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.


Dave DeWall said...

Good stuff,po! Used to do some hiking in the mountains of Montana back in the U.S., but you are the toughest Pinoy I've heard of since I arrived here this past July. Excellent blog!

PinoyApache said...

Thank you, sir Dave. Thank you also for following my blog. I will do the same to you soon.