Friday, December 26, 2008

PHOTOBLOGGING: My Worst List of 2008

2008 IS ABOUT TO go and I have observed behind my lens things or people which have caused us great distress and inconvenience. They have rubbed salt on open wounds which we have tolerated for so long being part of our psyche. This series of photos are but eye-openers of how to start 2009 with new eyes.


It seemed there are still many vehicles who defy the Clean Air Act by continually plying the national and provincial roads and city streets belching out black acrid smoke such as this shown above. Photo taken near the bridge in Tinaan, Naga, Cebu. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board have been tasked to monitor and enforce this law by subjecting all vehicles to regular smoke emission tests but their efforts fell well below the expectation heaped upon by the public on them. It's time the agency check on those unscrupulous smoke-emission test centers which may be in cahoots with fixers and corrupt employees.


Cebu City Ordinance No. 1316 prohibits anyone from urinating in public places which this man is doing on an electric post at Rosal Street, Cebu City unmindful of the vehicles passing behind him. For your info, there are many city ordinances ratified which have no teeth at all.


This condition is prevalent among motorcycles-for-hire or habal-habal and they disregard theirs and their passengers' safety by insisting on driving a motorcycle without protection and even denying the right of their passengers to wear a helmet. What's worse, they even have the gall to drive their motorcycle with four or more passengers. I'm sure the Land Transportation Office-7 is not sleeping on its job because I see habal-habal drivers all over Cebu Province doing this thing overtly.


Adjacent to the bridge in M.J. Cuenco Avenue, Cebu City and Tejero Elementary School is a small open place which was converted by the school as a garbage dumping area. Residents living nearby and as far away as T. Padilla and Villagonzalo followed suit by dumping also their refuse there. Scavengers would turn upside down packed garbage inside sacks and garbage bags and scatter them on the pathway, the street and the creek. The place stinks and people passing that area would cover their noses or just run. Technically, this area belonged to the jurisdiction of Barangay Tejero but the barangay captain there, it seemed, does not care at all.


Have you ever wondered why our power bills continuously increase? It's because power utilities would literally pass the buck to us consumers these so-called power losses. FYI, these power losses took on the form of illegal power connections that's happening within our neighborhood like that picture shown above.


BF have overstayed his stay in Cebu like his poster on an electric pole in San Fernando, Cebu would suggest. 2010 was just two years away when those pink (Why does he like pink?) tarpaulin banners sprouted overnight all over Cebu in the middle of 2008. Good for Cebu City we have a politically-independent mayor in the person of Tomas Osmeña; those posters were removed outright without the blink of an eye. BF have not walked his talk at MMDA after all.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1

Kodak EasyShare C713 Camera, 7.0 mP

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I TOOK A HALF-DAY FROM work on December 6, 2008 as I have to be at the Ayala Terminal at 2:00 PM. From there I will go up to Gaas, Balamban to attend the Cebu Mountaineering Society Christmas Party and Camp at the Sierra Tree Farm of the couple Ramon and Ann Vidal.

At 12 noon, I raced from Mandaue City to Cebu City. There was a heavy downpour and traffic slowed down. I reached home at 1:30 PM and I saw the river beside my house filled almost to the brim. I took a hurried lunch and grabbed my Habagat Venado backpack and a carry-bag containing a big rectangular plastic container inside of which contained a sweetened sticky rice delicacy or biko.

Half-running half-stumbling, to my consternation, some parts of the river overflowed into the streets and traffic froze to a standstill. Vacant taxicabs were rarer as the Sumatran rhino and I called Ben Lao to wait for me coz I would be late. Taking a chance, I hitched a ride on a service vehicle of Barangay Luz and the occupants conveniently dropped me off at the Cebu Business Park.

Fortunately, many were not able to arrive early due to the rains and I settled my things and myself inside Ben's Isuzu Highlander and shared space with Dennis Legaspi, Daryl Balmoria and her brother Junjun. We left Ayala at 3:00 PM and Ben played selections of Sarah Brickman on his stereo which blended perfectly well with the trip along the Trans-Central highway.

We arrived an hour-and-a-half later and followed the concrete pathway to the Vidal's weekend residence some three hundred meters uphill. Ben brought with him a 14-inch TV, a DVD player, a portable speaker system and a satellite dish. We were planning to watch a live telecast of the Manny Pacquiao-Oscar dela Hoya fight scheduled for December 7, Philippine time, there.

