to work, took medications, and did low-impact aerobic exercises. Before the foot drop, I never gave much thought to the simple act of walking. I merely took it as a given and--like everyone else--took the thing for granted. Being taller than most people, I used to walk fast with a big stride. Whoever's accompanying me had to jog just to keep up, for fear of being left behind. But as they say, you only appreciate something once you've lost it. Like innocence and virginity.
4. Much as I wanted to go biking the following weekend, my left foot wouldn't let me. It just kept slipping off the pedal, hurting my knee! Riding my motorcycle to do errands for commander-in-chief was also out of the question. Shifting gears, toeing up and down the foot clutch became a real pain in the ass, err, leg I mean. So I just stayed home and watched Saturday morning cartoons with my son. Sunday morning was a different story. Thanks to the old family car with automatic transmission, I only needed to use my right foot for us to go to church.
5. Fast forward to May 19th (another Saturday), 4:30AM, Edsa. Through sheer force of will and some do-it-yourself physical therapy, I managed to heal 50% of my left foot and arrange myself into something resembling a mountaineer. I hauled my backpack out of our house before sunrise and dragged it to the Alps bus terminal in Cubao, ignoring the cusswords of wifey--annulment threats, flying kitchen utensils and all. All 25 of us LUMOT* members/friends & lovers piled into the next trip to Batangas City by 6AM, while two others would follow via a different route.
6. Three hours, two sandwiches, and a full bladder later, we were in San Juan, southern Batangas. From there we chartered two jeepneys that took us to the jump-off point in Brgy. Hugom. Though the trail usually starts off at the beach, we cheated a little and had the drivers bring us right into the forest at the foot of Mt. Daguldol. Good thing 'cuz with the noonday sun burning over our heads, I don't think our feet would take kindly to the hot (quick)sand. After registering at HEGA** (P35 each) and picking our two guides (P350/15 persons), we started trekking.
7. With a 3/9 difficulty rating, a trail class of 1-3, and 672 meters above sea level, the minor climb took us 4-5 hours to reach the summit--big thanks to my ankle and knee pads. Unlike Mt. Nagsasa which has no forest cover, Mt. Daguldol is teeming with trees so we were able to bear the summer heat. Not to mention there were these waiting sheds built along the trail and houses-cum-stores selling basic food stuff and softdrinks. Fresh buko juice (P20) and halo-halo were also being peddled, the price of the latter being directly proportional as you went higher. Talk about supply and demand. Oh, and we also crossed paths with ex-Eraserheads/now Dawn bassist Buddy Zabala in one of the makeshift stalls--which explains the choice of soundtrack for the video below, hint, hint.
8. Clothes, underwear, and socks still dripping from sweat, I was greeted at the windy summit by what appeared to be a big golf course with a 360-degree view of Mindoro island, Tayabas Bay, and the twin peaks of Mt. Banahaw (good) and Mt. Cristobal (evil), among many others. Two sources of potable drinking water at the Niyugan campsite near the summit made things a lot easier. With the exception of dried horse shit littering the grass and one stray dog (askal) which ate our leftovers, our camp was eerily quiet--save for insects chirping and a crow (uwak) cawing.
9. According to folklore, the onomatopoeic*** Mt. Daguldol got its name from the sound of thunder. Old folks say it's a place where you can see lightning dance, especially during cloudy nights. Warning ringtones began tinkling in the back of my head as I videocammed the foggy horizon before supper. Must waterproof. Good thing it didn't rain during our stay there--though a good portion of Luzon was having bad weather. I even got a good night's sleep--thanks to GSM Blue, Emperador Light and such like. After breakfast the next day, we went down the mountain.
10. On the way down, we were too tired to take the Naambon Falls sidetrip which would also take us an hour. Anyway, we just made paluto and had our Sunday lunch of steaming tinolang (native na) manok in one of the huts on the shores of Laiya beach. Have I mentioned that the beach had rocks? Lots of rocks. An incredible number of rocks, so that we had to wear sandals while swimming. And the water was too salty for our taste it made us cry. By 4PM we were off to Manila. I don't know what the speed limit was in Batangas but I was sure as hell we broke it--thanks to our kamikaze pilot, err, jeepney driver!
EPILOGUE: And it came to pass that on the morning of May 21st (a Monday), I no longer wore an ankle support to work. But in its place was a gauze pad over my left eye--red, swollen (nangamatis), and shut tight by a painful sty (kuliti/pigsa) as if I had been Pacquiaoed. Whether it was caused by the soiled Good Morning towels I wiped my face with during the climb or the small stream where I washed off the dirt from my head, only Mt. Daguldol and its nature spirits would know.
Photos by Dong & Alex
Food, jeepney fare, halo-halo, buko juice, atbp. courtesy of Atty. Jay (thanks! thanks!)
*League of Unified MOuntaineers and Trekkers
**Hugom Environmental Guides Association (HEGA)
***formation of a word by imitation of a sound made by or associated with it, like "boom," "piss" and "caw" ("uwak").