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Amongst the Clouds

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A weekend retreat up one of Tanay’s best-kept secrets marked by watered down vodka, a comforting lunar spotlight, and the fabled sea of clouds.

It was a Sunday and we had the campsite all to ourselves. My three companions and I had spent the night inside a roomy BaseKamp Ridge 2 tent. We were comfortable, but we didn’t exactly fit; our feet were all sticking out, and the ground was damp and a bit bumpy. It didn’t matter though, for the night had been cool and beautiful.

On our commute to this place known as “Treasure Mountain,” we opted to clamber up a jeepney’s roof. I’ve been to Tanay many times but I’ve yet to ply its roads this way: by means of what we Filipinos call “toploading.”

It seemed like a great idea at the time. And it was, for the ride was scenic, the air fresh, and the sweep of mountains made me wishing, even after three jeepney rides, that it was longer. After we got off the third jeepney, we still had to go on a trek. As we made our way across a path of orange soil, our destination loomed far, taunting us. But the trek turned out easy, and took us only about 20 minutes. It was a little past 5 p.m. when we arrived.

Lunar blessing

After a humble dinner of canned corned beef, we were herded up a partially constructed gazebo. At the center of it was a fire pit, and there, a bonfire was lit. Since it was drizzling, we thought to set up our tent there, but later decided it defeated the entire purpose of us being up in the mountains. So, when the bonfire sizzled back into embers, we made our way down on the other side of the hill and surveyed for a patch of even ground. We found the perfect spot, but it was dark then, so we pitched our tent with just a flashlight and a whole lot of fumbling.

Once we were settled in, we found the tent to be very cozy. Its material lets just the right amount of balmy air. A good thing each of us brought a couple of bottles of watered-down vodka – the kind that tasted like an iffy cola. It was just what we needed that evening.

Inside our shelter, we drank and had a round of fun games. We spoke with accents and enumerated bands with female vocalists. I had to keep my hands up for five minutes just because. After each of us finished all two bottles of our vodka-cola, we briefly went outside.

It was 10 p.m. The sky was starless and heavy with clouds, but we could see the distinct outlines of the mountains and the white vapor gathering in their folds. We were filled with hope and joy.

Yet strangely, that night, I had trouble sleeping. This was my third camping trip in the last two months, and thrice have I found myself tossing and turning – I should probably spend more evenings in the mountains. In any event, there was a moment I was staring out into the meadow through the opening in the tent, laying prone and wide awake, when I noticed it was suddenly bright outside. I estimated it was just a little past midnight. I got up and took a peek and saw that the thick clouds had started to dissolve, forming ripples in the sky. The full moon shone right above, casting a natural spotlight on us. It was magical, like a blessing. After this lunar scene, I finally
was able to get some sleep.

The sky cracks to give way to a multicolored dawn

The sky cracks to give way to a multicolored dawn

Spectacle of mists

It was a few moments right before dawn when I came to. Roused by the shuffling of my companions who were keen on taking photos of the unbelievable event that was forming before our eyes.

The fog had crept down the mountains in the night. The sky was tinged with orange and purple. Stems of white cogon and dewy blades of grass swayed in the early morning breeze, and critter songs mingled with gentle rain-patter. I sat in the comforts of our tent, savoring this much sought-after scene. A mass of mist came rolling towards us. There it was: a sea of clouds.

The sea of clouds swarming right at the edge of the hill

The sea of clouds swarming right at the edge of the hill

A mass of mist rolls towards the edge of the limestone-rimmed hill

I don’t know what it is about this natural spectacle but many a traveler dream of coming to such a wondrous sight. They go far and take long, often arduous, journeys to see it, and sometimes, their efforts aren’t rewarded. This was what happened to me in Mt. Pulag. I took the Akiki Trail, also known as the “Killer Trail,” to Luzon’s highest peak, hoping to witness its fabled sea of clouds, only to be met with freezing rains and murky skies. Fortunately, here in my home province of Rizal, views like this are easy to come by. In Treasure Mountain, for example, it’s practically effortless. In this place, the oft-elusive sea of clouds is a mainstay. Some days it’s wispier, but it’s always there.

That Sunday, it was a gush. The vaporous sea stopped right at the edge of our hill. Over the clusters of limestone, the haze poured, slithering and somewhat eerie. By now, the sky had cracked to bring the first rays of dawn. A light so precise, all looked sharp and sure. “There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation,” the great Robert Macfarlane once wrote. And try as I may to articulate that experience I had on Treasure Mountain that one Sunday morning, these words only offer a remote echo, for, in fact, at that exact moment, the only response I thought appropriate was this: silence.

When the clouds retreat, a pastoral scene is revealed

When the clouds retreat, a pastoral scene is revealed

A scattering of limestone formations adds to Treasure Mountain’s dramatic morning landscape

Getting there:

Treasure Mountain is located at Sitio Maysawa, Brgy. Cuyambay, Tanay, Rizal.

The easiest route would be to ply through Marcos Highway via Cogeo. This scenic route will pass through Baras and notable landmarks such as Palo Alto Subdivision and Foremost Farms.

The path to Treasure Mountain will be on your left, just after Masungi Georeserve.

For inquiries and reservations, you may contact Sarah Tobato at (0918) 422-4877.

 

By Celine Reyes
Photos by Dennis Murillo

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