Tuesday, June 19, 2018


DAY SEVEN :::: I HAD TROUBLE SLEEPING after being awakened by my right forearm touching the cold floor at 23:00 last night. I did not notice icy fingers of wind slipping through opened spaces between glass blades of the jalousie windows while I was asleep. The curtains quivered a bit as the breeze work their way inside, bringing with it mists which now occupy my special sleeping space underneath the long table. Suddenly, the dining room looked so small in the dark but, fortunately, for me I have no fear of closed spaces.

In my half-conscious state, I tried to relax my mind so I could sleep but, it seemed, the more I tried, the more elusive it became. Then I heard the crowing of the cocks heralding the arrival of dawn and it sounds like I have just been cheated of sleep. Then the curtains showed faint light from outside. This time I was able to catch Lady Starlight when the temperature was just about right but the brush of slippers on floor awakened me. Too late for me to dream of sleep.

I have to surrender to the reality of the coming day’s business. The kitchen is now lighted and the staff of Rev. Fr. Bernardo Oyao woke up early for this occasion to cook breakfast for us pilgrims. They had been instructed to keep us comfortable and well-fed in his absence. The familiar smell of camphor still float around the rectory in the early hours of the day. It went with us since Day Two when it was generously smeared on sore muscles and aching joints and is an accepted presence.

I went to the bathroom and, fortunately, it was open and empty. Just as I sat on the seat, someone from outside tried to push the door open. I locked it from the inside, of course. Who could that “unlucky” soul be? Yesterday’s dining became history and is flushed down the drain and now I am ready to accept another set of menu. Preferably warm. The few minutes inside the bath let me enjoy warmth but as soon as I opened the door, the cool atmosphere slapped my face and my wet hand.

I went outside of the rectory to inhale the cold air. The mountain air is clear while the hills are verdant. Sunrise had not yet hurdled past the crests of the Babag Mountain Range but its golden fingers of light are now beginning to reclaim its space and should be intense in an hour. The St. John the Baptist Quasi-Parish sits on a high plateau beside the bald peak of Mount Tabla, in the village of Sudlon I, Cebu City. Fr. Bernard would arrive today but not early.

Meanwhile, Rev. Fr. Scipio “Jojo” Deligero of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Señor Santiago de Apostol, our chaplain for this first-ever pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago in Cebu, is all set to resume the journey today, July 12, 2018, for the next parish but we need to freshen ourselves first. The other pilgrims are busy with themselves, most of them braving the morning cold, taking a bath. I just wiped myself with my wet face towel and I am set to face the rest of the day.

When all were done, breakfast is served. Joining Fr. Jojo and me on the table is Mayor Joel Quiño of the Municipality of Compostela, the couple Jemmelyn and Roderick Montesclaros, Mizar Bacalla, Roger Montecino, Alvie Rey Ramirez and Jonathaniel Apurado. Omelet, hotdogs, fried rice and a leftover soup from last night’s dinner is our food. All had the same appetite as yesterday’s and are extremely motivated by the knowledge of being nearer to Compostela than ever before in this pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago.

We left at exactly 08:00 after thanking the staff of the St. John the Baptist Quasi-Parish. We retrace our route towards a street corner where we found the directional signage for the church. It is a long walk among highland farms and small valleys, going up and down, twisting among lonely hills. Mizar led again the prayer of the Holy Rosary while the rest answered with the usual Hail Marys. Jonathan took the rear, camera in hand, as I walked hearing distance forward of them.

Profusely sweating and extremely excited caused by the walk on rolling terrain on an early morning, the pilgrims paused for a while to eat rice pudding (Local name: bibingka) cooked and sold on that street corner. While still warm, it is a meal good enough to give energy to farmers working on their fields. I brought three palm-sized ones with me, intending to eat it further up ahead. I eat all three when I reached a crossroad where there is a police detachment. I was minutes ahead and I was alone under a shed waiting for the pilgrims.

One road goes all the way to the next village of Sudlon II while another one goes down the Bonbon River Valley. It is all downhill and it is beautiful to walk where it is most moderate but rather painful for the soles and the knees where it is most steep. It is a long downhill walk and it would be harder if you do a reverse here. I have not done it here yet but the mere thought of that gave me a frown. I hope I do not but locals used this road to go places whether uphill or down the valley.

