Posts Tagged ‘Nasuli’

Wending My Weary Way Home to Kibalabag

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Enjoy the Emmrod Kayak King Fishing Pole for all your Eloika Lake Fishing

Enjoy the Emmrod Kayak King Fishing Pole for all your Eloika Lake Fishing

Packrod Spin, Fresh Water
Packrod Spin, Fresh Water


Living in Kibalabag

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

My parents had three tours with Wycliffe Bible Translators in the Philippines.  In their second tour, which occurred in the late 50’s early 60’s , they worked mostly in what we called an “allocation.”  As translators, it was important for them to be in a situation where they were both immersed in the local population, culture and language AND that population should be speaking a pretty pure form of the language being studied.  In Bukidnon Province, the lowlands had a pretty big mix of language use.  The trade language was Visayan and the local language was Binokid.  My folks were studying Binokid.  Lowland villages no longer had the “pure” language with many trade language words, not to mention English and Spanish words creeping into the daily lexicon.

So, on their second tour, they moved back away from the valleys taking refuge in the pure linguistic highlands of the hinterland. “Our” village was called Kibalabag (Key Bah La Bahg).  To get there, you drove to the end of the highway from the provincial capital, Malaybalay.  I am not sure how far of a drive it was, but, certainly not more than several miles.  From that point, we meandered through the valleys gradually climbing higher into the mountains.  We crossed one river once, one river twice and one river 9 times.  “Crossing” is defined as wading through the river.  There was no significant road, certainly no bridges, just a faint path. During the three to four month long rainy season, no one went in and no one went out. You just could not cross the rivers.  Kibalabag was about 8 miles back into the mountains and covered a bit of a patch on the side of a mountain. I used to say the town I grew up in was so small we had no crime in the streets.  We had crime, we just did not have streets!

My parents and brother and sister lived here most of the time and were home schooled by my parents.  I stayed in bording school at Nasuli, about 12 miles on the far side of Malaybalay.  Isn’t it funny how time changes things?  It seemed like the other side of the world, but, in reality, it was only about 20 miles away!  So, in the vacations I went up to the mountains.  I loved it!  I enjoyed going out into the jungle with the boys of my vintage in the village. 

One of the joys I had was making rope with the folks who lived there.  Cash crops were few and far in between. One of the few was finished rope or the hemp necessary to make the rope.  A banana tree like plant called “abaca” (ahh bah cah) was the source of the hemp.  You cut the tree down about 6 inches above the ground.  Now, the term tree is used loosely. It only took one or two, maybe three whacks with a bolo (machete) to cut through the tree.  It is made, like the banana tree, with thick layers of a fiberous, high water content, built like cardboard boats.  These layers are kind of like petals with a leaf at the very top.  After cutting the tree down, you cut off the top just below the leaves.  The layers then just pop right off with a light tug.  After removing a layer, the top sixteenth of an inch thick skin is pulled off.  This is done by inserting a knife under about four to six inches of the skin then grabbing that bit and pulling it up which strips it off the entire six to 8 feet or so of the layer.  Then, you do the same with the remaining portion and just discard the thicker portion of the layer. Next, you take the pieces of skin to a machine which has a metal blade with small teeth.  You lift the blade with your foot.  Throw the bulk of the skin on the far side of the machine, insert six inches or so of the skin under the blade, let the blade down, grab that short piece of skin, pull briskly and drag it through the blade.  Then, reverse the process and get rid of the pulp from the last bit you held on.  The fibers are hung up and dried for several days.  Finally, they are either woven into ropes or packed into huge bales.  In both cases, the product is taken in packs on the villagers’ backs down the trail described above and sold in Malaybalay.

We got most of our water from the river which was about half a mile away.  We had large bamboo stalks about 5 to six inches diameter and about five to six feet long.  Bamboo is hollow and has a membrane every foot or so that makes each compartment watertight.  We would knock out all these membranes except the bottom.  I do not know how much water you could carry in one tube, but, I would guess about four to five gallons.

We cooked on a fire table.  This table  was to one side of the kitchen. It was aboutthree feet deep and four feet wide.  It was covered with the same grass roof that covered most of the roof.  Oddly enough, it never caught on fire.  I never understood that.  We built two fires on the table and cooked in pots hung over the fires.  The fire table was only walled in about 3/4s of the way up to the roof so the smake could escape outside of the house.  We also had a small two burner kerosene stove; however, kerosene had to be brought in on people’s back so it was not practicle to use it.  I do not recall it ever being used.


Bathing was either with a washbasin or more likely just going to the river and doing it in conjuction with washing the clothes and getting the drinking water.  Remember, Get water upstream, wash downstream!

