I Trekked With Strangers

I usually plan how my holidays would be spent. And most of the time,

…I spend them at home.

It was a week before the all souls day, and at school, we have like, nearly a week of vacation. So I was scanning my Facebook feed hoping to find something interesting to do. And a message popped up. It’s an invitation. To a trek.

Mt Espadang Bato

I’m commonly not into heavy outdoor activities. When I saw the invitation, I was like, na, I’m too tired. But guess what, I clicked the link anyway. And when I saw that it’s for a cause, for Christ, I changed my mind.

Well, actually, my decision making went a bit like a pendulum. Because thinking about the meeting time, I don’t think I could do it. We have to meet at around 3am, and that would drain me already because I’d have to wake up hours earlier.

Or not sleep at all.

And yes, I ended up not sleeping.

Because I went to trek Mt. Espadang Bato.

With people I didn’t know.

The group’s not purely strangers because I brought with me my brother and his girlfriend. And the one who invited me has been one one of my online friends until this day. (You’ll know when you’ve read my previous story. 😊) But the group as a whole is a stranger to me.

Anyway, I am a beginner when it comes to trekking so I bought everything in the guidelines. I even bought a winter gloves because it says there “gloves”. I felt so dumb, but let’s move on.

It also says the trek rate is 3/9 for starters so I thought, I was good. I even jogged an hour a few days before. The joke’s on me, though. I thought the 3/9 trail was easy. Nobody said that some parts of the trek would be rock climbing.

But if somebody did, I wouldn’t have gone to. By this time, I was already there, starting the first few steps, so there’s no going back.

During the trek, I have to constantly search for something I could hold on to, while checking out on the people I’m with. It’s like multitasking (which is a myth, btw) on making yourself safe while making sure others are too.

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Our tour guides were great. Although I wasn’t able to have a picture with them, I’m so much grateful for their presence. They’ve been doing beyond guiding, they helped in different ways along with their stories on the road, which would make you forget time.

When I realized this on the trek, I suddenly remembered the Israelite’s journey to the promise land, having a pillar of cloud and fire to guide them. I didn’t know where to go as much as I didn’t know these people, yet I trusted them enough to get me to where I should be.

But you see, thank God for making Himself known to us so we could trust Him more when we’re going through an unknown trail. And He’ll catch us too whenever we fall and stumble along the way.

As this trek is for Christ, I experienced a lot of things aside from the trek itself. I was given the chance to plant a tree, although I wasn’t the one who brought it. It was an amazing first time for me.

We also brought goods to give to the locals on the mountain. It was such a humbling experience, seeing how simple their life is yet they live it with joy and peace. It may not be easy for them, going through the slippery slope during rainy season just to get to the market, but they got it. I know the Lord continually provides for them.

The group also shared the gospel, which is the best part, and spoke blessings to the families through prayer. Not only trees, but also the seed of the gospel—Christ, was planted.

The stress and the energy costs of the journey will never be comparable to the relief and awestruck wonder you’d have at the top. It was already noon time when we reached the peak and I have been hungry despite the food and water I consumed during the trek. I think I’ve consumed almost 1 liter of water in the ascent alone.

When we reached the end, it was already our turn to climb up the Espadang Bato since another group of climbers reached the peak minutes after us. We had to do it first before eating our lunch.

I was never afraid of heights as much as I do when I’m on stage or in front of an audience. But I can’t help my shaking legs and my growling stomach. I gotta do it or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. (Okay, exag masyado, baka mga months lang haha).

Man. When I was at the top, I just have to look around and see how vast the mountains are and the valleys in between. Look around and you’ll see peaks of other mountains. This is just a little speck of God’s creation but seeing how wonderful it is made me ask how much more heaven would feel like?

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Cliche, but it’s definitely worth it.

We had a simple lunch. We all brought our own food and shared some with each other. We stayed there for around an hour, had our group picture taken, and then,

…it started raining.

