days before our palawan trip, my sister told me to pack some rubber shoes because we were going mountain climbing. Now, i’m probably the last person in the world you’d see climbing mountains as i am not the sportiest one either but then i thought it would be refreshing to try something new. I mean, it’s just a mountain with definite, albeit muddy, trails and there i’ll be, embracing the glory of nature with lots of pictures of the happy, smiling, and seemingly sporty me to prove it!
Let’s just say that everything i saw and went through ran contrary to the expectations i cradled in my head. It wasn’t exactly a mountain. It was a f*cking cliff! And i’m talking about the sharp limestone ones! Those that look like dragon’s teeth from afar, with the ragged edges interspersed with sturdy green plants and just enough space for you to come crashing through. One false move and you’re dead. An ugly, disfigured dead.
i’m not going to lie and pretend i wasn’t scared because i was truly, madly, deeply petrified. i stopped counting the number of times i wanted to turn back but our local guide kept cheering us on, offering words of encouragement that we could do it and that we were almost there.
With no helmet, no harness, and wearing nothing but casual converse shoes (and ruining it in the process), i sucked in as much oxygen as my lungs could handle to ease the heavy pounding of my heart. I was virtually a heart attack waiting to happen.
(i’m still analyzing if i like this color of nail polish or not.)
with the climb getting steeper and more vertical towards the top, my feet and arms were aching but giving up wasn’t an option. to give up was to let go and plunge yourself to the sharp rocks below where a gruesome death awaits you. And besides, we were almost there.
I cannot describe all the pain, effort, and sheer will it took to reach the top. with no experience in climbing, i relied on my instinct to survive, which was to keep my hands and feet planted securely on the crevices before taking the next move. Slowly but surely. I can do this.
thankfully, I did.
one and a half painful hours later, i stood on top of taraw cliff, 200 meters from the ground where we started from, surveying the gorgeous landscape i risked my life for.
i have to admit the panoramic view from the top was amazing, though. From there you could see the town of el nido and bacuit bay, with the boats looking like mere specks in the greenish-blue sea.
i’m too lazy to paraphrase so allow me to insert a little information about taraw cliff from this site:
Taraw cliff is situated on the left side of the El Nido town shore. It is a limestone rock formation that from previous centuries, maybe a home for thousands of sea creatures but today it holds nests for swiftlets also known locally as balinsasayaw. These are birds that can only be found in El Nido, Palawan and they only build their nests in mountain cliffs such as Taraw. As many would know, these birds probably have the most expensive saliva in the whole world, for each kilogram costs around 120,000 Pesos (3,000 USD). Their saliva is the main ingredient in the famous Nido Soup.
when all was said and done on top of the cliff, it was time to climb back down. thinking about the vertical parts of the cliff i had to maneuver made me queasy, as a deluge of possible freak accidents and other similar scenarios came storming through my mind. (years of watching rescue 911 could do that to you.) for a second i was angry at the local government for not installing ziplines as an alternative to climbing down but that was just me being
a scaredy cat irrational.
with all my paranoia, something did happen, though.
we got lost on our way down. mainly because it was nearing nightfall and all, and you know how easily it gets dark in the forest (something i learned the hard way). so imagine having to maneuver the rocks in semi-darkness when your arms and legs are just about ready to give in. and, oh, we didn’t have a flashlight. good thing i had my cellphone with me — my humble nokia e63 with its life-saving flashlight.
of course i was scared! i was scared both for me and for my sister, as well as for the father and daughter team who was with us. as selfish as this sounds, i was more scared for myself because i knew my sister could handle all the physical stuff, being the sporty one. i was just this girly girl who didn’t wanna die, at least not that way. in between panting, i prayed. i felt really close to God.
they say that in the face of death (or a possible one), you start thinking about things that mean the world to you. in my case, i thought about my dad and how disappointed he would be with me for doing something stupid like climbing a cliff late in the afternoon when all the risks are out there, or just climbing a cliff, period. i thought about how infuriated he would be. in my head, i was like, “i can’t die. my dad sure as hell will kill me if i die. then i would be a double dead.”
pardon the sordid thoughts.
help finally came in the form of two other locals who brought flashlights with them after the girl who was with us called her mother to ask for help from the resort we were staying at. gawd, it was such a relief to see the houses and the dogs and the locals living at the foot of the cliff. i was just oh-so-happy to have made it alive!
that experience happened about a month ago. the numerous bruises and crippling muscle pains i acquired have long since healed but if you’re going to ask me if i would do it again, i don’t know. i probably would.