© Rodrigo Parba


We are all wanderers, only with different names. Tourists. Adventurers. Backpackers. We trek, we ride, we fly, and go different ways in many styles and reasons. We brave the tall mountains, explore the deep oceans, go places for food, adventure, or work. One day, we help build communities, and another day, we get to know a different culture. We stumble upon treasures, learn lessons, find ourselves, and if we’re lucky, find someone else. To the many kinds of vagabonds, this section is for you.

I’ve declared myself unfit for scaling mountains. I tried a few climbs, but all of them seemed to be near-death experience for someone used to comfy city tours. So, when I get to talk to mountaineers and climbers, I’m impressed. I know they’re up to something serious and hardcore.

Recently, I took the time to get to know one of them—my namesake—Aris Aglupus who has been into mountaineering for about three years. He was born for the outdoors. In 2010, he started backpacking as a hobby. Two years after, he joined a government unit supporting MNLF communities in Mindanao. While field work as a peacekeeper brought him closer to the people, backpacking brought him to the things that make his world go round: summits, campsites, trails, sunsets, dewdrops.

The guy has a colorful sense of humor. One time, he posted a photo of him with heart balloons in his backpack. Aakyat ng ligaw, he captioned. Another time, he pokes fun at himself for being too tanned his skin was darker than wood. And then he wore a Red Riding Hood costume in one of his hikes.

Your Red Riding Hood photo is epic. What gave you the idea to do it?

I know red stands out on green background and would make a great photo. So, I borrowed a Red Riding Hood costume from a friend. At first, I was shy. Lakasan na lang ng loob. Fortunately, a fellow mountaineer was very supportive to do the photoshoot.

Your macrophotography collection is also superb. What got you into that?

I discovered it by accident. I was taking a photo in one of my hikes in the Cordilleras when a dewdrop fell on my phone screen and zoomed in the camera. That started my trail macrosnaps series. It needs wild imagination. I take as many shots as I can, then select the best.

How did you get started with mountaineering?

I think it was an accident. August 2014, my spiritual connection with trails, summits, and peaks started. A friend invited me to join her for a trek in Mt. Batulao in Batangas. At first, I was hesitant to join, considering I have asthma. But I challenged myself and gave it a try. Ola! On that day, the story of my adventures was unveiled.

My first five hikes were with adventurous girls who taught me the basics of mountaineering. It was all a bunch of struggles. There was no hike that I didn’t come home without injuries. One time, I twisted my ankle. That was one of my worst. But mountaineering is like a drug to me. Addiction is the word to describe it.

What fulfillment do you get in climbing that’s not found in the beaches and cities?

Every summit has its own unique beauty to offer. It’s always fulfilling to see the eagle’s eye view of the landscape or seascape on a given summit. Most of all, the sea of clouds and golden sunset and sunrise.

Is there one mountain you climb regularly? What brings you back?

I have two favorite mountains: Mt. Batulao and Mt. Ugo.

Mt. Batulao, aside from being my mother mountain (in mountaineering terms, the first mountain one has climbed and summited), is very close to Manila. It’s also the first thing that comes to my mind when I’m asked where to start mountaineering. Its changing colors, depending on the season, and its sunsets are stunning.

Mt. Ugo is also a favorite due to its landscape and cold weather. I love Ugo’s campsite for its sea of clouds and golden sunrise. Its trails bound for Itogon, Benguet is an unending pinescapes and rolling hills.

What was your most adrenaline-pumping experience while climbing?

New Year of 2017. A group of seven mountaineers welcomed the year at the Marlboro Campsite of Mt. Pulag. We started to trek via the Akiki Trail around 2 AM. Midway, the rain started to pour. We continued the trek hoping it was just a normal morning downpour, a hint of a perfect sea of clouds. But the rain continued. Upon reaching the grassland, we were welcomed with a howling wind and raging water, like waterfalls as cold as ice. My tolerance for cold was challenged that day, I couldn’t even move my hands. One of my trail buddies almost fainted due to the extreme cold.

We agreed to abort assaulting the summit. The plan was proceed to Camp 2 as fast as we could and exit via Ambangeg Ranger Station instead of Tawangan as originally planned. On my way to the Camp 2, I accidentally fell to a deep hole and twisted my ankle. I didn’t have any choice but to get up and continue walking on the flooded trail at almost zero visibility. We reached Camp 2 then we proceeded to the ranger station where locals offered us a decent meal for free.

Was that the toughest trail you’ve been to?

I consider the trails of Mt. Sicapoo in Ilocos as one of the toughest. Contrary to its beautiful knife edges and ridges, I consider its One Degree Plateau as a death zone due to its blazing hot weather, especially during summer. Tough or not, it’s all about perspective. Whether it’s a day hike or an overnight hike, the thing that makes a trail tough is your state of mind.

I think not everybody is made for climbing. You need so much stamina for long hikes and steep assaults.

I think it’s not the stamina but the determination. Determination to finish the climb no matter what. It is also the first impression that matters or inspires a person to climb again.

What’s the proper way of preparing for climbs? What challenges to prepare for?

As a responsible mountaineer, aside from the usual preparation such as physical and mental conditioning, you need to research the weather, the trail, water source along the trail, and the likes.

What are your backpack essentials?

For dayhike: water bladder, salt (anti cramps), extra clean clothes, powerbank, Gopro, trail food. For overnight or two nights: same as dayhike, plus tent, sleeping bag, headlamp, mess kit, malong, windbreaker/shell.

What’s your wildest dream as a mountaineer?

To trek Philippine mountains with 9/9 difficulty level. Also, to summit Everest or even just to set foot at the base camp.

What’s the world’s biggest misconception about mountaineering and mountaineers?

That mountaineering is only for the strong and that mountaineers eat only canned goods.

Get updated on Aris’ journeys through his social media accounts.
Facebook: Aris Aglupus
Instagram: @theguynextoutdoor


ArisMape is a travel insider at ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines. He loves orange, halo-halo, and PowerPoint, and hates beef, slow internet, and long taxi lines. His pastime is watching people watch other people. He swears on the power of smartphone. His half-life? Thirty.