Thursday, September 14, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Days 22 and 23 (Labangon to Malingin)

DAY TWENTY-TWO ::::: THE COPS FROM THE Tabogon Police Station have left. We  appreciate very much of their presence last night watching over us. We were able to thank them. Today, is February 9, 2017 and this will be Day Twenty-two of the Thruhike. We just had a breakfast of bitter gourd mixed with egg, rice, coffee and bread. We have another fresh supply brought by the supply team yesterday.

Leomil Pino would be joining with me and Jonathaniel Apurado today as a guest hiker. He chose the most difficult time over the most brutal route. He would be with us for as long as his time allowed him to. What he would worry is just today and tomorrow because he is on his own where food is concerned. After this, food could be had along the way because it would all be lowlands and highways.

The supply team brought my Jack Wolfskin trail shoes yesterday and it shall be tested against the unforgiving terrain of the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range. I changed into a clean pair of Lorpen hiking socks that were provided by Viajero Outdoor Centre at a special price. I also changed into a clean pair of Accel elastic undershorts. I carried all my dirty socks and undershorts with me north, as well as the everyday sleepwear – a cotton t-shirt and a long-sleeved PDRRMO jersey.

After drinking in capsules of Enervon Multivitamin and Herbalife Natural Raw Guarana and an amount of Yakult Cultured Milk, I gave my thanks and appreciation to Hon. Leonilo Peligrin and wife of Labangon, Tabogon. I left a loaf of Park N Go bread and their baked products as my appreciation. Breathing on air near the national highways gave me opportunities of good cellular phone signals and allowed me to update the Thruhike to my sponsors, family, followers and friends in a social networking site.

The Lenovo A7000 smart phone floated out unsent photos of ten days while the Cherry Mobile U2 basic phone tackled text messages. After that, I switched off power on the Lenovo to save the battery for more picture taking up ahead for it devours battery life quickly. It was cold last night even though we were in lower elevations but I had a good night’s sleep. I am ready today for the hardships ahead. We left Labangon at 07:40 which is not good. Forty minutes of delay is a big difference.

The Doce Cuartos Mountain Range is the last obstacle and is also the most challenging. Rising to not more than 270 meters and a length of about 4-5 kilometers, it is partly wilderness. Few locals go there as there are almost no trails and there are no known water sources. There is a forest of stunted trees which just barely grew above your head. It is made of limestone, with loose outer surface and treacherous sinkholes. Less foliage contribute exposure to the sun while rocky surfaces bounce off heat.

I had tried exploring this twice during the Segment VII Exploration Hike last April 2016 where I did a solo and again in August 2016 with four others. The first time was almost a success but lack of water and suspicious locals forced me to abort it. I followed my route on the second attempt but I lost the trail, going in circles until I found it, then I let another from my team to find a route during the most trying times which led us farther away from engaging on a northerly direction.

This time we followed a wide trail until we reach an open well. Across us is a trail to the southern part of this mountain range. We hiked slowly, conserving energy as much as possible for it would be extremely warm up there even when there is a very generous presence of breeze. The route I chose is the same as the last two episode. When the trail disappeared, I embarked on guessworks, to determine where the rest of the trail would be?

I had learned from the last time and able to distinguish some familiar features. I did a lot of trial and error of possible routes and followed a few ghost trails until I found a real trail. When you are into that, you do not compromise your companions to hardships. They stay in one place while you do the reconnaissance yourself. Besides, it is easier and faster if you do it alone instead of a line of people going back and forth all the time. 

I found the small patch of corn field. Someone comes here all the time. That someone may have a source of water nearby or he depends on rain. There is a wild dragonfruit growing near and I cut four members to propagate it or maybe borrow my idea of “pepper diplomacy” which I used to great efficacy during the southern leg of the Cebu Highlands Trail. How did it get there? Anyway, I discovered that this small field is watered through a ditch which came from a natural drainage during rain and rainwater stayed for a while here.

