Tau’t Bato Generator Funding and Common area repairs

Update posted by Adolf Reich Palabrica On Nov 13, 2019

This is one of the reason why we do what we do today. Please take time to watch. Thank you.


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Update posted by Adolf Reich Palabrica On Nov 11, 2019

The time came to start packing for the trip back, and I got busy loading the Bolkow, carefully distributing the load for a neutral balance.The marine lieutenant came up to me and the look on his face immediately struck me.He looked desperate."Please come back for me and my men," he said abruptly, getting to the point."The trip back is very dangerous."

I didn't doubt him, the way he looked, considering the appearance of his men and the wildness of the Palawan jungle terrain.I tried to answer him in a way a military man might understand.

"I will have to ask the Colonel," I said."I will be low on fuel when I get back to Brooke's, and will have to ask for more fuel to return for you.Can't you radio him in advance and tell him of your situation?"

"The radio's transmission is line-of-sight.It cannot go over the ridge."He replied."Please come back for us."He pleaded again.

I didn't tell him that a return was not in the schedule, afraid he might go ballistic, the way he looked.I had a suspicion he didn't tell me the truth about his radio, but gave him the benefit of the doubt.My heart sank yet again.I did want to help them."I will plead your case to the Colonel," I said, as sympathetically as possible.

Thankfully, the equipment that I promised to carry for the other pilot arrived, breaking the conversation.I nodded to the Lieutenant.

As estimated, the Bolkow could carry the extra load and four Italians and not be breathing hard.The other pilot, relieved of having to carry the extra load, was profuse in his thanks.

In the case of the Taaw't Bato, there was no shaking of hands for goodwill.I didn't want to touch Tig or Lomi, lest I pass on a new-world disease.I nodded my head and the Taaw't Bato seemed to understand.I didn't know what to do, but I put my palm to my chest and extended it, palm upwards towards them.They understood perfectly, even if no words were exchanged.There were sad faces all around.

The Italians were expressing a newly-found trust for their pilot, and got in the Bolkow without hesitation. We would be first out of the basin.I was ferrying important guests, the reason for us being there.Protocol dictated they must be first.

I got in and began the procedure to start the turbines.Before spooling up, I looked around.The expectant eyes of the other two pilots, the marines, and the Taaw't Bato looked back.I lifted off, checked my instruments.Everything in the green, I cleared the trees, transitioned from hover to level flight and made for Brookes Point.

The realization of leaving paradise in order to save it struck me and the thought lingered on up to this very day.I shook my head to clear it.The Colonel would be at Brooke’s.I needed his permission before returning to Puerto Princesa.In flight, I was thinking how to ask the Colonel if I could return for his men.When I have to think about several alternatives, it usually means what is in store for me will not be pleasant.It was a nagging thought that haunted me all the way to Brooke's Point.

I landed near the refueling Depot and began shutdown procedures, since it wouldn't do to refuel hot, the turbines still spewing out exhaust gases.I motioned for the Italians to go and say good bye to the Colonel while the engines were cooling off, and when they were on their way back to the Bolkow, I could speak to the Colonel in private and tell him about his lieutenant's request.Meanwhile, I would ask the refueling attendant for extra fuel.It was a long shot, but if I got the extra fuel, I could go back for the Marines, and deposit them just outside the basin and head back for Puerto Princesa without anyone being the wiser.I like to think I thought of everything."No," the marine soldier replied, "I cannot give you more fuel.You'll have to ask the Colonel for that."I liked this soldier.

The Italians were coming back.That was my cue."Cinque minuti. Parlare con il colonnello," I said without breaking my stride as I passed them.I didn't look back, but they must have looked like I was pulling their chains.Nothing was going to break my mood.Or so I thought.

"Good afternoon, Colonel."

He took a puff from his cigar and sized me up.I suspected he knew who I was, "Capt. Mapua, thank you very much for taking care of our guests."

