Saturday, April 28, 2012

Daring towards Danger

Human instinct drives an individual to survive danger so as to remain alive. With awareness of imminent danger, a person may take the fight or flight. One can take the risk or don’t risk anything at all. This is what I learned in my first Cave trekking experience in Sagada.

It was my first time to visit Sagada, and it was my first time to take a caving adventure. While we are going to the Sumaguing Cave, I've asked the tour guide of how long it could take us down the cave, and how far the cave was from the road. I've missed to ask how the trek was and what are there to expect in the trail. 

Going in and out of Sumaguing Cave is said to take 750 meters. It means that the cave could have a depth of 300-400 meters. From the store by the road, the mouth of cave is not really visible yet. We took several steps down until the huge mouth of cave was there open for us to be swallowed in its dark depths. Around the cave were huge rocks, and as we go down, we needed to take bigger bolder steps. 

 We stopped and waited for our tour guide to have the lamp lighted. From walking on flattened rocks, we found the trail to have changed to dirt which was a little slippery sometimes because of the bats' feces. We didn't really have any orientation of what kind of trail will come next, but we headed on. We had to squeeze ourselves between boulders, walk with on fours with our butts because we don't want to be outbalanced. We had to lay our hands on bat shits yet think it was just soil.

The limestone formation was still so far even if we had been going down for 30 minutes. Then we stopped. The trail to get to another level suddenly became vertical. I had no experience of rock climbing, no one among us had. The tour guide showed us how to go down. My legs are still tired from walking six kilometers the other day, but I just have to go down, because we were there already. We should not be going back or else we don't get to see those beautiful rock formations.

One hand holding on a slit between rocks, another pushing on the other side, one foot weighing down on a sharp crevice and another leg trying to reach a stable ground. Whew, that made like Spidey. After that was the first rock formation of virtually of an image of elephant, under it was like a wall for a huge well. I knew from there that we have more beautiful things to see.

They call it a porn cave, for its rock formations, like that of the queen's vagina, the king's dick etc. To me it was a magnificent natural creation, rocks formed from thousands of years. Limestone formations that in one's eyes seem to be so slippy, but which could hold one standing still and non-sliding. The temperature dropped, water drips from above. With all the rock formations, water is just flowing, cold water from the mountains, pure and pristine.

I just had to dip in that cold water. Because the air seems to be constricted, even if the water is so cold, I did not feel any chills. We took several pictures. We wanted to get as deep as we could. When the tour guide explained to us how we could get to the last point in the cave, we backed out because one was so afraid. I asked if there is an alternative route, but we backed out to because going down there seemed to me to be really dangerous.

It is dangerous, really high risk and could even be fatal. One slip, one wrong move, could make one fall on rocks. One hit could spell death. We did not have any harness, no safety hats, no ropes that could pull us up we slip and fall. The only rope that was there was for rappelling to go up a huge rock formation.

We did not dare the risk. Anyway, we already saw the last point of the cave trek. That should suffice. But, that tour guide was just so amazing as he could go down and out of the cave with his two feet, like as if he has memorized every place of the rocks and is aware of every slippery sides of the cave.

Trekking that cave was an adventure I would never forget. It put me to a daring situation when I have to put myself toward danger, learning every time from an expert, calculating risks and mindful of my personal situation and conscious that I have responsibility with the people I am with. If I took the lead in going down and climbing, I have to tell others following of what it is like and what should they do. When someone is ahead of me, I would be watchful of his actions and do the same. 

Inside is an individual survival, I could push others, pull others, help others only when I know that I am in the right position to do so without putting myself to very high risk. But again human instinct compelled me to stick with others and help them get through the trek safe and sound. There I learned, the meanings of determination and survival.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Trail to Batad Terraces

When we do not know where we are going, we will have no idea if we have reached it and what if that place doesn’t satisfy us at the least?

I knew we were going somewhere, when he headed to our trail to Batad. It is a place where one of the original rice terraces in Banaue could be found. Stories told to us that said it was where we could one of amazing farming fields built for a thousand years and have lasted thousands of years till now. That must be truly an awesome thing to see.

We were told that the trip from the poblacion to Batad will take us to the mountains for 1 to 2 hours, and the trek down to the mountain would take 30 minutes. We had no idea of what the road would be like because we were not informed of it. The same way, we were not told of what we could expect from the site. We were there to appreciate the ingenious farming technology of our native ancestors. 

We were excited that we could jump off the jeepney that took us through a rough ride looking over ravines on the sides along the way. The road to Batad is an adventure, exhilarating really breathtaking and not for those who have fear of heights. It was like you are on a sky but with the bumps of the clouds as the road alternates from smooth to rough, going up on rocky narrow steeps. 

From the viewpoint, only a slice of the famous Batad Rice Terraces can be seen, but I was awed with the great mountains dressed in lush green and kissed by huge white clouds. The temperature was a little low, but it would not give a chill. The scenery just took my senses away that I did not bother to ask how we are going there. I was with some people at 40’s and 50’s, a girl at 8 and a teenage girl. I am in the mid 30’s by the way, but I haven’t really gone on a mountain trek except that of walking for 6 hours from Manila to Antipolo on Holy Wednesday.

We took the trail down the mountain to Batad terraces for almost an hour. The trail was rough, but the natural scenery was awesome although walking to see that site was tiresome. But our tired body was relieved with the sight of the first group small terraces we saw, beautiful layers of green and brown fields of rice. A stop for five minutes kept us going again. We weren’t even midway, and I could see that we have probably walked a kilometer down from where we came from.

I love how we were greeted in English by the lady tending the store in the Midway of Batad, but from there, it seems that we need to walk more than a kilometer down. Minutes after, we saw a sign, five minutes to Batad Viewpoint, but that five minutes took us like 20 minutes of non-stop walk. Time is not just the same in that place. People there could probably walk up and down that trail in less than an hour, but our legs don’t seem to match that of theirs, more so our energy.

From the guest registration area, I searched for that amazing rice terraces. But, to my dismay, what I saw were eroded fields, no greens, all soil flowing from the mountain top. We just took the time there to have lunch and some rest before we got our feet back up to where our ride was parked. The trail took us almost an hour. While going up, the clouds turned dark. It would be a dark rain, and lightning is hitting some parts of the far mountains. Our best option was to take the 450 steps up the main view deck. In my mind, were the complaints of the elderly I was with. In my mind was a question could they make it?

Pressure was on us, to take that tiring climb up the steep paved ladder. Some steps are as high as 1 foot or more, others are just 6 inches high. We were able to climb, everybody did, even the asthmatic did. 
We got to Batad expecting an awesome view, which we did not see. However, the trail will be part of our memory. To the elderly I was with, they could not believe they were able to make a 6 kilometer walk. I myself could not believe it. We all felt great, yet tired, not because of what we saw but because of what we were able to do. Then the hard rain fell. We rushed to the jeepney, before the road would start to get really muddy and soft. 

A life's adventure is not really about seeing what you want to see, but seeing how you can go through its trails to get there and get back. That is the most magnificent wonder in every man. I just hope that the people of Batad could get the glory of this once magnificent terraces back.