Monday, February 21, 2011


Apa khabar”, (in Bahasa1) or
      how are you?
Boleh anda tulong saya”, or
     can you help me?
For how am I going
     to shake hands with you?
When you woke me up
     at early dawn in Laban Rata-
     Base Camp at 7.1 centigrade,
     freezing my bones, trying
     to break my will. 
Until when (“pukul berapa”)
     would you wait for me?

Your sentinel peaks
      are mocking my pace
Your towering slopes, slowing me down
Your granite walls
      just awesome to behold!
And your bottomless gully
     chasing my spirits away.


Terima kasih” or
      thank you, anyhow
For the mysteries engulfing you
      are only magnetizing me:
      step by step, breath by breath,
      to inch closer to you,
      to forget about crippling injuries
      but to immortalize LIFE and Courage

And then,
     you hugged me at 13,455 feet
     7 o’clock in your breezy morning
     and whispered, “Selamat detang
       or “WELCOME”

How could I ever forget that moment
We were in a tight embrace
You, the monumental figure
     of Mother Time
And juvenile me, searching since,
     for you in the vast expanse
You humming lullaby’s,
     cuddling my innocence

When I return
     to bring my friends
     to also shake hands with you
I can only say,
     now that I am home
Jumpa lagi” or
     See you soon.

           By: Abe S. Manlawe, M.D.-Psychiatry
           July 16, 2006

 Dr. Abe Manlawe & Manwel Roble

1 Bahasa is the national language of Malaysia

Monday, February 14, 2011


BADIAN IS SOMEWHERE yonder in the southwest coast of Cebu and I'm going there as part of a team of birthday well-wishers to serenade a scion of a prominent family in that town. Fortunately, I have a camera with me and have used this in almost all of the engagements for this event and, for the first time, I get to pass inside the tunnel built under the Plaza Independencia. Mark this on the calendar – July 27, 2010!

A 25-seater Hyundai County bus is hired to ferry the troupe from Mandaue City to Badian without the stops that commercial bus liners usually do. That means, we have to endure bloated bladders, maybe too meek to stop the airconditioned bus with the husband and daughter of the birthday celebrant around who, BTW, are our bosses. Okay, time to practice mind over matter...inhale...exhale...inh...

Anyways, by the time we arrive at Badian at six in the evening, a meal was already prepared for serving to our party. This consist of the famous Dumanjug native chicken, a pepper-flavored roasted pork, a very tender braised pork belly or humba with either rice or milled corn as your staple. Believe me, this supper is superb and is considered a meal fit for a prince! Oh, by the way, a shake of coconut meat, ka-ong1 and pandan2 is served as dessert.

After dinner, we transferred to Matutinao where we were billeted. We practiced our singing, fine-tuning it in its minutest detail. Since I know all the songs by heart, they made my voice as the prompt to pursue the gist of each song. There were three songs: Skyline Pigeon by Elton John, You've Got a Friend by James Taylor and Dancing Queen by ABBA. Our voices were off key and so is the guitar where you could barely hear the notes.

When the practice is done, the host offered us a bottle of Fundador Brandy. Fundador is best with just ice and I took pains in walking the one-kilometer distance from the private resort to the San Isidro Labrador Parish in Matutinao to look for ice, but without success. It is already nine o'clock in the evening and, in this part of Cebu, people close shop after the Angelus.

The highway is devoid of people and some stretches are dark. The resort caretaker, however, volunteered to look for that elusive ice and I returned to the resort empty-handed placing all my hopes to the guy. Anyway, everyone needed to wash away the food with something strong like brandy but swallowing the liquid in its pure state is unbearable. The driver could not resist the temptation though and serve himself one glass sans ice.

After waiting for about an eternity, the caretaker arrive with ten pieces of ice and the atmosphere of the place became alive. The girls slipped into their bathing suits and frolic in the swimming pool while a trio of guys after many shots of the brandy decide to catch fish on the shoreline with a scoop net and caught two very tiny fish.

Inspired by this success, they drag a parked small fishing boat to the sea and paddled about a hundred meters from shore. They drop the fish net and maneuver back and forth. Meanwhile, I just read a little bit of history with an old issue of a local newspaper and got drowsy until I could not resist anymore and tilt my whole body on the bench.

I awoke from the shaking hand of the driver because I am having fits of nightmare in my sleep. So I have. I saw it in my dream and tried my darnedest best to let go a scream but no voice came out until Mr. Driver rescued me. It is 2:00 AM. Damn, I'm hungry and I smell cooked fish somewhere near. So, the “fishermen” were successful in their fishing venture ha? I eat two of their freshly-caught dangguit3 fish and claim that one more hour of sleep afterwards.

