MANY times in my life I wonder what is it that brings me to the mountains. That question crosses my mind whenever I find myself in yet another situation that my friends will not likely find themselves in, like riding a habal-habal on a mountain road; a horse on a mountain trail; a skylab on a mountain road that is still being opened; and walking long hours under the sun, when I have not even conditioned my body to withstand the grueling trek.

I’m still here, though, with my cameras, my backpack, and my ever-reliable sleeping bag.

Each trip is an adventure guaranteed to elicit disbelief from friends. Why oh why, they’d ask, and then just as quickly say it’s but expected.

I’m not sure when my love affair with the mountains started. But I do remember long trips with dad from Davao to Surigao, when mining has not yet flattened what we called Iron Mountains. I’m not sure if that is really its name, but my dad used to say that the reason the Iron Mountains’ soil is so red is because it is made of iron; it’s the rust, he used to say. I never questioned that. I simply looked forward to that long stretch of the highway that brings us up the Iron Mountains.

On the first week in college out there in Diliman, organizations set up exhibits to entice members. I was drawn to the photo exhibit of UP Mountaineers and there and then signed up as an applicant, all by myself.

Still chubby with baby fat, I endured the long treks and the regular five-kilometer runs around the Academic Oval or the longer seven-kilometer route that goes through the stud farm. With a body that was more inclined to becoming chubby than athletic, I trudged on those mountains until I became a full-fledged mountaineer.

Being the baby of the batch, senior mountaineers took me under their wings – there was Mian and Boboy. Every trip to yet another mountain destination would be preceded by an overnight stay at Mian’s house in Vicente Cruz Street, where I’d look forward to seeing Mian’s two Siamese cats. Those rascals who loved to jump on my tummy from the high wooden cabinet as soon as I fall asleep.

Interestingly, I had lesser mountain treks when I lost all those baby fats so long ago. From the regular chubby 120 pounds, my weight settled between 95 to 105 pounds for two decades after college.

But as they say, life begins at 40. That was when I started to return to my chubby self, and started climbing up those mountains again. Now I wonder what my fats have to do with the mountains… Whatever, I’m enjoying my treks. Never mind if I cuss and puff and huff in between…

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