Thursday, July 22, 2010

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XXX: Manwel's Graduation Day

I GAVE A PROMISE to Manwel Roble, my young friend and future trail guide, that I would visit him on the occasion of his graduation from elementary where he invited me earlier to celebrate with his family. It had been a long time since I have last seen Manwel and his siblings Jucel and Juliet and it was on December 27, 2009.

We have been obsessed since January of a discovery of a new route from Guadalupe to Napo wherein we were afforded of a good trail that will not trudge on a hard surface of the concrete road to Napo. Given that, we tried to link this route to that of the trail passing by the Roble homestead going to Mount Babag. It wasn't easy. By the time we reached Napo we were already spent.

We tried hastening our pace one time but we turned back and spent a very late lunch in Sapangdaku River instead where there is a natural spring. At another time, in my solo sortie on February 28, 2010, I was able to reach the Roble homestead and delivered mangosteen and lanzones fruits but the children weren't there and I backtracked, too tired to go on to Mt. Babag.

So on this special moment – today, March 31, 2010 – I took a half-day from work since it was a weekday and go out to the hills again. I will have a perfect company in the person of old buddy, Ernie Salomon, and we met at the back of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish at 1:00 PM.

I bought two kilos of well-milled corn and 50-peso worth of bread for Manwel, Juliet and Jucel. It should be hot at this hour just after lunch and I feel the heat bouncing off the asphalt pavement. We decided instead to ride motorcycles-for-hire for Napo to save our shoes and our feet from walking on a hot surface.

Reaching Napo, we immediately set out to crossing the now-dry Sapangdaku River and into the Napo Main Trail going into the second river crossing. We reached it in 27 minutes, the fastest time we have done so far. As we took rest, I refilled my drinking bottle with the natural spring that still gush water even when this has been one of the hottest summer.

After this, we set to climbing the ascending route towards the house of the Robles with its mango-tree lined trail giving us shade from the glare of the high afternoon sun. We reached the Roble homestead after a little more than thirty minutes of climbing and it is 3:00 PM. This will still be our playground even when we have added a new interest in bushcraft and survival.

Both me and Ernie enjoyed our well-deserved rest on the bamboo benches and I happily parted away the milled corn to Manwel's mother who immediately arranged the firewood in her wok. Jucel claimed his deserved place with us and began to badger me with several probing questions until I could not handle it anymore and surrendered away the bread to him.

Fele, their father, slew a rooster for the occasion while me and Ernie decided to boil water for coffee. A hot coffee always give you that added pep to keep you awake and enjoy this moment with joyous vivacity. Manwel, meanwhile, is all smiles as he hurdled the last of the barriers in his elementary studies with his graduation. He is floating like he is in heaven right now.

From my backpack, I produced a long bottle of local brandy and two bottles of a popular soda energy drink and mixed these in a pitcher. It is a perfect match, smooth and non-volatile even without ice and magnify conversations into a lively and animated affair. I love this drink and the brandy glass moved like a tennis ball bouncing back and forth between me and Ernie.

An hour later, the meal is served. Free-rein rooster is best cooked in soup with horse radish and green papaya and it is steaming as it is laid down in a small table. There is also the chicken adobo to contend with plus the steamed well-milled corn. There was silence as everyone helped to himself until we stuff ourselves full.

Afterward, we resumed and finished the brandy to help digest the food we ate. It is already late afternoon and the sun made long shadows among the hills and valleys. Before we left, I parted away a cash gift for Manwel courtesy of Camp Red and we made this day memorable for him.

We left at six in the evening towards the lower valley and we didn't use flashlights. Even when there is no moon rising, the trail we followed are very clear in the dark. We didn't hurry but we walked cautiously and raised our feet higher so we would not trip onto something. Just the same, we reach Napo an hour later.

