The relief of good health has greeted me the following morning. A cascade of sunshine through the front window indicated the end of the series of sinister nightmares that haunted me in my troubled sleep. The nightmares of chasing that I have been trying to outlast have chased me all the way to this remote place in the mountains.
The nightmares of me being riddled with bullets riddled me with thoughts on what kind of fate that tomorrow has in store for me. However, as dismissive as ever, I have used the opportunity of the tranquil morning to negotiate more sleep. And gratefully, the nightmares were no more.
The hour hand has revolved around a quarter when I was jolted back into consciousness by the gentle knocks ringing across the metal gate as Kagawad Ryan was calling out my name. With squinting bloodshot eyes, I hurried down the stairs to welcome the good-willed kagawad. With him was a full bowl of leftover food for the dog that I was tending on for the past few days. The full bowl of leftover food has put the Pancit Malabon that I have been feeding to the dog in shame.
Our eyes feasted upon the dog’s gluttony as the dog quickly chowed his meal. Contrary to that, Kagawad Ryan was wondering why I was not taking my breakfast yet as the time was already closing noon. I explained to him that if I were to eat lots, I would be sleeping soon.
Being assured that I won’t be having meals frequently, he correctly assumed that I won’t be cooking food throughout the duration of my stay. He then informed me that he would be borrowing the LPG tank for a while. In response, as he passed through the empty living room – which he still assumed that I was sleeping in, I informed him that I relocated my living quarters into the 2nd storey.
Delighted by the fix that I have made, he asked me how I did it. One way or another, unnecessary questions led to unnecessary answers as I spilled to him that I was a licensed civil engineer, unable to tell him that it was just sheer luck when I fiddled with the circuit breakers.
“Civil Engineers are also skilled in electrical assemblies too, I presume,” he exclaimed.
I just nodded unenthusiastically as the recollection of my EEE 3 lectures 7 years ago made me want to sleep again just like back when I was listening to those Nerve-s-oothing lectures. The hyphenated compound word in the previous sentence was not an error.
My current situation, on the other hand, was entirely due to my error of judgment. That error has led me into being stranded in this barangay up in the mountains. Questions about my whereabouts were being asked by those who were worried, particularly my workmates and close friends.
Pintong Bukawe is a barangay that lies at the edge of Rizal Natural Park, the portion of the Sierra Madre mountain range that serves as the river basin for Marikina River. The thin stretch of land where Pintong Bukawe is situated serves as the eastern end of the Municipality of San Mateo. The neighboring town of Rodriguez (Montalban) is just situated downstream of a tributary river that originates from the highlands of Antipolo City. The tributary river eventually leads to the famous Wawa Dam which is situated 3 kilometers northwest between the spiking igneous and limestone formations that constitute the mountains of Pamintinan and Binakayan, both along with Hapunang Banoi and Susong Dalaga being famous and relatively easy hiking spots.
Pintong Bukawe also hosts some of the summer vacation spots, relatively undiscovered by tourists. Springs, which serve as the water supply of the barangay, lead into streams that cascade vertically at some points, forming waterfalls which brings respite against the growing summer heat. Residents often enjoy a dip or two in the relatively rocky river below which can be accessed by the going straight to the end of the barangay road.
Unfortunately, I won’t be having my chance to take a dip to seek refuge from the onset of summer since movement is mainly restricted due to the ongoing enhanced community quarantine. The restriction of movement lead into a monotonous schedule which I have followed as the days quickly passed by with me getting accustomed to the way of living here.
I often wake up around 8 am, only to negotiate more sleep until 11 am. By 11 am, I will be on my laptop, either typing some of my write-ups, doing my thesis, or making computer programs meant for Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and failure simulations. This write-up is for sure a product of that period of productivity, if I can call it such.
The heat of the afternoon searing the window beside my bed will compel me to take a bath around 2 pm. I would then negotiate few minutes of power nap after bath. Since layers of cloth will just nullify the refreshing feeling of taking a bath, I often nap in the afternoon wearing only my underwear.
Around 3 pm, when the sun becomes a little bit merciless, I take a stroll outside, of course with my clothes on while also wearing a fabric face mask. Breathing becomes a little bit tedious as it feels like I am having my Hamon training similar to that of Joseph Joestar in Battle Tendency, or for normies, similar of that of Kamada Tanjiro’s breathing exercises in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.
The stroll begins with a climb over a 45-degree inclined road that leads to the barangay road. I would be then heading southward past the barangay hall where the barangay personnel execute the guidelines for community quarantine humanely with compassion and competence. Civilian movement is permitted in some extent, allowing stores and carinderias to still operate, even though they are still strict in implementing the social distancing measures.
Apart from the stores and eateries that are still reassuringly open, the barangay road also hosts headquarters of many religious sects as Pintong Bukawe, with its remoteness and seclusion, is also known as a place for religious refuge. Pintong Bukawe is mostly famous for having the largest stone tablet for the Ten Commandments in the Philippines. The house that I am staying on was also a place where missionaries often stayed.
The religiosity of the place brings sweat that falls across my sideburns which might indicate my soul burning inside. Or maybe it is just still soaring hot.
I finally make it to my destination: the signalan. The place is the only point in Pintong Bukawe where phone signals are existent. Barangay officials, with constant reminders of social distancing, permit people to hang around the place to make phone calls and access the internet via mobile data.
As I upload and publish new content (or some pending backlog) in my blog, I look far to the spinning turbines of Pililla wind farm, then to the mountainous Talim Island which is situated at the middle of Laguna Lake which is also visible. Objects across Laguna Lake can also be seen from my vantage point here at Pintong Bukawe. The elusive Mt. Makiling which rarely shows up to those in Laguna can be seen here in its entirety.
Overshadowing Mt. Makiling in size is Mt. Banahaw, along with the neighboring Mt. Cristobal, can also be seen. Seeing Banahaw reminds me that I was supposed to hang out on my friend’s billiard hall in Lucban, Quezon, if the community quarantine didn’t take effect. There are two billiard halls present at Pintong Bukawe, both temporarily closed because of community quarantine.
Alarmingly, some vital aspects of the barangay have also begun to temporarily close. The jeepneys bearing the sign “Cogeo – P. Bukawe”, which are Pintong Bukawe’s main means for commerce, ceased operations, as ordered by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) tasked by the government to handle the community quarantine.
Tough times lie ahead.