During the World War II, the Americans built an antenna on top of one of these mountains our guide now called Radar 1, 2, and 3. These mountains are located in Yating, Pilar, Capiz in Panay island, Visayas, Philippines. Yating is the barangay right before Tabun-acan where the Banog Mountaineers (Banog) climbed its second mountain which was behind the mountains Banog first climbed.
Aside from getting caught without sunlight on a mountain unprepared, Banog fears only the putyokan, that local bee, and amomoong, that type of bee that doesn’t produce honey. Unlike badiyangan and alingatong, those itchy plants, we at all cost vowed to avoid getting near putyokan or amomoong’s hive. But should we come near them without our notice and they started chasing us, “amakang, amaka, diyos amay, diyos anak” is the chant to drive them away. But even with this chant, we used a long and perhaps more difficult route to Radar 1 and 2 because the shorter one has a hive of amomoong on a tree. Besides, we only use our superpowers sparingly–only for unavoidable life and death circumstances. Now that you know the chant, I hope you become responsible too. Legend says it doesn’t work if you directly challenge the amomoongs and putyokans merely to try the chant.
From the house of Brgy Captain Carlie Dumali, the mountains were only three dangaw in length. “We want to traverse all the peaks,” I said. So, Capt. Carlie gave us Juanito Dumagpi as our guide.
Juanito was born on February 1, 1957. He was about 5 feet tall, and very lean. “At 60, I haven’t seen a doctor yet,” he proudly declared as he puffed a cigarette on our way up to Radar. He had 4 children, all dead except the 24-year-old deaf-mute, Hellen, who lives with him and his wife Jocelyn. Hellen is the mother of three children whose father Juanito nearly hacked to death, had Helen not parried his hand. His child was crying but instead of bringing milk, he brought liquor. “How did they end up together, in the first place?” we asked. Juanito was working and Helen’s mother was harvesting palay. Helen was left to herself.
We were silent, shocked by his story. “I sued him with the help of my ama,” he continued. “And he decided to marry her. But he did not give support for his children so I ended up supporting them.” Under our Revised Penal Code, a rapist can escape criminal prosecution and possible conviction by marrying his victim.
Helen, according to Juanito, is a responsible mother. She helps him in the farm and she takes care of her children. We met Helen and Jocelyn in their house to get Juanito’s bolo on our way up to the mountains. We passed by his banana and cassava plants. Sometimes, he said, he earns a thousand pesos from 7 bulig bananas. Yesterday, he sold a sack of his papaya harvest. At present, he is raising 70 chickens, some of them we passed along the way to his house.
Juanito used to be a body guard carrying a baby armalite and a 9 mm pistol tucked in his waist. He also used to be a member of CAFGU. Recently out from jail, he was appointed as Brgy. Yating Tanod by the Brgy. Captain Carlie Dumali.
He was recently jailed for the death of a person. That person was jailed and Juanito was blamed for it. The guy trespassed Juanito’s house and attempted to shoot every one while eating. Juanito was able to wrestle the gun and the guy was beaten to death. Juanito and his relatives surrendered to the barangay captain. He was jailed in Pilar Police Station for three days but stayed there for four months to cook and serve as errand boy for the policemen, who gave him a monthly salary. He would also accompany the police in barangay fiestas and to ask for fish from fish dealers who passed by Pilar, Capiz. At around midnight, they would station themselves in the highway along Magsaysay street and stop fish dealers to “ask” for fish.
But he hates one or two policemen who paddled him, hitting his soles, so as not leave any mark.
The difficulty of the trek is alleviated by stories of the guides whose job is not simply to guide their guests but more often, to also entertain, encourage, and motivate. In Mt. Marami, we believed our guide when he said our route down will take only two hours. After four hours we still could not see the highway. We prefer an honest guide like Juanito. I’m on a mountain and would like to reach its summit, or need to go back down. A good guide does not lie about the distance; being forthright is the only way to motivate and encourage trekkers.
Juanito says let’s take this dangerous route because I’m old and I don’t care if I died. We protested not only because we were younger, but also because he would give us so much trouble retrieving his body and dragging it down. He laughed and told us to leave him there, if that happened. Thank God we all came down safe.
