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.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

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.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

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

Friday, November 13, 2009


I HAVE LIVED ALL MY life beside the Lahug Creek in Cebu City. I have followed its source up and beyond Busay Falls beginning from the waterfront area near Escaño Shipping Lines office. The creek, or canal, have been part of my playground when I was a student at the nearby Tejero Elementary School and I have traversed along its length and width as an escape route from pursuing childhood enemies, playing catch me with neighbors or just gathering gobies – a tiny fish which we popularly called “rainbow”.

In those days the creek was already dirty but living things still inhabit therein and all about. Aside from the fish, tadpoles and toads share the creek with an occasional tortoise or monitor lizard. Rats ran roughshod in the night over the riverbanks foraging on morsels of food flushed down from the houses lining the creek with their population being picked one by one by juvenile pythons. Clumps of bamboo grow along the banks found upriver and is home to avians, reptiles and insects. But not anymore.

And according to my late grandmother, Purificacion Lavilles, they used to wash clothes by the creek during “peace time” - the years before World War II – and her brothers would place two nets across the creek during high tide and wait for the water to subside and then harvest the fishes caught in between the nets. During Liberation my great uncles would play franks with the American soldiers and wait for them to squat at the riverbank after supper their white rumps a perfect target in the dark of their taut slingshots. When I was small, I used to see a small boat with a sail and outriggers traveling up and down the creek every high tide.

As far as my memory could remember, the creek have been dredged of silt thrice, the last time in the year 2000. In the early '90s the creek bed had rose to a few feet providing flood waters to overflow the embankments and denying tide water to gain access to the narrow channels due to the unabated large-scale development in upper La Guerta and Nivel Hills where erosions of loose soil and silt washed down to the creek and it was that time that I have developed the habit of sleepless nights during a rain, even how slight.

The creek will overflow during strong typhoons and ceaseless rains and brought with it silt, clay and mud from the hills which caused inconvenience in my locality. My former house used to suffer from the constant floods as it is located in the lowest part of an embankment and I would find myself waking up at dawn or in the middle of my sleep plugging holes or washing away the filth and the mud before it hardened. Often, I have company with reptiles and varmint dislodged by these floods.

After a flood the water is very clear, the banks swept clean by the current and it is that moment where life appear for just a few hours. Gobies converge on the minute springs that appeared overnight resulting from runoffs of areas inundated with rain and flood water. For just a few hours these tiny spots became the last refuge for this tiny fish after they are forced down from their abode after a heavy downpour. Then, slowly, toxic pollutants and detergents and other filth get to work its way down the current and blacken the creek snuffing all minute particles of life.

The Lahug Creek is ecologically dead! And that is a fact. My neighbors and people living upriver throw their garbage unashamedly placing a strain on the creek bed itself. I have waged a one-man campaign against this practice for many years and my pleas fell on deaf ears among my neighbors and among the barangay authorities. I have created animosity amongst friends back then because of this advocacy and they couldn't blame me for they have seen me cleaning their pathways of weed and litter every month to make life bearable for them en gratis!

Four years ago when the large garbage bin of Tejero Elementary School was closed people looked for an alternative to throw their refuse and they found a convenient place at a vacant area in the southwest corner of the school. The new garbage dumpsite is found beside the road and a bridge and is on the entrance to a creekside path that led to my place and it emitted a foul smell. Some of these waste would find itself falling into the creek and will not be retrieved unlike on the dumpsite itself were it is hauled into a passing garbage truck.

The location of the garbage has caused me severe embarrassment when someone visits me and my family. It is AN EYESORE AND IT STINKS! Technically, it is within the jurisdiction of Barangay Tejero and it is for this reason that they supplied the garbage truck to collect the accumulated wastes and, even with that, it failed to address the hygiene issue. Apparently, Mr. Jesselou Cadungog and his council have tried their best to clean the place and ran out of strong ideas to remove permanently the area of garbage.

In the meantime, another barangay that shared the creek with Tejero – Barangay Tinago (where I belonged, yes) - seemed to be happy sitting on its fence even when the majority of the schoolchildren that passed by that area (and some garbage throwers) came from their barangay. Mr. Joel Garganera never lifted a finger to help address this problem and it took another barangay captain after the elections to solve this eyesore.

