Successful 2007 Talakudong Adventure Race!

High altitude activity causes brain damage

September 26, 2007 Comments Off on Bone Doc and Team TAMAC goes Penek Busay! TAMAC, Wilderness Medicine & Injuries

Bone Doc and Team TAMAC goes Penek Busay!


“Maupod ko sa Penek Busay Dokie, upod ka man? (I’m going to the Digos river trek Dokie! Are you coming with us?)”

These excited words of Sir Joy surprised me because a day before I never thought we’d push trough with this trek.

Cge ah! Upod ta! (Yes we’re going!)

I bewilderingly answered. And then I sprang into a frenzied “rush-packing”. It’s 9 PM and the climb is tomorrow. After all, our friend Onin already asked us to join this climb weeks before. He dangled this envious words in our ears “the river trek of our life”.

Dokie, tagbaw dyud ka! (said Onin in Bisaya)

There were so many reasons not to, but the temptation is so strong I’d probably regret my whole life if I’m not going with Team T.A.M.A.C. (Tacurong Mountaineers and Adventure Club) to Penek Busay!The fact that Team TAMAC is 80% in full force, its all the more exciting I thought.

Penek Busay” a Manobo term for “climb or trek the falls” is supposed to wow us with the 13 or so series of waterfalls, that runs from a mountain top towards the plains of Digos. The climb “Penek Busay” at Sitio Napan, Baranggay Goma Digos City is the first of its kind and will be held on annually after this. We are to river trek against the mostly slow, downstream current. I thought I should be part of this. TAMAC should be part of this event!

By 4 AM the next day we were at a bus stop waiting for our ride to Digos City. I felt like a zombie following a mountain soul. I’m still in disbelief I’m actually going to this climb!
We met the organizers at the Digos City Freedom Park; Digos Active Mountaineers headed by Joel and the City Tourism headed by Sir Jojo. There were four of us from TAMAC, Sir Joy, Chris and Ian. We were joined by our adopted TAMAC patron, Yayan. Then there is the hundred strong mountaineers joining from all over Mindanao.

When transportation finally arrived to bring around hundred plus climbers to the jump off, I was already thrilled with the excitement going around. I found myself inside a dump truck fully loaded with excited mountaineers, some I already met somewhere else. What was I doing here? I asked Yayan. She readily replied “biga gud”!

After a brief welcome program with the local officials and picture taking with fellow climbers at Baranggay Goma , we started the hike towards the river plank. This is an open trail leading to a shallow river that we cross gleefully. I silently aimed at counting the falls as I see them, not forgetting to take photos of each for documentation and leisure purposes.

This river is characteristically shallow along its main course, some areas going deep as the axilla of a person. In one river crossing we have to raise our bags higherwhen the river depth goes as chest deep. We were so happy to see organizers helping us along the way, giving ropes and assisting us in the dangerous trails and slippery river cross. I thought I survived some of the hardest trail because of them.

But the slippery boulders and sharp rock edges pose a danger to a careless trekker. At some point, we have to climb boulders with ropes and our bare hands. This was the first time I climb boulders that stood almost 90 degrees with my bare hands! There’s practically no foothold I can see! Again it was hard to believe I underestimated this climb. It was definitely no easy river trek. I cursed myself for not preparing for this trek. The stupid me…

Most of the falls, Like the Magkasilin Falls are of the block type with a little lagoon near the plunge pool that is idyllic for bathing. A few are plunge type that is could be as low as 5 feet to as high as 30 feet. There were two falls who I thought were multi step or tiered type. I lost count in awe for most of the 13 waterfalls ! I couldn’t resist the crystal clear and shallow plunge pool of some of this falls and jumped into it! If only I have one in my backyard. Life would have been so sweet…

Our group is always slow on climbs, taking time to take pictures and always enjoying our time together in the wilderness. Sir Joy is busy with his EOS 450, taking pictures on everything he can point his lens to. Ian always the eager guy, is in the lead group exploring areas first. Chris is the adventurous type, exploring crevices and trying out difficult trails and maneuvers. Yayan and I were just busy concentrating on our steps and footholds but quick to jump as camera poseurs! Team TAMAC is having fun!

