The rain started pouring like there’s no tomorrow around 10 pm. The wind was so furious as though it would ravage all the living creatures at Pico de Loro. In all directions, no one can be certain about safety as Typhoon Gorio was making its landfall at the tip of Southern Luzon on June 29, 2013. And in this part of Maragondon, Cavite, towering more than 600 meters above sea level, every mountaineer felt the wrath of Mother Nature. For at least 12 hours, the wind and the rain continuously battered the earth.
Days back before the climb, I kept checking the weather forecast online and it showed that it will be cloudy and rain probability is around 60%. I was aware that a typhoon was coming but it would not land, which made me confident of at least fair weather. Leaving Manila on a fiery hot Saturday made me even more certain that the sun would be up until we reach the campsite and that the stars would twinkle in the sky at night so we could assault the summit the following day. Alas! It was not meant to be.
We started trekking around 2:30 pm and we reached the campsite just before dusk. Thick cloud formations were already visible on the horizon yet there was a glimpse of a sunset too. We immediately pitched our tent when we arrived and started cooking our meal. And it was a wise decision to stay in the middle of the forest since my first climb to Pico de Loro years back was not so good. I wasn’t able to sleep the whole night. Boisterous mountaineers drinking booze were everywhere. So I decided to keep away from the open campsite where almost everybody would station themselves, and that proved to be providential at the same time.
Around 7:30 pm, the warning rain, I should say, started to fall. We all hurriedly went inside the tent, which was only good for two people yet we all fitted in. Water seeped inside because it was not properly pitched. A few minutes more and the rain stopped. We went on cooking rice, ate our dinner and fixed the tent, tying its four sides to the trunk of the trees to make it even sturdier. Val and Kenneth went out to explore the other parts of the campsite after dinner to socialize with other mountaineers. I opted to stay instead. Surprisingly, they found nobody to socialize with as other mountaineers were also busy.
In the middle of our socials and chitchat, Gorio began to show its force. We’re glad we fixed the tent, otherwise we would have been dripping wet just like the other mountaineers at the open campsite. Gorio was taking its momentum around 11 pm just before lights off. Literally, we did not turn the led lights off for security purposes. It just kept on swaying in the middle of the tent’s roof. And from time to time, the droning sound of the strong wind and swaying branches awakes me. Around 5 am, I felt the water seeping into the tent just before my legs. Little did we know that a branch fell just onto the head area of the tent letting the water permeate the secondary layer. I was just wearing a sando and shorts. I forgot to bring my jacket. Good thing I brought a blanket though.
Despite the seemingly wet tent floor, we were still able to sleep until 8 am. The moment we all went outside, fallen branches and leaves scattered around. There was an abandoned broken tent a few meters from us. Not a single tent was at the open campsite. Everyone vacated the area that very night and almost everybody was wet except for us. One mountaineer was even surprised to see me dry. Some first timers were having second thoughts when asked if they would climb again. It was the worst and horrifying mountaineering experience I ever had. My greatest fear at that time was: if the trees couldn’t sustain the strong wind and fall onto our tents, it would have been devastating. I could not even picture out how the other mountaineers managed to transfer deep into the bamboo forest in the middle of strong wind and rain. Some were not able to sleep and many were freezing cold.
There would be nowhere for us to cook our meal in the morning. We chose to pack up and started our way back. We only had some of the trail foods of chocolates and snack bars for breakfast until we reached the first stop to have our meal.
On our way back to the DENR ranger station, we went along the wrong trail until we met a local, saying we should have turned left a few meters from the huge fallen tree. It was my mistake. I was concentrating on the trail not minding the signage that says, “This way to DENR.” We headed back and found the right way. It was exhausting given that my bag was wet, doubling its weight. My shoes were not even spared.
One thing I learned about this experience: don’t underestimate the weather. If a typhoon threat is imminent, make second thoughts of pursuing the climb. Or else you’d be risking a lot.