Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I START LATE FOR my pilgrimage. It is 2:30 PM of a Saturday; January 14, 2012. This will be my fourth appearance for the “fiesta señor” solemn procession held in honor for Cebu's beloved patron – the Señor Santo Niño or the Holy Child Jesus.
Last year, I walked the procession with four other companions but they (and their faith) evaporated as soon as the first drops of rain begun to hit them. I finished the procession together with other persistent devotees despite the strong torrents of rain lashing Metro Cebu. I was fasting then and got poked everywhere by umbrellas but I survived. It was one of my defining points of my faith.
Today, I still fast and I will be alone this time. My starting point will be from my house and I negotiate the back alleys to CJ Cuizon Street and then to GL Lavilles Street. Infront of me is an empty MJ Cuenco Avenue. Streaming along on the shady part of the street like ants are pilgrims going on their way to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño.
The sun is shining after several weeks of insistent rains. I am prepared for the worst, rain or shine. I wear my South African leather veldt hat, my grey commemorative PIBC 20111 t-shirt, my St. John's Bay dark-blue walking shorts and my tan-colored Rivers hiking boots. I carry an empty wallet, a Sony DSC220 digital camera, a Nokia 2730 and empty plastic for waterproofing.
My familiarity with Cebu, being a descendant of original residents, work to my advantage so I could evade the crowd. I took a right turn to Zulueta Street then take a short cut to Colon Street via the seldom-known Dimasalang Street. I reach D. Jakosalem Street and follow east until the huge crowd converging at the corner of Osmeña Boulevard made it impossible for me to go on.
I join the slow moving mass of devotees but found the sea of umbrellas too tormenting for my comfort. I have to extricate myself from my constricting location and move sideways slowly and courteously for the south side of the line. I find the sidewalks much better for catching up the carroza that carried my dear Sr. Sto. Niño.
On the sidewalks, I found I could work better with my camera; snatching a shot here and a shot there. One of those I enjoyed most is taking a picture at a cameraman poised for a shot – shooting the shooter! There are many I snipe at and I lose count of them. Maybe, one of these cameramen might have returned the favor?
Anyway, the procession cross Colon and continue into the uptown area. I am able to catch up with the carroza as it stop below an overhead pedestrian bridge between Sanciangco and P. del Rosario Street. On the background everywhere as I pass is the song “Batobalani sa Gugma” and I watch with awe of the deep faith shown by the devotees as they raise and wave a hand in homage to the Holy Child Jesus whenever the chorus is sung.
I walk abreast with the carriage on the other unused lane of Osmeña Blvd. until I reach another overhead bridge near Fuente Osmeña. I climb the two flights of stairs and observe the scene from above. The view is quite dramatic and so soul-flexing. The throng of pilgrims are so thick coming from downtown and converge near Robinson's Place where it is joined by a steady stream of more crowds coming from Capitol and B. Rodriguez Street.
As the main body approach the overhead pass, people waved and prayed their petitions before the Holy Child Jesus. Cameras clicked everywhere trying to get the best shot. I go down on the other side to transact money through an ATM as my craving for water became acute. I climb back the bridge and returned to the south side of the line unable to find a drink yet.
I need to evade the heavy crowd at Robinson's. I go the other way of Fuente Osmeña in a half-circle and, fortunately, water were given freely there and I ask for one and thank you very much. I take a short cut to the main route of General Maxilom Avenue passing by an underpass between Elegant Circle Inn and Rajah Park Hotel, Llorente Street and Juana Osmeña Street.
Strangely, the crowd is not that thick here. I assume the main body have not gotten past the bottleneck at Fuente Osmeña. I decide I have to tarry a while infront of St. Therese College and wait for the carroza to arrive. Slowly the crowds began to filter in and I could now hear the AFP Central Command brass band doing its rendition of the “Batobalani sa Gugma”.
Now they come. The green line of criminology interns appear shielding out the rest of the crowd from approaching the carriage with double ropes while a company of volunteers and blue security guards walk ahead of them to make way for the Sr. Sto. Niño's coming. Despite the confusion, there is order. Credit that to the gentle spirit of Catholic Cebuanos.