Ben and I set up quickly the satellite dish, the TV and anything else in between after which I also pitched the tent which Ben will share space with me. It was terribly cold as the wind duetted with the rain. Everyone shivered and looked for rooms and the lee of the house for refuge.

Already there were the inductees: Brian Gera, Loklok and Tata Caumeran, Aldrich Paypon, Grace Ventic and Mai-mai Po. They just came from Mount Manunggal by way of Inalad and Boy Olmedo, Lilibeth Initan and Glenn Lao went with them as guardians. Likewise, Daddy Frank Cabigon was already there sipping a cup of steaming coffee. We joined them together with Nonoy Edillor, Sarina Avellanosa and daughter, Boy Toledo, Glenn Domingo and daughter Sam, Joy Tongco, Jecris Dayondon, newbie Ernie Salomon and several guests.

Everyone pitched in their dishes on the dining table, to mention a few, like Joy with her lechon baboy, Nonoy with his macaroni salad, Ben with his spaghetti and me with my biko. The Vidals pitched in volumes of rice, a large parrot fish grilled on charcoal along with pork, pasta, flounders in thick soup specially prepared by Ramon. Boy T and Ben made sure that beer will flow like water during the intermission.

Then came the highlight of the whole activity – the exchanging gifts! The spirit of Christmas is celebrated earnestly by everyone here and all the participants came forward with their presents and placed them on the chopping board to be dismembered forever from them. Lots were distributed and all the gears changed hands several times until Ramon got tired of announcing the numbers all over and over again and everyone were very happy at what they got and from the extra dose of excitement and laughter.

At around 10:00 PM, the cold wind and rain seemed unbearable at that moment forcing me to change my sleeping quarter to an unfinished annex instead of the tent I pitched a while ago. Ben made his presence felt with his patented loud snores when I awakened at dawn. He, too transferred.

Waking up to the aroma of a freshly-brewed coffee on December 7, I discovered the annex-cum-sleeping quarter got populated by Ben, Jecris and Ernie and Jude and Eugene Abarquez of USC-M. I put on my windbreaker and tiptoed over the inert bodies and went outside as a gust of wind greeted me. The rains have not abated since yesterday and I helped myself with a cup of hot chocolate drink.

Taking a hasty sip I decided to have a look-see of the tent that Ben and I abandoned last night. Thank God, it was still standing and the insides were dry as a matchstick. Slowly, under the lashings of the wind and rain, I detached the stakes, the flysheet, the poles, the shelter and the ground tarp and stuffed them inside a bag while my neighbors did likewise to their standing tents, which are eleven in all.

Later, all the people present rustled themselves up foraging for food except for the few tired ones. Hot breakfast were served on the table and everyone became alive again for just a moment until another set of intermittent blasts of the strong wind forced them to take refuge on anything that would block the cold.

Even as the meal was ongoing Ben and I concentrated on establishing a signal by adjusting the angle and location of the sat dish until our efforts gave out to the unfavorable weather. Boy T, excited to watch the bout on a good signal, left early together with Boy O and Ernie.

That did not end our excitement, however, as we still have another option of watching the fight, by reverting it to an ordinary TV signal. We were able to watch from Round 1 to Round 8, although delayed, and full of redundant commercials during the whole affair. The good thing about it Ramon withheld the result of the bout after receiving a text message earlier.

The Pacman ended it in the eighth and we ended ours at 3:00 PM. We slowly packed our things and bade goodbye again to Ramon and Ann and we descended the concrete pathway down to the asphalt road where our parked vehicles were waiting to be loaded with our bodies and things. I sat behind Ben and there were eight of us inside the Highlander. Others went with Nonoy's Honda City and Glenn D's KIA Sportage.

The cold wind did not stung anymore at the lower elevations although wisps of water left their marks on the windshields. I went home quite satisfied with the successful event although I felt nostalgic and sad that someone did not make it to the party this time and that someone left an indelible mark on everyone and everybody agreed that they missed that someone very much.

Merry Christmas everybody! See you again on the trail soon...

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1

Animated GIF Banner done in Textmaker

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


MOUNT MANUNGGAL HAVE endeared to us all members of the Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS, for upon her slopes on March 17, 1989 CeMS became an inspiration of the first ones who were there before: Sir Joe Avellanosa (+), Daddy Frank Cabigon, Dr. Abe Manlawe, Mme. Penpen Mitchell (+), Sir Rex Vecina, Claribel Delgra-Abrahan and Boy Olmedo. Through the years CeMS have alloted two of their yearly activities at Mt. Manunggal – one in March and one in August.