First time I was here, I came from a trail from below. These last two were from a trail from above which, in my first visit, I used in leaving from here. I need to explore more of this place. It may have another trail. I got to exert more effort. I found it finally. I followed this. It afford me a good view of the sugar cane fields in between Ilihan and Labangon. I passed by a hole on the ground where there was water recently. The trail led me to a thin copse of mahogany trees. My older route passes by this place and it goes to a small house.

I had befriended the occupant. His name is Vicente. Today, I have real gifts for him aside from a combination of numbers for a numbers game. He is here gathering charcoal. The place has shade. Perfect for a noon break. It is still 11:08 but it is so warm. I opened my High Sierra Titan bag and dug my hand at its deepest quarters, producing a box of ten Marlboro packs. Vicente was smiling now and I thought I heard an old woman from inside the house. I added two packs of Knorr instant soup, 200 grams of rice, a loaf of bread and baked products. We lunched on Fitbars and stayed until 12:00.

I followed the trail uphill into a forest of stunted hardwood. The vegetation changed as we penetrate its most remote parts. Trees were now tall with bi-is palms growing among them. Some parts had been cleared for firewood and I see many abandoned holes that were used to make charcoals. The trail goes down and I know where it goes so I tried again the trail that branched off it. This was the ones I used during my two visits here and it would lead me to a place where there are gaping sinkholes and where there is a standing rock called Tindog Bato. From a gap on a rock, I finally glimpsed the sea to the east.

The trail disappears because it was overgrown by grassland. I would not chance clearing a path here. It is too dangerous. There may be more sinkholes. Tremors and aftershocks caused edges of some sinkholes to collapse and enlarge. The last trail that I followed passed in between two sinkholes and it just stayed at the edge of a cliff. I consult my clock, it is 14:00. Too few daylight hours left. We stopped and rest for a while and thought out another strategy. The warmth, the thirst and the fatigue factor are just too much.

We would follow the route I took the last time. I will go down and look for that dry watercourse. I will travel down following the contour, gently and slowly. The vegetation is so thick, made up of thin wiry vines running everywhere, elongated branches trying to reach for sunlight, shrubs and palm leaves. There are trees and thick branches but it is best that I move like water instead of acting like an irresistible force slashing indiscriminately on anything that blocked.

I forgot to bring out my Camp Red Limited Edition Balaraw during the lull and it was so cumbersome to unload and load my heavy backpack. I need not waste strength to untangle myself. I borrowed instead Leomil’s Seseblade NCO knife. I do not need a big blade to work my way through this jungle tangle. The very light Seseblade is enough and I do not have to use brute strength. All I have to do is flick a wrist and – voila – I am moving forward. It was hard going but it would be harder still heaving a bigger knife and getting entangled. This is no cinema. This is the real world.

I found the dry watercourse. The last time, we followed it downstream, blinded by the rush of adrenaline. Today, I will follow it upstream, just like the ones I have wanted last time, but I will be facing an obstacle of chest-high grasses. You cannot slash it with a knife, you have to part a path through it with a stick. I cut a slender branch for this purpose. I need to make a lot of noise with the stick to scare away what is hiding beneath. Good thing we do not have big cats here else we are meat salad.

As I navigate through all these unwelcoming territory, my eyes cast left and right for any signs of a way out of these suffocating place. I must have walked slowly and surely for about 800 meters when I caught something that elicited me approval. A trail. I transferred to there. Leomil was in a state of semi-shock and speechless while Jon already on the brink of exhaustion. It was very humid and draining. The air was thick. Breathing took an effort. Resting above the grassland valley gave us more room to recover strength.

We go up and up into a high valley. I could see from a gap the reservoir tanks of Libjo, Tabogon. It was one of my reference points and it showed we had not travelled far although I thought we did a lot of walking. The gap offered a way out of the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range for there is a trail. I opt for another branch that goes into uncharted territory for me. I had spied an abandoned hut last time and I aim to reach that today before dusk sets in.

