Thursday, November 23, 2006

Lessons from a Bagobo Horseman


Just a few hours ago, I learned that during life's most precarious moment, no one is coming to your aid. Except for the advise of a wise horseman, you're on your own. Alone.
I was on horseback for the first time in years, looking down a deep ravine where foaming rapids takes its course more than a hundred feet or so below. The road we were about to negotiate was full of slippery granite stones and muddy craters formed by hooves of horses that have been treading this route before. The only other way out of Tudaya---a hinterland sitio of Santa Cruz town barangay of Sibulan where the Bagobo-Tagabawas live, was through a kilometer climb of another (and deeper) ravine at the other side, a route that was bad for uninitiated knees like mine.
So, I looked down again upon the promise of the road below me, a panorama so beautiful it can make you cry, but my eyes instead took in the image of the cliff precariously hanging near its slippery edge.
"Will I ever get out of here alive?" I asked myself but as I did so, the horse had sunk its left hoof in a soft bed of mud, lurching its body forward so suddenly that it briefly threw me out of balance. I shrieked.
"Hold on! Hold on--and don't ever jump!" said the horseman behind me, with a stiff authority of a scoutmaster. "Jumping off a horseback is a dangerous thing!"
He is a Bagobo-Tagabawa, but his Bisaya is good enough. He is such a small man, one could easily mistake him for a child, but his eight year old son is walking along beside him and so does his 10 year old daughter while he carries my backpack to allow me to concentrate. He said my load is much lighter than the 12 kilos he used to carry for Mt. Apo mountaineers."Always remember," he said, as the horse reaches the grassy spaces in between the boulders, "When negotiating with steep roads like this one, carry your body opposite the slope's direction. That will keep the balance. Then, if the horse makes sudden movement, just hold on, everything will turn out right. Unless the horse's body already lies crumpled on the ground, don't jump. Jumping off the horse back while the horse is negotiating a difficult trail is dangerous."
"Allow the horse freedom to make decisions. The beast is familiar with the trail and knows what to do better than you do. Keep the rein just to keep it from jumping off the cliff but reining it in most of the time, will limit its freedom of movement, hence, impedes its progress. (TO BE CONTINUED)

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