Monday, November 22, 2010

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XXXIV: Russians!

IT HAD BEEN raining very hard last night but it had not dampened the spirit of an impending Russian invasion today, June 26, 2010, along the trails of Napo to Mount Babag. As I sit on a concrete plant box in the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu, a big Hyundai Starex arrive with a miniature flag of the Russian Federation attached at the back windshield.

I waited for an emissary and out goes a Welshman and good friend, Wil Davies (a.ka. Jungle Wil) of the Jungle Wild Adventures. He have with him guests who are all Russian nationals: Nikita, Yuriy and Kristina. I have with me Ernie Salomon, Glen Domingo and Boy Toledo who are all ardent bushcrafters. I don't have any idea how to speak Russian, but, by God, they speak good English!

After an introduction by Jungle Wil, we Filipinos invited them all to a typical simple breakfast loved by the masses – pancit – inside a typical local carenderia at the back of the church. We snared the three vacant tables amongst ourselves and our guests manage to work themselves well into a very Filipino dining set-up to the amusement of the locals.

After the meal, Ernie pursued his task of buying our food provisions for lunch like chicken meat, milled corn and other ingredients. Milled corn? I understand two of the Russians have been long-time residents of Cebu, being married to Filipinas, and I wonder if they have tasted and eaten a very Cebuano staple like milled corn. We have to try if they like it. Just for once.

Off we go to Napo following the concrete-and-asphalt road to gradually stretch our cold muscles into a well-heated machine and be ready by the time we climb the Babag Mountain Range. This is a ritual that we have practiced to prevent muscle injuries and we make it sure that all our activities are within our control – cramped muscles and all. So, riding motorcycles-for-hire to Napo is out of the question. Especially, with conventional guests.

Walking along with Nikita and JW, I get to hear them exchanging mental notes of their observations about the road, the attitude of locals and the hygiene. Yuriy meanwhile showed Kristina an ordinary plant that closes its leaves when touched and even go far by giving the name of the plant as makahiya. We arrive at 8:20 AM in Napo and enjoy a brief rest.

It's my first time to be with Russian nationals. They used to be known as Soviet Russians and it was in another era. I believe Nikita and Yuriy are old enough to live under the old system of government but they prefer not to talk of the past and converse instead of the sudden prosperity of their countrymen after the collapse of communism. Kristina just shrugged about history and gets to enjoy the outdoors.

The Sapangdaku River is alive again nourished by last night's rain after a long cycle of summer marked by extreme heat and dried up creek beds. Many farms have suffered during that rain-less interlude and now I see people's enthusiasm to working on their fields returning. I have witnessed that suffering and I suffered myself for I am already a part of this place. My heart is somewhere here.

We arrive at the Roble homestead at ten past ten. Immediately, Ernie, Boy T, Glen D and me worked on our carried food and cooking stoves. Chopping meat and spices here, boiling water for coffee there and so on. The place became a beehive of activity accompanied by swarms of wasp whose hive might have been disturbed. It was all around us and I saw the culprit – fresh honey collected inside a flat bottle of rum!

Fele Roble have taken fresh honey from below and it was for this reason that wasps are very agitated. One wasp landed just below my armpit and left a sting to my consternation as I was finishing the last of my coffee. JW got one on the ankle too. A bottle of honey is offered to me by Fele's wife but I politely declined. I prefer she sell it so they could earn an extra income.

Yuriy, silent yet very observant, went inside their house and retrieved the bottle of honey and paid it discreetly. Wise move Kasparov. Lunch is served at eleven thirty. Food prepared were chicken soup sinigang, steamed seaweeds and, of course, milled corn. Nikita and Kristina tasted the meal and took serving after serving while Yuriy decide not to eat. He tickled a broken guitar though to life and sing a traditional Russian folk song.

The rhythm of the song, although very simple, is very pleasant to hear. It is a rare privilege to hear one. Honestly, yes. After the meal, it was Kristina's turn to sing another song. Strikingly beautiful. Very Russian.

We leave at one in the afternoon minus Nikita, Yuriy and JW. Nikita develop muscle cramps on his calves a while ago before our long rest for lunch and could not commit himself to climb the steep trail. Yuriy and JW decided to accompany him with Ernie as the guide. Kristina brave the challenge in climbing Mount Babag and is the only sole Russian left to carry the flag for her country.

