Life 101: Taal Volcano on Horseback
A song that visited my silent sitting kept haunting my thoughts.
A song that visited my silent sitting kept haunting my thoughts. I struggled with recalling what the exact song and lyrics were but simply couldn’t.
Virginia is the six-year-old, light-weight female horse I rode on, climbing up to the peak of the volcano crater of Taal (http://ow.ly/bD3H7 ), an active volcano which was presently calm. At the age of fifty-one years old, I had not been too eager to get on a horse. I had not even learned how to ride a horse properly. Let alone ride a horse up the incline.
I had waited in line as a rider waiting to be assigned to one’s horse. I looked at the line of horses, in eager anticipation and wonder as to which one or who is going to be assigned to me. I finally got on the assigned horse, and rode on, with the horse’s tour guide walking beside us.
Climbing to the Top
We exchanged the usual niceties. I got Virginia’s name and age and her tour guide’s name and age, I guess in the order of proximity. I then introduced myself to them.
Early on the trek, it had been apparent that it was going to be a difficult climb. The surface of the incline consisted of dry soil and rocks. The path was narrow. The peak was nowhere in sight. I was thinking I shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. I kept thinking when will we ever get to the top?
I thought to Virginia, “Teach me how to ride you properly. I will follow you.”
To top the challenge of the ride, along the way to the top, we met other riders coming down from the peak. We have to deftly maneuver the horses through the narrow path to prevent collisions and throwing horse and rider off balance. At some stretches of the path, the ravine lay to the left.
Then, as if adding insult to injury, on the last stretch, I saw the incline almost double! I bent my torso even more forward to shift my body weight toward the forward part of the horse. After what seemed like eternity (could be the estimated three minutes perhaps?) we got to the top of the Taal Volcano crater.
The Volcano within the Volcano
We made it to the top! The view was breath-taking. We were atop the volcano within the volcano. Beyond the top of the crater of this inner volcano, was a view of a lake within the lake. No wonder it had become a touristy place. Among the must see places in the world, there is none like it, in terms of the uniqueness of panorama and challenge of experience.
We spent some thirty minutes chilling out at the peak, soaking up the view. Every bit of the 360-degree panorama had its own breath-taking beauty.
Climbing Down the Volcano
After the brief period of rest at the top, I was a bit adamant to go down, possibly for fear that the steep descent would be a bigger challenge than it was going up.
I had offered the guide to ride with me on Virginia, thinking that he would have been exhausted by the long upward climb. (The guide, at a later point of the descent, got on Virginia as we rode down the volcano. Virginia seemed to have become more comfortable with the guide on her back on the downward journey.)
As I had expected, the climb down the initial, steepest stretch was the most challenging. I had to recline my torso as far back as I can to move my weight towards the back of Virginia, otherwise we could all roll down the steep incline together. It was a very difficult feat reclining as far back as possible while reaching forward to hold on to the saddle safety handle at the same time. But we got through that challenging incline. We got through unscathed when we had previously met others on their downward journey (while we were on our way to the top) who had experienced rolling down with their horses on the inclined rough path.
Towards down the lesser inclined path, I was beginning to relax thinking that the worst was over, when Mark, our guide, slipped and fell. There was still real danger in all this traversing a mountain/volcano on horseback. He held on to Virginia’s rein to regain his balance. I was so relieved that Virginia did not lose her fragile state of balance at a time when her guide depended on hers, or we would have all rolled down.
A bright-colored yellow and black bird flew across our path. I talked to Virginia once again in my thoughts, “This is such a beautiful place where you walk every day.” There were mountains and lake to see all around.
Further down, the incline decreased and I was able to be more aware of how my body has actually learned the basics of riding Virginia properly.
Horseback-Riding on Taal Volcano and Life 101
Approximate volcano-climbing time on horse-back: 25 minutes up and 20 minutes down the volcano. I had been soaking up life metaphors during my journey with Virginia and Mark.
I grouped them into two: on the incline and on level ground.
During my time on Virginia’s back while on the many inclines we passed travelling on Taal Volcano, there only seems to be one important thing to remember:
The rider has to incline one’s torso forward when riding an upward incline and recline backward when riding a downward incline. The steeper the incline, the greater the forward or backward incline of the rider’s body, each time shifting the center of one’s body weight to balance out the pull of the climb’s incline.
In life, the inclines are represented by our challenging experiences. We are best equipped to handle these experiences when we have already developed the correct habits prior to the experiences, but some of us have to learn how to handle the experience as they come along. Like I did, about inclining or reclining my body, since I had no prior experience with riding a horse properly.
I guess no one would disagree that the climb would have been easier had I had the proper horseback-riding skills or habits before the experience. In a similar way, I believe we would all benefit from developing habits to make us more capable of meeting challenging experiences successfully.
Lastly, since life is all about experiencing and overcoming challenges in order to mature spiritually, I should think that there isn’t anybody among us who would be exempt from challenges.
Habits to Live By
Only you can tell what habits have worked for you in the past and what habits you feel might come in handy for you in the future. This may not necessarily be about acquiring skills or hobbies, but you may consider spiritual disposition as well.
Thomas Aquinas mentioned something about forming habits: “By repeating a good action, man acquires a moral habit or a quality which enables him to do the good gladly and easily. This is true, however, only of the intellectual and moral virtues (which Aquinas treats after the manner of Aristotle); the theological virtues are imparted by God to man as a "disposition", from which the acts here proceed; while they strengthen, they do not form it.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summa_Theologica.
From Virginia to Victoria
I hugged Virginia after the ride.
There seems to be music to every relationship we form and a corresponding song to be found to match its theme. Having been unable to recall Virginia’s song, at the time of writing, it could be a synchronistic symbolism for the need for me to be open to recall the song in the future, to update this article with, and possibly re-establish my relationship with Virginia or her kind. Only time will tell.
The last thing I know is, in my mind, I have started calling Virginia as ‘Victoria’. It must be mypet name for her, for her having achieved ‘victory’ despite the smallness of her demeanor.
It’s been five months and I haven’t recalled Virginia’s song. Nonetheless, just in time for a closure, I dreamt of a song last night which was also serendipitously sang on TV today. Let me dedicate it to Virginia:
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off you
You'd be like heaven to touch
I wanna hold you so much
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I'm alive
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off you
Can't Take My Eyes Off You
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