Saturday, December 26, 2009


I HAVE BEEN staring blankly for several minutes into the monitor screen of my workstation. My attention have been focused on what to write for my yearend article for 2009. So far, for my own satisfaction, I have dished out forty-nine posts and I aim to complete a fifty with this one.

Although it would have been easier if I would just copy-and-paste one of my several backlogged articles stored in the hard disk drive but, I was looking for something appropriate for this occasion like I did in 2008. Yes, another history post would be okay and yet it is a daunting task for me given in so short a time to make.

Anyways, Merely My Opinion will complete the year 2009 with 50 quality articles at an average of four a month. 50 (in 2009) + 40 (in 2008) + 10 (in 2007) equals 100. Hmm...another pat on the head for me. Besides that, I have accumulated (as of this writing) 8,755 visits, a PageRank 2, a doubling of comments, 43 subscribers in Feedburner, 59 links in 52 blogs, 23 followers and breathing closely in the Top 100 of

Well, it sounds like an accomplishment in itself judging by the sheer number of blogs competing for readership attention in the World Wide Web today. What's more, I have created my own niche and an identity that is absolutely unique although a little kind of generic on the appearance. No domain yet now but MMO is here to stay for good!

By the way, MMO has a fan's club in Facebook. You may add your FB account to the 85 wonderful people already there and actively participate in the discussions.

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Monday, December 21, 2009


HAVE YOU HEARD of Bo Sanchez? Of the Light of Jesus Catholic Community? Of the Kerygma Preachers?

If you have, YES, they were here in Cebu recently during the Kerygma Conference 2009 at the Cebu International Convention Center for two days on November 28 and 29, 2009. Not only that, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal led a concelebrated Holy Mass on the first day and Fr. Joey Faller celebrated a Healing Mass on the second.

Spiced in between is the life-changing testimony of singer Raki Vega and the mini-concert of Fr. Joseph Skelton, Bro. Alvin Barcelona and the Out-of-the-Box talents backed by the One In Him band led by Bro. Oscar Aliño. 

Bro. Arun Gogna came on the second day and lent his singing voice during the healing session of Fr. Joey.

The Kerygma Conference 2009 is done in Cebu for the first time and is held simultaneously with those in Manila at the Araneta Coliseum. A live feed video updated the crowd inside the CICC through two big stage screens.

Below are the photos of the Kerygma Conference 2009 held in Cebu courtesy of Joseph Cabrera in his Facebook account.



Those who came to assist the LOJ-Cebu Community at KCon '09 were a contingent of “body catchers” from the Oasis of Love-Cebu. The Amor Dei also facilitated and assisted LOJ-Cebu in the preparations that KCon '09 will become a success.

Why I am doing this? I am with LOJ and I served at KCon '09 during those two days as the one tasked for security.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


CELEBRATING TWENTY YEARS, the Cebu Mountaineering Society (CeMS) recently held a photo exhibit at the third level of Ayala Center-Cebu on November 6-8, 2009. It was an appropriate occasion to mark its storied existence in the local mountaineering hub with the display of some of the best picture shots taken by members and non-members.

In short, it is a graphic historical essay of CeMS and by its members during their outdoor sorties here in the Philippines and abroad. Accompanying the photos were a collage of images and literature on tarpaulin sheets propped up to ensnare the interest of viewers and visitors about CeMS and the sport of mountaineering.

The exhibition space were provided free courtesy of Ayala Center-Cebu. Ayala Mall is a corporate partner of CeMS and the duo have been responsible for the installation of steel signages with environmental-awareness message on the camping area in and around Mount Manunggal in Balamban, Cebu.

CeMS also thanked the sponsorship of TWO Sandals, the Habagat Outdoor Shop and Red Tag Printing & Signages.