Then an accident happened that changed my adventurous outlooks for the rest of my life. My sandal got tangled on a root part that blocked our way (no thanks to my 20/20 vision) and I tripped falling towards a sharp rocky floor! Since I already lost my balance and couldn’t regain my step, I decided to break the fall and protect my head, kneeling first and landing on my elbows. My two knees each got a 2 inch gaping laceration and were profusely bleeding! I moaned in agonizing pain! Suddenly the whole world around me stopped and I couldn’t hear any voices and or roaring waterfalls. I am in shock and going to pass out! I immediately sat down, drank water and applied firm pressure on the bleeding wounds with my bare hands. I was praying it wasn’t an open patellar or tibial fracture or I’ll be damned.

I saw the horror in my friends’ eyes! Here I was, the only doctor/surgeon in the climb, I got injured and is paper white pale literally.

I sat horrified, but I mustered some wry smile to lighten up the obvious concern in my friends’ faces. Turning back is no option since it would be a longer trek than just pushing through to the campsite. I was also too ego maniacal to call a rescue. This was not as bad as a cut I could get, but it hurts a lot. Besides, the danger is not on the cut itself but on a predilection towards another more serious injury.

I decided to push through with the climb. Pride, shame and love for the outdoor told me to push my physical endurance some more. Cry in pain but keep on. So I did. Chris went ahead to call for the medic ahead. We were almost 40 minutes away from the campsite. Sir Joy, Ian and Yayan stayed to help me out along the trail. Yayan was very much helpful, Sir Joy was so kind enough to “guard” me from behind should I again lost my balance. Ian went as our guide. It was getting dark and rain started falling.

Forty agonizing minutes later, I arrived at the campsite limping and dripping wet from rain. I couldn’t flex my knees. Everyone else is asking how my knees are. I liedokay” “kaya pa”. Onin and the staff already found us a site to pitch our tent. With their help I pitched my tent .I was so heartened by the tons of help I got from fellow mountaineers, who seeing me in pain and limping, offered to help pitch my tent, set up my site and gave their medical kits for my wounds This gave me energy to hang on and push my limits of pain some more. I’m going to repay their kindness by being strong and good in spirits. At least that I could do.

After I pitched tent, cooked our food (baked corned beef) and changed clothes, Yayan dressed my wounds. It was still bleeding and I barely can flex my knees. We decided to sleep early since it was raining hard outside and I wasn’t feeling good. I drank my pain medication and doze off, only to dream about quitting with the climb. I wonder what that meant. Maybe it was because the accident was so agonizingly traumatic for me. Or I was still in shock? Or Acute Mountain Sickness? Nah, where below 2,000 meters ASL.

When I woke up the next morning all I can feel is the stiff painful knees I have. I couldn’t get up and someone has to help me stand. I took this in jest and happily joked about it around if only to allay fears of me not being okay. I walked around tents meeting people and thanking those who helped me, exchanging stories of my serendipitous accident. My TAMAC buddies went on rappelling on the waterfall above. I was a splendid sight and I wanted to rappel too, but then I can’t even walk straight, much more rappel!

So after we ate our breakfast, I cleaned up our tent readying to go for the assault to the peak and head back to the jump off. We’re going to the peak and head back to the jump off using an open trail and with minimal river crossing. I was relieved. This is a favor to my wounded knees.

Again I underestimated the assault. The 80 degrees vertical on a slippery soil and fragile root parts is no easy climb. I was literally climbing on all five extremities (including my chin). Never mind my aching knees. My first goal was to stay alive while climbing. Barefoot, we maneuvered to the peak like we never did before in our lives. I almost forgot I have wounded knees because of exhaustion! We were so relieved when we reached the top. It was an open, mountain top were the 360 view of what’s around it is possible. But aside from few trees and newly planted crops, the view is wanting. This is already a third generation, rolling hills with agricultural crops all over it.

We continued with the open trail, under the heat of the sun and thirst. We stopped on a hut near a clearing and ate our delicious lunch of corned beef, tuyo and sardinas. We rested for awhile and exchanged jokes. The rest of the trek was uneventful save for the last pool bath we took in one small waterfall. Then we walked again while merrily singing “Puff the magic dragooon!” of Sir Joy! We reached our jumped off point and drank soda ad libitum. We were to camp that night for our recognition ceremonies. This ended my Penek Busay adventure. Even though I had an accident here, I’m still going to make sure I’m going back to this trek once more!

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