Wednesday, March 23, 2011


IN 1989 I AM going to complete my varsitarial residence of five years, the maximum allowed by the Cebu Amateur Athletics Association (CAAA)1, in my school, the Cebu State College of Science and Technology (CSCST)2. 1989 will be my last year in competitive collegiate basketball and I intend make a graceful exit. In the four years that I played with my school I have gifted it with a win except in the 1982 season when I was yet a rookie.

On this occasion, ten collegiate teams of Cebu participated, namely: the University of Visayas (UV) Green Lancers, the University of Cebu (UC) Marines3, the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) Jaguars, the Cebu Institute of Technology (CIT) Wildcats, the University of Southern Philippines (USP) Panthers, the University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors, the Cebu Technical School (CTS) Scanners, newcomer Cebu Doctor's University (CDU) White Stallions, newcomer Salazar Institute of Technology (SIT) Skyblazers4 and the CSCST Builders.

Two groups of five teams each were created and CSCST were grouped alongside UV, USJ-R, CTS and SIT in a single round robin format. The top two teams in our group and the top two teams in the other group would then play with each other in a semifinal round and the next top two would then play in the championship finals while the rest play for third place. Such was the innovation in the playing schedules in the CAAA at that time brought on by the addition of two new teams. All the matches are played in the USC Gym located at the corner of Junquera and Sanciangko Street, right in the heart of Cebu City.

In my final year, the CSCST Builders have a respectable lineup. Old reliables Dodong Abarintos (6'1”) and power forward Expedito Bejoc (5'11”) are back and so with guard Rey Cenit (5'7”) who played hero in CSCST's squeaker over the USP Panthers in 1986. New guys like ex-SWU5 Cobra Joshua Villanueva (6'2”), ex-UV Baby Lancer Hector Baclohan (5'9”) and one lucky find from San Francisco, Camotes – Felix Rocacurva (5'10”) - added depth, speed and firepower as members of the Builders starting five. Point guard Rayno Cabahug (5'7”), sweet-shooting Denten Densing (5'10”), center Roy Tabanao (6'0”) and off-guard Oswald Bajo (5'9”) complement this team very well as back-ups.

I found myself relegated as second center but I welcomed it nonetheless as I could not keep up anymore with the very fast pace that this new team had been training and I just reinvent myself by concentrating more on defense to give muscle inside the paint for the Builders. I am a natural scorer but there are now more good shooters in the present lineup than was before and I have to compensate myself to plugging the holes instead where we are most wanting. I took this task very easily and I became the team's enforcer. A thorn in the paint against offensive plays of opposing teams.

Officially, on record, we were coached by faculty member Edgardo Mondero. Mr. Mondero got this appointment from the CSCST Board of Directors even when he has no experience in coaching a basketball team save, perhaps, in an intramural tournament in 1985 where I was made his proxy. As he had done before, he appointed another proxy in the person of his best student – Rey delos Reyes – who is, himself, an avid follower of basketball. In due time, de los Reyes and the team developed a harmonious chemistry that almost propelled the CSCST Builders to the next round.

Our first schedule were with the USJ-R Jaguars. They have with them sweet playmaker Champion Cañoneo and other notable collegiate standouts whose names escaped my memory. This Jaguars team is considered by many as a serious title contender. They immediately locked away our ball handlers and the outlet passes in the first half without let-up and we were all spent and tired trying to wriggle away from their tenacious defense and their lead sprinted away in the first half at USJ-R – 69, CSCST - 31. In the second half we were able to answer their baskets with baskets of our own until buzzer time: USJ-R – 135, CSCST - 99.

Our second game match is against the CTS Scanners (0-1). The Scanners are very well-coached by Roldan Montalban and this is a farm team from which the UC Marines pluck their players from. Both have the same system of training and scrimmages and both are sister schools. Once again, I faced this team with one or two old faces from our previous wars. I kept my slate clean against them with the help of Abarintos, Villanueva and Bacalla who did the real damage by scoring at will against their defense: CSCST – 91, CTS - 85. After this match, we were able to move in the win column at third place behind USJ-R (2-0) and UV (1-0) at 1-1.