Below are the images taken with a Nokia 3650 during the event on November 8, 2009 -

Here are some of the sample photographs displayed at the exhibition area -

Rehydrate” (Buko Time)

Mount Babag, Cebu City, February 2009

Photo by Jing de Egurrola

Sunset” (Never Stop Exploring)

Carmen Exploration, Cebu, January 2009

Photo by Jing de Egurrola

Tower” (Steel Bamboos)

Mount Babag, Cebu City, November 2008

Photo by Jing de Egurrola

Mountaineers” (Camp Venado)

Mount Apo, North Cotabato, April 1994

CeMS Archive c/o Ann Vidal

Shelter” (Camp Windswept)

Carmen Exploration, Cebu, January 2009

Photo by Jing de Egurrola

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Sunday, December 13, 2009


WE AGREED THAT IT is to be held on a Sunday on the feast of Saint Lucy, a day which fall under the date of December 13, 2009. It will be the fiesta celebration in our little neighborhood in a little corner of little Tinago, Cebu City. The fiesta is an annual affair since a chapel was established near my place in 1978.

Saint Lucy, by the way, is the patron saint for the blind and for those who have ailments located in the eyes and is venerated by my late grandfather, Gervasio Lavilles, for whom a miracle was bestowed upon him during his childhood. As a child, he was stricken with German measles causing him instant blindness on both his eyes that sank the heart of her mother.

But his ever pious mother, asked for a miracle from the kindly saint. After finishing the ninth day of her novena through the intercession of Saint Lucy, a shout of glee from little Gervasio was heard from within another room of their house. Her curious mother decided to abandon her chores and witnessed a very colorful bird fluttering about the room and saw little Gervasio jumping up and down with joy pointing at the strange bird.

Obviously, a prayer had been heard and the message is delivered by a beautiful bird, whose species is unknown in their locality of Lambunao in Iloilo Province, and Gervasio's sight is thus restored! All for the glory of Christ Jesus!

On the other hand, Cherokee, the youngest of my two sons, will celebrate his 14th birthday on December 14, 2009, a Monday. As had been done in the last two years, we decided to celebrate his birthday to coincide with the feast of St. Lucy upon his suggestion. That way we could manage better and put to good use of what little budget we have.

For sure, Cherokee will have company, as guests, his Farmville-playing neighbors and some classmates. His sister, Laila, and husband, Chokie, probably would come also along with their son, Kurt. Christy, his kuya Charlemagne's girlfriend will be there too and the house will be full at the seams and that will create problems for little Gabriel and Jarod. Their running space will be constricted.

Anyway, I will use the big space upstairs and transfer my PC there for the benefit of the youngsters. My wife cooks the best-tasting food this side of town and you are cordially invited to celebrate fiesta with us!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009


AFTER AN ABSENCE OF more than a month, I am reunited again with Boy Toledo, of Ernie Salomon and, later, with Manwel Roble. Here we are again, maintaining our physical conditioning program walking the mountain trails of Napo to Mount Babag in the middle of an ongoing tropical depression! Just three has-beens so madly in love with these trails. The same three has-beens that would shame guys 25-30 years our junior in a test of endurance and speed.

As sure as the sun rises from the east, we rose from our comfortable beds to go out in an inclement weather condition and accommodate a request from our club to assist in training members and member-applicants. I received two such notices in my cell phone in SMS. I arrived at six-fifteen in the morning and missed the first mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish. There were nobody in our meeting place. That's strange.

My guest, Jerry of Alps Mountaineers came at seven. Boy T and Ernie (these two old guys never ceased to amaze me) arrived at quarter to eight. Both came from yesterday's day trek from Budlaan to Upper Busay and it seemed these two never knew what is physical fatigue. In the final count, only four of us could make it. I understand, cold and rain make people lazy. The mud make them squirm as if it's a plague.

We started walking on the asphalt road to Napo under dark overcast clouds at fifteen past eight after securing our packed lunch and reached there at nine. From Napo, we crossed a swollen river and reached another river crossing. It was raining hard yet we walked as if were doing this thing in summer. It was a fast pace we set and Jerry was quite game showing none of the discomforts.

We wore no raincoats on purpose. No picture-taking also for today. The weather won't allow it. Strong gusts of wind lashed at us and made the trees dance. A branch or two broke but we never mind it. In fact, it raised our adrenaline and hasten our pace. We arrived at Manwel's place at ten-thirty. I brought the kids my usual present of fifty pesos worth of bread. Jucel, the youngest, came to meet me on the bamboo bench and took the prize.

We decided to tarry a while and cooked two packs of instant noodles on Boy T's cook set with the fire coming from my Bulin camping stove. We slurped the warm soup and munched the stringy food. It made us feel a little better. There were no young coconuts to savor this day. The wind is like a loose dog from its leash and Manwel have the flu and couldn't climb the palm. His parents were away.

