Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I WOKE UP WITH a fierce hangover of last night's party as my Motorola V3 screamed its existence at 5:00 AM of December 19, 2010. Nevertheless, I scrambled up from a drunkard's bed and settled myself in the bathroom for a quick cold washover. Expertly, I dash back and forth the width and length of my house and up and down my stairs and round up the things I need today.
This is the most important day in the lives of the children of a mountain village of Kahugan and they do not know that yet. Not until we are on that place that is home of the Roble family. I am part of this magnificent array of angels disguised as mountain climbers, backpackers and crazy bushcrafters. I believe in what we are doing today and I find it glorious and greater than climbing the Everest itself. This is good stuff that is well-received from the Big Guy upstairs!
From my side, I carry twenty-five used textbooks inside of a huge carton. Aside that, I have two kilos of rice, a kilo of pork belly, a half-kilo of brown sugar and bread as my Christmas gift to the Roble family and another kilo of milled corn for our lunch. This is heavy, man, but my heart is light and I carry these easily on swift wings of goodwill and commitment.
The progenitor of this activity – Marco Albeza a.k.a. The Professor – came with his platoon of MathEd students of the University of San Carlos and his supportive friend. This is a continuing saga of their outreach program that started in August and they bring with them pairs of slippers, pencils, notebooks, writing pads, food for cooking, canned goods, biscuits, candies, chocolates and their mathematical skills for the children.
The full force of the Tribe of Dumagsa of Randel and Marjorie Savior came with their own special gifts for the children. Rowel Seno of Timex Outdoor Club arrive with big wrapped gifts. Ernie Salomon and Boy Toledo of Camp Red and Ariel Montuerto of EWIT Mountaineers share their time and presence; Vince “The Bytebandit” Delicano of the Cebu Mountaineering Society his shooting lens; and Jerry Pescadero of Alps Mountaineers his Hersheys.
Not coming but willing to share something for Christmas for the kids, Aisha Ronquillo of EWIT, handed out her bundles of joy at the front lawn of the Our Lady of Guadalupe of Cebu Parish which we appreciated greatly and personally carry to the hills. After a quick breakfast and buying of provisions, we move out for Napo in pairs aboard motorcycles-for-hire to cut short our travel time since it is almost late in the morning.
From Napo we cross the Sapangdaku River and tour the meandering trail that line above its banks. I sweated hard carrying the books above my right shoulder and transferring to my left to ease the other and vice versa. This is hard work really but, I know, I will be redeemed many times over for my labor. Ernie is behind me; Paterno – a local boy and a cousin of Manwel Roble; another local boy; and far far behind – Boy T. I could hear Boy T's voice crackle over the small radio transceiver that Ernie carried.
Reaching the Lower Kahugan Spring, I replenish my small supply of drinking water and drink my thirst out to wild abandon! The damn hangover is still with me despite the exertions. I feel groggy and disoriented. My knees buckle under the weight of the books and tried to stabilize my balance with sheer will power and endurance that I develop hiking and running these trails here. Less than an hour to go but the trail will be steep this time. Oh, I love this part!
I lead the way to another route to the Robles. Trailing along is Ernie, Rowel, Boy T, Vince, Randel, Marj, Ian, Auxyne Nillas and Glenn Tampus. Good thing the trail is pretty covered and, as I reach the main route, I overtake the remainder of Marco's stout-hearted students. They were panting hard but they showed heart and sheer elation are written all over their faces!
We reach finally the place marked by an ancient tamarind tree. A work of miracle will start commencing right here on this spot. By now, children are already at their places while the Professor bark out last-minute instructions to his pupils. Instantly, in clockwork precision, the students became teachers to the children, imparting a revolutionary way of teaching mathematics to the latter. Very moving. And beautiful. Honestly, I shed a tear of joy or two, my eyes camouflaged very well by the smoke of my cooking fire.
As this is going on, I give a demonstration to the visitors of how to make bamboo as a cooking pot and how to cook milled corn inside it. The ground is wet, but I cover it with leaf from a wild giant taro. After considerable work with the fire upon a partially-wet firewood, I got it going and feed more wood. The bamboo is filled half-full of water and I waited until it is hot enough. I pour a half-kilo of milled corn and and stir it with my new snake-like spoon carved from a mangrove root.
All eyes and all types of camera were on my demo but my eyes were on the activity concentrated on the children. I steal a camera shot every now and then when I slack my bushcraft cooking. Children where grouped in trees as they answered the math exams and they were all very serious and learned fast. The rest of the visitors were also busy doing their cooking. Standard staple is milled corn. Everybody will eat the food fresh from the fire.
Ernie and Ariel slice the vegetables and spices; Boy T start boiling water for coffee; Randel and his “tribe” trying out their camp stoves and learning how to cook milled corn in conventional pots; Vince steal a shot here and there; Rowel help me collect firewood; and Jerry, well, he enjoyed the company. Marco supervised the cooking of boiled mung bean soup, chicken caldereta and pancit bam-e while Ernie stir and fry a mixed vegetable soup; Randel and Marj cook chili-laced pork adobo and marinated pork belly.
Lunch were served to the children first. Each student became foster parent to three kids and feed them personally. This will create a bond and amongst themselves: child to “parent” and child to child. Real parents of these children came to see this rare spectacle and they were very amused and gave support to their children and to the activity. After the plates were emptied everyone are entitled for a generous refill. Marco's pupils enjoyed the lunch prepared and served for them as well as our portion on the other table.
The giving of gifts came and every child present went home with a plastic bagful of goodies. These after they were caroled by the students. Meanwhile, the milled corn cooked inside of bamboo in extraordinary fashion, vanish and did not last a long time. It is meant to be, I guessed.
We leave at three in the afternoon but not after leaving a number of canned goods for the Roble family. We all follow single file another trail guided for us by Paterno into the fabled hidden falls of Kahugan which the locals fondly call as Busay Lut-od, which is meant really as cascading waterfalls in the English language. The ecstasy elicited in the viewing of the seldom-seen waterfalls is one way of repaying the students for their voluntary work.
We reach Guadalupe at five and shake each other's hand for a job well done and simple greetings of Merry Christmas. Then I, Boy T and Ernie finish the day at our favorite watering hole and talk of the just-concluded activity which is one of our very memorable effort.
Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
Photos courtesy of Glenn Tampus and the Bytebandit of www.openclimbcebu.com