My first climb there was on August 22, 1992. We have all the camping area just to ourselves. On March 1993, we played host to Toto Antipasto and the VISCA Outdoors Recreation Group (VORG) while other mountaineering groups pitched their tents nearby to celebrate nature sans the noisy affairs that were celebrated every year after that. Then on March 1995, ecologically-impaired visitors desecrated the campsite, cutting short our camping days from two to one, disgusted with the way the organizers handled the affair.

Later, CeMS decided to ditch the March activity starting in 1996, which coincided with the commemoration of the President Ramon Magsaysay Death Anniversary every March 17th, when we were appalled by too many people congregating there the year before that and leaving behind mounds of rubbish as well as peripheral damage to the surrounding vegetations.

However, after ten years (March 2006), CeMS decided to return there skipping the March 17th affair and camped only a week after to retrieve and clear Manunggal of other people's garbage which amounted to 89 sacks and garbage bags on the first time. On March 2007, with the University of San Carlos Mountaineers (USC-M) lending a hand, it went down to 45 bags and sacks. It was the first phase of our own Mount Manunggal Stewardship Program.

Then on March 8, 2008, with genuine desire to preserve and upgrade Mt. Manunggal into a first-class tourist destination, CeMS decided to generate help from corporate sponsors, notably AYALA MALL, by mounting eight environmental awareness signages along the different strategic locations within and around the camping area. The DENR, the Municipality of Balamban and Barangay Magsaysay lent technical, legal and moral support. Thus, the second phase of our stewardship program became a reality.

With awareness signages located on several visible points, the amount of waste left by visitors after March 17th of this year, went further down to twenty-two bags and sacks. It was a big improvement compared to the last two years but not good enough of our vision of zero-waste visibility upon her once pristine surroundings. There was one vital element lacking - permanent garbage bins – which is now in the planning stage and would be implemented once all systems are go.

So, on August 23 of this year, CeMS celebrated its 19th anniversary by climbing Mt. Manunggal from its traditional starting point – Tagba-o. Actually, we started from another point farther away from the customary jump-off area and crossed the river dividing Cebu City from Balamban town and there were fifteen of us that tackled the new trail.

On that sunny Saturday morning we gawked at the pools and rock formations of Pandong Bato and, later, explored a part of a river tributary whose stream passed through a cave-like formation in Guimbuthan. It was a very long trail that traversed and passed by the slopes of Mounts Mit-ol and Mauyog on the first day that ended at the camping area in Manunggal.

On the second day we traversed the trail from Mt. Manunggal to Gaas passing by Kapiyo-an and Inalad and into the private abode of Ramon and Ann Vidal – the Sierra Tree Farm – with its newly-reconstructed concrete-and-glass extension that served as our sleeping quarters during the night. After a simple dinner there was a very belated induction of club officers for 2008 and, later, a meeting of the CeMS Execom.

On the third day, we assisted Ramon in testing and assessing the performance of the newly-organized Gaas eco-tour guides as they led us through the trails in and around Gaas that ended at Gaas Cave. This is one of the pilot projects of GAMA, an association of landowners, residents and stake holders of the Gaas-Magsaysay area, with support coming from the Municipality of Balamban.

We ended our activity after lunch and left Gaas one more time bound for Metro Cebu and I could feel Mt. Manunggal beaming in the distance, her health recovering from a long-drawn stupor that had held her since the time a road was opened along her broad shoulders that obliterated her remoteness from city dwellers. I have kissed upon her hallowed ground once more and I left her in good spirits hoping to come back and visit her again soon in the new route.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

PHOTOBLOGGING: Parish Hunting in Cagayan de Oro City

SOMEONE USED TO say that a picture paints a thousand words. That is quite true. An image caught by a camera lens also tell a hundred tales and store a million bytes in your PC. A promising sunrise or a glorious sunset would always elicit awe and wonder to me and I find it appropriate to shoot these scenes in a proper angle and as pure as possible in still images. The amount of sheer satisfaction resulting from a good shot cannot be replaced.

This year I got introduced to a Kodak EasyShare C713 digital camera entrusted to me by my company. It's a late model though having 7.0 megapixels of optical power but one thing I am sure of about this gadget: it can take a rough handling. And so, I began using the digicam as soon as possible as my hands could lay it on.

