He is no Iron man, he does not have a powered exoskeleton, only a human body which he can wish to be as strong as his heart’s desire. He is no Batman, no black cape and bat mobile, only his dry-fit shirt and improvised trekking pole made of “yantok” stick and some left-over scuba diving materials. He is no Flash, he does it slowly but surely and he never quits. He is no Superman but with what he does he can be consider as one. Last March [3/15/2014], during our climb at Mt. Pico De Loro, I met Tatay Oca, 67 and that encounter left me with a renewed faith in dreamers.
He was on the bus with us on our way to Ternate, but we had no idea that he has this plan of climbing a mountain. As we were on our way, he was already planning everything in his head, sharing a ride with us to cut on his expenses, and joining us on the trek. When the bus came to a full stop, he waited for us to get off it. And while we were in Sapang, he approached one of us, and laid his intention of also climbing Pico De Loro. I was astonished. I honestly think of mountaineering as a sport for the young ones, but he had proven me wrong.
While we were waiting at the DENR station, I couldn’t help myself, but share stories, and ask questions over breakfast with him. There I found out that he is a retired scuba diving instructor, and he started to rekindle his lost relationship with mountaineering after hearing the news about what happened in Mt. Maculot.
Since then, there was no stopping him. He went to Mt. Pulag alone having to spend only less than 2,000 bucks all-in. This year, he was able to conquer Mt. Batulao and Mt. Talamitam, and to add to that – Mt. Pico De Loro. All that he did by himself – from planning to listing the itinerary.
When asked why he not has someone with him, he told me that his friend, who is 63 and whom he had brought with him to Mt. Maculot, already gave up on mountaineering. He wanted to pursue his dream regardless of what circumstance and that made me believe in the power of making it happen even more.
I was still puzzled though. I asked myself, “But why at such age?” I couldn’t help it so I asked him that question and his answer was short and simple, “Yun kasi ang passion ko. Dun ako nasisiyahan.”
“That is [mountaineering] my passion. That is what makes me happy.”
And he added, “Hanggat kaya pa ng tuhod ko ang umakyat, uunahin ko muna yung mga bundok na mahihirap.”
“As long as my knees can still handle mountain climbing, I’ll get done those [mountains] that are hard to climb first.”
And then I quipped a follow-up, “Hindi po ba nag-aalala ang mga anak niyo sa inyo?”
“Aren’t your kids worried about you?”
Before answering he even relate it to some news he saw on TV, and then he said, “Kung may mangyari man at least gusto ko tong ginagawa ko.”
“If something happens at least I love what I’m doing.”
Taking baby steps from time to time, having to stop for some quick rest and by pushing himself, he was able to reach the summit of Pico De Loro, and not only that, for he even conquered the Monolith, and he joined us during the traverse.
Four days from now [March 20, 2014], he will fly to Davao to conquer Mt. Apo alone. If all things go according to his plan which I know it will be, Tatay Oscar would be the second oldest person to trek Mt. Apo. And we are all wishing you the best of luck. Tatay Oca, I will be praying for your safety and everyone who gets to read this will surely do as well.
He told me that maybe it was destiny who brought him to that same bus so that he can get to know us. We made him happy, he made us proud. He may be far from being Superman, Iron Man, Batman or the Flash but he is a hero in his own right. For me he is actually more than any hero – he is an inspiration. Tatay Oscar is a proof that a dream knows no age.
Update: At exactly 10:30 AM of March 22, 2014, Tatay Oca was able to reach the summit of Mt. Apo, Philippines highest despite the weather condition. This just goes to show that no tropical depression can weaken a strong heart.