I am worried about Fr. Jojo. I looked back many times to observe his gait. The walking aid we picked up in the forests of Sohoton, Badian is still with him and it is most useful here. That stick, if ever it is not laid or thrown aside or if ever Fr. Jojo survives this Camino with it, will become an object of reverence. Without it, Fr. Jojo’s misery would have been intense and grave but, with that, he looked like Zato Ichi – the blind swordsman.

We reached the village of Bonbon at 12:00 and grabbed lunch inside a food store. The day is very warm made more warm by the concrete road bouncing off heat to us. I choose the farthest recesses of the wooden structure and ate in silence amid the exchange of tales between pilgrims. Oh God, do they ever tire? Cold soda drinks washed away the dust down my throat and kept my sanity checked. I opt for another cold glass and it settled my body’s state of affairs.

After an hour, we proceed and walked the paved road going to the Trans-Central Highway. While doing so, Fr. Bernard arrived alone with his pickup and stopped for a while for a short conversation with Fr. Jojo. He was shopping for grocery and for other needs of his parish. His back seat were full of these goods and a few were placed on the cargo space. We thanked him for his kindness and bade goodbye to him as he sped away to fulfill his sacred office. May God bless him!

By 14:00, we arrived at the St. John Marie Vianney Quasi-Parish. I always passed by this place and sometimes stopped to perform genuflection. Today, I stayed a little longer. We looked around but it was closed. We rest for five minutes here and, after that short inactivity, we returned to the hard concrete road once again that goes up from the valley. We were relieved to reach the Trans-Central Highway after an hour or so and doused our thirst with cold soda drinks.

It is now less than two hours of daylight before dusk will overcome us and Fr. Jojo does not know where to stop. Neither am I but I remembered a monastery along the way near where there is a chapel on a hill. We walk towards there and I find it strange that it is fenced off. The place seemed abandoned and I hollered towards a closed door 25 meters away. A resident living across the place came to investigate our presence and I explained it to him in explicit detail.

Fortunately for us, the local personally knew Mayor Joel and he helped us find a place for the night’s rest stop. We found it inside a covered court that had been converted into a chapel. It sits on the border of the villages of Malubog and Pung-ol Sibugay. The two villages have been at odds with each other as to the location of the basketball court and the proceeds of its use and so have agreed to use it into a chapel instead. There are wooden benches, monobloc chairs and thick plyboards to make impromptu beds. It is 17:30.

The caretaker of the government building happened to be our guide’s uncle and welcomed us to use the temporary chapel. For water, we only have to go out of the back entrance into his house to fetch it. The same with using a washroom, only you would have to adapt how mountain folks answer the call of nature. For the first time of our journey, we cooked our supply of food. That means the weight of a kilo of rice and four pieces of Korean spicy noodles, along with 250 milliliters of denatured alcohol, will be permanently removed from the spaces of my High Sierra Titan and that of Jonathan’s.

The spartan comforts of our night’s stopover are good enough to give us a place to consolidate our ebbing strength that we expended during the whole of the day and the rest is sufficient to prepare us for tomorrow’s journey. Fr. Jojo gave his wooden staff to Roger for safekeeping as he lay prone to accommodate once more a generous amount of efficascent oil on his calves and thighs, on his upper body and torso, and on his biceps and forearms. I removed my shoes and socks and the blisters on my toes seemed to be healing faster than I have expected it to be.

We have covered seven days of hiking into some of the most rugged places of Cebu and it is now history. That leaves us three days more to complete the first, and real, Camino de Santiago of Cebu, probably, in the Philippines, before we could lay claim that we really were the first. As I have said before, the Camino could be everywhere and in everybody’s heart, but a Camino which we now have walked more than a hundred kilometers in length; in an island which host rugged mountain ranges and clime that is harsh already before the advent of global warming is legit. And bittersweet. 

What would be the kind of reception the townsfolk of Compostela be upon us? This is a strange undertaking understood only by a few Roman Catholics. Mostly, the upper class of society and the clergy have the capacity and the means to undertake this in Spain. The Camino is not exclusive to them and this same Camino which has its origin from there does not discriminate the poor from engaging their own Camino de Santiago. The far provinces of the Roman Catholic faith should not be deprived of such privileges.