Last September 26, 2008 I went to Cagayan de Oro City on a working visit. I focused my interest on two Catholic churches during a lull in my itinerary and I pressed the button to capture the images. It was my first baptism with a digital camera and me thinks that my shots were not that great as what I did to an analog camera, but just the same, I uploaded the photos in my blogs at Multiply and My Opera and the latter seemed to have given justice to my amateurish images:



Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental

The Facade

The Altar



Ignatius Street, Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental

The Facade

The Altar

This is my first experiment with photoblogging here in Blogger and I understand that my limitations will not be a big problem in the future. My only concern though is how to prevent people from copying my photos and give the credit as their own.

Document done in OpenOffice.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


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Monday, December 1, 2008



My Nokia 2350 delivered its pre-set challenge at 4:30 AM. Grudgingly, I accepted the dare despite a swollen and stiff right knee and rustled myself up from my bed to the bathroom downstairs. It was the end of the Ramadan season, and an official holiday was declared which fell on October 1, 2008. I don't have to go to work today and Boy Toledo made sure of that by having me attend a scheduled day trek at 7:00 AM from Guadalupe to Mount Babag, whose trail we have climbed on August 17 and September 7. Which I repeated again solo on September 14.

Hurriedly, I stuffed all the things I need inside my Habagat waist bag: a clean t-shirt, plastic meal containers, spoon and fork, water and a Kodak C713 digital camera. I brought also a used pair of black leather shoes which my son have outgrown intending to give it away as a gift to a little boy up there in the hills. I hied a jitney for the downtown area then another for Guadalupe and reached there at 6:15 AM. Making a vacant time productive, I took pictures of the Virgen de Guadalupe Parish to include the beautiful tainted glass windows and the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary.

I went backdoor of the church towards an eatery and, surprise of surprises, from afar, I saw Ben Lao waiving and smiling at me. Then he made a hand gesture pointing at a guy to my right and I saw his brother, Matt. They were my climbing contemporaries of the early '90s and they were here to send off of what used to be the “climbing elite” of the Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS. Matt just came from Davao while Ben also just came from Batangas and they made known their intentions to me that they are staying here for good in Cebu.

Boy T arrived after me then Ernie Salomon and the last to come was Glenn Domingo, the Ubuntu Linux guy. We ate breakfast at the eatery and bought extra rice and viand as our lunch which we placed inside our empty plastic containers. We waited for awhile, anticipating 11th-hour participants but none came by the time we decided to leave on the dot at seven. The smaller the party the better the pace. We walked the ascending and curvy asphalt road from there to the basketball court in Napo. Ben walked the extra mile with us up to Napo very glad of the opportunity to sweat out the doldrums that held him long.

We bade goodbye to Ben as we left Napo for the trail that led to the back country of Metro Cebu. Ernie took the lead while Boy T and Glenn D followed after him and me acted as backstop. We crossed the first river crossing and once on the trail, I made ready my camera to record this event in clear images unlike during the first two occasions which I did with limited success with just a cell phone cam. With newly-charged batteries, I took shot after shot at will at the three guys ahead of me, the scenery, the flora common on this area and just about anything that got caught my fancy. I took also one-minute videos.

Limping behind them at first, my knee tendons began to loosen up as the trek progressed. Half-running and half-climbing, my movements were now fluid-like and agile, the pain drained away by the constant motion and exertions. The pace we made were much faster than the previous trips we took this trail. With a surplus of time saved we were able to talk to each other and one of those topics that elicit importance was the club's project of creating and choosing a domain name for CeMS in the World Wide Web.

Glenn D was tasked to plan and study my proposal and after a good research in his idle time he was able to come up with a favorable progress. We both agreed that it is best that the appendage of our group's web address is “.org” to follow the word “cems” so as to distinguish it from another entity using the word “cems” that goes with a URL tailwords of “.com” and “.net” and “.biz”. Sounds very technical, right? We're not nerds but just ordinary guys in their 40s who adapted well with the cyberspace age and make use of this technology to our vantage.

Going back to Ernie's trail, we climbed beside a steep flower farmlot where a family of four were busy watering their plants. Climbing up for more, we again passed by a lone male goat munching on bound leaves hung from above him. Here, we rested for a while as I took a good shot at the ruminant with a camera flash that provoked him to instinctively duck! We were on an upland neighborhood and I saw children ogling at us from inside their houses while others were tilling the soil of their garden oblivious of our presence.

