Friday, May 6, 2016

NAPO TO BABAG TALES 100: Wet and Wild

AFTER MY YESTERDAY'S boo-boo, I finally got over it and go, once again, to the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Today, August 23, 2015, is real, for sure. The biology class of the University of San Jose-Recoletos are coming over. According to their professor, Ryan Ymbong, there will be twenty of them.

Unfortunately, Ernie Salomon will not be with me. Another from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild – Nelson Tan – will take his place but he will be late. Fine. For the past few days, weather patterns are beginning to be predictable. Rain will pour hard during noon and another sequel in the middle of the afternoon. Well, I am ready for that but I am worried about my guests.

I waited. Killed time by listening to the MP3 feature of my Cherry Mobile U2 phone. A white passenger van arrived and out comes Prof. Ryan, I presume, from the front seat. He instantly recognized my khaki Silangan Predator Z backpack prominently placed on the concrete pavement. My worries stretched into a frown as most of the students are not wearing proper footwear.

That would really be a problem when the ground turns muddy but, as long as it does not rain this morning, that difficulty will not be much of a problem. Anyway, I join the professor on the front seat and the driver took us to the community of Napo. As we arrive, I immediately gather them all and gave them a short briefing of the terrain and the rough estimate of the distance to our destination.

Noticing that some were carrying heavy things inside big plastic bags, I requested these be equally distributed to others. I myself volunteer to carry the heavy bunch of rice cooked in coconut-leaves (Local name: puso) and the breakable items. At least, for now, the load carried by hand would be tolerable and there would be no danger of the plastic bags getting torn by blades of grass. Sturdy plastic bags, I noticed, are beginning to disappear, replaced by those brittle biodegradable ones.

We start our activity with a prayer by Prof. Ryan. I lead but I walked like someone who is strolling in Plaza Independencia under a pale light of a full moon. Yeah, that slow. I believe (and I know) that some pairs of feet would get skin blisters soon considering that I saw bare skin above shoes indicating no socks at all. Oh well, what a great way to learn plants and of hiking – later. That is why I walk slow. I see a stinging nettle (daw-daw) and I begin my own version of Plant 101.

I am interested to learn more about plants since I teach people about bushcraft. I have only a limited data of it right in my head learned from the nuances of growing up, from books, from the mil and from my late grandpa, who left me alone time and time again in a forest, usually at dusk or at dawn, during his tireless journeys, mostly in Bohol, while I was five and seven. I learned so many things from him and what I learned I share.

I may know some plants but it is limited to the local names, the features and its uses. I do not have time for its scientific names but, later on, through self-study, I begun to know its English equivalent and, to a much difficult degree, their Latin conundrum. Those that I have discovered recently, I turn to professional advice in the Web but, mostly, site administrators are as stupid as I am and so unaccommodating, leaving you more ignorant.

However, perhaps, I may learn a thing or two from this bunch. Prof. Ryan had read my blog and had requested me to guide them to a good site at the Babag Mountain Range. I know places there where vegetation are thick and would be a hoard of treasure to a biology student. It is where streams pass and you do not need people to wreck havoc on their bodies by leading them to difficult terrain.

When you are into the business of wilderness guiding, improvisation matters. It is different to mountain guiding where elevation, adrenaline and scenery afforded by peaks are its main pursuits. I had been guiding people for some time and I find the latter too dangerous and too boring for my age. In the former, I found fulfillment. It is that which people tend to appreciate your skills, your knowledge and your time.

The path is wet and parts of it are muddy which is bad enough. It will get worse when rain comes falling. I change paths and follow the trail going to Sapangdaku Creek. We follow it upstream until we are on a level ground above the stream. This place is called Kangsi by the locals and a lone family lived nearby. This would be a perfect place as it had been previously in several activities that I organized.

