Thursday, December 1, 2016

MAN-SIZED HIKE XXII: Ilihan to Lake Lanao

I HAVE ACHIEVED SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT after I have walked and finished Segment VI. Segment VI is the one I explored last February 22-25, 2016, starting from Caurasan, Carmen to Ilihan, Tabogon in four days and three nights and on a distance of 56.17 kilometers. I have accumulated a total mileage of 289.16 kilometers since day one of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT and this would increase very soon.

Today, August 17, 2016, I would start from where I left off the last time, which is from Ilihan, and hopefully, finish Segment VII on August 21 at Cebu’s northernmost end, which is at Bulalaqui Point, Daanbantayan. This will be the longest yet at five days and four nights and has a rough length of 65-70 kilometers. To recall, Segment VII had been denied me one time last March when the heat of the election campaign period and of El Niño forbid me to go on after I floundered in Mabuli, Tabogon on the first day due to scarcity of water.

The CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT was, at first, a personal undertaking which first has its beginnings with a dayhike with friends from Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City in February 2011. It metamorphosed into a longer multi-day hike from Lutopan to Mantayupan Falls, Barili in March 2012 which I designated as Segment II. In October 2013, I completed Segment I with a cross-country hike from Mount Manunggal, Balamban to Guadalupe.

I would have finished the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT in two years were it not that I was holding a vital position in the company where I worked. If I would have to realize the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT in 2015, I would have to sacrifice my comfort zone and put all my energies into it. At that time, it was impossible and letting go of my day job would put me and my family in dire straits. So it goes that 2012, 2013 and 2014 passed by with just one or without any exploration hikes.

Realizing the immensity of this endeavour, I decide to form an Exploration Team (Eagle One) and a Base Support Team (Eagle Base) dedicated for the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT starting in 2015 so I could finish it before 2017. I took the XTeam to stressful and difficult day treks, without meals in between, during trainings in traditional navigation. Together with the Base Support Team, I taught them the basics of map reading, putting more emphasis on the more practical military methods.

I have picked my team carefully, after careful considerations of their capability, initiative and ability to accomplish the functions assigned for them like Jose Neo and Chad Bacolod of Eagle Base. Endurance and stability under pressure will be the hallmarks of Eagle One and these are composed of Jonathaniel Apurado, Justin Apurado, Jovahn Ybañez and the new member, Fritz Bustamante. I am the Team Leader, Navigator, Security Officer and Project Director all rolled into one.

I cannot accomplish this project without the logistics and the funds. Answering to my call for support in whatever form it may be, individuals, here and abroad, and businesses responded. Notable among them are Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos and Native Delicacies, Alvin John Osmeña, GV Hotel Philippines, Silangan Outdoor Equipment, Jonathan Blanes, Glen Domingo, Alan Poole, Jose Neo, Tactical Security Agency, App Ops Philippines, Lester Padriga, Harold Butanas, Lavilles of Australia, Bakhawan Beach Home, Glenn Pestaño, Amaya Montecalvo and Markus Immer.

The following also provided the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT, in one way or another, services and goods and acknowledgments which are valuable in accomplishing our goals like Drinox’s Kitchen, the Quijano Family, Melo Sanchez, Jeremiah Dayto, Matthew de Leon, Mountain Stories Blog, Warrior Pilgrimage Blog, Ham Radio Cebu, the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, PAC Gear, and the Philippine Mountaineering Blog.

That 2015 produced amazing results which led to the explorations of both Segment III and Segment V and, partly, of Segment IV. Segment III was finished in just three days, instead of four days, in February. The route was Mantalongon, Barili to Mantalongon, Dalaguete. On the other hand, Segment V ran from Mantalongon, Dalaguete to Upper Beceril, Boljoon but the XTeam decide to walk the extra mile to Poblacion, Boljoon. It was done in two days, instead of three, last May.

The extremely-warm conditions of a queer climatic phenomenon in October caused by forest fires in Indonesia slowed down the XTeam and caused them to abort their Segment IV hike at Danasan, Danao City after four days but not after hiking the “no man’s land” coming from Gaas, Balamban. However, Eagle One returned in January 2016 to finish Segment IV, starting from Cambubho, Danao City and ending it, after two days, in another “no man’s land”, to Caurasan, Carmen.

