Saturday, December 24, 2016
I JUMPED AT THE OPPORTUNITY of an invite by a good friend to plant trees in her just-acquired property located in Bakhawan, Daanbantayan, Cebu on September 9, 10 and 11, 2016. The invitation assures me of staying (and dining) in her modest, home-like and very comfortable resort, Bakhawan Beach Home, at no cost at all to me. Not only that, the privilege extends to a young couple – Bogs and Bingle – whom I tempted to volunteer with me and give back for Mother Earth.
We three arrive at Bakhawan Beach Home in the early evening of the first day where we were immediately assigned a room. I insist to sleep outside on a cushioned divan so both Bingle and Bogs could have a sense of privacy. My friend, Lani Perez arrive an hour later where dinner was instantly served. A strong, but very quick, downpour came in the late hours but it had not ruined my instant bed nor it influenced me to transfer somewhere warm and sheltered.
Lani is an old friend of mine. We knew each other during the days when I was active then with my former outdoors recreation club – the Cebu Mountaineering Society. That was in the early ‘90s and she was then in the process of poking in on my close circle composed of younger but very opinionated members. Work and her passion of excellence took her abroad and I had not heard of her until we messaged each other in Facebook just this year.
Bakhawan Beach Home is the other sum of all her life’s work as an expatriate in different foreign lands. She collects old wooden furniture and tools – in her free time – that were discarded by modernism and she insists to preserve these, even if it costs her, and brought it here. These items became part of the internal and external décor of the two rest houses inside this very private beach resort.
Bakhawan Beach Home is a sponsor of my Cebu Highlands Trail Project which, as of this writing, will be terminating its course soon in November after I will walk the last few kilometers, starting from where it last stopped, at Lake Lanao, Daanbantayan, to the northernmost tip of Cebu – Bulalaqui Point. In fact, it provided billeting for me and my team last August 19 when we passed by here during the Segment VII Exploration Hike which was aborted the day after.
The night is cold but I am warmed by the body cushion, the pillows and the blanket under a deep awning facing the sea. It rained again in early dawn with flashes of lightning. Strong gusts blew and threatened bringing with it spray of salt and water. I refused to be awakened and snuggled closer into the warmed up recesses of my blanket. My mind wandered off into space and senselessness.
Sounds of surf materialize into my consciousness. There is light in the sky and my eyes could not deceive me that it is now early morning and the start of a new day – September 10. The sea is a calm mirror but a slow tide made its presence felt. After a breakfast of freshly-caught fish in soup, a dish of raw fish in vinegar, egg omelet and fruit, I prepare my work clothes and my tools which are just my Victorinox Ranger Swiss knife and my William Rodgers bushcraft knife.
Lani had informed me that the young people I have seen last night had planted seventy young cacao trees yesterday in an open lot. I would plant today green limbs cut from Mexican lilac trees (Local name: kakawate) between each young cacao as what I have suggested. Bogs and Bingle would help me with that. Both brought their tools like trowels, work gloves, a Victorinox Camper Swiss knife and a Tom Brown Tracker imitation.
The purpose of the Mexican lilac tree is to shield the young cacao from direct sunlight with its foliage during the time it starts to bloom. It is a fast growing species which is not obtrusive on its neighboring plants even if it is an introduced one. In fact, it gives off nitrogen and oxygen into the soil system making it fertile. The Mexican lilac is one of those exotic ones that have adapted well in Philippine clime and soil and highly valued by farmers and herders.
Lani showed us first her garden of organically-grown vegetables and herbs. Her Indonesian pepper variety has my attention for the ripe fruits were a gleaming healthy red. Then she has her pride of dragonfruit crawling cacti starting to flower. I have brought her one cutting which came from a wild-growing one that grew in the wilderness of the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range of Tabogon last August which is now showing signs of life.
Laborers were already at the scene and have started fencing off the property from grazing animals. Poles of mahogany wood were transferred from a small truck to the vacant lot. I carried four thin poles on my shoulders and place it down in the collection area. I scan the field of young cocoas. Between it are spaces wide enough to accommodate a bush that will “mother” them. In two bundles are the green limbs of Mexican lilac trees.