One by one, the bright lights of the covered court are switched off. In the late evening hours, few motorcycles would speed by on the Trans-Central Highway and brought with it  annoyance and cursing but, once the road is silent, crickets claimed the night air and it is most sweet to the ears. Under a lone light, I sat studying my maps. Tomorrow’s route would be my first time there. My skill in navigation would be tested once more and I accept any challenge.

Walking the rugged spines of Cebu has never been a problem with me. Local acceptance is. Ignorance, for most of the time, make interactions complicated. Sometimes, political partisanship during an election period. Armed rebellion is now absent in most of the places I know in Cebu. What is left are just residues of distrust and a bad memory. I see people smiling again. Watch when they get used to the Camino of Cebu, their places will brighten and they, themselves, engage their own spiritual journey. Would you not be happy with that?

Total Distance Walked: 14.93 kilometers.
  Highest Elevation Gained: 2,449 feet. 

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Saturday, June 16, 2018


THE BEST TACTICAL, SURVIVAL AND ARMS EXPO in the country opened its doors to the public, here in Cebu, and to the rest of the Visayas and Southern Philippines as well, on June 15, 2018 at the Cebu Trade Hall, SM City Cebu. Despite an online registration arrangement that was instantly filled in by a lot of people, yet there still was a long line of people who registered on the actual site.

Of course, most people came to process or renew their firearms registration and individual licenses to own and operate a firearm and, to some extent, their license to carry outside of their residence, which the Philippine National Police (PNP), through the Firearms Explosives Office (FEO), is accepting for processing at the TACS EXPO CEBU. It is a One-Stop Shop for present gun owners and for future ones. You do not need to travel from one office to another as it is all there.

You can take the drug test, neuro-psychiatric examination, notarial services, copier services, photo booth, NBI clearance, Director for Intelligence clearance, gun safety seminar and everything relating to documentation about firearm ownership. It is all there except gun proficiency, which is held at the indoor firing range of ARMSCOR Global Defense Inc. in D. Jakosalem Street, a distance of about 10 minutes on a fine day. Coaster vehicles are made available for free for such contingency to ferry all gun ownership applicants.

TACS EXPO is an original concept of ARMSCOR Global Defense which they started last year in the National Capital Region to increase awareness on self-defense, self-reliance and preparedness. This year, they have calendared it in three installments: twice at NCR in February and November and, for the first time, in Cebu on this month. Actually, the February episode was a success that a mini TACS EXPO was immediately organized in April which was held at Camp Crame. Certainly, for TACS EXPO, Cebu was a good choice.  

On the first day of TACS EXPO CEBU, no other than the Chief of the PNP, Director General Oscar Albayalde, came to grace the opening. He was assisted by ARMSCOR chief executives led by its President, Martin Tuason. Rock Island Armory, the main product line of ARMSCOR Global Defense, took up the center booth along with its subsidiary, Squires Bingham International Inc.

Other exhibitors came to put up their products on display either as profit-oriented establishments or as partners of TACS EXPO 2018:

         Thiago Military Supply
         Forge Philippines
         Alpha Zero
         QBC Sporting Supplies
         True Weight Inc.
         Gibrosen General Merchandise
         Preppers Point Cebu
         Makati Medical Foundation/Steramist
         Bul Ltd.

  • HL Health Center Inc.
  • Sightron
         Philippine Air Force
         Philippine Army
         Philippine Navy
         Philippine Coast Guard
         Cebu City Police Office
         Office of the Civil Defense Central Visayas
         Philippine Red Cross Cebu Chapter
         Disaster and Emergency Responders International
         Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild

There were also resource speakers touching on relevant topics and interactive workshops starting early afternoon. The first topic was about “Improvised Rescue Techniques Using Common Household Materials” by Joebert Tolentino of DERIN-CERT; Following that is the “FAQs on Firearms Ownership” by the PNP-FEO. This author came next with “Adventure Travel: The Lure of the Long Trails”; and then “Urban Survival After a Disaster” by Per Christian Thrane Neis of FAMC Motorcycle Rescue Foundation.