I suspected the Italians told him of their scare.I smiled knowingly, and he smiled back.This is one smart cookie - watch your step, I thought as I smiled back and shook his hand.

"Colonel," I said, "Your men have requested me to return to the basin to pick them up.It looks like they had much difficulty getting up there."

He looked at me with the condescending look they give to all non-military personnel.He said tersely, "These are Marines.They will do as they are told.Request denied.The film crew will remain here with us as my guests,” He added."Have a nice flight back to Puerto Princesa, Captain."

“Yes, sir!Thank you, sir!”I almost snapped to attention, nodding and absent-mindedly made an about-turn the way the military do.

The Italians took their gear off the Bolkow.One of them hugged me in thanks.“Prego, prego!” I said in what must be pidgin Italian.

I felt for the Marines in the basin, but there was nothing I could do for them.I had just enough fuel for my return.This is not the last I would hear of this Marine Colonel, but his story will not be told here.

On my flight back, I hoped Glenn would be in a better mood than the last time we spoke.He was.He told me he followed my advice and was able to extract more concessions for his lending me and the helicopter for this mission, so all was good.

"I'm buying dinner," he said."Tell me how it went."

"I'll buy the beers," I said.

He roared with laughter when we got to the part about the snake.

Captain Hernan C. Mapua

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Update posted by Adolf Reich Palabrica On Nov 02, 2019

Early the following day, I went to the Navy yard where the Hueys were parked, looking for the head anthropologist. I had questions. I found him sitting by himself, staring out to wherever people stare when they are in deep thought. I began with, "How can I help the Taaw't Bato; I wasn't prepared for his following narrative: "After we leave the camp today, the basin will be sealed. No other visitors will be allowed to visit the Taaw't Bato. When we discovered them, they were a thriving population, numbering more than three hundred. Now they are numbering less than a hundred, and dwindling. We brought the flu, measles, cholera, the whole lot. Doctors only worsened the situation. They were decimated."I was stunned. My heart sank to the lowest depths it has ever been. I understood him now.The whine of the Huey's turbine starting up brought me back to attention, and we got into our assigned Hueys for the trip back to Brooke's. It was a pensive, heart-wrenching time that seemed to stretch on, but we eventually got there. I was glad to get off the Huey, and hoped I would never ride one again. We were briefed as to what to do, and I got into the Bolkow and started up. We lifted off, and to my dismay, the clouds were hanging low, obscuring the mountain peaks, the landmarks I used to locate the camp in the basin. Five minutes, and I didn't recognize anything.

A good pilot knows when he is lost, so I went back to Brooke's. Everyone wondered why I returned, so they were looking at us. I stayed in the Bolkow and gestured for one of the Bell Jet Ranger pilots to come to me. Engines at idle, I told him my landmarks were obscured, pointing at the clouds. I showed him my map, and he told me to follow the river up to a point, and then go a certain heading he penciled in on my map. Thanking him, I lifted off again. I could feel the loss of confidence from the Italians, but put that aside. I found the camp according to the pilot's directions and landed in the same spot. Tig and Lomi waved, and I waved back. I was looking forward to being with them, but it was not to be. The film crew had other plans.

When the others arrived, the film crew went into the jungle with Tig and Lomi. I thanked the other pilot for his assistance, and told him I learned a valuable lesson that day. He smiled and said to me, I barely make it in and out of here. I max out the overtemp limits. Please help me out and take some of my load. I couldn't refuse. The Bolkow 'even breathing hard, and it was a shock to hear this admission from him. Sure, I said. We smiled and conversed for a while, and mingled with the military who were taking a break. Already they were looking very apprehensive about their trip back over land, and said so. The other pilot joined us, and by way of conversation said he was just almost on the limit because he had a lighter load, but only just.

At last lunch came, and I shared what I had with Tig and Lomi, as before. The other Taaw't Bato joined my group. I heard laughter from the military, and could overhear what they said because it was so quiet, and they weren't that far away. They were making jokes about my getting alongwith the “savages”, and assumed I didn't understand their jokes. Being in the company of theTaaw't Bato was already an experience I would never forget, so I ignored their jokes.