After that, was Segment VI, and, now, this – Segment VII. Composing Eagle One are me, Jonathaniel, Justin and Fritz with Jose Neo at Eagle Base. Eagle One is equipped with dark sunglasses provided by Zue Fashion. Described below are the highlights, weather and other bits of information of the whole itinerary of Segment VII, which was aborted on the last hours of the fourth day:


AUGUST 17, 2016

04:30 – Leave Cebu North Bus Terminal, Mandaue City for Ilihan, Tabogon by bus.
06:45 – Arrive Ilihan. Courtesy call on peace officer, recording our presence and purpose.
07:00 – Leave Ilihan for Labangon, Tabogon. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Warm with cloudy skies.
08:15 – Arrive Labangon. Courtesy call on village head.
08:30 – Leave Labangon for the “Unnamed and Unmarked” Mountain Range.  Pace: Slow.  Weather: Very warm and sunny.
09:40 – Rest and rehydrate on unnamed peak, elevation unknown. Decides to name this    peak as Mount Lo-ong, in reference to its proximity to a small community of same name. Old path vanished due to thick vegetation.
09:55 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
10:43 – Rest and rehydrate on another unnamed peak, elevation unknown. Decides to name this peak as Mount Lutaw, in reference to its proximity to a small community of same name. Rock surface bounced off heat to us. Found a blooming wild dragonfruit cactus. Collected four specimen samples. Took naps under the shade after a snack of rosquillos and dried fruits.
12:00 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
13:00 – Rest and rehydrate at a rare habitation. Found trail to here after many tries. Local named Enteng, very helpful. Jonathaniel, Justin and Fritz proceed downhill to  fetch water at a small community of Timbangan.
13:35 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
14:50 – Arrive at area of sinkholes and abandoned phosphate mines. Thick vegetation    cover many sinkholes. Two big sinkholes recently caved in. Dangerous to explore.  This is the place referred to by the locals as the Doce Cuartos, a cavern system of twelve chambers. Looking for paths on this trackless wilderness for the other side of the limestone cliffs.
15:35 – Rest and rehydrate after path finding.
15:45 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Very warm with sparse clouds.
16:00 – Rest and rehydrate on top of peak with a covered sinkhole. A small flat ground is encircled by a rim of dwarf forest and limestone rising ten feet above us.
16:15 – Proceed exploration after finding a notch on the rim. Pace: Slow. Weather: Very warm and sunny with clouds.
16:20 – Propagated VHF signal on top of the highest limestone cliff using a Cignus V85 portable radio with stock antenna at 5 watts power to a repeater tower of Ham Radio Cebu located in the Babag Mountain Range, Cebu City, 89+ kilometers away.  Communicated successfully with amateur station 4F7MHZ.
16:25 – Hereby named the unmarked and unnamed mountain range, not found in any old or current maps, as the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range, in reference to the cavern system of same name which is the most known feature.
16:30 – Proceed exploration and to find a suitable campsite. Stopped along they way to   drink water of an unopened coconut found on the ground.   Pace: Slow to moderate.  Weather: Warm and cloudy.
17:30 – Halt the day’s activity at a covered saddle. Set up hammocks and shelters and  produce campfire to smoke away mosquitoes. Countless cave bats stream out of underground habitats. Limit water use for drinking and cooking only.  Dinner is crab meat soup, rice and egg-chorizo omelet. Enjoyed coffee afterwards.
19:00 – Taps.
Distance Covered: 9.1 Kilometers.

