Back to the Mountains on My 30th Birthday: A Journey of Reflection and Euphoria

In 2014, I began a birthday tradition of climbing mountains by climbing Mt. Pulag, the second tallest peak in the Philippines.

To this day, I’m not sure what prompts me to take on the challenging conditions of mountain climbing on my special day, but there’s a sense of euphoria I experience while hiking that I can’t find in any other activity.

My best friend, who shares the same birthday as me, joined me in this tradition by climbing a nearby mountain- Allahiban View Point.

The Sierra Madre range is the longest in the Philippines, stretching for 540 kilometers (340 mi) from Cagayan to Quezon, running along the eastern side of Luzon, the largest island in the archipelago.

Within this range lies the town of Penablanca in Cagayan, home to the famous Allahiban View Point.

We began our journey to Penablanca at 3:30 AM and arrived at the starting point for the climb by 4:00 AM. I had arranged for two tour guides to accompany us and lead us to the summit.

Our group consisted of six people: my best friend, my sister, her friend, two tour guides, and myself. Before starting the ascent, I whispered a quiet prayer for our safety.

I was feeling very tired, having only slept for two hours, and a bit nauseous. I wondered if my 30th birthday was having an effect on me.

It was 2018 when I last climbed a mountain, and as they say, turning 30 can bring significant changes in one’s life and outlook.
Hikers are amazed by the breathtaking views of the Cagayan River, as well as the Sierra Madre mountains.

The Allahiban View Point shows a horse-shoe-shaped inlet of the Pinacanauan River. It took us 1 hour to reach Alahiban View Point.

My breathing starts to go high and my heart beats so fast. My throat dried up and my lips, hands, and foot all swollen into a shape I do not recognize.

I felt emotional and started reminiscing about my past birthday climbs. I could hear my past self telling me “Of course, you could do this again”. This one’s the best birthday present I have given myself.

Allahiban View Point
Allahiban View Point

We brought plenty of snacks, including cup noodles and Jecs Art Coffee, my specialty coffee. The experience of drinking coffee on a mountain is more than just the view. Nothing beats sipping a hot cup of coffee while admiring the breathtaking scenery of the mountains. It is, without a doubt, one of life’s simple pleasures.

For many, the pressure of life gets heavy and we somehow believe that we should have met all of our goals and we should finally have it all figured out. When in fact, it’s quite the contrary; when we reach 30 we are just getting started.

What I know is the fact that, at 30, my body can still endure so much more than I thought it could. I also know that when I was up there, I felt euphoria in a way no other activities can make me feel. I still remember the euphoric feeling of being up there.

That’s probably why I kept coming back to the mountains for my birthday. A birthday should be a day dedicated entirely to yourself and I treated myself with the best possible present anyone could give me, the feeling of true happiness. Unlike material objects, my 30th birthday will be with me for many decades to come.