The Italians made themselves comfortable, leaning on the bank of a dry part of the riverbed forcomfort maybe to try and catch a wink or two. One of the Taaw't Bato suddenly got excited andwas yelling something I couldn't understand. The translator/guide began shouting quite loudly, "AHAS! AHAS! (Ahas means snake in Filipino) He was gesturing frantically for the film crew to move out. It was lost on them. Being able to speak Spanish, and having traveled to Rome some time ago, I knew the Spanish word for snake, which is the same in Italian, "CULEBRA!"; and again for emphasis, "CULEBRA!"; I shouted. I never saw Italians move so fast. They jumped up and away from the riverbank. Lomi picked up a rock and killed the snake in a swift, fluid motion. I noted the accuracy with amazement. He advanced and picked up a huge dark snake, after poking it with a stick to make sure it was dead. The Italians jaws had tobe picked off the floor. They looked at me and started speaking Italian. It might as well have been Greek to me, and I said, "No parlatti Italiano." (I don't speak Italian) I don't think they believed me. They were, however, very profuse in thanking me for saving their lives. I didn't do anything of the sort; it was the Taaw't Bato who saved them.

Captain Hernan C. Mapua

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Update posted by Adolf Reich Palabrica On Nov 02, 2019

The Taaw’t Bato

I always thought the best of friends were the ones who treated each other as equals. I took myshot. I made the gesture of exchange; my Swiss knife for his blowgun. There was no hesitation. Tig gave me back my Swiss knife with a nod, and I nodded back. I looked at him with admiration, for not agreeing to the exchange. His blowgun was more important to his daily survival, and I noticed him looking back at me with respect. The feeling was mutual. Right about here I noticed a beautiful butterfly flitting over the creek, a beautiful iridescent green. Tig followed my gaze and saw the butterfly, and extended his arm, with his index finger out. The butterfly landed on his finger. My jaw dropped as Tig moved the butterfly closer for my inspection, and twitched his finger to let it fly. Tig and Lomi were smiling from ear to ear, and I was nodding and smiling with appreciation. There was a screeching of birds, so I looked around. A flock of Philippine cockatoos flitted from tree to tree. It was the first time I had seen them in the wild. Beautiful!

It was time to head back, the sun was setting, and it wouldn't be safe to try and fly out of the jungle at night. I waved good bye to my new found friends, and they waved back. It was fun, and I wished I could help them out somehow. I lifted off with the Italians. They spoke very little English, and were not a talkative lot. Back at Brooke's Point, I wanted to refuel for the trip back. But the Lieutenant said I was to fly back on one of the Hueys, and return for another day's filming. Uh-oh. That wasn't the plan, and I told him I had to get back with the Bolkow, or there would be hell to pay with the Amoco brass. I always hate it when they say they have to follow orders. I got in the Huey and wondered what I would tell Glenn. (Not his name, but let's call him that because he had an uncanny resemblance to Glenn Campbell, a US Country-Western singing star.) I expected a dressing-down when I got back, and I got one. Glenn was going to lose another day's productivity, and that would be expensive. Instead of telling him this was what I warned him about, I told him how to salvage the situation. He got taken advantage of, but now he had the leverage to demand even more concessions from the Navy, and he eased up. There's more there than meets the eye, he said. I'll see you tomorrow. In a way, I was glad I was going to see Tig and Lomi again.

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Update posted by Adolf Reich Palabrica On Oct 25, 2019

The Taaw’t Bato

(People of the Rock)

During the Marcos era, I got to visit a lost tribe called the Taaw't Bato (People of the Rock) in Palawan, flying Italian photographers who were guests of Manuel Elizalde jr. under Panamin (Presidential Arm for National Minorities), and this is a real true-to-life adventure story.