By now, the pilgrims populate every space along Gen. Maxilom Ave. as the route goes on into the direction of MJ Cuenco Ave. I hold on to the ropes to keep pace with the carroza until I arrive at the bottleneck at the terminus of both lanes wherein I decide to walk ahead instead and stop for a while to chat with friends near the Museo Sugbu.
I walk on and take a quick sip of water as I reach my house. My wife Vilma and grandson Gabriel, join me at the sidewalk, together with most of my relatives and neighbors to greet and wave a hand of the dear Sr. Sto. Niño's passing. Firecrackers are released into the air and everyone shouted at every burst.
I would have finished my quest when I am now in the comforts of my home but I am accustomed of walking the extra mile. There is one more thing to do and that is to escort my dear Sr. Sto. Niño home to the basilica. That means I have to leave all behind, come what may, hunger or not, thirsty or what.
I hold on to the ropes again, trotting when the pace goes quick; bumping and colliding with fellow pilgrims. At this juncture, the route gets ten times more crowd that are a hundred times more devout. I shudder and my hair stood on its end as shouts of “Viva Señor Santo Niño!” are now more intense and the waving of hands more personal. Camera lights flash and blind me momentarily.
The procession make a right turn to Legaspi St. and I am now in a difficult predicament as the flow of the main body of devotees begin to consume even the line of volunteers at the side streets keeping order on the onlookers. I let go of the rope when I saw a slight break in the thick column of crowds near the office of the Department of Tourism.
I move quick among inert standing people; large pots of boiling cooking oil; sidewalk merchandise; tightly-parked vehicles; and mounds of garbage. I reach Lapulapu Street and turn right to the direction of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño until I could do no more forward approach. I found myself shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the pilgrims in a stiflingly-hot enclosed sidewalk.
It is the best that I could do. Right infront of me is the carroza and my dear Sr. Sto. Niño exiting D. Jakosalem St., taking a right turn to Osmeña Blvd. before entering the arched gate of the basilica. I wave and sing and supplicate before his divine presence. I am sweating as it is hot and I have not had a regular intake of fluid because I am fasting and I reconsider that journey back home.
I maneuver slowly out and join the long queue of pilgrims streaming out of that narrow location and I welcome the open spaces and fresh air. Even as I and the other devotees help reduce the number of people in and around the basilica, still there are many who take our places and it is still part of the procession. I find myself relegated to the curbs and gutters traveling on the opposite direction.
Finally, I reach home and I want that dinner please. Before me on the dining table are sauteed prawn in spicy-hot tomato sauce, fried chicken and raw anchovies in spiced vinegar. Tomorrow will be the mother of all Philippine feasts – the Sinulog Grand Festival and Mardi Gras. Pit Senyor everyone!
VIVA SEÑOR SANTO NIÑO!
Document done in Libre Office 3
1I organized the first Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp which was held last June 11-12, 2011 in the Babag Mountain Range.
Monday, January 16, 2012
I LOOKED FORWARD TO the day when that “high-ground trail” that I discovered and half-explored last April 2011 would finally be settled for completion. I will share that ecstasy with seven others today, October 30, 2011, and it will be another trophy that Camp Red will relish and be worth hanging on at their “adventure wall”.
I am the guide and principal brain behind this activity. This will not only be an exploration of terra incognita but a venue, as well, to teach people about traditional land navigation and good trail sense, under my Grassroots Bushcraft teaching series which is promoted at the Warrior Pilgrimage blog.
The uncompleted Lensa Trail will be the “live” laboratory for this study and we will start from the south gate of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, climbing over the bare back of the dreaded “heartbreak ridge” by way of Bebut's Trail and then settle for a coffee break at a small community in Baksan before resuming to find “Camp Damazo” in dense jungle.
From there, I will bring them to “Creek Bravo” to prepare, cook and eat our lunch; before climbing up another range and reach “Tango Xray”; where there is a cross-roads of four trails leading north, east, west and south. In April, I found this place from the south direction and decide to take the eastern branch to cut distance between there and Guadalupe as it had been already late in the day.
I aim to take the north route today which, I know, will connect with the Pamutan-Baksan Road – the one I designated as “Tango Yankee”. The western branch would come later at my own pace and time and, perhaps, answer some of my thirst for more exploration.
