Wednesday, March 25, 2015
MY EXPLORATION OF THE whole of the Babag Mountain Range is still a work in progress. It would not had been possible were it not for the lure of the wild which had compelled me to go back there again in 2008. Yes, I visit this mountain more often than anyone else except, maybe, by local inhabitants yet, despite it, I have not yet really known the whole nook and cranny of its existence. That would take a lifetime which a 5-year old child could pursue until old age but it is an opportunity that I do not possess.
During the early ‘90s, I had that tendency to overlook this mountain range preferring instead the more spectacular big mountains across the archipelago. It was motivated by the novelty of discovering more of your country through the climbing of mountains, famous or not, and be associated with one of only a few groups then who were into that. Then mountaineering became mainstream and I stopped becoming like one but the Babag Mountain Range is still here.
I helped pioneer the establishment of a direct trail, called Ernie’s Trail, to Mount Babag (752 MASL). For me, it was a route that satisfies my requirement of complete exercise. I need to gain my stamina back and I was littered with severe muscle pains days after every climb. It was a hard time for me and I struggled to keep fit yet it also gratifies me to share the route to others. I explored the other sides of the mountain range and it took me to Buhisan, Bocawe, Cabatbatan, Bonbon, Kalunasan, Baksan, Patay’ng Yuta, Tagaytay and Lanipao.
I gave names of the trails and I showed it to the public. I brought people to my discovered routes but I never expected they liked it and some would return all by themselves with their friends and whose friends return by themselves to bring more friends and so on and so on just like at the Buhisan. The only concern in Buhisan that I feared most is that of an incident that would involve hikers which might compel government administrators to close the watershed to outdoorsmen for good as they are already straining on the problems of wildlife poaching, illegal logging and criminality.
The Buhisan is a special place. It is the only place on the Babag Mountain Range that I give time to lecture people about the environment. Although I do not endorse Leave No Trace, I am comfortable with people who go on into the Buhisan with a stock knowledge of the principles of LNT. I used to hold the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp there but I respect the ongoing tree planting activity at Camp Damazo that I transferred the PIBC to Sibonga. Other places, I would rather not bring people, especially at the “last wild place”.
Meanwhile, the known side of the Babag Mountain Range is now too crowded and I am going back exploring other trails that had not been discovered or were denied discovery on purpose. There was this branch of Liboron Trail that I need to look into. This branch gets into a hidden meadow that would suit itself as an ideal ground for a future PIBC site except that it needs a water source somewhere nearby. Maybe that untried route would answer my query. For me, this mountain range is like an art gallery where, instead of pieces of paintings, it is dotted with trails less trodden waiting to be found.
We had just taken our delayed lunch. It is 14:30, July 13, 2014, and we decide not to resume our hike towards Babag Ridge as it is already too late in the day to tackle it before taking a long descent to Sapangdaku Creek. Why not backtrack and go exploring? The others – Jhurds Neo, Justin Apurado and Nyor Pino – liked that idea. To see new places that had not been seen by others is a privilege that had been always enjoyed by me but I am gracious to share them that joy this afternoon.
Before that, it was a beautiful morning in Tagaytay Ridge as the clouds provided us a cooler day which would, otherwise, be very warm. We started early because we want to finish the activity in daylight. We reached the halfway point and, in the middle of our cooking, rain started to fall. It ruined our open fire pit and our cooking. Worse, one of the black pots has holes. It was a good thing we had taken coffee earlier and feasted the eating of ripe dragonfruits given by Julio Caburnay, the farmer. When we had left, we carry each a dragonfruit.
I am testing, for the first time, the Silangan Predator Z tactical backpack. It is bigger than the commercially available 27-liter Predator Alpha, because it is custom made for my personal requirements and tests. It is in two-toned tan color with three zippers for easy deployment and storage. The presence of webbing all over it makes it possible to attach smaller accessory packs to it like I did with a US Army Trauma Kit. It has several internal pockets to better organize things.
