Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LVI: The Battle of the Bulge

I CAN FEEL THE ADDED weight and I am not comfortable with it. The month of December had pampered my stomach and intestines so much that my bodily desire to crave for more of the fats and sweets that I have been regulating for the past eleven months had gone out of hand. I have added girth that my favorite pair of Mammut hiking pants is rendered cabinet-bound.

The result of a hundred table feasts had made me uneasy and I have to push away the nagging feeling of just being lazy and being near the kitchen all the time where my wife cooks tasty concoctions. Got to say NO today – December 30, 2012 – and prepare myself for battle for the year 2013.

I have got to train again this early before it is too late and I set my sights to my ever wondrous Mount Babag where, I believe, is sufficient to give me this challenge. Others got wind of my plan (and predicament) and make themselves available. So, I will share the trail today with Randell Savior, Dominikus Sepe, Ernie Salomon, Wil Rhys-Davies and Mr. Bogs.

When I arrive at the church grounds of Guadalupe, Ernie and Mr. Bogs were already there. Then my cellphone got busy telling me to wait for a Dom, a Jungle Wil and a Randell. Okay. Fine. Whatever.

I carry a 40-liter Sandugo Khumbu bag and it has a stove, fuel can, a small pot, a skillet, a stainless steel cup, spoon-fork set, an extra shirt, my EDC, my tomahawk and my fire kit (just in case). I feel that the whole weight is inadequate for training so I buy a kilo of rice and two kilos of pork meat.

The added three kilos will be my training weight and I don’t need to share it to the rest and I will dispose of these when I reach the abode of the Roble family as my post-Christmas gift to them. I also buy fifty-pesos worth of bread for Manwel, Juliet and Josel. It is good for the heart and the spirit to share something and do exercise on the side.

Would I need to eat breakfast before I start the hike to Napo? The better of me got the good answer and it says NO. It is already 8:10 AM when we all walk the asphalt road to the highlands of Cebu City. The weather is fine although it would be hot pretty soon when the heat would dissipate away the early morning clouds that hover over the mountain ridges.

When was the last time I walk this road? Ah, I remember. I was alone when I walk here to the Roble homestead last January 29, 2012. I was bringing seeds for planting then. Today, I still bring seeds. I have with me five nuts of the tabon-tabon tree (sp. Atuna racemosa). This is a native of Mindanao Island and it is used in processing raw fish as a dish.

Anyway, I practice my scant English with Wil who never leave my side until we reach Napo. From there we cross the Sapangdaku Creek and follow it upstream by walking on the trail high above its banks. It rained yesterday but the ground is firm although a few muddy spots are present which we simply walk around or step over.

It is almost ten when we all arrive at Lower Kahugan Spring. I add another kilo to my back by filling my one-liter Nalgene bottle full. Now they were discussing which way to go but I tell them that I am on training and would rather take the hardest route which is the one that passes over a flower farm and which is facing directly the sun. What bravado! Let us see.

From the creek I lead the way and when I reach a mango tree my resolve begin to wilt. I gasp for air while my “love handles” weigh now like elephants. A tell-tale cramp on my left upper thigh poke my senses. Recovering my tattered sense of pride, I block those that have plans to overtake me and pushed myself up the hill and that danged shade-less flower farm.

Inhaling deep I begin crossing the exposed hillside and glad to have reach a shady part and, this time, I let the others go past me. Above me are more flower farms and I am now more comfortable with my pace with nobody behind me. I am the last to reach the big mango tree where houses are found underneath and I relish the coolness of the place.

I would have stayed long but Jungle Wil do not like that idea and I need to wake up from my stupor. Well, got to push my sorry ass now and save me some semblance of dignity. Obviously, I got the heaviest backpack and what made it worse is I carry a lot of unwanted bulges in my waist now and this is a serious battle. Yeah. I am serious!

My going is slow and I can see the others moving far ahead. When I reach a lot of shaded areas, my disposition is improving a little. I do not have to chase the air for my nose and the tell-tale cramp begins to disappear. From time to time, I see Mr. Bogs ahead in the same predicament as mine but I try not to notice so he would not force himself to work double.

Finally, over the horizon, I see the big tamarind tree. Underneath it is the Roble homestead and my friends should be there by now making coffee. The last stretch would be hot so I conserve my strength for this moment. It is now or never and I give my one last good puff of rested breath and I am there after a great effort of ignoring pain, heat and weight.

I got hold of the bench post and how I am glad that the nearest bench is empty. It is shaded and the bamboo seats are very cool and I immediately let go of my backpack as I momentarily closed my eyes to savor at this luxury. Wow, I could go on like this and not move but I need to retrieve the goods that I intend to give to the Roble family.

Yes, I got it and I bring the rice, the meat and the bread to the house and give it to Fele. His wife just arrive from their farm up another ridge and she showed a smile of gratitude and thanks. That’s all I need to keep my spirit moving and it’s a good feeling. Now, time to get my steel cup for that steaming coffee.

Ernie begins his magic on the cooking while Randell, Dom and Bogs take care of the milled corn. Me and Wil are engaged in a long conversation about the possibility of putting up a wilderness skills school. The green coconuts arrive and so is Manwel. Ernie is able to finish the mixed-vegetable soup and pork adobo and we progress to eating these as our much-awaited lunch.

After an hour of rest and pleasant conversations, we bade goodbye to the Roble family and proceed to Babag Ridge. Jungle Wil lead the way while I follow him. We are now climbing the Babag East Ridge Pass. It seem that I recovered my rhythm. Blame that to the lighter weight although I get to carry eight cobs of corn that Fele’s wife gave me.

The progress to reach the ridge take more than an hour. I am a bit disturbed that there are now barbed-wire fences where there were none the last time I climbed here. A no entry signage is now found on the short cut route to Manwel’s Peak. People are now getting greedy, I guess, and they are falsely claiming land where, I know, are classified as timberland.

We walk the Babag Ridge Road under the noontime heat but it is cooler here since it is above 600 meters above sea level. By the time I see a landmark where the trail to Kalunasan start, we separate from the road. I lead while others follow. I see the steep trail being furrowed in the middle caused by motorcycles. Water runoffs from rain made it deep and it is an ugly sight.

Down and down we go over very slippery terrain and polished stones and into scattered copse of southern mahogany trees. Here and there are mango trees and flower farms. This is the No-Santol-Tree Trail which I found and explored in 2009. The last time I used this path was during the Night Navigation Training on April 5, 2012 which ended on the early hours of the following day – April 6.

After more than an hour of walking, we reach the Kalunasan Circumferential Road and we walk south towards Napo. It is 4:00 PM and I am satisfied with my effort today in battling myself of those unwanted bulges. We take motorcyles-for-hire back to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and then transfer to the Red Hours Convenience Store for our customary post-activity discussions.

What a day and I just wish it could go on like this everyday but I cannot since I am free only on just a couple of Sundays every month. Nevertheless, it’s a good start and I feel good now. My limbs are working fine and I feel a sense of a looseness now. I think I am ready for 2013 and that project that Jungle Wil proposed to me.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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