WE exist in a world fraught with deadlines and decisions, compelling us to desperately keep in step with the pace of frenzied activity that presides over our lives. From the second the alarm buzzes us awake for the start of another manic day to the moment our heads hit the pillows to end it, sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours to fit everything in. We rush through breakfast and lunch to get to work and back to it, and hope that dinner can provide a fleeting break from all this breathlessness, as we polish off the last morsel of that value meal while checking appointments for tomorrow together with the late-edition news. Mobile smart phones have become our best friend, our security blanket, and our lifeline to staying connected with most everyone and everything. We update, like, share, and post when we can, because it keeps us engaged in other people’s lives, and because it serves as a generally accepted interactive diversion in place of actual face-to-face social interaction.
Stepping away from all this might seem so bold a step to take, and might be met with horrified objection, but the discordance it brings has its own worthwhile benefits — if you give it a chance.
Catching Your Breath
Imagine, if you will, a day away from the racket of the bustling city. Surrounded by lush flora, with nothing but the gentle sound of splashing water from rolling creeks and the occasional chirps of birds perched on the trees or flying overhead, the quiet initially unnerves, but slowly ushers in a welcome peacefulness. The crisp, clean mountain air fills your lungs; you can practically taste its unpolluted purity. Treading gingerly over leaves, earth, and stones, the crunchy underfoot transports you to an unfamiliar yet homely place that stirs the senses and heightens your awareness to the embrace of nature.
Catching your breath to keep up with a trekking group, rather than keeping up with schedules at work, can be a refreshing and exhilarating departure from what you’re used to. This momentary escape opens doors to discovering more of the things you’ve missed, because of being so caught up with the citified grind.
Now, there’s a word that best describes the experience of hiking through the trails of the six (6) provinces and a city that comprise the Cordillera Great Traverse (or CGT, for short). The CGT will link the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province, along with the chartered city of Baguio, through existing foot trails that behold the inspiring and amazing sights and cultures of the Philippine Cordilleras. Just as we prepare for a day at the workplace, we will need to make sure that we bring everything we need for the trek, and are aware of rules that ensure the preservation of the environment, safety, and security. Think multi-tasking of a different nature. Teeming with rich history and ancient tradition, each trail will be different, and will carry new adventure, as will every visit to the same route. That is what the CGT experience promises.
It is the objective of the team behind CGT, with great cooperation and support from national agencies, local government units, and indigenous tribes, to provide an unspoiled, healthy, and safe environment for people of all walks to experience the natural splendor of the Cordilleras. The CGT hopes that more people will discover and rediscover the charm of shutting off one’s urban-tethered life for the slow-paced, roughing-it, and rustic alternative that a hike through the trails brings. The sights, sounds, smell, and feel of a convening experience with nature is guaranteed to take the breath away of even the most jaded traveler whose ‘Been There, Done That’ outlook will immediately be altered upon taking his first steps on the great traverse.
Hold Your Breath
Putting together a project as imposing as the CGT is no small feat, and the ride is expected to be long and labored. Similar traverses around the world have taken years, even decades, to complete, so the initial steps taken are critical to the continuance of this ambitious undertaking. A multitude of factors have to come together, and alliances must yield forward-moving, positive results, before anyone can even claim a minor success.
The good part is there’s a lot of optimism among the groups that have signed on or pledged assistance to the CGT’s cause. There is a coherent recognition of the obvious and latent benefits the CGT brings to the provinces, region, and the country. Here is a genuine gift of nature that presents endless discovery and learning. For one thing, there’s reciprocity: If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.
Diving into this exploit will bring untold discovery - so hold your breath just long enough, and uncover wonders that will astound, amaze, and captivate beyond the price of any man-made spectacle. For the Cordillera Great Traverse, experience is its own reward.
Fast Facts about the CGT
What is the CGT?
The CGT aims to establish the Philippine Cordillera Trail (PCT), which spans approximately 440 kilometers starting from Sagada (Mountain Province), connecting and passing through Abra, Kalinga, Apayao, Ifugao, Benguet and culminating in Baguio City, with several thousand meters of elevation gain and loss. It shall traverse mountain passes, forests, rivers, waterfalls, rice terraces, villages and ancient trails. It will be the longest and most scenic sustainable trekking/hiking destination in the Philippines, with the ambition of landing a distinguished place among the best trekking destinations in the world which include the Appalachian Trail (3,500km, USA), the Great North Walk (250km, Australia), Drakensberg (220km, South Africa) and GR20 (180km Europe).
When is it happening?
The CGT 2015 Team will follow the schedules below, subject to adjustment as the case may be:
July To October 2014 – Course Plotting, Research, Coordination, etc.
November 2014 To March 2015 - Route Recon, Mapping, Immersion, GPS Plotting, Marking, etc.
April 2015 - The Expedition: Traverse the Philippine Cordillera Trails in one push.
The Expedition is a monumental tour (and not a race) which is scheduled to happen in April 2015 and shall establish the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the PCT.
Who are behind it?
A. CGT Team
The CGT operates under the organization Philippine Trail Conservation and Events, Inc. (PhilTrace). The CGT 2015 Team consists of National Geographic explorers, adventurers, nature lovers, ultra runners, environmentalists, mountaineers, and fitness enthusiasts. All Team Members are certified first aiders through the Philippine Red Cross-Rizal Chapter/Makati Branch. The Team Rescue 8 is also supporting the Expedition.
B. Government Support
The Regional Development Council of the CAR passed a resolution on October 2, endorsing and supporting the CGT Team being a laudable activity that will contribute to the goal of the region of being a primary eco-tourism destination in the Philippines. As a private sector-led activity, the RDC finds it necessary to provide the support of the government sector, particularly in the selection of the trails and in ensuring the safety of the participants.
C. Corporate Sponsors
The CGT is funded through its members’ and friends’ voluntary contribution. It is currently seeking partnership with corporate sponsors in order to support the activities from November to April 2015.
Sometime in November, local brands Vamos and The Perfect White Shirt will support CGT by producing CGT-inspired socks and shirts, respectively, which will be commercially available. Collaboration is still ongoing to ensure excellent product quality and aesthetics that the two brands are known for. Part of the proceeds will go to the CGT as support for the Expedition.