After a short break, “READY 101: Family Preparedness” gets discussed by an emergency management consultant, Martin Aguda; before the day ends, it gets capped by this blogger with his favorite topic of “Knife Carry Rights and Ethics”. For the first time, the general public gets to learn about knife ethics and the many influences of their right of ownership and to carry are subjected to which may turn out good or bad for them.

This author is officially participating in the TACS EXPO CEBU 2018 as an event blogger and as resource speaker. That participation extends to my organization – the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild – wherein the organizers provided us the free use of a booth to display our love of our craft and our love of bladed tools with which privilege is not given en gratis to any Cebu-based outdoors leisure and hobby group.

The TACS EXPO CEBU will stay up to June 18, 2018. Please visit the Cebu Trade Hall of SM City Cebu and register on site. Avail of the PNP-FEO One-Stop Shop for firearms ownership offered by the TACS EXPO CEBU on spaces provided for that. While waiting for approval of your LTOP or your PTCFOR, explore the booths for everyday carry items and gun accessories or you may sit in a good spot and listen to topics discussed by people who are the best in their fields. What are you waiting for?     

Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer
Photo number 10 by Silverio Tolitol Jr
Photo number 11 by Dennis Chiong

Saturday, June 9, 2018


DAY FIVE :::: THE STAY INSIDE THE HIDDEN Valley Mountain Resort, in Lamac, Pinamungahan, last night had taken away the burrs of fatigue and emotional torment that the pilgrims have unconditionally accepted in return for that rare privilege of walking the Camino de Santiago – their own Camino – for the past four days. The cool night bath, repeated again this early morning, had freshened up the tired bunch. The soft bed, well received by a sore body last night, became an object that we found again hard to leave behind. 

The last two days of walking I found unbelievable. 53.33 kilometers! Can you dig that? It simply defied reality and a long argument between the numbers and my own calculations took place and the numbers were winning. That in just a total of 21 hours walk! How could that be? Of course, we rode a patrol jeep on Day Three for around 45 minutes at Libo, Sibonga to Dakit, Barili, and that would be 4 to 5 hours walking for the same distance but, would that made a difference to the journey? For me it did not. The load I carried since Day One are still the same. It should have lightened up if we follow our food plan.

Today, July 10, 2017, is Day Five of the pilgrimage. We lived on the generosity of the parishes that hosted dinners for us for four nights and breakfasts too. That also include a bath and a cozy place under the protection of a roof. Probably, another parish this night would open its sacred doors for us. Fr. Scipio “Jojo” Deligero seemed to be in a different mood today. He fully knows that the most challenging “principalities” are beginning to lose its grip on us as we crept slowly closer and closer to our destination north.

But there is one thing that kept tearing at my mind. Yesterday’s ride. The offer of conveyance from the cops of Sibonga was hard to refuse and it seemed like it came from heaven. I tried to protest the free ride but who am I to question Providence? Like I said, there is a parallel universe in the heavens for navigating the Camino de Santiago. If it benefited the pilgrims, it would, perhaps, benefit me. I hope it would. I still carry our food supply in its untouched state, you know.

Rev. Fr. Wilfredo Genelazo, our host, came to fetch us and brought us all back to the San  Isidro Labrador Parish for breakfast. His parish exists from modest contributions of the communities he served. These are just small tokens and for as long as he respect the other faiths of his part-time parishioners. These other faiths are a conundrum of mixed Christian and indigenous beliefs which survived in the village of Lamac and these have influence on the affairs of people’s lives there. All told there are 27 different pseudo-Christian sects competing with the Roman Catholic faith and Protestant churches for the salvation of souls. A stronghold.

We leave at 09:00 and my second, Jonathaniel Apurado, is good for another long walk behind the last of the pilgrims and he seemed to enjoy the company of Roman Catholics. He is a Protestant and he does not mind. It is all about the soul, you see. The Camino de Santiago does not discriminate. It is open to all who has an open mind and a humble heart. When we had overcome the last rise, Mizar Bacalla begins the rosary while Fr. Jojo, Mayor Joel Quiño, the couple Roderick and Jemmelyn Montesclaros, Roger Montecino and Alvie Rey Ramirez, replied with a string of Hail Marys. We are now entering Toledo City.

