INAEC president Jay Lopez (front row, 2nd from right), successfully leads the team’s charge to the topIt is a truth universally acknowledged that we discover our strength not simply through the weight of the load we carry but by the obstacles we overcome in the paths we take.
On May 18, 2019, INAEC demonstrated that it is indeed and by all means strong.
It began with a decree. In March, INAEC president Benjamin “Jay” R. Lopez (BRL), to a mix of delight and disbelief, declared that the company summer outing will be highlighted by a trek to Mt. Pulag—an accomplishment initially achieved by INAEC in 2013.
Against a backdrop of excited, or BMI-challenged, or downright unwilling participants, INAEC began its trek preparations. Regular Zumba classes, led by company nurse Casey Tañedo, were held twice weekly. Physical examinations were done to test the employees’ fitness. Dr. Ted Esguerra, a renowned mountain climber, conducted an orientation on the necessary gear to be brought during the hike.
Those present during the 2013 Mt. Pulag climb lost no time in regaling their colleagues with worrisome stories of the unforgiving cold of the mountain, the darkness of the trail and the length of the journey.
The INAEC team had good reason to be daunted. At its highest peak, Mt. Pulag stands at 2,926 meters above sea level, or roughly around 10,000 feet. Still, all trepidations aside, the employees persisted until the day finally arrived.
At 1:20 a.m. on May 18, the INAEC team, led by BRL and accompanied by Esguerra, embarked on their climb. Of the 18 trekkers, only six had climbed Mt. Pulag before.
Numerous stops were made to allow people to literally catch their breaths. At these stops, the trekkers began shedding layer upon layer of sweaters and jackets as they realized that their exertion increased their body temperature.
Besides, the temperature remained at a pleasant 19° Celsius, not quite the freezing temperature that the team was afraid of.
The team moved with urgency, having one goal in mind— to reach the summit before sunrise. Thus, the fittest among the trekkers took it upon themselves to carry the bags of those who were struggling to continue. Everyone regularly checked with his or her buddy to make sure that they were able to keep up with the rest of the team.
By the time the team reached Camp 2, around 2,600 meters above sea level, it was already past 3 a.m. It was then decided that the INAEC team will form two groups—the first made up of the fit, the fast and the motivated, and the second of the straggling, the tired and the determined.
The first team went ahead, bent on getting to the summit (Peak 2) before sunrise. The second team still made good time as the stronger ones made sure to cheer for those struggling to keep up and ease their burdens by taking turns in carrying their bags and water bottles.
The first team reached the summit before 5 a.m. and waited for the sunrise. When it came at 5:28 a.m., it was indeed a glorious and magnificent sight in spite of the absence of the famed sea of clouds.
The second group arrived shortly after sunrise, relief giving way to exuberance despite the exhaustion of the team.
But still, Peak 1 of Mt. Pulag awaited. So, onward and forward went the team. By this time, everyone believed that they could reach Peak 1—and reach it they did.
At Peak 1, they again took turns taking pictures. Each one of these pictures was of people who are beautiful, and happy, and simply gratified.
Famished but fulfilled
It was truly a blessed and fun activity for the INAEC team. Everyone made it to Peak 1 and everyone made it back to the ranger station, tired but injuryfree, famished but fulfilled.
Most of all, the team can look back on this experience with pride, pleased to have discovered that whatever uncertainty they may have faced in the beginning of the journey is now replaced with the confidence they have not only in themselves but in each other.
Together, we got there. INAEC Strong