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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Canyon


Cuando era pequeño en secondaria, cada fin de semana mis amigos Ambrose, Ian and I would emerge from the freshly-plowed pineapple fields surrounding Camp 14 in Del Monte, Bukidnon, maneuver our bikes to begin the perilous descent down the steep, almost-45 degree gravel road that snakes its way down the valley, cross the bridge over the rampaging Agusan river, and begin the arduous Calvary climb to the top on the other side of the canyon. Camp 14 is located on one side of the canyon while the main Del Monte housing camps are on the other side. This meant we had no choice but pass through a deep valley formed by the canyon. Sometimes, we’d pause for a break and sip some water from a spring well on the side of the road where a gold bar, hidden by Japanese soldiers in World War II, was reportedly found.

Once we reached the bridge at the bottom of the valley, we’d steer ourselves for the steep climb ahead and pedal all the way to the top non-stop: an ambitious goal the three of us challenged ourselves to accomplish and succeeded. I do not know if I can still manage to do it nowadays without breaking a leg but I hope to replicate the experience when going uphill towards Antipolo.

Ian convinced his father to get him a shiny, silver, top-of-the-line BMX while I settled for a red, mini-road or racer bike. Ambrose’s bike, however, defied description. An extremely practical and resourceful guy, he assembled his bike himself, attaching a small, knobby but highly incongruous BMX tire on the rear side of a rusty, sturdy frame typical of traditional bicycles manufactured in the 1940s and popularly used by peasants in Communist China. (I do not know where he got it). Ya know, those industrial-type bicycles with wheels as large as a ferris wheel and handle bars so wide it covers half the equator? We called it Airwolf because the huge handle bars appeared like the wings of a helicopter. I always thought it looked like a Skylab. If you must ask, Ambrose didn’t mind at all.

Anyway, we’d visit classmates who lived far and occasionally imposed ourselves for lunch (they had no choice). At first, we’d steal and sneak out some guavas from Del Monte’s guava orchard (for the pine-guava juices you find in supermarkets) until our moms took pity on us and prepared packed lunches for us to bring since we’d be gone practically the whole day. It didn’t help that sometimes, out of the generosity of their hearts and to show their gratitude and hospitality for gate-crashing their quiet lunch, those we visited would insist on giving us basketfuls of heavy fruits like avocado, santol and mango for us to take home, conveniently forgetting that we have those fruit trees in our own respective backyards as well.

The experience is very much like carrying a ton of brick on your back while scaling the heights of Mt. Everest. As we negotiated the steep, ascending and very rugged curves of the canyon on the way home, we surfaced from the arduous climb covered in dust from head-to-toe, courtesy of the huge trucks carrying newly-harvested pineapple that always seem to suddenly zoom from behind us. At this point, I always entertain existentialist thoughts like, “what is the meaning of life”, or more precisely, “why am I even doing this”.

You emerge from the experience sounding like a philosopher.

Gad, those week-end cycling trips in Bukidnon were a blast. I miss those days.

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