We all leave at 3:30 AM back to the house of the birthday celebrant and silently tip toe ourselves close, just outside her bedroom. We were joined by her cousins and other well-wishers. Mañanita4 time. We sing just loud enough to rouse her and there she is, open door and all, disheveled hair, sleepy eyes and a smiling face. I think we sing better in the early morning when everybody is asleep, don't you think?

Her husband offered her a huge pandan-flavored cake which she gladly accepted plus the offering of ripe mangoes and bananas with flower arrangements. After the singing and the greetings, another beeline for an early morning meal. I took a slice of chocolate chiffon and stir myself a cup of coffee espresso. The chiffon is exceptionally baked and so different from the others that I have tasted before. This one is too good!

After an hour, we leave back to the resort and eat breakfast. It is good that we brought the rest of that very tender braised pork belly and now I can concentrate on just one viand. This is a specialty in the south and no one comes close to cooking humba the way they southerners do. You know what, I just kissed my diet program away yesterday and today.

The girls went back to the pool while the guys read the lines between the sandy shore and the sea. Of course there will be high tide but it will not be early. At the earliest, it would be at eleven, but that would be our ETD. In between now and our departure, I would rather sleep for one hour and take a dip maybe at ten. Sounds good. So I snore away the one hour.

The “fishermen” took another trip with the small craft this time with fishing lines and hooks and they get to catch a tiny bass and a small sunfish. I convince them to spare the wrasse from the cooking fire and they release it. At ten, I took a dip and ended it abruptly when I notice that the sea water all around is populated by tiny jellyfish that sting the skin upon contact.

Prepared my things and waited for departure. At exactly eleven, we leave the resort for the celebrant's house one last time and take our lunch. There were many guests and everyone took their fill. At 12:30 PM, we leave Badian for Mandaue City and arrive there at four. It is a good food trip for me and the rest of the “choir” and “fishermen”.

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1Arenga pinnatar, sugar palm.
2Pandanus amaryllifolius.
3Rabbit fish.
4Morning birthday song.

Monday, February 7, 2011


FOR FIVE STRAIGHT weekends, I was frozen in my workplace and family. My mind is somewhere else but my butt is glued to my office chair and the living room couch until a slight breakthrough came in on September 19, 2010. Previous to those weeks, I thought I need to explore a trail I found somewhere in the fringes of the Buhisan Watershed Area.

Two presets of alarm went past unnoticed. And as the heat of the day became an inconvenience, I woke up grudgingly and tried to convince myself that it is okay to go hiking in the woods in an unholy hour past seven in the morning.

In slow motion, I dress up for the outdoors and collected all my gears and went out without any fanfare. I arrive at 8:10 AM in Guadalupe and took breakfast there. My unpreparedness took a toll on me as I took so long in deciding what to buy for my meal up there. I decided, anyway, to buy a kilo of fine-milled corn and a can of corned beef plus fifty-pesos worth of bread for Ricky Flores and his family.

It is already 9:11 AM by the time I start from the trailhead of Bebut's Trail. Along the way, I saw men making a small coffin. A four-year old child succumbed to dengue fever, they averred, and I am saddened. I parted half of my stash of bread to the surviving children and gave away some money as alms to the grieving parents.

I move on with a heavy heart along “Heartbreak Ridge”. Reality comes when you walk late in the day on this exposed part of the route because it is very hot! The saddle is now thick with grasses whose tops reach my thighs. I smooth the grass tops with my palms as I walk along the trail and I thought I am in another place. But it is just a daydream.

Then I saw the ugly garbage dumps beginning to take shape on this place and bamboo poles being planted into the ground to mark somebody claiming a territory for his new home. A fence is already started and it sucks!!! I wished I have with me my camera! Credit that again to my ill preparation.

I reach Ricky's house but it seemed abandoned. I left the foodstuffs hanging at the back of his door and I place packs of different seeds on his floor. Took a sip of water from my bottle and gurgled it before swallowing. That way it saves me water drinking and cooling my tongue and gums at the same time. My backpack is now a kilo-and-a-half less in weight and that is better for I have a long way to go, most of it on unfamiliar ground.

I reach the Portal at 10:21 AM and took another sip-and-gurgle and rested for thirty minutes. I took two more sips of water before my exploration began to roll. Destination will be the spring in a place called Kilat. According to a local old timer, a lightning struck the place a long time ago and water gushed forth from the ground and it has been called Kilat ever since, the word “kilat” being the equivalent of lightning in vernacular.

