Road Map Series Vol. 1 No. 29

How Angry Can A Young Man Be?

John Ingle’s accumulation of angers drove him to an early tragic death at the age of 17-1/2. His body was discovered almost one month after he took leave of his mother and home in Ecoland, this city, for one of his solo camping trips to Mount Apo and plunged, or accidentally slipped, from the peak to a lower dark grassy hollow about four hundred meters down.

This husky good-looking talented boy was born at home in the heart of London, also well into the heart of British socialism, in an old 4-story house historic for its oldness and due for demolition for its beating her deadline by two hours, without benefit of anesthesia and hospital conveniences. It was Good Friday, March 24, 1967 and time for coffee break.

John’s father David Ingle, an engineer was busy fending off/ entertaining a host of young student midwives who had trooped in to witness John’s birth from the surrounding hospitals. Unluckily for them they arrived late and had to be content with a narration of details from those who were present at the delivery. John’s mother remembers the footsteps and their holiday clothes that kept whipping in her ears and on her face, peeved at their utter neglect of her condition: for them the baby was the thing.

In England at that time where education and medicine were socialized, meaning taken care of by the state, all first children were born in hospital. John was middle child in a family of three. The third was again born in hospital as mothers over thirty-five, who just might encounter delivery problems due to age, are enjoined to have their children there. The third was also a boy.

From the start John was nature’s child – near his first home in the heart of London was Bloomsbury park where he was rolled for walks in his pram while a baby. As he grew up and about, and moved to Backhurst Hill, all he had to was run into the backyard and it was Epping forest, originally a royal hunting ground where there were wild animals and lush trees that could all be enjoyed but not touched nor made away with.

At a year old he was astounded child psychologists at a nearby clinic for children for his articulateness – his vocabulary was better than most for his age, his understanding that of an older person than himself.

At five he was enrolled in regular infant school (the equivalent of first grade here, or lower primary) without going through playschool (the equivalent of pre-nursery and nursery classes) which at any rate was optional and expensive. All five-year olds in this monarchial welfare state are made to go to school at this age or the parents would be liable to the law. It is compulsory to educated children and develop manpower intellectually to enable them to be self-sufficient at the age of 16.

Later his parents were divorced, and he was brought to the Philippines by his Filipina parent together with older sister Nina and younger brother Mark. John was eight years old.

At the Ateneo de Davao where his mother brough him for school, he was supposed to come into fifth grade but being too young (First graders have to be seven in the Philippines and normally John would have had to be in the second grade) and the school compromised and put him back into fourth.

He adjusted to Davao without excitement, not without disillusion, not without a young schoolboy’s eager energy and enthusiasm and adventurousness. Certainly, also not without a host of unexpressed homesickness and a sense of loss. His father rarely wrote it at all, his mother was busy trying to be both herself and the absent parent. He had to contend with a new language ad vocabulary, a new set of customs and traditions and family patters, and an entirely different concept of country and citizenship. In England the state takes care of everyone’s needs in medicine and schooling

Specially, from childhood to old age, even in unemployment. In a democracy, or even an ersatz one, individual initiative is what makes the man. Creativity is of the essence. An individual can make or unmake himself within the limits prescribed by law or without, and advance to be recognized regardless.

In school he did properly well with his studies, he chose and kept a small handful of classmate friends.

At grade school graduation, John earned a medal for exemplary studies in science. However, he developed some behavior problems for which he was sent to see Father Rooney, a Jesuit, who later became his close friend, for guidance and counselling, and more often as time progressed. By the third year of high school, he stopped going to school before the first term was over. He took to sleeping in daytime and staying up at night to read, watch television or explore the city environs on his bicycle. He also took to locking his room to everyone after his mother doused him with a bucket of water for not ever waking up in time for school.

Add to these the question of survival which as a family they all tried to cope with within a context of land and farm products and John’s sense of security was slowly and surely being battered down. He mus have taken tis problem so seriously having this time grown so that he was the taller member of the family, the responsibility of being a man growing on him

Within the space of ten years in the country, he tried to find alternative outlets for his boyhood longings and interests. The summer after he dropped off from school he climbed Mt. Apo to the peak for the first time with an older man friend, an artist who visited the family. He was thirteen. He became so proficient at climbing and finding his way about the mountain that when could not stand the ways of the city which oppressed him considerably he would bundle up his sleeping roll and nylon tent into a backpack, his gas cooker and little rice pot, some food supplies of rice, water, dried meat and fish, tea, coffee, etc. and disappear into the mountains for five to seven days at a time, causing his family anxiety over his safety.

