Why the hell do I do it? Why scale a mountain that promises agony and infinite gut-wrenching possibilities? And why lace up my hiking shoes, carry a hefty backpack, and drag myself up a behemoth like Mount Amuyao?
Here’s the deal: Every ruthless, giant mountain I’ve faced serves a buffet of above-average pain and uneasy moments.
I’ve dealt with twisted ankles, aching knees, cuts, bruises, cramps, dehydration, and blisters that look like props from a horror movie.
Yet, I push on and invite all the agony.
Why keep pushing through the grimacing and wincing?
Am I a masochist?
Why do hikers like me willingly sign up for a world of hurt?
Because it’s one of the best ways to find out what you’re really made of.
These were the words running through my mind as I was about to make the final ascent to the summit of Mount Amuyao.
And, our hike was no Sunday stroll.
With its seemingly endless assault, it was a masterclass in discomfort and pain.
It was a grueling, ass-kicking, gut-wrenching experience and a backbreaker that made our lungs ache and knees quiver.
Plus, it was a test of fortitude and endurance that mercilessly shattered our comfort zone.
But guess what?
This hike had all the ingredients of a memorable, soul-satisfying, and fun-filled adventure.
And with each grueling step, I was getting closer to the summit of one of the highest mountains in the Philippines.
My Mount Amuyao adventure
Day 1 at 04:08: Banaue Rice Terraces
After a 10-hour drive from NAIA, we arrived at Dianarra Viewdeck, which provides a stunning panorama of the iconic Banaue Rice Terraces.
Since it was still dark, we decided to rest and nap while waiting for the sun to light up the man-made wonders of Banaue.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep.
Excited, I roamed the area, waiting for the sun to rise.
I should be resting, and preparing my body for the brutal climb to Mount Amuyao.
I knew the climb to Mount Amuyao would be a pain in the ass.
But I also trust my capabilities, thanks to pain and struggles.
Pain has been my teacher throughout the years, showing me that growth doesn’t come easy.
Growth is forged through hardships, honed by persistence, and crafted in effort.
With each excruciating hike, I learned to see pain as a guide, leading me toward a deeper understanding of my abilities.
Soon, I witnessed the grandeur and breathtaking beauty of Banaue Rice Terraces.
Then, we went on our journey, stopping by an eatery and a spot overlooking Bay-yo Rice Terraces.
We eventually arrived at Barlig Municipal Hall, where we registered our names.
From there, we took a short trip to the base of the hike to Mount Amuyao via the Barlig Trail.
And here comes the pain.
Day 1 at 09:50 PM: Base of Mount Amuyao in Barlig
The hike to Mount Amuyao started full of excitement and a little nervous energy as we assembled at the base.
We went over the safety tips and did some stretches before descending a concrete stairway leading to the rice terraces of Barlig.
Led by our momma-loving guide, we followed the pathway set amid the rice terraces.
The start of the hike was deceivingly easy, with a relatively flat concrete path leading to the stairs.
I scaled them eagerly, barely winded and excited for the heavenly views waiting at the top of Mount Amuyao.
Despite the scorching heat of the sun, I felt comfortable in this section of our hike.
I was geared up, ready to tackle the never-ending climb to the summit.
From the headgear to the shoes, everything was ready for the climb.
I’m not a big fan of trekking poles, but I had to bring one for this adventure.
Along the way, I remembered a stinging moment that helped me prepare for this nature escape.
6 weeks before my Mount Amuyao climb
What the fuck is wrong with me?
For the first time in years, I’ve experienced cramps in my right calf.
Am I too heavy?
Do I need to drink more fluids?
Is my backpack too hefty?
Do I need a trekking pole to help improve my balance and relieve the strain on my legs and back?
Slowly, I started moving my ass, to escape a steep slope with loose, slippery soil.
Suddenly, the cramps in my left calf kick in like a sucker punch.
I grimaced in pain, wondering what was happening to my old and bruised body.
Something needs to change.
Maybe, it’s time to use a trekking pole.
And maybe, this pain is a catalyst for a change in lifestyle.
From now on, I’m going to hike every week to make sure my mind and body are in tip-top condition for our climb to Mount Amuyao.
Day 1 at 10:27 AM
Pain isn’t your enemy.
It’s an enriching, tough-love coach who won’t let you quit the game.
