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

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