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.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

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