I found the hut and there is a tinaja just near it. There is water. I even scared a rail which had been quenching its thirst from there. The trail passed beside the natural reservoir and goes up to a ridge. I followed it to a rocky promontory where there are steps hacked on the rocks. Beyond it is a small plateau and is the jewel this mountain range have kept hidden from me for some time. The place is flat but it is ringed by hardwood trees. Unfortunately, locals are starting to deforest it. We will set up camp here for it is now 16:00.

The hammocks are strung up between trees along with their overhead canopies. Firewood are plenty and we will have a small campfire after supper. Jon and Leomil have recovered and are now laughing as they gave life to the three alcohol burners. Water is boiled and I deserve a cup of coffee. We have enough water for dinner and breakfast plus a small washing for the pots in between. I think we would be left a liter of water tomorrow to share among us. Let tomorrow worry itself then.

We got a nice meal of thick Japanese spicy noodles, rice, plus pork and beans. The full moon hung over the sky casting an eerie glow over the rugged landscape below. Leomil has his MP3 music going. The spirits of the mountain have favored us today and showed me to this place. Warm breeze from the sea blew over the fire that flickered and danced, enjoying its existence with its earliest companions, who fed it with more fuel. I felt like being transported to a place when the earth was still young.

Distance Walked: 4.35 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 254 meters and a low of 106 meters

DAY TWENTY-THREE ::::: I EXPERIENCED THE BEST sleep ever last night even if I was partly exposed. The combination of a cool night, warm breeze from the sea, well fed, silver light from a full moon and that floating feeling of a hammock could best any night spent in a 5-star hotel on any day. Unfortunately that beautiful feeling do not last with the approach of daylight. A sea of clouds enveloped the lower places blocking the sun.

Today, is February 10, 2017 and it is the birthday of Mrs. PinoyApache. I reached for my Cherry Mobile U2 basic phone and sent out a birthday greetings to her. She has been very worried about me, especially when she saw photos I posted with blistered feet and blackened shoulders during the southern leg of the Thruhike. She has to accept my stubbornness. She thought I am half-mad for engaging in an activity where I am not paid.

I woke up late but Jonathaniel Apurado and Leomil Pino were still in their dreamy moments. I noticed Leomil sleeping on his ground sheet. Did he not slept in his hammock last night? I noticed his hammock opened up at the bottom and it had dumped him to the ground. It had a torn fabric. Anyway the perfect condition last night placed him in a good advantage as if he was sleeping in a hammock.

The fire had burned to ashes. There is still heat as I placed a hand inches above it. A live ember. I gathered the unburnt ends over the small ember and, moments later, smoke appeared. Oh sweet woodsmoke. Even the mountain spirits loved it. I filled a pot with water just enough for me. With my Trangia, I flicked a lighter and blue flame shoots up from its small reservoir. Smell of coffee and woodsmoke go together.

Leomil and Jon woke up. Either the smoke or my noise or the light piercing the eyelids may have something have to do with that. Jon, still sitting on his hammock, fried the rice from last night and fried also the thin slices of Bilbao chorizo. The smell of a different food other than the Knorr soups shook my appetite alive. We eat our breakfast and left little to throw away. We could not spare water for washing and we hoped we have that on Day Twenty-three of the Cebu Highlands Trail.

We break camp at 08:30 and go down the mountain. We passed by the hut of yesterday and saw a trail that goes down. We met a local. We talked about the abandoned hut. It is an urban legend. The previous occupant had been possessed by an unnatural power. He had the power to walk on the tops of coconuts and bamboos. He could slip in and out unseen even when he was cornered in several police dragnets. He was impervious to bullets but died when his underling stabbed him on account of loot spoils.

That was why there was something in that campsite of ours last night. I just ignored it but it was there, watching us. It could have played a prank on Leomil. But I was sleeping with my Camp Red Special Edition Balaraw and I can not miss at close distance. Anyway, the trail goes down into dangerous places as it pass by deep sinkholes. Staying late at dusk on the trails here is not advisable. I trust my Jack Wolfskin shoes but, even so, we were careful.

