This story happened during my fourth hike. In case, any of you doesn't know, I also have another story about the first time I ever tried hiking; it's called "Voices in the Woods..."
Anyway, this was also during another hike, but this time, I and Jake had other company. There were 16 of us, me being the only girl. We met some of them on other mountains that we had hiked before. We decided to do a group hike in the day, because the mountain that we decided to hike already has its reputation for having lots of "unexplained happenings".
Let me tell you a bit about the history first. The name of the mountain that we hiked in this story is Mt. Cristobal, located in Laguna. Beside Mt. Cristobal are what we call Mt. Banahaw. They are actually two connecting mountains, but both located in two different provinces. Mt. Banahaw is a place where pilgrims go to, especially during the Lenten Season here in the Philippines. I have been there a lot of times before as well, and it just gives me this calm and peaceful feeling whenever I visit the place, that is why it is one of my favorite places to hike. It has been dubbed as "The Holy Mountain" both by locals and pilgrims, and I believe it is true. (It's because I never experienced any weird stuffs there...)
Now, Mt. Cristobal, on the other hand, is notoriously known as the "Devil's Mountain." Locals say that the reason for its nickname is because; it "absorbs" all the negative energy coming from Mt. Banahaw. And only a few group of hikers dared to climb it, every year. Regardless of the warnings and precautions given to us, we still continued. They told us scary and tragic stories that have been passed around by locals, thinking it might make us change our minds but, it never stopped us. Even if I had a scary experience before, it never came across my mind because I was able to hike other mountains, without any of those things happening again, so I just thought, it was probably coincidence. And speaking of tragic, this is where my story begins...
We all met at the jump off point, or the base of the mountain one Tuesday morning in July of 2004. It was almost noon when we finished checking all our essentials, so we decided to start ascending as early as possible. So, we did a little prayer of guidance and started the hike at around 12:00 noon. We have a guide because the trail that we chose was not that common yet.
The view was absolutely breathtaking, which took my mind off the "stories" I have heard. A couple of hours later, one of the hikers, Reggie, had an asthma attack, so we had no choice but to stop and let him rest. After an hour of sight seeing and picture taking, he was finally feeling well enough to continue the trek. We happened to pass by a small cottage of a family of 5, who had been living there selling "book" or coconut juice for a living.
The family's head, an old man, chatted with us a while and seeing as I'm the only girl in the group, the old man told the group to just leave me with him and his family. Not that I don't trust him, I really appreciate his concern but I wouldn't want to miss out on this experience, being my first time to travel with such a large, loud and fun group, so I just thanked the old man and said that I always have my rosary with me whenever I hike. So, we started the trek, once again. We never knew we would be having lots of unplanned stop overs, that by the time we reached half of the destination, it was almost 4 in the afternoon...
The guide that we have told us that he can only go as far as the first half of the trek, for he never felt good once he ventures farther. I was beginning to get scared, but I just thought that we are hiking in daylight and there's like a dozen of us, so it made me feel a bit at ease. So we thanked and paid the guide and followed his instructions as to which trail to take. It was beginning to get dark when Reggie, had another attack. We were more worried about his condition than the fact that it was getting dark that we decided to just camp on that spot for the night, but he refused and asked for just 30 more minutes of rest.
Finally, when Reggie told us that he is better (again...) we decided to hike a bit faster and we cannot have any other stop overs. We reached a part of the trail where the guide forgot to mention... There is a forked trail with a huge tree in the middle, and has a left and right trail. We never remembered him telling us which of the two trails to follow. We all sat down and decided that half of the group would go and check the right trail, half of us will check the left, and we talked about meeting back under the tree after 15 minutes.
We were about to venture out, when this two hikers whom we never noticed, probably because we have been busy debating which path to take, appeared and asked us if we are lost. Mark, the talkative one said yes. The two hikers said that they have been using this trail ever since they first hiked Mt. Cristobal, so they both offered to join and guide us. Anyway, we all said yes, thinking that they saved us more time, besides it's already 7:00PM, for the debate had delayed us, so we took out our flashlights and went on.
We took the left trail. While we were hiking we all became noisy and we all started fooling around, telling jokes and stuff, but the two hikers, who we're walking ahead of us we're both quiet. I noticed that they we're holding hands and figured that they probably prefer to just keep their thoughts to themselves, so we never bothered them anymore. I think an hour had passed and we all became exhausted. The trail was full of steep slopes and we literally have to dig our fingers on the dirt floor while climbing. It was almost 9:00PM and I was getting hungry, so I took out one of my Jelly Snacks and offered them to everybody, including the couple but they declined. A few moments had passed when the girl said, "Malapit na tayo..." (Translation: "We're almost there...) So we all walked a bit faster, eager for some sleep and food. It started to rain, so, aside from being tired and hungry, we we're cold.
