Thursday, April 22, 2010


AFTER OUR PURPOSE in Asturias, Cebu is finished for this day on February 24, 2010, we sped back to where we came from three hours ago to the Trans-Central Highway and then to Cebu City. This mountain highway links Metro Cebu to the western coast particularly to Balamban town where there is a major ship-building facility located.

Omar Pace drove the Suzuki Multicab to the Trans-Central Highway and as it climbed up the road it overheated and conked out at the vicinity of Cansumoroy in Balamban, a small village nestling at around 600 meters above sea level. Feeling stranded and nothing else to do until the small 3-cylinder engine of the multicab cools down, I decided to take a short walk to a small house with a palm-thatched roof and bamboo-shingled walls.

I exchanged pleasantries with the occupants - an old couple - and I learned that they sell freshly-collected coconut wine, known as tuba, where it is patronized by locals. I tasted a sample of their wine and it is indeed fresh and harbor a natural sweetness. I bought a gallon for just seventy pesos (1 Dollar=44.50 Pesos) including the plastic gallon and a small glass jar which I will utilize as drinking glass.

Hehehe. Naughty me.

Omar is all smile as I came back with a gallon of this locally-fermented drink which is a good alternative to those processed alcoholic drinks like beer, brandy or rum. Not only this is a natural beverage, it is also organic and an anti-oxidant. Instantly, Omar helped himself with the coconut drink and tasted a sample. He held a thumbs up sign to my direction and refilled the small jar.

After an exchange of two rounds, Omar started the multicab to life and we continued on our way climbing up 200 meters more above sea level until we reached high Gaas and rested the multicab for a while. Temperature here is a “cool” 25-degree Celsius and we both know that it will be a sizzling 35 to 36 in the urban jungles of Metro Cebu. We stayed and took four rounds each before leaving at noon.

We crossed the boundary and drove into the highlands of Cantipla in Cebu City and found a tributary road where there is a shady spot offering a good view of the Cantipla and Bonbon river valleys, the hills and ridges in between and the distant Babag Mountain Range. It is a nice place to spend siesta and to finish the rest of the coconut wine. It is also a good place to cool down the troublesome engine.

I ripped the seats from the multicab and placed it on the ground and I sat on it and enjoyed the scenery, the cool clime and the coconut wine. After the plastic gallon ran its course, Omar took a nap at the back of the vehicle while I tinkered with my Motorola V3 cellphone to find a good signal and, finding none, I decided to make use of the built-in camera to take pictures.

Then an idea flashed on me. I would test my bushcraft skill to kill time and carve a wooden spoon from an inch-thick tree branch with just a folding knife and take pics in between. In Bushcraft USA, it is a good test of your survival skill if you could make a spoon with a combination of cutting tools and knives and several threads are dedicated to this. In my case, I would just need my Boker folding knife.

Where I am resting, several hardwood species of trees abound. I chose a tangguele, an endemic variety. Some of the lower branches have been freshly-chopped and I selected a fine branch, still green and 1-3/8 inches thick. I cut above maybe six inches from the base by slowly whittling away the part from where I would break the wood then cutting it clean with the serrated edge of the knife from the rest of the limb. 

Having done that, I sliced and separated a 3/8-inch slat from my wood by levering my knife and working downwards until I freed the piece from the rest and work my spoon here. This is not easy and you have to use extreme caution else you break the blade or disjoint it from the swivel point of the handle. From there, I whittle and scrape off wood until I get the desired shape and thickness. 

One last thing. It isn't called a spoon if it cannot hold soup. With the same knife, I was able to carve a depression on the widest part of my wooden spoon. The knife is a tanto blade with a serrated back edge and I almost cut myself with it after countless slips. Anyway, I could slurp a bit of soup from this crude spoon and I'm smiling. This all done after 40 minutes, more or less.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer

Thursday, April 15, 2010


IT IS A COLD early Sunday morning of December 20, 2009 and I braved the even colder water offered in my bathroom. I am, at last, free from being a slave with office work and the chance to stretch my leg muscles again is most welcome. My hawk feathers will hang again from my head and they will dance in the breeze.

