Let's face it. Most of us would rather choose to be with our friends outside than to bond with our own blood - our cousins, for instance. We may have different opinions on this. But I am an Asian. We value family ties so much.
I didn't say that a big circle of friends is not advisable. In fact, I really have a huge number of friends from all walks of life - school, church, work, random mountain buddies, name it. It's just that...
BREAK THE CHAIN
As horrible as it may sound, in the previous years we only had family reunions whenever someone from the clan died. I know it's so heartbreaking to hear. Times have changed now. We have to break this cycle. We learned through the years that meet-ups don't have to be about mourning in tears, it can also be laughing along the trails of the mountain while it rains!
KIDS CAN HIKE, TOO!
I'm glad that 17 of my cousins went on this crazy adventure with me. Most of them don't have any experience in hiking. But who cares? We didn't rush to reach the top because that is not mountaineering is all about. It's about the love for nature and the camaraderie with your fellow hikers.
To our surprise though, one of my cousins even brought with him his 9-year old son who was twice as strong as we are! For the transportation, we opted to rent a private van for safety and comfort since we have kids with us and we were to travel the road by 11 pm. We didn't stay overnight on the mountain because all of us have prior commitments the following day.
GIFT OF MEMORIES
Now that you got a glimpse of what Mt. Batolusong is and the necessary preparations you have to do, I'm gonna tell you why I love this hike with my cousins... and why you too, should try it:
1. YOU WILL HAVE AN EXPERIENCE OF DRINKING YOUR COFFEE IN THE MIDDLE OF A VAST MOUNTAIN
Talking not about business, or studies, or future plans - but about a thing that really doesn't make sense, yet you all get cracked up to laugh like there's no tomorrow. (PS: The coffee is in our tummies already!)
2. AFTER 18 YEARS, YOU WILL MEET YOUR COUSIN WHO YOU THINK IS CLUMSY BUT NOW HAS A GIRLFRIEND AND YOU ARE STILL SINGLE (AND WHO CARES?)
Got a clue on my age? Yeah right! way back in our kindergarten days, we both go to school every morning, do our assignments, bully each other, and tally a record of whoever gets most of the wins. Turned out in the aspect of love life, I am the one left behind! LOL
3. THIS IS THE SWEET REVENGE TIME! YOU'LL TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRT BEFORE PLUNGING INTO KAY-IBON WATERFALLS AND TELL EVERYONE, "HEY GUYS, I GOT A CHEST AND A 6-PACK NOW!"
When you were on your elementary days, your cousins were teasing you for being so thin and lame. Sometimes they might call you names you really hate. So instead of doing the same to them, you'll just hit the gym and eat the right diet... and wait for this opportunity to tell them "so, who looks weak now? Hahaha".
4. YOU'LL BE SINGING A BIRTHDAY SONG TO ONE OF YOUR COUSIN'S DAUGHTER BECAUSE SHE WANTS TO CELEBRATE HER SPECIAL DAY IN THE MOUNTAIN
Social media has shown us a lot of important events a mountain has witnessed so far such as wedding proposals and photo shoots. So why not try to celebrate your birthday here for a change? But make sure not to leave any trash on the mountain! Remember the golden rule in mountain climbing? - "Leave nothing but footprints, and take nothing but photographs!"
5. YOU WILL APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF A SIMPLE LIFE AND LEARN TO COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS MORE THAN YOUR FAILURES
The house to our left side is where the farmer of this rice field and his family live. I think they are more privileged than most of us who live and thrive in the city - breathing in all the noise and air pollution everywhere.
6. DESPITE THE RAIN AND THE COLD WIND, YOU WILL ENJOY A "REAL-TALK" CONVERSATION WITH THE "REAL PEOPLE"
It's rare to engage in conversations with real people nowadays. Most of the time, you'll hear some words full of sugar-coating that you can't even differentiate lies with propaganda. When you get to meet your cousins in the mountain, you'll have the chance to know them more and observe their habits, behavior, expressions, and mannerisms.
7. FINALLY, SOMEONE WILL "PATIENTLY" TAKE AN EPIC PHOTO OF YOU, SO GOOD YOU CAN REPLACE YOUR SELFIES WITH IT
It's frustrating sometimes when you get home after a great adventure and the pictures you've got are only repetitive selfie shots and blurred angles taken by a random photographer buddy on a rush! Well, not if you have your close relatives with you!
8. YOU'LL CONQUER YOUR FEAR OF HEIGHTS IN NO TIME BECAUSE YOU'LL FEEL SHY OF YOUR BIG BROS SEEING YOU TREMBLE
Who wants to be called a fainthearted drama queen, right? Oh no! Behind me is one of my bully cousins who would tell me that I moved like a lady when I was a kid. I gotta prove him wrong dude. Yeah! The strong winds made my knees trembling but no. He shouldn't see this!
9. YOU'LL GET ONE OF THESE "UNLIMITED" TAKE-5 BREAKS BECAUSE THEY, TOO, NEED IT BADLY
I had an experience hiking with professional mountain climbers and believe me, they wouldn't spoil you for taking too much breaks in-between short intervals! Not with my cousins. As far as I remember, we had 10 five-minute breaks within an hour which is usually 4 only!
10. LASTLY, THE SMILE YOU SEE ON YOUR BROTHER'S FACE MAKES YOU FEEL RELIEVED AS WELL BECAUSE YOU HAD GIVEN HIM A GIFT WHICH MONEY CAN'T BUY
And yes, this is called the gift of memories. Last time I left home to work in Saudi Arabia, he asked me to bring him with me in climbs like this because he is not a kid anymore. So I fulfilled that promise.