GAPING at the raw beauty of a mountain from afar is a relaxing activity that does not need any deep thinking. But setting foot on it and trying to reach its peak is another story that needs to be pondered twice, or even more.

Our group might as well be asking for trouble when we decided to do our thesis on the herbal medications of an Aeta community in Tarlac. The usual reactions of our classmates, such as “What!? Why so far?” should have prepared us for the seemingly herculean task that awaited us. I guess our brainstorming did not include what to do in case of mishaps, such as someone having a diarrheal attack or slipping accidentally down the steep mountain slope.

Which was what exactly happened to me. I was ironically inching my way down the slippery slope, trying to plant my shaky and aching feet firmly on the loose ground. The next moment I knew my feet was hurtling up in the air and I had landed on the ground with a big thump, amid startled exclamations and the giggling of my group mates. I stood up, trying to laugh off the incident, hoping that I could, at least, salvage a little dignity. When asked by my group leader if I was all right, I replied stoically, “Yes, it hurts, but more on the psychological side.”

I guess I was too confident , trying hard to be brave and used to the muddy mountain terrain when I should be carefully calculating each move. My all too old stance of bahala na has made my knees fail me.

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My little accident reminds me that I, nor anybody, is invincible, for that matter.

I am also reminded of that nerdy computer geek in the James Bond flick “Golden Eye.” Just when he gleefully shouts “I am invincible!” after successfully breaking a hard code, a grenade explodes behind him. We are both victims of this all too common fallacy of trying hard to be invincible.

But it’s good to know that nobody is invincible. At least, there would be something greater to look forward to. There’s always room to move up the ladder to see a different and more exciting view.

* * *

Our group has lately realized this, too. Most of us thought we could get away by being apathetic or being half-hearted in collaborating on piles of requirements—be it completing our thesis, organizing a seminar, or submitting a case presentation. Oftentimes, we only think of ourselves, not realizing that all our actions affect the other members of the group too.

It was a good thing that something happened to wake us all in our pretended stupor.

We were all set to leave on a Friday for Tarlac and stay there overnight for the partial data gathering of our thesis. We all thought that everything was set. A kind professor had excused us from one subject that day, since we had to leave at one in the afternoon.

We all panicked when the officials of our college forbade us to go, citing that we did not ask for their permission in the first place, and that we did not submit signed statements of our parents waiving any responsibility of the university if some unforeseen accident happened. But since it was really important that we go to Tarlac that day, our team leader pleaded with them to let us go. They consented, but they told us to accomplish the necessary papers first.

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No one had to tell us twice to move. Like a string of firecrackers simultaneously ignited, each of us set off in different directions, transporting the important documents to be signed by concerned people. Amidst a flurry of quick phone calls, tears and mini-debates, we finally got the approval.

In the end, we were all drained but satisfied, feeling stronger as a team.

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