People would always want to be somewhere. We would always want to be someone. We would always want something. However, sometimes, we didn’t become someone we pictured to be; we are not in some place we wanted to be; we have something, but that’s not what we’ve longed for. That’s when life brings us to the total opposite of the world we dreamed of — of what we envisioned. Then we start wondering what brought us where we are.

Was it destiny or choice?

When we found ourselves doing the things we are passionate about, was it fate working or was it free will?

The Peaks

Beautiful summits of Mt. Maculot in Batangas and Mt. Pulag in Benguet rendered him wordless. But the surreal view of these mountains could possibly be beaten by a scene of an erupting volcano — a scenario he wishes to witness that would gratify his eyes, only if it doesn’t destroy lives.

Mt. Purgatory posing its immense Pine forest environment, Mt. Kanlaon showcasing its volcanic nature, Mt. Maculot flaunting its splendid view, Mt. Apo boasting its unique boulders trail feature, and Mt. Makiling offering its budget hikes are his favorites. He admires the diverseness of these mountains.

There were also times in his climbs when mountains failed to meet his expectations. One instance was upon reaching the summit of Pico de Loro for the first time, the iconic rock column buried itself behind the white mist making it not visible from the peak. From this experience, he learned to expect less to avoid disappointment in each climb.

Mountains have the capability to move one’s soul and turn a dormant spirit alive. Although they bring fulfillment he always long desired, for him, each mountain is unique and has its own charm. All the treks and hikes he pursued left integral marks in his heart. However, there is only one unforgettable climb that ultimately tested his patience and physical limits. “Definitely, my most memorable climb was when I successfully reached the summit of Mt. Apo together with other mountaineers. It was my birthday climb which happened in January 2013 and it probably was the most challenging hike I did so far. All nature’s elements conspired to dampen my spirit— intense and relentless downpour, muddy and slippery grounds, obstructed paths, overwhelming steeps, and raging rivers that we were forced to cross. We traversed Mt. Talomo and Mt. Apo in Davao Region for four days. I’m really glad we made it back. I would definitely not do this crazy traverse again in years.”

Eventhough he trailed so many mountains, Mt. Makiling, his training ground, will always be his home.

The Beginning of Trails

He first summited Mt. Dagulgol, followed by another mountain, he aimed again for another, and then the list appears infinite. At present, he already has 53 mountains under his belt including the three highest mountains in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. He unbelievably achieved it in a span of almost two years while juggling his work and personal life.

“I feel so incomplete if a month passes without a mountain. I think it’s safe to say that I’m a certified mountain addict,” he shared.

The discovery of his passion to reach towering peaks came about when he was compelled to do something, not realizing that it was only heaven’s way of leading him to a life he never thought he would live and nurture; life where he sees no retirement. So he has this revelation, “An event in my life inspired me to climb mountains. Back in my college days, we had this Entomology class that required us to procure live specimen of insects, because of it, I, together with my fellow biology students, began exploring trails. As time went by, I started crossing paths with a number of people whose passion for mountaineering was thriving.  These people became my inspiration to go for more and seek for higher mountains sans noticing that eventually I was acquiring the same passion they initially have.”

He carries this passion wherever he goes even if he’s back in Metro Manila to face his life in the city. The doctrine being practiced by most mountaineers that says, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time,” keeps him grounded all the time.

The Mountaineer

He is 21 years young, a non-practicing biologist who loves outdoors. Aside from hiking, he has an unceasing penchant for heritage and culture. At his age, one would be wondering what kind of fulfillment he gets from mountaineering. Is the fascination that overwhelming for him to make it part of his life?

“I enjoy climbing for several reasons: first, I am a nature lover, it’s there where I can appreciate nature the most; second, being able to identify the cities and other mountains seen from mountain summits brings great fascination to me; third, just like a passionate collector, I enjoy climbing different mountains, the more and varied, the better.  Climbing is a passion-driven activity,” he said.

Being a young mountaineer, he recognizes the dangers and difficulties of climbing especially for first timers. So he always keeps in mind that God is there to guide him because the primary reason why he climbs is to appreciate His creations. He never breeds fear for he believes that fear has no room for hiking.

Mountaineering also has scored great impact in his life. It taught him to be economical by forgoing his desire for material things. Instead of allotting his money to buy something, he learned to save it for his next journey to another summit. Climbing mountains has become his luxury.

Bulusan Volcano (1)

Bulusan Volcano

Mt Apo

Mt. Apo

Mt Balingkilat

Mt Balingkilat

Mt Kanlaon

Mt Kanlaon

Mt Maculot

Mt. Maculot

Mt Pulag

Mt. Pulag

Mt. Timpoong

Mt. Timpoong

Mt. Kitanglad

Mt. Kitanglad

Although he had always wanted to be close to nature since his younger days, mountaineering never crossed his mind until he met warm bodies who are into it. At first, he thought that it was expensive and would require sets of specific skills which he presumed he didn’t have. But when he finally gave it a try, he suddenly realized that he has a heart for it. The call to brave and surmount mountains was something he couldn’t resist. From then, it became his hobby until eventually evolved into passion.

A turn of tide is something that could possibly happen to any ordinary being. He is no exception. He didn’t expect that he would live a life of a mountaineer until destiny played tricks on him by allowing people whose lives are too attached to climbing cross his.

Was it a connivance of fate and chance or was it really his choice to be a mountaineer?

“I went to college and took up a degree in Biology. My first hike was when I joined my friends in Mt. Daguldol. These major decisions I made in life were purely my choices. I believe that things in life are not dictated by the thread of fate. For me, it’s all a matter of choices and decisions. Just always put a heart into whatever decisions you make to avoid regrets in the end. And remember to seek guidance from someone wiser and experienced,” he said while recollecting the significance of his choices.

The encounters he had with mountaineers before have reasons and happened by chance. From there, the cards are on him whether or not to follow their paths.

“Being the captain of my own ship, I’d chosen to follow. Now I am here, living a life of a mountaineer. At this point, my love for mountains is at its peak so I am not thinking of giving up climbing for something else because one of the greatest rewards on earth is found when you are standing between heaven and earth… at the summit.”— Ivan Briñas Cultura


 

Ivan blogs  at ivanlakwatsero.com

Special Thanks to trampingphilippines.com for allowing me to use your photos through Ivan.