Monday, April 23, 2012

MAN-SIZED HIKE SERIES: Lutopan to Guadalupe IV

THIS LONG DAY HIKE today on February 12, 2012 is not for the faint-hearted.  For one, it is 36-40 kilometers long.  Second, it comes at a time when there is a weather disturbance advisory released by the weather bureau.  Third, the Mananga River might not be generous this time.  Fourth, we will be under darkness for two hours during the last stretch.

This will be my fourth repeat of the Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City route.  It is cross country walk traversing at Cebu Island’s widest breadth.  This is an activity of Camp Red, a Philippine bushcraft and survival guild of which I belong.  Fellow bushman, Jhurds Neo, will attempt his second while Randell Savior and Ouch Melbourne, their first.

Also coming are Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon of the Redtrekkers and they will be trying to complete their third.  Dominikus Sepe, a freelance outdoorsman looking to find a niche, is also trying his first time.  I will lead this party and all have known beforehand, that they will be in for a wet long drag. 

As leader, their safety is my primary concern and I have already arranged all my options should I find the weather and river very uncooperative.  That means the march would go on regardless of the tantrums of nature unlike most clubs that I know of who abort their activities at the first signs of slight rain.  Planning is essential here and the capacity to interpret climate patterns.

Modesty aside, I have gained enough experience and knowledge when it comes to understanding a river and the weather by natural means.  Only a very few could do this unscientifically and most of them belong to the indigenous people.  True, I am an urban creature but I have indigenous blood which I intend to keep with pride.    My forebears were until they were forced to walk the white man’s road during colonization.

It was already raining the night before and I was not worried.  I live near a creek and that creek is my indicator if the weather is bad or worse.  Once I woke up at 3:00 AM, the creek gave me a bit of good news:  the weather is wet but not that bad!  

Rising from the comforts of a warm bed to face the cold and wet weather in the early morning can only be done by individuals made of harder stuff.  These six people that I am with are certainly made of stern matter.  That I am sure of.  I cannot be sure though of what word that will be used to describe the one leading them.

At 4:00 AM, I am now at the Cebu South Bus Terminal.  It is still raining and it is still dark by the time 5:30 AM have arrived.  One by one, the guys arrived.  One.  Two.  Four.  Six.  The Corominas Bus leave the terminal at 6:30 AM.  Based on my itinerary, we were supposed to leave at five.  Now we are one hour-and-a-half behind schedule.

We arrive at Lutopan and I found fogs at the mountain tops.  It is 8:00 AM and it is cold.  A northeast wind and drizzle are responsible for that.  We pool money to buy food provisions for lunch.  Camp Red bushmen always cook during meal stops and enjoy food fresh from the cooking fire whether it is an overnighter or a mere day hike. 

To gain time, I decide that we hire motorcycles to take us to Camp 7, a part of Minglanilla town, from where we start our cross-country day hike.  Officially, we start 8:30 AM; a far cry from the 7:00 AM on the itinerary.  We reach the village of Sinsin after walking the Manipis Road.  At Sinsin, I start briefing these six brave souls and let them know what’s in my mind but, far far away to the west, thick clouds began to bulge up.

From there, we follow a ridge road under construction to Odlom where a steep unpaved road goes down deep into Buot-Taup, a village nestled at the banks of Bonbon River.  The river is noisy today and is brown but I am not worried.  I just saw a young hawk gliding up above me when I took rest on a place where a trail branched off from the road.  Native Americans consider seeing a bird of prey good omen.  Same with me.  Especially on a journey. 

Here is trivia:  When I was with the force doing a difficult solo mission in Davao in 1995, a Philippine eagle appeared to me circling the sky while I was travelling in the highlands of Bukidnon.  Instantly,  I developed a gut feeling that my assignment would turn out okay and so it was.  The newspaper headlines of that day screamed of my accomplishment. 

Anyway, I cross the river first and the current is much stronger than what I have expected.  My feet is carried everytime I raise it inches above the river bed.  At the middle of the river, the water level rise nine inches above my knees.  It is much deeper than I thought or knew of.  It used to be below my knees during normal times. 

