Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XXXI: Seeds for Earth Day

AS I WAS UPLOADING the pictures of my recent day hike down the Upper Kahugan Trail of December 27, 2009, people can't help but notice the bare trail which months ago have been thickly-populated by madre-de-cacao trees locally known as kakawate. These same people are people I know and they belong to local mountaineering groups. They love to pass by this trail going down to Napo then Guadalupe after a day of climbing Mount Babag.

It inspired me as they commented on the present situation of the Upper Kahugan Trail and it gave me a thought of how to revive the tree cover along that route. The idea of tree planting is foremost in my mind but to bring the seedlings to the site where it will be planted demand a lot of people, muscle, logistics and patience.

I will just simplify things and start the tree-planting activity from Ground Zero - at or near the site itself – without having to carry all those plants and soil inside those black little plastic bags from a long walking distance, most of whom are over steep and difficult terrain. The house of Manwel Roble is a perfect place for a seed bank considering its accessibility and in vicinity to the site.

Then I will be choosy with the kind of trees to be planted. I prefer fruit trees. With fruit-bearing trees, at least, the local residents will think twice of cutting the tree down for firewood or for charcoal when he could earn instead from the fruit itself during harvest time. Any tropical-fruit trees, except mango, is most welcome.

Why exclude mango? When you grow and care a mango tree you have to take special care of the buds, the flowers and the fruit by shielding it with different layers of chemical like insecticides and fungicides to protect it from pollinators, worms and fungi. Then you have to use another chemical to induce the flowers to bloom. All these toxic fluid come down and harm the soil and the aquifer. Then there are the pieces of paper.

I have started this seed-collecting activity on my own private capacity on February 28, 2010 by bringing two kilos of lanzones and mangosteen fruit and sharing it to Manwel and his family where the precious seeds were segregated and treated by drying before it is driven into the soil. Although bringing a fruit to their abode is quite heavy, I wouldn't mind, because I could split the result in three ways: (1) the flesh of the fruit will satisfy the children; (2) the seeds will be the core of the seed bank; and (3) it gives me pleasure to share to the mountain folks.

And, somewhere along the way, the Circle of Friends for Enviro Concern, thru Green*Point, lend a hand to make this idea a reality. So, Earth Day came on April 22, 2010 and it fell on a week day which is not possible for a working-class like me. I decided to celebrate Earth Day instead on the 25th, a Sunday, and I posted this in Facebook Events as “Seeds for Earth Day” and invited as many people as my mouse could click.

Assembly area is in the churchyard of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu and several outdoors people came but it was for two different activities. At 7:30 AM, I decided to take a lonely walk up on the road to Napo. Dejected but not hopeless. Anyway, this is an activity of Green*Point and Camp Red, but two of the staunchest supporters for this activity – Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon – were unavailable today after they helped out Jungle Wil guide two high-end guests to Mt. Babag yesterday and are very tired. I guess, I have to do this thing on my own. No excuses. Complete the mission!

Inside my backpack were two kilos of lanzones, a kilo-and-a-half of apple mango, two kilos of chico, two kilos of well-milled corn, a kilo of pork meat, a liter of water, a stainless-steel cooking pot, a stainless-steel cup and plate, camping stove with fuel can, a fork-and-spoon set, a survival knife and my ever trusty tomahawk. I am a bushcrafter and I carry blades all the time and I don't give a damn about LNT1.

I walked part of the way on an empty stomach and stopped for awhile at my favorite eatery where a lady cook good food at a very cheap price. Rested here for about twenty minutes or so before I continued again on my advocacy for the environment. I arrived at Napo at fifteen past eight and stop only to buy a sachet of instant coffee and continue by crossing a dry riverbed where, months ago, used to be full.

The El Niño phenomenon have dried up rivers and creeks in the bosom of the Babag Mountain Range and people have to dig up water holes in the dry river bed to source water but these too slowly disappear with their precious contents. I know, beyond those hills, people are cutting trees in a slash-and-burn method to eke out other means to feed their family after their farms wilted away because of the extreme heat.

That is why I am here and initiate this “Seeds for Earth Day” activity sans fanfare and company to effect a lofty goal which is, to help reforest the hills and to give the mountain folks another alternative to gain an income, that is, if the seeds turn out healthy to bear fruit someday. That is the simple plan. Then I will wait for the rainy season and I will feast and plant trees together with the Robles and other outdoor clubs.