Well, Ernie Salomon would be with me today and that satisfies my requirement of good company for this important activity in the hills of Napo. I carried a camping stove for this occasion for I aim to cook lunch and spend time with the Roble family. I also prepared a gift of three kilos of rice, a kilo of brown sugar and 250 grams of rock salt for them.

I carried a heavy backpack today but I added three cheeseburgers and 50-peso worth of bread for the Roble kids. Later, I bought and carried another kilo of fine-grounded corn to be cooked at noon, as well as two packs of instant noodles and two sachets of pre-mixed coffee and cream.

First things first, we took breakfast on the road halfway between Guadalupe and Napo after hiking on an empty stomach. The lady there cook a tasty beef broth; the sweat fell from our brows slurping the steaming soup. I decided to buy a piece of beef estofado afterwards to complement our lunch later.

You know what, I added a few kilos of weight during my inactivity of six weeks. Imagine that: SIX WEEKS! It seemed like a year to me. My eating habits have gone uncontrolled, my knees suffered, my physical preparation interrupted and I have to play catch up. Today is my day of vengeance and it is served in cold weather. Although there is a shining sun, but it had been drowned out by a very cold wind.

From Napo, through the snaking trail along the Sapangdaku River, we arrived at the second of three river crossings in just a little over thirty minutes. Unbelievable pace huh? I filled my Nalgene water bottle from a natural spring and drank the excess. We rested for a full twenty minutes discussing the breakaway of Mindanao mountaineering clubs from the MFPI1 and ultimately formed their own umbrella group.

Finally, some clubs have finally reached the limits of their patience and they are a worthy lot. Their cause is a valid one and I embrace them for I carry a voice similar to theirs. Anyway, I have overstayed my resting time and now I paid for that as I gasped for air following Ernie up the trail to Sitio Busan then to the house on the hill occupied by the Roble family.

3-year old Jucel met us and his happiness could not be described as I gave him the burgers and the bread. The rest of my cargo I gave to Fele, his father; while, from a great distance, I saw red-shirted Manwel leading a long line of Boy Scouts up the steep route of Ernie's Trail. They looked like small ants from where I stood.

Manwel, for those who don't know, is the boy that I, Ernie and Boy Toledo nurtured to become a trail guide in all the trails this side of the Babag Mountain Range. We also taught him to love nature and care for his environment. People living here cut trees for a living and process it to commercial charcoal. We are espousing for an alternative though and so, Manwel will make the difference on the lives of other youths here if they follow his path.

Manwel had been earning as a trail guide to many people who are brave enough to climb Mount Babag. Today he is servicing the troops of the Sacred Heart School for Boys. I am happy for Manwel and what he earned is for a good cause – to pay for his and his sister's schooling. Besides that, he help his family earn an extra when local tourists and hikers request young coconuts to quench their thirst. With a big smile, he will climb one for you.

Ernie and I make a good tandem cooking our food. I provide the stove and he the cook set and we have not even discussed this cooking thing. It came out naturally. Call it teamwork. Second guessing. We call it responsible backpacking. There are no politics involved in it and it is molded by experience and long hours on the trails.

After the meal, I drank water from one young coconut. Oh God! It is perfectly sweet. Just imagine if you have this privilege everyday and you will feel like Manny Pacquiao. You know what I'm talking about. What spiced my good day is the sight of one Brahminy kite hovering in circles just across us. It is so beautiful!

The raptor flew higher and it dove at a great speed and suddenly braked in mid-air to perch effortlessly upon a high tree below the summit of Mt. Babag. A nest, perhaps? A nesting sea hawk is a rare sight in these area where activity of humans is always present.

I held my two feathers up and thanked the day for the good fortune it brought upon me, Ernie and the Roble family. In effect, it had provided me a chance to escape the monotony of urban living and, at the same time, bringing goodwill and charity to those who have less in life that gave warmth to their lives and gave meaning to the spirit of Christmas.

Finally, Manwel arrived from his “work”. Earlier before this trip, Boy Toledo, Ernie and I pooled cash as a Christmas gift for Manwel. The boy received the envelope and peeped into it. Was he happy? Yes! We were rewarded with a big smile and he is feeling like he is in heaven. We felt the same too. God bless be on him.

I felt, at this hour, I need to have a siesta. I lay on the long bamboo bench perched above a small fishpond. The rhythm of falling water from a spring hose into the pool lulled me to dreamland. I slept, I estimate, for an hour. I awoke at the sound of Ernie doing conversation with Fele.