Notwithstanding, I have crossed much swift rivers before like the Daraitan River in Rizal and the Lawayan River in Misamis Occidental.  The former I crossed three times in two days in 1989 and almost claimed me on the first day.  It was my first real river crossing and I became wise after that.  Such painful experiences educate you and make you better.

We cross the Bonbon several times until it flowed into the bigger Mananga River.  The current turbulence increased as where the depths.  I begin to worry about them deep craters that illegal quarrying have done on the Mananga as it is difficult to see what’s below the surface because of its brown effluence.  So far, I eluded it by observing the swirls.

We reach the meal stop point at exactly 11:00 AM and I could not believe we just sheared  off a big chunk of time from our travel plan.  We were supposed to be there at 11:30 AM.  Anyhow, we retrieve our cook sets and burners, meat, vegetables, milled corn and other ingredients.  I boil water for coffee as Ernie do the honors of cooking the three sets of viand:  pork adobao, pork sinigang and a modified version of pork and beans.

Randell and me help in cooking the milled corn spread out inside three cooking pots.  A water source is available nearby.   We need the meat and the milled corn to give us more body heat to stave off the cold resulting from wading the river every now and then.  I must have counted nine crossings and it is a perfect recipe for hypothermia.

We stayed at the place too long and were now fifteen minutes late from our schedule.  We leave for Camp 4.  Among islands of rocks along the river, I could see the signs that the stream have lowered an inch from its previous level in a matter of one hour, more or less.  The sound of raging water are not much noisy anymore and I thank my young hawk of his presence hours ago.

Three hundred meters away, I thought I saw two women about to cross a junction where the Bocawe Creek meets the Mananga.  The bend of the stream removed my chance to actually see them cross as I walk towards that spot.  I observe the riverbank across so I could ascertain where they have forded and I found none.  Strange?  I cross and I see a tell-tale mark that I am in the vicinity of a crater but, too late, the ground gave in and I fell into a hole, chest-deep.  My camera got immersed in water and that ended my shooting spree.  Shucks! 

Along the way, I see father and two little daughters fishing with a throw net.  Inside the catch bin are a number catfish and tilapia and a couple of fresh-water shrimps.  Walking yonder on is another father with two little sons with their catch of big catfish hanging on their bamboo fishing pole.

We cross for the last time the Mananga River and rest among a jumble of boulders and wring away water from our boots and socks.  We need to remove useless weight and small pebbles from inside our shoes before tackling the trail found at the southernmost end of the Babag Mountain Range.  This is a tough trail, steep and long.

Behind me are Jhurds, Ouch and Dom.  Way way below them is Boy and Ernie with Randell backstopping.  Jhurds have shown improvement from the last time he climb this undulating and almost cruel stretch last September 25, 2011.  This trail lead to a place called Cabatbatan and, doing so, we have to cross again the upper Bocawe Creek twice.

Once we arrive in Cabatbatan, the boys make a beeline to the only store that sells cold drinks between Sinsin and Bocawe.  Now that brings back the color to their faces.  We overstayed our purpose and that defeats our frequent race against our schedule.  We have to make do 15 minutes late when we leave for Bocawe and Pamutan Junction.

I take a short cut to chop off time but the rest failed to see my sign and took a longer route instead.  As I was waiting for their arrival, my attention was focused on two strange-looking fowls foraging on the Bocawe Creek.  They seem wild and have long beaks and white streaks on their faces.  I thought they were guinea fowls because of its color similarity but they were not.  They were very agile and lack the puff of red flesh on their faces which guineas have. 

Ultimately, I forgot about the others and I discovered that they were already ahead of me so I walk uphill at full speed and overtook all, one by one.  While huffing and puffing along a never-ending steep road, a good-sized hawk appeared on my left gliding and circling above a valley.  I raise and wave my hand to acknowledge my presence.  It circled one more time before disappearing below the valley.

By now, we were able to recover our time advantage when we arrive at the road junction thirty minutes ahead and able to maintain it once we reach another stop point in Baksan.  It is already dark and everyone donned their headlights, including my old-fashioned flashlight which I attach to a paracord headband. 

We will take Bebut’s Trail this time going to Guadalupe.  For the early stages of this last stretch of route, I choose to use my natural night vision.  I am able to follow the faint path through a brook and over steep trails going up and down.  Obviously, it had been raining here minutes ago as the path is muddy and slippery.  I slip several times but balance myself well to prevent falling.

When I found the trail obscured by thick vegetation, I decide to turn on my light else I might step on a reticulated python which is very common here.  The switch is defective and I have to slap it several times so it would work.  I find its location on my head very annoying and decide to carry it with either hand.  Finally, I fall after a slip.

It is stressful hiking on a trail in the dark.  The brain sends signal to raise your adrenaline level when it receives stimulus from the eyes about a dark environment.  It gives signals to the heart to pump more blood and so we breathe faster because the more blood pumped the more oxygene the body need.  Basically, the brain controls all body functions and you should know its nature.  I have lived with it and I know how not to push hard during a night trek.

Behind me are voices of panting men mustered by their brains to keep pace with me when I am just taking a stroll.  I laugh about this thought.  I bring them to the top of a hill and show them the glinting lights of Cebu City and it released all their anxieties.  The trail here is all downhill now and it is just a matter of minutes when we would reach Guadalupe.

Randell and I arrive at the south gate of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at 7:45 PM.  Boy closed the activity at 7:51 PM by arriving last yet we are nine minutes ahead of schedule.  Not bad.  Now, time to ingratiate ourselves with cold bottles of beer at our favorite watering hole at Summer Kyla. 

My cheers to this bunch of hardy men.  They have not questioned my decisions and they are rewarded with an unforgettable moment that no outdoor clubs could offer.  They were in a high mood despite the aches that each one felt in their bodies.  They truly are made of sterner stuff to engage in and complete a man-sized day hike under the threat of a Low Pressure Area and under twelve hours.  Not bad indeed!

Document done in Libre Office 3.3

Thursday, April 19, 2012


THERE HAD BEEN GOOD news in so far as our Philippine criminal justice system is concerned.  This is about the promulgation of sentence wherein the “Supreme Master” of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) – RUBEN ECLEO JR. - have been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and is convicted and sentenced to reclusion perpetua.

Yes, Virginia, he is bound to be imprisoned and transferred to the national penitentiary in Muntinglupa – if caught – from TWENTY to FORTY YEARS for parricide.  Justice may not have been a quick process but it has done its job nevertheless.  He will, of course, appeal and pursue his case before the highest court of the land.  To remember, Ecleo murdered his wife, Alona Bacolod, and dumped her body somewhere in Dalaguete, Cebu in January 2002 where it was found, already in a state of decomposition.

What makes this case special is because it is the best example of the triumph of good over evil (a poor family against an influential one) although very costly to the Bacolod family and to one of the prosecuting panel.  They have been rubbed out - gangland style – allegedly by the followers of Ecleo, who became a congressman representing the lone district of Dinagat Island right after posting bail of one million pesos.

The Ecleo family ruled Dinagat Island by virtue of their being the closest kin to the original founder of the PBMA – Ruben Ecleo Sr., who was revered by their members as a prophet on the level of divinity.  The PBMA is a religious organization with an almost-similar Christian doctrine with which the hierarchies of the majority Roman Catholic and the small Protestant denominations labelled as a cult.

Dinagat Island is a remote island that is located along the Pacific Rim south of Leyte Island and northeast of Mindanao.  It used to belong to the Province of Surigao del Norte but became a province itself in 2006.  Dinagat is composed of the municipalities of San Jose, Loreto, Tubajon, Libjo, Basilisa, Dinagat and Cagdianao and having a population of about 122,000.  The island is rich in nickel and chromium deposits, particularly at nearby Nonoc Island.

When arrested in June 2002, Ecleo’s followers fought a gunbattle with policemen out to serve a warrant of arrest against him where nineteen of their numbers died while inflicting a lone casualty on the side of the government.  When arraigned, Ecleo pleaded not guilty and hired a battery of expensive lawyers to defend his case.

During the course of the trial, Alona’s father, mother, brother and sister were gunned down in their home in Subangdaku, Mandaue City by an alleged PBMA member who was also killed when trapped by responding policemen.  Private prosecution lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco was assassinated by another alleged PBMA member in her house in Zapatera, Cebu City.  The gunman was arrested and tried in court but the mastermind of these two incidents was never known. 