Trailing behind me are Camp Red regulars Glenn Pestaño, Raymund Panganiban, Silver Cue, Jhurds Neo and Randell Savior (who will take care of the rear) plus two new participants who are out to satisfy their curiosity about bushcraft and survival: Faith Tannen and Justin Ianne. Glenn, Raymund and Randell are no strangers to “Camp Damazo” for they were here during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in June 11-12.
We leave Guadalupe at 7:30 AM and, true to its promise, the sun is uncompromising at “heartbreak ridge” and choked our muscles tight. Blood that supply oxygen among our body system and gives color to skin seemed to have abandoned almost on everyone's faces giving it a pale variant. Raymund, Faith, Ianne, Jhurds and Glenn have it.
I decide to allow the group to recover their bearings near a cairn and give them two reference points: the sun and Mount Babag. Traditional navigation rely mostly on the celestial bodies like the sun and the stars; shadow analysis; and the natural land formations like rivers, saddles and ridges, from where most routes are found. Mt. Babag, when seen through the compass at our location, always point north and cannot be missed.
A shadow kept following behind me and is uncompromising as well and it belonged to Silver. The same Silver, who learned the ropes of wilderness safety together with Raymund and Glenn at Mount Manunggal in August 23-25 under the aegis of Wil Davies. I throttle up the pace and down goes Glenn far far away behind, who raise both hands in utter surrender.
To counter this difficulty, I instructed him to go down to the primary evacuation area and motor to meet us instead at the second evacuation area in Baksan. The rest followed me and we reach our first resting place at exactly 9:00 PM. At this stretch, a hawk appeared circling the sky and that is a good omen. As promised, I give them the final briefing over coffee before proceeding again and be reunited with Glenn, who seems to be okay now after a long rest.
Lensa Trail start somewhere on the ridge where Freedom Trail pass. It is a hot day but we are in a man-made forest of teak trees. Sooner, we will go down the ridge and follow the route to a low hill that goes down into a low saddle and climb another hill and another much higher hill. From there, the trail goes down into a level ridge and ends in a cul-de-sac. A dead end.
Down that ridge is “Camp Damazo”. I explain to them how I was able to locate the campsite over a trail-less terrain that are steep all around. I showed them a gentle slope that goes down like a tongue into “Creek Alpha” and it is the only sane way to go down there. It is already more than four months since I passed by here and the route now is covered by thick vegetation and what tracks I and my party made then are now obliterated.
After several slips over loose soil, we take a short rest at “Camp Damazo”. The small camp is flat and even and the water hole have vanished. I remind everyone to watch where they piss for we are now inside the Buhisan Watershed Area. Across the campsite crossing the creek is a trail that goes over rolling terrain and where different varieties of tree grow.
This stretch of trail is excellent although many trees are cut indiscriminately by firewood gatherers. I recommend everyone to utilize any wood staff found as aid in hiking. We reach “Creek Bravo” after 30 minutes and, immediately, I announce to everyone that we will rest here and do our cooking. It is a reprieve then for everyone and a good excuse to enjoy a long rest.
I assign the cooking of milled corn to Randell and Raymund, while I do the cooking of pork adobao and mixed-vegetable stew. I dig first a water hole beside the creek for washing purposes before I commence with the food preparation. To enhance my cooking, I bought several green peppers from the roadside market in Guadalupe for this purpose and, likewise, plucked a lot of basil leaves along the trail.
Sadly, I don't use monosodium glutamate in my cooking nor have I the inclination to use those instant “fry mix” into my food ingredients for I know it is just MSG in another package. I would rely instead on balance of taste by natural means with salt and vinegar; and aroma which both pepper and basil could provide.
Silver produce a can of red kidney beans and, just the same, I mix these over both viands, enhancing further my cooking. When the milled corn is about to be completely cooked, I place green gumbos above it and let it be “steamed” by heat coming from the milled corn.
After the meal, we did not tarry long to enjoy our allotted siesta time. I decide that we proceed to our next destination which is “Tango Xray”. Time is precious and I do not know how far “Tango Yankee” is from “Tango Xray”, but I do know that the former intersects the road. I found my trail sign that point to the correct direction to “Tango Xray”. I follow down the trail into a saddle and, this time, we begin ascending steadily.
