Tuesday, January 26, 2016

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LCVI: Classified as Urgent

IT IS LOGICAL TO transfer immediately all the school supplies that we have had collected through donations to the Roble homestead for storage today, May 17, 2015. Preparations for the big day next week (May 24) would be simplified and would not need a lot of people to do that task. Once done, the hours of that day would be focused more on the outreach itself. The carrying of the school supplies is, thus, classified as urgent today.

Many came on short notice and we all meet at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. The bulk comes from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, lead by its president, Jhurds Neo. Assisting us is Eli Bryn Tambiga and fellow paramedics from the Philippine National Red Cross. Tagging along is an “all-girls-mountain-cleanup” contingent. Spots of rain clouds paint the sky and there was a brief shower.

The school supplies, consisting mostly of notebooks and writing pads are distributed evenly among the volunteers for carrying and wrapped in plastic to prevent damage by rain or by sweat. Not only that, food ingredients that are to be prepared for the noontime meal are added to their bags. The journey start at 08:30, although a bit late but just enough to assure us that rain will not threaten the activity.

I purposely brought a South Korean military-issue duffel bag again, just like last year, to fill it as many notebooks as possible. I fill it with less – eighty pieces – this time because I already carried six kilos of poultry feeds intended for my six turkey chicks which have just hatched there just this week. I add a kilo of rice and I intend to keep my water bottle empty. I do not want to overstretch myself. I am not young anymore.

I just ate two fig pies as my light breakfast and doused it with one peso worth of cold water bought from a coin-operated automatic water dispenser in Guadalupe. That is just it. No more no less. The sun is now shining at its brightest splendor and I prepared for the worst by drinking another measured amount of water from another water machine in Napo.

My bag is heavy and uncomfortable. The unpadded shoulder straps begins to dig deep on the flesh of the shoulders as I walk farther and farther. I wore an ACU camo hat to prepare for the heat but God has kind eyes for me instead and for the rest, as the clouds returned to cover and diffuse away the sun’s scorching rays. It turned into a very pleasant morning instead, quite breezy. I could feel how everyone felt at this unexpected opportunity.

The trail showed that the soil is parched and in need of a really good shower of a few days. Cebu and the rest of the country is experiencing a mild El Niño and it had not rained seriously for more than two months now. I take it slow. I take my first rest underneath a mango tree. I do not intend to remove my bag while sitting. Putting it back would be difficult and you would have to expend energy placing it back which I am not generous this time.

I plan to fill my bottle once I will reach the Lower Kahugan Spring. I ditch that idea and savor the thought instead of drinking directly from the natural spring water. When I reach it, I also ditch that opportunity of a drink. I would have, if it only been very warm, but it had not. Besides the bag is a bit of a problem. I would have to remove it so I could stoop low to catch water with my hands. So, I just sit and take a breather, enjoying the conversations of those who sought rest there.

I did not stay long and proceed on my own. The trail begins to ascend gently and I switch to another path where it would had been easier in another time. One foot forward over the other brought me to a place where there is a community and I am winded, this time, and I sit and rest without taking the bag away nor do I enjoy the privilege of drinking water. This personal situation today I would consider as part of my preparation for the next segment of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project.

When some of the party arrive at my perch, I stand up and continue the ascent. Walking ahead of me is the 7-year old son of Richie Quijano – Legend, who is also with his wife, Francelyn. The soil is loose and sometimes dusty. The boy run up and down the trail and simply enjoying the freedom of the outdoors. His mother would snap at him for carelessness but it is a child’s world really and I am quite elated that the lad had taken a liking of the mountains.

We overtake a group of hikers resting at a row of mangoes. The boy lead me on until I reach the Roble homestead at 09:45. It is so surprising on my part that my effort had brought me earlier than I thought I would have. In fact, it was just a little more than an hour than I had expected it to be. Fele Roble is splitting a green bamboo pole with a stout stick hammering at his long native blade while wife Tonia is readying a pot with hot water for coffee.

A circumcised Josel is wearing a big t-shirt but still smiling. I gave him the 50-peso worth of sweet bread that I bought in Guadalupe and he disappears into their tiny makeshift hut, the abode that they had been using as a home right after their original house was destroyed by Typhoon Seniang. A new but unfinished house is standing on the former site and promises a new beginning for the Roble family.

Slowly, the rest arrive and occupied the empty benches. The school supplies are all collected and placed in the visitor shed for an inventory later. Meanwhile, I need coffee. I am very thirsty and the only remedy for that is a cup of coffee – and a refill - which I sip one after the other. I part the kilo of rice to Ernie Salomon, our food fixer par excellence.

I give the bags of both starter and booster feeds to Fele. The young turkeys would really need this to keep them healthy in the coming weeks. I am very happy to see the tiny guys peering from the wings of their mother. The six would be divided between me and the Roble family and I believe this venture would improve a little of their economic standing as the children are growing. Manwel is now a young man doing vocational schooling while Juliet is serious with her secondary studies. Little Josel is following in their footsteps.

While the rest are preoccupied of their tasks, I focused mine on making two sets of fireboard and spindle for a bowdrill. I used the folding saw from Victorinox SAK Trailmaster to cut it into manageable pieces and the vintage Sheffield-made knife with deer handle to shape these. When done with that, I proceed to carve a forked piece of wood with the Sheffield knife as the “bearing block”. I would need these things for the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in June.

After the notebooks and writing pads had been sorted and tallied, we proceed with the most important activity of the day – eating. Ernie, time and time again, had concocted another wonderful meal fit for kings. Pork chop estofado, grilled pork and a foraged banana heart (Local name: puso) that was cooked with oyster sauce is laid on the table for the hungry volunteers. Added to that is his signature raw cucumbers and tomatoes in vinegar.

Siesta is allotted instead to the discussion of the next tasks for next week (May 24) which would be the day when the gifts will be distributed which Jhurds is now facilitating. When that was finished, Mayo Leo Carillo proceed to finish another Penobscot bow made of three layers of bamboo. This is much better than the two-layered one which he made last time. I tried the pull of the limbs and I believe it is between 20 to 35 pounds.

On the side, Legend and Josel, together with Jerome Roble, bonded each other by plinking empty cans with slingshots. Later on, the guys dragged two boards and place it side-by-side on the ground and another glorious round of blade porn ensues. To make this quick and over with, everybody grabbed their blades from its hidden pockets inside the bag and pierce it on the two boards.

We leave at 16:20 back to Napo after securing the notebooks in a waterproofed location and saying goodbye again to the Roble family. They assured us that they will prepare the place for the big day next week and we promised them something in return. It was a very good day and my duffel bag is blissfully light even with a stash of sweet potatoes inside.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer


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