All of us open carry our knives. I carried my Chipaway Cutlery Bowie knife; Jhurds with his Spyderco Forester; Justin with his Knifemaker woodlore knife; and Nyor with his Seseblades NCO. We are with the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild and there is nothing unusual in what we do. The knife made easy work on wood where teeth and fingernails would had made it impossible to accomplish like the walking stick I fashioned for Jhurds made from a dead branch.
The trail is descending. It was cleared and widened for use just recently by mango gatherers. It followed a dry gully and onto a flat ridge. I hear voices from below then a dog. That is why I see urine on the path which I attribute at first to a person. It belonged to the dog. By then I see a house. It is an old house with architecture and design reminiscent of the ‘50s. It is a big house if you considered the standards of a mountain community. A dog barked at my approach and a man stood on the doorway.
I advance slowly and gave greetings. A boy knows me and he smiled. I remembered the boy during our outreach activities at the Roble homestead. The place has a meadow with coconuts, mangoes and other fruit trees. A couple of giant bamboo groves grow nearby. They have water! It is supplied by a natural spring a kilometer away which is channeled to a network of PVC and rubber hoses.
I look up the ridge from where we came from. It is just too daunting to take a walk from that hidden meadow I talked about to here and back to fetch water. I gave up the idea of sourcing water from here but this is a good place to play dirt. Even an overnighter. This place will be another alternate Camp Red dirt-time place. We were offered green coconuts and it is so sweet. Before leaving, I paid for it.
We go down the ridge taking the rightmost trail, not knowing that it led to a farm. The path vanished and I have to search and find a route on a very difficult terrain as it is very loose and very steep. Eventually, I am able to extricate the rest and took the correct path which brought us to a clearwater creek. This place is very familiar since I pass by here more than a year ago during an exploration of the “Last Wild Place.”
Ultimately, we reach Sapangdaku Creek. We were all tired from the exertions of the day but the excitement had kept the rest egging for more. I promised them of that hidden trail at Tagaytay Ridge which I aim to explore next. But, for now, it is best that we keep this to ourselves and talk about it later. Bringing people outside of our sphere are not advised as of yet, for the moment.
In time, it will be revealed, but first, I have to study the flora and fauna here and some special concerns, like a unique ecosystem, which may be altered by the impact caused by a regular intrusion of leisure hikers. Anyway, I will come to that conclusion once I have completed my observations, complete with a little guidance which I will provide here in this blog so you would know that you do not need to pay people to visit the Babag Mountain Range.
Because, as I had always observed, some dayhike organizers act like commercial tour operators and do no take consideration of the trails by inviting as many people as possible. At times they snare more than 50 gullible people. All those who participated are sometimes milked of cash and provided only with cold packed meals. The organizers do not even know how to make sense of the places they visit. They act like tour guides yet they showed their ignorance by giving people silent treatment all the time.
Warrior Pilgrimage pursues the idea that roaming our mountains should not be subject to commercial interference. An individual’s right to travel on paths less taken should not be taken advantaged of by profiteers. When an individual discovers that freedom, he or she should abide by the following basic considerations: Am I safe? Am I prepared? Am I responsible? Do I have other options? Should I involve other people?
If you know the answers to these self-assessments then you are prepared to start on your own free, but very fulfilling, journey like I always do. Godspeed!
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
Friday, March 13, 2015
I REACHED HOME AT 12:30 and ate a hasty lunch ten minutes later. Then it began to rain. I am worried that I would be further delayed to embark on a solo journey today, July 5, 2014, because of this. When the rain stopped, I thanked all the saints and hurriedly left my residence at 13:10 and commute to Jones Avenue then to Guadalupe, then I hired a motorcycle to bring me to the trailhead at Baksan.
