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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Of boulders and river-trekking

Of boulders and river-trekking
Text by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros


BOULDERS. Such tough creations. They come in smooth, in shapes like peeled potatoes; while others are rough, and sharp like slivers of glass. But whichever of the two kinds I encounter, I hold on to each piece with a heart beating in awe and throbbing in pure joy; and a sense of reliance on the ability to manage "bouldering" with the strongest of convictions.

These huge stones protruding from riverbeds lift an ecstatic me to a higher dimension, both in the figurative and literal sense. These rocks have faces scarred by the rain's intermittent dropping, its countenance bronzed by a tropical sun. To each scar, I take faithful holds, planting my toes carefully on each crevice grooved by the rain; hoping never to slip down when faced with mossy and slimy ones. Each gecko-crawl, left hand against right foot, right hand against left foot, moves my heavy body inches closer to a destination. And after clawing on to the hardness, emerging at the top of every boulder gives me a queen-like pride able to dethrone fear, able to defy the pull of gravity.
Sometimes, it would take half of a day to complete a trail, or a whole day at most (excluding night treks) to negotiate each river here in Cebu. One I could not forget was that of spectacular Dao in Malabuyoc with all of its Colombian appeal - palms establishing roots in rock crevices, vines hanging down like veils on cliffsides, freshwater prawns rippling bank puddles, and wild monkeys swinging from limb to limb.
RIVERS. Raging or tamed. They all amaze me. I have a penchant for watching rivers cascade down the back of the earth, sallying and babbling and all. Their murmurings I love to listen to whenever their cool brim wash my sandals and my feet. Their bubbles, I admire, swiftly popping when carried in whirlpools to drain into the vast seas and oceans. Their gurgling and rushing and swooshing tickle the strings in my childlike heart. And each of these twangings jabs my memory with the lessons on creation.
Finally, out of finishing every river trek, I find the joy in praising the Almighty, even when it dawns on me that the tarck is only half-beaten. After every conquest, I content myself with the delight of knowing my boundaries, my limits. Yes, because every river's mouth is a small hole on a rock or a narrow passage on the earth's belly, and the rest of its story is locked up behind it, so that everything else becomes a mystery. Almost always, I'm left knocked down, kneeling on pebbles, softened by the goodness of a Sustainer. "Men may come and men may go, but rivers go on forever," so goes poet-of-the-first-caliber Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Believe me when I say that most people think it's weird for me to leave the convenience of home, to wander in forests and mountain ridges just to be able to take an idyll with rivers. Boy! Some people would never ever learn to realize the joy in every river trek undergone. Every step taken is like a scene in a movie. It tackles infinite beauty. It discusses about life on a more vivid picture. Scenes pose most especially to give pleasure to the senses, to gladden the weary heart.
With river-trekking, you have all the time in the world to pause and take time to appreciate this form of creation, one of God's best manifestations. As you walk through the vistas of indescribable beauty, each step intensifies feelings. Each wandering step to the Unknown stimulates the senses. This state of grace, accentuated by the surrounding splendor, breaks through even the toughest exterior.
And most of all, every river can be likened to life. Beautiful but delicate. It gives you very little idea on when you'll have your last glimpse of it. (/30)