Boy T was here last week, he told me, together with Noel Delantes, an oil rig safety officer based in the Middle East. They stayed overnight in the summit. Meanwhile, Ernie also came here last week with Lester Padriga, an American peace activist. Took a short hike up to the old resting area under a mango tree and backtracked. Both guests were eager to meet Manwel and me. Lester, later called Ernie and invited us to dinner.

We left at eleven for Mt. Babag and I left vegetable seeds like cucumber, pea, bunched onion, okra and tomato so Manwel's father could earn an extra income. We took the Babag East Ridge Pass, a route of a less degree of difficulty than Ernie's Trail. We summitted at quarter to twelve and reached our high hang-out overlooking Metro Cebu at 11:55 PM and we all took lunch there.

We rested and savored two one-liter bottles of cold San Miguel Beer Grande before deciding to go downhill at one in the afternoon by way of the No-Santol-Tree Trail. Man, I disdain traversing this trail especially during a rain. It is very slippery! I still carry the memories where the seat of my pants kissed the ground here several times. Only, there were nobody watching behind me then.

Passing by this branch of the trail that lead to Kalunasan, I saw a large pile of newly-cut trees beside a recently-dug hole intended for burning wood into commercial charcoal. This is the same place where a couple made a living cutting trees and making charcoal whom I have advised to practice responsible cutting of trees in the months of January and May which they have blatantly ignored.

I requested Jerry to take pictures of this place, the piles of wood, the hole, the makeshift hut, etc. After that, my rage began to break loose and wreak havoc on the piled wood, their equipment, their hut and everything within my grasp! Fortunately, they were absent that day else my legendary temper would have created problems for them.

We left the place and Boy T and Ernie hurriedly trudged downhill, happy to be away from my whirlwind-like performance. As I followed them, the trail were smothered out by Boy T's tracks. Trailing Boy T spelled peril to those who have followed him during downhill stretch in Mt. Talinis, in Mt. Manunggal and in Carmen. It was almost impossible going down the trail after Boy T. I improvised a route and, Jerry, shaken by the bulldozed trail, followed after me.

At 2:45 PM, we reached the Kalunasan Road. We decided to go by way of Kalunasan while Boy T wanted to go to Napo then Guadalupe. Boy T eventually sped away backriding on a motorcycle-for-hire. He is, obviously, in a hurry after receiving a call! We arrived at Guadalupe at three-thirty in the afternoon. Jerry decided to go home early while Ernie and I waited for the 4:00 PM Holy Mass.

After the mass, we waited for Boy T to arrive but he never came. Ernie and I decided to go to Lester's place in Friendship Village, Mambaling, Cebu City. We watched a Free Tibet documentary and, afterwards, a live band jam-session and dinner. At nine, we left our host and glad to have cemented another friendship.

It was another perfect Sunday!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I HAD TO BE THERE. A mobile phone call from Lambunao in Iloilo goaded the Cebu clan to have me represent them for the last burial rites of the late Enriqueta “Endring” Lavilles-Legayada on the morning of September 4, 2009. And so I took a Philippine Air Lines PR 380 Express Flight at 9:15 AM for Iloilo. I buckled my seat inside a Bombardier Q400 turboprop plane and waited for the plane to depart the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

I seated myself nearest to the window and saw the power of the big propellers came to life and the plane roared on the tarmac at a speed and intensity much lesser than that of jets. As it became airborne, it made a clockwise turn passing over the fishponds of Kalawisan in Mactan Island then crossing the Mactan Channel and into the airspace above Metro Cebu. Underneath me, I spotted the little red square of a roof of my home and I smiled to myself elated, at last, to see my home from above aside from Google Earth.

As the plane climbed, clouds covered what's left of Cebu and I couldn't see the landmarks until it crossed a body of water which, I knew, is the Tañon Strait. Over the island of Negros, these same clouds trapped my vision and I saw two Cebu Pacific jets from Iloilo, one after the other, shot by us in the opposite direction. Then another body of water – the Guimaras Strait – appeared below me. As it progressed over the island of Panay, the Q400 dipped in altitude and I could see clearly now the topography of the province of Iloilo.