I carried an old-school desert-tan Lifeguard USA rucksack and, in it, is a camera tripod, an Apexus taffeta sheet, a box of safety matches and a stainless-steel cup. My tomahawk - my old adventure partner – is open carried, the haft slipped into my operator belt. To protect me from mosquitoes, I brought my Umbro long-sleeved shirt, a sniper mesh and my long-standing partner on a myriad of sleeping grounds – my bonnet. A Silangan side pouch housed my dilapidated Kodak camera and a cheap cellphone. That is all.
It is 13:50 when I started. I am almost two hours late. I should have released myself at exactly 12:00 for this novel activity called Survival Day. Survival Day answers to the requests of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild to engage their members in an activity combining all the elements of bushcraft, survival, navigation and escape and evasion. A selected pair would engage on this overnight, preferably on a weekend, with a third man observing and documenting their activity. They would have to choose one place from among three sites.
When this was posted in Facebook, they were all taken by surprise. A daring few volunteered to enlist in a dry run but all bowed out at the last minute. Since I designed this activity, it is inherent in me to show all how it is done. To increase the ante, I will do this alone while doing the documentation myself. I choose the Buhisan Watershed Area, because that place is a perfect bushcrafter’s paradise. It is all jungle and home to some of the nastiest bugs.
From Baksan, I followed the path I had discovered to Creek Alpha. This route is already integrated into the old Lensa Trail which the locals had used for many years. The ground is wet but it is not slippery. Still, I opt to cut a green limb of a Mexican lilac tree (Local name: kakawate) as my walking stick. It is 7-and-a-half feet long and it is heavy. I pass by a teak forest and I look for dry leaves. Since it had rained all the time, I found just a few, crushed it, and placed it inside a plastic bag.
The grasses are waist high as I follow a low ridge then another adjoining ridge, this time climbing up to a hill which I loved to call as Boy T’s Hell. I pause for a while to study the somber sky, the verdant greenery and my back trail. I do not see a soul but I see traces of a rattan planting activity. They – the DENR1 or the MCWD2 – intend to discourage people from visiting the Buhisan by planting these like a hedge. It might be for a lot of reasons like wildlife poaching, illegal logging and, possibly, trail running, which the latter is downright hazardous if done here.
I go down the hill and follow another ridge where there is a tree with my trailsign. I found it and slowly trace the now-scant path. The walking stick is most helpful here as I get to pole vault over shallow ravines and save me the trouble of jumping without something to anchor on on slippery ground. Slowly, I reach the stream, after I had carefully maneuvered among spiny plants and those that I thought are toxic. You could never be too sure.
I am now on a very secluded trail, but very beautiful from whichever point of view you are in. The stream is full of water, clear and running. I carefully set my foot on stones when I walk on the river bed, intending to leave no trace of my presence even to the extent of climbing up on a path of loamy soil. I leave my presence at the top, but it is on a wrong trail. I do this all the time to fool anyone who might take advantage of my being alone. The Buhisan is still a dangerous place since it is a refuge of lawless elements.
I follow the path and pass by the old campsite of the first Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp. Along the trail are very dry leaves of a dead Indian rhododendron shrub (yagumyum). I collected a lot which disintegrate itself into tiny bits when handled. I soon found my plastic bag of dry tinder getting bigger and bigger which my pants pocket could not accommodate anymore, so I decide that I have enough and place it inside my bag.
I walk on, scanning everything that might be edible, but the sky darkened and I hurry up. I reach Creek Bravo and I take a rest. This is the only place in the Buhisan where there are groves of water bamboos (butong, buho). The groves are located at a higher place and there are no paths there except through a small watercourse. I climbed up using my hands to gain footholds. Although I am bulky and heavy, that had never been a problem for me. I used to rock climb in the ‘90s and I still got a good eye-to-muscle coordination and a tight grip.
The groves have thinned as it had been harvested over several times and only a few healthy poles are left, most of it young. One grove is being burned down and I can not comprehend why? I do not want to cut the few remaining poles so I looked for poles that had already been cut and overlooked by the gatherer. I found one hanging on a tree with four segments and I am able to save two conjoined segments. I also found a smaller but pointed pole, about six feet long, on the ground. I bound the bamboos together with a vine so I could carry it easily.