Pain is a brutally honest mirror and a signpost that points you toward areas of growth.
In some way, it tells you something is wrong, and something needs to be improved.
It’s the compass that redirects you, the fire that tempers you, and the grindstone that sharpens you.
Without those stinging cramps in the remote areas in Cebu City, I wouldn’t have come prepared for this major climb.
And I would have been huffing and puffing while hitting this trail.
Don’t get me wrong.
This section of the Barlig Trail was tough with its, as you might have guessed, stairs and open setting.
But it would have been a different story if I hadn’t fine-tuned, and identified my flaws.
I’m not as athletic, young, energetic, and strong as I was.
And pain made me realize that I have to evolve to survive the rugged and brutal nature of the mountains.
After crisscrossing the rice terraces of Barlig, we followed the stairways within the pine tree forest of Mount Amuyao.
Although it was a shaded and wooded area, it was still warm and sunny.
And the stairs?
Well, let’s just say they were slowly starting to cause a little discomfort.
At least, these stairs are releasing endorphins.
Along the way, we took breaks, replenished, and snapped pictures.
At noon, we took a breather, had lunch, and cracked jokes to lighten the mood and ease the pain.
As the lead pack, we waited for the other half of the group to arrive.
But we opted to resume our hike without them because we were losing our momentum.
Day 1 at 01:06 PM
Mountains are unforgiving and relentless.
The higher you go, the more gravity pulls you back to Earth.
As we hit the wooden stairs in Mount Amuyao, we could feel the gravity constantly pulling us back.
And I have trained to overcome this gravitational pull.
While practicing for our Mount Amuyao, I put dumbbell plates on the bottom of my backpack.
Each short breath and aching muscle was a test of my will during those hikes.
In life and hiking, hardships and pain make this test, forcing us to build resilience.
Soon after, we arrive at a forest covered with massive swathes of pine trees.
And I must say it was a welcome respite, with the temperature getting cooler and the trail turning flat.
Ultimately, we arrived at the waiting shed, which signaled we were halfway to our climb to Mount Amuyao.
It was also a warning sign that we were about to embark on the toughest part of the Barlig Trail in Mount Amuyao.
Day 1 at 01:40 PM: The Unforgiving and Unlimited stairs in Mount Amuyao
Stress, pain, and hardships are obstacles to our happiness.
If we can eliminate them, will life be better?
Will life be rainbows and sunshine filled with sweet and colorful moments?
We need pain to grow.
We need failure, obstacles, and challenges to become a better version of ourselves.
Stumble over a rock, and you’ll watch your step next.
Painful experiences, whether psychological, physical, or emotional, teach us valuable life lessons.
They are rugged sections and terrains that make us more cautious and smarter about dealing with future obstacles.
We were on the way to the infamous unlimited stairs in Mount Amuyao.
Based on my research, it’s the most physically demanding part of the Barlig Trail.
At first, it seemed easy and a cakewalk.
Yet, somehow, I could feel a massive obstacle and pain in the ass coming our way.
We arrived at the steep steel stairway in Mount Amuyao.
On the surface, it seemed daunting, challenging, and risky.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t.
Of course, you need to be cautious to conquer these steps.
And then, it happened: the never-ending killer ascent to Mount Amuyao.
Made of wood and stones, these stairs were slippery, steep, and stretched for kilometers.
The killer ascent started to drain my energy and burn my thighs and calves.
Taking longer breaks for snacks and water helped us recover.
But each step required more mental grit to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Take baby steps, I kept whispering to myself.
Baby steps are a technique I learned from one of my mentors years ago.
In hiking, these low-impact steps refer to taking more manageable and smaller strides instead of exhausting and long ones.
With baby steps, you conserve energy, maintain better balance, and reduce the strain on your joints and muscles.
And while painful, these stairs were becoming more manageable, thanks to my baby steps.
But on the low side, these stairs felt limitless, stretching to infinity.
And there was also another thing bothering me as we got closer to the peak of Mount Amuyao.
Shit. I had an upset stomach.
Was it diarrhea or acid reflux?
There was no turning back.
Slowly, we kept hitting the stairs, walking like zombies hungry for human flesh and brains.
And the infinite staircase offered no shortcuts and no respite.
Persistence was my companion, urging me to keep climbing and moving.
