Sunday, 27 June 2010

mt coot-tha: king and queen of the mountain run 2010

The second monday in June is celebrated as the Queen's birthday holiday in Australia. Whether that day in fact falls anywhere near the Queen's birthdate is moot. More debatable is that the Queen of Australia is a foreigner - a foreign monarch, who does not even live in australia. I'll leave this for other forums.
I'll blog instead on the queen of the mountain.

But first some notes on the attractions of mt coot-tha.

Mount Coot-tha is one of Brisbane's most popular tourist destinations. The 'Lookout' has panoramic views of the City. The Mt Coot-tha Reserve contains more than 1500 hectares of natural bushland, including JC Slaughter Falls, as well as native wildlife. Located at the base of Mount Coot-tha are the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, and also the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium within its grounds.

Sir Samuel Griffith Drive is the road loop circling the mountain. It starts from the base to the lookout around a winding, climbing then descending route (both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions). This offers spectacular views of the greater Brisbane area and of the surrounding mountains and coasts.
I toured the mountain on foot before though i had no chance to enjoy the views. 'twas most painful.
movember 2009 mt-coot-tha mousdash

All of Brisbane's TV stations are sited on a ridge near the western summit of Mount Coot-tha. Most of the radio stations also transmit from Mount Coot-tha.

There are several popular walking tracks around Mount Coot-tha varying in difficulty with most including some uphill sections.

The western side of Mount Coot-tha Forest is a haven for Brisbane mountain bike riders. The annual 'Mt Coot-tha challenge' is a 2.3km timed bike ride ascending through the forests and emerging near the summit to the spectacular city views.
Another Mt Coot-tha event is the Rotary Hillclimb Racing Car for Classic cars held in May.
The multi-use tracks are availed of by all sorts of users: horses, pedestrians and mountain bikers. Each year orienteering events are held on the mountain.
Well for me walking takes too long, i can hardly ride a bike, and i don't own a car let alone a classic car.
So to mark the Queen's birthday holiday in Australia on 14th June I joined the mt coot-tha king and queen of the mountain 9.4 km run.
This is almost like running up from Bontoc to Maligcong and back. (These towns are in the Mountain Province, Cordillera, Philippines).

A previous runner of this event wrote: ... an attempt to make myself get my lazy a*se out of bed and actually turn up... monday 11th june - cant think of a better way to start a public holiday.
So with the same sentiments i got up early on the Queen's birthday holiday, rugged up in the chill of the winter morn, and drove to JC Slaughter falls at the base - to run Mount Coot-tha!
Crazy i know, but i wasn't on my own. There were also another 40 or so lunatics out there.

Registration time for the run was at 6.30 for 7:00 am race start. The $10 fee goes to a good cause - the breast cancer association of Queensland.

They're not really lunatics are they? They're a good-looking mob, photographer exempted.

The event is organised by the Brisbane Road Runners Club.
The Club ,established now for over twenty years, was formed to provide regular road runs and walks for all grades of runners in and around the Brisbane area.

Events are usually held every other Sunday, with the calendar of races scheduled for the year.
That's the awards presentation ceremony.

Congratulations to all participants in today's King & Queen of Mt Coot-tha. 44 entrants today and winning the title King of Mt Coot-tha was Adrian Pearce in a time of 37:24 and Catherine White at Queen of Mt Coot-tha in a winning time of 47:20

BRRC extended special thanks to everyone who assisted on a cool morning on the 'mountain'. I too thank them.
and how did ole martin polichay do on this 9.4km mountain run?
(mt coot-tha 2010) king & queen of the mountain - fun run certificate
Second last. I think.
The pauper of the mountain.
But hey, it's my first time to win an award. I won a box of breakfast cereal!
It was a random prize draw - but it's still an award. I'll have it framed for my grandkids!

Monday, 21 June 2010

In tune in June

Now that the Clem7 project is almost wrapped up, am looking at some possibilities for out-of-town jobs in a week or two. There may be a couple of opportunities of these up north in Central Queensland.

If these options firm up, I will need some ‘driving music’.

To the local library then to trawl the shelves, stands, trays and trolleys.

"Mojo" magazine comes up with some good features every few months or so. The January 2010 issue reviews the best music albums of 2009.

"Winners 2010" is the annual release of the country music awards in Australia.