The sky is getting somber and somber as the afternoon light is losing its intensity. I will carry my bamboos and wooden staff over an ascending ridge, on the lookout always for rattan tendrils. As I walk on higher elevations, the light improved, visibility clearer. I see wild mushrooms (kwakdok) on dead wood and I pluck these. I walk on and startle a brush cuckoo (sigigid) feeding on the ground. It had not noticed me coming until I am about five feet near. I see a lot of dry wood on the ground but I prefer those hanging in midair.
I am now approaching Camp Damazo and I notice one of a pair of huge wood pillars that had guarded its entrance had succumbed to decay. Ah, the place that had nurtured the finest products of the PIBC had recovered well, the fire ring of stones under the Moluccan ironwood tree (ipil) remained untouched. I am tempted to stay for there is an abundance of light here but I need to be at the water source first to study the possibility of camping near it and to placate my throat.
I found the natural spring and I drink two cups of the fine water. Fresh-water crabs inhabit here and it appears only during nighttime. It would be best if I could camp nearby so I do not have to walk far and burn up a makeshift torch. The torch is a problem though as I had not found a dry suitable material like palm leaves. Anyways, I cut the bigger bamboo in half so I could fashion a water container out of one while the other half as a catch bin should I push to catch crabs tonight. I carved a spout for the water container and punched a hole at this end, then I fill it full with water after washing it.
I look around and I see a promising place to camp but it is gloomy and a possible route of running water should it rain heavily. I backtrack to the spring and decide to spend the night near Camp Damazo instead. My lacking of a dependable lighting to illuminate my foraging in the night discouraged me but I leave the catch bin if ever I could find dry leaves as a torch, time willing. It is now almost 16:30 and I need to go back to Camp Damazo to take advantage of the light being plentiful there.
I size up the place and I see a good ground thirty meters away. I walk towards it and I found a perfect spot although I need to cut or break a young tree to achieve a good campsite. It is underneath three tall trees with a hardwood species of tree (tugas) growing underneath it. There are no rotting branches on the trees and should a piece of either tree fall, it would be caught by the branches of the shorter hardwood tree. Breeze comes from the valley below and would fill my shelter with smoke should I make a campfire in between.
I notice a swarm of small forest mosquitoes beginning to torment me and those big black ants appearing suddenly as all sensed me expending carbon dioxide. I need to keep moving to distract these insects. Immediately, I cut several stalks of a zingiber plant and lay it on the ground. I grab an armful of crawling ferns that had been choking a young tree and place it above the leaves laid on the ground so I could use it as a cushion for my body should I lie to sleep.
I draw out my taffeta sheet from my rucksack and tie the middle grommet holes to the tree trunks with laces from my Columbia hike shoes. I extend one part of the sheet as a low awning close to the ground, tying one end with a piece of black clothe that I had been using as a head band and the other end with a vine. The other half of the sheet I would use partly as a wall and partly to cover the leaves where I would be sleeping on. I retrieve a long pole lying on the trail so I could use this to retain the angle of the sheet wall firm.
I would not have carried the walking stick here without a purpose. I place it underneath the sheet that would be used as my sleeping area. It would be placed so it would keep me from rolling over and to restrict my body in one place so my body heat would not be wasted. I believe it would be cold tonight and I need to be warm. I will collect firewood, the ones hanging in midair. I found many and I break the twigs into three different kinds: pencil lead size, pencil wood size and thumb size.
I make a nest of tinder and kindling beside a jutting root of an arbor tree, which act as a shield, before I struck my first match. Humidity causes the dry leaves to absorb moisture quickly and, until I struck my fourteenth matchstick, I was able to make a roaring fire. I feed dry firewood and collect bigger wood which I cut and split with my tomahawk. I drag some more and keep it off the ground. The mosquitoes and ants begins to disappear as it senses wood smoke. I can now rest easy and feed the fire from time to time.