I lead the pack and graciously surrendered it to Glen D after getting swamped by fatigue when Kristina exerted a great pressure on my pace. Glen D later realized of this trap and gave the baton to Boy T who is clueless as ever as both he and Kristina disappear into the upper reaches of the trail. I may have underestimated Boy T's stamina as I saw him keeping pace with the very strong Kristina.

Glen D and I reach the ridge at two and walk the few distance to a store overlooking Metro Cebu. Boy T was already holding a glass of cold beer as we arrived. A big bottle of San Miguel Beer is waiting for us. Meanwhile, the Starex would make a big loop from Guadalupe to Babag Ridge to fetch us. It arrive at almost three and all of us went in and be glad to be reunited with Nikita, Yuri, JW and Ernie.

As we reach JY Square, the Russians parted from our party and went on their way while JW and Glen D take different taxis. Boy T, Ernie and me decide to finish our rehydration session at our favorite watering hole in V. Rama Street along with Jerome, Boy T's former office mate. We spend the rest of the day downing five big bottles of Red Horse Extra Strong Beer amid a good selection of '80s classics.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

HOW TO MAKE A FIRECRACKER ALTERNATIVE

CHRISTMAS HERE IN THE Philippines is prepared earlier than usual as compared with other countries. When the “-ber” ending months starts to be displayed in wall calendars, Filipinos start to move about as if Christmas is just around the corner. Trust the shopkeepers and mall owners, they stick to traditions.

Christmas Philippine-style is celebrated by releasing or exploding firecrackers in the air or on a street pavement. In Cebu, this will start in September winding down to New Year's Day and extended further to the Sinulog Mardi Gras, usually on the third Sunday of January and the streets and neighborhoods here are a very noisy affair during these times.

There's a drawback though when you use firecrackers and like gadgets that use black gunpowder. A lot of fingers get busted and rendered to bloody pulps and stumps. In the middle of bedlam, people fire guns into the direction of the sky and I wonder why they get so riled up at their own god? Then the law of gravity catches on the bullet and there are a lot of targets.

But we Filipinos are an ingenious people and we are known to convert scrap or discarded materials for useful purposes and one of these is a noise-making contraption that is made and designed to imitate the noise made by firecrackers. But a lot safer and more manageable.

In the old days you need a mature bamboo with three segments. Punch a hole through save the endmost and make a small hole on the surface near the last part where it is kept closed and tilt it 15 degrees. You pour kerosene on the small hole and blow air through it several times so vapor and air would mix and then light a small flame above the small hole and – BOOM! - you now have a native cannon. This is called a lantaka.

Fast forward to today. The lantaka is now more mobile, very light, small, metallic and very cool-looking. The same principle with the old gadget but, instead of kerosene, you squirt a few drops of fluid lighter and, instead of blowing air, you rock up and down the tube and lit a lighter on the hole and – BOOM! It sounds and operates more like a bazooka, is it not?

Why not make one? It is so easy. All you need are five discarded softdrink aluminum cans, a can opener, a six-inch nail, a hammer and packaging tape. Later, you need a bottle of lighter fluid and a disposable lighter.

You remove the top and bottom lids of the four cans with the can opener while leaving the bottom lid of the fifth can closed. Punch a hole on the middle of the bottom lid of the fifth can with the nail and hammer.

Fuse all the cans by wrapping it with packaging tape. Leave the the fifth can with a punched hole at the bottom end. Then re-wrap the whole thing over and over again until you feel that a part will not dismember itself from the rest. If not, wrap again and make sure it is sturdy.

Now test your noise-maker. Squirt twice into the small hole at the bottom end and then rock the tube up and down several times. The purpose for this is to mix the lighter-fluid vapor with air. Grip the tube with one hand just enough to remain it in your hand when it “fires” and not so strong as to deform it. With the other hand, light a flame near the small hole and expect a recoil.

Words of Caution!

  1. Never place an object inside the tube as if you are using this as a projectile. The thin structure of an aluminum can could not withstand the force of gas pressure blocked by the object and this would shatter into splinters and you might get hurt.
  2. Do not squirt a lot of lighter fluid into the tube so you could achieve a huge explosive effect. Just the same, the thin skin of the cans could not resist the huge amount of expanding gases. You could clean instead the tube of unburnt gases or vapor by turning it upside down and sweep it with a naked flame.
  3. This is a gadget designed only for entertainment and leisure and not as an improvised weapon. It is forbidden then to point the tube to another person as if imitating a weapon.
  4. Use good common sense all the time!

