IN ONE way or another, our rivers have a similar beginning and story.

In a place such as ours where there is no ice glaciers, rainwater may form a lake or pool above or below the ground and then start running downhill right away. Following the flow of the water from the source as a spring at the top, in the middle or at the bottom of the mountains, the flowing water soon joins with other springs to form a river in their rush to the sea.

If you have gone caving in Sagada, you can imagine there is more to a mountain river than what we see or observe. The entrance to the Lumiang and Sumaging Caves starts from the top and goes deep where you can hear the water drip and flow. At least that is so with the Sumaging, As you trek deeper, you hear a river flowing deep under. I wish I have gone deeper into Lumuiang Cave to know if a river flows just as well somewhere at the bottom.

Some two decades ago, Dr. Joseph Madamba, and a team of experts from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) following the completion of a study informed about the existence of a river flowing underneath the Baguio Stock Farm.

From the point where water has been drilled we proceeded to a spot where he stopped me, saying, “a river is flowing even where you can't see it, underneath the ground on both sides of it.

You are standing on the bank of a river. The river may well be flowing under your feet,” he said. I shuddered and moved some distance away.

Moving towards that rocky spot where I stood, Dr. Madamba has been collecting some debris and examining them while we walked and talked. I wonder if it was once part of the underground river flows called the hyporheic zone where many forms of life can be found that includes insects and crustaceans.

If we are sensible human beings that appreciate the value of free, fresh flowing water in a river that we do not see below this government facility to help sustain life in a highly urbanized city even the town of Tuba, Benguet, now and the future, we have to support the City government stop the rampant squatting occurring there right this very moment.

So as free fresh waters flow, so is this series of stories we began under this column at the end of 2016. For a while, our story cascaded into the best indigenous practices of the locals beginning with the latent and evolving role of the Cordillera as watershed cradle for Northern Luzon throughout the years. Allow me this interlude to collect my materials on IP practices.

Meantime, join me in this visit to savor the freshness of Camp John Hay, or what remains of it for the time being while we can yet appreciate what is it offers.

I woke up early Saturday last week to welcome the rising of the sun.

Facing east from the mountain where we live in Quezon Hill, my mind was drawn once more to Camp John Hay in the west. As the sun was rising over the mountain, flooding my body with early light, I decided to visit and trek around the Camp’s 500 plus acres from end to end. I would start the trek from Greenwater Barangay, walk around the trails that meander in the old growth forest of the Camp. By sundown, I would exit at the Baguio Country Club having completed an objective I just contemplated and decided to accomplish for the day.

As is the case in these latter days, I undertake my work under an aggravated physical condition, mind and spirit keep me going. I was intent on knowing and feeling my reaction to the sights and sounds in the camp, and to see where the Arabica coffee are planted, and how they are performing. Somehow, I have a stake in this – how both pine and coffee are performing – how they must succeed in a former military reservation that turned into a wonderful nature park, and now converted into a money-making machine in a highly urbanized city in the mountains.

The beauty of Baguio City, its aroma, and flavor, in totality its fragrance of life and for the life of us, human beings, are the trees and their remaining habitats. Residential and vacation houses, no matter how we now try to paint them and dull the ugly monotonous sight that confronts our eyes all day, 366 days a year, is life feasting on a rotten meal forever. Breathing spaces, trees and homes first designed and depicted by the Camp John Hay founders should not have failed us, but helped us to appreciate and value our need for the beauty in our mountain abodes and the freshness that it blesses us with every rising of the sun.

The living of our lives and its pursuits must be an expression of empathy with our fellow human beings now and the future, having a genuine problem-solving ability and capacity. Empathy by definition is more than just sympathy as it allows us to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. This is essential if we must be helpful, not hurtful. Our actions affect ourselves, our communities, and the environment. Even if Camp John Hay spirals into a money-making enterprise, at least those in power must not waste all the land and the trees in an instant and a world that is all theirs, as if there are no other human beings and living creatures who were meant to live and survive from the fresh ness of air and water from the camp, all wasted and flowing down their sewers.

Completing the trek and having coffee at SM-Baguio, I feel the pain all over. Only one or two part of me actually is affected by diabetes but the pain and ache I feel makes my whole body unnecessarily suffer. Let us minimize or make sure our lifestyle is not the cause of suffering and burdens for the whole or other living creatures in our environment.

Finally, there is some loneliness I feel as a native going around the business establishments of Camp John Hay as a native of the mountains. I feel like some foreigner there. The people who work and manage the establishments of the facility are not quite familiar to me in physique, speech and taste. Just a thought and suggestion perhaps, maybe they need to make the place sensible and sensitive to the local populace. Manage those coffee trees well and keep the pines thriving in their habitat at Camp John Hay.