From Napo, we walked down into Guadalupe on the concrete road until we reached the back of the church at 15 past seven and, from the church, we went straight into our favorite watering hole where we were joined by Boy Toledo. After finishing four 1-liter bottles of Red Horse Extra-Strong Beer we decided to call it a day.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer

Thursday, July 15, 2010


MY MOM CALLED me up early in the morning of June 29, 2010 inviting me to attend and witness the swearing in to office of Vice Governor Greg Sanchez in Mariner's Court. I took the invitation as an opportunity to visit the said seamen's hub, located in the heart of the Associated Labor Union (ALU) compound near Pier 1 of the Port of Cebu.

Although I only saw a fleeting glimpse of the said building in my previous visits to Pier 1, I really didn't have that satisfaction associated with observing an object that close with both feet planted on the ground. Today I'm gonna have that chance and more.

I arrived at 2:30 PM and the design of the structure is already a magnet to lure anybody's attention. It is an imposing and colorful facade that is unique, in the sense, that it has, in its upper left portion, the shape of a ship's prow abetted by lines and curves imitating the waves of the ocean. Pastel blue, light blue, red and white dominate the whole concept of the center.

In the ground level are offices of various ship manning agencies and I helped myself to get inside in one of two wide-swinging glass doors and my eyes caught the large 2-dimensional mural on the right of the high-ceilinged reception area. Several lounge seats are conveniently placed on the right side where a large painting is hanging giving the impression that you are near the sea which, after all, it is.

It is seven storeys high with a roof deck and you could access each level by just being inside in one of two service elevators or you could just use the main stairway provided you are fit enough to carry your person up and down. Glass panels along the route of the elevators provide you with the view of the busy Mactan Channel as well as the waterfront area below you.

The fourth level is converted into a transient house for seamen and visitors while the fifth floor is home of the DYLA AM-FM Radio Station. Access to the roof deck should be coordinated first with the staff of Mariner's Court at their information desk in ground level but, unfortunately, the deck is closed temporarily pending some minor renovation to design.

In the third floor is located the function rooms where, in today's event, the folding dividers were pushed back to give way into a much bigger room space good enough to accommodate 70 to 80 round tables or about 700 people, most of whom are wearing yellow right now. My sister, Aileen Mae, and my nephew, Jon, is manning the visitor's reception table for this occasion.

My mother, Marietta, and my aunt, Evangeline, arrived at 3:00 PM followed by the vice governor, newly-elected officials of the cities and municipalities of the Province of Cebu. The dress code for this day is not yellow but Filipiniana. I took a vacant table with my lovely niece, Via, and, later, cousin Jay arrived with his four neighbors from La Guardia.

A Holy Mass was concelebrated by the chaplain of the Mariner's Center and the cousin-priest of the dear vice governor. After this, was the swearing of the oath of office of VGov. Sanchez before Hon. Meinrado Paredes, 7th Judicial Region Executive Judge. Judge Paredes is an old friend of mine and a fellow mountaineer. VGov. Sanchez then swore to office all the newly-elected ones.

Basically, this is a victory celebration of the local chapter of the Liberal Party. Losing LP gubernatorial standard bearer, Atty. Hilario Davide III, came in. Then ex-Cebu City mayor and now-Congressman Tomas Osmeña arrived with his city councilors to boost the numbers of invited guests. I saw online friend Ka Bino Guerrero observing and mentally taking notes of the whole proceedings.

What am I, a silent supporter of Gibo Teodoro, doing here? Well, I came here, first of all, because my mom invited me, who also voted for Gibo of Lakas-Kampi. Second, to partake of the opportunity to take on the feast afforded by limitless food and table wine offered during supper and, third, well, to enjoy the ambiance of the Mariner's Court.

The Mariner's Court is the result of the aspirations of the local seafarer's union to have a center that will cater to their needs. That dream had been realized in cooperation with the All Japan Seamen's Union (JSU) and the Philippine Seafarer's Union (PSU). As a former mariner, I feel proud that Cebu has one and it is a privilege for me to walk upon its halls.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer

Thursday, July 8, 2010


FOLLOWING UP ON my February 28, 2010 complete exploration of the last stretch of Bebut's Trail, a route which start from the back of the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish that I discovered on January 10, I brought Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and Glen Domingo on May 21 to assess for themselves the condition of the route.