Amidst all these events, Ecleo enjoyed VIP treatment at the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center until after when he posted bail in 2004 granted by the court for health reasons.  He ran for a seat in congress in 2007 after his mother vacated the post and won.  He attended the subsequent hearings but grew tired of it.  Meanwhile, a warrant of arrest was issued in 2010 for a corruption case filed by the Ombudsman but finding him remains a puzzle.

There were many trial court judges handling this case – SIX - but all wilted under pressure from all directions and inhibited themselves until the buck stops at the sala of Judge Soliver Peras of the Regional Trial Court X.  The overworked officer of the law fought a long-running technicalities battle and presumptions of bias from both prosecution and defense camps and remained undaunted by the side distractions. 

His career as a strict but fair adjudicator of the law had already been fettered with many feathers on his hat in the past and now, coming out with the final judgment on Ecleo, ought to make him a legend among his peers and a target, as well, of reprisals from the enraged camp of the convicted congressman and PBMA leader.  The good judge knows this but he knows very well the hazards of his profession and that is part of his breakfast, especially those served cold.  

This is now a challenge for the present national administration and to all law enforcement agencies to double their efforts at applying a tight noose on Ecleo and his rabid followers in the PBMA.  The public knows, for a fact, that the PBMA will use any means possible to defend their “supreme master” at whatever cost. 

The public have seen their aberrations and the public is full of indignation against such crude use of force against those whom have opposed the desires of their master.  There is no language that can be understood by them except to stamp the might of the rule of law upon their foreheads.  This is not easy as it may seem but righteousness always prevail in the end. 

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3
Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NAPO TO BABAG TALES #50: An Advance Party of One

IT IS THREE DAYS before the Fruit Seeds for October.  I am going to the Babag Mountain Range today, January 29, 2012 as advance party.  I am bringing sixty small plastic pots and an undetermined number of seeds of johey oak fruit (marang) for the tree nursery which I am going to establish at the Roble homestead.

The Fruit Seeds for October is a seed-collection campaign instigated by me.

I am alone and I want to spend quality time in the mountains.  I bring a kilo of pork meat; a kilo of rice; another kilo of milled corn, which I intend to share with the Roble family; along with spices, soy sauce, cooking oil and vinegar.  I need also to talk to Fele Roble for this project and the location of the nursery.

Already in my Baikal backpack is my Kovea cook pot, Peak1 spoon-fork-knife set, my Vietnam-era mess kit, Bulin camp stove, my 500-ml. stainless-steel cup, Sony camera, Mantrack machete, my tomahawk, a three-piece honing stone set, a Sheffield 12-in-1 tool, an unfinished rosewood axe shaft and other items that describe very well of what really is a bushman.  

I’m packing it full and added another kilo, complements of a liter of water which I collected in my Nalgene bottle at Lower Kahugan Spring.  I may have to treat this hike as a training session with all the weight I carried.  I woke up late and I am able to start my hike only at 9:00 AM.  I ditch breakfast and have to train my stomach as well how to climb a mountain range with an empty stomach.  Anyway, food could be had at noon which is just a few hours away.

I need to be fit before I will embark on my projected north-to-south coast-to-coast walk passing at the most rugged terrain of Cebu which is in its middlemost spine.  I have already done Segment One and Segment Two is about to be pursued in March and it will be a long long drag of 3 to 4 days of hiking and climbing.

The Babag Mountain Range is foggy at the tops today and that is a good indicator that summer is finally coming in the tropics.  It suggests that the day will be hot and it is indeed hot.  I wear my boonie hat for this occasion, a white t-shirt and my North Korea-made long bush pants.  The last item fished out from a second-hand store.

A local in Napo told me that some hikers are already ahead of me on the trail more than an hour ago.  I have to guess how many are they and how many are male and how many are female.  This would give accent to my solo walk and to keep me grounded to bushcraft; I decide to rejuvenate my tracking skills which I only use during explorations.  The hard part is that I have to read the tracks on a hard beaten trail where many people use.

I see smudges, but I cannot tell what caused those and who it belonged to.  Perhaps by the locals.  I do not know but I could only guess.  I see boot prints and I can tell some that it is days old and other recent ones that are many hours old.  I see some dog prints.  That, I am pretty sure.  I need fresh tracks and, maybe, I will find it in places where water is near.  I am not disappointed and I found one.

Found holes of shoe lugs embed deep on wet ground and is quite fresh yet, as seen from the edges.  Some of the soil adhere to the soles and drop on spots found between holes.  It belonged to a male hiker and wears size 10 shoe.  Why a male?  Because the owner is heavy and it has long strides.

On another spot, I see the signs of another companion.  The hiker is light of build than the first one and it may be that of a female based on my second-guessing that it is a size 8 shoe.  Up ahead where water had made the ground muddy, I see another footprint.  It may be that of a male and wears a size 9 shoe and has longer strides than the second individual.

I think I may have found another faint but fresh shoe track but it had been trampled over by others on a spot where it is narrow and I could not clearly study the print well.  May be male.  By now, wet spots will be few once I cross the stream at Lower Kahugan.  I surmise three to four people are taking the Kahugan Trail judging that there are no more fresh prints going to Busan except the old shoeprint of Boy Toledo who came here Saturday.

I found three empty bottles of a local rum and insecticides half buried in the mud that hardened.  I find this very dangerous and I remove the bottles lest it would cause an accident.  It is my way of doing community work; of trail maintenance.  It is also my advocacy: picking up empty bottles and broken glasses and keep it out from causing harm.

I talk with a farmer tending her hilly flower farm and it’s a good interlude to break my rhythm and recover my breathing.  I see two hikers below gasping and wheezing under the brunt of the severe heat.  Above me is an exposed ridge which I will tackle later.  I climb it and I feel my legs getting tight and I know the feeling; the tell-tale signs of muscle cramps. 

Since the time when I got in custody of a company-owned motorcycle, my daily walks to my workplace and back have been put to rest for four months now.  My lack of walking have taken its toll on my legs and the muscles have not performed like the way it used to.  I guess I have to put the bike in the garage and start walking again come Monday.

I arrive at a high knoll that is home to the Roble family.  The shade from a tamarind tree and a Java plum tree is most welcome.  Welcome still are the cool bamboo benches underneath them and I am rabidly thirsty.  Not yet; I may need coffee first to pep me up.  I unload my things to prepare coffee but one item is obviously missing:  the butane fuel!

No problem.  Fele boil water for me on his earthen hearth.  Coffee tastes heavenly when you are deprived of food and water on a long hot journey on foot.  I ask him if he ever seen a group of hikers passing this way.  There were five of them, he says: one female and four male.  Darn.  I miss one.  It’s alright.  At least, I am 80-percent right.  Nobody knows or do this skill anymore and I am glad my late grandfather taught this to me when I was a small boy and it remained embedded in me. 

First, I need Fele to prepare a meal for lunch.  Second, I need to have a look-see of the young trees that I help plant last March 13, 2011.  One cacao, two jackfruit, one canistel, two rambutan, one guava and one looking-glass tree survived.  Eight out of fifteen.  Not a bad one considering that it is exposed to domesticated animals.  The uppermost plants have vanished and some of it were still there during my last visit in December 11, 2011. 

Third, I document the surviving plants for a quick inventory while I prepare the small plastic pots and seeds for the next generation of plants.  Fourth, I move about and look for a nice kind of soil to fill up the pots and I found it below a mango tree below the hill.  I just use a 3-foot bamboo stick to dig the ground and a piece of green coconut husk to scoop the dirt into the pots.  I filled up 31 pots when lunch was called to.

After the meal, I need to practice a little skill with a native gadget.  One of the things that I carry is a bamboo blowgun and two bamboo darts.  These have been given to me by my stepdaughter on her travel to Malaysia.  I tried a blowgun long ago with a papaya-leaf tube and a needle with cigarette-filter flights as dart.  A papaya trunk became an instant target.  Sorry there tree huggers.

A little while, a group of six hikers with two toddlers arrive to take a rest and enjoy the cool shade.  Then eight people of a different group arrive some fifteen minutes later to converge at the benches.  I continue filling up the remaining pots and water these to make it moist before I bury 60 seeds into it.

