Sunday, December 19, 2010


JOHNSON LUYM ARRIVE with his Ford Ranger at eight in the morning in Mango Square and both me and Ernie Salomon immediately get inside together with our backpacks. It's a long way to Tabunan and we have to pick up Wil Davies and Ricky Sevilla. Today is Sunday, July 25, 2010.

We pass by JY Square in going to Banilad and we pick up Ricky first before meeting up with Wil. The truck is wide and it accommodated all of us as Johnson steered the wheel up up away to the Trans-central Highway. We took a right turn by the the time we got past Kilometer 26 and down into a snaky dirt road.

Tabunan, settling in the bosom of Tabunan River Valley, is the jump-off point when crossing into Mount Manunggal and into a part of Balamban town itself. This place once hosted the scourge of the Japanese during World War II and I revere this place very much. A book by Col. Manuel F. Segura - Tabunan: The Untold Story of the Cebu Guerrillas - is written after the exploits of our local resistance fighters in Tabunan.

Ricky led our party crossing and re-crossing the swirling Tabunan River four times until for about a half-kilometer then we climb up a jumble of huge boulders that is a natural watercourse judging by the smooth and slippery surfaces. The weather is mild today with clear skies and I took the rear with a Kodak camera ready.

We climb over a low ridge and under huge overhanging rocks, a trail full of thick foliage, covered in every sense of the word. This is the first time that I pass by this trail going to Manunggal and I have the opportunity to take pictures, take note of the prominent features and identify vegetation and trees merely because I am not leading this climb. I have all the space and pace to myself.

This beautiful route is called Kapiyo-an Trail. I pass by a huge rock face where a hanging juvenile snake is poised to strike after being disturbed by the ones before Wil and me and I took a perfect shot of the reptile from a comfortable distance and give it a wide berth as I go on my way. I am glad that Wil has a natural eye for these things to watch on.

After an hour of steady climbing, we reach a house where there is a shady clearing. I think I just saw the largest stag horn plant here hanging from a slender madre de cacao tree. The place is a welcome point to get away from the heat and to replenish our exertion with its own supply of cool water from a natural spring.

Moving from there we came upon another house with a shady clearing after thirty minutes of uphill walking. The owner of the place is a local blacksmith and he make bolos, knives, scythes, spike axes, hoes and other items made from steel. He has an improvised hand-turned blower to supply air to his furnace and a home-made anvil where all his creations are hammered into shape.

Aside that, the place also has an ancient round-stone mill that ground corn to small bits. Ricky, Wil and Johnson tried the stone wheel with a long wooden lever hung from the ceiling. The stones are heavy and it is colored rose pink. The upper stone turned when the lever is pushed and pulled in a circle-like pattern and it doesn't need a lubricant.

After that interesting interlude that elicit Wil's interest, we are now on the last stretch of the trail to the main camping area of Mt. Manunggal. We arrive there forty minutes later and take a rest at one squat house owned by Noy Polding and his family. The area is very quiet, the grass growing thick hiding whatever scar that last March's activities1 may have left.

The white-painted President Ramon Magsaysay monument have blended reassuringly well with the green landscape. It mellowed down the harsh memories that it had kept for a half century after a plane crash upon this meadow where the whole country mourned the loss of the most well-loved leader of all time and eighteen of his aides and staff, to include some prominent journalists.

Yes, Pres. Magsaysay is very well-loved by his countrymen where, on every March 17 of each year, people climb here and visit his monument to pay homage to his deeds and commemorate his death with tree-planting activities and other events. I have done that many years ago when few people came but, as many revelers increased, I decided not to be a part of it. Sometimes, you have to observe outdoor ethics.

We stayed here for a long while heating our canned food for our lunch. Noy Polding gladly accommodated all of us into his house so we could all sit comfortably eating our meal and offering to cook the rice for us. Thank you very much, sir! May your tribe increase!

After the meal, Wil was asking for the kind of cordage used as a trump line for a carry-basket. Noy Polding's wife sourced this from a nearby grove of abaca plants and started to clean the dry fibers with a knife. Then their daughter started to twill the hemp with the use of a primitive twilling device which give us an inkling of the mechanics of this simple machine.

We toured Johnson and Wil to the monument, the helipad area and to the kiosk where the engine block of Magsaysay's plane is preserved. All around, the seven steel environmental-signage that were erected during my term as club president of the Cebu Mountaineering Society still stand and Wil appreciated very much our advocacy in preserving Mt. Manunggal. I am just wondering where are all those pesky amorsico plants now?

We leave at two-thirty in the afternoon. The route is steep and slippery and, over in the east, rain clouds bulge over the ridgelines. Ricky took the lead, followed by Johnson, Wil and Ernie, with me doing backstop. We took spills but nothing serious. A wall of rain greet me as I reach a low ridge, just over a hundred meters below me is the river bed. Very slippery and dangerous, but I am slow and cautious.

By habit, I took off my shoes when crossing a river. The river rose a few inches and the current much faster than the time we cross hours ago. From there, I decide to walk barefoot over some sharp pebbles and stones until I reach the main street of Tabunan. We rehydrate on big bottles of Beer Na Beer and Wil liked the taste of it apart from the cheap price. We consumed six bottles before leaving for Cebu City after a long discussion of the route and it is already dark.

It never dawned on me that I could take a day hike in Mt. Manunggal starting from Tabunan. This is my first time to do this, thanks to Ricky's generosity for showing us a very good trail and for his time. Ricky's main concern though is that when many people find this route it would surely disturb the serenity and peace that the inhabitants are enjoying right now.

Johnson deftly drive the 4 X 4 truck up the bends and turns of the road until we reach the Trans-central Highway. The Ranger speed its way up into the notch of Busay and straight down into JY Square then into Banilad where Wil decide to drop himself off. From Banilad, Johnson drove the Ford, upon Ricky's insistence, into Tres Borces Street in Mabolo where a local resto is located. We dined on chili-hot chicken drumsticks and washed this with Red Horse Beer.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
1Every March 17 of each year, hundreds of climbers, visitors and tourists converge in Mt. Manunggal to commemorate the Death Anniversary of the late Pres. Ramon Magsaysay. The result is a total mayhem with piles and piles of garbage left behind as well as disturbed vegetations.

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