Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XLIII: The "Seeds for Earth Day" Tree Planting

IT IS A SPECIAL DAY on March 13, 2011. For the first time, my tree nursery maintained by the Roble family in Kahugan, Sapangdaku, Cebu City shall be planted. There will be some twenty-five healthy infant fruit trees inside their little black plastic cribs ready for transfer into the big wide field. To remember, some of these seedlings are part of the different fruits I brought here on April 25, 2010 during the Seeds for Earth Day.

I am going there on March 12 as an advance party to prepare for this activity. Ernie Salomon is with me. We start at 2:30 PM and reach the knoll at 5:00 PM. We prepared and cooked dinner and drink something hard afterward for it is cold. Ernie pitched a tent but I rather sleep outdoors. It didn't rain that night although it rained in the morning of that day and the days before that.

Rousing up on the early morning of March 13th, I boiled water for coffee. After that, I began to examine the seedlings, the bamboo stakes and the route to be planted with these young trees. With my heavy Bowie knife, I began to clear the ground from where these plants are to be planted. Fele Roble helped me with it while Ernie is busy cooking breakfast.

After the field clearing I get hold of an iron spike secured to a meter-long bamboo pole and begin making holes. I make fifteen holes when Ernie hailed me that breakfast is ready. I go down from the highest slope from where I made my last hole and ease myself into a vacant seat. Fried bitter gourds mixed with eggs and a stew of free-rein chicken were the viands. It is a solid breakfast.

People will be coming here today to be part of this activity. To give accent to this, I decide to do bushcraft cooking. Not by bamboo this time but by banana leaves. Fele provided me six leaves where I use all and roll it up into a tight bunch after placing milled corn in the middle. With a cord, I suspend the “leaf pot” under a low branch of a mango tree. I pour water at the top opening and make fire underneath it.

At about 10:30 in the morning, Rowel Seno of Pundok Lapukon came with one companion, James Cabajar. Fifteen minutes later, Randell Savior of Tribu Dumagsa arrive with fellow club member Tonton Bathan, Myke Padriga of the Circle of Friends and Green*Point, Boy Toledo of Camp Red and newbie Jerome Tan. A little later, from another route, Myand Abao and Rans Cabigas came towing one girl and three other guys from the EWIT Mountaineers.

Everyone helped himself with the young coconuts gathered by Fele and son Manwel and douse their thirst away and, in a wink of an eye, everybody switched to social mode exchanging banter and high fives raising this rare gathering of serious outdoor enthusiasts into a jocund fellowship of well-meaning individuals that give their precious time for Mother Earth. 

Moments like these make lasting impression and I take this opportunity to drive home the purpose of my own brand of tree planting. Where before, organizers would just hand you five to twenty young trees and leave it to your instant industry without you or them ever knowing whatever happened to your trees afterward. Mine would be the opposite.

The Chiricahua Apaches or any Native American peoples, for that matter, during times of emergency like war and migration, would protect every infant brave and nurse it to good health regardless if they are relation or not. It is not uncommon then that one Chiricahua mother would provide her own milk to a baby belonging to her sister, a distant cousin or a woman from another clan. By this principle, this tree planting activity would be pursued.

Our single tree shall then be planted with the help of two to five pairs of hand. They will treat each young plant as their baby brother or sister and they can give it a name for all they care. After carefully transplanting it, five bamboo stakes are then driven around it and screened with bamboo thorns called kaguingking for protection. The Native Americans also call each living thing or non-living thing as father, mother, uncle, brother and so forth.

A rare looking-glass tree1, commonly known as dongon, is one of the plants to be planted. Fele chose a special site where he personally planted this tree and put stakes and bamboo thorns around it. Randell, Tonton and Myke help one another in planting three trees; Rowel and James did likewise to another three young plants; while the EWIT people planted a single canistel2 seedling with an uncanny solemn feeling.

I chose to plant myself two canistel trees and two rambutan trees up on the farthest holes and sing a lullabye as if I'm stoking a baby to sleep. I do things from what I speak! Boy T and Jerome help each other plant a rambutan and a coconut while Ernie gets help from Fele in planting a cacao tree. All the plants are grown here and doesn't have to be carried over a far distance. Besides, all are well-acclimatized with the local weather.

