By Bernard Inocentes S. Garcia
WHILE a city is modern and constantly trying to understand itself, a mountain is ancient and lives in harmony with the winds. This I thought of as we hit the road to the southern town of Dalaguete. Floro drove the car and humored us with his collection of classical music. The lady lawyers beside me, Amay and Mary Ann, objected to the soothing sound. We ended uprocking to the ballads of River Maya and Parokya ni Edgar. The best part was when Mary Ann sang “I Will Survive.” It rocked the whole car, and Floro almost stepped on the brakes.
This summer escapade started at the office: Let’s go mountain climbing! And so one windy Saturday,after a two-hour drive from the city, we found ourselves at the foot of Mantalongon, Dalaguete, dubbed as “Cebu’s Summer Capital” and home of our tallest mountain, the Osmeña Peak. It’s about 1000 meters above sea level and is probably the windiest and the coldest part of our island.
A first-time mountaineer, Amay surprisingly led the trail, while the rest of us laughed our way to the top. Let’s backtrack a little. She shouldn’t be leading the trail. While we had jogged at the Abellana Oval twice a week or walked a thousand steps a day to prepare for the two-hour climb, she had done nothing except bought colorful outfits. Luckily, June, a veteran mountaineer, along with his buddies Tit and Mccoy, was there to supervise the whole trip.
Floro was the official photographer. He took pictures while we were walking on a bamboo bridge, or when we were at the ground looking at the mountain peak that looked far and impossible. Allan, who never liked mountain climbing, gave us comic relief. He complained and complained, blabbing about the joy of just sitting by at a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon.
But as scenery after scenery of green fields and farmers carrying cabbages welcomed us, we had fun and felt a sense of achievement when we arrived at the peak. The view on top was exhilarating. With nothing but clouds above us, we felt a sense of euphoria while looking down at the hills below. There was something in a mountain that invigorated the spirit. The cold winds, perhaps, that moved the leaves and the birds cast a positive spell on us.
When darkness fell, I separated myself from the pack and began my rituals. I took off my shirt and allowed the winds to kiss my body. While Gladie, Arlette, and the rest were cooking dinner at a distance, I summoned the mountain spirits to release my creative soul.
True enough, after bottles of tequila and before midnight, I became a child, a lunatic, a werewolf. But this I can proudly say: if one way of testing a man’s character is to get him drunk and lose himself, I’m not a bad man, and all of us for that matter. Tequila, it can be told, turned the silent mountain into our playground, a howling wilderness of fun and laughter.
For a barkada adventure, I recommend mountain climbing. While the beach is seductive with its array of naked bodies, a mountain is spiritual and refreshes the soul. I’m not being religious. The office with all its paperwork and deadlines can be suffocating. And while the beaches of Malapascua may give us the sun and the fun, there are things only a mountain can give, like the purest winds and the exhilarating sense of letting go, or that spark of creativity.
After the summer escapade, we’re back at the City Attorney’s Office now, back to our legal work. Any minute now City Atty. Jerone Castillo will call us for a meeting, or Mayor Mike Rama will call us all for a conference and discuss the city’s interests. Whatever it is, we are invigorated and ready. You know our secret.
On top of the mountain, we’re all free spirits. The rest is our mountain story.