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INTO... continued

We were supposed to rendezvous with the climbers from the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines (MFPI), but we couldn't find their camp. The inauspicious beginnings of our hike obliterated all our desire to go bushwacking in the countryside looking for our friends. However worried I was that Reggie Pablo, current MFPI president, probably waited for us "until the cows came home". Had we been able to hook up with them earlier, as in, during the daytime, we were supposed to go clear up trails and clean up human detritus in celebration of "Trail Maintenance Week". The only maintenance I got to take care of at two in the morning was to clean out my packed food. It was mostly hard, cold bread and chicken cream soup! I decided to go to sleep immediately after the food ran out, crawling under an ethnic blanket for protection, shielded from a variety of insects that rained down at every gust of wind that passed.

It felt like I had only closed my eyes for an instant, and then the next moment the sky was a deep cerulean blue above me. I knew we had to get up at 5 AM if we stood a chance of getting to the MFPI campsite and getting back down to meet up with our pick-up vehicle for another climb, on another mountain, later that same day. We hurriedly packed our gear while we watched "Diether the Dog" in amusement - as he demonstrated his version of facial hygiene on his sleeping human companions. We were off before we could mumble "jumping jack flash", launching up the trail in search for our misplaced engagement. We were still about a good hour away from the MFPI campsite when we had to turn around and race back to town to meet our next appointment. On the walk down, we were passed by the jeep from the night before and were lucky enough to be invited to ride the rest of the way. Among the passengers was the drowsy "Diether the Dog" who had a dreamy look in his eyes as he hung his head on a rail, imagining dog biscuits and soft blankets in a warm corner somewhere.

We barely managed to get to our pick-up point on time, though only by the skin of our teeth! The shiny, black Vitara looked like a raging rodeo bull, sitting on the roadside, getting ready to maul us for keeping it waiting. Well, this raging bull had an air-conditioner from the Arctic and a suspension system that could drive through hell! We made up for lost time by speeding through terrain that had even the carabaos looking for a way around. Los Baņos was now several hours behind us, on our way to Lipa City in Batangas, where we could hopefully find directions for Mt. Malipuņo.
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