Mount Amuyao won’t become any shorter, and the climb won’t get easier on its own.
It’s my grit and determination that would make the difference.
Day 1 at 03:10 PM
Want to gain wisdom and insights about growth?
Forget motivational podcasts and self-help books.
What if I told you that the best classroom for learning about growth and pain is thousands of feet above sea level?
If you want to understand the meaning of life and pain, take a hike up one of the highest mountains in the Philippines.
And this steep ascent epitomizes the struggles in real life.
The steeper the mountain, the tougher the climb.
And in life, the steepest challenges usually bring the most pain.
But it’s in the moments when we feel like giving up that we learn resilience.
The struggle builds our endurance, strengthens our character, and teaches us that we’re capable of more than we thought.
Day 1 at 03:30 PM: The water source in Mount Amuyao
I was feeling better.
We’ve completed the immense stairway, and we’re less than an hour away from the summit of Mount Amuyao.
I was getting water from the source when suddenly my right calf tightened.
Fortunately, it was mild, and I immediately applied a magic potion (Omega Pain Killer) to it.
Once we finished filling up our water containers, we continued with our hike.
Since my right calf was still recovering, I had to put more weight on my left leg.
And guess what happened?
My left thigh began to tighten.
I removed my leggings and still continued with our hike to Mount Amuyao.
And did I mention that I sprained my left ankle a couple of weeks before our climb?
On steep terrain, I engaged my upper body to reduce the strain on my legs.
I used my trekking pole, and the rocks and trees to pull myself up.
Just a few more meters, and we’d arrive at the top of Mount Amuyao.
Day 1 at 04:01 PM: The fake summit
We finally made it.
After hours of hiking, we arrived at the top of one of the highest mountains in the Philippines.
There was something wrong with this picture.
Where was the bunkhouse shown in the images?
Where were the towers?
Where was the welcome sign?
I looked up north and discovered a silhouette of a mountain with a tower.
The fog then dissipated, revealing the real Mount Amuyao.
Holy bloody fuck!
I was standing on this ridge, exhausted and grimacing in pain.
One of the voices in my head, feeling the psychic and physical pain, told me this was not a bright idea.
It told me it was an impulsive decision fueled by my wanderlust and spirit of adventure.
After all, a mixture of diarrhea, tired muscles, and thirst can often dampen your enthusiasm and spirit.
And I’m desperate.
Desperate to quench my thirst.
Desperate to stretch my tight legs and relax my sore, sprained left ankle.
And desperate to find a remedy for an upset stomach.
Why do I do this?
Why endure this pain?
But another voice in my head said to move my ass.
And that voice also told me that physical pain and hardships are like the bad days in life.
Pain and bad days don’t last.
Soon, you’ll feel other things.
You’ll feel the fresh and crisp mountain breeze and the excitement of conquering one of the country’s tallest mountains.
And in some way, the pain made me laser focus on summiting Mount Amuyao.
To me, it’s one of the positive effects of pain.
Your mind is a buzzing hive of chismis, Netflix show recommendations, distractions, and thoughts.
But when you’re in pain, it’s like having a magnifying glass in hand.
You soon see what’s important and what’s not.
You realize that maybe some things you’ve been stressing over are not as important as you thought.
As I hiked my way to the top, I didn’t think of the views or how messy, haggard or fugly I looked like.
I just wanted to reach the summit.
And when I reached the peak, I felt relieved and glorious.
It was as if a huge amount of weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I wanted to savor the view.
I wanted to relish this moment and share it with my friends.
But before I did those things, I had to take care of business.
That’s why I asked the guide where I could poop.
I know it’s not the most dramatic moment in this hike.
But when your stomach is rebelling, you gotta do what you’ve got to do.
Day 1 at 04:45 PM: Mount Amuyao summit
Here are two hard truths about life:
- It’s fleeting
- It’s unfair
These hard truths are also applicable to hiking.
The views and moments from the summit are fleeting.
And sometimes, we don’t know how special they are, until they are gone.
So, treasure these moments because once they are gone, they are forever gone.
And hiking is also unfair.
Some hikers are blessed with beautiful weather on their hike, while others deal with storms.
And that’s why we enjoyed every minute of this experience in Mount Amuyao.
Day 1 at 5:30 PM
The second pack of the team has arrived.
And while exhaustion was displayed on their faces, we could sense their relief and bliss to summit this mountain.