Iloilo, viewed from above, is an immense plain dotted here and there with farms and rice fields. Agriculturally, it is highly developed. It is of no wonder why it is called as the “rice granary of the Visayas”. Aside that, I appreciate at how the Ilonggos managed their lands. From the air, I could see no encroachments of housing and industrial developments upon their agricultural lands that are so common in the CALABARZON area and in other provinces.

Moreover, Ilonggos are environmentalists of their own right. The rice farms, for example, follow the lay-out of the land along cleavages and small valleys. It used the contours to a maximum so as to collect rain efficiently to water their rice paddies like mini rice terraces. Amidst that, trees and woody plants grew with wild abandon along the meandering rivers, creeks and waterways; atop ridges; beside roads and among communities. The plane circled among all these sights until it touched down in slow motion on the New Iloilo Airport in Santa Barbara.

From the airport I rode in a multicab for the highway and from there I caught a bus bound for Lambunao. It would be my second time there. I was with my mother, Marietta, when I went there the first time eight years ago today. We were there to celebrate the town fiesta in honor of its patron, San Nicolas de Tolentino. Now I am alone and I carried with me a mixed optimism and doubt and I just wished they would still remember me and I also hoped I could communicate with them thoroughly. I am Cebuano. What Ilonggo I learned during my sea-faring days many years ago have been eroded through non-practice.

Basically, the Ilonggos are people more akin to me, much more so in Lambunao, where my grandfather, the late Gervasio Lira Lavilles was born. Gervasio, during his one-way trip to Cebu in his youth in search of his older brother whom he had not found, decided to stay in Cebu for good and worked his way to finish elementary, high school and Bachelor of Laws. After a stint with the Philippine Scouts as World War 1 ended, he became a newspaper reporter and editor, lawyer, professor and a three-term councilor of Cebu when it was not yet a chartered city. He married and remarried and unknowingly became a patriarch of the Lavilles clan in Cebu.

I came, hoping to see a landscape what my late grandfather used to see, but I saw a tamer place. But the smell of the soil after an early morning shower lingered long enough to remind me that I am in the land of his birth; the playful sounds of their dialect rhymed and sang in my ears save, perhaps, for a few words that evolved in that long stretch of time were also the sounds that grandpa used to converse and listen with.

I arrived at the Lambunao Municipal Cemetery at 11:24 AM, way too late for the burial rite, and I decided to follow, on board a motorcycle-for-hire, the throng of vehicles filled with mourners to the dear departed's home. Feeling awkward, I decided to stand at the periphery until Amil Pabon, my second cousin Ligaya's husband, spotted me and dragged me, bag and all, inside where I was re-introduced to my kinfolks. The last of the Lavilles siblings sired by Gervasio's only brother Camilo, Rebecca “Ebeng” Lavilles-Lavilla, was there. The house was filled with grieving relatives and visitors and I became one of their numbers.

When the last of the mourners left, I had the chance to get to know of another second cousin based in Metro Manila working with the Bureau of Customs, Nelson Lavilles; and third cousin, Ephraim Leal, (technically my nephew) over glasses of Fundador Brandy. After the two bottles of brandy ran at the end of its course, Nelson opted to visit more of his relatives in Dingle and left early while I accompanied Ephraim to see the book – Bridging the Gap by Mercedita Lometillos – and explained to me why I am his uncle! On Page 108 of the book, I found my family line quite updated with my wife's name printed upon it as well as the names of my sons.

One thing I noticed in Lambunao is that all the big families and clans start with the letter “L” like Lira, Lavilles, Legayada, Latorre, Launio, Leal, Lavilla, etc. You could see some of those names in the street signs of Lambunao except for the name Lavilles which is a street sign in Cebu. Ephraim proudly declared to me that Lambunao produced the most number of generals second only to Batac in Ilocos Norte. Batac, of course, was the hometown of a former dictator.

I went around the poblacion after that and I saw the face and name of the present town mayor – a former police general - all over the place. Well, the last time I was around here, the streets were not paved. Now it is concreted. I assumed he did his mandate quite well. I went to the town plaza and I took pictures of the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish. The run-off to the incoming fiesta can be felt in the air with all those piryahans in the plaza. I just learned that Lambunao hosted twenty-five major waterfalls which I am ignorant of until I saw a tarpaulin sheet announcing Lambunao as “The Land of Waterfalls”. So, I will see more of Lambunao in the near future.

