Mt. Tibig has left a special mark in my heart. Not because of its challenge that made me run out of breath the entire time. Nope. It got nothing to do with how colorful and sweet smelling were the flowers abundantly growing in her lands. Not even with her unspoiled beauty and the tall grasses obscuring the trail. Nah, it completely got nothing to do with how wonderful and fulfilling our day was spending great moments at her peak.
It was all about this furry fellow we were so fortunate to be friends with.
He appeared behind us out of nowhere just as we were about to kick off the hike. Upon seeing him walk pass me, I jokingly remarked towards my hiking buddies, “Hey, we have a guide dog!” and we all looked at him allowing him to sniff each one of us while we burst into laughter. At first we thought he was just passing by just checking on strangers in his territory. However as the hike progressed and as we went deeper into the woods, we noticed he has never left us. He continued to walk along side us as if he was all part of the herd. There were even times when he would wait in a spot and wait for us to pass him by as if he was doing a role call and he was making sure everyone was safely following his lead. In a short while of him being with us, we developed fondness of him.
We asked Michael (our guide) if he knew who he was but he denied and even said it was his first time to see our little furry fellow. Realizing none of us knew who he was and how to call him, we decided to call him “Brownie” derived from his brown coat. He seemed to go with the name with ease. We started asking him questions like “Where he lives or Who his humans are?” as if he was going to spat us back the answers. We even came up with stories about him being a fairy or a guardian of the mountain in disguise. He never seemed to bother about us pestering him with too many questions as he continued to trek alongside us.
If we would stop to take 5, he’ll stop and lie down beside us. If we would nibble on our trail food, he gets fed as well. Him being with us somewhat made the grueling hike easier. Lighter. Happier. There were times when he would get off the trail and run into the woods and we would call him to rejoin us. He would playfully run down coming from the top of the trail, abruptly stopping in front of one of us as if he was trying to startle us. If we lost sight of him, we would just simply call out to him and he would appear from wherever just to reassure us of his presence.
Brownie sounded a little old fashioned to me. The name reminds me of someone ugly or nasty so instead of calling him that, I called him “Brow-Brow”. It sounded cute and he seemed to take it better than Brownie.
We have gone from the foot of the mountain to the summit and he has stayed with us through the good and the bad and despite the heavy downpour. He would even venture into beautiful spots as if telling us where it is best to have our photos taken. There were instances when all we can do is gasp and hold our breaths whenever he would try to pull off a daredevil stunt like standing at the edge of a rock 500 meters above sea level as if he doesn’t mind falling. We would scold him, he would just sigh but he will do it again. (Face palm)
We thought he was gonna leave when it was time to go back but he didn’t. He followed us down to the registration site. There he lied flat on the ground, barely moving. Not because he was tired but probably because he was kinda sad. Perhaps he knew we were leaving. As I waited for the others to finish washing up, I sat in front of him, teasing him by playfully calling his name, disrupting him from his sleep. I knew he was feeling down simply by looking at his face. I played with him to console him. I scratch his back, his neck and his inner belly. He seemed to really love it. I spoke to him bidding him goodbye while I continued to scratch the inside of his thigh. I was a little worried about him though as we were told his human is a gambler and often leaves him alone to attend cockfights. I wanted to take him home with me but it seemed really inappropriate. I just hoped his human would do him better the next time.
Our ride back to town arrived and as each of us bid him and the other locales goodbye, his wary face became more evident. One of the locales held him up playfully waving his hands towards us but his face was unchanging. It was so sad. I looked away. I didn’t want to see him as we ride farther away from him. After few minutes, I looked back in his direction but they were no longer in sight. We might have already covered several meters of our ride back to town but just as we were about to turn further away, he popped out of the blind curve running after us. We were so surprised that we immediately asked the driver to stop. As the jeep pulled into a halt, we could see him still running towards us.
His breathing was heavy as if he had run quite good. We urged him to hop onto the jeep but he didn’t do it. Instead, he went to the side of the jeep where I was seated. I looked at him and he was looking up at me. I told him to go back but he didn’t seem to listen. The driver said we should just let him follow but we worried about him getting lost so we asked him to start the engine and speed up so he wouldn’t be able catch up. We told him again and again to go back but he won’t. He still followed us. As we sped up towards the highway, he was still running after us. We stopped the jeep again. It hurt us but it was the only way. We threw him stones with no intentions of hitting him. It was just to make him go back and stop following us. He didn’t budge. He still ran towards us. I froze as I didn’t know what to do. It was so sad to see him that way but we didn’t have a choice. I was about to cry but I tried so hard not to show it. I thought it was embarrassing. And when we thought our efforts were hopeless, a locale helped us in sending him back. He was still determined to follow us even when he was pushed away not just by us but by the locale who was so kind to help. Ian asked me to go down and talk to him. Said he might listen. I blurted “Why me?” He was just as close to him as he was to me. Ian might have seen the sadness in my eyes cause he asked and started teasing “Why do you look as if you were about to cry?”
My tears fell down as soon as he said those words. I could no longer contain my emotion. They laughed at me while I burst in tears. I was still crying as we sped up towards town while looking back to where I last saw Brow-Brow. The locale woman was still trying to stop him. I wondered what he was thinking. I knew dog’s loyalty to their humans knows no limit even when their humans fall short of taking care of them or even when they are taken for granted. I was puzzled why he ran after us. Was he intending to go home with us? Has life been too cruel to him that he was willing to leave everything behind? A lot of things were running on my mind surrounding his circumstance. All I can do is pray for him and hope him a better fate..
It was a bittersweet ending but I definitely would cherish every minute of it in my memory. I would again one day journey the roads to Lobo not only to hike up the marvelous summit of Mt. Tibig but to see Brow-Brow again. Someday.
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For a comprehensive guide for this hike, check out my post MT. TIBIG and Getting Lost In Its Off-Beaten Path