The weather was very fine and sunny with occasional clouds that work to our favor. We reached a lone house on a hill and we rested there. I took advantage of it by playing Santa to a little boy, whose face lit up with a big and warm smile as he received my gift for him. I assured him that I will bring more gifts for him and his brood each time I will pass by their mountain abode. Giving away something is my way of endearing CeMS to the locals, like what Doc Abe Manlawe used to do in Malindang. How I wished all of us would have that innate sense of social responsibility for our disadvantaged brothers living in remote areas.

I walked on air as I left their place glad to have done a good deed. We went downhill to a small brook and crossed it. We tackled another steep trail and everyone exerted to their utmost as each one of us encourage each other. We stopped by a a bare farm lot and enjoyed the view of the metropolis. I call this place “Manwel's view deck”, in reference to Manwel Roble, who guided us to a new trail. He also happens to be the older brother of the little boy who received my gift. I recorded a one-minute video here showing the angle of this precipitous location.

We pushed on, until we reached the relay tower area, which sat on the peak of Mt. Babag and walked on a dirt road towards a store three hundred meters away. We took our lunch at the store at 1:00 PM and drowned the food with two bottles of San Miguel Beer Grande. We left at two in the afternoon following the trail downhill towards Kahu'gan. We were packing a very torrid pace and reached the chapel of San Roque at 3:30 PM. Here, we rested and drank the rest of our water.

Retracing our trail as we reached the river crossing where a spring is located we made good progress under a very favorable clime and arrived at Napo 45 minutes later. We gratiate ourselves each with skewered fried bananas and cold soft drinks there. We all agreed that we will have another session at this same trail in the next week or so knowing that it brought great bonding among ourselves and a good dose of sunshine and physical exercise in a trail so accessible and where the cost to get there is never a problem.

And Manwel was very helpful, sharing to us his familiarity and knowledge of the different trails and water sources. It was a good training session and we went home on our own separate ways after reaching Guadalupe. I arrived home at 5:00 PM, fortunate enough to embrace my 3-year old grandson and tickle him to laughter until his dream time.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


My first Sony® experience is with my younger sister's Walkman®. Whenever I would travel in the countryside I would borrow it from her. If she refused I would sneak it out without her knowing. In time, her Walkman would be my constant companion on the road.

Riding in buses in rural Philippines during the early '80s is not your idea of an ordinary and comfortable ride like we used to enjoy today. The roads then were unpaved and dusty and full of holes turning your travel into one long torturous moment marked by bouncy jolts and creaky springy sounds. People would cram into whatever space available making even the act of breathing a difficult undertaking. It's agonizingly hot in summer and muddy during rainy seasons.

Aside from that, it was the time when the country was ruled by a dictatorship and it is very common for the bus you're riding in would go through several layers of military checkpoints. It was so taxing climbing in and out of the bus amidst the shouts and threats of soldiers. Sometimes, their enemy would imitate them and it made the whole trip a harrowing experience. The only good thing about it, is people would remember where they sat or stood by the time when we climb back inside the bus.

My sister's Walkman® made all the difference in all my constant travels during that time. With its patented noise-reducing earpieces it shut out the babel of voices around me. The soothing sounds of Simon & Garfunkel and America, greatly enhanced by Sony sound technology, hummed in my ears turning my travel into a wonderful and seamless pursuit.

It definitely gave significance in my life just like Sony’s World’s First Noise Canceling Headphones that made a whole lot of difference to this present generation.

Document done in OpenOffice, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I HAVE A NEW FRIEND. He may be about 12 or 13 years old and a sixth grader of Napo Elementary School, located in Sapangdaku, a mountain barangay of Cebu City. Everyday he wakes up at four of dawn to help his mother prepare breakfast and packed lunch for him and his younger sister. At half-light of 5:00 AM, he and his sister starts to go down the trail for Napo and reaches their school several minutes past six. Then they go home after five in the afternoon and reach their home in darkness at almost seven in the evening.

They do that five times a week of each month for nine months of a year and repeats the process until they have graduated from elementary. It is different though when it is raining in their area. They reach their destinations late and sometimes they skip their classes if the weather is found unfavorable for them.

In my new friend's case, hopefully, he will be graduating in March or April next year- 2009. I asked him where would he study high school after graduating? He shrugged his shoulders and, courageously holding back tears, he told me that his parents could not support his studies and it all depended upon his father if he could earn enough income from his farming. I was moved and I wished at that moment I am Bill Gates or John Gokongwei. But I am not.

For your information, my friend's house is located on a hill between the trailhead in Napo and the tower area in Mount Babag. It is in the middle of nowhere and nobody's going there except they and us backpackers. But only few city-dwellers have traveled by my friend's house for the trail that passed by there is not known yet to most of our weekend-strutting kind. The trail also happens to be the most challenging and most difficult trail around here. It is different from the numerous trails that criss-crossed at the back of the Guadalupe church.