I drag some felled branches with dried leaves still attached to it and use it to camouflage my shelter. By 19:00, I take rest inside my open shelter, donning the long-sleeved shirt and the bonnet. The mesh, will cover my head, upper body, arms and hands. I listen to the sounds of the jungle. I can hear hundreds of geckos inhabiting this part of the Buhisan. You could distinguish each individual by the timbre and manner of their croaks. Also grabbing attention are jungle fowls, a myriad of birds, frogs and a cry of a palm civet.
The mosquitoes, they came, and how they loved to hover near the ears. I move to my side and pray when would this torment end. When the breeze shifted direction, the mosquitoes would be gone but when the breeze disappears, it would be back with a vengeance. Fed up with my failure to gain sleep, I feed another set of firewood to my small campfire at 20:30. My eyes had already adjusted to the darkness that I could walk my way around to take a leak. The whole place is now foggy.
The strong winds came and all creatures are silent. Rain will come soon. I hear branches breaking, a lot of it falling to the ground. A low pressure area near Luzon had been bringing all these rains and a very strong tropical typhoon (Glenda) is looming in the Pacific, approaching my island by the hour. It is raining lightly but it never affected my fire. A few drops fell on it and I thought it at first as a person walking on grass (as raindrops hiss on embers) but it is only my mind playing games on me.
The mosquitoes, well, they remained when the breeze shifted to another direction and would be gone again when the smoke filled my shelter. I begin to feel my stomach complaining without dinner. I rise again from bed at 22:00 and feed my fire with enough firewood. A strong downpour fell but the fire kept roaring and thick smoke would emerge when a few raindrops found its way there. My struggle with the pesky insects continue on until past midnight where I rise again and feed my fire.
I hear the beautiful melody of a black shama (siloy) and unbelief is written all over me that I had really slept. I look at my wristwatch and it is 05:30. The second day (July 6), at last, but I am not in a hurry. I peek at my fire and all the wood are burned out. I go back to sleep. I wake up again at 07:00 and rise to rekindle my campfire alive. I prepare another nest of tinder and light twigs and it took matchstick No. 21 before it roared to life.
I will heat up the water inside the bamboo that I had collected yesterday. After 45 minutes, steam begins to appear from the spout. I get my cup and poured me a good-quantity of the bamboo-flavored water. Then I place wild mushrooms that I had foraged yesterday on the liquid and set my cup above the embers to boil it into a soup. “Wild mushroom soup, that is the menu for breakfast sir.” It might be inadequate but, at least, it is nourishment.
Breakfast at 09:00 and I sit still on a rock listening to the melodic chants of two individual black shamas and the buzz of the cicadas. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a reddish cuckoo dove (tubaon) perched on a dead wood three feet away from me. It eyed me curiously for about fifteen seconds and transfer to a young tree at my back. I could not resist the temptation of moving my head after 30 seconds to see its beauty and it flew away. Oh, such little pleasures give meaning to life.
I take advantage of the sparse sunlight on the open spaces of Camp Damazo and I drink two cups of the bamboo tea. Noontime is still far and I have to kill time by taking a little exploration of a ghost trail that I had noticed below my place. I go back and try my reflex on my tomahawk. The remaining wood pillar becomes my target board. I am quite rusty, my throws lacked consistency now as I have not had the time to practice it anymore, unlike in the old days when I was engaged in a warrior’s pilgrimage.
Two hours more to go. Boredom led me to my shelter. I feed the fire and lay down. Strong winds from the southwest arrive and everything becomes silent. It rained again. I wait out the rain under the dry safety of my shelter. It is a light rain or it might be the canopies filtered this into something more tolerable. I close my eyes and I awakened at 11:30, thirty minutes more and I will be on my way.