We’re all proud to conquer the mountain and the challenges along with it.
In the words of Sir Edmund Hillary, it’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
When hiking, we also conquer our doubts, fears, anxieties, and even depression.
And some mountains will turn quitters into conquerors and fighters.
There’s no quitter in this team.
And the hike up Mount Amuyao proves we – the Binangkal Team – are strong and persistent.
We have Disney Princesses who kick ass.
And we have a few old men who can run with the young guns.
As we were about to prepare dinner, we encountered another hiccup: persistent rain.
So, instead of pitching tents, we all slept inside the bunkhouse.
And it was a unique experience where the snores sounded like steam engines, ferries, and fire trucks.
Day 2 at 05:20 AM: Sunrise in Mount Amuyao
I was in awe.
The majestic golden sunrise.
The stunning sea of clouds.
And the verdant peaks of the Cordillera region.
They were a sight to behold.
Mount Pulag is more postcard-worthy and picturesque than Mount Amuyao.
But this experience is more rewarding and satisfying.
Getting to the top of Mount Amuyao feels like a steep, never-ending climb.
But the effort and challenges amplify the payoff.
When you see this sunrise, every pause to catch your breath and every labored step makes the view much sweeter.
Soon after, we prepared our breakfast, packed up, and talked about the insane moments of our hike on the 1st day.
We also talked about peculiar things, like RVD’s sweet and colorful life, and Jo’s heavy metal music that woke us up at 3 AM.
And we also came up with a new theme for this hike: Bocarillo, a sweet, colorful snack from Cebu.
Days after this hike, Kirk called this group “The Bocarillo Mountaineers”.
Not a bad name.
Day 2 at 09:55 AM
Day 2 was easier than Day 1.
Sure, there were slippery stairs and leeches, along the way.
But it wasn’t as laborious as the climb up the summit.
And besides, the tough ascend gave us the confidence to handle any curve balls the mountain throws at us.
We also had to use the 1-2-3 sidestep technique to reduce the tension in our knees while we descended.
On the way down, I realized how long the ascent was.
I was amazed and blown away by our endurance and persistence to climb these never-ending stairs.
Ironically, the hike ended with a flight of stairs to the base in Barlig.
From Barlig, we went on a long trip to Buscalan, Kalinga where another type of pain was waiting for us.
Where is Mount Amuyao located?
Mount Amuyao, also called Mount Finaroy, is situated in the Mountain Province in Luzon’s Cordillera Administrative Region.
How tall is Mount Amuyao?
Mount Amuyao has an elevation of 2,702 meters above sea level (MASL). It’s one of the highest mountains in Luzon.
How to get there?
Our Mount Amuyao itinerary
- 06:25 AM: Depart from Cebu
- 07:40 AM: Arrive at NAIA Terminal 2
- 04:00 PM: Depart from NAIA
- 04:00 AM: Arrive at Banaue Rice Terraces/sleep
- 05:30 AM: Snap pictures
- 06:00 AM: Depart from Viewdeck
- 06:15 AM: Breakfast
- 07:25 AM: Stop to take pictures of Bay-yo Rice Terraces
- 08:30 AM: Barlig Municipal Hall/Register/Rest
- 09:20 AM: Base of the Barlig Trail/Repack/Final Preparations
- 09:50 AM: Start hike
- 12:00 PM: Lunch
- 04:30 PM: Summit/prepare food
- 10:00 PM: Lights out
- 05:00 AM: Wake up call/take pictures
- 06:45 AM: Prepare breakfast (only one stove)
- 10:00 AM: Start descend
- 01:45 PM: Base/Lunch/Prepare for next trip
- 03:00 PM: Depart for Buscalan
Mount Amuyao, with its endless staircase, is more than just a mountain to conquer.
It’s a metaphor for life’s challenges, each giving you an opportunity to become more, learn, and grow.
We all face our uphill climbs and infinite staircases, in different forms and shapes.
They can be painful and daunting at times.
But with persistence and a willingness to learn and adapt, we can turn them into stepping stones toward growth.
And what’s the trick to this infinite stairway?
Listen to your body, and find a rhythm that makes the hike manageable.
Find a pace that works for you, and adjust your speed.
No fuss, no rush, just steady progress.
And no pressure from anything, just like the way you should live your life.