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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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.
5Wild giant taro.