mind the now: the alpha and the omega

this might sound like a tall tale, but i actually almost blew up a PAL flight. after 6pm tuesday, nov the 8th, i checked in at the spanking new davao international airport with my huge 50+10 liter deuter act lite backpack, my lowepro S&F rover light backpack, my lowepro off trail 1 belt pack, and at least 3 other bags containing pasalubong, soiled clothes that don’t belong to me, and whatnots. everything went through the x-ray machine, and amid whispers among the security personnel that i was obviously a mountaineer, i proceeded to a corner of the departure area to repack my bag. carabiners, my tent poles, a trowel, my tent pegs, and many other things were hanging outside my pack or tucked into my side pockets, and i wanted to reduce my carry on baggage to only two, so i needed to stuff everything inside the backpack, which was already bursting at the seams. i characteristically opened a tarp where i could place my things, forgetting that the marble tiles at the airport are so much cleaner than the mountain floor. i opened my bag and voila! i discovered 6 unopened containers of lighter fluid just below my topload. i held them in my hands much like an innocent man holds the knife found beside a bleeding and dying person. to avert suspicion, i immediately summoned one of the porters and asked him to dispose of the containers.

“bawal yan ah,” the on-duty PNP personnel says and he suddenly took interest in what i was doing. i made an excuse that i had “just” come down from apo and had not the faintest idea what was in my pack. just gone down? haha. i was actually on my 13th day in mindanao! i continued repacking and i again discover that my two MSR fuel bottles still contain the extremely flammable liquid. out i go onto the parking lot and nonchalantly poured the contents onto the pavement. good thing davao has a strict no smoking in public law. i was the last to check in for the delayed flight so i guess security wasn’t as tight as when there was still sunlight. finally i’d reduced my things to one huge pack, a smaller pack, a beltbag, and a plastic bag containing my columbia soldotna hiking boots which won’t fit anywhere. i proceeded to having my bag loaded with instructions that it was fragile, and i walked towards the waiting area. i called my dad to say that i’d be boarding the aircraft i almost blew up in a while.

indeed, 13 days away from home is a long time. my legs were still itching from the countless infections i suffered along the slopes of mounts apo and matutum, and i had to fight the urge to scratch them. 13 days ago, the 27th of october, my saga on the southern island began with a trip to NAIAII. i picked up ava along the way, and our first debacle was the delayed flight. along with other AMCI folk flying via PAL, we settled in a corner of the departure area to plug in my altec lansings and listen to music. we sat just beside a trash bin. long after 4pm, we boarded our plane for the hour and half flight. we flew in to davao just as night fell. as the plane maneuvered towards the runway, the dazzling lights that was davao presented itself like an organized, well-planned grid. touch down, and i finally got to experience the new terminal which opened only last year.

at the arrival area, the folks who flew via air philippines were already there waiting for the carousel to spit out their baggage. ava and i head on out to the parking lot and decided to go to niel’s house on a cab. first order of business was dinner. niel’s gracious and unassuming lola prepared a sumptuous buffet. sasa’s longest buffet, if you ask me. i worried initially that it would be an all-vegetarian affair, but we were treated to really really good food (which included lots of meat) and lots of durian. it turns out that neil’s family is big time in davao, with a huge trucking business that spans all of mindanao, but as usual, niel appeared to be a bit unsure about just how big time they were. getting to the warehouse would be an ordeal for small cars since there are craters -- or as sir manny put it: lagoons -- on the road, wrought by the daily passage of trucks. it is not a wonder that niel’s lola has SUVs, one a ford expedition and the other a mitsubishi pajero, to deal with the road troubles. from there, we headed off to the guest house to repack, recharge, and review our reasons for wanting to take on a challenge as huge as mount apo. i shared a fold out bed with wency and bojo, and tried -- very vainly -- to drift into sleep. i worried a lot about the next four days, and where it would find me.
see told you. PAL likes delays. PAL=Plane Always Late. That's why I never take it. Lol. So terrorist, when are we getting together to hear the stories of Apo?