On the last few days of December 2009, The Kayumanggi Trails Team scaled Mount Pulag in the name of Living Asia Channel (LAC), to finally capture some footage of the famed Pulag Sunrise.
It was aired in the show Gone For The Weekend, LAC’s most popular feature to date. In its first segment, a man fondly called “Mang Roger” makes a short, smiling appearance at the fifth minute.
In the past weeks, The Kayumanggi Trails blog has been flooded with search tags about Roger Guzman, the most-recommended transport service agent shuttling hikers across Cordilleran kilometers to the jump-off points of Mount Pulag.
All for a very unnerving reason. Truth be told, the shock still lingers.
Screen grab of Mang Roger, as he appeared on "Gone For The Weekend - Mount Pulag" which aired on the Living Asia Channel
He was murdered. On the darkest of hours, 25th of July, 2010. Gunned down just as he was coming home to retire after the day’s drive. He succumbed, without seeing the dawn.*
No one saw the crime.
Or at least none with the balls to speak up. Or the heart to confess.
It has been widely believed, from that night— and the nights before, and more so after it— that Mang Roger was the envy of all other transport agents plying the Pulag Route. The man was a favorite among hikers, because of his steady driving style, no-nonsense personality, and reasonable jeepney rental rates. Not to mention, his ability to jive effortlessly with Pulag regulars.
We got the news from Michael Abanes, one of the more avid Pulag climbers constantly bringing along delegates to the peak. Their group was the last to see Mang Roger, still jolly and peaceful, under the broad daylight. Next to the Guzman kinsfolk, this group felt the loss most devastatingly. As their story goes, they even teased Mang Roger about joining them over some bottles of beer back in Baguio. Had the man said yes, would the killer have gone away, uselessly waiting for his victim to arrive?
To this moment, the Pulag community still has no words for the grief. No words, except perhaps, the cry for JUSTICE.
The Kayumanggi Trails offers a requiem for the well-regarded persona, whose able spirit brought us safely through the dark dawn of the Benguet frontier, culminating in the most memorable birthing of the sun we have seen in our young lives.
Higit na sa tayog ng Cordillera ang papanikin mo, Ginoong Roger Guzman. Maraming salamat sa matiwasay na paghatid mo sa libu-libong sumubok sa Bundok Pulag.
Hayaan mong kami naman ang maghatid sa iyo sa Kaluwalhatian, baun-baon ang aming lubos na paggalang. Sumalangit nawa ang iyong kaluluwa…
*(Mang Roger died in the early hours of July 26, 2010, as relayed by Pulag Park Superintendent, Ma’am Emerita Albas. “I die without seeing the dawn brighten over my native land!” was a line uttered by Elias— in Rizal‘s Noli Me Tangere— as he breathed his last in the Forest of the Ibarras)