We touched bottom and there are trails everywhere. Took out my Suuntu M30 compass and followed one trail that goes north. There is a stream that divides us from the rest of the field. Beyond us is a field of sugar canes. Where we were are meadows. We followed the path that goes on its wavy progress, passing by marshland, forest, crossing streams, until we have to stop at the edge of a community to gather our breathing.

I got the feeling that I am going to the village of Mabuli, Tabogon. I sent a text message to the Tabogon Police Station to inform them that we are now approaching that place. I simply had an unpleasant experience here last April 2016, during the first day of the Segment VII Exploration Hike. I was alone then. I was not welcomed to stay in their village when I did a courtesy call. They were concerned of their safety. What could one man, burdened with a heavy bag and almost died of thirst, do to their peace and order?

I was suspected by local officials as someone working for an opposing political party even when I have a letter received by the Office of the Governor and another from the Cebu Police Provincial Office. That is the problem with half-literate people is they do not understand what is stated in the paper. People from the municipal mayor’s office arrived to interrogate me but found nothing wrong. They called the police to escort me out of this place for my safety. That was the time I aborted my exploration.

I am going back to Mabuli. There is the small store where I took refreshment and there is the public school. I see their village hall as we walked on the dirt road. This village is a beautiful place but the more I am out of here, the better. The people are just too suspicious, even now. I have been into the most notorious places of the CHT but I was not subjected to disgrace and distrust. I would not have come down here again where it not for water. I simply do not want a hiker passing by here in the future. I may have to refine the route of Segment VII later.

This village is simply big. I thought I have gone past Mabuli after walking for two hours and crossing two streams where I thought it as boundary with Bogo City. But when I met a local and asked, they would say I am still in Mabuli. This stretch would have been perfect as it is all trail. I cast a glance at giant power pylons crossing my path and I remembered that these are omnipresent in Bogo City. I met another local and I got an answer that satisfied my wish. I am in Bogo City. At that moment, I sent a text message to the Bogo City Police Station informing them of our presence and our Thruhike.

The trail could not go past anymore on our northerly progress as fields are now fenced. Private lands. We followed a miserable looking dirt road that exits to the national highway, which was known in the old days as the Cebu Hagnaya Road but is now part of the Central Philippines Nautical Highway. We walked beside the pavement amidst the blur of buses and cargo trucks. It is warm and sunny and shades are less when you are on highways. We have to find a place to take a noon break and a meal.

We found one at 12:15 in a place somewhere between La Paz and Anonang Norte, Bogo City. It is a small store but it sells food. The owner is Mercury Las Doce. She was curious of our big bags and a conversation began. She was amazed at our journey that started in Liloan, Santander last January 17. Her husband, Martin, joined her. He, in all his years living in this place have never been to the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range. Martin gave Jon a machete which are commonly used to cut sugar canes. Jon, on the other hand, replicates the gesture to Martin with a Swiss Army Knife Camper.

After an hour of rest, we continued on. We switched on the other side of the road, which is now more shady, and passed by La Paz. We walked on and reached the boundary with Dakit, Bogo City. It is here that we exit from the road and transfer to a trail that cross 600 meters over an unused lot and it joins with an unpaved road. It leads to the interior and followed it until we crossed a slowly disintegrating bridge. We are now in the village Malingin, Bogo City. Just 300 meters more and we will arrive at their village hall.

By 15:30, we were now resting at a community stage. We were expected and the village chair, Hon. Marilyn Calidguid, met us. We were welcomed to use their new building but we insist to use the stage instead as our sleeping area. Missing me by 30 minutes, Markus Immer arrived with Glyn Formentera. Markus and Glyn would stay here and would walk north with us tomorrow. The Toyota Hi-Lux pickup of Markus would be driven back to Cebu City by his driver.