Mostly, we went to bed early.  But on those days we stayed up for special circumstances we used a coleman lantern.  Again, fuel had to be carried in so it was used sparingly.  Being close to the equator, we did have fairly long days.


We had a two way radio and maintained a morning and evening daily contact with our headquarters in Nasuli.  We did run a generator which ran the radio.  I think the only time we ran it besides to run the radio was on Christmas, my dad hooked it up to the Christmas Tree lights and ran it for about an hour.  The entire village turned out to see that.  This radio was ultimately important to my family because we had a very strangely behaving cat. My dad killed it (one of the horrible memories etched in my brain), cut off its head and shipped the head to Nasuli to be shipped to Manila to check for the potential of Rabbies.  Turned out to be infexted and we all had to leave to get shots, but that is another story. I was spared due to my arrival time at the village.

I could be like Led Zepplin and Ramble On over many topics, but will end with the only part of this story related to fishing.

We had a pretty wide river which I mentioned earlier.  at times, there was virtually no water and at other times, it was a raging torrent many feet above “normal.” I can not recall ever seeing any significant fish come from the river.  That has always been strange to me, even as a young kid. There were all kinds of little critters, perhaps part of the salamander family, that lived in the water and under the river rocks.  These were taken for food and I can recall hunting for them with other village boys.  I do not know how they tasted because they ended up in their homes. My mom was pretty flexible, but she drew the line at wierd things and the field rats which were a delicacy in this village. Those were huge critters a good 2 feet from nose to tip of tail. 


I will probably write a few more stories about this village as it has many fond memories so if this sort of thing appeals to you, check back again.

In the meantime, enjoy the Emmrod fishing system as shown on the web site

Fishing for Mudfish

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Growing up in the Philippines, I was a mini-Tarzan.  I spent a lot of my spare time in the jungle surrounding the missionary town where we lived. As a boarding student, I spent a lot of my time in solitary hunting and fishing endeavours.   Nasuli was a couple hundred acre area where we had the headquarters for the southern branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  The “town” was on the edge of the jungle with a river on one side and fields on the other with an airport at the top end where our Helio Courriers were kept.  Over the years, the number of houses  expanded to about 50 or 60.  We lived in about three different sections of the town over the years as my parents were founding members going out in 1953.  They were stationed there several times and out in the jungles others. I took most of my schooling up to 7th grade there be it living with my folks or in a boarding school we had.

I was fearless as a kid.  I roamed an area up to about 15 miles in some directions and about five to ten miles in others.  I had three particular passions. Growing a garden, collecting orchids and fishing!  Fishing in Nasuli involved mostly trot line fishing.  The budding Atherton Enterprises, grew stuff in the garden and sold the produce or went to the jungle and collected orchids which were then sold to the other missionary families for the centavos necessary to go to Bankod to buy hooks and line.  Then, the fishing started.

On occassion, I would fish in the small lake for which Nasuli was named.  This was a five or ten acre lake with three deep 20-30 foot springs.  The water was crystal clear, cold and drew us kids like magnets.  I was in and out of that pool many times a day.  I was also fishing it.  There were three kinds of fish, minnows, mud fish and eels. 

The eels were about five feet long and about five inches thick.  We rarely saw these and the only time I was invovled in catching one was with Uncle Seymore A. who shot it late one night with a spear.  Pretty good meat! 

I fished for the minnows pretty regularly.  These were 2 to about 4 inches long and we ate them too. I never developed a taste for them, but, they were fun to catch.  I used a pretty small hook and a single piece of cooked rice on the end.  Our fancy poles consisted of a six or seven foot bamboo cane cut for that purpose with my “bolo.”  My bolo was made from spring steel harvested from a derelict truck.  Nice, heavy and pretty sharp.  I could cut a large bamboo pole several inches thick in two or three whacks.  Other bait for the minnows was bread spit balls. I hated fishing with Buzzy D because he always ate the bait. He would promise not to, then, all of a sudden, it would be gone.  Man! You had to bake the bread back then, you could not just go get another loaf! What was baked never lasted long!  I am still mad at you Buzzy. (not)

Mud fish was the other kind of fish in this lake.  The Binokid or Visayan (I am not sure which language the name came from. The local language was Binokid, the trade language was Visayan.)  term for this fish is pronounced ”Hollow on.”  Thais call this fish Pla chon but it shows on the menus as Snake Head Fish.   Looking through photos of fish from Thailand and the Philippines, I am pretty sure it is a variety of the snake head fish family.  Anyway, it was alive and well in the waters at Nasuli.  Occasionally, I caught them by throwing a line out with a minnow, worms or a live frog on it.  Other times, I got impatient and snagged them.  By far, the most common way I fished for these was on a trot line. 

