Friday, January 1, 2010


IT HAD BEEN A year already when I first climbed Mount Babag by way of Ernie's Trail, a steep and challenging route named after my climbing buddy – Ernie Salomon. That was on August 17, 2008. Since then I have climbed her twenty-three times alone or with a group. I aim to complete a full year cycle by climbing her again on August 23, 2009. This would be my twenty-fourth incursion there.

I brought two hawk feathers for this occasion to celebrate the passing of a year the old way. Two feathers for Courage and Generosity. The hawk feathers will now be a regular fixture in my head band everytime I climb Mt. Babag as it had been a regular fixture in my South African veldt hat that I carried on my head during major climbs. The feathers will dance with the breeze along with me.

Boy Toledo, another of my climbing buddy, completed one year yesterday on August 22. He have climbed the Babag Mountain Range many times more than I. Boy T is a stroke survivor. He now make things happen for him and of others. He climb here every weekend and you are cordially invited to chase him up a trail.

Those previous weekend hikes brought me to a lone house on a hill that became a refuge, a well-deserved stop-over, enroute to Mt. Babag. In it lived a family of four who are generous of their space and of their young coconuts. Ha ha, I paid for those. In return I brought them gifts, food, used clothes and books for the kids. I even nurtured a 13-year old boy, Manwel Roble, as a future mountain guide in this area. Others followed my trail and parted their charity to the Roble family.

In that sunny Sunday morning, I ate just two cinnamon bread for my breakfast and left Guadalupe at 7:15 AM. I brought a 17-meter kernmantle rope as my weight load and an extra dry shirt but I forgot to bring my Nalgene bottle and that deprived me of water intake. The only watering area for me between Guadalupe and Mt. Babag would be at the river crossing where there is a natural spring and at that house on the hill. I walked on, reaching Napo forty-six minutes later.

Resting for a few minutes, I continued on my journey by crossing a river and, forty-one minutes after, I arrived at the spring and drank. I tarried a while there enjoying the cool shade and the silence. The moment I will leave this comfortable refuge, the sun's hot rays will be upon me again. But I'm used to the heat. My body have developed acceptance (or resistance) to it. I have received this fate living near the equator and I have accepted to hike without hats, sunglasses and those greasy sunblock creams.

It is still 9:30 AM when I got caught in the middle of Busan Trail under the mercy of the sun. I ran in short bursts uphill and it felt good. I perspired more than what I have swallowed and I felt the tiredness of my body as I gasped for breath and rested more often. My breakfast were inadequate and my body took its toll. God, it is hot and I thanked my reddened eyes for spotting the crest of the great tamarind tree that marked the house on the hill. I am now very near for the next stop-over.

My throat is parched dry and I'm dying for a drink when I got there. I waited for Manwel to arrive. He is servicing yet the Ewit Mountaineers who have stayed overnight at Manwel's Peak above us and isn't available. Meanwhile, his mother offered to slay and cook one free-rein chicken for me. I told her that I have a packed lunch with me. Nevertheless, it was the wish of his husband and I could do nothing but be swayed over by the opportunity of eating native chicken again.

I reclined on the cool bamboo bench under a duhat tree and slept for an hour until a nudge from Manwel woke me up for a well-deserved lunch. My thirst already gone, I slurped the hot soup seasoned by lemon grass and bunched-onion leaves. Ahh...heaven. I ate on their dining table together with Manwel, his mother, his siblings Juliet and Jucel, and his uncle and aunt. We talked as we ate. I took several servings of rice to accompany the choice cuts reserved for me.

After the meal, Manwel climbed a coconut tree and collected five young coconuts. How in heaven could I consume five coconuts? Manwel opened three fruits for me and I drank its sweet liquid. The rest of the coconuts, well, I reserved it for my wife and placed it in the bottom of my backpack to bring it home. I slept again slapped by the cool breeze. It was already one after noon when I decided to move on. I have a very full stomach and I think I could not make it to the summit of Mt. Babag in such a bloated condition.

I decided to follow Jucel, Juliet and Manwel instead down a short-cut route for the Kahugan Trail. For the moment, the downhill hike is a better alternative to digest my food in a moderate pace. It was hot and we snaked among tamarind, mango, santol and other endemic trees as well as groves of bamboo. The Kahugan Trail were as wide as ever but I did not run the trail this day. My feet - the toes - are hurting. I bade goodbye to the Roble children and followed the downhill route.

I arrived at the river crossing where there is a spring and drank the cool water. After a 10-minute interval, I am off again on my way to Napo. The main trail is of rolling terrain and I met just a few locals going in the opposite direction. It is ten past two in the afternoon when I arrived at Napo and drowned my thirst with a bottle of soda drink. I stayed maybe twenty minutes on the newly-constructed community bamboo benches beside the river.

Passing by were three youths on a hunting spree for catfish. They were armed with minute spears and one of the boys carried their prize. I went down and took pictures of their catch. Wow, it was wonderful to see the river coming alive during the rains and giving up more bounty. The river packed a lot of water today and I saw small fishes upriver frolicking in great numbers. A cycle of rebirth have just started.

Leaving Napo again, I started for Guadalupe on a hot 2:30 PM sun bouncing its arrows upon the concrete and asphalt pavements. At this hour, the shadows are sparse and far between each other. My feet soles ached walking on the hot surface and I find remedy walking on weeds growing on the curbs and pebbles and dirt accumulating on the street. At least, the temperature there are a degree or two lower. My shoulders are numbed by the added weight on my back but I have to go on.

Finally, I have reached the end of my journey of a year. A full circle has been completed. Twenty-four episodes in twelve months that makes it two climbs per month on average. Not bad for a forty-ish guy – an old man, if you may – who have developed the courage to defy the monotony of the same trail for a year. In these same trails, I have accomplished another virtue far more valuable than all the others – generosity.

I brought two hawk feathers for this occasion to celebrate a new life the old way. Two feathers for Wisdom and Perseverance. The hawk feathers will now be a regular fixture in my head band everytime I climb Mt. Babag as it had been a regular fixture in my South African veldt hat that I carried on my head during major climbs. The feathers will dance with the breeze along with me.

I am now a part of the mountains and forests. I have gone native.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.

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