Saturday, September 6, 2008


IT WAS A PROMISING sunny Sunday and the clock fast ticking to six thirty in the morning. Already a Holy Mass at the Virgen de Guadalupe Parish is now past halfway to the “Amen” part as I passed by to take breakfast of two servings of sticky rice (puto maya) and a cup of hot steaming home-made chocolate at the back of the church here in Guadalupe, Cebu City.

Feeling refreshed, I went to the church parking area to meet three gentlemen who are all ardent outdoorsmen as I am. This was a scheduled activity of the Cebu Mountaineering Society (CeMS) to prepare us for the Mount Manunggal Club Anniversary Climb on August 23-25, 2008. Everybody were informed and invited but only four answered the call.

It was August 17 and it was now almost seven and present were Glenn Lao or “Glenn L”, a physical education guru at UC; Boy Toledo aka “Boy T”, a bank executive of BDO and Ernie Salomon, a retired banker from BPI. Me, of course, is the acknowledged king of nothing among the four. We were there to revisit the old trail from Guadalupe to Mount Babag, 752 meters above sea level and the highest point of the Babag Mountain Range, the site of the old RCPI relay tower now ringed by many steel transmission monoliths of commercial telecommunications firms.

The Holy Mass ended at 7:00 AM and we immersed with the throng of parishioners who went to and from the church and exited at the back and slowly walked the asphalt road that would take us midway to the back country of Cebu City. Carrying day packs, cell phones, drinking water and packed lunch we followed the road upward until we reached a basketball court in the lower part of Napo in Sapangdaku. From there, we crossed the upper part of Guadalupe River and climbed a rolling trail made slippery by yesterday's rain. The sun shone gloriously at that early morn and its heat is a welcome treat after waking up at five, taking an early bath and riding a public jitney exposed to the wind.

Following the snaky trail we met a herd of grazing goats who greeted us with their cacophony of bleats and by two guys carrying oversized baskets with oversized sacks of charcoal. Then after an hour-and-a-half of walking along her trails we crossed another shallow ford of this same river and we rested for a while to allow Boy T to eat a part of his lunch beside the waterway. We could not help notice the condition of the upper part of the Guadalupe River: they were very clear yet there were no fishes inhabiting in its water, a clear sign that plant chemicals are blatantly used here.

Thirty minutes later we begun our assault for higher ground. We climbed and passed by a flower farm lot and it was quite steep with just a few handholds and the sun was upon our back goading us to take a few more steps to reach shady areas afforded by mango trees found in between along the trails. We passed by an upland community and we rested for a while under the shade of several trees and watched a lone male goat munching from bound leaves suspended from above. It was deja vu for Ernie as he saw this same goat here a year ago.

We climbed and inched, albeit steadily, and reached another upland neighborhood and chatted with a resting charcoal transporter. Few people ventured outside their houses in theses places except for a few who tended household chores and it was pleasantly silent, unlike in the neighborhoods where we lived where blasts from a stereo next house or a sudden burst from a passing truck's bullhorn would jolt us from our dreamlike stupor on a Sunday morning. Life is simple here and I envy their laid back attitude.

After a while we proceeded on to our destination. Although the sun shone hot at this time of day, there were many trees in full bloom and the vegetation itself in around these places where the trail passed through seemed to have revived after years of being subjected to kaingin. It's good to see that people here have learned the value of maintaining a healthy environment and my heart is elated to see that, even if there are some charcoal-making spots here and there, they were able to manage and control their excesses so as to cause just a minimal impact.

We went a little downhill route and it was very slippery as we neared the most upper part of the Guadalupe River. The riverbed here is made of solid rock and the water flowed freely and clear but not that wide. Many birds abound in this area and we heard many bird calls. We crossed the river without a hitch but came again to several slippery parts of the trail and they were quite steep. We took time to take one step at a time, then rest, and then resuming slowly and surely.

Climbing on for more high ground we reached an abandoned hut and we took lunch there. Boy T, Ernie and Glenn L ate their grilled pork and rice while I ate my paklay and rice which we all bought from a carenderia behind the Guadalupe church. We cleaned the hut of food morsels and I left a token of two five-peso coins as our symbol of appreciation and thanks to the absent owner.

Revived again with a full stomach we set our sights above and we were now almost in the vicinity of Mt. Babag's shoulder. We climbed another steep trail but there was no problem for balance as trees and bushes provided us with handholds and it was quite shady except for some open areas that were rare.

From this vantage, we were able to see glimpses of the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapulapu as well as the towns of Consolacion and Cordova. Cebu Harbor was exceptionally blue to include the waters around Mactan, Olango, Nalusuan, Lava and other islets. Bohol Island loomed in the distance. The view from above here was refreshing and it afforded a different view of the sprawling metropolis in another angle.

We continued on our way and traversed through a steep corn plantation and a steel tower loomed from above us. We passed by in between a row of houses and flower plantations until we reached the fenced perimeter of what used to be called the RCPI tower at around 11:30 AM. We walked on ahead and there were more of these same steel towers each encircled around by their own protective fences and each emitted a humming sound produced by electric generators and cooling fans.

As we followed a trail we sighted a good campsite just a hundred meters from a dirt road. It was sloping and on a high ground and it was just right and perfect. It sits on an unfenced area and is in close proximity with a water source that we passed by a while ago!

We left behind the tower area and rested at a store up ahead and rested there drinking cold softdrinks, then we changed it to beer – five 1-liter bottles of San Miguel! We were in the middle of assessing our climb when Ernie suggested, and all agreed, that it would be productive for CeMS if we will revive the weekend day climb and hike, at least, twice a month, so as to fill in the gap of inactivity in between the CeMS monthly scheduled activities. This climb is a good start and there's no question it would become a regular activity irregardless of how many will participate.

We engaged in pleasant conversations up there in Babag not just by ourselves but also with the locals. After a while, Glenn L decided to leave early to hear Mass at Lapulapu City while we stayed for about an hour then the three of us left behind decided to follow the Babag to Garaje road. We passed by a very open area and took pictures of the metropolis sparkling its grandeur under the focus of a 4:00 PM sunlight.

We reached Garaje in Upper Busay and consumed one more bottle of San Miguel Beer Grande – a one for the road - before deciding to follow this asphalt-and-concrete street down for JY Square in Lahug. I've run this stretch of road several times before, 14 to 16 years ago when I was then strong as a bull, but it was my first time to just take a walk here. Under the shadow of a setting sun I enjoyed the scenery along this road and I never expelled an ounce of sweat.

We arrived at the vicinity of Santo Niño-PBN Housing and Boy T decided he had enough of hiking and all three of us boarded a downtown-bound public jitney and I parted ways with Boy T and Ernie as I disembarked at JY Square. It was a good start for me too after remaining inactive for two months right after my inclusion in the epic traverse climb of Mount Dulangdulang and Mount Kitanglad in early June. It is a good time also to flex and move my leg muscles again setting my sights, let's say, Canlaon Volcano in early November...

May be or may be not! That depends.

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


Isles Tech said...

Reading this piece makes me remember my days as a child in the hills of Sogod, Cebu. God how I miss those days. Yet now I could not even spare a single day for such a leisure. Impatience sits in when the habal-habal does not come on time. Meanwhile I have heartburns.

PinoyApache said...

I am sure those memories are good & pleasant and it is worthwhile to visit those places once in a while.

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