When 12:00 do arrive, I break camp, put out my fire and put everything in order. I carry the pointed bamboo as my staff. I pass by the natural spring and drink two cups of the refreshing water. The female bat that I had startled yesterday near the spring is surprised again by my presence and flew away. I cross two small streams, probably these are the upper parts of the streams I crossed yesterday. The route is uphill now and I take it slow, resting twice, each for 30 seconds.
I reach Baksan Road at 12:45 and I feel good. The struggle would be easy now as it is downhill all the way to Lanipao. When I arrive at the place, I just rest a minute before resuming to the designated rendezvous point – Napo, which I reach at 13:10. I could have gratified myself with cold refreshment and biscuits but I intend to do it at Guadalupe instead. I still have an extra 10 miles of resistance and I believe I could do that.
Guadalupe at 13:30 and I reward myself with a humble lunch in a small store. Then I proceed to the Red Hours Convenience Store to recoup my electrolytes with cold bottles of San Miguel Cerveza Negra. It was a worthy two days of solitude which would perfectly change the game of how the outdoors would be best enjoyed here in the Philippines. Being badass is not always bad and, sometimes, in my dreams, I liked to to toy with the idea of creating a new hobby called BADASSERY3.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
1Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
2Metropolitan Cebu Water District.
Friday, March 6, 2015
WHEN YOU GO INTO BATTLE, you should know your adversary and, along with that, the battlefield. It seems a very wise decision when Mayo Leo Carillo requested me to scout on the route that he would plan to take on Survival Day, where he volunteered to undergo on its dry run scheduled for July 5 and 6, 2014. The place is the ridge of Tagaytay, a part of the Babag Mountain Range, of which place he has no knowledge of.
Survival Day is a two-day test of endurance and resourcefulness which I had floated for all members of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild to try. This challenge is also open for those who are not members of Camp Red but had taken bushcraft and survival trainings during my visits in Luzon.
It will involve two participants who will work as a team and, in between them, they will be allowed to carry only one knife, one simple shelter, one metal cup and one kind of firemaking gadget. They will choose one route from among three and hike it and they will have to source their own drinking water and food, build a campfire and stay overnight on the first day. They break camp on second day and be at the rendezvous point before sundown.
A different set of two individuals would then be released twice monthly and this will run up to the end of this year. A third man will accompany a pair to document and to observe. The third man will be their lifeline should things go wrong and the umpire should they cheat. The pairs would be graded according to their accomplishment, to initiate a friendly competition, but this will never become a race.
I had granted Mayo’s request and, not only that, I will personally lead the reconnoitering activity. Today, June 29, 2014, Mayo will see, for the first time, the terrain and vegetation on Tagaytay Ridge, so he will know his “enemy” along with Ernie Salomon, Jhurds Neo, Patrick Calzada and Justin Apurado. We start early from Guadalupe and start our hike at 07:45 from Napo.
It was Jhurds who chose this route when he got paired with Mayo earlier but he backed out when a teaching job was offered to him by a local university. Ernie volunteered to fill in the vacuum and it is now his mission as well. The day is warm but cloudy. We reach the trailhead of Manggapares Trail at 08:15 and I advise everyone that it will be a hard walk.
We reach the second of the seven towers that rise along Tagaytay Ridge. The third tower is situated further up a rise which is separated by a saddle. The trail had been obliterated by thick vegetation where I create another path for my five companions. My hands and my Puffin Magnum knife are put to good use. It is a tiring work, more like swimming on land with the sun beating hard on you but it is labor that I welcomed.
We pass by the fourth tower and I find it desirable to rest under the welcoming shade of Mexican lilac trees (Local name: kakawate) for a good ten minutes. I was really exhausted that I took three swigs of water. We proceed to the fifth tower where I showed to them of pepper, sweet potatoes and taro growing wild along the way. Not only that, there are mango, jackfruit, Java plum and lime trees bearing fruit.
