Over the weekend, I missed out running in the Brooks Run Happy. A First Balfour officemate had me registered in the 21-km run, but I had to engage in a more important family concern. You see, my siblings and I brought our father home to Iriga City last June 2. He wanted to be in his hometown to rest and enjoy in peace the last few weeks or months of his time here on earth in the company of his kinfolk in the place where he was born.
|A road all to myself in the foothills of Mt. Iriga|
While there in Iriga, amidst the cloudy weather brewing, I took the opportunity to make myself happy by running. And the running venue I chose was a place I have been longing to run --- the road running thru the foothills of Mt. Iriga.
The map of Iriga City will show that if I turn left from our house and run the National Road for half a kilometer and then turn left again at the road which serves as the border between our barangay of San Agustin with that of the neighboring barrio of San Isidro, I will be on my way to fulfilling a dream to run thru the western foothills of Mt. Iriga, a dormant volcano whose peak has an elevation of 1,140 meters above sea level. This road is actually a national secondary road that passes thru the barrios of Perpetual Help, Sta. Teresita, Sta. Maria, San Pedro, Niño Jesus, Sagrada and San Ramon. I had passed thru these barrios in my grade school years, but I was riding a Toyota Tamaraw, riding along with my Augustinian nun-aunt, who was on her way to her missionary work with the Aetas of San Pedro. This time, my dream was to traverse these parts self-propelled by my running.
|Map of Iriga City and its roads|
And fulfilling a dream I did come Sunday morning of June 3. I set out at 8:30am from the driveway of our Vranchlaw house in San Agustin to the national secondary road. What distance would I do? I figured I could do 5 kms up the hills in close to an hour and down the same 5 kms in close to half an hour. An hour and a half is sufficient time for me not to be noticed as missing from the house by my parents, especially my dad, so as not to unduly alarm them.
|The Vranchlaw driveway, my starting point|
The first kilometer was still relatively flat, and I was passing thru San Agustin to my left and San Isidro to my right. I could see quite a handful of concrete mansions sprouting up along these two barrios, a testament to the progressive purchasing power of the remittances from abroad.
The second kilometer made me start to feel the incline of the road as I was about to enter the barangay of Perpetual Help or “Parina” for short. I was entering mountain barrio territory. Prudence being the better part of valor, I decided to adopt a 4:1 Galloway. The places around me got greener and the asphalt road began to show some red splatters. What the red splatters maybe? I did not have to wonder long for as I neared an old man with a stick and a young teenager with a bolo by his side, the both of them simultaneously spat out something red on the road. Oh yeah. Some things never changed and in the mountains, such a constant are men chewing on betel nut. For the taga-bukid (men of the mountains), the favorite narcotic is not mary jane or shabu but betel nut (in the local vernacular “mama’on”) which conveniently is not a banned substance.
The third kilometer saw me pass the Iriga North Central School in Perpetual Help with its classroom buildings all painted in yellow. No doubt the mountain barrios (at least in Iriga) are PNoy territory as they have been a bastion of Liberal Party supremacy since the days of two-party (LP vs NP) rule in our country. This mountain road is also a bastion of dogs which are not accustomed to seeing a man running on the road. The natural reaction of these canines is to conclude that a human being running is a thief and thus worthy of pursuit. Thus, the sensible thing to do when you see a pack of canines on the road is to stop the running and automatically go for the walk part of the Galloway.
|Iriga North Central School. The slope of Mt. Iriga is visible at the background|
By the fourth kilometer, I was already passing thru the archway signifying my entry to Sta. Teresita. Here I encountered a fork on the road. The sign on the road indicated that if I chose the road to my left, I would be going thru the barrios of San Rafael, Cristo Rey, San Vicente, Sta. Isabel, Sta. Cruz and San Andres. This was not the road for me as the road itself showed a downhill tendency. The road for me was the road to my right, which would pass thru the mountain barrios I mentioned at the start of this article. It was the road for me as it was seemingly the road less travelled. I took the right road and continued my run which evolved into a jog and then a trudge. The road was getting steeper and the place surrounding the road got greener still.
|A Fork on the Road. I took the road to the right. The road less travelled.|
|Bicolano Penguin on the fork of the road|
The kilometer marker, signifying my fifth, was in front of the Paaralang Elementarya ng Sta. Teresita. A few hundred meters before the public school was the Parish Church of St. Therese of Lisieux. Seeing this church and hearing a Sunday mass ongoing, I improved my trudge into a canter. The running pace of the Bicolano Penguin could be spurred on by inspiration of both the divine and human kind. Hahaha....Seriously, it was inspiring for me to see a parish church in these parts. For a long time, these mountain barrios were served by the lowland parish of Our Lady of Fatima. Now, a parish church in Sta. Teresita and another one in Sagrada. As I went for my u-turn in front of the public school, I looked at my Timex and it read 58 mins. I was on pace to finish my mountain run in close to 1 hour and 30 mins. More importantly, no text or call on my cell phone which meant no emergency in our house.
|St. Therese of Lisieux Parish Church|
|Mababang Paaralan ng Sta. Teresita|
Coming down from Sta. Teresita to San Agustin was a relatively fast one for me. Downhill means less Galloway walk breaks for me. I think I covered the 5-km downhill portion in less than 40 minutes as my watch read 1 hour 34 minutes when I reached our house. We could say it was a breeze downhill, but I did recall an incident which topped all the wonderful things I experienced in my running in the foothills of Mt. Iriga. This incident was that of a small boy, perhaps 7 years or 8 years old, running after me as I was on my way out of Sta. Teresita. I did not know why he was running after me, but I guess he ran faster than I as he was able to catch up with me. When he was by my side, he reached out for my hand and said “Bisa po” (or in Tagalog “Mano po.”). I had no choice but to give out my hand and enjoy this most respectful of human contacts.
Civility and respect. They are very much alive in the foothills of Mt. Iriga. I certainly will be coming back for more running in these hills. Who knows, I might invite a few 83neans and friends for some cool running all the way to the town of Buhi via the same mountain road that goes around Mt. Iriga/Mt. Asog.
As my Canadian-based nephew would say, “Wicked.” Let the bootlegging begin.
After running for 10 kms in the foothills of Mt. Iriga, what did I do to reward myself? Easy. I enjoyed the tasty kinalas being served at the bakery of my grade school classmate, Rey Nadal, in front of the Mababang Paaralan ng San Nicolas. At Php 25, it is the best value meal you will ever have in these parts. Simple pleasures for the "wicked" things I do.
|Tasty kinalas with coke|