It seemed that something was taken off my back. For 23 days, we faced difficult obstacles, bad weather, sudden and unexpected warmth, suspicious people, slippery trails, heavy loads, monotonous menu and cold nights. I could not count the nights I find myself chasing sleep. My appetite was strong but the last five days I found my breakfast half-consumed where Knorr soup is present. The heat shrivels the skin. Rain drains down in your socks causing you blisters. Bad shoulder straps saps the life out of you but the most difficult of all are still people.

Distance Walked: 13.99 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 254 meters and a low of 45 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Thursday, September 7, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 21 (Bongdo to Labangon)

I TOOK ANOTHER BATH this morning. It was not that cold last night. Maybe we were not that high in elevation anymore. I do not have an altimeter and I could not determine how high was our location here in Bongdo, Borbon. But it was sunny for the last two days and, despite that, the breeze was cold. The amihan, the northeast monsoon winds, carried the winter cold of Siberia, Japan and China to the tropics, where we are 10 degrees above the equator. We also had the sun slightly at our back even at noontime.

This would be the last day of my Hi-Tec Lima hiking shoes for the Thruhike. When we reach Labangon, Tabogon, it would be sent home. It would be replaced by another pair of Jack Wolfskin shoes, which I used brand new during the southern leg, and have caused me blisters for there was no time to break it in. I believed the 11 days I spent walking the Cebu Highlands Trail before it was replaced by the former is good enough to try it once more. Tomorrow hosts the final and most terrible obstacle of the Thruhike.

The bath last night and today, February 8, 2017, have freshened me and have washed away dust, grime and that manly odor. It also gave me a clear mind. That helped when I had another breakfast of instant Knorr soup and rice, which I find so monotonous and devoid anymore of appeal. But there is coffee to keep me alive. As always, the capsules of Enervon multivitamins and Herbalife natural raw Guarana and, of course, Yakult cultured milk are consumed before we step out into the great outdoors and Day Twenty-one.

I have washed last night my Silangan hiking pants and the official CHT jersey made by Silangan Outdoor Equipment, my outfitter. It stayed odorless just the same as if it were not laundered. What it removed were tiny salt crystals, dust, debris and pollen. Nevertheless, the notion of having clean apparels gave you a peace of mind. I will still wear my Fila socks and SNS elastic undershorts for the last time today. Tomorrow will be a hard day and I hope the supply team arrive later this afternoon along with Jack Wolfskin.

We left the village of Bongdo at 07:30, after thanking the Hon. Abdias Retuerto and the village secretary. I know the route to the next village where we will cross another municipality. We follow an unpaved road, stopping for a while to talk to a good furniture maker who specialized in bamboo material. We walk on and stop by a small stream where there is a small bridge. We are now between the boundary of Borbon and Tabuelan.

It is a very lonely place. By the time we left the last house thirty minutes ago, we did not encounter people. We continue on and follow our route but someone whistling was coming towards us. He got startled when he saw us. We gave greetings but the guy acted queerly. I gestured to Jonathaniel Apurado and he understood. This early morning, the green things were greener, the air clearer and the birds sang to their joyous abandonment. The weather is mild with breeze blowing cool. It would have been perfect for the local guy except for our unsought presence.

As I reach a landmark, I scan the landscape and found what I was looking for. It is a trail. How did I know there was a trail? Been here done that, but how did I found that out before? Simple. Terrain analysis. When I explored this place a year ago, I found the rough road was going west but my direction was to the north, so it was not difficult. Just scan your right side if you happen to walk west and it would reveal itself. Of course, you need to have good observation skills. Common sense will teach you that.

The trail followed the hills gently up and worked its way along contours, crossing a wide cleft and then up another gentle slope until I saw a roof of a hut. Familiarity breeds happiness. We are now approaching the village of Kanluhangon, Tabuelan. I have also nurtured friendship with their village chair, Hon. Felix Rondina, so I sent a text message to the Tabuelan Police Station to inform them of our presence in their area and our Thruhike.