First of all, I have to make a digging stick from one of the poles. I chose a thick one and begin sharpening it with the faux Tracker. Then I started to dig hole after hole while Bogs and Bingle fill it up with soil and the upright limb. It rained, removing direct sunlight, cooling us a bit, but after that, it was difficult work. Sticky mud and humidity.
I have counted 35 holes but I still have to dig 25 more until one laborer with a digging iron decides to join me. In a matter of half an hour, the planting of the Mexican lilac limbs were finished. I brought more poles nearer to where the laborers were making the fences. I loved the labor even if it cuts the skins of my palms. I do not mind it. The exercise of my upper body is a good preparation for my Segment VIII in a matter of weeks from now.
When I found I have proved my usefulness, I depart from the scene and cross the road to a wide open space where sea and sand are accessible. No, I do not want to bathe. I just want to cool my body with the breeze as the warmth of humidity is now becoming a nuisance for comfort. After 15 minutes, I walk back alone to the resort and found Bingle and Bogs already there.
The sea is not that high enough to tempt me into it. Nor would the young couple. I decide to take a shower instead to tidy up for lunch would soon be coming. By the time Lani came from the field, it was served in Bakhawan Beach Home style which, to me, is such a splendid thing. All the ingredients came from her garden and from the sea delivered fresh and sparkling like the sea urchins and squids.
The afternoon saw Bingle and Bogs hurrying up to dip in the water and both tried their hand on a paddle board but I while my time instead reading a book. I expect an old friend to arrive soon. He did arrive, early enough to partake of another wonderful meal of spider conch, conetip shells, squids, seaweeds and more of the garden stuff.
Bebut Estillore was the most opinionated among our close circle of that era where we were young once. Despite the onset of years, Bebut is still my “tormentor” but his boast and his grand battle with the bottle is now losing its sheen. I guess, too much of that in the past – without me - have caused him to slow down. He just came from Bohol and was also invited by Lani to plant trees of which he will have his day tomorrow.
For the meantime, we shared a big bottle of the coldest Red Horse available, which were aplenty. Anyway, we had a deal. He would drink one glass only while I finish the rest of the bottle. Sounds fair. I believed there were six big bottles emptied as was the last count before I turned in half-drunk. I transferred to another divan on the second guest house in the wee hours of the night.
September 11 is the special holiday dedicated for the followers of the Islamic faith called Eid’l Adha. We will plant more trees today on the same property. There were poles to transfer from the truck to the ongoing fence work and the young trees in its temporary pots to the places where it will be planted. The rains of yesterday had made the ground wet, soggy on some parts.
Another upper body workout for me. My hands are still sore but I would not dig holes this time. I will just plug the holes with the young trees along with its complementary soil – gently with reverence. I place sweetsop, soursop, avocado and Malabar almond as well as bougainvillea within the fringes of the lot. Bebut crouched while he can and he looks like an old man now with his sombrero and a very unfamiliar slowness which is kind of strange from someone who was so hyperactive before.
We finished the work before noon. Another wonderful meal. After that, I joined the rest frolicking on the sea. Lani paddled the board to the farthest buoy where an empty small fishing boat is anchored. Bebut and I decide to try our skills with a small outriggered canoe and paddled in the direction of Lani, where the water is deep. The fisherman was catching his fishes underwater with a spear.
A squall begins to appear coming from a nearby island and we have to paddle back to shore. The seas became rough while the strong gusts carried us off course. Lani made it safely to shore while the wooden vessel was unwieldy but I steered it to shore safely and dragged it beyond the water line. The squall left as quickly as it had came. I washed myself with fresh water and retreat to the comfort of book and reclining seat.
The day wore out as last days would always do, kind of sad and a longing for the familiar. It had always been like that and today is no exception but the hope of coming back in some future date is something which is always cherished that the departure blues cannot rebuff. I have felt this ambivalence of emotions when I came here last April. I am sure I would be back to Bakhawan Beach Home. It is like another home but spacious and cool where the sky kisses the sea in a scarlet wonder of a setting sun.
Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer