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No mountain too high for 4 nuns

/ 12:06 AM June 10, 2015
CLIMBING NUNS This photo may remind people of the classic film “The Sound of Music,” but St. Paul of Chartres nuns (from left) Anna Maria Reyes, Aurelie Cortez, Arcelita Sarnillo and Rachelle Rapio did climb the 630-meter Mount Talamitam in Nasugbu, Batangas province, in sneakers to raise funds for the sick and the poor. ONE HIKE MOUNTAINEERING CLUB/CONTRIBUTOR

CLIMBING NUNS This photo may remind people of the classic film “The Sound of Music,” but St. Paul of Chartres nuns (from left) Anna Maria Reyes, Aurelie Cortez, Arcelita Sarnillo and Rachelle Rapio did climb the 630-meter Mount Talamitam in Nasugbu, Batangas province, in sneakers to raise funds for the sick and the poor. ONE HIKE MOUNTAINEERING CLUB/CONTRIBUTOR

THEY wouldn’t just be singing it; they’d be doing it.

Four Catholic nuns, the oldest at 77, proved that they were more than willing to “climb every mountain and ford every stream” to serve the poor.

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Wearing jogging pants under their habits, Sisters Arcelita Sarnillo, 61; Rachelle Rapio, 34; Anna Maria Reyes, 49; and Aurelie Cortez, 77, all of the St. Paul of Chartres, scaled the 630-meter Mount Talamitam in Nasugbu, Batangas province, as part of their awareness and fund-raising campaign.

It was the first charity hike of St. Paul Hospital in Dasmariñas City, Cavite province, for the benefit of cleft palate and cleft lip patients who cannot afford corrective surgery. The hospital is one of 13 health facilities in the country run by the congregation that offer free medical consultations and operations for the poor.

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Its physical therapist, Joseph Felix, brought up the idea of the charity hike as something fresh from the usual benefit “fun runs.”

Considered a novice in mountaineering, Felix, 25, has already conquered 35 peaks all over the Philippines in just a matter of months. He started climbing this January and formed the Internet-based One Hike Mountaineering Club (OHMC).

For a P500 registration fee, about 40 other hospital staff and OHMC members were to climb Talamitam, one of the most frequently visited but not really the most daring peak for regular hikers. But coming across nuns sporting backpacks and sneakers? It was definitely not an everyday sight on the trail, Felix said.

Human photo booths

“They (the nuns) became like human photo booths as other climbers asked to take selfies with them,” he said. The photo of the four nuns standing tall on the summit drew the attention of hiking enthusiasts online.

The ascent took about three hours, which Felix believed was fairly quick, considering it was the nuns’ first time. “Whenever we thought they wanted to get some rest, they would instead say, ‘Push, push,’” he recalled.

Sister Arcelita found the experience challenging. “I just kept on meditating and looking up,” she said.

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She recalled those instances on the trail when they almost wanted to turn back, but that “anyone would be embarrassed to do so with (Sister Aurelie’s pushing through).”

“One of the locals there said the oldest who had climbed (Talamitam) was 70 and here we were with a 77-year-old,” Felix said.

Singing sisters

Once on the summit, the nuns led a short prayer at the Marian grotto. They sang “Hail Mary” before starting their two-hour descent.

The funds collected will be used for the next batch of cleft palate and cleft lip patients to undergo a free operation. So far, the hospital has about 10 successful operations this year, Sister Arcelita said.

Felix said several people had already pledged to join their next climb with the nuns to Mt. Pico de Loro in Maragondon town in Cavite in August.

“Next time, we’re planning to invite a priest who could celebrate Holy Mass on the summit,” he said.

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