Monday, May 24, 2010


I FIND IT BOTHERSOME walking my hiking shoes on paved roads. The shoes are expensive and the lugs wear out easily. You have to need those lugs to dig deep in the dirt trail to keep your footing stable. As much as possible, you have to preserve the soles and walking on a concrete and asphalt road wouldn't help any.

The road from Guadalupe to Napo, our jump-off point for Mount Babag, is a paved road and every two weekends I walk that stretch of 2.5 kilometers. Amidst this is a rolling terrain of hills, and small valleys which might host a hidden trail all the way to Napo. A trail works well with hiking shoes, you know what I mean.

Anyway, I have been eyeing for a long time a low hill that rise above the road just after you leave Guadalupe. You will see it on the left side. Access to the hill is kind of tricky since many residential houses line the bottom of the hill and I wouldn't dare being caught trespassing. It took me almost a year to finally gather courage to gain access through after a brief consultation with a local two weeks ago.

So on January 10, 2010, right after a hearty breakfast at the back of the church, I decided to put in motion my exploration of a trail waiting to be discovered somewhere there on the ridges of that hill. I will have Nathan Cannen as company to share with me the honor of blazing a new route and at 7:30 AM we started our hike.

We climbed up a flight of concrete stairs in between houses built close to each other until we stepped out into an open field of short green grass, blue skies and a different view of Cebu City. I stopped for a while to gaze on this different horizon and to check on my map and get bearings from my compass. The low hill from where I stood is part of the Guadalupe Hills and it rose 182 meters above sea level, according to the chart.

At that hour, the urban outline look hazy with the sun behind while below on my right is a water-impounding dam under construction probably to check on the floods and mudflows coming from that Monterazzas de Cebu development in Banawa Hills. Beside the dam is a community of informal settlers displaced by those floods and their garbage are thrown indiscriminately up here.

Behind me is a power pylon and the trail pass beside it. The ridge is bald and devoid of trees and shrubs and an hour from now it would be hot if you follow the trail over the back of the ridge. It is still a long way. I looked for an alternative and found one after trying out another. The trail followed the terrain of the hills yet quite hidden from the sun.

Nathan followed after me uncomplaining and made time shooting pictures. We reached another branch of a trail and I decided to reconnoiter ahead and found the main path after checking my compass and map. I returned for Nathan and retrieved my backpack and continued on our journey up the trail and passed by a farm whose earth have just been broken.

Earlier, during my searches for the right route, I discovered a war-era tunnel. Climbing up higher, I found a chimney through the tunnel which somebody bored through as another point of access. Good judgment prevailed over me that I leave this tunnel alone. It might be somebody else's property and not worth a peek.

Anyhow, winded of my scouting work, I followed the trail as it skirted a hidden valley. I passed by a small clearing where star apple trees grow. In between is a big tree that fell months ago whose trunk rose clear three feet above the ground. Below the trunk are traces of an old campfire and some long bamboo sticks and coconut fronds that might have been used as components of a lean-to shelter.

Walking on I came upon a very shady corridor of old trees growing untouched. I looked up and was amazed at their high branches of whose trunks were quite thick. Ancient mangoes shared the ground with an equally ancient tamarind, duhat and star apple trees here. I dunno, but I was tempted to name this place as “Nathan's Garden” in reference to my intrepid partner who got so awed at the place. I thought I saw a couple of bleeding pigeons fluttering away from us.

The trail followed a semi-circle like pattern devoid of any human activity until we reached a small community. Here, we rested and made friends with an old couple and their son-in-law, Dennis. I parted four used textbooks which elated the couple very much and their grandchildren feasted their eyes on the books. I assured them that I aim to come back with more books to their community.

Dennis is a good source of information and we exchanged cell phone numbers. I promised him I will bring local tourists the next time I set foot here and he could earn an income by just preparing green coconuts. Nathan and me stayed here for almost two hours enjoying the breeze until we decided to continue our exploration.

We traversed the main community of Sitio Calumboyan and reached the Baksan Road whereby I followed a part of the route of Freedom Trail taking us to Arcos Hills and down into Lanipao Creek. We waved in and out of the creek until we reached the Sapangdaku River following it upstream and reached Napo at exactly twelve noon!

Reviewing the newly-discovered yet unnamed passage, I noticed that it connected to the main route of Freedom Trail which Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and me completely explored and established on June 7, 2009 which start from Tisa. At a spot called by the locals as “ang puertahan” (vernacular for either the word portal, gate or crossroad), the trail crossed with other routes that cut into the Baksan reforested area, more known as the Buhisan Watershed.

These series of trails are worth exploring to in the future but it would not have been possible if I have not tried this new route today. As the exploration wind out its way I am still at a loss of who or what circumstance to name this trail for. I have many in mind and all of them are good names.

It is in the discoverer though whom he thinks the name of the trail is named after where, in my case, I opted to name it in honor of my good friend and former climbing buddy – Julio Florentino “Bebut” Estillore III. I celebrate life and so I name this route to people who are still living because this trail is a living trail.

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Friday, May 21, 2010



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Saturday, May 15, 2010


TODAY IS THE DAY! Me and Boy Toledo arrived first in the early morning of January 2, 2010 at JY Square in Lahug, Cebu City. Then Nathan Cannen arrived in his Isuzu Crosswind with Ernie Salomon and Myla Ipil on board and last to arrive is Jun Chan – a Citibank junior executive and upstart road runner.

We are here because we are going to climb Mount Mauyog, a mountain which I mentioned in my earlier article on March 2008 as either equal, higher or lesser in altitude with the more prominent Mount Manunggal. I have heard of this peak in the early '90s and, since that time, many have already visited her except me, Boy T and Ernie. Nathan and Myla have been there last year and both will afford us good insights in what to expect there and where to look for the best campsite.

We left JY Square at seven on board Nathan's AUV and stopped for a while at Sto. Niño-PBN Housing for a good breakfast of yellow-fin tuna soup and for pack lunch preparation. Cruising along the Trans-Central Highway we veered right past Kilometer 25 for Tabunan, our jump-off point. Tabunan is nestled deep in a valley and accessible from the highway through a snaky rough road of 2-3 kilometers in length.

To remember, Tabunan is the headquarters of the Cebu Area Command, an organized resistance movement against the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. I always revered this place for it hosted the best guerrilla fighters in the world at that time. Tabunan then was the beacon of freedom against the darkness of oppression that enveloped Cebu.

When we arrived, we were greeted with a low rainbow arch. It was very beautiful and we took several photo shots of it. Nathan parked his Crosswind at the village center of Tabunan, and we crossed the river that divide Cebu City from Balamban. I took the lead and followed the trail for Mt. Manunggal at nine. I carried my ancient, though still dependable, Habagat Venado II with the Coleman tent and my heavy-duty sleeping bag stuffed inside. Aside that, I carried a lot of load and my backpack is quite heavy!

An hour-and-a-half later, we were now at an upland community and quenched our thirst with ripe coconut water and meat. Good thing, the sun shone intermittently and it did not rain. And good thing too, my year-long romance on the trails of Mount Babag have kept me in good stead with the famous lung-busting traditional trail to Manunggal. So were Boy T and Ernie – both in their 50s. I churned out a good pace almost comparable to the ones I made fifteen years ago when I was yet in my prime.

After that well-deserved rest, a farmer volunteered to guide us through another trail without having to pass by the “monkey face” cliff of Mt. Manunggal. The trail traversed around swidden farms, brooks and meadows until we reached Sunog at quarter to twelve. We took lunch in a store nearby a cemented basketball court and wasted our siesta away singing on a coin-operated videoke player. By one in the afternoon, we left the village and tried to evade the farm-to-market road by walking an almost straight line for Mauyog.

We almost succeeded, but halfway through, we changed strategy and followed the road instead to conserve our strength. After the last turn I started the assault on Mt. Mauyog amidst a trail pockmarked by deep hoof imprints and grazing animal shit. The trail, as we went higher, became wilder and narrow until we reached an open and almost flat terrain where a lone guava tree grew. We left our backpacks there and continued on our quest for the pinnacle along an inhospitable trail of thorny shrubs and sharp volcanic rocks.

I now faced a five-foot high step of slippery rock face with few handholds and I solved this by leaving my shoes behind and, once on the other side, lent my hand for others to cross over. We summited at two-thirty and all shared in the ecstasy of viewing the lower valleys from atop. They were on the brain-like pattern of rock platform while I was at a higher level where a wooden cross is erected. I removed the hawk feathers from my head and raised it high and shouted a victory whoop in celebration of this successful climb.

Jun brought with him a cellphone with a GPS feature and took readings of Mt. Mauyog's altitude: 971 meters. After that, we returned and retrieved our backpacks and searched for a good campsite. We passed by three good meadows before settling on the fourth site where it afforded a good view of the Tabunan Valley, the sea and a part of the bridge cities of Mandaue and Lapulapu. At least, grazing activity is lesser here and we ultimately set up four tents.

From the campsite, I looked across an unnamed peak that straddle between us and Manunggal. From my vantage point, it looked as though it is taller than Mauyog. Thick forest abound along the east and south face and on the north is a saddle and a possible camping site and trailhead to the peak. Access to the saddle can be possible from a farm below it. And so it will be my next destination. Another exploration in the making.

Ernie is the designated cook for the fine-grounded corn, in lieu of rice, which he cooked inside two pots over a very efficient Bulin camping stove. Boy T did a lot of clowning around while Jun could not help but mouth out his excitement of our successful ascent of Mauyog to his wife on a very good mobile phone signal. Myla took care of preparing the pork sinigang she promised that she will cook while Nathan did the documenting of the whole campsite activity with his digital camera.

Amidst all that, I collected firewood for my little campfire. I made quick work of the wood, by cutting it with my Mantrack mini machete. I arranged the dry twigs and light branches first. Choosing a dry branch I used the knife to shave tinder and wood chips and kept these dry by placing them inside a plastic bag. Dr. Abe Manlawe would have loved this set-up if he was fit enough to climb with us.

Anyways, we feasted on the pork sinigang and Spanish sardines. It was the most filling camp dinner I have ever had in a long time since Malindang in '94. We refilled our plates several times and I could feel the sweat running down my brow as I slurped the excellent soup inspite of the fog and the cold. Afterwards, we let loose ten rockets of firecrackers into the sky and another set of eighteen spectacular ones. We practically lit up the evening sky over the little village of Sunog.

Boy T, Ernie and me stayed awake a little longer preferring to finish a pocket-sized bottle of brandy mixed with energy drink. When the fog began to swoop down the camp we burrowed into our separate tents and I slept. I awoke at midnight as the temperature dropped to 18-degrees and unrolled my sleeping bag and I felt warm again. Meanwhile, I thought I heard outside the chattering of monkeys. So, it's true then, that monkeys still inhabit this mountain.

In the morning I was the first to walk outside of my tent and saw a glorious sunrise from the horizon. A moment later, the whole campsite became a hub of activity again. Cooking. Eating breakfast. Disposing garbage. Dismantling the tents. Repacking the things inside the backpacks. A short prayer and off we go down another trail that went directly to the road. I led, but soon got overtaken by Boy T, with his pants ripped up from behind by the sharp volcanic rocks of yesterday.

We reached Sunog but we did not tarry long and went directly on a long route to Tabunan. After crossing a river we walked a kilometer-long road into the village square where Nathan's vehicle is parked. It took just an hour for this downhill walk. We chose to drown our thirst with bottles of cold pop soda and took a well-deserved lunch at a local eatery. Then, after that, we went back for Metro Cebu.

It seemed as though that the day is finished for the rest of the party, but not me, Ernie and Boy T. We opted to finish our day in our watering hole in V. Rama Avenue and downed four one-liter bottles of Red Horse Beer! Then the three of us parted ways. I reached home at three and gladly reclined my back on the floor and then it is dream time once more.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010


WALKING, ACCORDING TO my good friend, Dr. Abe Manlawe, is the best exercise. It is most perfect when you walk 6-8 hours everyday. I could do that on weekends only. On the mountain trails of Napo to Mount Babag with a weight on my back. Yes. The sweat, oh, it streamed like a river, especially on a hot day. And I feel good after that. Go, ask Boy Toledo how he felt. You should see him scream with delight.

Seriously, I will walk as long as I am able. I am gifted with a pair of strong legs and would use these in every possible chance. Even walking exposed to the elements like the sun, the wind, rain, dust, even smoke from cars. For that, I am fit and I developed a stamina that my vehicle-driving neighbor have never had dreamed about. The color of my skin is my indicator that I am in the best of health. It is reddish brown; the color of the earth.

The walking allowed me to view the scenes around me in slow easy motion. It allowed me to socialize and greet people with a smile or a nod. I could change my pace – from leisurely to brisk – depending on my schedules or those that walk with me. A flat road surface is ordinary for me and a gravelly and uneven trail suits me fine too. I could walk in any road conditions, in any weather and in any pace short of running. In short, I always burn calories whenever and wherever possible when I walk.

Everyday I walk a kilometer from the highway to my place of work and another kilometer from my office back to the highway; the rest of the distance to and from my home, I commute. When I walk, I am always on the safe side; on the opposite direction where I could see the oncoming traffic. Not even the cool shades on the other side of the street could tempt me to change places. The sweating, I don't mind, as long as I am alive and well.

When I walk, I carry things with either hand. Even with a heavy bag that has shoulder straps. That way, I could also use my arm and hand muscles in tandem with the legs. Convenience is far away from my mind. I would optimize all my movements – my walking – as a form of exercise. This exercise will be of use to me someday. And I am ready for any kinds of emergency – be it calamity or war.

My walking is one of my preparations for war. War will knock anytime at our door and I don't want to be caught in a very bad shape. That would be the ultimate embarrassment. The world today is at peace and we are blessed that pockets of conflict are far away from our doorsteps. We also are so blessed that we still have plenty of that most important natural resource that nations are now fighting for – WATER; a resource that we need in our walking to keep us rehydrated.

I do not know the mileage I have accumulated walking through the years, but I'm pretty sure that mine is well above that of the average human being. For a week, I would average a distance of 20-25 kilometers. More if I am on a backpacking trip of two to three days. Walking on a trail is different in walking on a city street. The latter cannot be applied in the former else you will develop sore muscles and injured toes. There is a whale of a difference in the gait you will use.

It is best, when you walk, that you use both eyes and both ears. Expect always a stray vehicle behind you and be alert. Calculate every moving object as you yourself is moving and change direction and pace often as you would to prevent yourself colliding with another. Walking everyday will develop your motor reflex.

And, lastly, take good care of your feet and use the best-fitting shoes available. It should not be too small and, at least, one size larger. It should be breathable but not compensating the safety of your feet. An able feet will take you anywhere. Enjoy your walking.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010


THE SUN SPIKED HOT today, December 27, 2009. I am with old buddy – Boy Toledo; two people from Kompay Lakaw Mountaineers – Nathan and Myla; and a junior bank executive – John Chan.

It had not rained today and it is a good day to introduce John to trail hiking. We deem it unnecessary to rest along the trail until after we have reached the river crossing where there is a water spring. We arrived at the place at 8:15 AM and rested for a while and moved again at 8:30 AM.

John, a newbie long-distance runner, brought a pack of second-hand toys as well as Boy T; Myla carried used clothings. Me, I brought five discarded textbooks that could still be used by upland children as reference and study aid. Aside from the books, I brought my regular gift of bread to Manwel Roble and his siblings.

We passed by Sitio Busan and parted our gifts to the children. We arrived at the house of Manwel and we unpacked our presents to him and Jucel and Juliet. I learned that the Ewit Mountaineers visited them and gave many presents to them. For that I am very glad. We did not tarry long and decided to visit Ernie's Trail. It is 9:45 AM.

Ernie's Trail, the last time I was here (September 6, 2009), the vegetation was lush and the route could barely be seen. Now, after two weeks of rainless days, the trail could easily be followed but the topsoil is very loose and so slippery. We used all four limbs to negotiate this stretch until we arrived at the ridge. We rested for a while and gave off toys to the little ones living among the huts.

After a long walk from the peak, we set up our cooking stoves nearby a store and do our cooking there. I carried fine-grounded corn grits and cooked this on Boy T's cook set and introduced this Cebuano staple to my kind. Myla, on the other hand, sliced pork, radish, eggplant, iba and other spices and turned this into a mouth-watering pork sinigang.

John fished out a canned mackerel in olive oil which we heated up and this complemented very well our prepared lunch. All took turns in refilling their plates until all had their fill and then Boy T ordered two bottles of San Miguel Beer Grande to help in the digestion. We stayed on until 3:00 PM and then it's time to go.

We backtracked back to Mt. Babag and passed by a lone house where there is a little corn farm and parted more of our gifts to the children. We followed a trail that led to Kahugan. The trail was a sorry site. All the vegetation and madre de cacao trees that grew thick here have been cleared. The soil became loose and dangerously slippery. They didn't even left a single trunk, a limb, a branch, or a root to hold on to. The whole stretch of the trail down to a community before the chapel were cut clear.
People are sometimes so stupid and so lazy. I could understand that this is where they earn their income but why cut trees on the trail itself. They could do that far away above or below the trail. They would burn it into charcoal anyway and charcoal is very light to carry. It was so anti-climactic and so depressing!

I begin to question what sort of barangay officials they were electing here? I saw a week ago, their very own barangay capitan eyeing me suspiciously while caressing his fighting cocks. A very fat guy with big eyebags that gamble well on fighting cocks. I wished he could learn to climb trails and see the rest of his barangay instead of the four corners of a backyard cockpit! That would make him healthy.
We passed by the house of the cousin of Manwel – Paterno – and gave away the last of the toys, clothes and chocolates. The children were very happy. My anger slowly vanished as I hear the giggling of the children. We followed the Kahugan Trail and, ultimately, I released the negative emotions away running downhill until we reached the river crossing.

We arrived at Napo at 4:00 PM but I lost my Nokia 3650 as I changed my wet shirt with dry ones. There go my stored beautiful images for this day's journey and of last week's. I don't mind. It's not mine, but I have to pay for it. Haha. Anyway, we piled inside Nathan's Crosswind parked here and promptly left for Guadalupe and doused my worries with beer courtesy of Boy T.

In the back of my mind, I have to find a way to reclaim Upper Kahugan Trail's allure. I have to organize a tree-planting activity eight months from today and line the bald trail with fruit trees. Any fruit tree except mango. Mangoes need a lot chemicals and these chemicals pollute the soil and into the rivers.

Locals won't cut fruit trees and they will share in the harvest once the trees mature. This tree-planting will be dedicated to the younger generations and it will empower them not to depend anymore from charcoal gathering which use a lot of trees to cut for so little.

I will utilize Manwel's place as a seed bank and let's all go there and bring and share fruit to them where the seeds will be dry-treated and stored in little plastic cups which we will also provide. Any fruit except mangoes. You can even bring marang, mangosteen and durian. Believe me, they will grow anywhere. At an appointed time, let's make a barrio fiesta of Upper Kahugan.
I'm crossing my fingers that this will be realized. Any help will be received gladly. God bless to all!

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