My pace is very slow so Raymund, Jhurds, Glenn, Faith and Justine would not be inconvenienced. I trust the stamina of both Silver and Randell and both could help me out in pacing with the rest. This is real forest and it is so silent except for the whistle of breeze among leaves and the sentry croaks of a single gecko.
Along the way, I explain to them the circumstances surrounding every abandoned camp used by forest people and why some things are left and for what purpose. I remind them to ration their drinking water as there is no water source from here to “Tango Xray”, much more so on that unknown stretch of territory towards “Tango Yankee”.
I reach “Tango Xray”, at last, and tell them the story of how I was able to discover this place by analyzing the terrain and vegetation and how I was able to reach safety by aid of a compass. I was able to ascertain my location by finding the general direction and extricate my companions from a difficult situation. Anyway, I show to the present group the trails that goes east, west, north, south and the unexplored path that I will share with them today.
The route goes down into a small creek which, I presume, is the same tributary that lead to “Creek Bravo”. There is a jumble of vegetation, now frayed, on the ground beside a huge tree before I reach the creek and I could see a tell-tale sign of somebody 3-4 days ago lying in wait for something edible. Obviously, a hunter would use such camouflage to hide himself from his prey which would manifest itself among the foliage of that tall tree. Perhaps, the prey is a wild rooster.
After crossing the mountain stream, the route goes up abruptly a steep terrain. It had been like that for about 250-300 meters until I notice a series of small water runoffs cross the trail. Up ahead, I see a good-sized spring with a split-bamboo guide used by locals to channel water above the ground. It is a blessing then for our water-depleted party to replenish their drinking water supply. This discovery of a water source would very much help in bringing people here.
The route settled down into an even terrain and I could detect that we are now walking along a saddle where another hiding place by a hunter is found beside a tree. We pass through a “green hole” and cross a lively creek that would, ostensibly, link to “Creek Alpha”. A very huge trunk of a burnt-out dead tree block part of the way after crossing the waterway.
By now, the vegetation seems to be a lot tamer and less dense and I believe we are now approaching “Tango Yankee” which is now very incontrovertible when I hear the distant roar of passing motorcycles. At exactly 2:30 PM, the last of my party reach the road and I am at a loss of how to utilize the rest of our free time for either exercise and enjoyment.
Right across us is a wide path that I always notice for several times when I come down from Pamutan and, maybe, it could answer the question that I am asking myself now: how to make use of our free time? Okay, I will try that route and everyone agreed to try it also. This trail goes down and down until it reach the Lanipao Rainforest Resort. So, I hit two birds with one stone today and I couldn't believe this stroke of fortune.
We end our activity at 4:00 PM and we decide to relish and release our adrenaline at Summer Kyla in V. Rama Street. Everyone are so buoyed up by what they achieved today and resort to old Cebu trivia games amidst rounds of cold Red Horse beer and slices of pizza. The chemistry of this new Camp Red people are beginning to jell well and I am simply elated by this prospect because...
...Camp Red is very capable now in how to effectively range and explore the oft-ignored local mountains that still hide unknown territories and nooks without having to visit well-known places and amassing expensive budgets. Camp Red delights to promote the Babag Mountain Range as the better mountain range for true-blue Cebuanos and local tourists.
Document done in Libre Office 3
Some pictures of last collage courtesy of Raymund Panganiban
Sunday, January 8, 2012
I HAVE NEVER BEEN to Ubay, Bohol but, today, I'm gonna change all that. Yes, the today I mean is the night of October 14, 2011. Tonight, I'm going to board a boat from the Port of Cebu for Talibon, Bohol – my first time. We leave at 10:00 PM but I already slept an hour ahead on a cot too small for my frame.
Yeah, it really is small and I remedy that by changing position: with my head at the bulwark side and my feet hanging at the end. Simple. Improvise and adapt. BTW, I am an “outlaw bushman” and I mean what I write or say.
The boat arrive at Talibon the following day – October 15 – at 2:00 AM. Since it is too early and too dark to find my way through unfamiliar territory, I decide to sleep for another two hours. I wake up to a beautiful red dawn instead after I rubbed sleep from my eyes. Oh yes, give me that camera please!
