Thursday, March 1, 2012

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XLIX: Professors, Yogis & Crazy Bushmen

THE URGE TO CLIMB Mount Babag again comes knocking at me today, December 11, 2011.  While I have mastered the trails going to there, my present companions have not.  Most of them are; except Jerry Pescadero who had been climbing mountains here in Cebu and elsewhere since the '90s.

This is another test of endurance for the new Camp Red guys and I aim to bring them there, all four of them: Glenn Pestaño, Jhurds Neo, Lawrence Lozada and Silver Cue.  Glenn and Jhurds are bulky but they have mastered and known their body very well since the time they have been bush hiking with me.

Coming along with us are two faculty members from the University of Cebu: Professor Ting and Professor Cathy.  A pair of vegetarians from the Yoga Center also came:  Brother Siddharta and Brother Paul.  Well, here we are, a strange mix-up of the academe, yogis and crazy bushmen.

At the back of my mind, I am looking for ways of how to prepare food for the meat lovers on one setting, and another set of viand for the vegetarians.  By the way, I am doing a demonstration today of bushcraft cooking to my guests and to those who have not yet seen me how to cook milled corn inside a bamboo.

Also today, Camp Red will distribute goodies for the children of Kahugan.  Lester Padriga of the Circle of Friends and of Green*Point and who is based in the U.S.A., have donated cash for this activity.  His son, Myke, used some of the money to buy cookies, chocolates and jellies and pass it all to me the night before at the Persimmon in Mabolo.

As always, just like everyone else when going to the Babag Mountain Range, we meet at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  After finishing our breakfast and securing food provisions for lunch we proceed to Napo, where I give the actual briefing for this activity before crossing the Sapangdaku River.

It had been raining for several days until yesterday but some parts of the trail were still muddy.  I have to slow down my pace when I observed Prof. Cathy breathing hard at the first part of the route.  I need to let her recover her bearings so I requested Yogi Paul, who was not carrying anything, to carry her backpack and then let Jerry sprint ahead together with Prof. Ting.

We arrive at Lower Kahugan Spring and the shade there is cool: a perfect place to rest and at the same time replenish water needs.  For about fifteen minutes, the place is a beehive of pleasant conversations and a getting-to-know-you until I decide that rest time is enough and start the climb to the Roble homestead.

Although the weather is hot, there is enough shade along the route to shield the party from the rays of the sun.  By the time, we reach the humble abode of the Roble family, everyone looked for a niche to retrieve their wits.  Everyone are found okay and I have to find me a bamboo pole.  I found a bamboo grove below and it is encircled with thorns.

I cut at a pole with my tomahawk at a part where I could still reach it and safe from the thorns.  These thorns cause wounds that last for months if left untreated.  I have experienced those and I am wary now.  The pole perched on a high branch of a mango tree and refuse to fall down.  The only way to have that bamboo is to climb the tree and cut the pole again at the middle and let it fall.

Shucks, I am tired of the reaching out and hacking the pole with all my strength and I have now little of this to carry my 200-pound weight up a high branch of a tree.  Fortunately, Yogi Sidd volunteered to climb the tree for me and cut the pole by himself with Fele Roble's bolo.  The blade is sharp and it made short work as the top half of the pole come crashing down.

Elated with this, I chose the best two bamboo segments and cut holes on them. I start to look for firewood and found a dry stump of a Mexican lilac tree which I split into small pieces.  This wood make a good fire and gives good heat.  Start a fire with wood shavings and split pine wood and the dry firewood easily catch the fire.

I pour water on one chamber and waited for it to boil.  Now, I have to retrieve my gifts to the Roble family which consists of two kilos of rice, a kilo of sugar and 500 pesos for Manwel, Juliet and Josel.  I request Tonia Roble to cook for me pork adobo and give away all the ingredients to her so I could concentrate on my bushcraft cooking.

I present the goodies to Prof. Cathy and requested her to organize these into groups and distribute it to the children, who came one by one.  While I am tinkering with my fire, children's laughter echoed on the hills and is sweet music to my ears and is one good reason why I do not tire coming over and over here.

After the milled corn got cooked, I use the other empty segment for my mixed-vegetable stew.  Again, I pour water and wait for it to boil while slicing my gumbos and long green peppers.  At the same time, I also cook another set of milled corn inside of a Vietnam-era mess kit on a conventional camping stove.  I am totally busy but I could still find time to snap a picture here and there.

Mealtime came at 2:20 PM plus green coconuts for dessert!  An hour and 50 minutes late from the itinerary.  Too few a moment to spend siesta and too little daylight time left if ever we return to Guadalupe by way of Kalunasan after climbing Mt. Babag.  It would be effortless if I have with me swift and fit walkers like Jerry.  I have to try and decide when we reach the ridge.

