Friday Jeff and I and our cross country team had an end-of-the-year banquet at California Pizza Kitchen. It was the perfect end to the season. Because we outlawed soda all season, we decided to reward the kids for all their hard work by purchasing their first drink of the night. They absolutely loved it. We handed out silly awards, like “Never Sweats,” “Beast Mode,” “Mr. Fashion,” etc. The kids tried to guess which award would go to each runner, and they did a pretty excellent job guessing. It was a great way to reflect on all the highlights of the season. At the end of the year we’ll have an assembly for all athletes where we’ll give out the MVP awards. Fridays awards were just for fun. We wanted each runner to realize how special they were to the team, regardless of running abilities.
Our lone senior, Jessica, showed up with a giant box from Red Ribbon, a bakery chain in the Philippines. Inside was a GIANT cake that read “Let’s Go Razorback XC.” It was so sweet of her! She was our captain this year, which was ideal because she had the experience we didn’t. Had it not been for her, there would have been a lot of things that could have been missed or ended in disaster. For instance, she knew how dorms and showers worked at the schools, and she organized the ordering of team jackets. We’ll really miss having her around next year.
After dozens of pizzas and pasta dishes, about a case of soda, and 2/3 of a giant cake were consumed, the banquet — and our cross country season — came to an end.
Saturday a few of us decided to hike the Pamulaklakin Trail, which is just right outside our development. A native group called the Aetas live in the jungle and offer guided tours for a small fee. Craig, Brandon, Lauren, Jeff and I were feeling ambitious, so we decided on the 2-3 hour hike. Our guide was Rosario, a 57-year-old mother of six, all of four feet tall, if that. She showed us different plants and trees the Aetas use for medicines. There were leaves for bug bites, joint pain, and more. One tree produced leaves with undersides like velcro, which are used for camouflage. Rosario cut bamboo and made straws for us and cut thicker stalks of bamboo that were full of sweet water. She also cut smaller pieces of hollow bamboo, which could be pressed against your hands to make a whistling sound. Brandon was the only one of us who could actually make this work.
Different tree barks were also resourced for ailments. One kind of bark was used to make shampoo. Rosario cut off a chunk and took it down to the river where she soaked it and began rubbing. Instantly, a soapy foam emerged. Using this shampoo also helps keep bugs away. Why are we not bottling this and selling it?!
Rosario led us through the jungle, hacking away bamboo and vines with her machete. Maybe going at noon, the hottest part of the day, was a bad idea… every time we stopped to clear the trail mosquitos swarmed our bodies and ants started crawling up our legs. Aside from these “nuisances,” the hike was fantastic.
The Aetas live in the jungle, but don’t get any ideas about loin cloths and savagery. They dress just like we do and are often seen on the roads to Subic and Olongapo. Really, the only ways you can differentiate an Aeta from anyone else is their very curly hair, slightly darker skin, and short stature. And even these qualifiers aren’t guarantees that a person is an Aeta.
After hacking our way through the jungle, getting eaten alive by mosquitos, and sweating profusely, we emerged onto a simple dirt road, which, turning left, led back to the trail entrance. If we had gone right, Rosario explained, we would be about 45 minutes from the Aeta village. As much as we wanted to see the village, we were pretty exhausted and decided to come back another day for the village hike and a picnic. Rosario insisted we return so she could show us around and cook for us. Well, if you insist, Rosario… 🙂