Jul 15 2021

Climbing Half Dome

Note: This was also posted in my son’s blog: http://www.jethroo.org/climbing-half-dome/

When I left Philippines in 1997 for a greener pasture in the United States, one of the families I left behind is my mountaineering family – Sikap Bundok, which is a Philippine-based mountaineering-oriented outdoors club with strong environmental and community service ethics. I left behind weekends of climbing mountains, enjoying the views and pitching tent, as well as rappelling, bouldering, snorkeling, knot-tying and first-aid trainings.

The last time I climbed a mountain in the Philippines was in December 28, 1997, in Mt Kitanglad in Bukidnon. (That was a very memorable climb to me, as it was my first climb with my wife – we were married the day before the climb, and yes, my now-wife and I have climbed mountains together when we were still single/dating – but that’s another story.) Since the Mt. Kitanglad hike and overnight camping, the closest to camping/hiking activities I did were family car camping/glamping, Boy Scout camping and short hikes. However, 20+ years later, I finally was able to experience one of the activities I have always enjoyed with my Sikap Bundok family: climbing mountains!

On July 9, 2021, together with friends and new acquaintances, we hiked and conquered Half Dome in Yosemite, California. It was an 8-hour hike to the top. It was tough and very challenging, but it was all worth it. I mean, check out the view! The 360-degree view of Yosemite is breathtaking. Being on top of Half Dome and seeing how huge Yosemite is, I felt humbled – I am just a small dot in this universe that God created, and I felt so alive living in it and exploring it. I am so grateful.


Climbing mountains teaches us patience and perseverance – to take it one step at a time, rest, then charge again, never giving up, until you reach your goal. And once you reached the top and enjoyed the view, how do you get home? Again, one patient step at a time, persevering to keep on hiking down before the sun sets…

On every stop, the water that I carried on my back is the best that I have tasted in my life. Why? Because I had to appreciate every single drop I had. Water is unlimited when you are in the city, but when hiking, you are limited by the amount that you can carry. You don’t want to carry too much as it will be too heavy. Carry too little and you will inevitably become dehydrated. In the luxury of our home, the water faucet is just a few steps away, and already filtered. In the mountains, water source could be a thousand steps away, and you have to filter it. For every drop of water that I drink,  I felt humbled and grateful, once again!

Climbing Half Dome brought back the youth in me. It made me appreciate the things I have, and I stopped focusing on what I didn’t. It showed me how meaningful life is from a different perspective. The trip was exceptional and unforgettable.

Grateful and humbled,

Sep 18 2019

Cristita “Tita” Dimacali Memorial Climb 2018

Dec 14 2018

Cristita B. Dimacali In Memoriam



That was how she was referred to in Sikap Bundok communications.  To friends and colleagues she was Tita.  To the children of Isla Verde she was Tita Tita (Aunt Tita).  Incidentally, those children are adults now.

She was one of the seven founding members of the club, one of the seven birds in the logo, the first to depart from this world.

No resident member of the club, nor of any of the volunteer organizations she was with, knew of her passing.  It had to take a member based in San Diego, California to let the club know.

The unfolding events:

Prexy Rey Cuyugan (RFC) received on September 26, 2018 a message via FB Messenger from member Ma. Ninette Pecson with a cryptic comment about something that happened to Tita.

She missed a call from Tita’s cell phone (CP) on August 24.  No message was left.  Her return messages were unanswered.   In the exchange, she asked RFC to check.

Note:  Ninette clarified much later that a niece subsequently replied via SMS.

Messages to Tita’s CP were not answered.  RFC decided to ask member Ian Santos (JIRS) to check since they were more in touch.  Ian last heard from Tita on September 16 when she confirmed receipt of notification re Ian’s new CP number.

Initially no reply, but on the 29th, Tita’s nephew Randy replied:  Tita did not wake up from her sleep morning of the 21st.  She was cremated on the 26th (The date of Ninette’s PM exchanges with RFC).  Subsequent query revealed that her ashes were kept at home.

The club, via associate Maricar Sugayan, was invited to attend the customary 40th day celebration. Only members Eugene Guiyab (ELLG) and RFC were able to attend.

The duo arrived way past the noontime commemoration due to heavy traffic and unfamiliarity with the place.  The family, particularly Tita’s eldest sibling, her Ate Siony, were vastly relieved.

In her talks with nieces, Tita had expressed desire to be cremated and for her ashes to be strewn atop a mountain by her colleagues.  The family had complied with the first request even as they did not favor cremation.  They did not know how to comply with the second.  If no one from the club came, they had tasked a niece to scatter the ashes somewhere in Antipolo.   ELLG and RFC promised to arrange to fulfill the second part after consulting with the members.  The urn was left in place.


After consultations via FB and CP, a date was decided upon:  November 10, 2918.  The mountain selected was Mt. Manabu, in Barangay Santa Cruz, Santo Tomas,  Batangas, part of the Malepunyo range.  The site was selected because it was an easy climb for first-timers, family members who may want to join.  Being a local site for religious pilgrimage, there are stations of the cross, the biggest and most prominent being one at ‘the peak.

Attendees were members Brian Agana (BAA), Bong Javier (BMJ), Vino dela Cruz (MMDC), associate Jerry Belarde (JAB), Rey Cuyugan (RFC).  They were joined by Me-Ann Belarde (JAB’s wife),  Ivy Lopez-Palad (from Isla Verde, one of those who called her Tita Tita), and five members of the family: Asuncion ‘Ate Siony’ Dimacali, Alma Mallorca, Nhilyn Dimacali, Ellen Dimacali, Janet Dimacali.







And so it was done.  Just after 1200H (12:00 noon), in a first time ceremony, Tita’s ashes were thrown to the winds in four directions.  She was where she wanted to be lain: Atop a mountain.