Along the way, I picked up a discarded bamboo cane that is sharpened on one end and heavy on another. It is the bagakay1 variety and very lethal against snakes. A good weapon to complement my tomahawk and jungle knife. I started very slow, absorbing the features and landmarks of the trail and, along the way, I saw old and recent stumps of trees. The recent ones have their trunks felled on the side and might be left there to be chopped up in small pieces later. I just wished I have my camera. Grrrr!

The Buhisan Watershed Area is a protected enclave and I could only shake at the inutile attitude of the DENR2, the MCWD3 or the Cebu City government of their neglect to enforce environmental laws. It is high time that the city police department should create a detachment to oversee the watershed, its trees and its wildlife.

This route is better than Freedom Trail which I help explore on June 7, 2009. Spider webs are crossing all over the route hinting that nobody had passed over here since yesterday or days before that. The butterflies are so amazing. They swarm you all over from different directions in ambivalent colors and variety. The birds glide by to and fro and the forest comes alive with their songs.

At exactly eleven, I reach the spring area. The water is collected inside a concrete spring box from whence it is funneled to a 2-inch lead pipe which lead to an unknown destination. A high faucet, propped up by a dead branch, is erected for use to people fetching water for drinking, washing and bathing. I tasted the natural water and it is very refreshing after a long hike on a hot day.

The spring lies at the bosom of a rare banyan tree which I call as the “mother tree” because it is the one nurturing and sweetening the water. For its age, the tree is quite small yet, for want of its size, it has huge roots. The spring area is a natural clearing rimmed by a man-made forest of mahogany, gmelina and teak; trees that are not endemic and are huge drinkers of water.

An old stump, burnt and decayed, stood below the spring box and, beside it, is a young tipolo4 tree. Beyond the clearing is a boggy area where a clump of badiang5 tubers, with the most mature found in the middle bearing several flowers. There used to be a stream here and it followed the contour of the place into a ravine below where thick vegetations abound.

I prepared my lunch here and cooked fine-milled corn, just enough for me, inside of a small stainless-steel pot over my equally small camping stove powered by butane gas. I stirred the grain, after it boiled, with my wooden ladle, carved many months ago in Mount Babag. I could have cooked and enhanced my tinned sardine were it not for the absence of another cooking utensil – a plate – inadvertently left out due to my half-hearted attitude a while ago.

I eat my meal at twelve. Afterwards, I washed my pot, spoon, ladle and knife. To while away the rest of my siesta time, I practice my knife-throwing skill at a gmelina trunk at different distances and force. Satisfied with the work, I slowly packed up my gears to resume my exploration of the whole route. I need to know the extent of this trail keeping an eye on important side trails especially above Kilat Spring.

I leave at 12:30 noon. The trail is more of the same, but wilder. Thousands of butterflies are fluttering by and there still are these spider webs, almost invisible, that you will notice only at the last minute and, by that time, your hair get snagged or, worse, your eyes. Among some copse of teak trees are long grasses that tilt to cover the trail. This is snake country and I made sure I have the bamboo cane preceding my foot. Somehow, I hadn't encountered one yet. 
Then the forest is thinning until I get to see a glimpse of the South Road Properties in between two high hills. I also saw my first house after several hours of walking inside the forest. As I walked by, I hear several gunshots on the watershed basin itself, about two kilometers below me.

Anyway, I arrived at an upland community of Puti, which is a part of Buhisan. I asked directions for the exit of this route and I followed it but decided not to continue at the halfway mark when I derive at the place where it will end. A very valuable information that will be of use to me in the near future.

I backtrack and rested often. The trail is steep and I get to sip water again and again knowing that a water source is available to where I'm going and this is a luxury. It is upward trail until I reach the forest cover again. The branch trails are an enticing bonus. I will explore useful trails but I would lay emphasis today only of exit points and alternative routes. Tried one and another. For each route, I turned around, partly exploring after deducing the general directions not of my advantage.

Meanwhile, a shoelace is loose but I leave it untied until I reach Kilat Spring to save time. I reach Kilat and refilled my bottle. My eyes were now following the direction of a steep trail. A small snake lurked along the trail and it scampered once it notice my coming. My cane chased it and it disappeared below the path, scared out of its wits.

I have a hunch that this route lead somewhere to another upland community as it is easy to follow. I reach a ridge and a flat terrain where there is a lone mango tree standing. The trail slowly went down among thick cogon grass that obscure my vision until it forked into two trails. I partly follow the leftmost path and saw the familiar route of Freedom Trail and Banawa. I tried the other trail until it lead me almost to Tabay Lawom in Tisa.

I retraced my route and went back to Kilat Spring and rested myself where I refilled once again my bottle. I am very tired already due to my exploring several side trails and I could have just finished the day in Buhisan, in Banawa or in Tisa, but I did not. I will finish this day back to Guadalupe by retracing Kilat Trail and Bebut's Trail. Besides, I need to experience the effects of an afternoon sun along Bebut's Trail.

