Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
– Amelia Burr
It was 2007. Because of an unexpected approved vacation leave, I was able to join a climb with All Terrain Mountaineering Club (ATMC). Straight from a graveyard shift (I too, was a call center agent in my past life), I headed to Jam’s station along Taft Ave. to meet up with the group. And that’s where I met John.
We were introduced before boarding the bus. What transpired after was a mere exchange of hellos. On the way to Batangas, I didn’t say anything else to him except, “Picture!”.
After the 2-hour bus ride, we alighted at Diversion Road. The group hired a jeep to Philpan Diving Resort in Brgy. Ligaya, our jump off point. Mt. Gulugod Baboy is a minor climb and can be summited in just an hour or two. Seems easy, but definitely not when you’re up all night before climb day.
Keeping awake for 24 hours feels like crap, let alone hiking without sleep and under the influence of Gran Matador Brandy – this can probably make anyone delusional.
Yet I stayed on my feet. I wasn’t torpid at all because of John. He made me laugh. Actually, he made all of us laugh with his blows of punchlines. I was so entertained by him I didn’t notice I had too many shots of brandy already, and we weren’t even halfway to the peak.
Yup, we started drinking way too early in front of that teeny sari-sari store at the beginning of the trail.
At sundown, almost two hours after, we reached the summit to find about a hundred (one of them said so) Fujitsu climbers. The most I’ve encountered in my entire mountaineering life! Such rowdy bunch. Their chatter and chuckles broke the stillness of the cold night.
Darkness has enveloped the surroundings, we took out our headlamps and pitched our tents. After which we assisted Jnard in preparing the ingredients for his sinigang (a tamarind based soup dish). A hearty meal we all needed at the end of the day.
Then of course, socials, to cap off the night. I was seated beside John. More chugs of brandy, more giggles from his funny anecdotes.
Sadly, these are my only memories of John. I wasn’t able to get to know him on a personal level, and will never get the chance anymore because two days ago… John passed away. He was taken by malaria. A disease he may have caught from a trip to Nagsasa Cove.
I am certain he was/is still loved by many. From relatives, to friends, to colleagues, to one-time acquaintances like me. Most of us still cannot fathom why he departed early. Another good soul gone so soon. But not too soon because surely, John lived his life to the fullest.
And he’s in a better place now. He could already be in the hands of his creator, or still wandering – like a true blue adventurous spirit.
Rest in peace John. See you at the crossroads.