The honorable Domingo Lopez, the present head of Tinago, did a hell of a job clearing away the area of garbage, reminding people never to throw anymore their wastes there and pursued the clean-up of the Lahug Creek along its boundary with Tejero with so much dedication and enthusiasm. He even installed a wire mesh under the bridge on the side of Barangay T. Padilla to screen out the floating garbage that would find its way downriver and lighted the creekside path with CFL bulbs.

He is always there to supervise his people and monitored his clean-and-green projects every now and then and he never failed to replace a busted light bulb and I am aware of that and I am so glad that I have not wasted my vote for him. He is very different from his predecessor. The creek have never been in good hands under his watch and I take my hats off for Mr. Lopez. He reminds me of my late great uncle, Enrique Alba, who used to take charge of Barangay Tinago with a big stick.

Meanwhile, I walk on the path from my house for work and I am not ashamed anymore to stand on the sidewalk waiting for a public jitney where there used to be a garbage dumpsite or be bothered by the stinking odor. The eyesore and the stink are there no more. The creek, oh, it is dead beyond repair but there are no more garbage placed inside shopping bags, tarpaulin sheets, old tires, broken furnitures and other large discarded items thrown on the creek bed. My neighbors have completely understood the message of Mr. Lopez quite well...and mine too, although a bit belated.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


IT WAS IN THE morning of June 12, 2009 when me and my office mates left Mandaue City for Badian in the south. Nine of us from Tactical Security Agency and five from Mac II Auto Sales were comfortably squeezed inside a Toyota EX 20-seater air-conditioned shuttle bus driven by Joseph Rojo. The objective: a team-building affair at the Badian Beach Resort in Matutinao.

From Tactical Security were, of course, moi, Joe Patrick Uy, Omar Pace, Marylou Cagang, Eddie Alberca, Grace Villar, Noel Ronquillo, Liza Sesante and Al Albaciete. From Mac II were Tellie Aguilar, Ginalin Guiriba, Juliet Cellar, Miriam Salaban and Danilo Janao. We were in very high spirits and looked forward to a pressure-less, paid, weekend excursion! A perfect diversion in an exclusive beach at that. Wow!

We left at 9:30 AM and the mini bus cruised the south highway until we stopped by in Carcar town to take a leak, stretch our legs or buy their famous chicharon. From there, we went on our journey and saw the very inviting seas off Sayaw in Barili. It was a very “high” high tide. I'm very very sure the sea in Barili is contiguous with that of Badian. I am most certain of that; and it was very clear.

We finally arrived at our destination at thirty past twelve and we were met by our gracious host - Ms. Jonnette Librando-Alquizola – and she was already waiting for us, along with a lechon, a stew of freshly-caught clam and a special hog's blood thick soup of a concoction that is so different from others I've tasted before. The eating was inspired on an empty stomach and in an open atmosphere where sun, sea, sand and sky met. You wouldn't have wished a place and time as good as this. Oh, blessed me...

At two in the afternoon, we started right away our team build-up (or team building). I kept looking over my shoulder trying to calculate the water level if it has abated or not while in the midst of a puzzle to make the best possible package to prevent an egg be broken when dropped from a height of twenty feet! I proposed an idea and Eddie, Al and Liza did the rest copping us the prize of the only team that never laid waste an egg. The ever gracious Ma'am Jonnnette rewarded us each with 500 bucks each. May the good Lord bless her!

After these cross-hairs, we were like wild horses let loosed from our pens as one after the other, dived into the reassuring coolness of the sea. For two or more hours we swam and dove and frolicked carefree aided by endless rounds of Gran Matador Brandy laced with Cobra Energy Drink that we brought over which heated up our bodies and raised our adrenaline to levels where we have never been gone to before inside of a beach resort. We were red-faced, yes, but the drunken and uncivilized behavior are not there.

We were boys again, in that lazy afternoon swimming in the private seafront. A place where, a month ago, was just a vague idea, an unthought of suggestion, a wishful thinking of sort. The girls, after a few hours in the saline liquid, decided to transfer their frolicking in the fresh-water swimming pool just above the tidal line. Eddie and I would take turns in rotating the glass from Omar to Noel to Patrick and us. The bottle would either float or stay in the breakwater.
It was almost sundown when we emerged from the sea and, finding that the sea level have gone down, we prepared ourselves for supper. Sir Wilson Ong arrived just in time for the meal. Yes, a good dinner where (once again I led the prayers) lechon paksiw, sinugba'ng bariles and a soup of anduhaw fish with Valencia rice, plain rice or fine-grounded corn. After the feast, a board meeting, of a small scale, ensued. That was the most serious part of that weekend. Then the dance of the glass began again...