The SIT Skyblazers (0-2) are our third opponent. This is a new team. What they lacked in height they made up with their fast tempo. Three of the famed Sanchez basketball-playing brothers of Mambaling are with this team but we were superior in play executions and scored at will underneath and we kept the lead until halftime arrived: CSCST – 38, SIT – 33. In the second half the Skyblazers started to harass our ball handlers with double-teaming while keeping at bay other guys who will unload the pressure. They rough handled my teammates and they ate away our lead until they held on to the driver's seat for the first time: SIT – 51, CSCST – 50 and the crowd roared in approval and this is not good. We sued for time out.

In the third quarter, I set up hard picks to ease the pressure on my cutting teammates and we were able to destroy their momentum by answering their baskets evenly with ours until they lost steam in the 10-minute mark and gradually we were able to pile up point after point until we were ahead by a mile at the end of the game: CSCST – 88, SIT -68. The boys were all buoyed up and looked forward to our next and last match against the UV Green Lancers who touted a 2-0 mark behind USJ-R's 3-0 with our own 2-1 record. Suddenly, we will have a mathematical chance of crossing over to the next level if we beat the Lancers granting that the Lancers beat the Jaguars and translates to a 3-way tie. Just an IF.

The UV Green Lancers, for a long time, have been the darling of the crowds whenever they play, be it as underdogs or as a vastly superior team. It doesn't matter to the Cebuanos and they are very proud of the Lancers for it represents the whole of Cebu. They are, so to speak, Cebu's Pride. We will be facing them with the crowds against us, as have been in the past, throwing jeers and taunts at our hapless and disoriented players. I prepared to psyche myself up not to play with the crowd's hexing as I entered the wooden tiles of this covered basketball court where many legends were born.

These present Lancers team have been living under the shadows of their more illustrious upperclassmen as practice dummies and they have played together for sometime. This is now their time that they are a force to reckon with. Except for top gun Celerino Cabanca, who is a former CSCST Baby Builder, most of the Lancers team are from the Baby Lancers and from their senior training team like Superales, Chua, Romanos, Cadungog, etc. Ceiling-wise, they were not that superior but they have great stamina and they were a fast-breaking team. They are now looking for their third win at our expense before meeting up with the Jaguars on their next match.

True to form, they impose their will on us with transition plays after every miscue from us. They were playing us man-to-man and after we sued for time they were already leading by a wide margin: UV – 28, CSCST – 13. We tried to adjust our offensive variations and countered some fastbreaks but they were too cohesive to dominate and we gave away the first half to them: UV – 64, CSCST – 38. All the while when we were playing them, the crowds, as always, hurled their not-very-nice expletives against us. That's the privilege of being a Lancer.

In the middle of the second half, I imposed my authority in the paint by stopping cutters, blocking shots and intercepting lob passes from upstairs and it changed the nature of the game. The Lancers were now disoriented as their well-rehearsed plays were not successful anymore and, this time, we were making shots from all around the perimeter and from transitions. By now, wonder of wonders, the crowds were with us and they would hurl insults at every mistake the Lancers have committed and that spurred us to play very well until the Lancers sued for time with the score at UV - 83, CSCST – 68.

The complexion of the game changed but we were able to slice some of their margin by eight in the middle of the fourth quarter: UV – 108, CSCST – 100. At the last five minutes we lost steam and surrendered the game and all our hopes to the Lancers: UV – 120, CSCST – 108. As the game ended, the crowd gave us a standing ovation and it gave us something to be proud of. We lost the game, yes, but it was not in vain. We held our heads high and we snared the respect of our opponents and the crowd. Despite that, we tote a 2-2 win-loss record as if it were a trophy. This is this lineup's (and mine too) last game and we leave it as our legacy.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.1 Writer

1Now known as the Cebu Scholastic Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI).
2Now known as the Cebu Technological University (CTU).
3Now known as the UC Aguilas.
4Now known as the Salazar College of Science and Institute of Technology (SCSIT).
5Southwestern University or SWU is not a member of the CAAA then. It has been disbanded in 1989 and almost all of its players are playing with the CDU White Stallions while others tried out with other teams.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


OUTDOORS BLOGGING IS a very good vehicle that captures the adventurous spirit of our youths today and it is one of the more popular niche that gets “googled” a thousand hits everyday or every hour, depending on how popular your site is. Outdoors blogging is not for the faint-hearted though. You have to live with what you write.

There are personal outdoors blog and there are commercial outdoors blog. The former is more animated and came from the guts while the latter take on a static appearance, changing a little as demand have it. However, there are many many good commercial outdoors site and they take on a very professional look and feel.