The fifth tower, as I had known it, had not yet been erected except for four big holes that were poured with concrete as foundations. Today, it is complete and standing. Besides that, an easy route had been established by workers which curved around the posts. The day is getting warmer as the hours drag by towards noon. After this tower is another one but we will be walking on a dirt road that begins to be reclaimed by vegetation.
While walking uphill, we meet eleven men going the opposite way. It is an unusual number of locals if you consider the kind of place to be at. All of them are carrying openly local blades known as a bolo and one of them is armed with a CO2-powered rifle. Locals often band together to clear fields for collective farming, cut trees for charcoal or harvest mangoes. Sometimes, very rarely, they organize into a posse to search for stolen livestock.
I open carry my Puffin Magnum knife, dangling in swagger fashion by my side. Jhurds has his big Spyderco Forester on the side of his vintage Swiss rucksack. A knife in full view always make men think twice, especially if it is a KNIFE. However, if they would had been an enemy patrol they would have had the advantage of high ground and would have had beaten us hands down. Fortunately for me, it was just my tactical brain playing games on me.
The abandoned backhoe is still there but its transmission gears are now missing. Oil from the transmission had leaked to the ground and, although dry now, it had blackened the soil. We cross a low saddle and pass by the sixth tower. I look for the cement mixer but it is gone now, perhaps brought back by the workers who constructed the fifth tower. I saw the trail and follow it. Thank God, it is still there.
It is 11:00 and I hurried my pace. It goes through thick vegetation now and, somehow, we meet three youths carrying empty baskets. They said they were delivering mangoes and they are going home to Bocawe. We all rest on a saddle, trying to normalize our breathing and to rest. Infront of us is a low hill while, behind, is Mount Liboron. I have not been there and I have no intention. Perhaps, I might visit it one of these days just to gaze how the view would look like from up there.
We push on along high grasses and down into groves of bamboo. We have to crouch to pass by sagging poles with its protective thorns. When we got past it, the trail is fenced off by two strands of barbed wires. I break an old bamboo pole and prop it as a platform over the lowest strand. We cross the wires and are now on the other side. We climb up another hill and reach the garden of Julio Caburnay. It is exactly 12:00 but we have to rest to recover from the intense exertions. Here, you could source your drinking water and Mayo and the rest noted it well.
Ernie begins to work on the food ingredients while Jhurds starts to assemble a tripod and notch wood to make a wooden hook. Patrick, Justin and I scrounge for firewood. Justin personally kindle a tinder nest to life using sparks from a ferro rod. Mayo set up his small tarpaulin sheet above a bench that we cleared of potted plants. The fruit from the dragon cactus is almost ripe while the tiger vitex (lagundi) is blooming. The heaven begins to go gray. Rain is ominous.
Immediately, the rice pots are hanged from the tripod. Once these are cooked, Ernie starts with the mixed vegetable soup. Diced pork and shredded bamboo sprouts are mixed to the soup giving it a much better flavor. On the side, pork adobo is also cooked. Although thunder begins to rumble and raindrops are now falling hard, these did not dampen our appetite. Fortunately, Mayo’s a small tarpaulin overhead made it possible for us to take a decent lunch.
The rain stayed for a half hour until it goes to the lowlands, which is east of us. We do not have time to rest as it is now almost in the middle of the afternoon. Slowly, under light drops of rain, we pack our things and gave the rest of our food to Julio, along with a portion of uncooked rice, a canned tuna and sachets of coffee. We said goodbye to Julio and gave thanks. We will tackle the rest of the trail to Babag Ridge.
The rain had left the trail so muddy at where the ground was broken for a small farm. It is so slippery and so soft. If I wanted to walk on the middle so I could gain a few meters, that would be very easy, but I would be condemning the rest to a very taxing scramble. To walk at the sides are my best option but it is very much the same but, at least, I do not wreak havoc on the middle of the trail. Legs akimbo, I put a step forward, slide two steps backward and start over again.