Raymart, the wackiest of all, was the one walking just a few feet behind the couple and he kept on asking the couple questions every now and then, but all he got as a response is "uh-huh, yes, no, maybe..." He looked funny because was holding a huge flashlight that almost looked like what Coast Guards used for Search and Rescue. The couple turned left and so we followed. We reached a small path, full of tall, sinister looking trees and plants with thorns, some of them scratched my face and my arms.
The guy then said "Andito na tayo, bilisan nyo bago pa lumakas ang ulan." (We're here; hurry up before it rains harder.) Fortunately, the rain stopped after a few minutes. We we're all walking in silence when, suddenly, Raymart's flashlight went off, as well as the rest of us. There were 5 of us holding flashlights and it was just weird that every single one of them just went off at the same time. Raymart was hitting his flashlight, to make it go on again. The sky above could not be seen that much because there we're lots of trees, and the moon lay hidden behind the clouds, so it was really dark. Raymart just kept on walking behind the couple while trying to make his flashlight turn on again... It was hard to walk on the path because it was already muddy and slippery from the rain, so we tried to ask the couple if they have spares, but we can't see them, and neither of them answered as well, so Jake thought they already went ahead.
We we're slowly walking, one step at a time and we we're all groping for each other's arms, when all our flashlights turned on again. Raymart shouted triumphantly, then, he suddenly cursed and shouted, "Sh*t, #@!%&! Huminto kayo! Hinto! Teka lang! #@!%&!" (Stop guys, stop! Wait!) We we're startled by his behavior and I said "Tol, wag ka mag mura ng ganyan kalakas dito, baka may magalit!" (Bro, don't ever curse that loud in this kind of place, "SOMEONE" might get mad at you.") So, we stopped and asked him why, but he never answered back. So Miggy shone the flashlight on Raymart too see clearly. What we saw almost made us jump... We saw Gee-Boy, the youngest one, struggling as hard as he could to keep his hold on Raymart's backpack strap... Raymart was dangling and about to fall on a 250 or God knows how many feet ravine...
I screamed and told them to help Gee-Boy and Raymart, and when we finally got Raymart out, we asked him what happened. He was literally shaking from head to toe, from being cold and shock, and he said that he was trying to follow the couple when his flashlights came back to life, and just saw he was about to fall. He pushed Gee-Boy behind him so he won't take any step further. Fortunately for him, Gee-Boy managed to grab his backpack, and save his life.
We all walked slowly back to the old path we took before turning left and we we're all panicking, thinking that the couple might have fallen as well. But Mackoy said that we should have heard them scream, if they did fall down. We never heard any kind of noise except for Raymart's shouts. We just thought that they probably took a path which we never noticed, seeing as it was very dark, and they probably thought we were still behind them. What puzzled us is the fact that the couple never even bothered to look and check if we are all okay. After all, I'm pretty sure my scream reached as far as the neighboring country because it was so LOUD.
We tried to look for the real path ourselves, and it took us 1 more hour to finally reach the camp site, and there were a few campers as well. In spite of the fact that one of us almost died, some of the boys still managed to light up a fire the rest had assembled our tent and I made something to eat. After eating, we all gathered around the fire and talked about the couple. Jake saw how worried I am, so he promised that we'll all go looking for them in the morning.
We woke the next morning feeling a bit rejuvenated so we all walked around the site after a sloppy cup of coffee. We spotted a fellow hiker, Mitch, whom we had met at Mt. Banahaw, walking around with a cup of coffee, so we chatted with him. In the middle of the conversation, Jake asked Mitch, if he, by any chance, noticed the couple we met. Jake described them both. Mitch told us that he never saw anyone with their description, and he asked why. So, Jake told him about what happened to us the night before. Mitch almost gagged and asked us to have a seat. What I heard made all the hairs at the back of my neck stand up...
Mitch went on to relate a story which happened almost 8 years ago...
Two couples went to take a midnight hike one night. Despite of the fact that there was a storm brewing, and there was zero visibility, they still continued. They accidentally took a different trail, a trail that was not yet known at that time, (which, incidentally, the VERY SAME trail we all took that day...) they got lost at the forked trail, and took the left trail. It wasn't known that time that all trails to be taken should always be the RIGHT TRAIL. They took the deadly left turn, and never made it to the camp site. Unfortunately for them, they went on a midnight hike, so registrations are closed. Locals say their bodies were never found, and no one also came looking for them, some say that they show them selves to hikers because they want company...
When we descended 3 days after, we went and checked out the trail that almost took one of our friend's life. Raymart never joined us, so he waited by the tree. It was a very steep cliff, and the vegetation was very dense, it's probably impossible to navigate through it if you're not that skilled a mountaineer. Upon reaching the base, we all decided to offer a prayer and light a candle to the Lost Lovers, hoping that it would make their spirits rest.
Thank you for reading my post.