Monday, October 24, 2011

MAN-SIZED HIKES: Lutopan-Guadalupe II

I FOUND THE LONG route perfect for exercise and it presented itself with a good landscape too. I am again leading six people on a cross-country hike from Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City on April 23, 2011. Aside me, Marco Albeza and Ernie will be repeating this hike that we did last February 20. Both are Camp Red regulars.

Coming with us are two guests from the Cebu Mountaineering Society: Boy Olmedo and Glen Domingo; and Camp Red wannabes Jerome Tan and James Cabajar. We all meet at the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 5:00 AM and leave for Lutopan at 6:30 AM on the same slow bus that I rode on the last time that travel 20 kilometers per hour on the highway.

We arrive at Lutopan at 8:30 AM and proceed to buy food provisions which we will cook somewhere by the banks of the Mananga River. Camp Red prefer to eat their noontime meals hot and just fresh from the cooking fire. We decide to marshal motorcycles-for-hire for Camp 7, Minglanilla to compensate for time lost due to that slow-moving bus.

Upon arrival, we follow the tree-lined road to Sinsin, a mountain village belonging to Cebu City, and found a small store selling taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, which is a local delicacy. I decide to eat breakfast here and everyone followed, unable to restrain their gastronomic yearnings, and settled to eat their second breakfast of the day.

Minutes passed by, a whole army of cyclists arrived and stopped to rest, only to imitate what I have started. Refreshed after a rest and a good meal, I follow an unpaved road which goes down and down into Buot-Taup, another mountain village of Cebu City. I trotted down the road together with Marco and arrive at a small stream crossing underneath the road and waited for the others.

When everyone found their wits, I lead them into a shortcut that bypass the village center and arrive at the Mananga River. The river level is lower than the last time I was here. Blame that to summer. Up ahead are the sinister-looking craters hiding sand strainers and shovels within. Illegal quarrying of sand and gravel have reached this far now and they were not here the last time around.

We passed by a trio of naked little boys cooling in the mud under a very hot sun and my companions were quite entertained eliciting them instant camera shots. After crossing repeatedly the river, we came upon a cool place where there is a water source. We stop and we prepare the ingredients for our meal.

Marco and I took care of the cooking of milled corn while Ernie concentrated on the mixed-vegetable stew and marinated dried fish which Glen D provided. Meanwhile, James and Boy O produce banana leaves which we lay on the ground so we could place all our food there and eat in “boodle-fight” fashion.

After a brief siesta, we proceed on for Camp 4, a village belonging to Talisay City where the trail to the southern end of the Babag Mountain Range is found. Along the way, I see grown-up men fishing catfish with crude spears; boys splashing in the water; women washing clothes; and more of these hideous craters and their quarry.

Up ahead is an acacia trail that marked Cabatbatan Trail. I arrive first and remove my Coleman boots and socks and wring it off of water then the others came. After a 10-minute rest, it's time to move again. We will start the second half of this cross-country trek and it is 2:30 PM.

Cabatbatan Trail is a difficult route and it zigzags its way to a slope three hundred meters up and then the land feature changes into a rolling terrain that lead to Bocawe Creek. After crossing the stream, the trail follow the contour of the small river and cross two rock faces before stopping above the headrock of a small waterfall which end at a small hamlet of Cabatbatan, which really is a part of Pamutan, another mountain village of Cebu City.

The good thing about this route is you get to enjoy from a small store that sells the only cold drinks between Sinsin and in Bocawe, located far ahead, this, after an hour of tackling Cabatbatan Trail! I treat myself to three glasses of cold San Miguel Pale Pilsen to replenish spent electrolytes and shared the rest of the big bottle to Boy O and Ernie. The rest take this opportunity to catch their second wind and enjoy cold soda drinks as well.

After this interlude, we will go down an unpaved road and cross a concrete foot bridge above a small lake and then climb up a concreted road to the small community of Bocawe. I hate this stretch and the only consolation is that it is already 4:00 PM. Jerome and James developed cramps and are unable to go on. The rest of us facilitated to provide them transportation for Guadalupe.

Now that both are safe, we proceed on and arrive at Bocawe at around 5:15 PM and replenish our throats with cold refreshment. Then we proceed again walking the same uphill road that lead to the road junction in Pamutan. There is now a wide bamboo bench constructed and it is a very welcome sight to a tired traveller like me. Again, I waited for the others and the last vestige of light are almost erased from the horizon.

The road after this will go downhill that will pass between the man-mafe forest of Baksan and Lanipao. The road is unpaved and there are no lamp posts to illuminate your way not until you reach the first house located at least two kilometers from here. Everyone donned their head lamps but I prefer to use my night vision.