Going to Babag Ridge, I have to choose and take the steep East Ridge Pass.  Although much easier of the only two trails direct to Mt. Babag, it is still a difficult route, especially to those who are new to mountain hiking.  The trail is beginning to be encroached by swidden farms.  Someday it will be obliterated by these farms just like Ernie's Trail.

Slash-and-burn farming here had not still been checked by our lazy bureaucrats.  The present mayor is all busy clearing away creeks and sidewalks and making enemies of everybody and forgetting to give other options to the upland settlers here, who chose to follow what they know of from their forebears: gathering charcoal.

I have no beef against people gathering charcoal for a living.  It is their way of life.  If the present administration sincerely cared about the environment and the plight of the uplands, they could have implemented a good program whereby these mountain people would benefit and keep our forests and trees intact at the same time.  Sadly, there's none.

Prof. Cathy, aided by Silver, came in last at Babag Ridge.  It is already 3:35 PM and we have a long way to go.  Prof. Cathy, along with Jerry, Prof. Ting and Lawrence, decide to part company with us and walk the ridge road to Busay.  They have other business to attend to.  So are Bro. Sidd and Bro. Paul.  Everyone, except Jerry and Lawrence, were spent up with the climb to Babag Ridge. 

So that leaves me, Glenn, Jhurds and Silver to complete the circuit.  We have to finish the climb by a hundred meters more to reach the shoulder of Mt. Babag before continuing on down the road to the trailhead to Kalunasan.  I will take them to the No-Santol-Tree Trail and it is already 4:30 PM when we start for Kalunasan.

The sun is about to set and it glowed an eerie red color on the surroundings which we pass.  The shadows are already long and it disorients my familiarity about the route where, for a moment, I thought I have lost it.  Eventually, I am able to find the trail and follow its familiar landmarks.  As it is almost dark, I arm myself with a walking rod.

Good for Jhurds, Glenn and Silver, they carry with them headlamps.  I prefer to navigate in the dark without any light and I move very fast.  Lights destroy your natural night vision and limits your sight.  Without lights, you could see beyond and your peripheral vision could detect movement or objects close by.

A good-sized bat took a swipe at me when I took a rest at the the first of the many tamarind trees but I have already noticed it from afar.  By reflex action, I raise my staff and veer my face away from the bat's path.  The bat bump the staff and went on its way after recovering quickly.  After that, it made many strange noises.

I pass by “turtle rock” and the bat make another dive but I am ready and use my staff to ward it off.  I walk on hurriedly while there is still a very faint light.  I hear many strange sounds and I begin to wonder about Jhurds, Glenn and Silver.  I shout and call their names but I get no response.  Up ahead, I see a copse of tamarind trees and decide to wait for them.

I sit under one of the trees and close my eyes when I notice something in the air coming at me.  I open my eyes and I see this bat again attacking me but my stick frighten it away.  I stand up and dared the bat to make another try but it disappeared.  Later, there were voices shouting from afar down the valley and it echoed in the hills and I thought the trio are in distress.

So I backtrack, half-running, towards them.  I may have walked back for more than two hundred meters before I could see a faint trace of light coming from a headlamp upon the foliage and I call their names.  I hear a distant reply and that release some worries from me.  I assure them that they are on the right path and I will be waiting up ahead.

I went back fast to the tamarind trees and wait for their arrival.  The bat fully understood my challenge and never bothered me again.  When the trio arrive, they have also been bothered by the same bat, hearing strange noises and hearing me talking to them from a near distance.  Strange?

Up ahead in the dark is the Kalunasan circumferential road and it is still about 300 meters away on a steep route.  At a bare ridge, I notice a full moon just rising from the horizon.  Meanwhile, my natural night vision is decimated by the lights of Jhurds, Glenn and Silver and I clumsily lead them that downhill path to the road.

Jhurds and I take the right going to Napo while Guns and Silver go directly to Guadalupe via Kalunasan.  We regroup at the church grounds at about 7:10 PM and we decide to proceed to Summer Kyla for rest and refreshment.  There were many people at the church and on the streets for it is the eve of fiesta in Guadalupe. 

Along the way, a religious procession is coming from M. Velez Street towards the church and the whole width of the street were thick with the parishioners and devotees of the Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Already at Summer Kyla is the outlaw Welshman, Wil Davies, and a couple of Redtrekker members – Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon.  I smoke the peace pipe with Boy and Ernie over endless bottles of Red Horse beer.

Document done in Libre Office 3

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