Two-thirty PM. We packed our things and say goodbye to the Roble family. I looked at the summit of Mt. Babag and I said to myself, “Not today, my friend. I am too heavy and I ate a lot during lunch. The next week, perhaps.”, and turned around. We reached Napo at 3:15 PM and walked the long road to Guadalupe.

Ernie and I parted ways at seven in the evening after downing three one-liter bottles of Red Horse Beer. I proved today that my stamina have not diminished or, if it had, I quickly recovered that. Today opened me to an opportunity of passing goodwill to people who I chose to embrace as my brothers. We are all brothers and we are children of a One True God.

Merry Christmas Freewalkers!

(Author's note: There were a lot of good images taken on this hike, sadly though, the camera/cell phone from where it is stored got lost in Napo the next week on December 27, 2009.)

1Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, Inc. is the main umbrella group of all the country's mountaineering clubs and outdoor organizations. It is founded in 1979.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I FASTED FOR SIX days during the recent Holy Week starting from March 29 to April 3, 2010. I just took green tea and lukewarm water in my digestive system as a form of self-sacrifice in order that I may find myself acceptable in His Presence. I find solace in Him and we have a very personal relation.  

I remembered three years ago in 2007 I also fasted. That was my first time. I was struggling with my life's many problems and I looked back to that week and it was so bittersweet. There was a certain urgency of my purpose to fast back then. I have been a sinner for a long time as I could remember and I want to take a 180-degree bow of departure from that life.

Below is the chronological record of the events of the week that was where I even featured this in My Opera blog in April 9, 2007:

April 1. Palm Sunday.
Heard Holy Mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Cebu City at 6:00 PM together with wife, VILMA; son, CHEROKEE; and grandson, JAROD. Brought home two palm fronds with palm crosses which were blessed by the priest with holy water.

April 2. Holy Monday.
Fasted today. Went to work. Attended recollection together with wife at the Light of Jesus Community Center in Mabolo, Cebu City at 7:00 PM. Monsignor Kintanar was the recollection speaker and touched on the interpretation of the episcopal letter of Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu, which is to preserve the environment by planting trees.

April 3. Maundy Tuesday.
Fasted today. Went to work.

April 4. Holy Wednesday.
Fasted today. Went to work.

April 5. Holy Thursday.
Fasted today. Went to work.

April 6. Good Friday.
My birthday. Still I fasted. Stayed home. Read religious magazines, books and devotionals. Meditated on today's scripture. Watched religious programs on TV.

April 7. Black Saturday.
Fasted today. Went with my wife to the East Visayan Academy (EVA) in Bulacao, Talisay City at 1:00 PM to attend a Tribute to Parents program hosted by the high school graduating class of that school, of which my son, CHARLEMAGNE, is one.

April 8. Easter Sunday.
Broke my fast. Went to attend commencement exercises at EVA at 8:00 AM, together with my wife; my son, CHEROKEE; daughter, LAILA; who was with husband, CHOKIE; and son, KURT. Finally, a high school diploma for son CHARLEMAGNE. Heard Holy Mass at 7:00 PM with wife at the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino in Cebu City.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I HARDLY RESTED from my trip in Bohol on October 28 and 29, 2009 yet, I am, once again, on the road on October 31 for the other side of the island of Cebu then crossing over a strait of water and into Negros Oriental. This time, I will have Eddie Alberca with me.

I worked late in the office the night before that and arrived home at 1:30 AM, set the alarm at 3:00 AM and stole sleep without much ado. Then the most unwelcome sound woke me up hours later and I grudgingly picked myself up from my bed and my head is like on fire. The temptation to bounce back to bed is almost overwhelming.

I doused myself quickly with a cold shower and rubbed my eyes free of logs before I could change my mind about that inviting bed. Half-awake, I snatched my backpack and made for the door. I hailed a cab, seated myself at the back and, God, here it is again, lady dreamland knocking at my eyelids.

A honk from a big bus behind startled me. The taxi quickly made a right turn inside the Cebu South Bus Terminal and I alighted drowsily after paying. Eddie had arrived before me and had already arranged my entrance fee and bus ticket. Oh, he passed me a steaming styropor cup of coffee. Most welcome. Thanks!

