Friday, October 16, 2009


MOUNT BABAG IS ALWAYS there and I have no excuses why I shouldn't go there. It's only 752 meters above sea level and eleven kilometers away from downtown Cebu City if you draw a straight line. It's just a pygmy if you consider it against other Philippine mountains and a molehill if you have Mount Everest in mind. Nevertheless, it is MY mountain and you would find me and others tackling her trails there every weekend.

I am of the opinion that there is no mountain, even though how high, that cannot be overcome as long as you have the heart and the commitment to propel yourself up there. It is of my opinion also, that you cannot be an instant climber without having to go the rigors of basic hard training in a gradual phase and the discipline to withstand the monotony of the same trail. Be that and you will not be injured.

I am of the opinion too that Mount Babag has all the elements and challenges that you may need when you are on another mountain trail. You will find pure mountain trails here on its rolling terrain. Some of it are steep and slippery, some are too narrow and deceptive. There are rocky terrain, loamy soil, talus and scree slopes plus pocket forests of endemic and second-growth trees and ancient mangoes. Yes, lots and lots of mangoes. You may walk or carry yourself here on all fours or run.

By the way, Mt. Babag has a perfect downhill trail for running in Kahugan and it is for that reason where, on May 24, 2009, I decided to take a solo hike up in Babag upon knowing that Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon are in the south in Osmeña Peak. It will save me the trouble of watching over them. I will run in Kahugan today without them. Oh, freedom...and silence! They're hard to come by these days.

After attending a Holy Mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu, I immediately went outside to buy fifty pesos worth of bread for Manwel Roble and his family. I bought also another set of bread for a street urchin sleeping on a wooden bench. My heart always bleed to see children who have less in life. I am a different kind of outdoorsman, mind you. I will give even sacrificing my shoe-string budget to accommodate charity.

From an eatery I bought a meal for lunch and packed this inside my plastic containers. My backpack is heavy. I carried an 11-mm thick 17-meter long dynamic rope inside the bag as my training load. At 7:30 AM I left Guadalupe for Napo and arrived there at 8:10 AM and five minutes later I was off crossing the Sapangdaku River. I arrived at another river crossing at nine and filled my water bottle from a nearby spring.

Refreshed, I continued on my way passing by an upland community and arrived at Manwel's house at ten. Delivering my present of bread to Manwel I rested for a while and savored the cool breeze and the view overlooking Metro Cebu. Later, four guys arrived and rested at the bamboo benches and I held conversation with them. They brought chocolates and some snacks for Manwel and his brood.

Instantly, they recognized me through my blog and were familiar with my advocacy. They have become regulars on these trails and have availed of Manwel's guiding services. I'm glad that my blog post about Manwel have rubbed off on other people. We capped our pleasant meeting with fresh young coconuts that Manwel and his mother have gathered. Ohhh, I've never tasted such coconut water in its most perfect state until now. They were so so so sweet! Wow!

At eleven, I bade them farewell and proceeded on my own to Babag by way of Ernie's Trail. The vegetation have become so thick it covered much of the trail. Without a trained eye you would find yourself losing your way. I have no trouble following the trail as I am very familiar with it; but what I'm worried of is that there might be some reptile curling along the trail beneath those vegetations, especially a Philippine cobra, which is very common in this area, that you might accidentally step upon.

Conserving my strength with just an easy pace, I tackled Ernie's Trail step by step, rock upon rock, stepping over dead branches and slippery boulders. During the most steep and slippery stretches I tried and practiced my old unorthodox foot placements which I have perfected on so on many different occasions in the early '90s with which technique have lain idle for so many years, particularly during my “warrior pilgrimage” years, that is from 1997 to 2005. With aching knees, I am still agile to do those old stuffs.

I arrived at the ridge at 12:15 noon and proceeded to pass by the highest shoulder of Mt. Babag that is not fenced and walked a couple of a hundred meters down a dirt road to a store overlooking the city and took my lunch there. After a while, the four guys whom I just left moments ago, came together with Manwel. They hired Manwel to guide them on another route – the Babag East Ridge Pass. They took time with me and ate their packed lunch at the store.

Over music of a local FM station, my digestive system began its work as I took a short nap. At exactly 1:00 PM, I bade them farewell again. I backtracked and went down for Napo via the Kahugan Trail with Manwel while they went the other way going the easy Babag Ridge Road towards Garahe in Upper Busay.

I began to walk and trot, hurrying down until I crossed a river. From the river I snaked myself amongst jackfruit, breadfruit and star apple trees that abound on this stretch of the trail and climbed a short uphill route traversing a ridge passing by the junction of the Babag East Ridge Pass where Manwel bade goodbye to me. Then I came upon a pocket forest of madre de cacao trees and there among its trail is a very deceptive route wherein loose talus rocks abound. I slowed down my pace when I heard the unmistakable melody of the black shama, locally known as siloy. Perched on a tendril of a thick bamboo thicket nearby another upland community is a juvenile siloy singing its song.

From there, I pushed on passing a trio of tamarind trees that marked the end of this difficult route. I reached the community chapel at 1:45 PM and, here, the trails of Kahugan widened; just wide enough for a solitary traveller running loose on the trail at break-neck freewheeling speed! As I took a little rest, I readied my camera and switched it to video mode, intending to record myself trail running and then have this moving image uploaded in my personal blog at Blogger and at the community website in Multiply.

It took me just three to four minutes to reach the next river crossing where a drinkable spring is located. After resting for a full two minutes I proceeded for Napo following the trail above the meandering Sapangdaku River. This time, I took an easy pace, intending to take time and savor the view the route afforded. I met many locals passing the other way and exchanged nods and greetings with them, at the same time, practicing trail courtesy.

I arrived at Napo at 2:45 PM and took just a very short rest before I proceeded for Guadalupe. The asphalt and concrete road at three in the afternoon were stifling hot and, at that angle of the sun, the shades from trees where not yet wide enough to cover the whole width of the street. Inconvenienced by that, I opted to compensate by protecting my feet and stepped only on soil, weeds and stones, usually found beside the street curbs. The temperatures here were ten degrees cooler than that on the pavement itself.

I walked on, never minding the heat and the numb on my left shoulder. My water is about gone but I never swallowed a drop. I am on training today; at least, my feet are alright. Finally, at 3:30 PM, I reached Guadalupe and took a rest at the parish grounds when Boy T called me on my phone just in time. I was awfully tired and, here he is, with his vehicle to ride on and a promise to douse my extreme thirst with ice-cold liquid, uh, like beer...and a lot of tales to talk about. Ernie joined company and made it sure that there will be many “tales to talk about”.

I have concluded yet another perfect Sunday in the mountain trails of Napo to Mt. Babag while Boy T and Ernie did also with their trip in southern Cebu. Yes, there were no stupid rules here and there and that made climbing mountains simple again.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.

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