I give the main place to the newcomers while I decide to take a rest on a bench that is beginning to disintegrate.  The sun begins to move and the shadows move on the opposite side exposing me partly to heat from the sun.  I busy myself to kill boredom by working on the axe shaft.  The broken glasses make only a little progress scraping the thickness of the rosewood and I abandon it.  The wood is too hard and I may need a wood file, I think.

I transfer my attention on a piece of Mexican lilac wood fashioning it into the shape of a spoon with my tomahawk.  I have chopped away large chunks of undesired wood and was in the process of shaving away thickness when the steel head slipped from the wood and slit a half-inch cut on my wrist. 

I discard the work and look for something to stop the bleeding.  I found guava leaf buds and crush it to a ball to extract a juice to smear it on my wound but I am unable to produce it with my one good hand so I chew the buds to let my teeth do the work.  When I am assured that the bitter juices have been produced, I apply it as a poultice, the juice stinging the opened skin.

By now, it is time to go as it is 3:45 PM.  The first group have left two hours ago while the last group come along with me and I lead them to a trail that goes to the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls and leave them once they have settled at the bottom.  It seems that they still have an unfinished bottle of rum and I don’t want none of it and leave them behind.

I arrive at Summer Kyla and rehydrate myself with two big bottles of cold Red Horse.  In a little while, Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon joined me and two more bottles were added.  I miss dinner and I am tipsy and sleepy.  Good thing Boy T brought me to my place in his car and isn’t that a good thing?  Thanks Boy T.

Document done in Libre Office 3.3

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

ARGAO NIGHTS II (A Nocturnal Hunting Event)

I LOVE TO GO BACK to that place somewhere in Argao to catch fresh-water shrimps and crabs.  I have gone there on October 2, 2010 with two former associates and it was fun.  The adrenaline rush is felt when snakes that lie inert on river beds like debris suddenly comes alive on your approach and weave its way among the sand bed in the dead of night.

Here I am again with the rest of Camp Red like Raymund Panganiban, Glenn Pestaño, Faith Tannen, Justine Ianne and William “Jungle Wil” Rhys-Davies.  Jungle Wil, who is from Wales and a fellow Outlaw Bushcraft, have that innate fear of snakes.  Who doesn’t?  Even I would give a wide berth if I happen to meet a snake in my outdoor traipses.

Camp Red will be doing nocturnal hunting there.  It is an overnight affair with the dates falling on January 21 and 22, 2012.  We start from the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 8:00 AM and arrive at Argao two-and-a-half hours later.  Since it is almost noon, we decide to take an early lunch at a local restaurant.

When meal was done, I and Jungle Wil proceed to the public market to buy our food provisions good for the night’s dinner and for tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch.  We also buy ingredients for the second dinner which comes after our hunt of shrimps and crabs at the river.

We leave the center of town by hired motorcycles to a hilly part of Argao where there is a free-flowing river.  We arrive at 15 past noon and I make a courtesy call to the village headman.  The stream, I learned from him, have been diluted with poison by unscrupulous locals a few months ago that diminish the population of shrimps and crabs, along with fish, frogs and snakes.

I give them the actual briefing before we pitch our tents at the nearby school grounds.  I opted to sleep outdoors.  I am introduced to Sergio Gealon as our official escort and guide.  I buy a gallon of coconut wine to know Sergio better and to erase any awkwardness he may have felt on us.  He thought of Raymund as a Korean while he thought of Glenn as a pirate.   

Sergio lead us to the other fishing ground among rice fields.  A clear spring slowly gush out of a hole on the ground where it run out into a small stream that is used as a laundry area for locals.  I could see in the clear water a number of foot-long fish and fat shrimps feeding on underwater plants.  Folks say there is a stout eel living inside the hole which is covered by the estuarine plant.  I scoop water with my hand and tasted the water.  It is of good quality. 

Sergio take us to the old houses on stilts.  The posts and beams are old trunks of hardwood tree, gnarled and bent; the walls are of crushed bamboo; the roof made of swamp palm leaves; and the floors are bamboo slats nailed to the floor beams.  One of the house is erected as far back as 1931 according to an old lady who remembered the construction when she was just eight.  