I sat nearest a window inside the bus and counted the seconds before I would probably pass out. Then it's time to leave. Four-thirty. Destination – Liloan, Santander. It's on the southernmost tip of Cebu and a long ways to go. 130-something kilometers, I think? Been there twice or maybe thrice when I was then stationed at Zamboanguita.

The bus is packed full and I noticed some women standing in the middle aisle. No, not today. I'm too tired and I need some sleep. Sorry.

I woke up everytime there is a jolt and it's a real bummer. Caused me headaches, my eyeball sockets screaming in pain. I tried to calm myself to get that elusive sleep. Even doing a breathing exercise but to no avail. Lady dreamland spurned me as the bus passed by Argao.

It was like that and my body shivered and convulsed trying to adapt to the situation. We finally reached the wharf of Liloan at eight and I instantly unloaded the uncomforts inside of a comfort room. Wow, it's a heavenly feeling, you know.

After that, my stomach began to crave for something solid and, what do you know, this eatery on the tip of Cebu cook freshly-caught fish tinuwa (or tinola) and squid served hot. I ordered three servings of steamed fine-grounded corn for me and downed a Cobra E-drink. Now, I'm better. But, not much.

I walked over the jetty and a rocking narrow strip of wood serving as gangplank into an outriggered seacraft. I sat in the middle beside Eddie and the small boat moved forward and crossed the blue Tañon Strait at 8:45 and arrived at the wharf of Sibulan almost an hour later.

Few buses coming from Dumaguete passed by and if it did, it was full. A yellow mini-bus came and we hopped in and then condemned to remain standing in the aisle for the duration of the trip to Bais City over a long stretch of dusty road under construction. Oh, why only now?

For two-and-a-half hours the little bus followed a slow train of big buses, sugarcane cargo trucks and other vehicles. It dragged a bit and stopped again until we were free of one stretch and then another stretch would repeat the process again and again. This unfinished highway almost popped my eye sockets out and it was so tiring!

From Kilometer 1 until I reached Bais, I never enjoyed the scenes this travel offered which is quite uncanny for me. Is it perhaps that I am tired and sleepless? Probably so. My condition was not so alive even as my cell phone camera became silent.

In all my out-of-town trips, the opportunity to see new places is a moment that is well received, its importance is something where memory would cherish later on. But the fire is missing today, baby. Not today. So sorry.

I have been here but once – sometime in 1983 – and it was just a blur. I made it sure that I will have something from Bais to bring home. I have a package to deliver at the PhilHealth office and, once done, I readied my phone camera.

Across the street is a box of a house and my curiosity took me nearer. I thought the big block numbers painted in white above the door is the street number of the house. Upon examination, I found out that it is the year by which it was built: 1790. CASA LARENA. Perfect. Click! Click!

Now I have something to show off to my officemate who goes by the surname Larena. This house may well be his family's ancestral home. Cool Joe Patrick.

It is 15 past noon and I have a schedule to pursue so I forego of lunch for the time being. A break in the trip ahead, perhaps, I could taste food. Silence talks. Eddie understood it very well and followed me. How's that for expressing perfectly the word teamwork?

We found a van-for-hire, half full, and sat inside. This is better. It has aircondition and we don't stand on the aisle. I saw the passing scene better and recovered my enthusiasm. Saw the Central Azucarera de Bais again and it's now almost a ghost town. The white colonial mansions on both sides of the road are devoid of activity. Hey, what happened to the beautiful acacias that splayed their branches over the highway? It's gone. Tsk. Tsk.

It was over in an hour and I've straightened out the kinks in me, at last. At the same wharf in Sibulan, I came, paid the boat tickets and climbed aboard a small fastcraft in the nick of time. I paid for 64 pesos for fare and it's quite cheap. No wonder, people in Santander and Samboan shop at Dumaguete City?

We took a well-deserved lunch upon arriving at Liloan, Santander at around one o'clock payem. Then the engine of the half-empty big Ceres bus came alive and it's time to go home for Cebu. I have all the row to myself and it's quite spacious plus an airconditioner that blow winds from the Arctic. Piped music lulled me to visit lady dreamland again and, this time, she embraced me for a full two hours.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer.