This is how much of a beginner I am: I had to research the difference between hiking and trekking to make sure that my title was correct. Hiking apparently is a more leisurely activity, and the roads you walk on are normally paved or manmade. Trekking (which I am now more certain is the activity that I engaged in) is a more challenging and rigorous activity. My aching bones and muscles the day after could attest to how “rigorous” it was.
What was the objective of my trek? It was to reforest a part of the Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines. Why did I think of doing this? Blame Jane Goodall and her campaign on spreading the awareness that reforesting is still the simplest solution towards solving the problem of climate change.
My friend and fellow environment supporter told me that she and a group of students would be going up the mountain on the weekend, and against all physical constraints (I have chronic back pain) and common sense (she said that the trek could take up to six hours), I decided to sign up for it. After all, you never know when you will be given that opportunity again.
It almost didn’t happen because early that morning, it rained steadily, and as I knew that we would be crossing rivers, I was half wishing the event would be cancelled. But I think that Mother Nature sensed we had an urgent mission to get to and so she didn’t hold us back. At about 5 am, about forty of us were on our way, fieldtrip-style, to Rizal. An hour and a half later, upon arriving at Laiban, we rode a rickety jeep for another 45 minutes to travel across dirt roads and about 8 small rivers. Only then did the actual trek begin.
A little over two hours, 3 thigh-high rivers, countless narrow and muddy trails later, we arrived at the planting site. The site was on a slope, and so while I was putting each plant in the hole and covering it up with soil, I was also saying a silent prayer for 2 things: 1. that the plant would survive and 2. that I would survive going down.
Many firsts happened that day. It was the first time for me to ride a jeep that could cross rivers (Who would’ve thought our own local jeeps could rival amphibious vehicles?). It was my first time on the Sierra Madre (It was breathtaking. Definitely one for the books). It was my first time to get acquainted with a limatik, a blood leech that inhabited Philippine forests. I am so glad that I didn’t get to see the actual leech sucking my belly as I might have really freaked out. The only evidence that the leech did bite me was my very bloody shirt, and the fact that it took a while for the wound to clot (blood leeches secrete Hirudin that has anticoagulant properties). All in all, it was a good day for Mother Earth, a good bonding/exercise time with one of my closest friends and my husband, and a very satisfying meal for the leech. Win-win-win.
I hope that I will still have the energy to bring my daughter with me to plant trees. The trek is too dangerous for her right now, but someday, I want her to be able to play her part in helping the world we live in. After all, she will inherit it in whatever form it will be in the future.