Epilogue:  The group were back at the jump-off point by 1600H (4:00pm).  Rested, cleaned up, and partook of pre-ordered late lunch consisting of native chicken in sour broth (Sinigang na manok Tagalog) and rice, courtesy of Australia-based members Yonee (JNDG) and Heidi Galindez (HPCG).  By 1730H, the group dispersed in the separate vehicles they came in.

Ate Siony expressed hope that the members can join the family for the babang-luksa (first year death anniversary) September 21, 2019.




Tita’s last picture with SB during the celebration of RFC’s birthday cum rappelling.

Feb 07 2017

Dueg VI Narrative

DUEG VI 14-15 Jan 2017


For various reasons, the supplies convoy from Quezon City left past 2400H of the 13th. Further delays due to ongoing works at the Candaba Viaduct portion of NLEX caused the convoy to reach Dr. Toledo’s place in Poblacion Norte, San Clemente, Tarlac at 0700H of the 14th. The borrowed municipal dump truck, which was supposed to come at 0600H arrived past 0900H. The supplies and 27 participants could not be accommodated in one trip so a second became necessary. Alas, the truck broke down before it reached the site. A second trip was out of the equation. Cell phone communication was erratic.


Somehow, arrangements were made to ferry the supplies to the site. The first batch of participants had to walk. Those who remained at the staging atea were shuttled in three trips.. By the time the last batch reached the school it was past 1400H.

Surprise! The merienda feeding was winding down, a guest participant of Belle T. namely Jun Memorial saved the day by keeping the kids busy with his energetic emceeing. He had the kids participating in singing and dancing.

As it turned out, the lead batch headed by Gina J. decided to have the merienda soup prepared ASAP, and to proceed with the feeding before the gift-giving as it was past 1200H.

The program wound down by 1600H. If we had not stopped, the children would have stayed. They were thoroughly enjoying it.




The group had their lunch cum dinner past 1700H. Nobody complained of having gone hungry, everybody were too busy, and enjoying it, to go hungry.

As may be expected, due to the delays, some of the planned components, such as the lunch with teachers, did not materialize. A three-person group (Dory B., Bong J., and RFC) got to visit and chat with some tribal leaders morning of the 15th.

The group was back at the place of Dr. Ronnie Toledo by 1300H of the 15th. Lunch was hosted by Doc T. . The group was off past 1600H. RFC and daughter were home by 2400H

Highlights/ stats:

  • Total number of participants – 27 (The most to date)
  • Number of son and daughter/niece participants – 1 son, 3 daughters, 1 niece
  • Number of Medical Doctor participants – 1 male, 3 females (potential med mission)
  • Number of complete family participants – 1 family of four (Durans)
  • Number of student gift packs, one each – 279
  • Number of gift packs for academic achievers, one per level – 7
  • Number of gift packs for teachers and PTA volunteers – 14
  • Number of pax, including non-students and Aeta mothers, served merienda (excluding repeats) – 300
  • Special gifts for tarp model Mary Ramos sourced RFC from relatives


  • Communal-use gifts (for school or faculty use, for teacher distribution as needed –
    • One large soup kettle
    • Various cooking implements
    • Used but usable: fasteners, notebooks, pencils
    • Reference books
    • Replenishment of medical supplies (alcohol, cotton balls, cotton buds, pediatric Paracetamol)
    • Pediatric vitamins (teachers to identify most at need, and to administer in-school)
    • Certified vegetable planting seeds from the Bu. of Plant Industry. For planting program.


  • Contents of common gift packs
    • One notebook (grade specific as needed)
    • One pad writing paper (grade specific as needed)
    • One pencil (grade specific as needed)
    • One black, one red ballpoint pen (intermediate level and up)
    • One packet instant noodle
    • 200 grams iodized salt
    • One toothbrush
    • One sachet toothpaste
    • One bar bath soap


Even as Dueg VI was winding down, planning for Dueg VIi had begun:

  • Separate, same day visit to Aeta community itself, post school program.
  • Gift packs per Aeta family, numbering 130, contents not committed
    • Three to five packets of instant noodles
    • Planting seeds for five common vegetables (committed)
  • Seminar on seeds selection and home composting



Feb 07 2017

Epiphany #2

Jong and I are being guided by the universe on how we parent our children. As years pass by, it truly becomes clear why Alexis and Tisha chose us to be their parents, because we will be providing them the opportunity to discover their mission in this life.


Synchronicities led us to meet people who are close to nature and opened opportunities for us to discover the beauty of the deep sea, forests, and mountains of the Philippines. There were both adventures and misadventures which equally bless our family with experiences that expand our awareness within us and around us.

Going beyond what our society defines as what is successful, our family has bravely been journeying together at our own terms on what is important, which is going back to mother nature, being with like minded people, deepening our compassion, connection and spirituality in the process. Teaching our kids the difference between absolute and relative truths.


Within a very short period of time, communing with our Aeta brothers reminded us of our rich heritage and the injustice done to them throughout our Philippine history. They are the original Filipinos who are now marginalized.

Thank you to SIKAP-BUNDOK for helping us in parenting our daughters, teaching them values and skills not taught in school but are vital in their lives. Being in the company of Rey Cuyugan, Dory Blobner, Raul and Nida Escaler is a testament of the possibility of climbing mountains on the 8th decade of our lives, they are truly inspiring, and role models for our daughters. I asked Alexis on why she enjoys their company, she answered “Because they are good people.”

Thank you also to DM Rainier Omac and Arvin Marbibi for guiding Alexis on her scuba diving, and Jerry Marquez for Taekwondo. All of you are teachers who help us develop the potential of our kids beyond the limits of what is offered by schools.


– Melanie B. Duran, MD
January, 2017



Older posts «