I am breathing fresh air. My tiring muscles are rewarded by the magnificence of every creature I see. I hastily put my backpack down, sat on a big sturdy rock beside the river, stretched my weary shoulders, and swung my legs into the water as I enjoyed the relaxing ticklish splash of running water on my feet. I let nature sounds prevail; birds chirping, water splashing and trees swinging as blown by a gentle breeze. I gaze up and saw big trees shading me from the sun. The sun beams through the spaces between branches and leaves. As I walk downstream, I can hear water forcefully splashing as it plunges from the Buruwisan Falls — boasting in its charm. The lovely mini lagoons invited me to take a dip in to the crystal clear calming waters. The place is like a paradise painted and sketched in Bibles and magazine.
That’s how I imagined the place looks like ten or twenty years ago – even more exquisite before that.
Then, my daydreaming was disturbed by earsplitting squeals of people across the river and was awakened and slapped by huge disappointments in front of me.
For the past 3 hours, me and my friends crossed the rivers and walked on the muddy trails of Mt. Romelo. The trail could have been easy but the sticky-thick-soaking mud made it challenging for us. Our heavy-towering backpacks added to the challenge in balancing on steep-muddy parts of the trail. My backpack was killing me. I had a 60Liter backpack with tent and everything else inside. I felt my muscles aching from my neck down to my ankles, worst on my shoulders blades. I went there straight from my shift, no rest, no sleep, no energy drink, no coffee – just full curiosity of what this mountain will offer me. While beating these challenges I was telling myself “that’s alright Gail. I know the beauty of the mountain awaits me and I’m pretty sure it would amaze me”.
Nearly 200 meters away from the campsite, I already heard splatter of water accompanied by screams of people. I was stunned to see number of tents already pitched in, cottages built beside the stream, and mini convenience stores. There were empty bottles of Tanduay rhum, empty cans, cigarette butts and plastic cups scattered around the area. There were strings from trees to trees with clothes clipped in as it hung out to dry. Groups of people were drinking booze, playing cards and laughing out loud in the cottages.
As I stand there letting everything sink in, I pitied and sympathized Mt. Romelo. It was alarming to see the condition of that mountain. It was upsetting to see how it was treated by these “TOURIST”. No, they are not mountaineers. They don’t even have the right to be called like one because if you are a mountaineer, you know the pledge by heart. Wherever you go, whoever you’re with, whichever mountain you climb, you know you — take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time and leave nothing but footprints.
I don’t put all the blame to these tourists. The local people and local environment coordinators should also be responsible for what happened to the mountain.
I think Mt. Romelo needs to undergo urgent rehabilitation. The mountain badly needs rest. The mountaineers go to places like this to breathe fresh air, to unwind, to experience peace and tranquility bestowed only by nature. Now, everything’s a mere imagination.
Indeed, reality bites. It is easy to wish that all people had been responsible in the past, but things in the past cannot be changed. Only things in the future can be changed – it’s not too late to show concern and act responsibly. I hope all the climbers realize this.