Patrick, with his trademarked boisterous laugh, echoed in the night while Omar, without a beat, gyrated and danced to an imagined tune. Noel, the most legal minded member of the party, dissected the pros and cons of a case while Al, the silent one, just grunted and nodded. Me, of course, held the glass and cast judgment on whom to have that opportunity to down the sacred liquid.

As the night progressed on, it was time to make a beeline to our sleeping quarters. The gentry passed the night in the main beach house; the girls in the guest house; Omar, Patrick, Al, Noel, Eddie and Joseph remained cowboys to the bone (or maybe just plain drunk) and slept exposed to the elements; while I, a true-blue bushman, snored comfortably inside my Coleman tent in a sleeping bag.

I awoke to a perfect morning on June 13 and boiled for myself water on my new Bulin portable stove to savor tea. I tested and became familiar with the stove right there and then. Elsewhere on the beach, I found Patrick's and Noel's place vacant. They left at dawn as what they have planned in the wee hours of the night. Sound, or voices, travel fast in the night, you know. Then, before breakfast, a slight rain showered over the place. The whole area is deserted.
After the shower, the place became a hub of activity again. Tellie cooked her prepared breakfast menu and the others helped her. There was a low tide and we looked for a calendar. Then, it was time for breakfast. Leftover lechon paksiw were served as well as pasta, lumpia and fried fish and rice and ground corn. I, again, blessed the food. Hmm, it was much silent this time. We missed Patrick today!

While waiting for the tide to rise (which never came), I rushed to the sea and swam its shallow deep with a diving mask. I enjoyed the school of fishes below and the seaweeds and the life among and between the islands of solitary rock. Then I found a remnant of an artificial reef wrought of used tires. Submarine life teemed among that remaining refuge. It was a great discovery...until it was time to go!

By now, residents of Gentle Breeze Subdivision began to trickle in at eleven in the morning and we gave way to their presence. Joseph conked to life the mini bus and we left the private resort and followed Ma'am Jonnette's SUV. It led us to her ancestral home in the heart of Badian and we stayed awhile and took lunch there.
Courses of shrimp tempura, calamares, boneless bangus, rice, squid in black soup and the famous native chicken of Dumanjug were offered on the dining table and I let myself do as I pleased and I find it hard to stand erect over my seat afterwards. And so were the others. Then native chicken gizzards and liver and those aromatic spices were added to the served menu and I couldn't say no to them and I bloated out of proportions that noon!

We left Badian, at last, but Joseph made a sudden U-turn for another of Ma'am Jonnette's ancestral home and we savored ice cream in two different flavors! This is a dessert, I think. Believe me, it could have been a great feast when I was a great glutton twenty years ago, but, this time, I raised a white flag and filled my glass in a whimper – just two servings! Not full. We call this in vernacular – hamabaw. My wife would have raised an eyebrow if she sees me in this unfamiliar situation!

Finally, finally, we left at two in the afternoon for Cebu. I took Patrick's place in the front seat beside Joseph. I felt drowsy but I fought it. The passing scene's too good to be missed and I glanced over my shoulder and I saw almost everyone doing a shuteye. By habit, I liked to have an open eye during my travels.
Reaching Naga, I saw a great dark bulge in the sky beyond and lightning flashed in the distance. It was an awful lot of lightning! At the South Road Properties were we passed by, the lightning or them thunder bolts grew in resonance and intensity! My gosh, with that condition, there'll gonna be a great flood in Metro Cebu! I couldn't see the outlines of the Babag Moutain Range either.

We reached in the vicinity of what used to be Kawit Island, the sky burst forth. Great traffic ensued at Plaza Independencia. We took a special detour at McArthur Boulevard, then a left turn to V. Sotto Street and I dropped off at the corner of G.L. Lavilles Street and walked the few hundred meters to my home.