Mayor Joel is the incumbent mayor of the Municipality of Compostela, from where all the pilgrims came from, except me and Jon. His participation is a commitment for the future of Compostela. Its being a namesake of the original Compostela of Spain is something that should not be left to the mercy of the four winds. Nor its favorable position in sharing the same patron saint and a relic which originally came from there. The town has to rise from the trivial and the idea of introducing the Camino de Santiago to Asia is well received by many of the faithful.

The Camino does not deprive the far provinces of the faith and to those who cannot afford the expensive travel to Spain. The Camino could be everywhere and could be in anybody’s heart. Tangible steps have to be made to establish one in Cebu and our Fr. Jojo and Mayor Joel crossed that line of the impossibility. I, too, shared in that idea. I have a great purpose in participating this pilgrimage which could have been predetermined when I was still in the womb of my mother. In all my life before this, the Camino or its equivalent takes up some of my reflection time.

I am not toying with obsession. I could have but I am humble enough to recognize that I do not have the resources to engage in it nor the skill to fleece people’s money so I could proceed there. I am just a servant and discernment of invisible messages is my eternal task. I move in God’s own time and so here I am in Cebu’s version of the Camino de Santiago. It overlapped my own creation – the Cebu Highlands Trail – which I walked and finished in 29 days last February 2017. Never did it occurred to me that I would walk this same route again in a span of six months, this time for the Camino.

My 55-liter High Sierra Titan backpack is heavy as was the first day. My most important cargoes are my original Camino passport now stamped with five seals from five different parishes, a bleached scallop from Compostela, Spain with a red-painted St. James cross and a pebble from my doorstep. I may add a fossilized scallop I found in Dagatan, Badian. A camera would have been useful to document what I saw and discovered but I trust Jon and Alvie to share me what photos they took afterwards. The photos guide me in my writings of my online journal and blog contents. I am the author of this 10-year old blog.

By this time, the effects of two multivitamins a day and a capsule of Natural Raw Guarana would work on the stamina of the pilgrims. I used this same formula during the Thruhike and I know the day when it would finally fill your body system and give you that much needed boost to push ahead day in and day out. The day is warm. It would only slow them but it would not tire them. The road bounced the sun’s heat to our faces and bodies and there are a few shady places. For want of that, I increased my pace and arrive at the village of Bunga at 10:30. Another waiting game.

For sure, they would have passed by a roadside stall selling jackfruits and beside it is another stall selling food. Cooked warm food. I would have stopped there earlier but the glare was too much and the heat radiates from the paved road. I am sitting in a very cool place munching on my energy bar and Titay’s Rosquillos and sipping a cold Coca Cola. After an hour of waiting, they finally passed and I rejoined them. We reached the Naga-Toledo National Road and we opt to bypass the big village of Don Andres Soriano by walking on the same highway.

A strong storm overtook us and we decide to take shelter under whatever awnings we could find. We just stood there for around twenty minutes or so to wait out the rain. It was already 12:30 when we lurched forward for our destination of the day: the San Pedro Calungsod Parish, in the village of Cantabaco, Toledo City. The abrupt change in the weather system have made walking on the road better. We arrive at the parish at 14:25 and Rev. Fr. Armando Orehuela is very accommodating and showed us the rooms to spend the night.

After refreshments and snacks, some of the pilgrims took a bath and washed their clothes at the back of the rectory, trying to take advantage of our early arrival and enough time to do chores which were denied them for the past four days. I would take a bath early morning tomorrow but, for now, I joined Fr. Jojo and Fr. Arman in a discussion about the latter’s aquarium containing riverine vegetation. Then I found out that I got blisters on my toes. I let it be and tomorrow it will be dressed. A bottle of cold beer came my way and I cannot refuse.

DAY SIX :::: WE ARE NOW ON THE second half of the Camino de Santiago today, July 11, 2017. Day One to Five was now history and the worries that hound me for the past five days are still there, although a bit slighted by the idea of hurdling only five days more. I am refreshed by the early morning bath and I am now plugging my blisters with Band-Aids. I checked on the other pilgrims’ toes and theirs are not too good either. Jemmelyn has all ten of her toes bedecked with Band-Aids. The petroleum jellies I bought as part of our first-aid supply would now be most useful. They ignored it when their toes were healthy then.

