UP Antiqueño joins Hugyaw Kahilwayan 2016 at Camanggahan, Bugasong

Last Independence Day, we had a tree-planting activity at Camanggahan, Bugasong, Antique. I woke up with a jerk just few minutes past six in the morning because, guess what? Six was our call time at San Jose. So as early as then, I felt having a bad day already. But eight hours later, I will realize it was actually one fun experience I’m sure to remember in years.

A text read asking where I was and I remember vividly to have replied ‘Bag-o lang ko bugtaw. Yot’

So, anyway, I panicked after I got up from bed. And by panic I meant I still had time to turn the stereo on and plug my playlist before I rushed to get my cup of coffee and prepare my outfit for the day at the same time. Somehow I’ve always felt that my pace would depend on the rhythm of the songs. So I played the fast-paced songs to speed things up. I was already receiving texts from my companions to hurry up or else I’ll be left by the hired vehicle. So with all the pressure on me, I found myself on a familiar dilemma: take a bath or not? Although I was very much tempted not to due to time pressure (I would like to appeal it was not because of my innate instinct. Hahaha!), I realized we will be shoveling under the sun for hours, and if I don’t want to smell like the bad side of nature, the best thing to do is to have a 4-minute bath. And so I did (I count minutes according to songs played while I bathe).

With an early morning already-grumpy mood, I went to San Jose and arrived at 6:30. Yes, I am that talented to have pressed almost everything within 30 minutes. Of course, not really everything. I arrived half-combed and starving since I wasn’t able to finish my breakfast, having only five careful sips out of my hot coffee. And I wasn’t able to fully exploit the mirror for the day.

When I arrived at our supposed meeting place, still eager to make it up for being late and to catch the trip, turned out the group was also delayed because of the hired truck. A sarcastic wow and a heap of yahoos for that. But the best part about being delayed for our trip that day was the breakfast: coffee that I deserved and sandwich with mayonnaise. Heaven for a mayo-person like me. Thank you, Nang Gael!

The trip was about 30 minutes, I guess. I wasn’t able to keep track of the time of departure and time of arrival because I was just eager to start the actual day. So I’m just guessing. But the trip going to Bugasong was uneventful except that we were riding a truck so I arrived at the site windblown with the 80%-dirt-20%-actual-face feeling. The trip was mostly me overhearing the conversation beside me and me laughing with Lyn, another companion, over the possibility that my saliva could be blown away by the strong force of wind against us.

Turned out, it wasn’t just us, UP Antiqueño and Tarambid Antique, who have answered the call of Mother Nature for greener Earth and more mountains to climb; but a lot more people including the locals and students from other schools. When we arrived there, there was a clearing in the site where the program was held and one of the most memorable snapshots I’ve unfortunately saved in my already creative mind was that of a flag ceremony minutes before the actual flag-raising ceremony. If you caught the metaphor.

Then came the longest stairs I’ve ever climbed so far, carrying furnished ‘fences’ – or how Nang Gael referred to them as ‘barriers’ – for our seedlings. It was, more or less, 20 minutes of steep and slippery stairs made from forming steps out of the ground to make a path. I can see our fellow volunteers in single-file, winding upward as they ascend towards the flat area on top of the mountain where the tree-planting will be. By the time I arrived there, I was so sweaty and my hair was so messy I could have sworn no one will like me if they saw me in that state.

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Up the hill. [photo by d’Doc Jessie Flores]

But the climb was worth it after I saw what was waiting for us on top: a beautiful elevated area overlooking the town of Bugasong and Patnongon and the wide sea. Not unique but beautiful enough to be worth-capturing. The site was so open I felt so much liberty. There were neighboring hills draped in cogon grass swaying with the breeze and there was this one single tree in one particular open hill twisting sideways before pointing upward. It was beautiful. I could hear my imagination suggest it could be where forbidden lovers’ would meet and carve their names inside a heart and stab themselves with the knife afterwards because they can’t be together. Maybe not in this lifetime.

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[photo by Gael Cabigunda]

We started the activity; digging planting sites for our seedlings while occasionally taking photos of us against the picturesque background. Was it just me or all we actually did is take pictures while occasionally tending to the real purpose of the day? Hahaha! But, of course, we contributed to the number of trees planted that day. It wasn’t a lot but as an entire batch of attendees for this year’s tree-planting, it will make an impact. What was worth pointing out about the activity was the local children’s involvement in the activity. And that of their parish youth organization represented by boys. Come on. I’ve always admired boys who were not driven by the stereotype definition of masculinity that are video games, vice, and indifference.

We were so occupied with our photo op that we were one of the last groups to go down. When we arrived at the clearing where they were holding the program, we only stayed a few minutes before giving in to the temptation of cold soft drinks. We had lunch at Patnongon and decided to explore the place for any possible adventure. We ended up in a riverbank, chatting with our Tarambid elders over Emperador, smoke, and chips.

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Somewhere in Patnongon, Antique.

But the best part was when it rained! We were riding at the back of a truck, vulnerable to the rain, thus we were shivering halfway home. It was funny that when we arrived at San Jose, there weren’t any sign of rain or drizzle but us. By the time I arrived home, my pants were almost dry from the wind.

It was really fun. While writing this, I was actually re-imagining the riverbank and the intimate isolation we had from the world – far from our responsibilities as students, children with chores yet to do, and from our individual despairs. What a nice way to remember a tree-planting activity – with the picture us in a circle, sharing thoughts, some drinking and smoking, waiting for the rain to arrive and force us to forever leave into a memory that one moment of the day that was genuinely fun. Ching!

©June 12-13, 2016

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