We arrived at the village at 09:00 and began the routine of paying courtesy call to an official. There was a group of residents sitting under a waiting shed and they were waiting for someone. They spotted me but their body language told me a reaction that could only be borne by either excitement or by confusion. There was something in the air. Was it my appearance? I am now bearded and tanned with white tousles of hair. My clothes are partly wet with sweat and one of my shoes was smiling. I looked like a hobo.

One of them approached me suspiciously and asked if we were the ones they were expecting. No, I says. We are just passing through. Are we hikers? Yes, we were hiking since January 17 from Santander and going to Daanbantayan. Then there was joy and laughter in everyone as they poured out of the waiting shed. They did not expect us so soon. We were supposed to be expected for lunch and they were having a meeting on what food to offer us.

My happiness got replaced with sadness as I learned that Felix had passed recently from a motorcycle accident at Liloan. He was another able public servant and was also the head of the Tabuelan Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, just like the late Dante Limana of the village of Tabili, for Catmon. I met both at a search and rescue conference in Cebu City last July 2016. Their presence would have ensured safe passage for hikers after this Thruhike is over.

We stayed and talked with the residents. Three live fowls arrive with their owners while a fire is started at the back of the health center. I get to know Felix’s widow, Lendy, herself a village councilor. We were warmly entertained and offered native delicacies. During a lull, I tried the weighing scale. I could not believe I weigh close to 86 kilos. Was the scale defective? It had been a long time I weighed like this. I stopped standing on one when I failed to bring my weight below 98 kilos.

We eat lunch together with the residents of Kanluhangon. I took several servings even though that, in less than thirty minutes, we would be hitting the trail again, this time, with bloated stomachs. I eat to my hearts content. The food was heartily offered and there was sincerity in their voices. I wished policemen from Tabuelan would join us in this feast. They were also expected. I explained to the residents that we have a schedule to pursue and people to meet at 16:00. It is very important that I arrive there first.

At 11:45, we left Kanluhangon after giving our sincerest thanks and our appreciation. We walked on a paved road that became unpaved when it joined another one. Under the heat of the noontime sun, we persevered and reach a paved road. This road goes to coastline Tabuelan and the other end to Tabogon. We followed the one going east but made a left turn at a corner, entering the village of Calambua, San Remigio. It was breezy yet, despite it, the sun burned above and the pavement bounced off glare. Sent a text message to the San Remigio Police Station informing them of our passage.

The road offered few shades except by coconuts. To the right of me is a rolling valley of grassland and sugar canes. I looked for the trail, found it, and began crossing this wide valley. It is better hiking here and the trails are much kind to the feet soles. We cross a small bridge and, guided by the sight of the national highway far away, we choose our route. We did not follow the path taken during the Segment VI Exploration Hike last year. Instead we took a northeasterly direction.

We crossed a stream and climbed up a dirt road, crossed another bridge, go back to the same road. We passed by a private cemetery and continue on until we reach the St. Martin de Porres Parish. We are now in Ilihan, Tabogon and a few meters from us is the national highway. It is 13:55 and we have so much time. We can take a half hour of rest and still be at Labangon, Tabogon before 16:00. Our supply team would be expected on that hour and I am competing with a Swiss guy, who are known to observe prompt time. After all, they made famous the Swiss watch.

Markus Immer would be driving the supply team in his Toyota Hi-Lux pickup. On the last three rendezvous, I arrived early before him and on this fourth supply run, I would keep that record intact. He would always arrive before time but I beat him all the time. We start for Labangon at 14:20, after crossing the highway. I sent another text message for the Tabogon Police Station so they would expect also of our presence. The asphalted road wove among sugar cane fields and then I saw this ragged monolith from afar. The Doce Cuartos Mountain Range is the last and the most difficult obstacle of the Thruhike.

