RAIN was on and off on Manunggal peak Saturday (March 14) but it fell a bit heavily early night. Situations like that always bring in the cold and, on the campsite grounds, mud. Fog was thick and made the electric bulbs on high posts casting light on the tens of tents below seem brighter. Entertainment night was momentarily put on hold.
That afternoon, my six-year-old son Edison Khan was the first to notice the water that trickled into the bottom of our tent. He was also more alert than his father, picking up some of our things, like the unrolled sleeping bag, to block the water flow and prevent it from wetting the entire tent bottom. “Ato ning alihan, Pa,” he said nonchalantly. I smiled.
I had reservations about having the kid in Manunggal, noting that when I brought him to a few of my early morning jogging sessions he would lose his focus and badger me to bring him back home. But he sounded determined this time. His Mama Edizza also said that bringing him to the trek was better than him watching Cartoon Network all day.
When the rain continued to fall, I began to worry about the havoc my failure to bring the tent’s made-to-order fly for that trip would bring. But Barok had, by that time, decided not to pitch his tent and stay with William instead. Realizing my predicament, he let me borrow the fly of his unused tent. I finally had a shield from the trickling water.
That lessened a bit the difficulties we had early that night when rain fell again. But because one side of the tent was still wet, I could not stretch my body fully and sleeping, especially with the cold, was difficult. I sometimes would sit, watch Khan-khan sleep, then check with my flashlight if the water strayed into the area where he was lying.
Manunggal is often like this, cold and wet. But that did not deter campers from going out that night when the rain stopped falling. The band played until several minutes past midnight, accompanied by the dancing. I was told Balamban Councilor Dave Karamihan, as usual, jammed with the campers. But I could not leave my child alone.
That morning, our group, which also included Nanding, Pompe and Vincent (a first timer), was already overlooking the campsite after walking half the length of the road from Kuros-kuros when the vehicle driven by Mayor Alex Binghay passed us by. He invited us to eat lunch at the staff house. I also saw there my cousin Nigel Wenceslao.
Despite the occasional rain and the muddied grounds, we did stroll the campsite, bump into familiar faces and joke around. RTC Executive Judge Meinrado Paredes was there, as expected, with his big tent. Lope, lawyer Erwin Heyrosa and their group arrived later than us, and they immediately plunged into the usual Manunggal fun.
Barok had observed the dwindling ranks of Manunggal trek veterans. This year, only five of us were in the group whose number reached 20 people in some past treks. I saw Darwin of CEBU, but not Jojo, Kikoy, etc. But there were new faces, including ex-Freeman girl Roselle. A former member of the Baywalk Bodies attracted attention.
But if Manunggal fun were to be described, it would be through the muddied concert-cum-disco site left behind by the campers Sunday morning (March 15). I surveyed that area briefly as we retraced our steps back to the main road. When we reached JY Square at noon, Khan-khan pulled me to a Jollibee branch there. He ordered one-piece chickenjoy and, to my surprise, additional rice. He was back.
(Photos to follow)