The driver. When commuting, I usually sit behind the driver’s seat for this sacred space allows me to peacefully fall into slumber while the rest of the population complain about traffic. Yesterday, I wasn’t able to sleep though. I saw something magical. While most of us have encountered reckless drivers whose skills would pass for a ninja, there are also others who are taking such vocation wholeheartedly in order to earn a living that would suffice the needs of the family. Sitting beside him was a little boy who looked so sleepy. While on halt, he lovingly looked at the boy (seen from the rearview mirror) before he asked him if he wanted to finish the bibingka that sat between them. He confirmed the boy’s answer again before he got the piece of rice cake and took a bite of it. After eating half of it, he placed it back between them saying, “Tiwasalangn’yana’ggutumonka.” Finish it if you’ll get hungry later.
The Mountain Guide. As we continued the hike to the campsite of Mt. Mandalagan, fondly called as Tinagong-dagat because of the presence of water on site when its high tide or the gradual increase of water level after consecutive days of raining, our conversation with the guide went to the advent of technology and of how easier it would be for hikers to contact them for guideship if they have Facebook account. As the dialogue went on, they arrive at this striking conclusion: “Di man gud mi parehasninyo, day. Mas daghanbayamognahibaw-an. Nakaeskwelagud mo.” (We’re not like you. You know better than us. You were able to go to school). But are we? Between the two parties, who knows more about the species in the forest? Who understood more how the weather changes and the means people needed to adapt so as to survive? Where does great knowledge lie: in the simplicity of the province or the complexity of the city life? We explained to him that no one has the monopoly of knowledge. We are knowledgeable in some aspects, but that does not make us any better than the other. We do what we do and get skilled by it. Someone might become a jack of all trades, but, of course, a master of none. These mountain guides are often devalued and ridiculed by many because of their status in life, not knowing that their experience with the mountains honed them to become more understanding of people who are so full of themselves. Such wisdom that can only be attained with greater knowledge and humbled pride.
The Lost Boy.One of the circulating stories in Tinagong-dagat is about the boy who got lost and was never found up until now. It has become one of the reasons why socials are not that tolerated on the area and that most campers tend to stay inside the tent when night falls. But what really prompted such story to circulate? As a matter of fact, no police report has ever been documented about such incident. What if this is just one of the make believe stories the older ones created so as to keep the young ones quiet? Or what if it’s real and its soul is still daunting among the forest or under the grounds of your tent? What if he’s that friend who’s undergoing a massive heartbreak or emotional breakdown but no one dared to ask? It is easy to believe what other people tell us without even verifying it. But it won’t hurt if we entertain the little curious demon within us and try to understand more why and how things work around us.
The Socials. While drinking liquor when camping has been regarded negatively by many because of the noise created by those who can’t control themselves when the spirit of alcohol overtakes them, this notion should not be generally consumed because there are those who just wanted to take few shots to help them get to sleep, survive the cold temperature brought about by the altitude, and those who’d like to keep a healthy argument accompanied by few doses of empe, tanduay or kulafu. Nonetheless, as concerned friends or fellow hikers, we have to practice utmost responsibility with the words we say when reprimanding those who are truly disturbing the peace and order when drunk. In the end, respect is a two-way process; both hopeful to end with understanding.
The Limatik. Black, slimy, blood-sucking, scary parasites. This is how limatiks (leeches) are often described. But because we have decided to complete the Negros trilogy, we should somehow manage to deal with these kinds of monsters. But are they? Or are we? Which among the two species are really invasive, destructive, and deadly? Like many others, I was first scared to have been sucked by these parasites – because we all know how those crazy fellow hikers of ours depict them. But more than the fear, I was more excited and curious on how they really looked like in real life. The first encounter was when we were crossing the river and Ate Mich screamed to the top of her lungs about a certain something that stuck her leg. Everyone started to panic and run; while here goes Marj, running… towards Ate Mich, armed with my phone, ready to document the sucking incident. Unfortunately, our guide immediately threw the limatik before I get to document it. Then after, I decided to keep pace with the guide and asked him to show me first the limatik before he threw it. Instead of fear, excitement crawled into my system. And it changed the way I perceived limatiks. They were not scary at all. The different colors that can be observed in their bodies – from green to yellowish to brown and black – is a beautiful combination and powerful mechanism for survival. When spotted early, they can easily be taken of. If they have grown bigger and have sucked too much, you can just leave them as is and wait for them to leave. They’re not deadly. Like many others, it’s just their means of survival. Recently, on our Baloy hike, I’ve learned that applying petroleum jelly on the exposed part of the skin can prevent limatiks from sticking. If they have stuck already, spraying alcohol is the easiest way of removing them.
Instead of chronicling our hike to Mt. Mandalagan, I have decided to divide it in important notes to emphasize how important it is to give a closer look into events that probably mean nothing but can teach us a number of lessons to learn from. In this age of filters and google, it is easy to accept people for who they are not and judge those who does not fit in standards conformed by society. However, like the mountain guide, we have to learn that knowledge is more than just what was learned within the four walls in the classroom. We can’t wear our achievements, but we are always carrying with us our behavior, our character – and this requires greater knowledge to know the difference. Like the driver, we have to learn that everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. Probably others commit heinous crimes so as to answer an immediate need. Countless stories about stereotyping can be recorded and shared, but it would take an open mind to learn from them. It’s easy to create speculations, to jump into conclusions, to pass judgment, to put label on things we lack a deeper understanding of… but what if we’re wrong? People are more than how they appear – and this we have to learn from the limatiks.
Have you seen limatiks already? Scared or okay lang? Let’s chika on trails? See Facebook and Instagram for hiking updates! And… thanks for reading. For continuously reading even if sometimes I talk nonsense here.