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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Appreciating doughnuts and bahaw

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
June 21, 2004; posted at www.thefreeman.com

THE northeastern ranges of Mt.Magdiwata in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, were deep green that morning of June 14. Covered with mist, they seem to tell me exploring three caves out of literally a hundred for the 2nd Datu Lipus Makapandong Caving Adventure would not only be cloudy but would also be wet and muddy. Hosted by the San Francisco Mountaineers Club in line with the Naliyagan Festival that highlights the Agusanons’ history and culture, the trek was tricky.

But am ready for the rain and the mud and the snakes and bats – sights, sounds, experiences a spelunker finds rewarding. I love the thought of heavy rain falling down on us participants, on our guides – the datus or purok leaders and lumads and government officials. Moving about inside the forests of Agusan with the pelting rain on us could be a chillin’ but beautiful story.

It never dawned on me that completing a 20-kilometer walk from one cave to the next and going back to town via a Manobo tribal village, passing by the provincial capital of Prosperidad, and surviving it all with one and a half pieces of handed down doughnuts and the thought of ambushing one man’s kitchen in search for "bahaw" (left-over rice) would be the real story. It carried a lesson.

Before the walk to the first cave began, we were briefed that San Franz has literally a hundred caves. That we have to belly-crawl, slither and walk through three of these.

Seemed to me, I had waited for eternity to experience an adventure this extreme. I couldn't seem to wait for that moment I would be in Magdiwata’s belly.

Then we came to Aningaw Cave, the Manobo term for “echo”. The cave is characterized by big chambers made more awesome by century-old stalactite and stalagmite formations. Then, there was the Sinking Cave, one with a vertical passageway where one caver is at the mercy of the rope. And then the Datu Anawa Kalipay Cave, also known as the Inepan cave (from the Manobo term “inepan” which means “subterranean").

I’ll be telling more of these stupendous caves in a future article. Meantime, back to the experience of getting hunger pangs inside the forest. My buddy Ronnie Chris Animo of San Franz shoved from his pack three pieces of apple and cherry-glazed doughnuts. And there I was mesmerized by those sweet salvation of a grumbling tummy.

Am never a fan of doughnuts but those sweet round things given to me by an acquaintance to appease hunger pangs marked the entire experience. What could be more beautiful than sharing three pieces of doughnuts with my buddy at the heart of the forest of the Magdiwata Ranges in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur? Of course, I didn’t grab everything. Ronnie Chris demanded for a system: "hating-kapatid!"

After that, we came across children going home from school. I said: “houses aren’t that far away anymore. There must be somebody’s kitchen we can ambush for a piece of bahaw”.

Some of our companions who went ahead of us were already resting on the verandah of one house in the Manobo tribal community. I immediately asked the owner if I could ask for some "bahaw" to go with Ronnie Chris’ can of corned beef. The man ordered us to check the cauldrons. Ronnie Chris and I rushed to the dirty kitchen and opened pans, cauldrons and pots to seek for anything edible.

Ronnie Chris ran to this variety store where he was able to buy three packs of bread. I took all the "bahaw." One of our guides opened the can of corned beef for me. He found me pale and trembling and I told him am dead tired and famished, ready to gobble up anything that would pacify my hunger.

After getting a good night's sleep, my mind kept drifting to the thought of the doughnuts I never cared for on the previous day's experience. Sure, there are things you wouldn’t give a second look because you never find the tiniest importance in them...yet. But when tides turn, you find these unimportant things your only key to survival. Then I thought of Ronnie Chris and how he had extended not only a hand, but the wrist-to-wrist assistance – the trademark of how mountaineers take good care of people who share with them the same passion.

Ah! The wonders mountaineering taught me! I look forward to more doughnuts and "bahaw" manifesting their significance in more lives as each of us gracefully take our course... a day at a time.©