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2013 • 5 • 3

Why do we keep chasing sunsets?

Is it the sight, the picture of the sun surrendering all his glory to the restraints of the liquid horizon? Is it the warmth, the feeling of the king’s last-born rays caressing our skin as he dives into the sea? Or is it the chase, those jading moments when you brave the way or beat the time just to catch his last few breaths?

She sat on one of the benches that dash the trail and told me she was giving up. Mica, a friend and a fellow travel blogger, was calling it quits and we were not even halfway the climb. Under normal circumstances, I would have tried harder to convince her to go on but these were no normal circumstances. We had been awake for almost 35 hours. Now that I think about it, I don’t even understand why we decided to climb Mt. Tapyas that day.

723 steps to the top!
Over 700 steps to the top!

At 210 meters, Mt. Tapyas is the second tallest mountain and one of the most dominant land features around the town of Coron in Busuanga Island, Palawan. Towering over the poblacion, its trail is easily accessible on foot. San Agustin Street which turns into the slightly sloping Malvar Street leads the way to an elevated basketball court at the base.

The walk to the basketball court alone was already quite a test of endurance for me. The sight of the steep staircase rising from the court was not very encouraging, either. But with dwindling energy due to lack of sleep, we opted to make the climb as fast as we could. It was around six in the evening and the sun was already threatening to take that glorious dip. The time pressure was mounting and we pushed our legs and unreliable stamina to try to breeze through more than 700 concrete steps that lead to the summit. Sadly, every bench was a magnet and we were but paper clips drawn to it without resistance.

Summer burns
Summer burns

When Mica raised the white flag, I had no choice but to continue the arduous journey to the top. I schlepped uphill with one hand gripping on the cold, yellow metal bars that bound the trail and the other hand wiping the sweat that dripped almost incessantly from my forehead. Every here and there, I stopped to admire the view, a valid excuse from and euphemism for resting, a further affirmation that I took a wrong turn when I decided to smoke my first cigarette when I was 19. (I quit a long time ago but still.) Every single time I paused (which happened more often than necessary), I could not help but take notice of how this experience was different from the last time I was here.

This climb was my sophomore slump. The first time, in 2009, was much easier. I do not remember vomiting air at any point during the climb. It was right after noon (don’t do this around that time, it fries the skin) and, if my memory serves me right, the flat landings did not have covers above them yet. Yet, my first was the more pleasant experience maybe because sleep did not elude me the night before and because it just rained before the climb. I also recall that the grass was so green and lush that time (July), which was a stark contrast to the brown and brown slopes — devoured by grass fire — that greeted me just this summer.

That's me. I'm not taking a shit. Ume-emo lang.
That’s me. I’m not taking a shit. Ume-emo lang.
My picture of Mt. Tapyas in 2009. The green was saturated here in the photo.
My picture of Mt. Tapyas in 2009. The green was saturated here in the photo.
View of the jagged Coron Island from Mt. Tapyas
View of the jagged Coron Island from Mt. Tapyas

When the top of the giant cross was poking the bottom side of my view, I knew that I was close to the summit. Each breath I took was more desperate and each step more determined. When I set foot on the viewing platform, I was just a gentle push away from collapsing but as I dragged myself to the edge, all the trouble was blown away. I finished the last drops of water in my bottle, stood still, closed my eyes, opened it again, and found the answer to my own question.

Why do we keep chasing sunsets? Because it’s just so fucking beautiful.

Mt. Tapyas sunset
Mt. Tapyas sunset

How to get here: From Busuanga Airport, you can take a shuttle to Coron town proper (PhP150). From here, the base of Mt. Tapyas is just a walk away. Just look for Malvar Street. Your landmark is the Iglesia ni Cristo church. There are plenty of big signs along the way. Or, you may just take a tricycle.


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