I was flying the Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm Bo-105C, a twin-engine helicopter from the Phil. Aerospace Development Company. My original assignment was to fly for an American company, AMOCO. They had a research ship in Puerto Princesa, and I was to be at the beck and call of the AMOCO Far East manager (I forgot his title). Top brass. A very nice fellow, he gave me a personally guided tour of the research vessel. That ship was crammed with electronics. If a fish farted in the bottom of the sea under it, an instrument would pick it up.

Early the next morning, he tells me that he has "lent" my services to the Philippine Navy. I was disappointed. He should have asked me first, knowing what can happen when aircraft are "borrowed," especially by our armed forces, and I told him so. He didn't understand, and anyway, the deal was struck. I was to report back to him when we got back the same day.

I met the General (I forget his name) who explained the mission: to fly the PANAMIN guests to the naval facility at Brooke's Point, and on to a camp in Mt. Matalingahan established by Philippine Marines for our safety, which was inside the basin of an extinct volcano. The Italian photographers were to be escorted by anthropologists from the University of the Philippines, but flown separately. Two Bell Jet Ranger helicopters would assemble at Brooke's Point to ferry them to film the Taaw't Bato.

I would be the lead, because the Italians would ride with me for safety, since the BO-105C was the only helicopter that had two engines, and the power to do the job. The Army helicopters, Bell UH-1H "Hueys" (ex-Vietnam) were not up to the task. They were too large and lacked the power. Well, they could, but with a very light load of fuel, not enough to get to where they could refuel, once they got in. Hacking a corridor for them in thick jungle would upset the Taaw't Bato. A marine lieutenant would ride beside me with a radio he would use to contact his men on the ground. Properly briefed, we were off to Brooke's Point. Upon landing, I noticed three other helicopters, Hueys. Some Naval Facility that was! There was nothing there but makeshift huts to provide some shade beside a grass runway. There was fuel which was brought by the Hueys. I was given directions only when airborne, given by hand by the lieutenant, and soon we were circling, looking for a smoke signal, while he spoke to his men on his radio. "There!" he said, and I saw a wisp of smoke coming from the treetops. One could all too easily miss it. The lieutenant motioned me down. Through a narrow gap in the jungle canopy, I saw a riverbed, part of which was rocky and could support the Bolkow. There was only one marine visible, and his fatigues were in tatters. He was giving us the “all clear” signal. I started descending through the trees, and I measured their height, using the altimeter when we landed. The trees were three hundred feet tall. I looked up, and couldn't see the sky above me. We descended through some really thick jungle and touched down. The marine motioned for me to shut down the engines, so I throttled back to idle and looked around. I couldn't see anyone else there besides that one marine. Properly cooled, I could now shut down the engines, and reluctantly did so. Only when the rotor blades came to a stop, did I see faces looking at us from parted vegetation. It was the Taaw't Bato, scrutinizing us. I am always last to leave the aircraft because of the shutdown procedure. When I got out of the aircraft, five of the Taaw't Bato were looking at me in amazement. This was quite a moment for me until I figured out my flying glasses, which were mirrorized, was the cause for their attention. I took them off immediately and saw them visibly relax. I showed them the glasses, and it was a great icebreaker. We all relaxed.

Part two

Sometimes, I do things spontaneously and realize later on it was just the right thing to do. I stepped towards the five, saying my name and bowing my head slightly, "Hernan," and putting my palm to my chest, then pointing to a Taaw't Bato. He got it. He was no dummy "Ti'gbong," he said. "L'omihay," said the next one. These are the closest phonetical sounds of their names. I remembered these two because they wouldn't leave my side. They carried long wooden blowpipes, and a covered bamboo receptacle on their belt which contained the poison for their darts. The others were called away by the translator/guide as requested by the Filipino Anthropologist. We watched as these Taaw't Bato were asked to draw certain things and the film crew did their thing. I found a smooth rock in the shade beside the riverbed and sat down. To ease the boredom, I took out my wallet and showed Ti'g and L'omi (I'll call them that here for brevity) a picture of my girlfriend, and again gestured putting my palm on my chest. Tig stood up, gestured with open palm facing me, and vanished into the jungle. Lomi just smiled. Not ten minutes passed, and Tig was back with a stunningly beautiful girl clad with only a loincloth. Tig gestured with a palm to his chest, indicating his betrothed. I bowed to her and smiled at Tig with a nod to indicate my approval. He smiled and again vanished into the jungle with his wife. Tig was tall. He was about 170 cms tall, and his hair was smooth. His features were sharp and his nose was not flat, and his limbs were long. All of them had cat-like movements. He was back in a flash, and I heard no sound of his movement through the jungle.

