Monday, May 18, 2009


We’ve come to know him affectionately as “Ungoy.” That’s Filipino for “monkey.” As I write this I can’t even remember his real name. Man, that’s just not right. I even call him Ungoy when I talk to him. He doesn’t seem to mind though, and even his Aunty Divine calls him that. In fact, I think he takes some measure of satisfaction from it.

Anyway, whenever there’s a job that involves scary heights, he’s the guy we get; thus, the appellation “Ungoy.” The man is a fearless climber. So, the other day, we decided it was “Ungoy time” once again. We texted him to come on over to do some work.

Before getting to that, it’s been almost a year since we finished the tree house tower. Naturally, Ungoy was a key member of the work force that built it, a crew that included three of his brothers and their father, Eddy. During the 3 weeks of construction Ungoy and all of Eddy’s boys never ceased to amaze me as they worked so high, so quickly and confidently, and with so much apparent fearlessness.

After the tower’s completion, for the first few months of our enjoyment of it, I loved that the upper mango boughs partly screened us inside the confines of the platform. Eventually though, I realized that much of the fun of being so high above-it-all was hindered by our obstructed view of the surrounding panorama. It was irritating every afternoon to have to stand and peer around a big branch of pesky leaves to take in the beautiful sunsets. Thus, we decided it was time for Ungoy to do some tree trimming and “un-obstruct” the view.

There was a time last year that I pleaded with Eddy to let me invest in a safety harness, especially after he mentioned that one of his sons had actually fallen three floors flat on his back at one of their job sites. Luckily, it was a “soft” landing on dirt so that he was but shaken and not excessively stirred. Even so, each time I watched the boys do their precarious thing way the heck up there I begged them to let me purchase a harness, but I was always politely turned down. They claimed that the ropes would only encumber them; so, I stopped bringing it up.

Normally, I cannot bear to watch Ungoy as he does his perilous "high wire" routines. I had no choice this time though, since I had to direct him as to which branches to cut. I took my camera up with me hoping that I would not capture a shot of him tumbling tthrough the branches to the ground.

I showed him the specific unwanted branches and where I wanted the cuts to be made. After that it was up to him to figure out how to get it done. Interestingly, I was able to watch his trapeze-like antics without cringing by mostly doing so through the aperture and on the viewing screen of my digital camera—funny how that works.

Looking at the shots now, it might not seem all that particularly dangerous because the impression of height is not so apparent. Keep in mind though that he is over three stories up. The ground is a long way down from where he is working. Even when I was young and considered myself a good tree climber, I could never have forced myself to do what he does.

Getting ready to work, first thing, Ungoy slips out of his flip-flops. Before that, as soon as he got to the house, off came the t-shirt, so that was already taken care of. You can see from the photos that he is a slender fellow to say the least. Not having a lot of extra pounds to weigh him down is surely a good thing. Most people fall while climbing trees when branches give way. It was true for me, when as a kid both my worst tree-climbing accidents involved the unexpected snapping of branches beneath me.

Way up on the fourth tower landing, with the saw in his right hand, Ungoy reached up with his left and grabbed the branch that he’d be cutting on. Then, placing one foot up on the railing he effortlessly pulled himself up onto it. Watching him balance on that narrow railing I was already feeling sympathetic queasiness. He wasn’t perturbed in the least.

Within ten minutes he had all the unwanted branches removed. Amazing. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Ungoy is in his early 30s. When I first met him I thought he might be barely 20.

I still can’t get over how he can clamber around in the tree like that with bare feet. But we DO call him Monkey, and why would a monkey put shoes on over its hands? I was watching him; our Ungoy uses his feet like another pair of hands, just like a monkey.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Just reading about being three stories above the ground in a tree makes my knees quiver!