Tuesday, April 3, 2012

ARGAO NIGHTS II (A Nocturnal Hunting Event)

I LOVE TO GO BACK to that place somewhere in Argao to catch fresh-water shrimps and crabs.  I have gone there on October 2, 2010 with two former associates and it was fun.  The adrenaline rush is felt when snakes that lie inert on river beds like debris suddenly comes alive on your approach and weave its way among the sand bed in the dead of night.

Here I am again with the rest of Camp Red like Raymund Panganiban, Glenn Pestaño, Faith Tannen, Justine Ianne and William “Jungle Wil” Rhys-Davies.  Jungle Wil, who is from Wales and a fellow Outlaw Bushcraft, have that innate fear of snakes.  Who doesn’t?  Even I would give a wide berth if I happen to meet a snake in my outdoor traipses.

Camp Red will be doing nocturnal hunting there.  It is an overnight affair with the dates falling on January 21 and 22, 2012.  We start from the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 8:00 AM and arrive at Argao two-and-a-half hours later.  Since it is almost noon, we decide to take an early lunch at a local restaurant.

When meal was done, I and Jungle Wil proceed to the public market to buy our food provisions good for the night’s dinner and for tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch.  We also buy ingredients for the second dinner which comes after our hunt of shrimps and crabs at the river.

We leave the center of town by hired motorcycles to a hilly part of Argao where there is a free-flowing river.  We arrive at 15 past noon and I make a courtesy call to the village headman.  The stream, I learned from him, have been diluted with poison by unscrupulous locals a few months ago that diminish the population of shrimps and crabs, along with fish, frogs and snakes.

I give them the actual briefing before we pitch our tents at the nearby school grounds.  I opted to sleep outdoors.  I am introduced to Sergio Gealon as our official escort and guide.  I buy a gallon of coconut wine to know Sergio better and to erase any awkwardness he may have felt on us.  He thought of Raymund as a Korean while he thought of Glenn as a pirate.   

Sergio lead us to the other fishing ground among rice fields.  A clear spring slowly gush out of a hole on the ground where it run out into a small stream that is used as a laundry area for locals.  I could see in the clear water a number of foot-long fish and fat shrimps feeding on underwater plants.  Folks say there is a stout eel living inside the hole which is covered by the estuarine plant.  I scoop water with my hand and tasted the water.  It is of good quality. 

Sergio take us to the old houses on stilts.  The posts and beams are old trunks of hardwood tree, gnarled and bent; the walls are of crushed bamboo; the roof made of swamp palm leaves; and the floors are bamboo slats nailed to the floor beams.  One of the house is erected as far back as 1931 according to an old lady who remembered the construction when she was just eight.  

I am the official cook and I have three sets of diners:  the carnivores, the vegetarians and the omnivores.  I prepare pork adobo for the first set and mixed-vegetable soup for the last two eaters.  I belong with the last and I could eat anything short of poison.  Glenn, meanwhile, started a small campfire.  The wood smoke is so nice to smell and memories came knocking at me.

Sergio came back after dinner.  Jerry Alberca, our former guide, lend us his Petromax and his scoop net.  We start for the rice fields and the spring hole at 8:00 PM.  Jungle Wil do the honors of catching our first prey: a thumb-sized shrimp with long pincers.  We transfer to the main stream walking across rice field dikes.  I am backstopping the party from behind with a walking stick, a big Maglite with the other hand and my Mantrack dangling on my breast.

We cross the road and continue on upstream.  Raymund tried his best to catch the activity with his DSLR camera without a good illumination.  Jungle Wil and the rest are following Sergio for he carried the brightest light that is now the center of the activity.  All bend down here and there to reach something on the shallows while on the walk.

I notice a commotion up ahead and I am just in time to see a sizable water snake trying to escape from the rabid hunters.  I cut off the snake’s route with my long staff then, all of a sudden, Raymund flashed his bolo and hit the snake causing it to writhe in pain.  The snake fought back by biting my stick and it never let go.  I raise the snake into the scoop held by Jungle Wil and I twist the net so it wouldn’t climb out. 

Before we finish our nocturnal adventure on the river, we fish out the biggest and fattest fresh-water shrimp that I have laid my eyes on.  I hold the shrimp and its big claw bit my thumb but I never let go and I drop it to our catch box where a number of its cousins are already inside plus a juvenile python, a mudfish, fresh-water crabs and frogs.  I released the frogs and the small snake but kept the bigger water snake.

Our host, the couple Eddie and Riza Alberca, welcomed us and I help them in preparing our catch by slicing the onions, garlic, radish and ginger.  Lemon grass, tamarind, cabbage, spring onions and desiccated coconut were added to the kitchen table while our male host started a fire from his earthen hearth. 

On the other hand, Glenn remove the skin from the snake, cut it to bite pieces and immerse it with spiced vinegar and soy sauce.  Glenn grilled the snake while our host make a tamarind-based soup of the shrimps and another soup of the crabs with coconut milk.  The crab soup is exceptionally done and I eat several servings of it while the shrimps are very fat and juicy.  Everyone enjoyed the meal and the conversation on the dining table drag on to almost 2:00 AM.

By now, all are eager to kiss the ground for a sleep inside their tents except me.  I transfer to another sleeping area but much safer where I could see the whole campsite.  The fire had died down and I blow it to life feeding more wood.  Wood smoke tickle me again to memory lane and I enjoy the cool night with a little light from the flickering flame.

I wake up early and enjoin everyone for a bath at a small waterfall on the river.  Jungle Wil prefer to stay and watch our things while I lead the rest down to the creek and walk upstream where there is a deep pool and a big rock blocking our way to the waterfall.  I climb over the obstacle and everyone slowly followed and it is indeed a small waterfall but the rush of water is so great that standing under is nearly impossible.

We stay for an hour at the waterfall.  I feel better after a good dose of natural massage by falling water.  We return back from where we came.  We pass by a communal water source and wash off our body with clean water.  When we reach the campsite, we change into dry clean clothes and queue our way back to our host’s house to partake of brunch of two free-rein chicken soup.  It’s a local treat and we gorge the meal with gusto.

I brought a long bottle of brandy and two bottles of energy drink and this is a good interlude to while away time watching a DVD movie at our host and do some small talk.  Before breaking camp, we clean the school grounds of garbage as our way of thanking the community for their support of our activity and of safeguarding our presence.  I personally dispose of our last night’s campfire and leave as little trace of it as possible. 

At 1:00 PM, we say goodbye to Eddie, Riza, Jerry, Sergio and the rest of the good people there.  We walk the road down to the highway and agreed to down one big bottle of beer for the road when we reach the corner.   We are now more wise and we decide to board the biggest and fastest bus for Cebu.  By 4:30 PM, we were already at the Cebu South Bus Terminal.

Document done in Libre Office 3.3


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