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.

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

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