Monday, November 1, 2010


I AM THE FIRST to arrive at the meeting place in Tisa, Cebu City in the very early morning of June 12, 2010. Today is Philippine Independence Day and I aim to refresh my love of country by participating in the 2nd Freedom Climb on one of the two designated campsites in the Babag Mountain Range. Sixty-five summits will be climbed all over the country and around the world where there are Filipino patriots.

The EWIT Mountaineers will be at the vanguard of the most number of participants on a campsite above the former Swiss Chalet restaurant. They will start at noon from Napo in Sapangdaku. Other groups will tackle the route from Kalunasan and converge with the main group. Others still, will walk on the Babag Ridge Road from Upper Busay to this site.

Camp Red, on the other hand, chose to make this event meaningful by starting at Katipunan Street and camp on another designated campsite at Manwel's Peak, a knoll 150 meters away from Mount Babag which is the highest point of Cebu City at 752 meters above sea level. I am with Camp Red – a bushcraft and survival group.

Rounding up the rest of Camp Red is Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and newbie Marco Albeza. Going along with us is the couple Randell and Marjorie Savior and Glenn Tampos - all of Tribu Dumagsa and special guest Wil Davies (aka Jungle Wil) of Jungle Wild Adventure Tours. We will follow the route specially designed for this occasion – the Freedom Trail.

This is the second straight year that this route will be used for this event. Last year Boy T and Ernie successfully led the Cebu Mountaineering Society (CeMS) in the 1st Freedom Climb and camped at Manwel's Peak at a pace of thirteen-and-a-half hours under a showery weather.

Freedom Trail starts from Katipunan in Tisa and climb over Tisa Hills and Banawa Hills then it goes inside the edges of the Buhisan watershed and the Baksan teak forest, then crossing a road into Arcos Hills and goes down into Lanipao Creek where it joins the Sapangdaku River and then Napo. From there, it follows the Sapangdaku up river and climb any of the routes to Babag Ridge.

Our small group left at six in the morning after a quick breakfast. Ernie took the lead while I act as rear guard. We reach the bare Banawa Hills at an early hour and it is a welcome thought. Walking here beyond seven in the morning is torture. We pass by a couple of small huts and all took the opportunity to rest amongst a shade of aratele trees.

I carried for the last time my 80-liter Habagat Venado II. I could feel the backpack creak and grunt as it secured all my necessities for this traverse trek over some of the most gruelling trails in Cebu City. It is heavy but I can manage very well the climbing. I worry about how my knees will fare during a long downhill stretch.

Bushcraft is about observation and adapting and more on skills while mountaineering is more about mileage and altitude. I can do both. Showed Jungle Wil an improvised bat catcher made of bamboo frame and thorns called kaguingking. He thought it at first as a TV antenna. It sure looks like one from a distance until you go closer.

We walk along the edges of the watershed and took a short respite in Puertahan Uno. We did another short rest in Puertahan Dos after an hour of walking, Boy T lay on the ground exhausted while I decide to sit down for the first time. An hour-and-a-half to go and we will have lunch.

We climb Starbucks Point and make coffee in a shady clump of big tamarind trees. A flat rock served as table and we eat whatever snacks we brought. Marco shared his sticky rice (puto maya) and I consumed one and it made his pack lighter. For the first time, we felt the coolness of the breeze here and it is generously given by nature.

Refreshed, it is time to move once again and cross the Baksan-Pamutan road into a saddle between Mount Lanipao and Arcos Hills. We followed the route downhill into Lanipao Creek and arrived at our designated lunch area at exactly twelve noon beside a water hole in Sapangdaku River.

Instantly, Boy T retrieved his fresh seaweeds from his pack and prepared it while Ernie cooked pork sinigang and sauteed dried fish in tomato sauce. Marco and I tended the cooking of the milled corn in three small pots while Jungle Wil did the entertaining stuff. All the while Randell, Marjorie and Glenn watched the flurry of activity by our tight group.

After 45 minutes, it is time for lunch. The guests retrieved their packed lunch and shared it with the rest of the party. Tribu Dumagsa couldn't believe that we do cooking on the trail as they were used to carrying a prepared meal and eat it cold on the trail. Camp Red ensures everyone that all are comfortable as possible by eating food just off the fire.

We left at 1:30 PM for Napo and cross the Sapangdaku into a route that follow the snaking river uptrail. Going along with us are five rifle-carrying men. They are going to Kahugan to hunt birds, reptiles and small mammals and they wear long pair of blue jeans and heavy jackets. I envy them but I prefer to catch my prey with deadfall traps and snares.

We arrived at the foot of the Kahugan Trail at 2:15 PM and we overtook the first contingent of the EWIT Mountaineers led by Ariel Montuerto. I refilled my bottle from a natural spring and another party from EWIT arrived with Eric Rio at the forefront. Then came another led by Paulo Tallo. They are all friends and these young people are so dedicated with their hobby, the environment and the impoverished children of the mountains. They are kindred spirit and they are special.

We leave the now populated place and start the climb for the Roble homestead where, I know, they are preparing green coconuts for this special activity. The Robles lived in between Napo and Mt. Babag and it is a natural resting area for rehydration. We arrived at 3:30 PM and sat on the bamboo benches. Fele Roble have added two more long benches to accommodate more people but, it seems, many will come.

Ching Altar came here in the morning with her office mates and her American boss who have been trying without success to meet me in person after visiting and reading my personal blog. Unfortunately, they move too fast for our party and I missed the opportunity to meet him but they leave a couple of unused coconut meat which I consumed. He, he, freebies!