AUGUST 18, 2016


06:00 – Wake up call. Start cooking fires. Breakfast is seaweed soup, rice and boiled eggs with coffee. Water supply very low. Campsite is among Leichardt pine trees which attract pollinators and a strange hummingbird.
07:55 – Break camp. Proceed exploration for a route to find a community or a habitation.   Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny. Trackless wilderness, talus rocks, tight valleys and low hills. Conserve energy by following cleavage among hills and long rests under the shade. Forage wild papayas for fluid and electrolytes.
11:00 – Rest and rehydrate on last drops of water. Took naps under the shade after snacks of energy bar and dried fruits.
12:30 – Proceed exploration for a community or a habitation. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
13:00 – Arrive at small community of Tindog Bato. Rest and rehydrate with water, soda drinks and iced water.
14:00 – Leave for Manlagtang, Tabogon. Pace: Moderate. Weather: Very warm and sunny.
14:30 – Arrive Manlagtang. Rest and rehydrate.
15:15 – Leave Manlagtang for Guadalupe, Bogo City by bus to make up time when I found  we were navigating off-course by forty degrees due to the passage afforded by tight valleys.
15:50 – Arrive Guadalupe and proceed to walk a route towards the Hagnaya Port Road  found in Dakit, Bogo City.
17:00 – Arrive highway. Took early dinner at a small eatery.
17:30 – Leave highway for Malingin, Bogo City.
18:00 – Arrive Malingin. Courtesy call on village officials.  Set up hammocks and shelters.  Enjoyed coffee.
21:00 – Taps.
Distance Covered:  13.6 Kilometers.

AUGUST 19, 2016

06:00 – Wake up call. Start cooking fires.
08:00 – Leave Manlagtang for Don Pedro Rodriguez, Bogo City. Pace: Fast. Weather: Warm with sparse clouds. Followed a route of an old and abandoned railroad line.  Foraged sweetsops along the way.
10:30 – Arrive Don Pedro Rodriguez. Rest and rehydrate.
10:40 – Leave Don Pedro Rodriguez for Curva, Medellin. Pace: Fast. Weather: Very warm  and sunny.
12:15 – Cross Dayhagon Canal Bridge. Rest and rehydrate.
12:25 – Proceed hike. Pace: Fast. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
14:05 – Arrive Curva. Rest and rehydrate. Feet soles suffered from walking along treeless and shadeless sidewalks of the highway in Medellin. Prepared late lunch.
14:45 – Leave Curva for Poblacion, Medellin. Pace: Fast. Weather: Very warm with sparse  clouds.
16:50 – Arrive Poblacion. Rest and rehydrate.
17:15 – Leave Poblacion for Bakhawan, Daanbantayan by bus to make up time for my lapse in identifying and finding a suitable direct route to there. (The next morning, I found it.)
17:30 – Arrive Bakhawan Beach Home. Rest and rehydrate. Start cooking fires in makeshift kitchen. Dinner is vegetable in coconut-milk soup and milled corn. First bath after three days. Bakhawan Beach Home is a sponsor of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT.
22:00 – Taps.
Distance Covered:  30.4 Kilometers.

AUGUST 20, 2016

06:00 – Wake up call. The proprietress, Lani Perez, and her staff at Bakhawan Beach Home hosted a breakfast for the XTeam. Food consists of dried fish, organically-grown vegetables, rice and fruit with coffee.
09:05 – Leave Bakhawan Beach Home for Dalingding Hills, Daanbantayan. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Warm with cloudy skies.
11:30 – Arrive at Dalingding Hills. Rest and rehydrate.
11:45 – Leave Dalingding Hills for Libertad, Daanbantayan. Pace: Fast. Weather: Mild and rainy.
12:25 – Arrive Libertad. Rest and rehydrate.
12:40 – Leave Libertad for Lake Lanao, Daanbantayan. Pace: Moderate. Weather: Very warm and sunny.
15:20 – Arrive Lake Lanao. Water shrunk to just a small pond. Most of the lake had been converted into rice fields.
15:30 - Proceed for the village of Lanao. Pace: Slow. Weather: Warm and cloudy.
16:20 - Arrive Lanao. Rest and rehydrate.
16:30 – Elements of Daanbantayan Police Station arrived to respond to an “Armed Person Alarm” which turned out to be the XTeam. XTeam decides to go with the police peacefully, without any protest, so our presence would be recorded officially.
17:30 – I decide to abort the exploration, to include the final 7 kilometers or so for tomorrow, for the safety of the XTeam.
18:00 – Leave Daanbantayan for Mandaue City by bus.
22:30 – Arrive Cebu North Bus Terminal, Mandaue City. Terminate exploration.
Distance Covered:  18.12 Kilometers.