The "Bluesfest" in Byron Bay (NSW) during the Easter weekend in April is a good festival to relax and listen to some quality music.
 I went to this blues and roots festival one year - to see Emmylou Harris and Kasey Chambers. Sadly I did not see them. Tickets were sold out and myself and friend and two kids had to make do with a tent outside the stage, drinking rum while rain pelted down. Since then i have been collecting the annual 2-cd release.
The Bluesfest 2009 Blues 20th Anniversary (CD) features some great acts including: Jack Johnson, Bernard Fanning, Michael Franti, James Brown, John Butler, Ben Harper, Kasey Chambers/Shane Nicholson (playing their CD Rattlin' Bones), Midnight Oil, Sinead O'Connor, Terrance Simien , Bonnie Raitt,Tony Joe White; Buddy Guy.

There’s a selection of Tom Waits’s recent concert performances off his "Glitter and doom" album. Waits is an acquired taste so don’t expect any sweet voiced warbler here.

Another troubadour with a rough-edged voice is the legendary Bob Dylan who is again featured by "Uncut" magazine.

There are sweet voices in the Foster & Allen CD.

And an old CD from KD Lang is worth giving a spin.

"The essential guide to folk" is a must for serious lovers of eclectic music.

If music isn’t your cuppatea, then check out the latest novel “The Infinities” by the Irish novelist John Banville. The subject of this book is ‘the enigma of mortal existence’ cast in the light of lust and mischief.

This set should see me through a week or so up near the tropic of Capricorn. Apparently the port city of Gladstone is worth a visit. I might do just that.
Am not averse to a drop or two of good port. I might try some tawny port, vintage port, ruby pink white port - all kinds of ports.

Port city here I come...

Just to prolong my dream of ports, I first have to go to Ocean View near Mt Mee in some hinterland somewhere.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Doomben 10000

For my monthly running fix, i fronted up to Doomben Racecourse at the break of dawn on one Sunday morning (6th June 2010).
Doomben, Brisbane's oldest racecourse, is known for horseracing and is a feature in the spring racing carnival in Australia.
It provides a great backdrop for a unique running experience.

The Doomben 10000 is part of the Queensland Half Marathon staged at its now permanent home, the Doomben Racecourse. The events are made up of the Half Marathon, the Doomben 10,000 (10 km), 5km fun run and the Doomben Cup (2.5 km walk). It was my first time to run this event so i did not know what was in store.

Well the place was buzzing with runners of all ages and pedigree. There were the elite athletes training or cross-training or just keeping fit in their off-season. Some run to train for triathlete events. There are also parents with young kids just out there endeavouring to keep fit.
I was just there for a fun run, or so i thought.

And then there are all sorts of runners, joggers and walkers in between. Add to the mix, one or two wheelchair bound disabled persons and a few parents with babies on prams, and you realise that the running community is pretty much a cross-section of society (and still Igorots are in the minority. 1:500 i think he he).

The day got brighter as the winter sun slowly rose in the east.

I did some warm-ups in the crisp morning air as the half-marathoners lined up to start.

Almost suddenly the marshall counted down the get go. I had to jump out of the way quicksmart.
And off they went.

They even have a pacer.

The 10000m runners then lined up some minutes after the 21.1km race start.

I was feeling queasy this morning. I even considered just running the 5km or pulling out altogether. But the sight of girls and women some less fit-looking than me, lining up and eager to start, made me banish the thought of bludging.
So reluctantly i joined the 10000m run pack. I had to start from the rear after going to the front to snap a photo of the start line.

The run was an ordeal. The cool morning warmed up quickly as the sun rose higher in the almost cloud-free winter sky.

In previous fun runs, i saw female runners with shirts printed with something like:
I run like a __irl  (am not sure whether birl or dirl or even tirl or whirl. The overtaking angle somehow covered up that elusive word).
Whatever it was they must be on to something as the ladies wearing these shirts usually just speed past me as if i was walking.
I probably was too.

As i jogged laboriously, I tried solving the puzzle of what that word ending in 'irl' was.
It was all too hard and i gave up. I could not even hazard a guess...

I concentrated back on the race. They keep calling these races 'fun runs'. Honestly, i don't know where the fun part is.

After a long struggle over hill and lane and over and around and back again, I finished as the sun rose high in the mid-morning sky – in front of the stands and the racetrack.

I didn’t fare as bad as i thought but i could have done better. My time was just below my PB.
(I could have done a PB if not for some romance the night before. No it's not what you think dear reader- if you got this far. And she was neither black nor white. I was not romancing the stone either. Rather I was stroking the bottle. The red label on it said her name was brandy. But that night, the bottle let me down).

I handed in my running chip then grabbed some fresh fruit slices and a sponsor’s drink bottle. After a little rest i gingerly sauntered over back to the finish line to cheer on the other runners and to take a few souvenir shots.

My fellow finishers at the finish line. That race time is set to the half-marathon which started 20 minutes earlier than the 10000m run.

