Lalaine Cerrada lived a charmed life.
Before she even hit 40, she was already an accomplished visual artist AND fashion designer. Her works have been featured through art exhibits in museums all over Austria, and she herself has been recognized by MTV Asia’s Top 10 Young Fashion Designers.
She has a high-flying life, jumping from one culture-laden city to another, celebrating life and art and culture, getting well paid for it too.
An accomplished art connoisseur and artist known for her avante-garde style, there’s a boldness to her strokes that celebrate the unabashed courage of being a woman.
Life was good for the Bacoleña artist.
And then tragedy struck.
“I got terribly sick,” she tells DNX. She remembers the date well: January 2013 when she was diagnosed with a “life-threatening disease”.
Her doctor – “she was amazing and motherly” – recommended something more holistic, something that would wean her off her medicines.
“The medicines that I took made me more sick and I told her I do not want to take them [anymore]. So she encouraged me to go to nature,” Lalaine recounts.
And so nature therapy she did.
No. She didn’t immediately pack her bags and conquered Everest “because it’s there”.
What she did was go deep in a nearby forest, and just sat, and had her first commune with nature. The short trips to the forest did her good, and soon enough she gained enough strength to start hiking.
CONQUERING FEARS AND HEIGHTS
Lalaine first gained social media recognition for her mountain climbing when a netizen claimed that she was the first Filipina to summit certain peaks in the Italian Alps. She was also identified as “an active member of the Philippine Mountaineering Society”.
Neither claims turned out to be accurate.
What was not revealed however was how difficult the terrain is, as they had to trek is via ferrata (requiring special cables and equipment).
Unlike other climbers whose main motivation are records and races, Lalaine does it because of her love and respect for the nature, for the breathtaking majestic monoliths, for the natural formations that jut out of the earth in formidable formations.
It’s the artist in her.
And her love for history.
For instance, the path she took in the Italian Alps was that the war tunnel used by the kaiserjäger, the infantry of the Austria-Hungary Army of the first World War.
Not bad. Not bad for a professed acrophobe.
Her love for nature, though, and the fact that she finds peace in the natural environment are what made her conquer her fears.
Not a withered flower, Lalaine. One thing that has made her survive the concrete jungle that was Vienna was her resolute drive to get what she wants. Conquering her fear of heights was one just challenge.
And that opportunity came to her four years ago.
“I went alone to Croatia for almost three weeks. [From there, I went] to this old Greek island (the old Issa). The energy was just amazing that I was able to start training for trail running there at the hills,” she reveals.
A canyon near her – the Paklenica — beckoned, so she pulled her sleeves up and started rock climbing and hiking alone.
There was no turning back since then.
Soon, she was conquering heights in Austria, back to where she is currently based, starting first at lower Austria until they went to Julian Alps, in Slovenia.
CLIMBING ROCKS, SEIZING THE MOMENT
Hot and cold and freezing. She did it at extreme temperatures too, sometimes as low as minus 20 (she described the experience of hiking at sub-zero temperatures amid freezing environs as “magical”). She even risked doing it with a threat of an avalanche (“Climate change is real”), with snow melting and sliding off any moment. She did it in any and all conditions.
She experienced the joy of sunburns, of rolling – gleefully — in a field of edelweiss. And before that she also experienced getting lost in Sorapis peaks of the Dolomites mountain range in Italy.
But there is nothing that could dampen her spirit. She has beaten a disease; she’s not about to be cowed a by mere mountain. Or two.
There is, of course, that endless prep to get her body – which had once with weakened by disease – before any climb. Enough sleep, endurance training, the entire caboodle.
Of all the climbs she did, she remembers one unforgettable moment when she did her first classIc rock climb in Slovenia.
They spent 15 hours climbing the Komarca Wall. And they were rewarded with a very beautiful view.
“We trekked further to the Alpine lakes. It was one of the most beautiful places I have seen,” she says.
And with her tenacity and determination to face any mountain, surmount any condition, there is no telling when she is going to stop.
Knowing Lalaine, for as long as there is some fight to her, there’s no knowing exactly when.