I walk in the early morning from boat to terminal and sat on an aging public jitney that would take me in the fastest time available on a land known for a creeping sense of time. I don't mind. I am ahead of schedule anyway. My official itinerary says that I would be at Ubay by 7:00 AM and I have already a surplus of one hour!
The jitney did leave at 5:30 AM and it rumble its way along the highway passing by Trinidad and reach Ubay at exactly 7:00 AM. Immediately, I need something to eat and look about Ubay's own distinct taste but found none and gets consoled instead with the biggest “ukoy1” that I have seen and eaten.
After the meal, I look for the fabled sea produce of Ubay at its wet market. I carry with me a rectangular Tupperware® inside of my Baikal 35-liter backpack for this purpose but I was disappointed. I meet instead a meth-head who signalled to me that he sells amphetamines! Shucks! I could only shake my head of why and how this vice reach this far.
From afar, I see boats secured along the single wharf of Ubay and I understand that this town is the gateway to Bato, Southern Leyte. I'm tempted to go over the waterfront area but I need to go to the National Dairy Authority fast as I am not here for leisure. I hire a motorcycle and am brought to Calanggaman in less than 30 minutes by the driver.
I introduce myself to the farm administrator and commence my work taking pictures of the government-owned dairy farm. The ranch is pure pastureland set on rolling terrain and small catch basins. It hosts a small dairy plant and a milk-storage facility is undergoing construction.
After that, I transfer to Lomangog and visit the Philippine Carabao Center where I am able to drink fresh carabao2 milk sold in plastic bottles. I order four more and finally get to use the empty and bulky Tupperware® that I have been carrying all along. Finished with my purpose, I directed the driver back to Ubay to do sightseeing and souvenir hunting.
After taking refreshment at a local bakery, I snuggle myself inside a van-for-hire that is bound for Tagbilaran City at 10:00 AM. The route would pass through the eastern and southern part of Bohol that would host places whose names sounded so sweetly and very familiar from what tales I heard of long ago from my grandparents and their acquaintances. Places that I have not been to and have not seen since.
It is such a treat then to be given an opportunity to cruise by this sun-splayed land of wide open spaces, chocolate hills-like mounds and robust streams that are populated by smiling inhabitants who loved to pronounce the letter “y” as a “j” and the “k” as an “h”.
It's just a shame that I could not use a camera due to the enclosed design of vans that keeps cool air from escaping but does not really cool the passengers at all because all are packed like sardines and air could not circulate freely. Sweat comes down from somebody else's forehead as the cramped space and lack of movement take its toll on the body.
I really hate riding in one. It would have been better if the windows are kept open but women don't like the idea of having windswept hair and caked makeup so it is kept shut. Never mind if the engine is overheating and some foul air from someone's behind is released.
Fortunately, by my location nearest the door, I am able to inhale natural air every time a passenger disembark or going in to ride. Sure, it is taxing to a person of lesser ability in body and mind but I welcome the disturbance. The breeze cools me as well as giving my body the needed blood circulation.
The van arrive at Tagbilaran at 12:30 noon. Since it is too early, I decide to visit again the PhilHealth office in Mansasa which I last went to two years ago then pass by the ThreeSixty Pharmacy in J. Clarin Street to leave a package before ending my time in Bohol reading a book at the fastcraft terminal.
As I was reading, the Apostleship of the Seas in Tagbilaran celebrated a mass inside the terminal and I ditch the book. Assisting the dear priest is another priest from the Archdiocese of Seattle, USA who was with a group of Catholic Americans doing pilgrimage. After that, it's time to leave Bohol again and the vessel leave Tagbilaran for Cebu at 4:10 PM and the in-house movie entertained me so much that I chuck the book again.
By the way, I came to realize at mid-sea that I have completed my circumferential journey of Bohol two years late. In October 2009, I arrive at Tagbilaran and travelled overland to Talibon. This present trip closed this chapter when I arrive at Talibon, thence onwards to Ubay and, from there, Tagbilaran; churning out a distance of more or less, 560 kilometers.
You know what, my complete tour of Bohol Island took two years in the making compared to the twenty-eight years3 I did for the island of Cebu – my home province. Maybe, in the years to come, I would replicate this feat in other island provinces and not just step on one place and brag that I had been there and done that in Lakbayan.