One of the biggest obstacles to the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT is local cooperation or acceptance. Their life-long habits and beliefs, shaped by their isolation to modernization and urban fads (hiking, exploration), placed us in extreme disadvantage. I may have the documents to show the legality of our presence and activity but, still, we are viewed with suspicion. On our side, we interpret it as either indifference, arrogance or ignorance and it is most dangerous when strong spirits are mixed or there is too much politics in a place.

Next are government bureaucrats who are tasked to act on my request contained in my letters addressed to the office of the Provincial Governor and of the Cebu Provincial Police Office. Their ineptness and lack of initiatives have caused me dismay for they failed to disseminate the information contained in my letters that could have explained everything even before I was at these places like Daanbantayan. This is but routine and demands less work and I cannot understand why it cannot be done?

Difficult terrain is nothing, but when an uncooperative weather condition is blended into the fray, it would really really be difficult, like on my first day in an earlier attempt, and on the first and second days, on an unnamed and unmarked mountain range bounded by the villages of Labangon, Mabuli, Manlagtang and Somosa, all in Tabogon. There is no known water source on the range and whatever it had would have immediately wither under the onslaught of warm weather. That condition will bring down your water supply.

There were three highlights in the exploration for the route of Segment VII. First was the exploration of almost the whole mountain range, previously unmarked and unnamed in any map. Nobody goes there except of a few intrepid wood gatherers. It is an uninviting terrain of loose rocks, bare and sharp, which host a forest of unwieldy and spiny bushes and have no known water sources. It is my honor and privilege then to bestow it with a name that is just as enigmatic: Doce Cuartos Mountain Range.

Next is the rediscovery of a long-forgotten relic of an earlier era which was the route of a railroad line that serviced the sugar cane plantations of Bogo City to its destination to a sugar refinery in Medellin. Its presence in old maps gave me the more reason to include this in the route of Segment VII. The route goes straight and seamless until a big house blocked its route in Don Pedro Rodriguez, Bogo City. It would be wise for the city and the Province of Cebu to preserve this old railroad route as a Cebuano heritage.

Last is our privilege to be hosted by Bakhawan Beach Home. It is not everyday that we can enjoy amenities of an exclusive resort yet it is just fortunate that Bakhawan Beach Home is one of our sponsors. The XTeam are used to hard and uncomfortable campsites on all our exploration hikes but the soft beds under the warmth of a roof in close proximity to the lulling sound of surf on shore are just heavenly. It is then my pleasure to thank Ms. Lani Perez and her staff for the warm reception and accommodation given to Eagle One.

After I have parted from my employer in the last days of 2015, I was determined to finish the CEBU HIGHLANDS PROJECT before 2017. I trained with the XTeam when we have no exploration schedule to keep us fit. I refined and re-routed Segment I, especially the Lutopan-Guadalupe route, when the thought of a future dam construction occurred to me, which would surely bury the old route under a man-made lake.

I have, segment by segment, reached the threshold of completing the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT. Although I have aborted Segment VII, I have covered enough ground to consider it a success. The last stretch of untouched territory to Bulalaqui Point is just about seven kilometers long. A mere day hike. An “icing in the cake” when its time to be walked will come. Eagle One have accumulated, after the last segment, 355.33 Kilometers or Eighty-Seven Percent of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Saturday, November 26, 2016

BEBUT’S TRAIL XIV: The Italian-Sounding Abomination

WE AT THE CAMP RED BUSHCRAFT and Survival Guild begun to love Baksan when we discovered its secrets that we decide to transfer our “dirt times” there. At Baksan, we do not meet anymore colorful corporate hikers. Of course, they know where it is because it can be searched in Google Earth but going there is still a puzzle for them. Even if they will accidentally find it, they cannot fit in because there is nothing spectacular to talk about.

In the old Roble Homestead, we frequently meet them there. Meetings are mutual and friendly but we know that they talk behind us because we are different. We do not worship Leave No Trace, like they do in such vociferous manners on other people, yet they cannot impose it on us. We have our own set of values when it comes to enjoying the outdoors and LNT is not one of those.

We carry knives and we know most of them cringe at the sight of even the smallest Swiss Army Knife. We regard our knives as mere tools and we know the value of this simple tool in simple outdoor functions or, worse, during SHTF. Our difference from them stood out glaringly with our joyous attachment to our unique tradition of the blade porn. We delight at our “wrong turns” and it is the best thing in the world.