Outdoors blog, notably personal outdoors blog, are maintained and updated regularly by an outdoors blogger. An outdoors blogger is one who writes about the outdoors, the wildlife, the wilderness, the mountains, the forests, the oceans, the ice caps, the environment and the hobbies and interests relating to it like photography, mountain climbing, camping, volcanology, etc.

One could be called an outdoors blogger if he or she wishes to be identified with it even if you have written or uploaded just one relevant article and photo essay. Let the tagging say that about your blog. Otherwise, let the visitors dictate if your blog is an outdoors site or not. If it is, then they will stay long and navigate within your blog to look up for more, give comments and satisfy their needs.

Outdoors blogging take on many different shapes and categories. Mountaineering and backpacking are the most popular categories and there are more than fifty thousand commercial and personal sites dedicated to it. It is a zone where readership attention is fierce. While some are much more specific and coral only what is relevant and disregard the rest and accord a much more personalized following.

How do you maintain and update your blog to make you relevant? Like having a loyal following? Regular comments? And taking more than a hundred hits a day? Are these not the analytics that support a site's standing with regards to Google PageRank or Alexa Rank? Or getting “ratified” above the Top 100 Blogsites perhaps? The best thing to achieve a rise in your rankings and visits is you buy a domain name and study search-engine optimization or hire somebody to “ride” your blog for you.

But that's beside the point. The point is are you good enough as a relevant outdoors blogger? Can you churn out quality articles at least once a month? Are you credible enough to engage in a consistent documentation of your activities or the events of others? Are you proud of your work on your site? If you enjoy updating your site as an outdoors blog then you are really relevant and people will visit you.

For that, perhaps, you will earn through GoogleAds but we blog because we enjoy what we are doing and earning from our blog is just an added incentive, without concentrating on that too much though. Focus on the quality of your articles instead and do not trouble yourself of how much you will earn. Just let it sleep away and the check will just arrive, without a doubt, at an unforeseen date! Otherwise, do not be tempted by greed.

How will you start about becoming relevant? This is the gist: An article, even though how smartly written, can be boring sometimes to a reader if it cannot be accompanied with pictures. In the same wavelength, spectacular images cannot be understood as a whole without placing meaning to it. There should be a balance of both medium. Words should have photos and vice versa.

Another thing. Make an unsolicited and written review of your outdoors gear and equipment, branded or not. Hey, it will make the corporate owners happy and, who knows, they may pay you to test a new prototype and make a review about it later. Everybody is doing it and why can't you? I make some reviews and I get a lot of visits for that.

Add another niche into your outdoors blog or, if you are not into one, be part of the outdoors for a change. There is nothing wrong with that. I have seen people change or add niches into their existing sites and their following have not decreased. In fact, it increased three or five-fold due to a new interest. A Bugged Life (dot com) is a good example.

Ever since I started blogging in 2007, there's no stopping for me. This blog – Merely My Opinion – is supposed to be a “rant station” but my experiences in the outdoors is too strong a temptation to resist not to write about it. And so, it became an outdoors blog with a name that is related to something else. A misnomer! That's because I added another interest and I get more visits.

Then I get to have more loyal followers when I added another outdoors niche into my already outdoors blog. Merely My Opinion is now concentrating about bushcraft and survival. There are a few international sites about this sort of thing and I get to have a fair share of readership attention but, here in the Philippines, mine is the only site about this extreme hobby and that makes Merely My Opinion special and rare.

Outdoors blogging is so broad. Seek out a path that your heart knows. Be realistic of the ordeals that follow when you put on a cloak of a new lifestyle. As I say again, outdoors blogging is not for the faint-hearted. You have to live with what you write.

Some of the relevant outdoors blog that I know. Come and visit each site:

  1. Everything Everywhere by Gary Arndt – travel and photography
  2. Time Travelling – archeology, anthropology and environment
  3. Mike B – backpacking, photography and technology
  4. Pinoy Mountaineer – backpacking, travel and photography
  5. Nomadic Pinoy – backpacking, travel and photography
  6. Waypoints dot PH – navigation and hiking
  7. Our Philippine Trees by Patrick Gozun – trees and environment
  8. Bird Ecology Study Group – bird watching
  9. Tomahawk's Adventure Travel and Survival – bushcraft and survival
  10. Langyaw by Estan Cabigas – travel, environment and photography

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


IT IS RAINING when we pass by Naga town at one in the afternoon of October 2, 2010. I am sitting beside Boy Toledo inside his KIA Pride, him driving, while Ernie Salomon is at the back. We just left an awfully-hot Cebu City an hour ago bound for Argao – 67 kilometers down south.