Disclaimer: The author of this article, however, wishes to free himself from any damage and/or litigation resulting from damage to property, injury or death that may occur during the operation of this gadget. This is only a visual and instructional aid of how to make a noise-making device as a safer alternative to firecrackers and the like employing black gunpowder.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN III: Guille's Trail

IT IS SHOWERING as I waited for the others in the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish on June 20, 2010. It is Father's Day today. It is almost seven and the early morning Mass is about to end and I know Ernie Salomon is there inside praying for the success and safety of today's activity.

A blue Honda City arrive and out came Guille Zialcita in a blue shirt and beige shorts. Hmm...strange? We have the same outfit today. People streamed out of the church and Ernie is among them. Good. Three is a crowd. Boy Toledo arrive later and next came Marco Albeza. This is Camp Red at its best.

Five is the ideal number to penetrate a protected area and I am hoping nobody will come at the last minute else I would not have to make some drastic changes like taking out one or two details. We are going to the Buhisan Watershed Area to practice bushcraft and survival and, to get there, we have to follow Bebut's Trail, which is just above us.

After taking a light breakfast, we buy chicken meat, milled corn and other ingredients for our lunch. Boy T is bringing with him raw seaweed while I picked several fruit from an eba tree. I also buy two sets of bread at twenty-five pesos each for two homesteads which I found very special in my heart.

We start at 8:30 AM, thanks to the sudden heavy downpour and it delayed very well our departure from Guadalupe. Anyway, the rainclouds blocked the sun away as we slowly ascend the hills. I left the first pack of bread hanging in the doorway of the first small house I identified as my beneficiary of my own private charity affair. The occupants are absent.

The so-called “heartbreak ridge” isn't heartbreaking today but it almost claimed Guille until I volunteered to carry his bag that improved well his balance and mobility. We stopped by the small house of Ricky Flores but he is not home today. His three little children are and I gave them the rest of the bread. Ricky's house is just adjacent to a war-time tunnel.

I stayed with Guille as Ernie, Boy T and Marco took their usual pace and they were already way ahead of us and Guille found the distance over a steep trail a very very great obstacle. I look over at Guille and I could see that he is already approaching the limits of his endurance and I don't want to let him down so I have to think quick.

Along the route is another fork leading downhill to a farm and into thick vegetation. I will have to take this chance and explore an unknown trail. I hailed the blazing trio to backtrack and follow us to a new trail. Slowly the trail unwind itself into a very good route with good cover and passing by an ancient mango tree where there is a good campsite and a very huge chopping board.

Taking advantage of a rest, Ernie improvise a length of rope and made it into a pair of shoulder straps to carry Guille's bag. After that, Guille could walk better especially when I provided him with a wooden staff. This route joined Bebut's Trail near where Nathan's Garden is located and we took coffee break there.

Guille brought out his Enzo Trapper knife and whittled a piece of dry wood. I tried the knife myself and it is exceptionally sharp making short work of a dry branch by slicing off the ends as if I am slicing paper. Guille made the scales himself with a pair of red hardwood secured by four thin stainless-steel rivets. It is a good knife and it is my first time to see and hold one. He also showed me a Mora knife in its original neck sheath.

We move on and I stop by to gawk at a bamboo grove. Bamboo thorns called kaguingking protected the grove all around and I have to look for a gap and saw one. I climb one pole and cut another pole from there in the middle with my hatchet. It is hard work really perching along the middle of a bamboo pole while reaching to cut another pole.

The pole went down with minimal crash sound. I choose the best two segments and cut it from the rest. I found a natural cordage and Ernie use that to make a sling for the bamboo. The bamboo I choose today is almost a meter long and much much lighter than the previous one which I used for cooking on May 2, 2010. By the way, we are going to do cooking again with a bamboo.

We reach the Portal and we take another long rest. Guille is enjoying every moment of our company while Boy T, as usual, lay down on the ground with his ground tarp. Marco took out from his new North Face backpack trail snacks which Ernie and I happily munch. I drank a lot of water here exhausted by the climbing and the chopping. I'm not worried, I carry a lot of water today - six liters.

We went down the route into the jungles of Buhisan. We are passing the wildest part of the watershed where there are almost no trails to follow and vegetation is quite thick. Our pace is slow to accommodate Guille, who is a first-timer with this kind of activity. Guille's bulk have hindered his walking but he showed sport and never complained especially where you have to stoop low or going down a steep route.

By the time, we reach the creek bed, I assured Guille that the terrain ahead will be friendly this time and we will take a long rest up ahead to cook and eat lunch. We were quite delayed and started preparing for our lunch at about 2:45 PM. Instantly, Boy T , Ernie and Marco became engulfed with the details of preparing the food like slicing meat and spices.