We blend well with the landscape by just being there and not mere passersby. We can sit idly by a campfire and enjoy its companionship of warm food and steaming coffee while some of these colorful hikers would be busy spying on other campers of their misplaced garbage. While some of them pounce people in Facebook by posting pictures that hurt their make-believe LNT sensibilities, we dare them with ours that totally ground against their beliefs.

We are now at Baksan always to save them of their frustrations of seeing us doing many things that ran contrary to their Western-inspired outdoor principles. We regret to inform them that we never camp on bald peaks nor make campfires there. These are the very places we evade for it ran counter to our adherence of Blend, Adapt and Improvise. On the other hand, we do not stay a minute and we had rather be on our way quick.

This day – August 14, 2016 – I am with these crazy bushcrafters. Two male guests came along upon the invite of one. Our plan would be to test the route between Tisa and Kilat Spring for we heard rumors of this greedy Italian-sounding abomination called the Monterazzas de Cebu trying to gobble up the whole of Banawa Hills and part of Tisa Hills, thereby, close access to a valuable water source at Kilat forever.

Although it is still 07:30, by my own experience walking both Tisa and Banawa Hills at this hour, it should already be warm. The hills are grassy but devoid of trees. It is rare to find a copse of different trees, most of it among deeper cleaves and on a few ridge tops. A power pylon stood guard on the trail. Its presence a hint that a corridor underneath it and its cables are government property. Why would this Italian-sounding housing development pursue its project?

Behind this low mountain range facing Cebu City is a watershed where Kilat Spring is found and the imaginary boundary is just a couple of steps away. Do not the Metro Cebu Water District find this position irregular? Is it okay to supply water to the metropolitan area whose source partly comes from the Buhisan Watershed Area which is now a close-door neighbor of this Italian-sounding residential area?

Did they check where their drainage flowed this time because there had been silence lately of places which had been inundated with water and mud coming from them in the past? I am just curious because one small stream in the Buhisan showed brown and silty effluents during a downpour. I understand it has been issued an Environment Compliance Certificate by the DENR because you cannot proceed with earth-moving activities without one? Is this ECC acquired with all the proper requirements? Is it above board?

Is it not a part of this Italian-sounding residential area transgressed by a corridor of high-voltage power lines supported by two steel towers on two separate points can be a risk to life and property? Can City Hall just allow and provide them building and land development permits without closely scrutinizing its close location to a watershed and a power corridor? Would City Hall not consider preserving a historical landmark that is now being trampled underneath this Italian-sounding abomination? It is a kilometer-long Japanese tunnel.

I waited for the others as they slowly negotiate the trail. I found a branch of a trail that would lead us to Kilat Spring. I know most of them have exhausted their water bottles but, over that ridge where there is an old mango tree, a path goes down into the Buhisan Watershed Area and abundant water. It did not take long and we reach Kilat Spring. We have all the water in the world. We celebrate by boiling water for coffee.

Water from Kilat Spring, according to an old-timer that I met some years back, burst forth after the ground was hit by lightning. A stump of a burnt tipolo tree is a testament to this incident which happened many many years ago. The water is now caught inside a concrete box and is diverted to the dam structure to serve as water supply for the MCWD engineers while the rest just flows freely thru a tap. Above the spring is a talo-ot tree, which nurtures the fine quality of the spring.

After 45 minutes we proceed to the Portal. We are now traversing thick jungle on a path that had not been used frequently by many people as before. Some parts of the trail are beginning to be overrun by weeds and it came at a point where there is a spot that had, so many times, led me to walk in circles and I am doing it again. I finally caught the true path and it relieved all the stress that I am now beginning to accumulate.

We pass by a forest of mixed sugar palms (Local name: idyok) and upland marsh palms (saksak). There has been an attempt to burn down these and a few of the palms are molested and cut without meaning. How could anyone be so vicious on these palms? I carefully pull the hair-like fibers of a sugar palm and the others did so. We collect this for our fire-making needs as it is a good tinder. I stuffed mine inside a small plastic bag where it will be transferred to my fire kit soon.