Marco decide to take this opportunity to run as part of his training for the 60 kilometer run from Cebu to Toledo. I follow and I half-run and half-walk over loose stones and shallow furrows in the dark but I'm accustomed to this. It is agonizing to my feet soles but I have to kill the pain nagging my old knees. When I could not take anymore the pain, I limp to Sapangdaku spillway at 6:30 PM.

We all follow the asphalt road to Guadalupe and arrive there at around 7:30 PM. We then transfer to Summer Kyla, Camp Red's official watering hole and Marco is already there by the time we arrive. We rest our aching bodies and douse our thirst with rounds of very cold beer until the beer case is filled up and the eyes feel the beckonings of Lady Starlight.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011



The personal computer that I am using in my workstation got corrupted on September 12, 2011 as I was scanning and cleaning a workmate's USB drive. I had a trial anti-virus that had already expired but, just the same, it didn't detect the legions of worms, Trojan horses, virus and other malware coming from that removable device.

Although the capacity to open my documents and other applications were completely hindered, its ability to view pictures were not. I had volumes of picture albums and collages that are left untouched. The good thing is that it is all saved in Drive D.

Then the computer technician came on September 30 and reformatted the computer. You know what? All my personal files got deleted! Photos, documents, PDF files, videos, etc. The technician recommended a document-recovery application – Photorec – and it got the job done in normal mode. Almost!

What it recovered where archived files and the latest files – the unpublished ones which are the most important – were found missing. I kept opening recovered folder after recovered folder but they are not there anymore. Reconstructing articles by memory is a hard thing to do and it is nothing if you could not emphasize it with images like my specialized collages.

It pains me to see all my original work going down the drain including my just-newly reconstructed bushcraft and survival manual. I could have rallied around with the newer pictures and start building my story around it but it's gone also. It is pointless to go on.

However, I got five articles left which I saved on my USB drive and some important personal documents. I am able to publish the first on October 1 in my personal blog with images to boot and I was also able to upload an album regarding my recent trip to Malabuyoc last July. The rest of the files would have seen me through to November 6.

Then, by quirk of the baddest luck I have ever experienced, the drive got itself unremoved from a PC in a public internet cafe. That was on October 4. I only remembered it only today (October 5). Shucks. I couldn't believe it is happening to me. Then another of my USB drive got misplaced in my home and I am left with a defective one that does not copy images consistently.

But, life is a challenge. The good thing about it is how you cope with such losses and how you are able to recover and drive back your pursuits into square one. It is really a shame and a waste of hard effort on my part. Who wouldn't?

But, but, but...I love challenges. I could have sulked and allow my legendary temper to go out of control but I learned to harness it and use it to my advantage instead as I age and age.

We bloggers are known for our backlogged articles. I got twenty of those. I post articles five to six months late here at Bloggert and I got eight photo albums waiting to be uploaded in Facebook and they're three months stale. I am having problems with these backlogs and you should see my schedule run to July of next year before I could post the first article for 2012! It keeps you outdated.

When the computer got corrupted, it ultimately removed all these backlogs. That should have made me happy. Need to recover some files and work around it and save me some story. The point is, could I finish an article based on those already uploaded at Facebook on time? Warrior Pilgrimage does four articles a month at an interval of seven to nine days average but, right now, two of the articles for October are done ten days of each other already. I am in a crisis!

Wheww! Tried my best to protect the computer. Sometimes you are successful. Sometimes you lose and when you lose, it's like it is the end of the world. Gotta fight back and blog again. It happen sometimes and you have no control over it except owning a Mac. But that is expensive. Perhaps a Linux OS will do and Ubuntu is perfect.

I will finally decide to migrate to Linux for good to get rid of these problems. So goodbye fragile Windows XP2. It has been a stormy weather with you. I could not remember how many times you let me down.

Document done in Libre Office 3.0

Monday, October 10, 2011

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XLIV: Palm Sunday Bushcraft

TODAY IS PALM SUNDAY, April 17, 2011.  After fasting for a week, I think I need to do a light bush hike into the foothills of the Babag Mountain Range, Sapangdaku, Cebu City, where the Roble homestead is located.  Not only that, I will polish off my bushcraft and survival skills and today is a perfect opportunity.

I will not need my cooking gears and my camp stove and I leave it intentionally behind.  I will not be with my usual company.  I need to be alone.  I need to commune with nature and to be with the mountain folks whom I can connect with very easily.  Bushcraft is most perfect when you are alone.  

I arrive at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish at 7:00 PM and I witness the blessing of the palms by the priest.  There is an ongoing religious program.  I passed by a procession of parishioners in old Jewish garbs coming from San Nicolas and they are now converging at the church grounds.