We are Camp Red and we will embark on another bushcraft and survival activity, this time, hunting for fresh-water shrimps and crabs, elvers and edible frogs upon a free-flowing stream somewhere in Argao. I carried materials, for this occasion, for construction of a scoop net and, of course, my Habagat Viajero where all my outdoor amenities are stowed.

Boy drove the car in a slow carefree pace and we lagged one hour for that from our itinerary. We reach the place at three and made a call to the village headman, where we exhibit our intention. We were received warmly by the locals and were showed a good campsite and both Boy and Ernie pitched their tents while I decide to sleep under the stars.

Meanwhile, I unpack my bag, unroll my sleep sack and make my scoop net with discarded GI wires, rusty welding rods, net bag and a short stick. Before we arrive, we made a stop-over in Argao Public Market and buy vegetables, pork meat, canned sardines, cooking oil, vinegar, soy sauce and a kilo of milled corn for our dinner and breakfast.

Ernie prepared the vegetables and pork for dinner while I took care of the milled corn. Jerry Alberca, our guide, came with his sturdy-looking scoop net, Petromax, catch container and a 32-inch long single-blade sword, locally known as a “pinoti”, made from a stainless-steel propeller shaft of a motor boat.

Jerry always carry the sword during his hunt for fresh-water shrimps to protect himself from snakes, especially the big ones which stay at the river bed to hunt for food. Boy, Ernie and I put on headlamps after dinner and take a few sips of a local version of “J&B”1 to steel ourselves. I strapped my Mantrack survival knife on my body for my protection.

Both Ernie and Boy wear their hike shoes while I opted to wear my veteran flip-flops just like Jerry. These Spartan slippers have been with me in Gaas and Nug-as in 2007, Dulangdulang and Manunggal in 2008, Carmen and Babag in 2009 and Mauyog in January. We leave at eight in the evening and hike down the road past a culvert where a path lead to the creek.

I followed Jerry to a very muddy trail as a motorcycle breeze past overhead. It had been raining several hours ago at this place and the creek is on a high roll. The current is strong and the creek bank is full but the water is very clear. A pebble crab lay inert in the creek bed along our path and Jerry nudged it with his slipper and the crab tried to escape but it run into the net instead. The first catch!

Jerry's Petromax made the creek look like day in the night and water creatures are attracted to it and freeze in our path. Jerry crouch a bit and and his right hand poised for a strike like a snake, his object of attention - an edible frog on a creek bank. In a flash, the frog is already in the grip of Jerry's palm and dropped the quarry into the catch container, which I carried.

My turn to catch a frog and I caught one but the amphibian is just too slippery and escaped from my grip. The second and third one were not so successful and they became addition to our slowly-increasing catch. Our first catch of river shrimp came right after we squeezed through a concrete culvert. Jerry did the the trick just like he did to the crab.

The shrimps were the hardest to catch and they blend very well to the silt and mud. Their pair of eyes, turning red when reflected by light, were a dead give-away of their presence. A feint from a foot and a flick of the scoop net, Jerry deftly catch shrimps after they are spooked and leap away to their fate, but not almost. They're too agile to catch.

Along the way, juvenile snakes lay motionless in the creek bed waiting for prey. In an unnatural light setting, you might step on them by mistake as you fail to discern them from afar. The first encounter made us very cautious next time and cast a suspicious glance what lies underneath every debris and boulder and murky water.

Most of the creek bed is stable as we go upriver and evaded deep pools. Twice, we waded into knee-deep mud, just the same, I refused to take off my slippers, ancient as they were, but they give off a superb performance that evening, their thongs never parting away from the soles.

Several deciduous and coconut trees fell into the creek during the rain of last night and at noon. A whole grove of bamboo slid off its roots during a minor landslide and blocked the creek. We climbed over a very slippery high bank and went down into another. I parted my crude scoop net to Ernie so I could free my other hand for my camera – a Sony DSC-W220 model.