After that, all Camp Red guys with help from Tribu Dumagsa prepare for lunch. Randell, Tonton and Boy T retrieved their cooksets, stoves, milled corn, raw, meat, vegetables and other ingredients and helped Ernie do the chopping and the slicing. Food to cook is a mixed-vegetable soup, pork adobao and raw cucumber dipped in vinegar.

Lunch is served at one in the afternoon. Meanwhile, my milled corn inside my “banana-leaf pot” came short of my expectations and looked like as if it is a cottage cheese made from goat's milk eliciting laughter from everyone! Oh, well, I remove the leaves except one and tied its ends and hang it in an earthen hearth inside the Roble home.

Myke, upon instruction from his father – Lester – turned over cash as donation for this event courtesy of the Circle of Friends. The Circle of Friends is a non-government organization dedicated to promote peace, human rights and the environment. I receive the money and pass it to Fele Roble as our whole-heart gratitude for his efforts.

After the meal, Rans and Myand and the rest of EWIT; as well as Rowel, Myke and James; decide to leave early leaving the hard cores to finish the two sets of mixed local rum and energy drink. In the middle of these pleasant conversations, I decide to pick up a dry and well-grained Mexican lilac root and carve it to a blueprint of a wood spoon in my mind. Boy T immediately lay claim to its ownership even before an outline has been started.

Manwel and his mother bring home four pieces of edible tree snail and offered these to us. It is cooked with edible oil and presented the meat to Boy T and Jerome, to include the milled corn cooked inside the banana leaf which I hung over a fire and it looked like rice cake. I now know how to cook milled corn in this technique and the snail meat tastes good. After the bottle run out its course, we ordered another two sets and Manwel oblige our request.

By five, we bade farewell to the Roble family and walk downhill to Sapangdaku River. From there, we walk over rolling terrain to Napo and ride motorcycles in tandem for Guadalupe. It is 7:00 PM and we are now at our favorite watering hole near Villa Fatima by the side of V. Rama Avenue. Tonton announced to the crowd that March 13 is his birthday and, boy, beer flowed like water that night until the wee hours.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.3 Writer
Collage done in MS Powerpoint 2007 converted to JPEG

1Heritiera litoralis Dryand. Tree species native of Negros Oriental. Also called the boat-fruited mangrove.
2Locall known as “tisa”, it is also called as a butter fruit tree.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


MY WIFE WOKE UP early and begins to prepare for our trip up north in Catmon. A good neighbor will be laid to his final resting place on this day, February 13, 2011, and we have to be there to pay our last respects. My other (living) neighbors have already gone there the night before and the bulk would be coming also today.

It is already 7:45 AM by the time we were on the street to hie a public utility jitney that would take us to Mandaue City first before transferring to another jitney for Danao City and then a bus to Catmon. Sounds complicated? I think not as we are still moving and make the most of our free time bonding as husband and wife.

Mrs. PinoyApache

Vilma and I arrive at Catmon and walk up a hill where the San Guillermo Parish is located. The final send-off rite for our dear departed neighbor would be held there before carrying him to the cemetery. The church is full and there are many people outside. I take photographs of the old church and an equally ancient banyan tree before settling on a vacant seat as the prayer service started.

San Guillermo Church

Old banyan tree

I have visited Catmon only once during my “warrior pilgrimage” days sometime in year 2000. I spend a night in a house in Macaas as a guest of one of Catmon's very infamous sons. That is water under the bridge now but, I do drop by once in a while to buy bibingka1 or a gallon of tuba2 on some roadside stall and those were just very fleeting moments.

From the church, the coffin was hoisted upon eight stout shoulders and walked three hundred meters from the altar to the grave. The sky is gray and somber. Grayer still when droplets of light rain showered over everyone thankfully hiding away tears. So many familiar faces are all around me as if I have not left my neighborhood at all.

People from the city were ferried by the service vehicles of Barangay Kalubihan and Barangay Busay and nowhere have I found a vehicle belonging to Barangay Tinago, where my late neighbor is a registered voter and resident. My thanks then to the people and the officials of Kalubihan and Busay for lending their mini buses, this, all in behalf of the bereaved family and the folks of sitio Santa Lucia.