After that, I decide to eat a light breakfast to see me through to my destination.  It is a long way there:  almost three kilometers of uphill road and maybe about four kilometers of ever-increasing elevation to that knoll where there is an ancient tamarind tree.  I buy my usual fifty-peso worth of bread for Manwel, Juliet and Josel.

It is hot, of course, for this is the middle of summer in the tropics.  I walk my usual pace.  My old Coleman boots are still around and it may disintegrate soon, but not today.  It may still be liveable with my feet.  My 35-liter Baikal pack is heavy with five used books but I don't mind.  This cargo will make some children smile.  
I arrive at Napo in about 45 minutes and greet the locals politely.  I did not tarry long and I cross the Sapangdaku River.  The stream is still running with water unlike last year where it was dry.  Oh, this is good.  Blame that to the constant rains in March.

I meet some local folks along the trail carrying vegetables for the market and I give the path to them.  Trail courtesy is very essential in your outdoor pursuits and people remember that.  It's a good passport for unimpeded access into your playground.

I arrive at Lower Kahugan Springs and she is still gushing drinkable water without let-up.  This time, I drink water and filled my bottle.  I give all the books to a 10-year old girl and her two small brothers, as well as half of the bread.  I stay here for about 10 minutes before proceeding again.

I did not follow the usual route where it will pass by a flower farm.  At 8:00 AM it will be hot there and it is almost nine.  I take the Kahugan Trail instead which is a much easier route and shaded although rather long.  I hear from below the splash of water from the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls but I will not go down there.

I take a switchback to the Roble homestead and arrive there at 9:30 AM.  I sit on the cool bamboo benches underneath a Java plum tree to recover my breathe.  Little Josel badger me with my hidden stash of bread and I ultimately surrender it to him after a little chit-chat.  Manwel is sweating and just came from their little corn farm uphill.

I need to have a bamboo pole and Manwel showed me where to get one. I choose two segments and cut it from the rest with my local Bowie knife. Remove the branches and knobs with my sharp tomahawk. Lay the pole on the bench and start to work opening both segments with either Bowie and 'hawk.

When it was done, I decide to gather dry firewood from dead branches. Manwel found a dry stump of a Mexican lilac tree and I help him carry it up. Wood at the bottom of a tree where the roots meet stump make good fire and so heat efficient although this will take a lot of hard work. I need not worry. I have my sharp hatchet to do that task and a pair of good working hands.

Sweats on my brow, I finish this manly work in about thirty minutes and go on conducting my preparations for my noontime meal. With the firewood, I am able to start a fire with a single matchstick. Dry tinder and a hot day make this possible.

When the fire got going, I balance the bamboo pole above it and place water on the one where it is heated by the flame. The moment I see wisps of steam coming out between lid and pot, I gently pour milled corn into the chamber and stir it with my wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, Manwel offered me three star apple fruits (sp. Chrysophillium cainito) which I eat with relish. While waiting for my cooking, I decide to kill time by working the unfinished wooden spoon which I started last March 13 on this same spot. I bring pieces of broken glass for this occasion so I could scrape off the unwanted thickness.

I pour a little water on the now almost-cooked milled corn for moisture and remove this from the fire, changing positions with an empty chamber which I need to cook with instant noodles. The heat coming from this chamber will transfer to the one where milled corn is found and it will cook on its own heat. I revive the fire and pour water on the empty pot and waited for steam to come out.

Again, I resume my work on the almost-finished spoon. I decide to video myself cooking instant noodles in a bamboo. Open the lid and drop chunks of dry noodles into the steaming water and stir it with my spoon. I leave the noodles to simmer for a few minutes and resume my work. Manwel and Juliet decide to roast cobs of corn beside the embers and I'm eating it as well.

Once again, I return to the cooking and add flavoring ingredients and stir it before after which I scatter the fire away. When I think that the whole cooking is ready, I remove the contents and transfer it to plastic plates which Manwel's mother provided me with. Not only that, she also give me a delicious-looking purple taro soup.

Just when I am about to take my lunch, six guys arrive and they were sweating very hard. They belong to an outdoor group called ZETS or the Zubu Eco-Touring Society. They started at ten from Napo and it's not the best time to do climbing unless you are on training. Anyway, the cool benches made by Fele are very welcome to tired travellers.

They have with them sandwiches, burgers and salad for meals. Not a good idea eating packed meals while doing rigorous exercise like hiking and climbing under the relentless rays of the sun. Even I with crude implements, deserves a good steaming lunch. The outdoors do not deny me that chance to enjoy my meals in a special way. Eating food fresh from the fire is a luxury, you know.

