Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Encounter enchantment

TWO or three sticks of cigarette, some coins or a candy or two suffice as peace offerings to unseen denizens of sylvan parts—the wilderness teems with beings the naked eye cannot behold.

So I told my son-in-law who wanted my company in a stab through Mt. Makulot in Cuenca, Batangas… on a day that I’ll be leaving off for the western hinterland parts of Mindoro for an agronomy project I’m tending to.

Years back, an Army buddy was doing routine patrol with his unit through the jungles of Palawan when he spotted a covey of wild doves roosting on a bough of a huge tree… he thought stringy game fowl flesh roasting on coals, sprayed half a clip off the hip, felled some birds… rushed to pick up those lean pickings here and there… then went triple time to catch up with his comrades trudging ahead.

He couldn’t catch up with his unit… saw them too distant, a blur of fatigues… beyond reach. He let out a lung-busting yell… fired off a few rounds… they ignored him, kept tramping on through the bushes.

Growing frantic, he remembered an old-timer’s counsel about peace offerings to unseen denizens of such forbidding precincts as forests, pastures, any howl of wilderness.

He unlatched a bandolier of 5.57 ammo on his chest, reverently laid it on the ground, and begged forgiveness for his misdeed… closed his eyes in mumbled prayer. He saw his companions an arm’s length away, each one puzzled at his odd actions.

He knew he was forgiven.



Over the years, I’ve had two or three of my kids in tow trekking into forbidding sylvan parts of Makiling and the Sierra Madres… gathering wildlings, collecting seeds, replanting trees, or simply doing hands-on lessons in natural history, mountaineering… jungle survival.

We’ve had run-ins with these unseen denizens, encounters with enchantment soaking up the fierce ambiance of terrain gone amuck, trails leading off to surprises.

The most damage we went through was contusions, nicks on the skin and shins, bruises… one time a nest of pig wasps went all-out on acupuncture practice on my head… rarely I turn swell-headed but this was one instance when waspish biochemistry flooded my head… to stimulate certain nerve centers in the brain, it turns out.

The trade-off: an unseen must have taken fancy to a curved blade we brought with us… we’ve mapped out a grid on the area we spent the night for a fine-tooth comb search on the missing article, found no trace of it… it turned up two years later, rusted, within the grid in which we’ve combed.

A mountaineer never asks for a level playing field… but there are dimensions beyond plain sight that can be discerned with insight, with the heart.

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