Meanwhile, I leave the group for a while to look for firewood. I came back with an armful and leave again and looked for more. I carried more when I came back and worked on the bamboo. With Guille's folding saw, I cut a hole along the ends of one segment and left the other untouched. Then I pry open the part between the two cut ends and out came my lid exposing a long rectangular chamber from where we would cook milled corn.

I chop and split wood for our fire while Guille gently stack the wood over the other for our fire. With flint and steel he tried to make a fire without success over a piece of wet wipes. I gave him my collection of dry leaf tinder which roared to life with a flame from a butane lighter. The bamboo is much smaller than I thought and I filled it almost full with water.

Boy T steamed his seaweeds with his own stove, Ernie cook chicken sinigang with my stove and Marco keep on slicing spices for the next food to be cooked – dried fish in tomato sauce. Guille and I concentrated our attention to the boiling of the water in the bamboo. I blow the fire to life again and again on half-wet pieces of wood. The smoke is thick indicating some moisture on the wood. I tried hard and the water heated up so we decide to pour the milled corn into the chamber instead. I stir the corn evenly inside and waited.

Meanwhile, the seaweeds have been finished while the sinigang soup is about to end with the dried fish waiting in line for its turn. We decided to cook milled corn in a standard pot on a spare stove knowing that cooking with a bamboo take a long time to finish and it is already 3:30 in the afternoon. Long shadows began to show among the trees and gullies. Beside that, the bamboo we use today could accommodate only cooking good for two persons.

Finally, at four, we eat a very late late lunch – Spanish style. We left nothing. We were that hungry. Time to go now and we leave the place behind for the catchment basin which is a kilometer ahead. From the basin we pass by the man-made lake, which is still empty, and into the old-growth man-made forest where a wide trail lead us to the concrete road.

We would have loved to ride motorcycles-for-hire but we opted not to. Not with Boy T and Ernie around. They don't want to do with that. They'd rather suffer bruises while walking than cheating themselves riding. At the vicinity of the Mary Help of Christians Parish in Buhisan Proper, Guille suffered severe cramps in the lower calf and I immediately arranged a tricycle to transport him to a pre-destined meeting place.

Guille showed a brave effort hanging with us along on the most difficult route from Guadalupe and into Buhisan. The guy has character and rightly so. Boy T is all praises for him and we drink a toast to that until we all reach safely in our favorite watering hole back in Guadalupe. The place where we call “Camp Red”.

By the way, Guille is a connoisseur of fine blades. He is a knife collector, like me, and sells quality ones. He is also the top hombre of Animal Wellness Clinic and is a keen lover of pet animals.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

FREEDOM CLIMB 2010

I AM THE FIRST to arrive at the meeting place in Tisa, Cebu City in the very early morning of June 12, 2010. Today is Philippine Independence Day and I aim to refresh my love of country by participating in the 2nd Freedom Climb on one of the two designated campsites in the Babag Mountain Range. Sixty-five summits will be climbed all over the country and around the world where there are Filipino patriots.

The EWIT Mountaineers will be at the vanguard of the most number of participants on a campsite above the former Swiss Chalet restaurant. They will start at noon from Napo in Sapangdaku. Other groups will tackle the route from Kalunasan and converge with the main group. Others still, will walk on the Babag Ridge Road from Upper Busay to this site.

Camp Red, on the other hand, chose to make this event meaningful by starting at Katipunan Street and camp on another designated campsite at Manwel's Peak, a knoll 150 meters away from Mount Babag which is the highest point of Cebu City at 752 meters above sea level. I am with Camp Red – a bushcraft and survival group.

Rounding up the rest of Camp Red is Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and newbie Marco Albeza. Going along with us is the couple Randell and Marjorie Savior and Glenn Tampos - all of Tribu Dumagsa and special guest Wil Davies (aka Jungle Wil) of Jungle Wild Adventure Tours. We will follow the route specially designed for this occasion – the Freedom Trail.

This is the second straight year that this route will be used for this event. Last year Boy T and Ernie successfully led the Cebu Mountaineering Society (CeMS) in the 1st Freedom Climb and camped at Manwel's Peak at a pace of thirteen-and-a-half hours under a showery weather.