Catmon3 tree

After an hour, the crowd dispersed and proceed to partake of the customary free meal offered by the deceased wife's family. Vilma and I walk another route following a small crowd and I get to pass by a healthy tree from whence Catmon is named after and took a few pictures. I also get to know the direction of a hot spring resort of this place passing the same street and jot the phone numbers.

After the meal, me and wife hop inside a bus and drop by the seaside residence of her sister in Looc, Danao City. The slight rain have not abated. We spend the afternoon watching a noon-time show, eating, talking, viewing the sea and, for me, hoping to finish a half-gallon of fermented coconut drink.

Fish berry, indigenous fish poison

All along, I get to observe from nearby of a different commerce. It is about the trade of fish berry4, an indigenous and environment-friendly fish poison. Of course, it affects the fish but, at least, fishermen here don't use deadly chemicals to catch their prey. It doesn't really kill the fish though and makes it only dazed for an easy catch.

The berry is taken from a rare vine and then dried. People crush the dried berries with mortar and pestle and mixed to a pail of water with bait5 and fed to the fish. I tasted the berry and it is awfully bitter! Ten times bitter than the bitterest of bitter gourds.

Quality bonding time

I finished the native wine and washed it with a liter of beer. I am tipsy and crimson but my wife ain't. We said our goodbyes to our host and took a ride home. It is six in the evening when we arrive. The light rain have stopped and, yes, the boys are home.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

1Rice cake.
2Fermented coconut drink.
3Delliccacaea Philippinensis.
4Almirata cocculus. Locally known as “lagtang”.
5Tiny shrimps.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I ALWAYS PASS BY the Manipis Road in my sojourn into western Cebu and back and I could not hold my admiration and awe at the rugged yet beautiful piece of country that hosts the wide Mananga River below. From whence the road is standing is a mountain range that I have yet to know of a given name; from across the road is the southern end of the Babag Mountain Range; and to the west is the Sinsin Ridge that extend all the way to the Bonbon River valley and, perhaps, to the Transcentral Highway in Cantipla.

This is country that I would love to explore. It had become an obsession almost. It hosts a complex system of rivers and creeks. It has unknown trails, some new places and scenes or, perhaps, some people to bond friendship with. I could start from Lutopan, Toledo City and finish it in Guadalupe, Cebu City anytime. Probably, this mighty place might hold a role to a part of a pilgrimage route that I am planning to survey from the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño to a town 97 kilometers south.

Or, maybe, I am just dreaming...

But I am not. It is already 7:45 AM when the slow bus drop me and the rest of Camp Red at Lutopan, Toledo City on February 20, 2011. Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon, Marco Albeza, Tonton Bathan, guest Archie Mayol are with this pathfinder. Eat a quick breakfast there. Later, we pool money to buy food provisions which we will cook along the route somewhere by the banks of the Mananga. Too much time delayed and we hop on motorcycles bypassing Cantabaco for Camp 8.

Start our walk at 8:30 AM for Camp 7 of Minglanilla municipality where there is a man-made forest of mahogany trees. Trees good for lumber but relatively unhealthy to indigenous vegetation underneath except the sturdy rattan palm. Why do tree-planting activities prefer exotic trees? I don't know why. Do you?

We arrive at the junction where the Manipis, the Sinsin-Sudlon Road and the Campensa-Tapul Road meet. I leave the guys behind to do recon up ahead at the better part of Manipis where I could study the lay of the land. Unfamiliarity on this side of the area is an obstacle and I have to use the dirt road that goes to Odlom then going down to Buot-Taup, which are all part of Cebu City, to get through to Mananga. Not today Trailhawk. You can't have those trails yet.

The road is unpaved which is good for my soles and my knees and for my last pair of hiking boots especially at the downward turns into Buot-Taup where descent is somewhat steep. I run when I could not stand the pain in my knees braking to hold off gravity while walking during those descents as my eyes search for something inherent in the place. Arrive at a road junction where a woman sat and weaving palm leaves for roofing. She uses the upland marsh palm, locally known as sacsac, and helpful enough to show us to a switchback to the big river.

After crossing a rickety bamboo bridge over a small creek we set foot on the wide sandy beaches of the Mananga and started fording the first of the many to reach our next destination at Camp 4 in Talisay City. By twelve noon, we were in a shaded nook of the riverbank preparing our lunch four kilometers short of our target. Everyone hustle up for this important energy-replenishment activity. In forty-five minutes the pork adobao, the grilled dried fish, the milled corn and the mixed-vegetable soup are ready for serving.