Ernie Salomon led me and Boy Toledo to this trail and I named that trail “Ernie's Trail”. It is marked by very steep ascents and quite slippery when it is raining. I have made this trail as a training area and to keep fit everytime there is a lull in our mountaineering activities. Now, back to my friend. I would like to help him in my own little way by endorsing him in my weblog and other sites where, hopefully, like-minded individuals would extend their generosity to give my friend an opportunity to make a difference in his life.

In my friend's case, he do have a name and a face. His name is -


A face:

And a contact number:


It's a SMART number and SMART has a strong presence there being one of the relay steel towers found atop Mt. Babag. Call or text him. If you want him to respond immediately, pass a load to him through SMART Load or PasaLoad. If you prefer the latter, well and good. Just type his mobile number in your keypad, and a space and the amount (2, 5 or 10) you intended to pass (ex. 09285821157 10) and “Send” it to 808. Better yet, copy his number and save it in your cellphone directory and share it with others.

You see, everytime we climb Mt. Babag, Manwel would lend his knowledge and familiarity with the terrain and partly guide us. In return, we would give him a little amount. Or, at times, we would bring bread or snacks for them to eat. Or, sometimes, we gave away some canned goods, discarded textbooks and reading materials, used shoes and clothes. So, in this context, I would appreciate it if we give something back to our less-privileged brothers like Manwel here by hiring them as our “official” trail guides everytime we visit their area and give them something in return for their labor even if WE already know the way. For sure, we have other Manwels in our mind.

Right now, we'll start from here. Let's help Manwel.

God bless you all!

Document done in OpenOffice, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


ON AUGUST 23, 2008, Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS celebrated its 19th anniversary by climbing Mt. Manunggal from its traditional starting point – in Tagba-o. There were fifteen of us that tackled her trails: Lilibeth Initan, Andrew Flores, Boy Toledo, Joy Tongco, Dennis Legaspi, Glenn Lao, Jon Consunji, Sam Lim and me plus member-applicants Canqui Potamio, Ernie Salomon, guests Nathan Cannen, Myla Ipil and Harold Alcontin of, and another guest, Blessie Alano of the Cuernos de Negros Mountaineering Club.

Actually, we started from another point farther away from the customary jump-off area and crossed the river that divides Cebu City from Balamban town on that sunny Saturday morning then resting for a while to gawk at the pools and rock formations of Pandong Bato. After that, we climbed about 500 meters uphill and rested beside a tributary of the Lusaran River. Some of us walked a hundred meters upriver to marvel at a part of this river branch that passed through a cave-like formation called Guimbuthan.

Satisfied with the sight, we proceeded another hundred meters to eat lunch underneath a house that stood partially with stilts to shed us from the noontime rain. After a good filling, we then begun the second stretch of the uphill trail that passed beneath Mount Mit-ol. From open spaces and farms the trail led us to thickly vegetated areas and unto a forested area populated by endemic trees that earlier loose chainsaws have failed to cut.

It was a good trail but slippery on some places where it passed little creeks, brooklets and spring runoffs. We rested on flat surfaces to recover our breathing as the sun shone again to whittle away the moist and the dew that the earlier rains have brought. We passed by upland farm communities, crossing raging little streams, and delighting at the new sights that this stretch of trail offered.

By two in the afternoon we reached an unpaved road just below the shoulders of Mount Mauyog and it rained again. We stayed for a while until the rain passed away and then, slowly and grudgingly, we followed the road upward to where it would lead us to – in Mount Manunggal. There were, I counted, fourteen uphill stretches from the moment we crossed the river in Tagba-o up to Mt. Manunggal, just like the 14 stations of the cross!

Exhausted and drenched twice during the very long trail that we walked and traversed at, majority of us decided to sleep it out under the roof of an abandoned concrete structure while Lilibeth, Joy and Andrew pitched tents at the CeMS traditional camping area to relive the good old days and to give meaning of this celebratory activity. Later, couple Loklok and Tata Caumeran came and gave company to the sentimentalists. It was windy and cold and it rained again in the night.

Waking to a glorious sunrise on the second day, August 24, we broke camp at 8:00 AM and parted ways with Dennis, Glenn L, Canqui, Harold the “GPS Man” and Blessie who all decided to cut short their trip that day while the rest of us went on as planned – tackling the Manunggal to Gaas route. We went downhill passing by upland farms, abaca plantations and grass and bushes. Some stretches of the trail were quite steep and so slippery, thus, very dangerous.