I was called for "lunch" and was given two ham and cheese sandwiches, courtesy of the Marines. I then asked why the Marines' fatigues were in tatters. All of the five had tattered fatigues, although the fabric still looked new. Tired and haggard faces looked at me. One of them said it wasn't easy to get there by land. "There is only one passage into the basin, and only one out." I was given a soda, asked for another sandwich and went back to my smooth rock. I offered Tig and Lomi a sandwich each, which they took and ate. They thanked me by saying something, and smiling. They took a drink from the riverbed. That water was clean, but too many horror stories about drinking water from the jungle kept me to my soda.

Lomi scampered up a tree like a cat and began tossing green fruit to Tig and the other Taaw't Bato. I couldn't identify the fruit, so I gestured to Lomi with a finger, and the palm to chest. He tossed me one. I looked to see how they were eating it, and they peeled back the skin with their teeth. I tried that. No go, the skin was a bit thick, so I pulled out my Swiss knife, unfolded the blade, peeled the fruit, and took a bite. If you have ever had a "WOW!" moment eating something for the first time, this was it for me. It was a wild mango, and it was so delicious, the juice burst out the sides of my mouth. To this day I haven't tasted anything like it. Tig took an interest to my Swiss knife, so I demonstrated how all the tools could fold into the handle. He was genuinely impressed. So I handed it to him, all folded, for safety. I wanted to see his blowgun, and he handed it to me, no problem. I later learned this was a show of trust not to be taken lightly. As he was examining the Swiss knife, I looked down the bore of his blowgun. I was genuinely amazed. The bore was straight and true, without any bend, however slight. Tig was looking at me with a smile as I handed him back his blowgun. He made a gesture indicating he wanted to have the Swiss knife. Thoughts raced through my head.

Stay tuned for part 3.

Captain Hernan C. Mapua

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Update posted by Adolf Reich Palabrica On Oct 17, 2019

Our visit to the Tau't Bato we keep passing through large forestry and hills, scenic vistas of nature. However far in between the clumps of nature are mountain sides of cut down trees. patches of hillside skinned from greenery with its stumps left showing of but a husk of where it was. Old trees mind you.

It's no secret that despite the mountains of Palawan are protected from clearing and cutting down trees for lumber, there are still those who does, whether it's small time individuals or the local government turning a blind eye to companies illegally cutting down a heritage site It's not up to me to say.

As one article from from the site RTD - The Documentary Channel titled "Palawan Lost: The dark side of a tropical idyll that tourists don't see" puts it, and I quote:

"In spite of a logging ban and UNESCO biosphere reserve status, chunks of old-growth forest are being cut down to make way for mines or plantations. Thousands of hectares of trees have been lost on Palawan since 2001, spelling danger for many depending on the forest"

And it could not be more true even now. Watch the entire documentary here as it also features Tatay Buano: https://rtd.rt.com/0238p

I hope I could bring more snippets and updates along the way. If you feel that our cause is noble worthwhile feel free to support our small campaign by donating and/or sharing this campaign through social media.

Shout out to Sherbien Dacalano

A single dead Manggis tree, I took this photo as it stands out from the rest of the foliage.

The lush overgrowth creates what looks like an entrance to a cave is actually just more trees.

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