We were under the shade of a candle-nut1 tree from whence its nut a couple process it for jewelry accessory. I am amazed at the improvised water nozzle which they installed to clean the nut that spew a jet of liquid strong enough to rival a hose powered by an air compressor! They even crafted a home-made mechanical grinder that cleaned the insides of the nut with the turn of the hand.

We do not have the luxury of time and we forego our alloted siesta to walk and slosh again and again on the river at 1:45 PM. I lead a fast pace. This is the Upper Mananga where I have not laid my eyes on. There were deep pools of green clear water amid the great rocky hillsides that tumble huge rocks on the river channel where it became landmarks of sort for local travellers. These had not escaped my attention and I oblige the welcome scenes with my camera.

I follow the twin tracks made by truck wheels along the riverbed. In every deep pool, children are bathing and swimming with wild abandon unmindful of our passing. On some places, a couple of kids hunted catfish with little bushcraft spearguns. Later, abandoned craters pocked the river as quarrying of sand and gravel became more evident, the only proof are the hastily-abandoned wire strainers framed and propped with wood and those sinister shovels. As we get nearer Camp 4, I could see people inside the craters itself throwing sand like crabs burrowing a home.

I reach Camp 4 to see people catching fish with electricity, the current passing from under the noses of village officials. It is 2:30 PM and Boy T, Ernie and Tonton are missing from the horizon. Unnecessary radio talk went back and forth without the other knowing what the other meant and vice versa. Meanwhile, I wait for a half-hour for the stragglers to get into view. I have too few hours of sunlight left and we have not left the halfway point yet! It is still a long way. At exactly three we climb the Cabatbatan Trail for the other half of our journey.

The trail is good but Archie injured a hamstring here as he was following me. He can still manage his movement and, after a long hike, we take a 15-minute rest beside the Bocawe River where two unnamed small creeks meet. Afterwards, when everyone have his drink, we follow the trail that follow the river up and pass by a few hillside farms and two granite faces where water cascade down deep into the Bocawe. Just a few meters more and we will be on a road again on home territory but another 15-minute rest is taken on a store and douse our thirst with cold soda drinks.

From Cabatbatan to the road junction in Pamutan is a long way passing by Bocawe. I know that for I pass by here twice and Archie knows that too. The early part is easy until we reach the spillway and enjoyed the scene of local teenagers splashing into a small lake below a foot bridge. The second part of the road is uphill walk. I would have dread this stretch were it not that the sun have already cast long shadows and giving us shade. Breathing is important here; it should be in harmony with your footsteps.

Archie could not take it anymore and we wait for him in Bocawe until we could secure a motorcycle-for-hire for him. It is already 6:30 PM when I reach the Pamutan junction and have to wait for the others to arrive. Everyone donned their headlights except Marco and me. I prefer to walk down to the Sapangdaku spillway without lights to aid me and even run several long stretches with Marco following behind me in the dark. It is a long snaky road passing by the Baksan Forest Reserve and Mount Lanipao and eventually I reach the spillway at 7:45 PM.

At 8:10 PM, we reach the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish. My original plan of going down to Guadalupe via Bebut's Trail have been defeated by darkness which could have cut travelling time by half. Anyways, we have just succeeded in crossing a wide chunk of difficult terrain cutting over several mountain ranges and many rivers and creeks and passing over territory of three cities and one town.

Camp Red have added this route to its expanding collection of untested paths that have not been done yet by other outdoor groups. Tonton celebrated his birthday today and that night beer flowed like water.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

1Otaheite nut or lumbang

Monday, August 1, 2011


CHANGE IS CONSTANT. It could happen to anyone and on any thing up to its minutest details and it could alter every thing under the sun even to those things considered good. Nothing is exempt even myself. My life is changing and so is this blog and it is not immune to change.

This blog – MERELY MY OPINION – have seen changes on its appearance twice including its niche. Formerly, upon its inception in August 2007, it is supposed to be a “rant station”. The blog name alone suggests its purpose and it is borrowed from my late grandfather's opinion column in a local daily of the '50s and '60s.