We passed by many tributaries, headwaters, spring runoffs and water sources that supply Bangbang River and rested awhile at Kapiyo-an to escape the mid-morning sun. From there, we went down and took lunch beside Bangbang River where, after an hour, crossed its wide course and climbed uphill for Inalad. Reaching Inalad we finally stepped on the concrete road of the transcentral highway where Boy T, Sam, Nathan, Myla, Loklok, Tata and Ernie opted to go home early.

Lilibeth, Joy, Andrew, Jon and me walked a kilometer into Gaas and then climbed the weekend abode of the couple Ramon and Ann Vidal – the Sierra Tree Farm. It rained again as we arrived and we were joined there by Daddy Frank Cabigon and, later, by Dr. Abe Manlawe, Julienne Rosales, Grace Ventic, Joel Cariño and Eugene Abarquez of USC-M and Jecris Dayondon and all were treated to a sumptuous dinner by Ramon and Ann.

Later, there was a very belated induction of the set of officers for the year 2008 and an CeMS Execom meeting after that. With that finished, ten of us made ourselves comfortable inside the newly-constructed glass-and-concrete extension of the old structure. With the glass shutting out the penetrating cold brought about by the sudden drop in temperature caused by rains we slept comfortably even with the loud snore emitted by one exhausted mountaineer.

We woke up to a foggy morning and hustled ourselves preparing breakfast. I tried tinkering the coffee espresso maker to an undesired result eliciting laughter from Ramon. Again, as was last night's, breakfast were served free and everyone took his fill, especially me, who concentrated on last night's leftover – a native lechon manok. Nobody touched the birdy for it was tough and hard to chew at and I am glad and thankful for my Creator that He gave me a set of strong ivory incisors and molars.

At 9:00 AM, we went down and met with a group of the newly-created Gaas eco-tour guides that were trained by Ramon days before. We played the role of “tourists” and “clients” and we were assigned to three groups of these neophyte eco-tour guides and led us to the different trails in and around Gaas which ended at Gaas Cave. After the demonstration we were given a free hand to assess and evaluate their performance. All passed our test!

We ended our activity after lunch and left Gaas one more time bound for Metro Cebu and I could feel Mt. Manunggal beaming in the distance, her health recovering from a long-drawn stupor that had held her since the time a road was opened along her broad shoulders that obliterated her remoteness from city dwellers. I have kissed upon her hallowed ground once more and I left her in good spirits hoping to come back and visit her again soon in the new route.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

OLANGO: My Island in the Sun

OLANGO ISLAND HAD been humming in my consciousness for so many years. I have read and listened to so many tales about her and it gave me some misgivings why I haven't yet ventured beyond the back side of Mactan Island before the year 2008. That honor went to my “old” colleagues in Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS and they crossed the Olango Channel to and fro with such regularity as if the island itself sits on dry land.

My time to set foot on this mythical island of my mind came last May 3 and 4 when CeMS decided to organize and hold the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) refresher sandwiched with the Leave No Trace (LNT) Seven Principles at Bak-oy Beach in Barangay Tingo in a property owned by the family of CeMS member Joy Tongco. I was with 32 others for two days and one night there, some of them first-timers on the me.

We crossed the channel in the morning from Punta Engaño Wharf, beside the renowned (and pink-washed) Hilton Hotel, on board a motorized outrigger seacraft which directly ferried us to Bak-oy beach. The waves were slightly rough owing to a squall generated by a passing tropical depression. Every newcomer were very excited and drooled on the idea of bird-watching on its southern tidal flats or of tasting their fresh bounties caught from its depths.

The latter seemed to be more feasible (and palatable) as on the night of the first day all the seminar participants were served with the very fresh and delicious sa-ang shells cooked in the traditional manner – the island way – by boiling it in sea water. The other island delicacy, scallops, were also caught fresh, cooked and boiled, and it tasted unexpectedly sweet to my tongue and retained an aroma that is very pleasing. Dipped with native coconut vinegar and soy sauce spiced with onions and tomatoes both seashells exuded tastes beyond what our senses could imagine er...taste.

When we arrived on the first day it was raining and we held our outdoors-related BMC indoors and twenty-six of us crammed inside a beach house built to accommodate six persons at the most. Early dawn of May 4, Dr. Abe Manlawe and me led eight others and sweated it out by running the five-kilometer stretch of the fine cemented road from Tingo to Santa Rosa in roughly 30 minutes of time. We ran the same route back to where we came from and all exulted enjoying the pure air of the island as we neared the finish line.

