BAGUIO CITY – Choi Sungkyu considers June 20 as his rebirth, the day he was found by rescuers after he got lost on a mountain in the Cordillera region for 13 days.
Choi, a South Korean, said he was preparing for a major climb in Santiago, Spain, which is why he climbed Mt. Amuyao.
He started in Barlig, Mt. Province and planned to end his hike in Banaue, Ifugao.
According to Choi, he later realized that it was a mistake to track the easiest route using his mobile internet.
After two hours of walking, he got lost. He walked for several hours without water.
Thirsty, Choi followed the sound of a nearby stream.
All he had were two bars of chocolates, two packs of crackers, and two bananas.
He stayed near the stream for four days, then climbed up to look for mobile phone signal.
Using his phone, Choi was able to inform local authorities that he was lost.
Although he was starving, Choi chose not to eat plants in the area in fear that he might get poisoned.
He had forgotten about a bag of peanuts given to him by a woman on a bus going to the Mt. Province, but that was what saved his life.
Choi said there were moments when he almost lost hope.
"I thought of my family and God. I prayed every night, please, please, oh my God, please. Please give me power," he said.
Just when he was about to lose his last ounce of energy from hiking and swimming, Choi finally saw rice fields.
He felt relieved and decided to stay there for a night.
As he was about to prepare hiking again in the morning, he saw one of the rescuers.
The rescuer gave him rice and sardines, which Choi said was “the best meal” of his life.
Choi's family and friends almost lost hope too.
“I wanted to give up, but the soldiers and police were very hard working,” said Park Hyoung Jun, president of the Korean association in Baguio.
Choi's wife said it felt like a dream to see her husband on a hospital bed, thankful that he is alive.
Choi and his family are thankful to everyone who made an effort to find him. In return, he is planning to give a donation to Barlig, Mt. Province.
He also said that he will never forget his experience and the kindness of the locals.
Despite what happened, he still plans to climb more mountains.
Choi was rescued Tuesday after he went missing earlier this month.