The recovery area behind the grandstand.

I then drove off to work.
Work? On a Sunday morning?
Yep too right. No rest for the wicked indeed.
But guess which job?
Oh no. Not the 'tunnel'?

And that was that.
I did not stay back for the award ceremonies and the post event party.
But i did finally glimpse one of those girls with the secret t-shirt.
She finished about 10 minutes before me.
Her shirt read:
I run like a girl!

Yeah right. Rub it in!

Some race stats:

Race Finishers 1st Male 1st Female Avg Time

Half Marathon 531 01:08:46 01:16:03 01:49:56

Doomben 10,000 493 00:31:52 00:35:04 00:54:42

5KM Fun Run 209 00:15:58 00:18:00 00:31:49

Wheelchair Half Marathon 1 01:07:36 01:07:36

Very ordinary Martin!
Two seconds slower than average!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Ides of April past: Id Besao e.

On a smoky day in April we set out for a visit to another ancestral home in Besao.
Banguitan is our destination for a clan reunion. I haven’t been there in years nay decades and i was very much looking forward to the trip.

Going uphill from Dantay junction, the stagnant smoke in the air gave an eerie shade of blue to the daylight.

It wasn’t on the script but seemingly right on cue, our car broke down below a hillside hamlet – engine overheat. The radiator was boiling and while waiting we could have cooked any dozens of eggs on it – if we had them. It was boiling for so long i thought i was hearing the mainit hotspring. The summer heat didn’t help. We stopped for a half-hour or so for the engine to cool down.

We coaxed the car up to a cafe farther up the mountain in Dapdapanan where we cooled the radiator by hosing it down for a few minutes with cool mountainwater.

After some coffee and snacks, we got back on our way. Along the way past Antadao and Tetep-an are more burned areas and the ever-present smoke shrouding what would have been great views overlooking Killong, and beyond to Guina-ang and Maligcong hidden behind the high mountains.

A few minutes later we drove into Sagada. We did not know it beforehand but this day was a market-day. There was plenty of products on display at the stalls and roadsides all around. Since we had to make up time due to the car breaking down, we did not stop to purchase some of the many wonderful items on sale, which included loads of fresh and luscious-looking fruits and vegetables.

We arrived in Banguitan at around midday. Minutes earlier we were threading our way through Kin-iway and Besao. I wanted to stop and check out things but the smoky pall was so thick. We resisted the urge to stop but resolved to do so when returning.

At reunions, you meet relations (to state the obvious Mart). I had to apologize to most for not knowing or remembering names. I don’t even recognize cousins i lived with or played with in my long-forgotten younger years.
Like me, many of them have families with grown-up children. Some cousins have now got grandkids.

Lunch was served by the host families. Generous servings on huge pots plates bowls and cups of rice, noodles and lots and lots of meat dishes. I think i went for a 2nd and then a 3rd serving!
Thanks all.

In the course of the afternoon, we shared stories, some tall tales and reminisced about previous times. We talked about our kids, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. We remembered the departed. Funny incidents brought to mind got the hearty laughter and especially at the expense of some.

The children played while the adults talked and talked some more – about what i don’t rightly remember.

I was watching the children play a game of volleyball and it made me recall what seemed like yesterday when my generation was their age.

As if i needed reminding, indeed time stands for no one. I could only hope – as an older relative – that the future for these young people is as bright as can be.

So deep into the late afternoon we reunited – this group of people gathered together and linked by blood of a common ancestor. May their tribe increase.

A dampener to the reunion was - you guessed it:
a brushfire starting on a hillside.

But more worthy a mention is the memorable experience of the reunion. The optimism in the faces of these hardy people is manifest in the bright smiles and loud laughter of the children. This is their village and nothing, certainly no fire, can dare threaten the mountain fastnesses where their ancestors found their homes.
A mountain village proudly displays a streamer hailing the achievements of its kids in tests nationwide.

These ibesao kids like many of their kin will find their niche in this world. They will look beyond the horizon of the high mountain peaks, and go out and succeed. They will hold high the torch for their clan and their ancestors will be proud.
So parents teach your children well.

It was threatening to rain as we said goodbye. I was hoping the rain would hold off until our mostly young cousins from Bugang arrived at their homes first.

Waving goodbye i again saw in the hills that the fires have now spread some ways.
So have a safe trip folks, and let it rain on the fires.

As the reunionists slowly thinned out after farewells and hugs and waves, we strolled down to a cousin’s house for some wonderful brewed coffee. This was served with huge slices of sweet rice cakes. John or Gerry, thank you champs! I have never tasted better!