Glen D brought with him his coffee maker and we brewed coffee in a small upland community where we rested. It was black coffee and no sugar. Nevertheless, it pepped up the small party to tackle this route with more enthusiasm even under the extremely-hot summer morning.

We climbed an unnamed peak that gets in our way and Glen D suggested that it be named Starbucks Point, purely by accident and not through an unsolicited endorsement of a product. The rest of the story is told in ten collage of images:

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer
JPEG converted images by MS Powerpoint 2002

Thursday, July 1, 2010


IT HAS BEEN THIRTY-five years since I played my first basketball game. It was just a pick-up game of three a side. A one goal affair. Then and there, I sprained my middle finger. I was a fourth grader. Nine years later, I played my first collegiate varsity game.

I suited up for the “new” Cebu State College of Science and Technology (CSCST) Builders in 1983 in the now-defunct Cebu Amateur Athletic Association (CAAA)1. Previously, this team was known as the Cebu School of Arts and Trades (CSAT) Builders and it languished always at the cellar. A favorite whipping boy!

The CAAA basketball league consisted of Cebu's cream of colleges and universities like the University of Visayas (UV) Green Lancers, the Cebu Central College (CCC) Executives2, the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) Jaguars, the Cebu Institute of Technology (CIT) Wildcats, the University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors, the University of Southern Philippines (USP) Black Panthers and the Cebu Technical School (CTS) Scanners.

In that year, the Green Lancers were the powerhouse. Their lineup then could beat any collegiate team in the country. They have with them burly centers Anthony Mendoza and Christopher Amomonpon; guards Alfonso Solis, Boy Cabahug and former USC Warriors ace Jerry Aratan; forwards Godo Gonzaga, Stevenson Dajalos and Andrew Najarro. Their third five could beat our team handily even with eyes closed.

The Executives came next with names like Edmund Navales, George Bonsubre, Boyet Cortes and their peppery two-some of Lito Amaya and Opel Abellana. The Jaguars parade high-flying Jojo Lastimosa, Dondon Ampalayo and Zaldy Realubit. The Black Panthers have man-mountain Sinforoso Tamayo and guard Eddie Fuentes.

The Scanners hoped on sweet-shooting Ruel Gomez to tow their team. The Wildcats were a veteran and resilient lot and the Warriors were well-coached. Some of these names, eventually, would proudly play for the national team and in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) – Asia's first play-for-pay league.

Against those, only point guard Benjie Alcantara, old carry-over Rey Paclipan and me carry the cudgels for the Builders. The rest of the team were raw recruits coming from the intramural league. I am a natural swing man. I can play in the 2-3-4-5 positions and, since our team is short on ceiling, I was assigned the job of starting center. An undersized center. A ceremonial jump ball guy.

I could carry the ball on the floor well with either hand uncanny for guys my size and pop up respectable left-handed jumpers from all angles. Reverse lay-ups and twist-ball shots from underneath are part of my forte but I'm murderous during transition offense. I wore a number 5 in my jersey in honor of my idol – Ernesto Estrada – a former Green Lancer and a high-scoring pro who played with Royal Tru-Orange3 and the Toyota Tamaraws in the PBA.

My first game with the Builders was against the imposing CCC Executives on July 17, 1983 in front of a sparse crowd at the USC Gym in Sanciangko and Junquera streets. They scored the first six shots before we hit ours. At the five-minute mark, coach Jake Rojas of the Executives sued for time-out. When we came back we faced a different kind of team. They were all over the court double-teaming, triple-teaming, pressing and harassing us. It was difficult to maneuver around with all these yellow-shirted guys coming at you. It was an open full-court press!

Our coach, Manuel Cuenca, kept shuffling his players as fast as he could type letters in a typewriter to keep up with the pace that the Executives imposed upon us. They were better conditioned physically than us. A rest was a very welcome opportunity. The score: CCC – 28, CSCST – 7. Re-invigorated by the quick respite, my thoughts were now clear and I now have an idea how to break free from their stifling defense.

