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Eggstremers: Motley birds of the mountains

13 December 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao
Perched on a promontory, an Eggstremer
gazes at the horizon for more peaks to climb. 

‘Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.’ –Edward Abbey

This group of Filipina hikers is small and informal, and started climbing Hong Kong’s mountains as one only in July, but it is already leaving a mark in its conquest of the territory’s peaks.

From a mere desire to reach heights for the sense of freedom the outdoor activity provides, members of “Eggstremers Pinoy Hikers” have broadened their horizon by hiking for a cause in whatever way they can.

In late October, Hong Kong netizens were abuzz when a local hiker photographed a group of Filipinas collecting and carrying rubbish strewn by other hikers on the trails and slopes of Ma On Shan. At the time five other group of Filipina hikers were doing the same “small act” and earned praises from Hongkongers who felt ashamed it had to take foreigners to clean up their backyard.
One of the groups was Eggstremers, which joined the cleanup organized by Prof Rob Hayes of the South China University in Guangzhou.

Environmental cleanup is just one of Eggstremers’ advocacies. The group has also lately started a small-scale project that involves donating school supplies and food for primary pupils in impoverished villages in the Philippines.

“We did that last Sunday (Nov 20), the donations for Barbaza, Antique,” Bhyrd, a leading member of the group, told The SUN in a group-chat interview on Facebook on Nov 22. The donations consisted of chairs and foodstuff for elementary pupils in Barbaza.

Pausing at the foot of the Double Dragon
waterfall before climbing upstream.
On Dec 2-4, the group will stage its second school supplies donation project, this time in Alimodian, Iloilo. “Our group pledged school supplies for the students,” said Bhyrd, a communications technician from Alimodian.

Gina, an Ilocana from Pangasinan, said the group will continue donating to needy schools as long as the organizers of the events are trustworthy.

Bhyrd, Rissa, Abbi, Gina, Macky, Joy Ann, and Si acted as marshals in a triathlon event in Discovery Bay at the invitation of Liza Avelino, a compatriot and fellow helper who made news last year with her solo assault on a sister peak of Mount Everest in Nepal.

But they were there to join a hike to help raise Php5 million to pay for a liver transplant on Zane Franco Ramos, a 15-month-old boy from Trece Martires, Cavite, who is suffering from acute biliary atresia. The disease is a life-threatening condition in babies in which the bile ducts do not have normal openings, causing liver swelling.

The eight hikers, however, are not distracted from climbing heights by their desire to help other people or to collect litter that mindless trekkers leave on Hong Kong slopes.

The team savors triumph at the
hexagonal rock formations in Long Ke. 
Since they formed the group in July this year, they have hiked several of the territory’s 130 highest peaks, such as Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s tallest mountain; Lantau Peak, its second highest; Green Dragon, Double Dragon, Tiger Roar, Mount Stenhouse, North Heaven Gate, South Heaven Gate, West Dog Teeth, Dragon’s Back and Mount Parker.

What distinguishes these adventure-seekers from other hikers is they avoid the beaten trail and, instead, crawl up rocky gullies and streams, hug rock faces and trudge through thick vegetation to “add to the challenge”.

Each Eggstremer has a bird name or fowl feature – Bhyrd is called Batik (speckled, as a quail egg), Abbi is known as Pugo (quail), Rissa is Kulago (Waray for a night bird), Macky is Lawin (hawk), Maylen is Maya, Gina is Agila (eagle), Joy Ann is Itik (duck).

Abbi explained, “Kasi when you think of a bird or something na lumilipad, there’s freedom.”
Why do they call themselves Eggstremers? “It comes from a joke, we say we think like an egg (can an egg really think?) But, seriously, we picture eggs in our minds as circular or oval-shaped, infinite, no end, no count, no boundaries, no limits, no boss, no leader, no member. We are friends, we are sisters, we are family,” Abbi said philosophically.

A pose with International mountaineer and fellow
OFW Liza Avelino at on the MacLehose Trail in Sai Kung. 
The group stands out because the members are “being true to ourselves, no pretensions, what you see is what you get”, the single mom from Lucena added.

The Eggstremers come from motley backgrounds. Bhyrd was a communications technician who was a domestic helper here from 1997 to 2002, then worked in a Taiwan electronics factory for nine years, before returning here in 2013.

Macky was a chef in Manila, while Joy Ann was an English teacher for Korean and Japanese in Baguio City for three years, a nurse for two years, and a kindergarten teacher in Indonesia for a year before coming to Hong Kong 13 months ago.

Si worked as a cashier in a Manila office, office assistant in a Japanese firm in Cavite, technical staff, encoder, production staff at trwo electronics companies before coming to Hong Kong. Rissa worked in Syria and Kuwait for almost five years previously.

Macky said what binds the group is love for adventure. “Nagkakasundu-sundo kami sa adventures, no dull moment basta nasa trai, maligaw man ang katwiran ay kasama iyan sa hike… at hindi susuko kahit mahirap ang akyatin,” she said.

Hiking has become a habit for Eggstremers such that its members say they don’t feel well and find the day boring if they don’t climb a mountain on their holiday. They all feel the stress go away and their bodies energized as they go romancing Hong Kong’s mountains.

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