We reach the Portal but we continue until we reach Sibalas, the “Navel of Baksan”. There is also a natural spring here which is now housed inside a concrete box. Nearby, is the resting hut of the old steward of the water source and of the big swath of the place itself – Luceno Laborte or Noy Ceno. He is around and Jhurds Neo, the head shed of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, gave him two brand-new stainless-steel cups which elicit a very happy smile from him.

Everybody settled down and proceed to the foraging of dry firewood, which are few. Nevertheless, we have ways to make it fire-ready. The sound of wood being split by knives echoes down to where I sat talking to Noy Ceno and Jhurds. I watch the two guests, both wearing red t-shirts, watching silently the show the guys are now running. It would be their first time to see “dirt time” and they are glued to the spot where they are crouched.

Ernie Salomon, the camp fixer, is busy preparing the food while the rest are keeping him company in the slicing business. Fires are lit on two hearths. A pot for coffee is now above one while another pot of rice claims the other. Ernie’s home-made hobo stove spews out a smoke and a tin cup for coffee is placed over it. I was tired of the hike. Maybe I am just too busy. I was guiding people yesterday. Or maybe I am getting old.

I drank coffee again and I tinker with my Cignus V85 VHF radio. I am able to contact amateur station DV7FAL of Linao, Talisay City from my hidden location in Baksan, bouncing my signal to a steep flank of Banawa Hills which then makes a ping-pong to a repeater in Busay. Ingenious maneuver. When you are into ham radio, you tend to experiment and that is what I just did with an inferior made-in-China equipment. Think of what I could do with a Japan-branded radio?

Immediately after that, I caught the attention and interest of Christopher Ngosiok, Nelson Tan and the two guests about ham radio. We talked about licensing, acquisition of radios, review classes and preparing for that written examination administered by the National Telecommunications Commission. I am a licensed ham operator for three years now and I carry a callsign of DW7EUV. Many of the guys from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are licensed hams.

Radio equipment is always part of mine and someone else’s gear. Radio communications is essential when SHTF sets in. I have personally witnessed cellular signals fail in the aftermath of a 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and in places in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. Only radio signals were able to provide a link between the distressed communities and relief agencies. It happened in 2013 in many places of Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Northern Cebu.

Spoon is rapped on a pot lid, signalling the start of our late lunch. Ernie did wonders with chicken meat with an estofado dish. For a dayhike, we at the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are pampered to feast like kings! How could we reduce our weight with food like that? More servings please! We gave a share of the meal to Noy Ceno and his family and our bellies bloat like that of Jhurds’. Hahaha…

When dark clouds begun to appear in the middle of the afternoon, we decide to pack our things back into our bags, including the blackened pots. We will be exiting to Guadalupe this time but, first, we will have to pass Enas. I lost the trail to there and I decide to explore the many strange trails that crisscross Lower Baksan until I call it quits and followed a trail that led to high ground. So familiar. So, Bebut’s Trail it is.

We go down that dreaded place called “Heartbreak Ridge”. We walk on the fringes of that Italian-sounding abomination and I see they are now starting to fence off the poorer quarters. How can you fence off a fault line? It is recently discovered in Buhisan, just at their back. I wished the new homeowners well.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Monday, November 21, 2016


THE BUSAY LUT-OD WATERFALLS of Sapangdaku, Cebu City is not a tourism destination compared to the more spectacular and popular ones like the Kawasan in Badian, the Tumalog in Oslob, the Mantayupan in Barili, the Aguinid in Samboan and a host of others which dot the island of Cebu. But I am happy about its anonymity. It meant that it will not host people.

Locals have told me long ago that the Sapangdaku Creek pass through five succeeding drops – like a giant staircase – hence, the name “busay lut-od”. In all my visits there, I have come to know, and seen, of only three. Maybe because of a single path to one which lets me see the two other waterfalls, all at the same time. If I have time, I might visit the rest of the Busay Lut-od.

I have guided many people here in the past years, to include fourteen Danish girls, but I am now a bit choosy. Sometimes I refer it to other people like the time a celebrated Old Manila tourist guide, Carlos Celdran, visited and bathed here in 2014. Sometimes I just leave requests unanswered when I find myself busy with other projects or that would-be clients are a bit stiff for my comfort.