I reached home drenched with rain. I tossed my chicharrones to my boys and it gave warmth to my home seeing them laughing and engage in long conversations. My ever-loving wife tossed me a towel and I finished my weekend in the bathroom. A nice and unforgettable weekend indeed.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


IT HAD BEEN RAINING when I took a standing breakfast in the early morning of June 7, 2009 at an eatery in Katipunan Street, Tisa, Cebu City. Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon were with me and they did likewise. At the end of this day, we will be completing the last leg of this “freedom trail” which will be used during the First Philippine Freedom Climb on Philippine Independence Day on June 12.

This is the trail that Boy T and Ernie, together with the group from Kompas Lakaw, are trying to establish starting from Katipunan Street in Tisa to Napo in Sapangdaku on May 30 and June 6. The same trail which ended abruptly at the Baksan Road that this same group followed towards the Sapangdaku spillway; still a far-off distance from Napo over a concrete-and-asphalt road which would take away the spirit of an already fatigued hiker to assault the steep Ernie's Trail to Mt. Babag.

For the Kompas Lakaw people, the newly-discovered trail from Tisa to Baksan meant a piece of the bragging right to claim a niche in the local mountaineering community. For Boy T and Ernie, it meant defeat; especially Boy T, who lamented to me at his home in Lapulapu City in the night of June 6, that they could have explored further the terrain beyond Baksan had some Kompas Lakaw guys been pliant enough to walk the extra mile with them.

Boy T never gave up and convinced me to join him explore further this “lost” trail. He never liked the idea of walking on roads and would rather be inconvenienced walking on trails. I always advocated hiking on pure mountain trails instead of walking on hilly roads and I understood fully well his point. I have confidence on his (and Ernie's) stamina and I believe that both can tackle the long and winding trails of about twenty kilometers distant from Tisa to Mt. Babag. What I am worried of are those that will be coming with them.

At 7:00 AM, under a cold shower of a monsoon rain, we three walked the main street of Riva Ridge Subdivision until we reached the foothills of Tisa Hills, where the rain stopped, assuring us of an all cloudy day. The trail passed nearby Villa Amores and Tisa South Hills Subdivision. The Spanish Riviera-like location of houses of the latter are nicer to behold when seen from a near distance but is in sharp contrast to an adjacent colony of temporary settlers living in their little decrepit huts. The poverty gap is so conspicuous here.

These gentle slopes where short grasses abound offered a good view of the Basak-Pardo-Bulacao corridor. The trail snaked around farms hacked out of hard limestone rocks. Farms whose thin soil ably supported the plants that grew on them. Most of these plants are stunted and bear fruits that are of lesser size than the average produce.

After an hour of steady uphill hike, we crossed over to the Banawa Hills and passed by an electric power pylon and we rested below a lone a coconut tree. From this vantage, we could clearly see from below us the Gochan Hills, the Tanchan Celestial Gardens and the South IT Park in Banawa. This stretch could have been glaring hot at eight in the morning but the early morning rains left a cloudy sky that cooperated well with our trek.

A few houses are located here and what human activity found are confined just to a minimum. Walking further on, we passed by some telltale signs of charcoal-making holes hidden amongst corn and cassava plantations. Passing by the last house, I saw two little girls climbing an arateles tree and enjoying the sweet little round fruits. Here, I left three used text books to the delight of the children.

The route then passed by along a trail planted with gmelina trees. Local inhabitants living in these hills sourced their wood for charcoal here and they only cut at the branches well above the trunks unlike those that I have seen in Sapangdaku and Kalunasan where the charcoal gatherers there wantonly cut the trees at the base of their trunks leaving no chance for the trees to regrow!

Looming across us is the construction site of the Monterazzas de Cebu. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Development in the hills should be controlled reasonably and not dictated by greed. It left great ugly gashes upon the hillsides of Banawa Hills and caused mudflow in large volumes down the the foothills that inconvenienced people living near gullies and along dry riverbeds. This “development” is uncomfortably close to the forest reserves of the Buhisan-Toong-Baksan watershed site – a protected area.

From gmelina trees we went into a great forest cradled between the Banawa and Baksan hills and by the Babag Mountain Range. This is second-growth forest; a reforested area. This is my first time to pass by this corridor of well-hidden timberland. The trail is perfect as it is very shaded and it followed the gentle contours of the slopes and ridges. Birds abound in this area. I even saw one wild rooster who flew from one tree branch to another tree branch.