As in Hinulugan Mountain, there was no trail in Radar. What was abundant in Radar mountains were the alingatong and badiyangan plants, the hamtik or large ants, and thorny vines, and the uway or rattan. By reading mountain climbing websites, I learned that mountaineers grade the mountain’s difficulty from 1-9, 9 being the most difficult to climb. I thought about how mountaineers evaluate the difficulty of the terrain and give their rating. Compared to all the mountains I climbed, this was the most difficult for me because half the time I felt itchy from alingatong plants, and pain from hamtik bites, despite my rash guard and my socks.
We started our ascent at past 6 am, and stopped for lunch near the summit of Radar 1 at past 12 noon.
I was seated below Juanito. Sonny, Fred, and Dodoy Labud grilled our bangus for lunch. As I stretched my legs and rested my head on my bag, I saw how dirty my pants and shoes were. I closed my eyes and let Juanito’s words lull me to sleep while Banog and Anong were listening to more of his stories.
After lunch Juanito instructed us to shred the banana leaves where we put our fish. A taglugar might form a cup out of the leaves, put water in them, and hit the leaves. That act, according to Juanito would upset our stomach.
At about 1:30 pm, we left Radar 1 to head for the summit of Radar 2. We had no more time to go back and up the summit of Radar 1. We were passing through Radar 2 and decided to seek the summit, which we accomplished by 2:30 pm. We erected a pole with a flag to mark our achievement. On the summit, we planned our route down the mountain and back to the barangay captain’s house. From the summit facing the direction we were going was a cliff. We would go down from where we went up, veer to the left, past the side of Radar 3, and back down to the barangay proper.
After about 15 minutes appreciating the view of nearby mountains from the summit, we started our descent. After an hour, we crossed a bungol (Hiligaynon for deaf because there’s not much water and hardly any water) river and we noticed we were going back to Radar 1, or opposite our planned route. Juanito had to climb a tree to reorient himself. We turned around, crossed the same bungol river and started veering to the left. At 3:30 pm, we were still in the forest and I was panicking. We only had about 1.5 hours of daylight, we must hurry. At this point, Fred took charge in leading the group down the mountain. After an hour, we were facing a cliff. Fred was tired. We had only about 30 minutes of daylight. Fred asked Sonny to take charge, and we clambered by the side of the cliff. We also treaded the river with tiny running water. At 5 pm, we finally found the trail back to the barangay. At past 6 pm, we were back in the barangay captain Carlie Dumali’s house.
After Osama Bin Laden was gunned down in a room inside a walled compound in Pakistan, a book “No Easy Day” written by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer came out. Mark was supposed to be a member of the Seal Team 6 who took out Osama. I learned, among others, that the Seals had erected a replica of the compound and trained daily. The raid was watched by Pres. Barack Obama, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the President’s team live in the Situation Room. But how do you become part of that elite and deadly military force? You have to endure a rigorous test designed to destroy your will and incapacitate your body. The theory is, when a person is tired, he doesn’t care anymore about procedures. He starts to commit mistakes. And in the Seals, mistakes will put not only your life and the life of your team members in danger, but the very mission which you seek to accomplish.
I always put that theory in mind: when I’m tired, as what happened in climbing Radar Mountains, I should be more mindful to at least lessen the mistakes I make. After eight hours of walking with only our lunch as our break, and suspending the desire to scratch, I was tired. Yet for fear that the night would catch us in the mountains, we hurried down. Gladly though, I began to properly descend cliffs and stones sitting down, rather than standing up as I am wont to do when I still have the energy. And slipped, I did many times. But by those slips, I realized my back pack is not only for the things I carry but also to protect my back and my backbone from falls.
The Banog Mountaineers would like to thank Konsehal Angela Joy Alfaro-Tupas and her husband and my pañero Rexter Tupas for the advance notice to Brgy. Captain Carlie Dumali. He and Juanito, our guide, were ready when we arrived in Yating at 6 am on June 11, 2016. After coming down the mountains, Capt. Dumali also treated us to a merienda of crackers and softdrinks