Running on Bukidnon’s rugged mountains

The cool and sunny heights of Manolo Fortich town in Bukidnon (Philippines) – particularly the area towards the famous zipline adventure park in Dahilayan – welcomed three intrepid runners from Manila, who knew no fear and had not the idea exactly how far their trail was going to be.

That trio – far from the Three Stooges – was us: Robbie (in black), teacher, choir master, and staunch advocate of the Latin language; Russel (in blue), a geology student with a 10k Timex Run under his belt; and I (in white), who suffers from the delusion of being a pale, slow, and lanky version of Usain Bolt.

***

It was April 29. The pine trees that surrounded Mountain Pines Place (our lodging house for the three-week seminar we were attending; also called MPP) were cheering us on: leaves and strong winds combined to give us “the wave and roar” as we were exiting the house. Everything was perfect for Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5k Run.

We knew the route was going to be tough. We had gone through it a week ago (before I realized we could actually do it again on the 29th specifically for the Run). Russel told me the round trip between MPP and the zipline park was about six or seven kilometers – more than enough for the WP event. (I was secretly marveling at the fact that other WP users would also be running 5k’s around the world on this date.)

So we ran. It was 10:45 am.

***

As we rushed into that fine summer morning, I realized our main obstacle was our trail’s diverse, zigzag, inclined terrain. The first few hundred meters were gravelly and downhill, passing through a creek and a small hamlet with curious inhabitants (I imagined they were thinking, “Why run in the mountains?”). Then came the climb, this time with rocky grounds and occasional vans passing, going to the zipline park. I’m allergic to dust, so I covered my nose with my shirt every time a vehicle passed beside me. And the final stretch to the park was a wavy dirt road – a continuous climb that reminded me of Dante’s Purgatory. The banner image of this blog was taken at one part of our trail.

But the panorama around us ranged from scenic to SCENIC: green rolling hills on the plateau that is Bukidnon; the valley, broken by a stream at its lowest point, separating MPP from the zipline park; and the vast purplish pineapple-laden fields of Manolo Fortich, stretching out into the mountains that dropped north to Cagayan de Oro and the coast.

***

When we reached the adventure park, it was about 11:30 am. Towards the zipline area people were either silent in shock or shrieking in the process of “ziplining”. Russel bought three boiled corns to be eaten when we arrive back at MPP.

We couldn’t waste time — so we ran back, hoping to beat our previous record by arriving at noon.

And we did! But not after a harrowing run up to MPP. The last ascent (rocky, 45-degree inclination) was towards hell — under the searing heat of summer. So when MPP came into view, heaven’s hope was restored. But we just couldn’t run properly anymore that we had to walk on our last 100 meters — except Russel, who ran till the last 50 meters or less.

As I sipped my well-deserved glass of water, I looked at the valley towards Dahilayan Adventure Park again. The view was breathtaking — but the run across it and towards the Park was breathtaking in another sense.

Thanks to Robbie for the photos. Banner image by Jojo Nicdao.

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