Going back to the Legayada home, now the permanent resident of Amel and Ligaya, I sipped coffee with them after a novena. Later, we were invited to partake of a dinner hosted by sisters Soledad Latorre-Mendoza and Sonia Latorre-Ebuna, both my second cousins. Soledad, is the better half of the present DOTC Secretary, Leandro Mendoza. The Latorre house had evolved into a big edifice with several rooms and a large dining area. After that, I slept early in the house of the Legayadas.

I woke up at dawn preparing my things to leave Lambunao once more. I bade them goodbye again after a hearty breakfast. I rode down the great Panay Plateau in a vehicle-for-hire together with two other guests for Metro Iloilo. We rode a fastcraft at 10:15 AM for the port of Bacolod and arrived there an hour and fifty minutes later inspite of the huge waves battering the craft's starboard side. I caught up with a Cebu-bound Ceres Bus with minutes to spare. It's my first time to set foot in Bacolod City yet, again, I only saw it in a minute's passing.

The bus steadily climbed the national highway and traversed the Negros central highlands where I was afforded some new scenes and sights that awoken my explorer spirit. The Mandalagan Mountain Range and Mount Silay were off to the north of me while Canlaon Volcano towered in the east. Amidst those, were deep rivers that cut deep into the high plains; rushing rivers whose laughter echoed in the distance. A camera would have been useful here, sorely, I lacked one.

The bus steadily cut the distance away to Cebu and we passed by remote Don Santiago Benedicto town with its neat little rice paddies that gave the place an allure all its own. It was raining and the fields around us were amazingly green and so clear nary a mirage of smoky haze normally caused by pollutants. Ridges were topped off with pine trees and people were so laid back in their movements, uncaring of the world outside them. This is another paradise that I hoped won't be raped by greedy capitalists and landowners.

Finally, I arrived at the port of San Carlos City. Been to this place many times in my youth and it is, as it had been in the past, the gateway to Central Cebu from Negros Island. Endless armies of battering waves shelled the wharf caused by the strong gusts of wind from the southeast. My clothes ruffled and reverberated on my skin and I hid back to the comfort of the parked bus as we wait for the ferry that would take the bus and me and the rest of the passengers to Cebu.

The unwieldy seacraft unmoored from the Port of San Carlos the moment we settled in and crossed the wide Tañon Strait for the Port of Toledo. As I sat on the lee of the craft, I noticed solitary little brown birds, locally known as gorion, crossing the strait in the other direction. They crossed over the wide distance singly in intervals of between five to fifteen minutes. They rode the wind current and flew effortlessly towards Negros. Finally, we arrived in Toledo City and the bus went on its way towards the Naga-Uling Road.

I arrived at the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 7:15 PM on September 5, 2009. It was a memorable trip for me the moment I rode that turboprop plane yesterday for Iloilo until the moment I arrived at San Carlos. Most of those circumstances, I have done for the very first time and it got itself etched forever in my memory. Meantime, all is well in my home from the time of my absence until my arrival and a hearty hug to my grandson assures him that all is alright, after all.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I SAW TODAY, November 6, 2009, the felling or the sentencing to death, so to speak, of a jackfruit tree and a mango tree, both full grown and in the prime of their existence, because it gets in the way of a hotel rising in Cebu. Too bad, I wished I have trees as big as those in my lot.

I have tasted their sweet fruit only this year because this is the year that they have started to bloom well, thanks to the good effort of Edgar, the property caretaker. But, Edgar had left a week ago to look for other greener pastures and now the fates of the jackfruit and mango trees will have to go as well.

I have nothing against development and it is good. Not all the time, though.

The trees were cut because the owners of the property where it grew upon stood in the way of their dream hotel. The architect contracted produced a conventional plan that fit well to the wishes of the developer. The package is delivered and it is executed according to plan.

Rare nowadays, for an architect to exude an independent streak and nurtured a heart for trees and the environment. Most often, they will give in to the demands or, to be more specific, the specifications of the client coaxed by an offer of a substantial sum of money for their services.

