CCT’s August Forest Building Activity in Bokod


By: Consuelo Serina


Trying to make joining the Cordillera Conservation Trust‘s August tree planting activities an annual thing! Check their Facebook page or for more details regarding their activities. They usually have multiple dates set for tree planting during the habagat season and some marathons set at the earlier parts of the year.

Special thanks to Jp Alipio, Elda Rhea Olimpo, and Max for this opportunity! And to tita Miryam for the extra EXTRA support. 🙂 Looking forward to the next!

———– August 14-16, 2015 Journal entry of sorts!

No idea how I’m gonna start writing about my experience properly so I’ll just blurt everything out.

Wow what an experience! Didn’t think the estimated 4-5hr trek would take me 7.5hrs! I didn’t even bother to ask how the terrain will be. Had I known what was going to happen, I would’ve started jogging 3 weeks in advance.

Day 1 started with meeting up with everyone else at the Slaughterhouse Terminal in Baguio. From there we had around 3hrs (I think!) going to Bokod by van. Slept the whole way (aside from the breakfast stopover) cause I arrived from Manila at 4am that same morning (Buses only take 3.5hrs from Manila to Baguio now, whutwhutwhut). When I woke up, we were at the gate of Benguet State University. After a few minutes, our truck arrived bringing us deeper in Bokod. I was all smiles sitting at the back of the truck remembering how it was last year at Tinoc and told myself, “I actually went through with this even if I was alone from Manila.” Had I known what was going to happen in the afternoon, I probably wouldn’t have said these bold words to myself, lol.

At the end of the road, we got off our bus and went up to Epik Elementary School where we had an early lunch and unloaded all the things we could leave behind that we didn’t need to bring with during the hike to Naswak.

And so it begins…

We left Ekip Elementary School at 1pm to reach Naswak at around 5pm.
…nope. Nopenopenopenope. No way that was going to happen. For me at least. I didn’t think I’d have such a hard time trekking. I realized soon enough that I wasn’t physically prepared for the hike. I still pushed through though. I mean, I really had no choice. Logically speaking, (and this was what was going through my head during the trip) if I go back to Epik, then what? There really was nothing waiting for me there. I’d also become a burden to the teachers there because they had another person to bother themselves with when we should be able to take care of ourselves as part of CCT’s group. So I really had to push myself. Up the pine tree forest, through the mossy forest etc.

We had to do multiple rest stops along the way cause I wasn’t used to trail walking. Luckily enough, a local was passing by and offered to carry my pack. I happily obliged if it would help the situation. My pack went ahead of us while I tried to catch my breath. Then it was time again to keep moving forward.
I had the hardest time breathing when we reached the mossy forest. It was getting to mid afternoon and the fog was becoming thicker, the air getting colder and thinner. I started wheezing and it was painful on the throat. Good thing Elda was prepared. She got her thermal blanket out and wrapped me up. That really helped. So I ended up walking up the trail wrapped in what looked like gold foil.

Dark had reached us on the trail. But at least we were already descending. I had left my headlamp in my pack because I didn’t think that we’d still be on the trail when dark settled. That made things a little tricky for me because I had to rely on the lights of others. I look back every once in a while and happy I did. There was a point where when I turned back, I’d see fireflies dancing and that was a really nice consolation despite our situation. Ahead of us, I would see lightning dancing behind clouds on the other side of a mountain. Those 2 scenes somehow comforted me because I probably wouldn’t have seen them if it weren’t dark yet.

After an hour or so, locals of Naswak came for us. Some bringing a blanket and a thick branch(?). Apparently, someone informed them that *someone* needed to be carried along the trail. NOPE. I wasn’t thinking anymore but when I saw what they wanted to do I became defensive and said I can still handle the trek (it was already descending after all). Had I been in a merrier mood, I probably would’ve opted to get carried on a blanket just for the fun of it.

Moving on with the story, at this point I couldn’t stop crying anymore. I guess I had to let the frustrations out one way or another and I wasn’t gonna start thrashing our shouting. I was just so tired physically and mentally. Expectation vs. Reality. If I had thought ahead that we’d reach this point, I probably wouldn’t have reacted like this.

There were also points during the trail where we had to stop because we had to remove leeches climbing up our pants. It was during one of these stops that Elda saw a leech on my ear which she was able to remove. I really didn’t feel the blood flowing down my neck and I wasn’t thinking anymore so I didn’t know how bad it looked. I just really wanted to reach Naswak and rest.

I felt great comfort when I started to hear dogs barking and started seeing house structures. I had thought that in just a few more steps we’d reach the school premises but later on realized that it would be meters still before we reached our refuge. It was my first time to experience great hope then be pulled back from it. Just a little more was what was on my mind. Almost there.
And then finally we were directed to the teacher’s quarters where our bags, chairs and food was awaiting us. By this point I had already stopped crying. I had thought that I’d feel embarrassed at my reaction but later on accepted it as it is. No point continuing the drama because we had reached our destination but it was also a good experience to test out my character. The blood from our leech bites still continued to flow but at least it wasn’t as strong. We had our bites covered with cotton to clog it somehow.

After dinner and some cleaning up, we proceeded to our assigned classroom where we prepared our sleeping area for the night. After all that happened, I realized that it was a nice and cold evening after all.

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