The next vulnerable part – the inner thighs – have not been affected. I also bought three pairs each of elastic undershorts for each pilgrim. It is quite amusing to see Fr. Jojo trying one and he found it unmanly at first but soon found out that it is more comfortable than wearing a brief. You know how older guys are, especially those who are brought up in a traditional environment tend to accept change in the way of how they think, feel and look but, once the undershorts were worn, they began to like it. Just like tinkering a smartphone. That goes for Roger and Mizar too and maybe Mayor Joel. They changed one everyday and washed the worn pair to remove abrasive salt crystals.

After a lovely breakfast and the stamping of the passports with the sixth seal, we say goodbye to Fr. Arman at 08:45. Fr. Arman instructed me the way to the next parish, which would now be in the highlands of Cebu City. It would be very enticing for me since I have not been there before. We follow the road once more but the temperature is cooler here, maybe because of the presence of a man-made forest which we get to pass at the village of Camp 7, of the municipality of Minglanilla. The pilgrims’ stamina have now increased and are now used to the abrupt changes in terrain difficulty and weather.

We stop by at a small store in Lantawan, in the village of Sinsin, Cebu City. With cold soda drinks, they finally munch on their energy bars, Titay’s rosquillos and biscuits. Fr. Jojo complained as he felt something unfulfilling inside. He eats another bar. He does not know how energy bars work. It works the same like the altar bread when introduced with water. It bloats inside your stomach. After an hour, we proceed. We passed by the famous Sinsin Ridge that stalled American forces during their campaign to take the Katipunero stronghold of Sudlon. It has a narrow passage that is now heavily eroded caused by heavy usage of quarry trucks.

The road begins to ascend and ascend and ascend like it is going to heaven. It is concrete but the roadsides are thickly vegetated, giving you enough shade. There are many places here where you could establish campsites. The Sudlon Mountain Range is a place that exudes an aura of mystery and most of its trails and remote peaks beyond the habitations had not been visited by urban hikers.  Slowly, inch by inch, we are now in the village of Sudlon I. Sudlon hosts a large community of an indigenous cult that is a mix of Christianity and spirit worship. It was established by the late mystic, Hilario Moncado.

The climate begins to go cooler as we reach higher elevations. The heat of the sun do not bother us anymore. We are sweating hard because of the effort yet we were not tired. We reach a very populated community where a road sign says, with an arrow for emphasis, that we are on the right direction to the St. John the Baptist Quasi-Parish. We arrive there at 16:45 and, just a few minutes after, thick fogs cover us and the church. I am a bit disoriented by its sudden appearance. I could not relish anymore the beauty of the landscape that I saw a few minutes ago.

The parish priest, Rev. Fr. Bernardo Oyao, was not present. He was on a personal errand and has to travel downtown. Anyway, his staff expected our coming and welcomed us inside. The rectory, which doubled as the living quarters of the priest, shielded us from wind chill. Fr. Jojo and Mayor Joel used the room of the absent Fr. Bernard while the office was now the refuge of the Montesclaros couple. Despite the cold weather, a few bold pilgrims took a bath. I would have but I decide not to at the last minute. Perhaps, I would have that tomorrow morning.

The parish is made of concrete, painted white, with the bell tower located on top of the main door. It is facing a deep valley and the faraway Babag Mountain Range, with its distinct feature of one peak crowned with many telecommunication and television towers. That range is my playground and I have not seen it from the vantage of Mount Tabla, a peak that is 2,342 feet above sea level, where I am standing beside. I asked Fr. Jojo about the difference of a parish from a “quasi-parish”, but it is still God’s Country, nevertheless.

Meanwhile, the helpful staff of Fr. Bernard cooked a very enticing brew: a steaming broth of pork knuckles. Despite the cooler climate, I could feel minute fingers of sweat streaming slowly down my temples as the soup warmed up my body. Outside, the wind howled and it would be foolish for me to sleep outside. After that very filling dinner, I found the dining table a very good place to stretch for the night. Not on the table top but underneath it. I unrolled my Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad on the cold tiled floor and inspected my bruised toes before saying goodnight at a late hour of 20:30. 

Total Distance Walked: 24.38 kilometers.
  Highest Elevation Gained: 2,342 feet. 

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