As a long-time student of the trails, I always take consideration of the ones following me, especially those who are not used to walking on a mountainous terrain. If I could not help it, I would rather break off from the main path and start another route. This is how my mind always operate and it is now an inbred habit on my part. Once I reach a good grassy part, it becomes easy on me but my hard breathing unmasks my condition.
I watch the rest though, as they try to keep a good foothold in the mud and they gained slowly up to my level. I am not amused at what I see. I treat every walk on a trail as a serious matter. I always keep a stoic front so horsing around would be limited. Once a member gets hurt, it slows me and exposes me to more problems. I keep a sharp watch on everything and sees to it that all are alright.
As they reached where I stood, I turned my back and face the trail. I reach the old trail but I walk slowly now so the rest could catch up. We all stoop under the now-heavy but quite spiny vines of rattan palms which seem to block the path. Debris had covered again the trail but these off-road Enduro bikers never gave up. They always come back and clear obstacles, even to the extent of hacking the trunks of a threatened forest plant.
We proceed on and pass by a place used as a camp by Filipino guerrillas and, later, by the Japanese. The latter had used this as an almost impregnable redoubt, utilizing the high ground, in the defense of their occupation of Cebu before superior Allied force in 1944. What is left are a complex system of tunnels that had been condemned and closed, stacks of quarried stones and whispers of the wind that may be telling a story. No riders nor recent visitors passed by here because it cannot be seen from the trail.
As we walk on, we came upon another recent camp that had not been used anymore when some parts of the Babag Trail were fenced-off in the late ‘90s. The path is channeled down into a dry stream and up to the ridge by barbed-wire fences. We take rest on this ridge that offered views of both the east coastline and the west valley of the Bonbon River. We did not stay long for it is now getting late.
We arrive at the vicinity of Mount Babag where the trail to Sapangdaku Creek and thence to Napo starts. I see a lot of mud from the lower trail carried by several sets of shoeprints to the dirt road where I stood. I guessed around 20-30 people are going up here, basing on the mass of mud and prints. We begin our descent but I am quite disappointed to see the path smothered flat and looked like a primitive copy of a water slide.
I advised everyone to follow the path I will make and imitate how I move along difficult stretches and they should mark it where. The most basic of trailcraft is to learn and develop your own walking techniques, study the terrain, improve balance, learn to navigate and how to defy gravity. Adroitness and flexibility are qualities that I still possess despite being an old citizen now. I travelled along the rims of this long and winding water slide of a trail and cut in through untried, but safer, grounds.
Meanwhile, I met many locals going to their homes and they were having difficulty even though they know their environment so well. They were muddied up to their knees and I did not saw them at this condition ever since. Except today. Quite nasty! Walk single file on the middle of the trail, even though it is muddy and wet – as people without skills loved to quote it in Leave No Trace. What ignorance and indifference! Would that make you a champion of the environment or a scourge to locals?
Apparently, if you follow that LNT idea I mentioned, you are doing a great disservice to the locals, who have used the trails as a lifeblood to their existence. You are making yourself inconsiderate to them and to other people using the trail if you treat yourself like a blind horse from Duljo. I always thought that people who visit mountains are adventurous and creative. Creative people work around rigid lines and stiff templates, so why walk like a zombie?
I reach the Roble homestead. Justin had kept his distance close to me and so arrived after two minutes. I wait for the others. I begin to imagine how the bulky Jhurds would maneuver on that slippery descent. I stifled a laugh but, at the same time, I am worried. In a group, the rest arrive after 25 minutes. Jhurds and the rest are muddied up to their knees and two of them have muddy seats. Mayo had used his alpine canes and it had helped him stave off gravity.
We take rest. It is now 17:00 and soon it would be dark. We resume our walk in semi-darkness where the glow of LED lights had preserved well my trail mates’ confidence. We arrive at Napo and whisk ourselves away to Guadalupe. It is 18:15 and the rest have had enough of the day so we decide to end the day without much fanfare and set out for our respective routes to home.
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