IT HAD BEEN RAINING FOR three days and three nights and on the fourth day, today, February 15, 2009, which is a Sunday, left-over gray clouds from last night's were still on the horizon in the half-light of 5:00 AM as I waited for Boy Toledo near my home in M.J. Cuenco, Cebu City. Boy T's KIA Pride arrived minutes later and I hopped inside. Our destination - Guadalupe.
Again, as was last week, we heard a Holy Mass at the parish of the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu at six. After an hour, we went to our usual meeting place at the back of the church to eat breakfast and to buy pork meat, seaweeds (guso), spices and other ingredients intending to prepare and cook all these for our lunch scheduled in Manwel Roble's place.
Aside those, I carried three kilos of rice in my day pack and added a kilo of uncooked sea shells and fifty-peso worth of bread making my pack bulky and heavy. Early morning fog were already enveloping the hills around Guadalupe but we were ready for any barrage of rain this day. In short, our training will proceed come rain or shine!
We waited an hour for Ernie Salomon and Sam Lim and of others but all failed to come so we started our warm-up walk, just the two of us, from Guadalupe to Napo at exactly eight. The air was cool and the sun finally showed up pushing away a rapidly disintegrating raincloud by its heat. Vapor and mist rose among the surrounding landscape creating a shield to protect our crown and shoulders from the rays of the sun.
We understood why the others did not make it today. Cebu was lashed by a typhoon for three straight days and they might have anticipated the storm would overstay its course. The city streets were flooded and the temperature dropped last night but Boy T and me were more resolute: we intend to use the weather disturbance and do our training at a higher level.
We expect slippery trails this day which we did by the time we crossed the first river crossing and took on the Napo Main Trail. We took it easy and met many local people getting snagged by the muddy terrain. We reached the second river crossing and stopped to rest while I filled my water bottle from a nearby spring. Overhead, I saw two tots peering over a window from afar and I signaled them to come down and get the pack of crackers I placed on a big boulder.
We left the place and we started ascending the Busan Trail and from a distance I saw a little girl retrieve her prize on top of the boulder and she smiled and waved a hand as soon as she saw me smiling and waving down at her. Reaching Sitio Busan I unloaded the rest of my crackers to the children and they were all smiles as they shared and munched their presents. Oh, I loved moments like these and that made me come back over and over again here.
Under a heavy load yet possessed now with a light heart, I run uphill in short bursts. I gasped for oxygen as I rested and waited for Boy T to come nearer and run again, then rest, then wait, and so on until we reached Manwel's place at 10:30 AM. Then we began to work our packs and unload our cargoes.
Boy T started working on the pork meat, the seaweeds, the spices and all in between with Manwel and his uncle as his assistants while I gave away the presents of bread to Manwel's siblings and the uncooked sea shells for their dinner. I also unpacked and brought out the rice I carried to be cooked in the earthen hearth of their humble abode.
As early as 11:20 AM, Boy T was to able finish the job of cooking all the pork in adobo fashion and his seaweeds were prepared steamed and washed in vinegar with thinly-sliced iba giving accent to the dish. It was superbly done! I didn't know that Boy T is such a good cook and he was in control of the area around the cooking fire despite a handicap.
Disregarding spoon, fork and cutting knife, we all ate with great relish the prepared lunch with our bare hands dabbing the adobo on the mixture of well-seasoned vinegar and seaweed juice. The rice, steaming hot, were cooked in a perfect state such as only wood fuel could carve. We all took turns reaching and filling our plates around the dining table where the meal were spread before us.
Afterwards, young coconut water flowed freely, courtesy of Manwel's father, and we washed away our food inside our tummies with the refreshing liquid. We scraped the soft white meat from the fruit and munched its sweet essence to our delight. We then took a nap on the long bamboo benches and rested for a full hour.
At exactly one in the afternoon, we bade goodbye to Manwel and his family and started for the ascent by way of Ernie's Trail, a hard and direct route to Mount Babag, whose 752 meter peak hosted an assortment of imposing steel towers of commercial telecommunication stations. We found the trail unexpectedly perfect and with just a few slippery spots. It was now thickly grown with vegetation underfoot due to the constant rains.
Somewhere along the steep trail I saw a yagumyum shrub common in the slopes of Cuernos de Negros growing here, of whose leaves we used to remove grease from plates and pans, and an edible land snail, locally known as karakol, traveling along an ancient mango branch. Amid a cacophony of bird sounds, I saw a brahminy kite hovering in the distance in its spiral flight.
After 45 minutes of huffing and puffing, we reached Mt. Babag and we walked another 300 meters on a dirt road and we rested at our favorite store overlooking the city. We each downed a bottle of San Miguel Beer Grande before turning back to Mt. Babag to start our descent for Napo at 3:30 PM on another route – the Kahugan Trail.
The last time we passed by here was on December 14, 2008 and the trail was still in good condition and excellent to travel. Half-running and half-braking, Boy T and I made a good pace and crossed the uppermost part of the Guadalupe-Sapangdaku River.
From there we followed the snaking trail among groves of caimito, jackfruit and breadfruit trees and climbed a short stretch of uphill slope that traverse a ridge before going down again to a forest of madre de cacao trees, then amongst an upland community. This stretch is partly scree slope and is slippery with or without a rain. A trio of tamarind trees marked the end of this stretch or the beginning whichever you may start at.
Pushing on we reached the community chapel at fifteen past three and took a quick rest there where the wide trails of Kahugan start after here, rolling and hilly, and a perfect area for trail running. I tried the trail and I coasted along in break-neck speed followed by Boy T. I slowed down along curvy and bending points, on difficult terrain or among grounds with protruding roots and loose debris. Rivulets of sweat flood down on my shirt from this exertion making it a mass of brine-soaked fabric. Likewise, Boy T.
It was an amazing 40 minutes of downhill travel to Napo from Babag Ridge which we could have taken two hours, at the most, by just walking but we could still slice down time travel if we could spend some more weeks here. We reached Guadalupe at 5:10 PM and Boy T made sure I make it home early he offered to be my chauffeur. We have concluded again another perfect day!
Happy free-walking day, my friends...
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