Monday, August 11, 2008


THE YEARS 1992 TO 1998 were, without a doubt, my finest years as a mountaineer and an outdoor enthusiast. I was caught in a vortex of outdoor activities that my club, the Cebu Mountaineering Society (CeMS) have organized, starting from my initial climb at Mount Pangasugan in Leyte, which was very unforgettable, reaching a high crescendo with the ascent of the country’s highest peak in Mount Apo on 1994 and tapering off on a cave exploration at Nug-as, Alcoy.

In between, I was fascinated in learning the art of the rope. I learned the mechanics of SRT or single-rope technique during an orientation. It was very useful in traversing and climbing difficult obstacles without adequate (or slippery) handholds and footholds like caves thru the use of a 11-millimeter rope and a pair of jumars - a mechanical ascender.

For this purpose, CeMS purchased a dynamic rope, carabiners, a figure-8 descender and a harness. Dr. Abe Manlawe provided himself a pair of jumars, a static rope, carabs, descenders and some harnesses to complement the club equipment. Later on, some of us owned a harness, a set of carabiners, descenders and other accessories. (Mine were a Black Diamond Onsight Bod harness, three REI carabs and one Russian-made locking snap link in anodized pink color.)

One of those that I learned, or have perfected, was rappelling. Back in 1988, I learned rappelling at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal. But it was done with crude equipment. Sliding sown a rope with proper tools is sheer joy, mind you!

CeMS were so obsessed with rappelling right after completion of the Land Navigation and Jungle Survival Course conducted by the 7th Regional Civil Defense Unit (7RCDU) and the 3rd Army Training Group (3ATG) of the Visayas Command (VISCOM) from March 22 to May 8, 1993. Every weekend after that were spent for training and perfecting this craft, to include knot-tying skills. We either anchored our ropes over roadside cliffs in Maria Luisa or on the railings of the abandoned 4-storey high air-traffic control tower in the old Lahug airport.

Those days I practiced on my own on some weekdays to really master that craft and on some occasions, in Phase 8 of Maria Luisa, I would lower myself in a 130-foot drop on a cliff doing just three bounces. Repeating the process, I would flip myself in mid-air right after clearing my feet off the cliff and do a lizard rappel down to the bottom. Other times, I would bring a rope when I have a chance to practice my gun skills at the CPRA firing range in Lapulapu City and practice rappelling there and at times I train the whole Cebu City SWAT team.

When my skills and confidence level began to peak, I set my sights for the limestone cliffs at Cantabaco in Camp 8, Toledo City to go rock climbing. Honestly, only a few of us took to cragging seriously. Once in a while, Ramon Vidal, Nanding Mercado and me would spend some weekends at Camp 8 to try the different routes and pitches that Cantabaco could offer.

Snakeskin and Fields of Gold were some of the known routes I can still remember that we took on and Devil’s Ledge was something to think about gravity when you start for another pitch. I never thought I could imitate verbatim the life of a lizard back then. I lost all sense and fear of heights and vertigo. One thing that never escaped my mind back then is that safety should not be compensated with anything else. It should always be safety, safety and safety!

I did strength training on my own for this purpose. My gym were either my home or the outdoors. No special offers or stupid machines! Just plain common sense and sheer practicality complemented my interest and skill. I have built my own legend for my own consumption. A memory that I need to share with to those who wanted to learn the art of “falling”.

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

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