I do not personally guide people there anymore if you are just after scenic landscapes, for leisure’s sake or in the aid of your physical exercise. I would, if you could tickle my interest like what would I gain if I do so? I am more of a wilderness guide and less of a mountain guide and that might cost you more. But, do not worry, I have associates to fill your wanderlust.

I have brought people there again just this year. The outdoors is now my full-time occupation. Last March, students from the Cebu Normal University conducted an interview of me in the pursuit of their studies. In July, I accommodated Australian guests to a city wilderness tour which brought them here to the Busay Lut-od. Today – August 13, 2016 – three students from the University of San Jose-Recoletos will have their chance.

I am almost always very welcoming to students doing field study, not necessarily in the wilderness, in the pursuit of complying their school requirements. I am a parent myself and I know the stress one gets when their kids do not make the grade through difficult circumstances. I am very accommodating here and I gave them guidance and hints on anything they need to know.

It is a warm morning, almost perfect, with wisps of clouds floating by. We all meet at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and, at first, there were four: two males and two females. They are BS Tourism students and they will make a feasibility study of the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls. I gave them the idea of the terrain, climate, prominent landmarks and other things of what to expect along the trail.

Most of the time some students do not understand how the outdoors looked like or how they would fit themselves in there. The choice of clothes and footwear are disappointing. They, almost always, dress for the malls. Well, I could not help it except manage my pace to a creeping one with lots of rests. I hope the Guy Upstairs would turn back the temperature by a few degrees.

To distract the tightness and difficulties of what they wore, I talk about the plants growing along the trail and beside the stream. I point to them a durian tree with several fruits hanging at its high branches. The same with a marang tree. Only one from the four could discern the rarity of durians in Cebu. At another time, a farm of roses and daisies. Then broccoli-like canopies of mango trees in the distant hills.

The long rests under the shade of trees begets me smiles and their gratitude. If they could only talk about their feelings. Nevertheless, I would know what they are feeling right now. That their tight shoes and tight jeans beget blisters anytime today. It is a given. The outdoors is not something to take for granted. They should do their homework.

We reach the river crossing where there is a natural spring. I insist that they rest long here as the path will be slightly steep once we proceed to the waterfalls area. As they talk among themselves, I refilled my Nalgene bottle. Their leader, Peter Lubas, is much more prepared than the rest and he is carrying a heavy camera with heavy accessories.

He says, he chanced upon my name when he read the blog, Adrenaline Romance. Besides that, the owner of the blog, Gian Carlo Jubela, who is a friend of mine, recommended me for this sort of project. He emailed me but I suggested to him to search me in Facebook instead, which he did. I gave him my discounted professional fee which he accepted to fulfill once they have sufficient material to document.

That material for documentation is still a long way but their efforts would not go to waste. On the moderately steep trail, they walk with so much labor. I assure them that it is just 30 minutes to condition their mind so they could time their attempts. On the last rise, we arrive at another path going down to the waterfalls. It is steep with loose surface the last time around.

I go down first and then Peter and the two girls. I believe the other guy is covering the tailend of our downhill hike. I took a headcount once I reached the first waterfall. Three. The last would still be up there, I guess. I would give him two minutes. It was that moment after I gave a briefing to the three that I noticed the other one had not arrived yet.

I left the three and made my way up and see no one there. He might have turned back. The tight jeans and tight shoes might have to do with that. Painful lessons. I go back to the three and informed them of their missing companion. They smiled but they already know the reason why. I gave them space. I climb the side of the waterfall and I am now on another level. Another waterfall,

The two girls took a bath while Peter climbed up to photograph this second waterfall. For an hour, they take their fill of this hidden wonder, just a few kilometers from Capitol and not much walking and fare expenses. It is just at the backyard of Cebu City. Quite accessible but, let the rest know about it, and it would be heaped with garbage, just like all those popular waterfalls I just named.

The activity ended before noon and we were already at Guadalupe. I earned my guiding fee and it is a hard way to earn one when you know that what was sideline then becomes now your bread and butter. It is not everyday I get chances like this. It is a hard reality. Despite that, I choose to be choosy.

Why? Because I refuse to earn without conscience. I am against commercialism and popular tourism. I am one of the last gatekeepers of our Mother Earth.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer