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.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer

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