To my opinion, the best architects and planners in the world are those that complement and incorporate existing trees into their design or go around it regardless of what their owners think. These kind are excellent thinkers and innovators but they are as rare as the Sumatran white rhino nowadays.

Years ago, I grew a star apple tree in a vacant lot. I drew a plan for a new house in that lot that will leave the tree standing amidst the structure and will host a small green space. My plan was revised, the tree cut and I nursed a long-running spat with my wife. Like the mango and jackfruit trees, my star apple tree just bore fruit on that year it was cut.

For the last time I saw both trees standing, I took pictures of the beautiful mango and jackfruit trees. I collected the last fruits of the mango to carry it home and then tell my wife that it is the last I will bring to her free. Then the unsavory noise of the chain saw broke the silence and I disdain that sound very much.

I always felt, everytime I see a tree intentionally cut, a little part of me dies. It's like I am connected directly to them and it hurts. Today, my heart cried and I am so depressed...

Let me remind you that whatever you do to trees it will come back at you someday. Please, remember this: it will take many years to grow and nurture a tree yet, in an instant, you could end its life prematurely. Isn't that unfair? Arrogance, perhaps?

A classic poem about trees will refresh you on this, dear Mr. Architect:


I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But God can only make a tree.

-Joyce Kilmer

Yes, our accomplishments and creations are mere fool's whim, but ONLY God can make a tree!

Finally, I have a four-year old mango and jackfruit trees growing in my backyard. I planted the trees because I need a breathing space in a crowded neighborhood, a buffer against dust and pollution, a shield against an afternoon glare. I have promised my young trees that both will live to an old age and no architect's plan will disturb it.

Yes, God appreciates those who care for a tree. Tree is life and sweetens the mother of all life – water.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XXII: Father's Day Special

IT IS FATHER'S DAY, June 21, 2009.

I am going up to Mount Babag today and I am alone.

Yeah, alone...


I have no problem walking alone. I find good therapy in the silence and I love the sound of my voice. I talk to myself. Yes, hum a song. Imitate a bird call. That's what you do when you're bored.

From my home, I rode a public jitney in the early morn for the downtown area then another jitney for Guadalupe. I arrived in time for the Holy Mass at six at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish. The mass ended at 7:15 AM and I bought fifty pesos worth of bread from a nearby bakery and went to the back of the church to eat at an eatery.

Securing my packed lunch, I left the eatery at 7:45 AM and do the customary warm-up walk on the concrete-and-asphalt road to Napo – a distance of about 2.5 kilometers. I walked an easy pace and arrived at 8:30 AM and, without taking a rest, proceeded to cross the first river crossing.

I arrived at nine at the second river crossing and fetched my drinking water at the nearby spring. Saw a man fording the stream with his son above his shoulders. Ah, what a perfect scene for Father's Day. I rested for about ten minutes and resumed my trek.

The sun shone hot this day and I slowly climbed the ascending trail to Sitio Busan then to Manwel Roble's place. I arrived at 9:40 AM.

I brought out my bread and gave this to Manwel's younger brother, Jucel, who jumped up and down upon seeing me. I rested at the long bamboo benches and savored the opportunity to enjoy their company, the view and the breeze. Overhead, I saw clumps of ripe duhat and my taste buds began to crave the sweet purple fruit.

Instantly, father and son climbed the tree and collected two plastic bags, half-full, and I enjoyed munching the ripe fruits. The duo told me that Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon, Glenn Domingo and Jecris Dayondon were here yesterday and ate also of the duhat fruit. And jackfruit too. They tarried long at the benches and ate their packed lunch here and, afterwards, drank Tanduay Rum chased with powdered tea and young coco water. Then they forgot to climb Mt. Babag, maybe too drunk to go on.

So, that's why there's an empty bottle of Tanduay and an empty pack of Nestea under the benches. Leave no trace, my ass! I told you it would not apply in these islands. Not with Boy T around.

I stowed the picked duhats inside my backpack and went on my way to Babag Ridge via Ernie's Trail. I left at exactly 10:30 AM. I followed the trail for the uppermost part of the Sapangdaku River and saw that the vegetation along the trail were greatly distorted and smothered away from their original positions.

