"Climbing Half Dome"

"Climbing Half Dome"

This is written by my father, Sergio Castillo.

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,