Prof. Ryan began instructing his students, which are composed of the purely BS Biology discipline and those of BS Education with major in Biology Studies. They had with them their instruments in aid of their field study like a GPS, thermometers, ropes, iron pegs, Petri dishes, glass jars, cameras, pencils and journals. They are divided into four groups.

The area is divided into four quadrants and lengths of rope are unrolled to delineate each quadrant from the other. I assisted each of the four groups establish their own quadrants, especially the ones that has the ropes go over the thickest vegetation. My big AJF Gahum knife did a lot of work to clear a way for me to bring one end of a rope to its farthest reach.

Three of the quadrants cross streams while one covered steep ground. The groups then collect their specimen, which are then documented after several guessings of its taxonomic category, including the GPS coordinates where each is found. Aside from plants, they also gathered three kinds of grasshoppers, some crickets, a mosquito, different butterflies and two varieties of fresh-water guppy.

The rain came as expected, near noon, and all collecting activities stop to concentrate instead to the preparation of their pre-cooked meals. It is not safe to work on the streams for fear of flash floods. Instead, I produce three banana leaves to cover the ground where the food will be placed. The rice in the “puso” are many and I could not believe I carried it all. Viands are the Tisa “siomai” (Chinese meat rolls), “pancit guisado” (local noodles), pieces of fried chicken and canned goods.

We eat our lunch under the onslaught of rain. Fortunately, Nelson arrived just in time to set up a tarpaulin sheet over where the food is laid. To those who cannot be accommodated below the shelter, to each his (or her) own to find some semblance of cover to justify a human necessity of providing nutrition to self, like me. I have been into this situation many times and it does not matter with today's inconvenience.

There is a lull in the sky and we were even afforded a glimpse of sunlight yet I expect rain to come back with a vengeance later. The specimen collection continues at 13:30 and everyone proceed to their assigned quadrants. The stream had risen a bit and the current brisk. Everyone pursue their work with wet clothes while I and Nelson stand guard. I keep a special attention on the stream and on a shooting suspect on the loose named Timoteo Gabasan.

By 14:15, the rains come back earlier than expected but it had stopped after about thirty minutes. The students ignored the inconvenience and concentrated on their field studies. At 15:30, the rains struck once more, and again, at 16:15. When Prof. Ryan sees that his wards have had enough of specimen collected, he called a cession to their activity and everyone obliged and repacked all their equipment and other things.

We leave Kangsi (it rhymes like Camp Xi) at 16:30 under the cover of incessant rain. The going was tough for those who wore rubber flip-flops, ladies' sandals, espadrilles and all sort of improper footwear, which almost were. They have to negotiate a slightly steep path from river bank to the main trail which looked like a crude imitation of a water slide and the main trail itself has pools of water along some stretches where there are depressions.

Prof. Ryan was exhausted after the hike back to Napo and he was the last one to arrive. Their transport have arrived earlier and waited until such time that everyone were accounted for. I take my usual place on the passenger van where I got dropped off at Guadalupe. Nelson, meanwhile, took his motorcycle and was already gone when I arrived. I would part Nelson his share of the fee when we meet next time.

Anyway, I accept people who requests of my services in guiding them to the mountains but, mostly, I refer it to my subalterns if it is for leisure hikes only. I would personally engage if the purpose is of a higher calling like today. I used to be a freelance mountain guide many years ago and I find no satisfaction in that because it demands technical skills and the risks are great with which compensation does not tally well with your efforts and the gears you invested.

As a wilderness guide, the risks are not that great and does not demand expensive gears. You have to have a different set of skills quite different from those activities done at higher elevations and is much in demand and, therefore, a bit expensive than usual. Guiding an archeological or a scientific expedition is one such example where the professional wilderness guide should be extraordinary and possess a high-level of expertise and ability.

Whenever you have such need of a guide for a planned Philippine expedition project, I can be contacted and be hired directly through my mobile numbers at +639172035101 and +639333225005 or you may email me at pinoyapache (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you so desire to see my credentials, I can attach it in my email in PDF or JPEG, whichever you prefer.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

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