I was greatly annoyed by the appearance of the trail until Manwel came after me and gave me the answers. He averred that there were twenty-six campers passing by last night and he saw no familiar faces in the group. Jeez! Some people and clubs are downright irresponsible. See? LNT wouldn't work here. There are too many nincompoops who would rather practice their ignorance and carelessness. What a shame.

Facing a grove of bamboo uphill, the trail followed by last night's group veered to the right of the true trail named after my good friend, Ernie. I am glad that our trail remained pristine when I passed by. Shame again to them. They should have availed of Manwel's services1 to guide them safely to a good trail. They missed the best trail here and, besides, their kind don't deserve to follow Ernie's Trail.

I enjoyed the moments of silence as I slowly ascend the mountain trail with Manwel following me. I thought I heard a melody of a black shama and they were quite near. Three juvenile black shamas appeared with their unmistakable black feathers and I feel fortunate today. This is the second time I saw this endemic bird here in the Babag Mountain Range.

The sun was hot but the trail is quite shady so the heat never bothered me, although I was sweating hard. I arrived on the ridge at 12:15 noon and proceed to pass by the shoulder of Mt. Babag to eat my packed lunch with Manwel at a store 300 meters away.

I loaned my cellphone to Manwel afterwards so he could make use of a vacant time and play a game while I took a nap at the wooden bench where the cool breeze lulled me to dreamland. After an hour, I woke up and started on my way downhill back to Guadalupe. This time, I will tackle the No-Santol-Tree Trail and I will be guiding Manwel, for a change.

As we were still treading the Babag Ridge Road the heavens begun to rumble and big drops of liquid started to fall. Gosh, it'll gonna be slippery at the NST Trail today and I just hope that my McKinleys would hold its ground. As I feared, the trail IS very slippery. Rivulets of water made the trail river-like and the smooth rocks along it are just too dangerous for a misstep.

It was raining hard and lightning flashed so near and the thunder so deafening! I decided to stay for a while under the protection of the trees afraid that these thunder bolts would strike at us in the open. I was worried about Manwel. We both were drenched wet and so unprotected.

Nevertheless, we pursued our quest for Guadalupe and passed by pocket forests of tangguile and teak trees. The trails were greatly immersed with water and as I tread my shoes on it, the soil would gave way underfoot especially on the narrowest part of the trail where it is most dangerous.

My training shoes failed to grip the slimy soil and I used all ten fingers as anchors to dig the ground to keep myself falling. Rain stung my eyes partly blinding me to get a good view of the foliage around me. The sheer weight of water on the leaves broke whole trunks and branches blocking the trail. The rains made a raging river out of a dry water course.

Up ahead, I heard a roar of water before I saw it. I never knew a waterfall existed near our route and, there just across us, is a brown cascade of a great volume of water. Walking on, I saw glimpses of the swollen stream below me. Then we passed by Turtle Rock and Manwel was so amazed and mystified by the rock formation.

Finally, we reached a trio of tamarind trees marking the end of the No-Santol-Tree Trail and we went downhill amongst a field of cogon grass until we reached Kalunasan Road. The dirt road was reduced into a swirling river of rain run-offs coming from above the hills.

Some part of the road were partly blocked by landslides that occurred earlier and one stretch we passed by became a run for life when boulders from above us came tumbling down the road. We walked in the middle of the road just in case if the ground below us would collapse if it is undermined by water and be safe enough to look out for falling rocks overhead.

We walked and ran for an hour in which the rain never ceased until the time we reached the branch of the road leading to Guadalupe. We crossed the Harlemermeer Bridge and watched the surging current of the Sapangdaku River unfolding its power below us.

At 2:50 PM we reached the back of the Guadalupe parish and I parted ways with Manwel. His father would be with him any time soon. I finished this day's journey well ahead of schedule and looked forward to enjoy the surplus of time with Ernie. I was soaking wet as I rode the jitney.

Ernie went out to meet me while Boy T, who was visiting his grandchildren nearby, came later. We talked of my just-concluded trek and their yesterday's misadventure over cold bottles of beer. We three then went together to attend a fiesta celebration in the interior of Espina Village. And that wrapped up my semi-solo journey today.

Happy Father's Day.

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1Manwel Roble. Call or text him at 0932-483-9234.