I am the official cook and I have three sets of diners:  the carnivores, the vegetarians and the omnivores.  I prepare pork adobo for the first set and mixed-vegetable soup for the last two eaters.  I belong with the last and I could eat anything short of poison.  Glenn, meanwhile, started a small campfire.  The wood smoke is so nice to smell and memories came knocking at me.

Sergio came back after dinner.  Jerry Alberca, our former guide, lend us his Petromax and his scoop net.  We start for the rice fields and the spring hole at 8:00 PM.  Jungle Wil do the honors of catching our first prey: a thumb-sized shrimp with long pincers.  We transfer to the main stream walking across rice field dikes.  I am backstopping the party from behind with a walking stick, a big Maglite with the other hand and my Mantrack dangling on my breast.

We cross the road and continue on upstream.  Raymund tried his best to catch the activity with his DSLR camera without a good illumination.  Jungle Wil and the rest are following Sergio for he carried the brightest light that is now the center of the activity.  All bend down here and there to reach something on the shallows while on the walk.

I notice a commotion up ahead and I am just in time to see a sizable water snake trying to escape from the rabid hunters.  I cut off the snake’s route with my long staff then, all of a sudden, Raymund flashed his bolo and hit the snake causing it to writhe in pain.  The snake fought back by biting my stick and it never let go.  I raise the snake into the scoop held by Jungle Wil and I twist the net so it wouldn’t climb out. 

Before we finish our nocturnal adventure on the river, we fish out the biggest and fattest fresh-water shrimp that I have laid my eyes on.  I hold the shrimp and its big claw bit my thumb but I never let go and I drop it to our catch box where a number of its cousins are already inside plus a juvenile python, a mudfish, fresh-water crabs and frogs.  I released the frogs and the small snake but kept the bigger water snake.

Our host, the couple Eddie and Riza Alberca, welcomed us and I help them in preparing our catch by slicing the onions, garlic, radish and ginger.  Lemon grass, tamarind, cabbage, spring onions and desiccated coconut were added to the kitchen table while our male host started a fire from his earthen hearth. 

On the other hand, Glenn remove the skin from the snake, cut it to bite pieces and immerse it with spiced vinegar and soy sauce.  Glenn grilled the snake while our host make a tamarind-based soup of the shrimps and another soup of the crabs with coconut milk.  The crab soup is exceptionally done and I eat several servings of it while the shrimps are very fat and juicy.  Everyone enjoyed the meal and the conversation on the dining table drag on to almost 2:00 AM.

By now, all are eager to kiss the ground for a sleep inside their tents except me.  I transfer to another sleeping area but much safer where I could see the whole campsite.  The fire had died down and I blow it to life feeding more wood.  Wood smoke tickle me again to memory lane and I enjoy the cool night with a little light from the flickering flame.

I wake up early and enjoin everyone for a bath at a small waterfall on the river.  Jungle Wil prefer to stay and watch our things while I lead the rest down to the creek and walk upstream where there is a deep pool and a big rock blocking our way to the waterfall.  I climb over the obstacle and everyone slowly followed and it is indeed a small waterfall but the rush of water is so great that standing under is nearly impossible.

We stay for an hour at the waterfall.  I feel better after a good dose of natural massage by falling water.  We return back from where we came.  We pass by a communal water source and wash off our body with clean water.  When we reach the campsite, we change into dry clean clothes and queue our way back to our host’s house to partake of brunch of two free-rein chicken soup.  It’s a local treat and we gorge the meal with gusto.

I brought a long bottle of brandy and two bottles of energy drink and this is a good interlude to while away time watching a DVD movie at our host and do some small talk.  Before breaking camp, we clean the school grounds of garbage as our way of thanking the community for their support of our activity and of safeguarding our presence.  I personally dispose of our last night’s campfire and leave as little trace of it as possible. 

At 1:00 PM, we say goodbye to Eddie, Riza, Jerry, Sergio and the rest of the good people there.  We walk the road down to the highway and agreed to down one big bottle of beer for the road when we reach the corner.   We are now more wise and we decide to board the biggest and fastest bus for Cebu.  By 4:30 PM, we were already at the Cebu South Bus Terminal.

Document done in Libre Office 3.3