After the road run I felt that I have to cool my body. Discarding everything except my black Bike cycling shorts I immersed into the welcoming coolness of the sea and swam and dove down into its shallow depths. There's plenty of unhindered water space around Olango and they're very pristine, exceptionally clear and totally free! I took my time well until it was time for me to do the honors of lecturing the participants.

We left for home after lunch on the second day with the same seacraft we boarded in coming. The sun stung on our skin as we sat on the craft's deck and maneuvered ourselves around the small boat to be away from the exposed side and into what shaded area the craft could offer but that doesn't dampen our hopes of looking forward to another opportunity to set foot on her powdery white beaches again.

In my case, I went there again on August 10, on the invitations of Joy. Ooowww, Daddy Frank Cabigon, Andrew Flores, Grace Ventic and friends from the University of San Carlos Mountaineers (USC-M) were already there the day before and only Jon Consunji went with me in crossing the channel for Olango. The occasion this time was to celebrate fiesta in Barangay Tingo in honor of their patron – Saint Filomena. Later, Loklok and Tata Caumeran arrived together with the Tinago Bicycle Club.

Jon and I boarded a slow-moving barge, the M/V Sta. Catalina, from Punta Engaño and arrived at Barangay Sta. Rosa after 10:00 AM. We rode a tricycle for Tingo enough to witness a race between two speeding small motorized outriggers. There were many revelers, visitors, vendors and candle dancers converging in Barangay Tingo as one house competed against one another with the most number of visitors or having the noisiest stereo player.

It was a very sunny morning. The heat of the sun were felt by everyone but it never discouraged the fiesta revelers one bit and that includes me. Stringed flyers bearing commercial names ruffled and danced in the breeze overhead as a bonanza of colors mixed and mingled below. The sound of parade drums echoed in the distance as shouts of playful children elicit your attention.

As with my previous visit, I was treated again to a lunch of sa-ang and scallop sea shells. Do you know that Joy's family ordered, collected and cooked 4,000 of these as the main cog of their food servings? Lechon baboy, bam-i, sweet and sour pork, humba, pork estofado and fried pork ribs complemented the sentimental favorites as well as an array of sliced cantaloupe, pineapple and water melon, skewered marshmallows and melted chocolate cascading from a miniature fountain.

I helped myself with several servings of sa-ang shells and scallops and tempted myself to bring some for home but it was just wishful thinking. Anyway, the opportunity of eating this gastronomic treat is quite rare in my own standpoint, so I took the chance of filling myself to the brim and it was good enough for me to skip supper altogether by the time I reached home.

By 1:30 PM, we all bade goodbye to Joy and her family. There was a CeMS meeting that afternoon and it was definite that we have to go back to Cebu. From Tingo we walked a kilometer into Barangay Baring where watercrafts for hire were waiting. We hopped unto one “parked” boat and off we went for Mactan Island then for mainland Cebu. The sea was very calm and from a distance I could still hear the fading rhythms of the drums of Tingo. I wonder where did they get their supply of fresh water?

I would love to go back to Olango Island someday on another date and purpose. CeMS have chosen and made this island close to their heart borne out of their social commitment and responsibility in protecting the environment. For those who don't know it yet, CeMS is a regular participant in the annual “Scubasurero” affair in Olango by cleaning the coastlines and mangrove areas free of garbage.

CeMS have, in the past, joined in bird-banding activities at the Olango Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary and have gratified themselves by dining at the famed floating restaurants of Caw-oy. Those were the days when the oldsters – Daddy Frank, Doc Abe, Rex Vecina, Matt and Ben Lao, Bebut Estillore, Cla-cla Delgra, Tony Cabigon, Lilibeth Initan, Dennis Legaspi and the late Sir Joe Avellanosa – tasted island life to the fullest in the cabanas of Olango.

I would like to try those also, probably, doing the extra mile by crossing the underwater isthmus for Pangan-an shoal in the months to come. They had not been to that place before. It is an exotic place where the sky meets the sea and the sand for miles around without a hindrance save for a lone cabana that is the center of activity of faraway fishermen who shared their catch for a price of a song. A place where time stops for a while and the sea current freeze to a standstill during a low tide. A good time for crossing on dry ground for the unheard of shoal.


Sunrise on Bohol island as seen from Olango

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