Wednesday, December 19, 2007


THE CEBU MOUNTAINEERING SOCIETY or CeMS, of which I am a member, recently celebrated Christmas party at Sierra Tree Farm in Gaas, Balamban, Cebu last December 8-9, 2007. Me and my youngest son, Cherokee, were there; as well, as members of CeMS, active or not, who all came strong and in high spirits with their backpacks, exchanging gift presents, foodstuffs, tents and all. Cliff and Claribel Abrahan even brought their two boys and their mansion-sized tent!

Hosted by Ramon and Ann Vidal, owners of Third World Outdoors (TWO) all-weather sandals favored by mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts, they were very accommodating, especially with the use of their humble mountain refuge along with their beautiful and well-manicured frontyard lawn. All told there were 17 tents set up on the saddle of two peaks which afforded a very nice view of the rolling valley below and a glimpse, now and then, of Canlaon Volcano in the distance.

An induction climb for the incoming CeMS members preceded this event, where it started from Barangay Tabunan, Cebu City and traversing Mount Manunggal early in the morning of December 8. Later that evening, the five neophyte CeMS climbers were welcomed by the veterans led by the indefatigable Daddy Frank Cabigon and Doc Abe Manlawe and the incumbent CeMS president -- Rosebelle Daculan during the induction ceremony.

Present were past president Lilibeth Initan, Nonoy Edillor, Sarina Avellanosa and her daughter, Dennis Legaspi, Boy Olmedo, Roy Ragaza, Joy Tongco, Paeng Jura, Jon Consunji, Jecris, Andrew, Julienne, Pen-pen and daughter, Glen Domingo and daughter Sam, Glenn Lao, Joan, Brian Gera, Grace Ventic, Aldrich Apaypon and, of course, Ben Lao, who just returned home after a very long stint at Dagupan City in Pangasinan.

Ben brought a videoke machine for this purpose along with a 14” TV set, an amplifier and two 4-foot tall MB Quatro speaker baffles. I carried one of those heavy baffles on my shoulder thinking it would be a light workout, but, it was a killer exercise of futility that I got and I almost fainted negotiating that short 300-meter distance! Took me almost an hour negotiating the trail from the trans-central highway to the Vidal’s resthouse. Whew...tough course!

Then the party dinner started during nightfall where a special lechon baboy and lechon manok, pasta, fresh lumpia, ngo-hiong, fresh vegetables and steamed saang shells were served while the desserts consisted of fruit and macaroni salads, sweet pastries and pies and benignit, masi and botsi. The meals would not have been complete without the usual spirits which were served right after that to help in digestion.

Master of ceremonies was, no other than, Ramon V himself, the acknowledged dean of Cebu mountaineering. He gave life to the small party with his puns and antics, especially, during the “improvised” exchanging gifts episode which was the highlight of the event, after all, it was a Christmas party, wasn’t it? A time of gift-giving.

Distilled spirits brought out the singer in us as we competed with each other to reach the perfect score on Ben’s videoke machine and, so far, only the geckos and the moths seemed to applause us after every song we belted out, but, never mind, it was fun all the way that all of us will never forget. Our voices echoed even in the wee hours of the night until our throats got sore.

The second day in Gaas were appreciated very much by all of us as we decided to have a little excursion to stretch our muscles to beat the early morning cold. Some of us went to the nearby cave that claimed the life of Dr. Adolph Espina II of Speleo-Cebu just a week ago. The disturbed grasses all around bore and told a great activity of people gathering that centered around the rescue and retrieval of the body of the late doctor inside this partly-unexplored cave by Ramon V and company.

Fully satisfied with our own investigation we went back to the cabin to feast on breakfast of hot coffee, bread, some leftover pasta and food and fresh fruits and then it was time to break camp by folding our tents. We left at noon after feasting on a steaming native chicken soup. We took the trail down to where we came up from yesterday and bid goodbye to Ramon and Ann for home.

Document done in RoughDraft 3.0, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

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