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4 high school buddies hike for peace, nature

 

First posted 11:56pm (Mla time) April 17, 2006

By Delfin Mallari Jr.

Inquirer

 

Editor's Note: Published on Page A17 of the April 18, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

LUCENA CITY - They have been buddies since high school at the Ateneo de Naga University two decades ago.

 

But instead of holding a Holy Week reunion in their favorite pub and reminiscing about those rambunctious days amid endless mugs of beer, the four embarked on a long hike from Calamba City to the city of their roots, Naga -a 450-km stretch of the Maharlika and Quirino highways - to deliver a strong message for peace and the environment.

 

 

"We believe that the rape of nature is also the cause of raging conflict in our midst. In this sense, peace and environment are two related issues," said Edgar Ramores, spokesperson of the group.

 

"The rape of nature and our natural resources is not only the cause of man-made calamities that have ravaged us but also the cause of poverty, dislocation and other social ills," he said in an e-mailed statement to the Inquirer.

 

"To work, therefore, for peace is to see that justice is done to our environment, to our nature."

 

The highway trekkers and members of Ateneo de Naga's High School Class 1987 are Ramores, who has a steel fabrication and aluminum glass business; Michael Cuesta, a researcher at the Social Science Research Center-Ateneo de Naga; Al Calara, a banker; and Quintin Barachina, a telephone company employee.

 

Calara and Barachina are members of the United Trekkers Club.  Ramores and Cuesta are based in Naga, while the other two have settled in Manila.

 

"We are brothers in several organizations.  Magkukumpare. We are one in many things, including the environment and social issues," Ramores described the group.

 

Preparation

 

They started preparing for the hike only in February, exchanging information through the Internet and mobile phone text messages. They walked 3-5 km a day, while two of them had climbed two mountains in Cavite.

 

"The thought of just basking in the friendship helped us prepare mentally," Ramores said.

 

At first, the group planned to start their adventure at the Luneta a week earlier, but they decided to take off instead in Calamba. Ramores and Cuesta, both coming from Naga, would meet their two Manila-based friends there.

 

On April 8, the group hit the road at Turbina at 4 a.m. "There was no departure ritual, just a general orientation of do's and don'ts. No send-off party. No back-up vehicles. But we did have a monitoring team checking on us at a particular time," Ramores said.

 

Sporting colorful gears, jungle hats and shades, the hikers took the left side of the road for safety. In their backpacks were mist spray, sun blocks, two-way radios, mobile phones, digital still and video cameras, dry-fit shirts, and a map.

 

Their shirts read: "When it rains, our tears pour. Save our forests."

 

Quitting

 

The punishing task was expected to bring great discomfort. "Aching toes, soles, feet, thighs, legs, backs, shoulders; source of water, and the heat! Too much heat!" Ramores said in an e-mail.

 

A day after embarking on the journey along asphalt and concrete roads, where speeding vehicles posed real danger, two of them thought of quitting.

 

"It was drowned out by the outpour of support. We received text messages and phone calls daily from friends, family, and people we don't know personally?all expressing support in our walk. It was very inspiring," said Ramores.

 

"There was no backing out. We already made it this far," he said as the group spent the night in Gumaca town in Quezon.

 

Ritual

 

Every morning, they would wake up early and take a quick bath. "We teased each other and traded jokes. We reviewed and revised plan, stops and maps," Ramores said.

 

"We walked in [twos]. We did a lot of pictorials. We smelled the flowers, sang in a makeshift videoke bar, exchanged banter or struck a conversation with roadside storekeepers and played with grass."  Roadside eateries offered heavy meals that included rice, vegetables and fish.

 

"We had eaten and tasted almost all fruits we saw on the way - pakwan (watermelon), buko (coconut), apple, caimito (star apple), melon, banana, mango, Ponkan oranges," Ramores said.

 

"We started our walk before sunrise, and rested before sunset (for security reasons). We didn't encounter rain. But our decision was to walk, come rain or shine," he said.

 

In Lucena City and Gumaca, the group rested in a hotel. In Tagkawayan and Sipocot, friends offered shelter for the night.

 

Sponsors

 

Serving as sponsors of the Holy Week trek were friends, mountaineers, the Kaiba News and Features, and De Naga Pawnshop.

 

Ramores said he thought of his family with every step. To kill boredom, he picked up assorted items along the route?battered coins, packs of cigarettes, a hat, stainless screw knot and marbles.

 

"After we reach the finish line, I want to go home, kiss my wife and children, and eat lots of fruits and fish. We will have a reunion with other friends later," he said.

 

Finally, they arrived in Naga at around 7 p.m. on Wednesday and were welcomed by families and friends.

 

"Our firm belief in our advocacies is our motivation.  We can do something as grueling for what we believe in. We want to encourage/challenge others to do something in their own ways," Ramores stressed.

 

Social message

 

In a statement, they explained that as they tried hard to reach their goal, they also intended to draw inspiration from their actual encounters with different places and people as subjects of future literary pieces.

 

Good literary work develops through time and should have a real brush with reality in so far as one intends it to be realistic and scientific, Ramores said.

 

"The walk has in mind a compilation of literary works as output. All forms may be used, such as poem, essay, short story (including children's), song, tigsik and novel," Cuesta said, adding: "Although literary work particularly refers to written form, we do not exclude other artistic and cultural expressions such as painting, photography, and the like."

 

Barachina explained that they were not fanatic writers.

 

"We are not romancing the road. We would walk just enough to be inspired and we would leave half of our energy to reflect, discuss and write," he said. "During the day, we were like laboratory scientists observing our specimens, experimenting and come night time, we would write our observation report."

 

"We are not professional writers, just walkers trying to write some sense - some social sense," Ramores

said.

 

For any query or further information, please contact Al Calara at 0917-842-4884, or Egay Ramores at

0919-300-3612.

Click here to view the photos of our journey: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/alcalara/album?.dir=/561cscd&.view=t 

 

 

Related Stories:

A Long Walk for Peace and Environment

Interview with the Walkers for Peace

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KAIBA News & Features, Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.  Revised: April 25, 2007 06:52 AM