I shivered at its sight because I could not shake off the trauma of my two failures there in April and August last year. This small mountain range is my Moby Dick and I am Captain Ahab trying to tame her. I would try her again tomorrow. Most of it are unexplored. It has only a very few trails and there is no known water source. Forest cover are stunted, exposing your head to heat exposure. It is made of limestone and the surface are made of loose rocks. One mistake and you are done. 

A sign says we are now in Labangon. We crossed a bridge and found the village head at his home at 15:30. I made a courtesy call on the Hon. Leonilo Peligrin and asked permission to stay and sleep for the night. He welcomed our presence. At 15:45, Markus and company arrived. With him were Justin Abella, Leomil Pino and Jenmar de Leon and our fresh supply of food and fuel. Part of that are bread from our valued sponsor Park N Go Bakeshop, courtesy of Randy Salazar.

A police patrol from the Tabogon Police Station arrived at 17:30 to check on us. They informed us that they were sent to secure our presence and that they would also stay overnight. Very much appreciate that. After supper, Markus, Jenmar and Justin left. Leomil would stay with us and would hike with us tomorrow and try to experience this terribly dour mountain range. We three tried to fit in the limited space of the hut. The night is silently eerie but we have guardian angels tonight. 

Distance Walked: 14.97 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 212 meters and a low of 89 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Friday, September 1, 2017


LAST AUGUST 19, 2017, I WENT to Books & Brews Cafe in Mango Plaza, Juana Osmeña Street, Cebu City, to watch and listen to Gian Carlo Jubela talk about THE CORE OF A SUCCESSFUL BLOGGER. Gian Carlo is the other half of Adrenaline Romance, an adventure blog. He documents his adventures together with Shiela Mei, be they are scuba diving, rock climbing, canyoning, hiking, kayaking, caving or chasing waterfalls.

The talk started at 13:00 and there were seventeen of us inside a room designed to accommodate eleven people. Although the theme of the talk is designed for people who are still new into blogging or wanted to start a blog, there were also long-time bloggers and media professionals attending Gian Carlo’s event. I, for one, owned a 10-year old blog and my attendance was really meant to learn something that might improve Warrior Pilgrimage.

Gian Carlo started the history of the blogging industry and then the dilemmas of blogging. When I started blogging in 2007, the Internet was overly saturated with all kinds of blogs. For example, you Google “travel” and you are directed to a long list of websites. The list is so long that it can fill up more than a thousand pages! When I started to blog, it was for that wonderful passion of writing and improving your style. Until now.

Lamentably, many blogs are obsessed with their earnings or engrossed in capturing many followers and a lot of blogs that were created recently were really meant for these two, sometimes their owners or administrators over exaggerate their stats just to be seen at the top of the apex or taking advantage of a trend. The passion is not there anymore. When social media became popular, microblogging and vlogging took away the attention from real blogs.

Another dilemma faced by bloggers is that business and governments utilized blogs to advance their policies and gave bloggers that bad reputation which is now happening today. These establishments have a different understanding about exaggerated figures set forth by bloggers and choose the wrong ones. Adding the last quandary is the entry of foreign bloggers who blog about our country and snare readership attention to the detriment of local ones.

Facing those obstacles, a new blogger then has a lot of work cut out for him or her. If you go with the flow, which I did for a time, you will be alright but you will be buried in obscurity. Gian Carlo identified the challenges that a blogger would face in the face of readership competition and one of these is figuring out the purpose why you blog. Is it for passion, is it for fame or is it to profit? Is it personal or is it for a client, a product or for an advocacy?

If you want to stand out from the rest, you should find a niche that you are good at or add another one. The rare the better. When I added “bushcraft” and “survival” on mine, visits have increased tremendously, mostly of foreign origin. Slowly, a local following developed when people found out that I have a constant and quality content, which Gian Carlo emphasized to the audience that they should. Mine has, at least, one article a week.