Freedom Trail starts from Katipunan in Tisa and climb over Tisa Hills and Banawa Hills then it goes inside the edges of the Buhisan watershed and the Baksan teak forest, then crossing a road into Arcos Hills and goes down into Lanipao Creek where it joins the Sapangdaku River and then Napo. From there, it follows the Sapangdaku up river and climb any of the routes to Babag Ridge.

Our small group left at six in the morning after a quick breakfast. Ernie took the lead while I act as rear guard. We reach the bare Banawa Hills at an early hour and it is a welcome thought. Walking here beyond seven in the morning is torture. We pass by a couple of small huts and all took the opportunity to rest amongst a shade of aratele trees.

I carried for the last time my 80-liter Habagat Venado II. I could feel the backpack creak and grunt as it secured all my necessities for this traverse trek over some of the most gruelling trails in Cebu City. It is heavy but I can manage very well the climbing. I worry about how my knees will fare during a long downhill stretch.

Bushcraft is about observation and adapting and more on skills while mountaineering is more about mileage and altitude. I can do both. Showed Jungle Wil an improvised bat catcher made of bamboo frame and thorns called kaguingking. He thought it at first as a TV antenna. It sure looks like one from a distance until you go closer.

We walk along the edges of the watershed and took a short respite in Puertahan Uno. We did another short rest in Puertahan Dos after an hour of walking, Boy T lay on the ground exhausted while I decide to sit down for the first time. An hour-and-a-half to go and we will have lunch.

We climb Starbucks Point and make coffee in a shady clump of big tamarind trees. A flat rock served as table and we eat whatever snacks we brought. Marco shared his sticky rice (puto maya) and I consumed one and it made his pack lighter. For the first time, we felt the coolness of the breeze here and it is generously given by nature.

Refreshed, it is time to move once again and cross the Baksan-Pamutan road into a saddle between Mount Lanipao and Arcos Hills. We followed the route downhill into Lanipao Creek and arrived at our designated lunch area at exactly twelve noon beside a water hole in Sapangdaku River.

Instantly, Boy T retrieved his fresh seaweeds from his pack and prepared it while Ernie cooked pork sinigang and sauteed dried fish in tomato sauce. Marco and I tended the cooking of the milled corn in three small pots while Jungle Wil did the entertaining stuff. All the while Randell, Marjorie and Glenn watched the flurry of activity by our tight group.

After 45 minutes, it is time for lunch. The guests retrieved their packed lunch and shared it with the rest of the party. Tribu Dumagsa couldn't believe that we do cooking on the trail as they were used to carrying a prepared meal and eat it cold on the trail. Camp Red ensures everyone that all are comfortable as possible by eating food just off the fire.

We left at 1:30 PM for Napo and cross the Sapangdaku into a route that follow the snaking river uptrail. Going along with us are five rifle-carrying men. They are going to Kahugan to hunt birds, reptiles and small mammals and they wear long pair of blue jeans and heavy jackets. I envy them but I prefer to catch my prey with deadfall traps and snares.

We arrived at the foot of the Kahugan Trail at 2:15 PM and we overtook the first contingent of the EWIT Mountaineers led by Ariel Montuerto. I refilled my bottle from a natural spring and another party from EWIT arrived with Eric Rio at the forefront. Then came another led by Paulo Tallo. They are all friends and these young people are so dedicated with their hobby, the environment and the impoverished children of the mountains. They are kindred spirit and they are special.

We leave the now populated place and start the climb for the Roble homestead where, I know, they are preparing green coconuts for this special activity. The Robles lived in between Napo and Mt. Babag and it is a natural resting area for rehydration. We arrived at 3:30 PM and sat on the bamboo benches. Fele Roble have added two more long benches to accommodate more people but, it seems, many will come.

Ching Altar came here in the morning with her office mates and her American boss who have been trying without success to meet me in person after visiting and reading my personal blog. Unfortunately, they move too fast for our party and I missed the opportunity to meet him but they leave a couple of unused coconut meat which I consumed. He, he, freebies!

A little while, Eric's group came and then Ariel's. Fifteen minutes later, Paulo arrived and, I estimate, there were 33 people here including our own. Then more people arrived and we have to leave at 4:30 PM to give room and negotiate the Babag East Ridge Pass while Ariel did the same taking his group into the difficult Ernie's Trail.

I keep an eye on Glenn and Randell on this last stretch as both have been suffering from cramps every now and then. I know how to remedy this by applying pressure on the lower joints and then a massage to keep the blood flowing. Finally, we are over the ridge and walk a couple of hundred meters to our campsite. At 15 before six in the evening I closed the gap and pitched my tent.

