How to befriend a mountain

By Karla Quimsing

FROM the coast where she grew up, she could see a mountain. It is an enormous entity she is used setting her eyes on, but not her feet. Her ancestral home is situated near the city’s port and ships’ sirens could be heard on the street on quiet summer mornings. The children in their neighborhood would go to the lighthouse for an afternoon swim alongside pumpboats, oil tankers, and floating garbage. She always had an affinity with the sea. It is a character in her life, like a cousin she shared childhood secrets with, one she always counted on. And as an adult, every time she is home, she goes running with her father from their house to the old port at that time of the day they called Golden Hour. When the sea shimmers below a sunset over Balaan Bukid or Holy Mountain. Golden Hour. One childhood memory about the mountain that she shared to her daughter is this: If you don’t take a bath twice a day, lice will infest your hair. They will multiply massively, and will altogether fly and take you to Balaan Bukid.

Illustration by Geraldine Sypiecco
Illustration by Geraldine Sypiecco

She named her daughter Isla and people often ask her why. She wondered if the world needs to know why islands sprout from the earth. The little girl is as curious as little girls should be. Before going to bed, she would ask her parents stories of their childhood. One memory Isla’s father shared to her was about visiting his relatives living in the mountains of Masbate: Their house was on the top of a mountain, it was very far. There were trees taller than buildings, rocks as big as our car. I had to walk and cross rivers. But I was only a little boy, so they let me ride a horse.

How does one befriend a mountain? They took Isla with them to Danasan. A place that gained popularity because someone with the resources built a big eco adventure park in this barangay situated at the edge of nowhere. The car ride to get there is long and not so convenient for city people like them. It was not surprising that they missed a turn and lost their way. But everything is really just a matter of perspective when climbing a mountain. As their friend who suggested this place put it: The difficult terrain and distance, getting lost and finding your way again, is all part of the adventure.

The eco park has man-made facilities to draw visitors to this isolated spot. Swimming Pool, Zipline, Skydrop Ride, Wakeboarding, Rappelling, Tyrolean Traverse, ATV Driving, Speedway Drift, the choices are quite overwhelming. But this is not the character of the mountain she is curious about. She decided instead, to make memories about her encounter with the waterfalls and the horses. She wants to know the mountain’s energy that commands her to be quiet especially when there is a body of water around. The indistinct force that moves her to whisper, to feel that an exclamation about its beauty would disrupt and change everything. She wants to understand its sense of control over her that tells her to restrain her awe. This is different from how she sees the sea which is always bustling and noisy and abundant. Up in the mountains, water is mysterious. On one side it is running, on the other side it sleeps. Although this intimidates her, she sort of understands how it is. It is a familiar unfamilar. Like a foreign country that she had read so much about but never really visited. This is how she started befriending the mountain.

Golden hour. Her friends went to ride the ATV while she and her daughter, the horses. She distrusts the ATV because she has heard so many stories from friends of how they escaped accidents riding one. And besides, she thought this thing is too noisy and disruptive. Riding the horses, she and Isla were told to go with its graceful rhythm. Otherwise, they would fall. To be a rider, the horse handler said, one must make a connection with a beast. She remembered the day she learned to float on the sea. The horses’ trail was a grassy and muddy path with a full view of the entire eco park. Golden Hour. It was their first time to meet horses. They glanced at each other and smiled. Are you nervous? The horse handler asked Isla. She shook her head. This is how she befriended the mountain.


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