Some stretch of the trail are very treacherous with slippery or loose soil and quite narrow in some parts. Along this newly-found trail are a number of rattan palms growing and claiming its former habitat and many times I would get snagged by its thorny vines. Few people pass by these wooded trail yet some recent human activity left some tree branches and trunks being cut and collected for firewood.

The trail went on its winding route until it reached a place marked by three big boulders marking the convergence of three trails. One trail heading towards Baksan; another trail, I presumed, going to the Buhisan-Toong area; and the other one lead deep into the forest, probably to Pamutan, I think. We followed the northeast trail for Baksan and it led us to solitary mango trees growing along the route until we reached an upland neighborhood in Sitio Calumboyan.

Here and there were playing children and we passed by crumbled old buildings at the back of the Baksan Elementary School and by an open deep well which is a source of potable water for the community. Finally, we three reached the Baksan Road. One part goes downhill to the Sapangdaku spillway; the other part goes up for Pamutan. This is the road that gnawed away the previous group's creativity and endurance. I will not let down Boy T today. I will lead and I will find a way.

I followed the dirt road uphill as my trained eye were now focused for some gaps in the forest that might tell of a trail. Walking on for about a hundred meters, more or less, I saw one such gap, barely discernible even to me. It looked like one of those several dried-out water routes along the road that I passed by but this one is flat and not steep. I decided to investigate and followed this wild trail and it was criss-crossed by naked tree roots whose soil cover were carried by recent run-offs. A recently-felled tree blocked the way, but my persistence took me on the other side and – voila – a trail is officially discovered.

Looking yonder, I could see Mt. Babag and I believed we have found the “lost” trail after squeezing ourselves amongst the thick and leafy branches and twigs of that fallen tree that blocked our path. I took the lead, then Ernie and Boy T followed after me and, after an hour or so of following the serpentine trail, we came upon a tamarind tree. I remembered these tamarind trees were used by the “old ones” in marking the trail in and around the Sapangdaku and Kalunasan areas. Then I saw more of these tamarind trees and I felt sure and safe that these trail will lead me, Boy T and Ernie to Napo.

We went over a long ridge and I saw below us the concrete road of Sapangdaku winding and bending along the route of the Guadalupe-Sapangdaku River like a ribbon. Now, we have found this “lost” trail that Boy T have been yearning to find on two separate occasions and it is not lost anymore and I officially gave it a name – the Freedom Trail – which elicited approving nods from both Boy T and Ernie.

By the way, this newly-discovered trail is a part of the long trail which I am planning to plot and trailblaze, starting from the foothills near the Guadalupe church up to Napo, to skirt away from the concrete-and-asphalt road. My work is half-done and I now just have to worry with the other unexplored half. Anyway, we passed by more of these tamarind trees and came upon a youngster making charcoal. We almost missed the main trail here when we followed the youngster's footprints into a cul-de-sac. We backtracked and found the true trail passing amongst little corn farm plots.

From these wee plantations, we went down and down and came upon a father with his two small daughters resting in a hut. We also rested here and conversed with the man and he directed us to the correct trail for Napo. Thanking him for that needed info I unloaded two used textbooks for his two daughters. They were all smiles as they opened page after page. We bade goodbye to them and went to some more downhill routes and came upon a branch of the Sapangdaku River.

We followed the creek down river until it reached the main waterway and we came upon a group of young boys hunting and fishing catfish and fresh-water crabs. They were armed with rubber-slings with thin little spears and nets and I could see they were enjoying their fishing well with a number of fishes and crabs already tucked inside their little buckets. We followed their direction until we reached Napo and we took our lunch there at thirty past noon.

By 1:30 PM, we were fording the river and we traveled the Napo Main Trail towards another river crossing were we took a brief rest. We took a shortcut bypassing Sitio Busan into Manwel Roble's place where we stayed for just a while upon noticing that nobody's around. Just the same, I left a pack of five wafers for Manwel, Juliet and Jucel.

We left at three and retraced our path back to Napo. From Napo we walked the hard concrete road for Guadalupe and arrived there at 4:15 PM. We celebrated our success in completing the Freedom Trail with a toast of glasses of ice-cold beer at our favorite watering hall in Guadalupe. Through Boy T's persistence and Ernie's insistence, it had shaped the route into a first-class route worthy of a major climb.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.