I and my high school friends were that crazy to end 2015 and welcome 2016 on top of Tarak Ridge. The idea was to behold the last setting sun of the year over Manila Bay and watch fireworks while on top of the world. But Amihan brought “Signal No. 4” gusty winds and panaka-nakang pag-ulan. We ended up squeezing ourselves inside our tent, merrymaking over photographs, stories and red wine. Occasionally, we would go out in the open, brave the wind and jump and shout for joy. Literally, the mountain was only for us. ‘Twas an awesome experience, especially to have spent it with my closest awesome friends.
Tarak Ridge, at 1,130+ MASL, is one of the rugged peaks forming the caldera of the volcano, Mt. Mariveles. The jump-off point starts at Brgy. Alas-Asin where you register at the barangay and register again for some donations for Nanay Cording (ang Nanay ng mga mountaineers sa Tarak) and her husband.
Nanay Cording’s backstory according to her was that she and her family were forced to move from Cebu to Manila to have their son treated from some kidney disease. Her son died though and since then they moved into the foot of the mountain. “Malupit ang lipunan (Society is harsh),” she said.
The trek starts with wide trails into Gmelina and Eucalyptus woodlands then into dense grasslands. As you enter the forest, it should be rolling as you cross dried stream beds until you hit the Papaya River. There used to be lots of papaya trees here hence the name. This is the best spot to rest, eat and freshen up before you proceed to the next part of the trek. Then the trail will be true to Tarak’s name (tarak= tarik=steep), you need to hang on the trees’ roots and branches as you venture into the almost vertical assault. And as you emerge from forest, the breeze climbing the ridge over cogon grass will greet you.
Tarak is also teeming with fauna. Philippine bulbuls and tarictic hornbills’ calls are conspicuous in the forest trail. Other endemic birds are red-crested malkoha, scale-feathered malkoha and blue-headed fantail. While dining at Papaya river we even saw red junglefowls or locally known as labuyo. Brazen rats are also abundant at the campsite in the ridge.
During the climb, you ask yourself why you’re doing it, but there’s always this exhilarating feeling when you reach the top. And as what Miley Cyrus sang, “these are the moments that I’m gonna remember most… just gotta keep going, ’cause there’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna make it move…”