Tuesday, June 8, 2010


A WEEK AFTER my exploration of an unnamed trail on January 10, 2010, I invited Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon to assess for themselves this newly-discovered route. Nathan Cannen, who went with me on that day as my official photographer, invited Myla Ipil. The trio are eager to try the trail and my flu is not a hindrance to deny them this privilege.

As always, we start from the back of the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish and it is a Sunday, January 24, 2010. After breakfast, we abruptly broke away from the asphalt road in Sandayong and climbed, I counted, 132 steps of concrete and rock hewn-out of a hillside.

It's gonna be a hot day today, but away to the eastern horizon, there's a promise of rain. Black rain clouds bulged itself away from the stranglehold off Mactan Island and released water gaining acceleration as cold air pushed away warm air. Rain came running and getting louder as it came nearer. I could do nothing but steel myself against the slap of the cold wind and water upon my ailing body...

I screamed on the top of a ridge knowing that my voice would not be heard by my closest trailer who struggled a hundred meters below me. The rain drenched us all atop the back ridges of the bald Guadalupe Hills. I have, long ago, prepared my body from sudden changes of clime even when I am sick and I shrugged the discomforts away as if I am a rock.

I led them down a very vegetated side trail that skipped going over the top of the bare hill then up again passing by a small farm. Few trees still linger here like a trio of tipolo trees, a duhat tree, a jackfruit tree and a hardwood tree called tugas, this despite the field clearing by absent inhabitants using the slash-and-burn method.

As we went deeper into the trail, the route were now lined with vegetation again. I passed by several fruitless coconut trees and, here and there, were wild papayas, several varieties of Philippine hardwood, duhat trees, star apple trees, tipolo and breadfruit trees and a cineguelas tree.

Slowly, I brought them to a flat clearing where there were star apple trees and a long ago fallen tree in the middle that makes a perfect prop for a lean-to shelter. Three blackened stones told me that it had hosted a cooking fire recently. As I gawk above at the branches of the star apple trees, they were in the prime of their fruiting season. The fruits, ripe and violet, are ready for the picking unless you have a very long arm.

Without a long stick, I opted to throw a very short but stout rod at the nearest branch and managed to bring down to earth three round bounties. Myla picked the first honor of choosing the biggest fruit while Boy T picked the second and Nathan shared the third fruit to me. Man...it is SWEET! Poor Ernie, Boy T gave him the fruit peelings as his share eliciting a laugh from everyone.

At a hundred yards, we came to an area where ancient mango, star apple and tamarind trees grow. Their trunks where huge and their branches were higher than everyone of their kind. This is a place of great shade and peace as if you are in a garden and this is the place I called “Nathan's Garden”. Saw two Philippine pigeons flying away as we approached the place.

Catching the hint that the place is populated by ancient trees, Boy T became an instant historian and shared his knowledge about the source of the local word “mampor”, which is actually a street slang used to define a thing, a dress style or a person as ancient or old. According to him, a sage told him many years ago that the “mampor” word derived from the name of a very famous and sagacious sailor in the 19th century that endeared well to the local population, Captain Vincent Monfort.

So much for that, we arrived at a small remote community and rested for a while and boiled water for coffee. We stayed maybe for almost an hour before proceeding again and crossed the Baksan-Pamutan Road into Lanipao where there is a saddle that host a trail into Arcos Hills and down into Napo.

Along the ridges of Arcos Hills are, to our dismay, a neglected turf home to rampant cutting of trees and shrubs aided, here and there, by man-made bushfire. Teak, gmelina and even fruit trees are blatantly cut into small pieces and then buried under a thin layer of dirt and converted into commercial charcoal by a slow-burning flame. The ridge is marked by blackened earth and unearthed fire holes ringed by charcoal dust.

It is hot and we found consolation on the few trees left offering shade. I just hope these lovely tamarind trees that were planted by the older generations to mark the routes are left alone. The trail lead down into lower hills until it brought us down into Lanipao Creek that streamed down to join the bigger Sapangdaku River. The Lanipao is now empty and the width of the Sapangdaku is beginning to shrink as rains are now few.

We followed the Sapangdaku amidst the leaping and crossing and arrived in Napo at thirty past twelve. During our early days when we climbed down from Mount Babag we always travel down to Guadalupe from Napo on foot. At those times, the asphalt-and-concrete road wouldn't be so hot anymore to your feet in late afternoons. But, today, exhausted by the five-hour hike, walking in the middle of noon on the hard surface is suicide.

We arrived at Guadalupe in faster time thanks to the crazy-running motorcycles-for-hire and decide to cool down in our favorite hang-out nearby Fatima Village along V. Rama Avenue. Over the fifth bottle of these one-liter Red Horse Extra Strong Beer, Ernie casually gave name to the place as Camp Red. Boy T found it perfect while I questioned the significance of the name.

Anyhow, the insistent duo propelled me to promise them in creating a group account for Camp Red in Facebook with our own set of philosophy and vision. The duo even have the gall to have me design a logo for Camp Red according to their specs. However, I told them pointblank that Camp Red should not be just a place but a hub for outdoor activities like bushcraft and survival.

I explained to them the idea of bushcraft and survival and the significance of being the first organized group to practice this craft, not only in Cebu, but, probably in the whole country if you set aside the Jungle Environment Training School or JETS in Subic, which is a survival school. The duo were intrigued and I captured their attention and the drinking session stretched for a couple of hours.

Whatever the result of this special request plus my vision of a working group concentrated for bushcraft and survival, I just hope that these two have the same industry to surf the 'net to appreciate my work and become my first students for bushcraft and survival.

It was a good work-out and I feel privileged and fortunate to be a leading catalyst in organizing a bushcraft and survival group here in Cebu.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer

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