And later we had to get on our way, even though the heart wanted to stay a bit longer.
And so ends another reunion. Thank you family in Banguitan.

We did pause in Besao and Kin-iway for a few minutes.
And so it was – id Besao e, as just before we left,
I remembered an old blues tune:

I was gazing out the car window
to the St James High School,
and i know no one can do the yaa ao,
ay kanan di ibesao...
...katekateg na'd new orleans.

(I was back in Baguio a week or so later when i found out that the name Banguitan is actually the combining of the names of two other villages from where our ancestors hail from: Bangnen and Kaaguitan.
This tidbit may be apocryphal but is parole proof that our oral traditions live on and continue to define and shape our identity as mountain people.)

Driving back from one ancestral home to another, we again pass through Sagada, another ancestral hometown, not of my parents directly but, of the deeper roots of great-great-grandparents. I only had a passing glimpse of the poblacion in the twilight, but a new feature of this town is the increasing number of bigger higher and taller residences.
Good onya Sagada. Ipeyas nan gawis.

So there. A blog post on a visit to Besao and Sagada as I said before .
...mountaintop towns of sagada and besao.

But there are so many writers and bloggers from these towns that i do not presume to steal their thunder by writing about their hometowns.

ps. it's always heartwrenching to hear grim news from home.
Condolences to the families and communities of those who died in the jeepney accident in north Besao last June 1st.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Our mother the Cordillera

I arrived in my village in the night time, after a dreary day's ride on the mountain trail.
once upon a trail-ride dreary
I could not see it but the pungent stench of smoke hanging in the air was a frontal assault on my senses. This all but dashed the expectation of being welcomed home by the sweet and pure mountain air spiced by the warm waft of the steam from the hotsprings.

The following morning showed up this lethal toxic invasion. Smoke hung in the air blocking off the pleasant views to the mountains.

My world was literally turned upside down! This was the opposite of my expectations.

I stared hard into the distance. The sun was shining up in the cloudless summer sky, but even that could not penetrate the gloom.

I went for a walk up to the hill called Sagang overlooking the village.

The pall lifted a bit and the sight of an old friend - the pure clean white steam - rising up from the hotspring moved me. It was like a beacon of hope, a symbol of stoic hardiness – unconquerable.

I looked around and my gaze just got shrouded, not from the smoke that i see in the distant mountains, but from the tears in my heart.

Our mother the mountains are being ravaged.

I could not look away. I had to suffer as the mountains the forests the trees, our home our mother nature died in front of me.
Part of me died that day.

I grieve for the fields that suffer and will die for lack of water, the streams that run no more, the granaries that will stay empty at harvest time, the blueberries that will not grow and ripen for the kids to pick, the mudfish, the snail, the frog, the birds the everything the all things not bright not beautiful.

I fixed my gaze on it for a long time helpless as an infant pine just pushing out of the ground - never to scale and never to grace the great grand heights-

I retreated to a spot where i can be a wide-eyed witness to this excruciating execution.

I did not know it at the time but the chain wire in front of me now appears as a prison shackling me like an inutile prisoner of my own demons...

One day i went for a walk to get away from the depressing desolation.

It did not get any better.

The hills are alive with the noise - the death rattle of the sticks as they crackle and blaze to death. the mournful whoosh of the pines as they fall.

The mature pines are not spared.

Those big enough to hold sap at the base of their trunks are now destined to fall.

I lost my way many times. And not for not knowing where to go.

Rather because the fires have obliterated the trails that lead to the mountains, to the fields, and to home.

Whole mountains have been rendered to ash and cinders.

Through all that i stumbled home sad and sorry and it was not just for myself.

In the evening i settled down to rest.

But the familiar noise of crackles and burning lodged deep in my dreams. I woke with a start and realised it was not a dream – it’s a nightmare! The fires are there.

Looking out the window i saw not a bad dream, but a terrible reality. The apparition of fires circling and suffocating the dense pine groves in the gloomy distance.

The burning season went on into the night... and into the following day, and night, the day after and night of that day, and for days and nights thereafter.

A respite a few days later.

Some rains came.

But the embers smoulder away.

Now the extent of damage is clear.

Scarred forever, the mountains weep no more...

They have shared joyful tears in decades past - and those times were the good times for the fields, the creeks, the people - for all things bright and beautiful...

Now just a distant memory.

And still another fire starts on the other side of town.

We don’t die in a blaze after all.
We die slowly...
For we’re a long time dead...
and the sun will rise soon on the false and the fair
singin' too - ra - loo - ra - li - o.

click below for a HD video of this post
with stereo music
our mother the mountain