The descent was wet. Literally. I had my stuff inside my bag placed in plastics. I also covered my bag with a garbage bag. Even though it was raining, we began our way back or else we’ll be caught up by night.

My legs and arms were tensed all the more with the muddy trail and slippery rocks. But doing so with people, you get encouraged by how they persevere. Everyone extends a hand whenever needed. Cares all around. When one needed to rest, the company rests as well.

You’d see us be slipped here and there but thank God there’s no serious injury. I’m really grateful to the tour guides in this part. The descent lasted for about 3hrs, just like the ascent, and I couldn’t even count the times I asked in my mind Are we there yet?

Ate Roby actually spoke it for me. Thank God the guide was so patient in saying “Malapit na,” yet it always felt forever. I cannot count the number of times she asked me if I’m okay, do I want to rest yet, or if I need assistance. I know we’re on the same setting, we’re tired and physically exhausted with this endless trail but she was still thinking about us.

What I was mesmerized of and what I salute about her more is when during the descent, when we’re all drained, longing for clean waters and something we could lie down to, her heart is still on fire for the ministry. The way she approached and prayed for the locals is really with joy and compassion. The fire she had was constant and did not falter. Indeed, because Jesus remains her constant.

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Ate Roby

And not only her. Seeing the people who organized this climb for Christ, I was encouraged. You’ll see their compassion for people and love for Jesus. How can they still strongly bring those heavy bags with goods and smiles on their faces while approaching and giving them to the locals? How can they still be so excited and happy at this point?

At 4pm, we reached the foot of the trail and the pastor who lead the group asked us if we still wanna go for falls.

Believe me, ninety percent of my body said no. But my mind is saying I’m already here, might as well push it. I could see others were so tired at this point as well, probably trying to squeeze their adrenaline out just to endure another step. I know we were all already wanting to take a shower and sleep.

But my reasoning and logic (haha) were working hard to make an excuse. I still wanted to go. It isn’t wise, but a bit reasonable.

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And so, we ended up going. We rode a tricycle for about 20mins and hiked again for around 30-40mins. The going was good because the sun was still peeking at us and we got a use of its light. Yet we only stayed for half an hour because it’s getting darker. The moment we started the way back, it’s already pitched black.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

Psalms 139:11‭-‬12

I suddenly remembered these verses. Darkness overwhelmed me surely at this part of the amazing journey. And I regretted using that cheap flashlight when I could’ve used my phone. But there’s no time to stop and look for it from the messy pile in my bag. Or else I’ll be left behind.

But fortunately, those who walked before me had great light with them. And I was hoping that even with a sprinkle from their lights, my path will be lighted as well.

Life is like that. Sometimes go through pitched black roads in our life. But nothing’s too dark for God to shed light unto, and He will give us people to share His light with. We may not see the path but He sees, even the end of it because He is light. And He will carry us through.

And He did carry us through. We were able to get back to where things started, got the shower that we deserve, and relaxed for a while before going back to QC.

One thing I uttered after the trek and the crazy night fall experience, after we got out from the van at 10pm in Litex and said our goodbyes, was “It was such a great day with strangers.”

And I shivered as the cold wind touched my face in the busy street this time of the night. It was as if the Holy Spirit saying, they are never strangers.

The joy did not really come from overcoming the difficult trail whilst the beauty above awaits. It was overcoming the trail together with these beautiful people. Yup, cliché as it always sounds but you’ll never really understand it unless you get to experience it yourself.

It is indeed true that if you wanna go fast, you should go alone. But if you wanna go far, then go with a company, which can sometimes be strangers.

It was an overwhelming experience that I could never bargain with by the comfort that I could have at home given that it was a holiday. These people holding on to the saying “expanding our territory” gets to show us God’s glory through their lives, and I’m so grateful to have witnessed that.

These people who belong to the same one church, one body, and one faith as I do are never strangers but a part of the family I’ll soon come to know.

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And would I do this again?

Definitely yes! but not too soon. 😉

Luv,

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