In thirty minutes time I was now at the second river crossing where there is a natural spring that locals source for their drinking water. The natural spring still spewed water at a lesser volume but it could fill your Nalgene bottle in just a matter of three minutes. I drank from the source and refilled my bottle and checked my backpack before starting to climb the hills of Sitio Busan.

I persisted, despite the heat and the weight of my cargo, and arrived at the Roble homestead at 9:44 AM. Just a little over two hours and I am here. My weekend sorties in the hills had made a difference in my pace and my stamina. Wow! You should be envious. I am approaching 50 yet I exude the grit and vitality of a 20-something. My trail running is a side effect of my good physical condition, give or take a pair of arthritic knees, mind you.

I unloaded my cargo and transferred it to a makeshift table. These make a good offering for Mother Earth with all those fruits, raw meat, grain and ube buns. I gave the buns to Jucel, Manwel's 4-year old brother, and the boy seemed to float in Cloud 9. Wow! I feel good with what I have just done. I gave the milled corn and pork to Manwel's mother so they could prepare a meal for lunch and I left the fruits untouched.

I retrieved a cast-away piece of a broken branch that was left uncharred by burning and, with my tomahawk, I chopped away the forked end. More than an inch thick, the wood is a perfect material for a spoon-carving activity that I included in this meaningful event. With the same cutting tool, I sliced off away the thickness and whittled it into shape.

While I was in the middle of my carving session, Ariel Montuerto of the EWIT Mountaineers arrive at about 10:12 AM. He is with four other people and another four guys arrive two minutes later with Paulo Tallo in the lead. They were here for the Seeds for Earth Day! Eric “Ice” Rio, their top hombre, decided not to come but he made it sure that they attend this activity after he made his confirmation to attend. Word of honor are hard to come by these days but EWIT does have IT.

After the introductions and picture-taking, all became still, drowning out their thirst with water or munching on the offered fruit and, at the same time, delicately segregating the precious seeds from the meat. Amidst all these, I pursued on my spoon carving activity that was interrupted a while ago that drew so much interest from them. Pieces and chips of wood are scattered all around in my “work place”.

At twelve noon, lunch is served. All the guys brought packed lunch but they never expected a meal was cooked and readied for them. The viand is pork adobo and I took several servings of that and the milled corn. Everyone took their fill and enjoyed the view of the lower valleys and hills and the circling flight of a Brahminy kite. Afterwards, dessert with the fruits continued.

By 2:30 in the afternoon, the EWIT Mountaineers bade goodbye and climb Mount Babag by way of Ernie's Trail. I appreciate their coming and their involvement with preserving the environment of the trails of Napo to Mt. Babag. At least, I am not alone with this advocacy! I silently prayed and blessed their journey.

After that, I continued in carving my spoon. I gouged out the spoon head where it would hold the soup and scraped off the rough edges and, finally, the spoon became a small ladle or a big spoon or whatever. This is a work of art for me, considering that I did not use special tools except my hatchet, not an ideal tool for carving delicate lines.

Having done that, I bade goodbye to the Roble family at 4:00 PM. Manwel went with me at the place I called “mango avenue” and I set my camera on video mode. Manwel stood aside behind me and record a video of me as I throw my Mantrack knife in the trunk of an ancient mango. He took another video as I throw my tomahawk into the tree. Then, I repaid Manwel with a practical knife-throwing tutorial and he spun the knife true on his second attempt and the next six after that. You could hear the thud of the blade as it dig deep into the trunk.


Bade adios to Manwel again as I went down into the valley. It was almost dark when I arrived at Napo and darker still when I arrived at Guadalupe. I espied Boy T and Ernie in our favorite hang-out a.k.a. “Camp Red” as I rode in a public utility jitney for the downtown area. Getting a chance to rehydrate with cold beer, I abruptly ended my ride and went down and joined the duo. It is a good moment to talk of today's activity and of yesterday's.

It's bushcraft paradise day.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer
1The 7 Principles of the Leave No Trace. A must for mountaineers but not for bushcraft and survival practitioners. It forbid you to carry hunting knives and other bladed weapons.

3 comments:

Nonoy said...

A nice get-away on Earth Day. I'm an environmentalist too.

I like your blog, virtuous. I hope you'll check my blog too.

PinoyApache said...

Thank you Nonoy for checking in.

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