This post is a day late but still.
Seven years ago on Valentine's I met My Bibe Kwittiegirl for the first time. We were seated across each other at the rear end of one of several jeepneys en route to Mt. Pulag in Benguet. I was with an officemate (whom she thought was my girlfriend), she was with a photographer. It was chilly and still dark, and we all tried to snooze amid the bumpy and uncomfortable ride. As daylight became more prominent, we started talking. Nothing special.
Stops. Orientation. Meals. Trek. Set camp. Fast-forward to socials after dinner: we were seated next to each other, talking, downing shots of gin in between. We learned from each other of our mutual interest in writing. She joined the climb expedition to write a piece for our company's employee magazine. She asked me to take over writing chores and I obliged (geez, I still cringe at the memory of that article smothered in adjectives!).
At about 3 or 4 in the morning we went for the summit. She didn't join. I found out later she felt lazy and thought someone else was writing the article anyway. So that's just me in the picture, higher than the clouds, feeling like I was on top of the world.
Back to camp. Breakfast. Break camp. Descent. Fast-forward to the ranger station for lunch and to freshen up: we met again. Our shoes were all muddy and we were waiting for our respective turns at the bathroom. She had our picture taken. That was our only picture for the entire expedition but the first of many to come. But nothing special yet at that point.
Back at the office I was unconsciously gravitating towards her all the time. Her officemate would even secretly refer to me as her "satellite." We grew close and became both active in climbs and eventually, in institutionalizing our company's mountaineering club. Just like this snapshot from our laughable trek to Mt. Manalmon back in June 2004:
At Mt. Banahaw for a tree-planting activity in September of the same year (she was actually annoyed by my constant sticking close to her here):
Mt. Mabanban in January 2005, one of our all-time favorite mountains:
Really close, right?
We were always seat mates on the bus:
It was obvious we were comfortable with each other. Case in point: sharing a malong in Tagaytay while waiting for a ride back home (after our Mt. Batulao "underground climb" in February 2005).
At our pit stop, Papaya River, on the way to Tarak ridge, also in February 2005 (Why do I look like some maniac?):
We were both not afraid of the sun. Bangaw shades and all in March 2005 for our TCP (Trek to the Crater of Pinatubo):
Feeling the pine trees of Mt. Tapulao in April of the same year:
You see, mountains have been instrumental in shaping our friendship and later, our romance - heck, our love! This picture was taken in 2005 or 2006 at Mt. Makiling when we joined a seedlings and wildlings gathering activity:
Back to Mt. Mabanban in August 2005, we definitely had each other even if we were battered by heavy rain and strong winds, even if our tent was leaking that we had to slip our feet inside a trash bag, even if My Bibe was sneezing all throughout our descent because of her allergic rhinitis:
This was our last climb to date, Mt. Marami in August 2005 for the club's batch 2 induction:
While My Bibe and I both grew tired of the whole mountaineering thing (we consider ourselves "retired" already), this was never the case with our relationship. Suffice it to say that that short span of time spent conquering mountains had already laid a very strong foundation for our love. As proof, it's already been more than five years since that last climb and we're still together, our love stronger than ever.
Looking back, who would have thought that that Valentine's Day encounter seven years ago would lead to something, something deep and really special? I realized that one should never discount the possibility of love and romance from a chance encounter. You can never really tell. Love might just be around the corner. Or on top of a mountain.
Just one more "Happy Valentine's" to you, My Bibe! I love you more than ever!