I request Fele and Manwel to provide six young coconuts for the newcomers. They may need more electrolytes to to see them through to Mount Babag. Father and son came back a few minutes later and bring with them six green coconuts which they opened at the tops so the visitors could drink its natural juice.

At 1:00 PM, the ZETS guys leave for the ridge road by way of the Babag East Ridge Pass. I stayed for a couple of hours more and had a good siesta. After that blissful nap underneath the Java plum tree and bamboo, I decide to pack up and go downhill.

Fele's wife, Tonia, give me a plastic bag full of root crops, vegetables and jackfruit. I accepted these and I know my wife will be happy when I arrive home. I rearrange all so it could fit inside my backpack. What cannot be stowed inside, I carry with either hand.

Once I reach Napo, I continue on my walking for Guadalupe. The cargo I'm carrying is very heavy but, I need not worry for it is all downhill. When I got home, I see my wife smiling.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011


CAVE BATS ARE A close relative of fruit bats. While fruit bats grow in size, their cave-dwelling cousins are smaller compared to them. Despite its habitat, cave bats do eat fruits aside from small insects. In short, both species share the same diet.

These bats are of such common sight and are numerous. This is not a threatened species though unlike those of fruit bats and you could hunt these provided that it is not for commercial purposes. However, environmental laws and ordinances could change in every place, city or barrio and it is best to respect these so as not to antagonize the local administrators.

Cave bats, just like any other bats, for that matter, are edible and can be eaten when properly cooked. Catching this by hand is out of the question. Remember this, BATS DO HAVE RABIES! They bite and they claw and scratch when cornered just like any wild animal. Never touch a bat unless you are quite sure that it is already dead.

Most people catch bats using guns. If you think this is the easiest, think again. These nocturnal creatures are agile fliers and could cover distances in fleeting seconds. I have tested the agility of bats by shooting it with a toy gun that shoot small plastic pellets and it maneuvered itself around my tiny bullets easily. I have not tried though with a gun that fire high-velocity rounds like a rifle but I have seen bats being shot through the wings and, worse, through the body, leaving a little meat to cook and eat.

Wiser hunters catch cave bats using nets strung across its path. The nets are placed in between tree branches or amid two fruit trees. Here in the Philippines, rural folks use bamboo thorns called kagingking and these are very effective if you know where to look for the bats' flight pattern.

The best place to catch cave bats is at the cave itself. The bats are located on the ceiling of the cave chamber during daytime. When disturbed these will fly pell-mell all over the chamber and no two bats will collide each other despite the sheer number of them and are agile enough to evade anything you throw or hit with. With a net placed along the passages, they will just simply get entangled and caught.

By that method, you will be catching a lot of bats that is way above your consumption and so a lot will be wasted and that is doing disservice to the environment and morally wrong. Be sensible. Catch only what you need. However, there is a better way.

Try standing strategically outside a cave entrance and arm yourself with a three-foot long stick. Have another companion spook the bats inside with a flashlight or by just hollering and wait for the bats swarming out of the cave. Any creature coming from the dark and into the light would be momentarily blinded and this will be your chance to catch your bats.

With your stick, whack anything that fly by. You can even count your hits and stop when you think you have enough. Five to ten bats for a group of four persons is enough provided you know how to skin a bat. First, be sure that it is not alive. Second, provide yourself a sharp knife or any sharp bladed weapon. Third, prepare some salt and garlic.

Severe the head and make a cut from the neck down to the abdomen and pull skin slowly by cutting the inners of the skin from the meat. The wings will go with the skin as you pull it out. Remove the guts and any unwanted parts. Severe the claws and the tail.

With the same knife, cut away the sinews. It is the white thread-like part running along the back, the breast, the forearms and hind legs. Leaving this on the meat during your cooking will leave an unsavory smell and so it is recommended that you remove this part to make your bat meal real tasty. Dispose all the unwanted animal parts in a secure location far from your camping place and bury these.

Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and dab this with salt. Never wash the meat with water. Blood found in the meat react to water and so will also leave an unappealing odor during cooking. Crush some garlic and smear this on the meat as well. Salt and garlic are the best antiseptic and would secure your meat from decay and to discourage insects like ants. Then you cook. Cooking will kill unseen microbes that stay inside its host.

Actually, there are many ways how to cook bat meat. The easiest would be by cooking over ember or glowing charcoal as in barbecue style. Skewered or laid on fairly-large fresh leaves is okay. You could steam this as well by hanging and individually wrapped inside leaves or aluminum foil or make a soup out of this. But the best way to cook this is by frying in oil. Bat adobo is good.

They say bats taste like chicken. I beg to disagree. Bats taste better than chicken. Even better than game fowls and the smaller native variety.

Happy hunting and enjoy your bushcraft weekend. Bon apetit.

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