Along the way, my outdoors experience and my unconventional journey of life compel me to add another niche and it became an outdoors blog. After a long long contemplation, I decide to change a new name for this website starting this article. It shall be known henceforth as WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE.

The appearance will still be almost the same and the tags shall remain although there will be a slight change on its features. The name itself will steer its intent and purpose on the World Wide Web. Warrior Pilgrimage is nothing but a warrior on pilgrimage. To where? I don't know; but keep on reading.

A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken by anyone who is either seeking a path of renewal of self, of spirituality, of higher consciousness, of enlightenment; or all of the above. Miyamoto Musashi is the best example of a warrior on a pilgrimage. In his journey of life, he mastered the crafts of swordsmanship, strategy, survival, philosophy, brush painting and carpentry. He even managed to write a book titled The Lord of Five Rings.

Meanwhile, I have not yet mastered any craft except that I am a fervent student of anything not hinging on monkey business. In my own capacity, I have written thirty-four chapters of a fiction novel but lost it later to harmful software corrupting my hard disk together with a bushcraft field manual which would have been used as a syllabus. Painful losses but life is a journey. The best part is how to start all over again1.

Changing a new name is a hard process. I have to search Internet-wide where I have left a link of the old name in long-ago visited websites and, doing so, would mean retrieving from the abyss of memory certain usernames and passwords to open such idle accounts. That includes threads in countless fora.

I may need a little help from my blogging friends though. I understand, in the course of exchanging blog links, they have typed Merely My Opinion into their sites. Some sites automatically correct itself. For most, it is done manually.

There is a little site though attached to my personal account in called Warrior Pilgrimage. It is just a mirror of my main personal site and a vehicle to promote Merely My Opinion. This time it will promote itself and its niche.

WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE is about tropical bushcraft and survival and adventure travel. It will be a support hub for the outdoor activities of Camp Red2 and the main bulletin for my own adventures. It is my conduit to promote bushcraft and survival in Cebu and the rest of the Philippine islands and will be the umbrella name that I will use when I conduct seminars and outdoor events.

The name “Warrior Pilgrimage” and the “WP Logo” will appear on headers for various certificates and field manuals where I will be an instructor and on t-shirts where Warrior Pilgrimage is an active supporter or organizer of outdoor events. Cited examples are the Gun Safety and Firing Proficiency Training (February, April and July 2011) and the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp (June 2011).

Activities programmed for the coming months will be my “grassroots bushcrafting” series that will tackle specific subjects like survival tool-making, knife sharpening, outdoor cooking, land navigation, fire preparation, plant identification, ropecraft, nocturnal hunting, trailcraft, traps and snares, shelters, etc.

Other activities like route explorations, multi-day cross-country hikes, bush day treks, eco-tours, bushcraft camps, etc. will be carried out by Warrior Pilgrimage in tandem with Camp Red,, and Go Wild Adventures. Should you be interested to learn from the above instructions or willing to join my adventures, please, feel free to email me at or contact me at mobile phone number +63923-716-2705.

Warrior Pilgrimage is currently setting its sight on the creation or linking up of different trails that will traverse the whole length of Cebu Island, south to north (or vice versa), at its middlemost spine. It is a big project and I believe it could be done, the Lord Almighty willing. This trail will promote Cebu's tourism industry for it will naturally attract foreign and local backpackers alike and, when finished, demand 10-15 days of trekking.

I have already kick-started this ambitious event last February 20, 2011 with the opening up of the Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City (36 Kms.) route. Other much longer routes (one in the south and another in the north) is now on schedule This demand huge logistics though and Warrior Pilgrimage is in need of corporate sponsors and kind-hearted individuals for monetary and material support. Please send your queries to my above email and contact number so you would know the logistics that I and my two companions need. Thank you.

Lastly, Warrior Pilgrimage carry this phrase everywhere that describe its image:

Document done in OpenOffice 3.3 Writer

1I have re-started another bushcraft & survival field manual and have been used during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp on June 11-12, 2011. Another manual is currently being composed to tailor-fit a Boy Scout unit of a Catholic school.
2A bushcraft and survival guild established by me in January 2010. This is the first of its kind in Cebu and, perhaps, the rest of the Philippines, south of Subic Bay.