A little while, Eric's group came and then Ariel's. Fifteen minutes later, Paulo arrived and, I estimate, there were 33 people here including our own. Then more people arrived and we have to leave at 4:30 PM to give room and negotiate the Babag East Ridge Pass while Ariel did the same taking his group into the difficult Ernie's Trail.

I keep an eye on Glenn and Randell on this last stretch as both have been suffering from cramps every now and then. I know how to remedy this by applying pressure on the lower joints and then a massage to keep the blood flowing. Finally, we are over the ridge and walk a couple of hundred meters to our campsite. At 15 before six in the evening I closed the gap and pitched my tent.

In the half-light of dusk, I failed to stop my balled sleeping bag into rolling down the slope at a fast roll going in the direction of a deep ravine. I run after it and, at that time, I run like Usain Bolt but could not keep up with the pace. What is a sleeping bag anyway? At the last moment before it could teether into the ravine a low branch stopped it just enough for me to retrieve it at the last minute. Lucky me!

Exhausted, I lay inside my tent and drowsed awhile until Manwel Roble nudged me. Oh, supper. I must have slept for an hour, I guess. I smiled at Manwel and I went out to eat the meal left for me. Wow! Chopped cabbage in soup and canned tuna. I eat voraciously and consumed all, including sliced bread. Now, where did they get those? Ernie passed me a cup of cold liquid. Beer? Yes!

They must have drunk four-and-a-half big bottles of San Miguel Grande while I was asleep. A green beer case have only one full bottle left and another half-full bottle held by Ernie. The rest were empty. This is Boy T's idea of celebration, I guess. We talked under a starlit sky gazing at the bright metropolis below. After the beer, a tequila bottled appeared courtesy of Tribu Dumagsa.

Jungle Wil told me a tale while he was in a Mexican cantina. An old Mexican said to him that a glass of tequila will wash away dust, a second glass will make you drunk while a third one will make you crazy with sex. We all laughed at this thought and I evaded that third glass. I asked him if the Mexican have any idea about the fourth glass of tequila? Jungle Wil just grinned and I downed the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th glass that came my way.

While we were conversing gleefully, many more parties arrived in the dark going to the direction of the main camp occupied by the EWIT Mountaineers. I counted twenty headlights bobbing on the road. Meandro Abao of EWIT came forward our camp to see if we are alright. He is with Jon Consunji and Vince Delicano of CeMS and they started their hike at five in the afternoon. They will all camp at the main campsite and skip our place.

Many more came and it is already almost ten. Groups like ZETS, YAMOG, YAPAK, BAGTAK came for this event, not to mention other groups whose names escape my memory and the freelancers. I would not be surprised if the participants would swell to over a hundred climbing patriots. As fog began to envelop our small camp, we burrow into our tents and observe taps.

In the morning the big campsite across us are full of tents and they were like a rainbow failing to take off the ground. We cooked breakfast with more of this cabbage soup, noodles and canned tuna with our favorite staple – milled corn. After the meal we broke camp.

I carried a Philippine flag and lashed it at a 3-foot long slender bamboo tube and will be our flag pole. I pierced the earth with Glenn's wooden staff and slid the bamboo pole around it making our flagpole higher. The flag danced in the breeze. I lead the singing of the national anthem – Lupang Hinirang, then the oath of allegiance – Panatang Makabayan. Ariel and Meandro came to represent EWIT and joined in the simple ceremony.

Time to leave the campsite and we go down to where we came from yesterday. Boy T and Jungle Wil opt to stay in Papa Joe's store by the roadside. We leave at nine and arrived in the Roble homestead at 9:45 AM. We took a long rest while waiting for Boy T and Jungle Wil. They arrived thirty minutes later red behind the ears!

We would have moved downhill but Manwel's mother, Antonia, insisted that we stay for a while. She prepared and cooked two free-rein chicken for us. She is celebrating her natal day today. Wow! What a treat! The soup is so delicious, the meat so juicy. Milled corn and rice came with the viand but I chose the part of the milled corn where it kissed the pot's bottom. It goes best with native chicken soup!

After a short rest we bade goodbye to the Roble family. Just a little more downhill and we would be on the river bed. At least it will come close to being flat and it will be kind to my knees. The weight carried by the Venado on my back is multiplied several times with each step taken down ward and it hurt both my knees. Then that should be it. I will hang the Venado for good after this. The last hurrah!

We reached Napo at around two in the afternoon. We let the guests hop on the motorcycles-for-hire first before us. We rendezvoused at Guadalupe and Tribu Dumagsa parted company with us while Jungle Wil took a taxi for his flat. I opted to go home early and rode a public jitney twice. As I arrived home I made it sure that I send a message of thanks to Manwel's mother for her wonderful meal.


MEANDRO ABAO notified me a week later that there were One Hundred Ten (110) people who participated in the 2nd Freedom Climb in the Babag Mountain Range and I'm sure the organizers – Filipino Mountaineers, Inc. - welcomed this news with such enthusiasm and vigor. I believe a new annal in Philippine mountaineering have arrived.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer


MyCebuChronicles said...

I wonder if you have information about upcoming organized climbs in some major mountains here in Cebu province.

PinoyApache said...

Thank you for visiting. This is the hub for all outdoors activity in Cebu - - maintained by the Bytebandit.

For extreme outdoors like bushcraft and survival you may surf my blogsite.

-The Trailhawk

Egidius Heerkens said...

Excellent. I really enjoyed reading about your outdoor adventures! Happy blogging!

Best regards


cheap bohol hotels said...

nice, nice! would you consider doing the same for bohol?

anyway, ang ganda nung tshirt nyo. :)

keep climbing!