John tried to explore the sea with a friend called Alejandro, supposedly “to catch Moby Dick,” but he found there was too much sea and too little in it except fish, involved too much effort and needed the renting of a boat. Mountain-climbing proved to be a more useful outlet and provided the necessary comfort of privacy.

On one of the mountain-climbing trips he brought a minimum of supplies having at that time learned which plants could be cut down to supply both food and drink. He called this his survival training trip.

Once he deviated and climbed Mr. Talomo which according to seasoned climbers is more dangerous and treacherous to climb than Mt. Apo, there being no established tracks and full even then of tangled vines. There he took a fall of thirty feet into a ravine and lost consciousness. When he came, the first concern was to inspect his camera which was undamaged. He was lucky that time – – he sustained only bruises.

He kept journals of his trips in notebooks full of his observations on the environment, the sounds he heard (mortar in the not-so-far-distance, birds and snakes, the dropping of water, the wind at different heights, deer barking) soil conditions, markings of vandals on the trees and on the rocky surfaces carved in with knives or graffitied with paint. This last really made him very angry. Always he went up with his loaded camera with reserve rolls of film where he tried to record what he could not describe in words – the beauty and quiet of nature, its poetic moods and details.

The summer, after his first climb he enrolled a second time for the junior year of high school, but at the University of Mindanao. Here he distinguished himself by winning a second prize in essay for the high school, and the first prize of an overall writing contest at collegiate level. The subject was about environment, his cup of tea. Unfortunately, no one knows where the manuscripts have disappeared. He stayed at the UM also for one school year.

At this time his mother observed that he was prone to anger at trivial causes and had fits of violence which however he tried to curb. His habits of dress and feeding degenerated and often he would refuse to open his door or answer summons to table or to meet friends.

He left for his final mountain trip on the morning of October 21, 1984. His mother noticed nothing amiss until the seventh day when he did not return, a week being the longest he ever stayed away. Then his mother discovered that he had not brought along his bedroll and his climbing gear. The nervous parent sought the help of mountaineering friends and climbing groups. John’s artist friend with two guides finally found his body almost a month later on November 16. He came back to town with photographs of John’s body and the location of where he had fallen, in a dark grass covered depression about four hundred meters directly below the mountain peak.

Retracing his steps, his mother discovered on the way to the mountain that he had made many friends in the outposts among the guides, the jeepney drivers, the inhabitants on the foothills, members of some religious group in New Israel for whom he bought fruits as gifts on his way up, a native girl who tried to dissuade him from climbing on his last day due to bad weather. In his own way he had managed to forge friendships and loyalties with the people connected with his mountain-climbing.

John was buried almost exactly where he fell, on that grassy cove that received his body and mind and offered his spirit to the mountain. “He was happiest ere,” his mother concedes, “and I am sure he would love to stay here forever.” She left a simple marble tombstone to mark his mountain grave.

John’s solace was in his loneliness. His mother discovered in his own room after he died notes and journals that included nine complete poems. One notebook was devoted solely to a methodical interview of photographers without studious who plied the streets waiting to be called to record in photos family occasions like baptisms, weddings, graduations, etc. The questions were about income, families, working habits. John’s purpose at this point was perhaps to see where he could fit as working man; he was trying to press himself into a mold, into a conventional pattern of employment that suited his talent and his immediate environment. As the notebook ends, one could sense that somehow this was not the life for him.

As it is his propensities lay in media He could write clearly well and had a masterly if not an expressive way with the camera. He would have made a terrific photojournalist. He wrote papers on agrarian reform, and mature opinions on Tasadays and Mormonism and other academic questions. He was bothered by the plights of farmers. The first rumors of oncoming strikes in transport or labor heard over radio drove him up to the mountain. He tried to escape what he could not help resolve. He was involved in a lot of matters and kept his distance from them as far as possible. He chose to withdraw from strife; it was simpler and more peaceful.