When you have increasing traffic and following, you need to find more time with your blog. Aside from maintaining your production, you should encourage yourself engaging with readers and vice versa in a professional and respectful manner as possible. Another challenge which stunt the growth of a blog is when you compare yours with others. Loss of motivation would make the blog unimportant and die a natural death.

How do you know you have attained success in blogging? Gian Carlo reveals the indicators why Adrenaline Romance is on that pinnacle. You will gain loyal readers, followers and repeat traffic. Your blog impacted and influenced the lives and choices of readers as well as business and companies you promoted. Conversion ratio is above average. You are invited to grace occasions and events from relevant parties. You have prestige.

When I used to have a widget where I can monitor traffic, I would say I have may own set of special followers. My writing style converted many to my lifestyle and opened a portal by which others could harness their selves to something greater than what they are presently doing. My endorsement and reviews of products and brands guide people to their sources and indirectly contributed to the economy. Invitations to grace events and seminars are normal and are part and parcel of owning Warrior Pilgrimage.

One day you will be a successful blogger like Gian Carlo. You would have to understand and be guided by a set of parameters. Not everyone could write good and blog. Only a few could sustain the existence of their blog for two years and then they disappear. Fewer still could reach five years. Adrenaline Romance had been in the outdoor blogging scene that long. He earns, not much, he says, but that is not important.

When you blog, you are exposing yourself to the public at large. You should have a good command of English grammar, syntax and all. You should also know when to use certain words and phrases and then tell a very simple tale which everyone could understand but which could generate juices of creativity and imagination to a reader.

Gian Carlo reads and writes everyday and could find time to write even after a hard day of travel, a workout in a gym or even chasing deadlines given by his boss. The greatest challenge for him is to learn another writing style. Experiment with writing styles, adapt and change, else you become predictable. 

When you choose a niche, you should be good at it or, on a lesser scale, be familiar with it. Walk the talk. You should know the jargon, the technicalities and the exigencies if you happen to have “culinary art” as your niche. To make you credible, you should invest in equipment or hire someone to assist you. Time goes by and you will become the authority of your field of expertise.

Why do you blog? For what purpose? Everybody are doing that. Do you need to go with the flow or swim against the current? Find something different in every situation? If you are a food blogger but somebody wants you to to write a content about underwear. Be creative if you can. Go around it or just say NO. Opportunities come and do not waste your day crying on it.

Choose a good schedule to publish contents and stick to it because you will be expected. You should sustain a production of, at least, two articles a month. Gian Carlo is so kind. In the old days, bloggers exchange links but, nowadays, we use social media and forums to establish links and mirrors to maximize our availability to more audience.

Be prepared. Develop a “Plan B” when you find yourself in a place which has no Internet or in the middle of a power outage. Gian Carlo has an assistant to do that function when he and Shiela Mei are on vacation. As much as possible, read and answer questions and comments.

Do not be affected by criticisms. To stay long in the business, do not compare yourself with others. Of course, there are better blogs than yours and there are lesser blogs also than yours. Do not get sidetracked by the success of others. Identify the obstacles why blogging becomes difficult for you. Do not be afraid to ask help from other bloggers. We are a community and we help each other out. We want you to fit yourself comfortably in the Internet.

You know why Warrior Pilgrimage stayed that long? I am on a free platform. I have not acquired a domain name. I am here to tell a story not to earn money directly. I am not obsessed. Warrior Pilgrimage is a product of passion. So is Adrenaline Romance. We gave it for free. Time, talent, skill and money. You could add mileage to that. I learned many things today. It was like I am blogging again, this time with a coach.

It is good to learn the basics once again. Gian Carlo left no stone unturned. Although I learned these things on my own, I could not connect how I did it. Gian Carlo talked about it seamlessly and I smiled inside, feeling the satisfaction of my work on my blog. Sitting there for two hours made me wiser. I see many opportunities for me as well as competition. But I have an edge. I have Warrior Pilgrimage. 

Photo by Russel Padriga
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