Anyways, this blog ensures its readers and followers that Warrior Pilgrimage is also about adventure travel and it may also try the not-so-travelled circuit routes in the future as in the case of the islands of Palawan, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi or Sibutu as part of its itinerary. Let's just cross our fingers that PinoyApache will accomplish these and bring goodwill among the inhabitants.
Document done Libre Office 3
1Shrimps or anchovies baked in thin flour and eggs and fried in oil. A local delicacy in the Visayas.
3June 28-29, 2009: going south and north and back to Cebu City. One stretch of road is left untravelled though and that is the coastal highway from Bogo to Tabogon to Borbon which I passed on January 4, 2011.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
I STOOD NAKED with 499 other “captives” on a cold and windy early morning of January 1989. My time in Tanay, Rizal is winding out in about two weeks. Infront of us are our sets of fatigue uniforms and combat boots piled high like a mountain on a road junction at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
I am assigned as pathfinder and I am issued a compass to lead 100 people back to Camp Capinpin during the escape and evasion phase. At a given signal, we are going to break free from our “holding area” in a deep valley and recover our clothes up here. I don't think I could do that in utter confusion. But I marked where my uniforms lay and I don't have to go far. I have to think fast.
Up ahead is a clump of grass surviving in the middle of the road going down to that valley. It is almost shoulder high and I believe no one could imagine that it could hide a big guy in there. But first, I would retrieve what my grandfather taught me many years ago: to sit still like a rock and harness my mind to confuse the “enemy” before I could reunite with my uniform and boots.
Then a rifle shot cracked in the air and everyone stampeded down the road. I ran with the other “captives” and crouched low when I ran past the grass. Stealthily, I eased back into its protection. More shots were heard and more footsteps came hurrying down until there were no more. Then silence.
I bent my head between my knees, closed my eyes and willed my mind to go blank. I heard nothing except the wind and crunch of heavy boots and one of the “enemy” came close. Then the grass danced before a strong breeze and it is reassuring.
I could feel an “enemy” standing just a meter beside me unmindful of my presence. Warm exhaled air lightly touched my skin pores as it is carried by the breeze but I am a rock today and I am invisible. Discovery meant hard butt strokes from an Armalite or from an M14 and indescribable disgrace.
The “enemy” took three steps forward and I heard a loud metallic action as a round is loaded into the firing chamber. Then a burst of gunfire is fired into the air. Warm empty brass shells landed on my head and my back. Another burst is fired again. The “enemy” gave last-minute instructions and I could understand it clearly well.
Once the transport trucks leave, I opened my eyes. I looked around the surroundings and cautiously approach the mound of uniforms in a wide circle and found my boots and my army fatigues. By the time I was tying up the shoe lace for my last shoe, the first “captive” arrived, followed by another until all 499 milled around the mound. Everyone were grabbing for himself clothes and shoes, fitting this and that.
I just could not believe two guys fighting over the same shirt and a sleeve almost got separated. Elbows flew. Raised agitated voices rang in the cold morning. Wrong pairs of shoes scattered everywhere. Pants seesawed back and forth. Discipline learned the hard way evaporated. It took almost an hour before the crowd settled down and donned their uniforms in the best way they can.
I regrouped my 100 and I stifled a laugh at their appearance. Each group is on its own and we are five in all. Then the whole 500 traveled as if it is one group and that is insane. I decide to break away for I know the “enemy” will be waiting and laughing. From here to the camp are “enemy” checkpoints and discovery meant physical humiliation.
Half of my group questioned my logic and it is torn apart. I am left with fellow “captives” from the Visayas and Mindanao regions, to include my Moslem brothers. My ragtag group evaded several checkpoints over a land that I am not familiar with. I led them by studying the terrain and chose where my route would take with a characteristic cunning taught by grandpa.
My group arrived first at half past noon inside Camp Capinpin undetected and I reported to my training officer. Half of my command is found missing during headcount and I bore the brunt of the punishment but that is nothing compared to the ignominy of being “recaptured” at the checkpoints which the rest were, several times.
Really, it is nothing for I found solace in the fact that I have outwitted the veteran Scout Rangers at their own game and turf.
Document done in Libre Office 3
Sketch in ballpoint pen by PinoyApache