Once you dribble the ball they are on you quick and, before you know it, they have the ball with them and they score. Now, you catch the ball and make a quick pass to an open man and they changed directions quickly. It won't tire you out that way just making quick passes before they press on you but it would tire them out changing directions all the time. Soon enough, I was making long jumpers. The score: CCC -31, CSCST – 16. Coach Rojas sued for another time-out.

They changed to a half-court press and concentrated their focus on Benjie and me. I ran around trying to find picks to lose my shadow but they blocked every avenue I took. I couldn't take jumpers! Tired, I decided to stay at the baselines. Suddenly, I could pluck offensive rebounds from the vacuum they created up front and score from there with unorthodox twist shots and, by that time, CCC were already ahead by a mile when the halftime buzzer sounded: 60-31.

There's nothing we could do against a physically-superior team but play our best and keep the margin as close as possible. In the second half, the amount of pressure that the Executives imposed on us were now beginning to thaw. All the time, the Executives dominated the transition offense in the first half with none coming from us. This time, we ran some fastbreaks and scored. I scored twice in this stretch happy to break loose and found my rhythm.

In the end, the margin was too much to overcome and our opponents were too skillful and too deep for us and we have to bow to them: CCC – 118, CSCST - 74. Yes, a 44-point margin. That is a lot. But we scored more in the second half than we scored in the first half and they scored less than what they scored in that same stretch. It could have been less, or more, if the three-point shot have been adopted by the league.

In my next game, we were up against the UV Green Lancers. We faced a team whose line-up is the envy of commercial and professional teams. Their players have already created a name for themselves nationwide. It was on August 21, 1983 – yes, the day Ninoy Aquino was shot – that I got to rub elbows and knees with them. We all got intimidated against them and the large crowd and it took the spirit out of us.

We could not do anything right against their defense. I scrounged for shots and I missed a lot even from close range. I piled most of my points on free throws. Our defense melted like wax and they ran both ends of the court scoring and denying us any opportunities even at the final stage. We lost by a gargantuan margin: UV – 150, CSCST – 62.

After that embarrassing loss, Benjie and I blamed my teammates for not giving out their all-out effort and played onto the crowds' taunting and hexing. That might have challenged them to gift our coach and our school with a win in our third outing against the CTS Scanners on August 28, 1983: CSCST – 86, CTS – 84. In that game, I traded blows with Ruel Gomez and we both were ejected and my teammates rallied to deliver that win.

I was served a one-game suspension in our next outing against the USJ-R Jaguars where we lost by another big margin. Against the USC Warriors we were soundly beaten by an 18-point margin and against the USP Panthers, we lost by fifteen. In that game, I tried my first trademarked pirouette shot in the middle against a taller Simpoy Tamayo and scored, silencing the crowd. The same shot I perfected later to offset my disadvantage in size in the paint.

In our final game against the CIT Wildcats on October 2, 1983 we were facing a veteran team composed of strong bangers Boboy Hernan and Lito Espinosa. Their defense was tight and their long years playing together gave them a comfortable margin at the half: CIT – 68, CSCST – 42. In the second half, things began to change a little in our favor. My teammates began to play good defense and we were able to answer their fastbreaks with our own transition plays netting the final score: CIT – 110, CSCST – 101.

In that 1983 CAAA Season we finally brought a win as against six losses and we did not linger at the cellar this time. That infamy belonged to another team. The UV Green Lancers won the CAAA championship in that year against the CCC Executives. Enecio Completo coached the Green Lancers and waved his magic again by winning the National School Basketball Championships in Iriga City, Camarines Sur against a team from Metro Manila on February 1984.

In the next six years I helped the CSCST Builders in snaring a win, sometimes two, in the tough CAAA league, thus, giving a little morale and sense of pride to our school. Mario Chuntic coached the team in 1984 and 1986. Cuenca again in 1987 and 1988 and Rey de los Reyes in 1989. CSCST did not participate in 1985. In 1986 and 1987 I took a long leave.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
1Now known as the Cebu Scholastic Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI).
2Now known as the University of Cebu (UC) Webmasters. It used to be called also as the CCC Marines, then later as the UC Aguilas.
3Now known as the San Miguel Beermen.