There was a lot of water in this area.  A river flowed serenely by one side of our acreage.  Actually, our lake flowed into it through a spillway and dam set up in the early days to establish a hydro electric system.  I never did learn why that never worked.  But, it made a great lake for us to play in so I am glad that was done.  Off to one corner of the lake, there was a little slough which proved to be a fertile fishing place.  I recall once bellying up to the water’s edge to observe one of these fish that was about 18 inches long and three or four inches thick.  They are built like a baseball bat.  It was taking care of its tiny little babies which swirled around it but were so small you could barely distinguish one individually.  I am sorry to say, the thought of the fish frying overwhelmed any thought of the fish fry and I jumped in and caught that puppy by hand and took it home.  Probably severely reduced the number of fish for me to catch over the next few years.  We also had a pond which had a lot of mud fish and tilapia which had been stocked by Dr. Monteymeyor from the Muswan Agricultural College about twenty miles away.  I loved that man.  He was such a humble and nice guy who really took a lonely kid under his wings. In my 18th or 19th year, while living with my uncle in Alabama, I leared he had passed away. It was a sad day for me.   Anyway, this pond had the snakehead fish, tilapia and a big two foot plus long fish I stalked for years.  I hardly ever saw it and only came close to getting once.  I had a bow and arrow with a three prong tip.  I saw the fish as it headed for a cave in the side of the bank, I let fly and that arrow was out in the water wiggling all over the place.  By the time I grabbed it, Mr. Fish was history.  I never saw it again!  I did catch a lot more snakeheadfish out of that pond.  Again, sorry to say, I fished the tilapia out in a couple years.

My trot line poles consisted of a piece of bamboo about two feet, maybe three feet long.  I would notch them about the middle of the stick and tie my line there.  Finding a likely place, and I knew the likely places in the river, lake and pond, I would place my stake at a 45 degree angle into the bank almost up to the point where I had the line tied.  I had split the top end of the bamboo down an inch or two.  I would fold the line into that split so the bait would hang just at the surface of the water but the line could easily pull out to give the fish some play and time to get hooked.  My favorite bait was live frogs.  They would swim for hours (I still feel a pang of sorrow for the frogs’ pain 40 or so years later!) and their movement was an attractant for the fish.  Before leaving, I would flick my fingers in the water making a fairly large glug glug glug sound.  This seemed to draw fish–or I had been told it would.  I can not say definately if it was that, the frog or luck, but, I caught fish pretty regularly!

So, not much else to say about fishing there. Most of my last three years in the Philippines were spent away at boarding school outside of Manila.  I only got to visit the old fishing holes during summer or Christmas breaks.  I still miss them but am afraid to go back.  I am sure what seemed so huge and awe inspiring to me back then will look much smaller now and I choose to enjoy the memories of grandneur and hugeness.


I did learn as a kid a lesson about conservation from the tilapia issue.  If we do not shepherd our resources, we loose them. So, don’t consider me a “go back to before people were here so the animals can live like they used to” kind of guy, but, I sure do want us to do things to not only preserve the fun we can have, but even make it better. Our hunting and fishing licenses really play a big part in accomplishing that end!


One final PS that will not fit in another story.  We had lots of iguana’s in this area.  Mostly, they were pretty small, but, there was one big fat one that used to hang out by the pond.  I tried forever to get it with my sling shot.  I was a pretty good shooter and could probably still make one by hand faster than todays kids can load a computer program.  One day I was in our dining room (fancy word considering the house, one of the first two or three built in the early 50’s) where we were living.  It had a large window overlooking the pond down below and maybe 75 or 80 feet away.  Now, this house was built almost entirely from bamboo except for the trees that formed the poles upon which it was built and the cogone grass which made the roof.  The floors were split bamboo, the walls were yet another kind of thin walled bamboo split then flattened out and woven together.  The grass roof was tied to bamboo slats running latterly along the bamboo pole rafters of the house.  The window was a large opening in the wall which you could cover with a large piece of framed woven bamboo in a rainy time.   BUT looking out of the window one day, I noticed my target of many hunting trips lying on a large limb of some jungle tree which grew out over the pond almost at eye level of where I stood.  I got my sling shot out and three tries later, WHAM, I hit old lizard right in the gizard.  Down he went, but, the water revived him and he swam away.  I bet he is still there saying where is old David. He better hurry up!


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