Friday, January 12, 2007

Storytelling in Climbing

At the onset, I declared I will not write about the Talim climb which I helped organize. After all what is telling about a 2 ½ hour climb to the summit at 436 M ASL, an hour of FX ride from EDSA Central to Binangonan and another hour of boat ride from the wharf to Janosa.

Nine of us traversed the long stretch of Talim Island from North to South and crossed the two towns of Binangonan to Cardona trekking through Barangays Janosa and Lambac with no particular record breaking nor breakthrough moments that March 4 and 5. Each one spent only about P 150.00 round trip.

I wouldn’t I said until I spotted these quotations on storytelling.

Kate Mitchoff (2005), an American librarian suggests from the quote “Storytelling is humanity’s oldest form of literacy.” that each human is born with the ability to use verbal communication to teach, explain, and entertain. The oral description of events, either real or imagined, is the practice of storytelling.

Storytelling is technically defined as the art of portraying in words, images, and sounds what has happened in real or imagined events. The oldest forms of storytelling were oral: spoken words told from one person to another in an effort to communicate a message or a feeling.

Reynolds Price (Akkadine Press) an author writes that the need to tell and hear stories is essential after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive though without love or home but none in silence leading to storytelling.

I will not write about the thrill of trekking on a cool windy weekend nor of the silence in the summit but the enjoyment of listening to the storytelling at the socials and during the meals.

Who wouldn’t treasure these precious times when Dexter started off the night with the 7 days of paranormal at Madjas while Larry, Cathy, Errol, Therence, Mike and Olga were cooking. He with Larry, Dom and Ding was on a special mission to “feel the forces” of nature in Antique with a psychic and a medium looking for a missing climber. He narrated the first two days of the journey citing the fairies and the dwarfs in animated body language until the story abruptly ended with the indoctrination of a revolutionary group.

He then followed it up with another first hand experience of the most recent search and rescue operations at St. Bernard Leyte turning a tragic moment into a light talk. Revealing anecdotes were detailed citing incidences like imported sniffing dogs can only detect life forms only within 3 meters from the surface and only for 30 minutes and the Taiwanese needing total silence when they operate their sensors to detect life forms below the soil. Americans on the other hand came with a fully backed up Logistics from air support to a well balanced food supply whereas our very own Armed Forces do not even have bottled water at hand. He showed admiration for the Baguio miners who can systematically dig up long tunnels in hours. Stories were punctuated by unexplainable behaviors of volunteers under the influence and highly dramatic and sensational reports of internationally exposed alpine climber.

Before he gave up the floor for other dominant storytellers as Larry, Mike, Errol and Cesar, he transported us to Halcon in another search and rescue operations where he highlighted the dynamics of the various rescue team operations and the interactions with the local government, the 505th and the native Mangyans. Instead of feeling sorry for the victim, we took the narration in stride without the sad feeling.

Our narrator was not really teaching, entertaining nor explaining but partly doing everything. We the listeners did not care what details were real and imagined. What mattered was we were so involved with the stories as if we were there with him. He had the floor because we, too were polite and as Cesar said, “if there is a bangkero, we do not interrupt, we wait for our turn.” Cesar waited for the next morning to narrate his own story.

Larry had to just inject his chronicle on how in February 2001 he, with Danny, Bob and Wilbert reached the summit from the East side after our failed first attempt. Our discovery of Suso was a result of just asking ourselves from Sucat Expressway what’s on top of the island?

While our bangkero shared with us themes that were not ordinary, the rest of us were equally mesmerized with the short tales happening at the sidelights. Everyone broke into spontaneous laughter when we recalled if Larry was frying the bacon with cooking oil when checked by Cathy, or if Therence did not burn the tapa even with the strict supervision of Errol, or if Mike was not spilling the boiling water under the guidance of Olga. Cesar’s way of story telling the following morning was not just in words but in love songs that dated back in the 60’s revolving around the subject on what else but relationship. The presence of Therence was sufficient to trigger a new wave of stories revolving around the Americans from their food ration and intervention. Discussion led to division but was amicably settled when Nalgene issuance for volunteers was taken up.

Reaching the peak to these passionate climbers seemed no longer enough. It had to be capped with a satisfying meal featuring spicy Bicol Express, authentic pasta and relaxed interesting socials full of stories and liquor. It was the spontaneity of the story telling of the co climbers that brought the activity to utmost fulfillment. This Talim traverse had its particular charm brought about by the beauty of the island, started off with the cheerful FX driver, the accommodating banca operator, the hospitable folks of both Janosa Binangonan and Lambac Cardona and the fine company of affectionate friends. Even as we closed our adventure, we were treated to an exciting basketball match by the boys of Lambac while waiting for our banca ride. As we sailed towards Cardona, the flock of gulls somersaulting for fish for about an hour behind our boat was an unexpected visual treat. The middle aged jeepney driver that drove us to the other town of Rizal too had an interesting tale on his collection of heavy metal loud music.

Like a story which has a beginning and middle, it had to end. The ending was grand as Danny, a rated tri-athlete hosted lunch and another round of socials in his neat house in Angono. As our most gracious host, the birthday celebrant with his wife and brother Junior attended to practically all our needs. The discussion at the round table that centered on men and women in a relationship over draft beer, fried itik and pancit is in itself another rich source of material for another story.

Trekkers make fine storytellers because the experiences they go through in climbs merit narrating. Each moment is an involvement. For these reasons alone, they are almost always alive. There certainly is no silence in their company.

Before I end,
What story will Dexter make again to those he left behind in the city last weekend?
What story is Cesar making about the rain that delayed our return trip?
What story will Mike report to his office about the cell phone he lost in the taxi cab?
How do we say thank you to all those who made this event truly a memorable one?
What story will Andrew tell? This we have to hear.

Until the next episode.

Overhead in a typical pre climb assembly,
“Anong dala mo?
‘Tent and stove ‘dre.
‘Ako naman tubig at bigas
‘Ayos, sagot ko na ang kwento.”

"A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens--second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day's events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths."
-A Palpable God, (1997) by Reynolds Price (Akkadine Press)

Chito Razon 7 March 2006

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