In the half-light of dusk, I failed to stop my balled sleeping bag into rolling down the slope at a fast roll going in the direction of a deep ravine. I run after it and, at that time, I run like Usain Bolt but could not keep up with the pace. What is a sleeping bag anyway? At the last moment before it could teether into the ravine a low branch stopped it just enough for me to retrieve it at the last minute. Lucky me!

Exhausted, I lay inside my tent and drowsed awhile until Manwel Roble nudged me. Oh, supper. I must have slept for an hour, I guess. I smiled at Manwel and I went out to eat the meal left for me. Wow! Chopped cabbage in soup and canned tuna. I eat voraciously and consumed all, including sliced bread. Now, where did they get those? Ernie passed me a cup of cold liquid. Beer? Yes!

They must have drunk four-and-a-half big bottles of San Miguel Grande while I was asleep. A green beer case have only one full bottle left and another half-full bottle held by Ernie. The rest were empty. This is Boy T's idea of celebration, I guess. We talked under a starlit sky gazing at the bright metropolis below. After the beer, a tequila bottled appeared courtesy of Tribu Dumagsa.

Jungle Wil told me a tale while he was in a Mexican cantina. An old Mexican said to him that a glass of tequila will wash away dust, a second glass will make you drunk while a third one will make you crazy with sex. We all laughed at this thought and I evaded that third glass. I asked him if the Mexican have any idea about the fourth glass of tequila? Jungle Wil just grinned and I downed the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th glass that came my way.

While we were conversing gleefully, many more parties arrived in the dark going to the direction of the main camp occupied by the EWIT Mountaineers. I counted twenty headlights bobbing on the road. Meandro Abao of EWIT came forward our camp to see if we are alright. He is with Jon Consunji and Vince Delicano of CeMS and they started their hike at five in the afternoon. They will all camp at the main campsite and skip our place.

Many more came and it is already almost ten. Groups like ZETS, YAMOG, YAPAK, BAGTAK came for this event, not to mention other groups whose names escape my memory and the freelancers. I would not be surprised if the participants would swell to over a hundred climbing patriots. As fog began to envelop our small camp, we burrow into our tents and observe taps.

In the morning the big campsite across us are full of tents and they were like a rainbow failing to take off the ground. We cooked breakfast with more of this cabbage soup, noodles and canned tuna with our favorite staple – milled corn. After the meal we broke camp.

I carried a Philippine flag and lashed it at a 3-foot long slender bamboo tube and will be our flag pole. I pierced the earth with Glenn's wooden staff and slid the bamboo pole around it making our flagpole higher. The flag danced in the breeze. I lead the singing of the national anthem – Lupang Hinirang, then the oath of allegiance – Panatang Makabayan. Ariel and Meandro came to represent EWIT and joined in the simple ceremony.

Time to leave the campsite and we go down to where we came from yesterday. Boy T and Jungle Wil opt to stay in Papa Joe's store by the roadside. We leave at nine and arrived in the Roble homestead at 9:45 AM. We took a long rest while waiting for Boy T and Jungle Wil. They arrived thirty minutes later red behind the ears!

We would have moved downhill but Manwel's mother, Antonia, insisted that we stay for a while. She prepared and cooked two free-rein chicken for us. She is celebrating her natal day today. Wow! What a treat! The soup is so delicious, the meat so juicy. Milled corn and rice came with the viand but I chose the part of the milled corn where it kissed the pot's bottom. It goes best with native chicken soup!

After a short rest we bade goodbye to the Roble family. Just a little more downhill and we would be on the river bed. At least it will come close to being flat and it will be kind to my knees. The weight carried by the Venado on my back is multiplied several times with each step taken down ward and it hurt both my knees. Then that should be it. I will hang the Venado for good after this. The last hurrah!

We reached Napo at around two in the afternoon. We let the guests hop on the motorcycles-for-hire first before us. We rendezvoused at Guadalupe and Tribu Dumagsa parted company with us while Jungle Wil took a taxi for his flat. I opted to go home early and rode a public jitney twice. As I arrived home I made it sure that I send a message of thanks to Manwel's mother for her wonderful meal.

EPILOGUE:

MEANDRO ABAO notified me a week later that there were One Hundred Ten (110) people who participated in the 2nd Freedom Climb in the Babag Mountain Range and I'm sure the organizers – Filipino Mountaineers, Inc. - welcomed this news with such enthusiasm and vigor. I believe a new annal in Philippine mountaineering have arrived.

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