The Cordillerans are able to preserve their pre-colonial belief of ancestral spirits or anitos, some of which dwell on nature. Because of this, Mt. Pulag, famed for its majestic sea of clouds at the peak, is considered sacred and believed to be a sanctuary for these celestial beings.
So adventurers who wish to enter this spiritual territory undergo a short briefing before the traverse.
Being the third highest peak in the Philippines, Mt. Pulag offers trails commencing from Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya. The Ambangeg trail, with a drop-off point located at Bokod, Benguet, is considered to be the friendliest trail of all.
The short seminar is being held at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office, located about 9 hours from Manila and around one hour before the Ranger Station at the entrance of the Ambangeg trail. The officers introduce the variety of fauna and flora living in the area and what people can and cannot do within the vicinity of Pulag. Everyone is encouraged to keep their voices down and to shun from taking any part of the mountain, as well as leaving any human trace because it may hurt the spirits and make it rain during one’s trek.
But merely conforming to all the rules does not prove one’s worth to witness what the spirits of Mt. Pulag have to offer. Ambangeg’s three-hour trail is relatively welcoming and hospitable to mountain novices said to be because of a certain spirit that joins visitors at the foot of the mountain. And this spirit seemingly evolves, as if being nourished as the altitude gets higher and higher. So by the time trekkers reach the camp site upon sunset, it finally transforms into a full-blown Guardian Spirit of Cold.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), the lowest temperature in the City of Pines on January 2015 is recorded at about 10 degrees Celsius. So at an altitude of almost 1500 meters from Baguio City, PAG-ASA is saying that Pulag’s coldness can get as low as 6 degrees or maybe even worse.
And for those raised in an urban oven called Manila, this kind of temperature is just plain torture. The water at the camp site can literally burn one’s hands so washing the dishes after dinner must be done fast. The tent cannot provide enough warmth; even blankets and winter clothes are of no use. Even fatigue from the long journey cannot send voyagers to slumber. The cold creeps inside the bone marrow and is just too painful to bear. And the strong winds do not help either.
But this is just a starter. At four in the morning, one of the coldest times of the day, explorers now embark on a journey towards the summit. The steep trail, the thinner air, and the darkness of the surroundings all conspire with the Guardian Spirit of Cold to give the final test of determination to all the visitors.
But true explorers are willing to do whatever it takes, just to have a taste of one of the most beautiful sunrises the Philippines can offer.