During the last stretch of Kilat Trail, an animal scampered away and climbed a palm frond. It took a quick glance at me before disappearing into the thick vegetation. I believed I just saw a palm civet and it warmed my heart to know that they are surviving. I arrive at the Portal at 2:42 PM and rested for about ten minutes. I cached my bamboo cane before proceeding for Guadalupe.

It is hot and I am in the last reserves of my strength but I arrive at 3:38 PM, twenty-four minutes faster than in my coming in the morning. I craved for a cold drink and instantly doused my thirst with one. Bought a set of ampalaya6 and patola right across the street for my wife and changed my wet shirt with a dry one.

I went to the office of Jungle Wild Adventures in Mango Square Mall to be with Ernie Salomon, who is manning the reception table there. Nonoy Edillor is there and, later, Nigel Wenceslao joined our company. A garage sale of the Primer Group is winding its last day and both Nonoy and Nigel went home with a prized find. Ernie and I left the office at 7:30 PM and took dinner at Apurado's in nearby Fuente Osmeña.

I parted ways with Ernie and I am glad to reach home and everybody were still awake. I took the time to enjoy an hour of bonding time with the boys until my eyes feel like it is rolling a dozen pebbles inside and I surrendered to the comfort of a hard, but cold, floor after a day's strenuous walk. A smile crossed my face as I heard the soothing laughter of little Gabriel...

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1Schizostacyum lima.
2Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. The main government agency tasked to enforce environmental laws.
3Metropolitan Cebu Water District. The MCWD operates the Buhisan Dam where the watershed provides water for its existence.
4Artucarpus blancoi.
5Wild giant taro.
6Bitter gourd.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


VISITED MY OLD friends in Danao City on July 21, 2010. I call them Mr. Fine and Mr. Coarse. They are craftsmen skilled in the repair of small handguns and they are a father-and-son tandem. I used to go there once every 3 or 4 months to answer some of my friend's favor to have their pistol or revolver checked for flaws and to improve its features. But not anymore.

This time, I'm dropping by just to say hello and keep the lines open for good times sake. The place look the same but they have a very robust garden now and some ducks and a new member – Mr. Coarse's infant daughter. Mr. Fine's workshop is dusty as ever cluttered with tools, gun parts and other items, some of which are scrap but can be converted anytime into reusable spares. Trust that to Mr. Fine's ingenuity.

For those who don't know, Danao City is a gunrunner's paradise. It has nurtured and developed an underground gun-making industry. The availability of scrap steel in the 1930s have goaded the first gun-makers to make a crude, but workable, replica of a Colt caliber .38 revolver sans the rifling and engraving. Fast forward to the present, it has not only perfected the mechanisms and fine features of revolvers and pistols, but have metamorphosed into copying popular assault rifles and machine pistols as well – thanks to this so-called “transfer of technology”.

To curtail the proliferation of loose firearms, the authorities have given a license to manufacture firearms to a cooperative of gun-makers so they could legally produce revolvers and sell it to legitimate gun dealers. The Workers' League of Danao Multi-Purpose Cooperative (WORLD-MPC) were able to pursue their dream of having a legit source of income without having to worry about police raids by producing their own trade-marked revolver which are bought by security agencies nationwide.

However, loose home-made guns are very much available in the underground market and it is the reason why the number of crimes against persons and properties have continued to rise because of this anomaly. It had not been stopped by World War II, during martial law in 1972-81 and it cannot be stopped now as long as there are hungry stomachs to feed and there are people willing to part their money for that piece of steel.

People come and go into the place of Mr. Fine and Mr. Coarse bringing with them their merchandise – Black Widows, Colt 1911s, KG-9s, shotguns, revolvers – for fine-tuning and for sale. Mr. Fine and Mr. Coarse, both WORLD-MPC members, get a little commission for such transactions and so is everyone else. When I say everyone it means E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. It is part and parcel of life here in Danao. I look over the guns and I just shake my head in disbelief of how far Danao gun-makers were able to close the gap with imported brands in gun technology.

Mrs. Fine arrive from the market and brought something to treat me: fresh parrot fish (suwa-ay) and fresh elvers (bakasi) for an early dinner. Mr. Coarse instantly coax an ember to life and place the three parrot fish over a grill while Mrs. Fine cook the elvers in thick soup of tamarind leaves and eba1 fruit called linarang. While waiting, I share a half-gallon of fermented coconut wine, known as tuba, with Mr. Fine and we talked of the old wild days until dinner is served. What an excellent late afternoon!

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

1Averrhoa bilimbi or camias.