ENROLL IN TOS! It is so awesome!
On 7-07-07 we climbed sacred Mount Banahaw. I clambered barefoot through ancient holy caves that were so quiet, I could hear the frequencies my ears had lost. I held candles up to crevices carved by thousands of years of thousands of monsoon raindrops.
I found a real love for spelunking. It's an act that bans panic. If you want out of the cave, back up to the surface, you have to center yourself and push out the bullshit. It's calming.
Then we climbed to the top of Kalbaryo, an act that was provided for by no real trail, just an extremely steep and rocky path slightly cut out of a field of jungle brush. At the top of the hill, we leaned against an aluminum cross and watched the fog pass at arm's length. We were surrounded by green mountains. Makiling to the left, Cristobal to the right.
That night clambered right back down. Dawn, the white phD student whose grandfather was the Philippines' cartographer during WWII, held my bag for me and picked me up after the ten times I tripped. Our guides instructed us to say "Tabi-tabi po" to ask the wood spirits permission to pass. As the dark descended and we couldn't see the drops to our right and left, no one objected.
Then, ahead of us, the path flattened. A ghostly sari-sari store had a yellow and blue striped sheet draped over its stall, signalling that it was closed. It was lit from within with a candle. You could see the silhouette of hanging candy.
Our guides, sinewy men who wore the same clothes for weeks and slept only on hard surfaces, made us a meal of incredible tilapia and fresh cut pineapple. They used a wood-fired stove.
That night we slept in the attic of a church on top of bamboo mats. I didn't sleep, though. I stayed awake listening to our guides joke in Tagalog until their voices were drowned out under the galloping rain. The roosters began calling at four, impatient for the dawn.