Thursday, October 1, 2015

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LCI: Bayanihan and Bushcraft

FOR MANY WEEKS NOW, the Roble family had been living on a small shelter which they call home. Their original house had been brutalized by Typhoon Yolanda and Typhoon Ruby in the past but Typhoon Seniang had given it a death kneel. I have learned of that when I visited them in early January and began informing others of the state of their house.

So far, a fund drive was started separately by Boy Toledo of the Redtrekkers and Jhurds Neo of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild while other hikers donated directly to the family on their way to Mount Babag. Although giving directly is showing compassion and empathy, it could not provide what is best for the affected family. A tangible benefit could only be achieved if a community of individuals would link together for a common good.

Because there is a collective effort, on the part of Camp Red, there is bound to be a positive result. The Roble homestead is Camp Red’s favorite place to spend their day, call it their dirt time. It is not their turf nor they claim it is as their exclusive own. It is just that they preferred to stay at the shaded bamboo benches and enjoy the company of the Roble family.

Because of the Roble’s kindness and their willingness to share their frontyard to this noisy breed of outdoorsmen, the family had endeared so well to the members. While many choose to pass the place on their way to the higher places, Camp Red choose to stay. It is like a second home to them. In fact, they choose this place for outreach events. They do it twice a year here. One before the opening of classes and another one during December.

For today, Jhurds had produced some housing materials, either through donations and by direct procurement, and brought it to the parking area of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish today, February 15, 2015. I arrive at 06:30 and Jhurds was already there together with couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon, Nelson Tan, Richie Quijano and Ernie Salomon. Behind me comes Jonathan Apurado, JB Albano, Dominic Sepe and Rommel Mesias.

Inside a Suzuki Mini Van are pieces of coconut lumber, sheets of thatched bamboo strips, some light GI beams and small pre-owned boards. The small boards can still be used as cabinets or as window shutters while the GI beams can be used to support the roof. The coconut lumber can be used for the house frames and the thatched bamboo as temporary walls. The plan is to carry all these items to the Roble homestead.

Jhurds drove the Suzuki to Napo while we ride on motorcycles going there. We start our loaded journey at 08:15 as Jhurds ask leave for a family activity. The items are heavy and cumbersome to carry but nobody complained. Laughing as we set off, we rest frequently to preserve energy which we will need most during the ascent. We reach a mango tree and we assess ourselves if we can pursue our objectives. It is an opportunity also to exchange cargoes.

The pre-owned boards are heavy and difficult to carry since these are tied as a set of three boards each and the best way to carry it is either by propping it on one shoulder or over the head but the added weight of your arms above your collar bones make it more heavy to carry. The GI beams are heavy but it is easy to handle and carry. Same with the coconut lumber although you have to watch out for those sharp grits but we provide ourselves cotton gloves. The thatched bamboo sheets are rolled and bulky but it is the lightest.

We reach Lower Kahugan Spring and take another rest. It would be difficult after here since the route would be ascending. Grudgingly, we take that challenge. The cool shades of trees helped us greatly a few feet by a few feet until we are just a couple of a hundred meters to our objective. We frequently change cargoes as we stop so others could enjoy a breather on their weary arms.

Finally, we all arrive at close to 11:00 and pile the items neatly on the side and proceed to our next tasks. Gleefully given the chance to unleash their blades, these hardy bushmen prowled the vegetation to forage firewood and start the business of chopping it into manageable pieces for the fireplace. The first order of things is to enjoy coffee. An empty pot appears and water is hastily boiled in it. Coffee tastes heavenly when outdoors, be it rainy or warm.

Ernie takes care of the preparation of the food helped by Mirasol and Rommel. The fire roared to life and the pots are readied over it. Boy T arrive by himself and produce a bottle of Tanduay Light Smooth Aged Rum which gives fuel to conversations as we get on with our tasks. We at Camp Red prepare and cook our meals exquisitely as if we are in a king’s banquet. Give that to Ernie. He does magic with his ladle.

Salmon belly are cooked in a spicy concoction producing a native fare called “linarang”. Likewise pork is cooked in a tamarind-enhanced soup resulting to another indigenous food called as “sinigang”. Then we have grilled pork, rice and an appetizer of raw cucumbers dipped in sweetened and spiced vinegar. Three fireplaces were set up to hasten the cooking and we are able to eat lunch a few minutes past noon.

I resign to my corner after the meal and retrieve three kilos of fowl feed for my pair of turkeys. I am quite satisfied at the difference of the health and the growth of the turkeys compared to the first time I introduced them here, especially the male, last January 3. They are now very agile and could leap to a horizontal wood beam seven feet above the ground. Fele and Tonya are just as happy.

I transfer to the company of Boy T. The bottle contents are now at the halfway point and I squeeze in the middle of the circle that Boy T had ably steered. The benches are full and so are the boisterous laughs from every jokes and comments. The conversations seesawed from the serious to the hilarious and all are brimming with pride that they had contributed to something good and worthwhile today. The glass never failed on its orbit.

The new house of the Roble family would stand, we assured that to Fele and Tonya and their children. The family hired a chainsaw and we provided an advanced payment amounting to 30 percent of the contract price of P5,000 to the owner. In a short while, Fele and the chainsaw operator proceed to the business of locating a mature China berry tree (Local name: bagalnga) which they found from a far distance if you judge the sound of the buzzing chainsaw.

The bottle of Tanduay gets decimated and a bottle of Emperador Light Brandy replaces it. The same crowd but different stories. Ultimately, everybody including Boy T gets tired of the fiery liquid and turn to their knives for another showcase of blades. The naturally-shaped wooden bench looked like a porcupine as blades stood on its back. I even add my custom-handled claw hammer to the pageantry as an “odd man out”.

Everybody knows that the blade porn is the activity that ends all activities and when one blade gets pulled from its niche, everybody followed suit. We leave the Roble homestead at 16:00 for Napo, for sooner we would be at Guadalupe again. In the back of our minds, we know that cold bottles of beer are now waiting at The Bikeyard. It had and we keep it pouring till midnight.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer.

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