We evaded several hanging vines and blocking branches from the falling trees and carefully step onto stable boulders and sandy shores. We tried a branch off this creek and caught a large shrimp having a pair of long pincers. Jerry didn't use a net this time and caught it with his one hand while the other held the Petromax.

We retraced our path and returned to the main waterway. We came across a fairly large portion of still water but nothing moved from its depths. Jerry went past a sandy bed and failed to notice another large shrimp as the crustacean maneuvered sideways exposing its back to me. I imitated Jerry and caught the shrimp with my hand, the long pincers jutting out of my curled thumb.

We arrive at the water source of the villagers and it is caught inside a concrete spring box and piped out. I am thirsty and take a drink from an overflow pipe. Ernie and Boy did the same. Then we push on until we arrive at a small waterfall which the locals call as “kawasan”. In the half-light, we decide not to wade on the deep pool which, according to Jerry, is over two meters deep and populated by large eels and pythons.

We ended our nocturnal hunting at the foot of the waterfall and Jerry lead us to a route that ended at the village hall. I segregated the shrimps, crabs and frogs. We intend to cook all. The shrimp would be the easiest for we already prepared the ingredients. The frogs are a bit of complicated to process while most of the crabs are the inedible type, locally known as “cagang” and “suga-suga”. We decided to set loose the crabs and frogs.

It rained hard but some of the villagers went to the school building where we do the cooking and quite curious of our catch. Some even brought with them leftover servings of rice to add to our limited supply. I counted seventeen fresh-water shrimps caught, quite small by local standards, but enough for our consumption. Ernie prepared a sinigang stew and we encouraged the villagers to taste the soup which all partake.

Our conversations with the locals were lively, aided by “J&B”, as the night wore on. The rains abated only after an hour and the residents make a beeline for the exit. Ernie and Boy did likewise. I occupied the concrete floor with my half-wet sleeping bag and release all my cares to the mercy of a quiet night.

The morning after, we took a bathe at the communal spring box. The couple Eddie and Riza Alberca invited us into their humble abode to a steamy breakfast of free-rein chicken soup and milled corn and then watch an action DVD where Jerry did the honors of filling up the rotating glasses with freshly-collected coconut wine, locally known as “tuba”.

We leave at ten in the morning and arrive in Cebu City. We take a lunch of bull's cock stew, known as “Soup No. 5” or “lansiao”, in Pardo then pass the time away in Guadalupe and finish one flat bottle of local brandy mixed with energy drink and ice before committing ourselves to attend the monthly meeting of the Cebu Mountaineering Society in F. Ramos Street. Boy T and Ernie behaved this time and the day closed out in a good mood.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
Collage in MS Powerpoint 2007 converted to JPEG

1Acronym for “Jaz Cola” and “bahal”. Jaz® Cola is a locally-made soda drink. Bahal is a stale version of a fermented coconut sap which has a tangy taste and strong alcohol content. The soda drink is mixed with the local wine to make it more tasteful to the mouth.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I HAVE NEVER been there. I sometimes pass by the place going to Santander and know that it is Oslob when I see the welcome sign. But not today, August 18, 2010. I have an errand to do here.

Oslob is a seaside town in Southern Cebu. It has powder-white beaches along its coastline and pristine blue-green waters near the shore where the sand bottom could be clearly seen from the highway. It is 116 kilometers from Cebu City and is just 19 kilometers away to the gateway of Negros Island.

The people are very nice and so hospitable and wear a smile when conversing. They speak a Cebuano dialect with a musical twang that is a heritage all its own. By the way, Oslob hosts three heritage sites: the 17th-century Immaculate Conception Parish, the Cuartel de Infirmaria and the Spanish watchtowers.

The historic Catholic Church is currently under renovation after a fire gutted it in 2008 which destroyed its priceless relics and old-world accoutrement. It is never the same again even as the belfry itself told of its superficial repair which could not equal to its former splendor.

Meanwhile the Cuartel de Infirmaria is undergoing facelift with new stones replacing missing ones. One watchtower near the church is being cleaned of vegetation and moss and is being integrated into the beautification program of the Municipality of Oslob.

Pictures make a perfect tale and the following sets of collage is a perfect visual of how Oslob looks and how you intend to optimize your visit there. Take my cue -

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
Images converted in JPEG from MS Powerpoint 2007