Saturday, February 23, 2013


Sic vis pacum parabellum
If you want peace, prepare for war. 

This is the route that I used to run twice a week from April 1993 to July 1994 while maintaining my physical conditioning as a former counter-terrorist operative. This routine always starts at 3:00 AM from the corner of GL Lavilles Street and follow MJ Cuenco Avenue to Mabolo then turning left to Juan Luna Avenue, which was known long ago as San Jose de la Montaña.

This street gradually rises and becomes known as Salinas Drive after crossing Archbishop Reyes Avenue; passing by TESDA, Waterfront Hotel and the University of Southern Philippines. It is a good route for it prepared me for the higher elevations up ahead. As I reach JY Square, I turn right taking Veterans Drive passing by PC Hills, Plaza Hotel (now Marco Polo Hotel), Casa Maria and the Maaslom exit of Maria Luisa Estate Park.

The run is gruelling with endless rises that wind slowly up and up. At the lower rises, mountain bikers would overtake me but as the going gets difficult, especially beyond Chateau de Busay, I would overtake these bikers and increase distance from them as I approach Garahe. I would run a bit farther on low gear and stop near the Tagalog family residence to recover my breathing for about two minutes.

From there, I would retrace my route back to JY Square at a high gear. Maintaining a comfortable speed is useless and a pain in the knees. You have to roll with gravity and sprint everytime you negotiate steep road descents. As I reach the end of Veteran’s Drive, I divert to Gorordo Avenue, passing by University of the Philippines, crossing Escario Street and Archbishop Reyes Avenue, then passing Camp Sotero Cabahug before turning left to Gen. Maxilom Avenue and then take a right to MJ Cuenco Avenue.

By 5:00 AM, I am now back at GL Lavilles Street and wind down the activity with brisk walking to V Sotto Street and back three times. Hydration is done at home after the run. Beverage is lime juice left overnight and water. Breakfast are three pieces bread and tea with lime, good enough to sustain me through noon.

Running attire at first is cotton T-shirt, basketball shorts and a pair of high-cut sneakers. Later, I was able to produce a second-hand Adidas running shoes which made my feet comfortable and my running a worthwhile activity where I joined 10-kilometer races and half-marathons to test myself under pressure of time.

When I knew that you could document trails through, a web application that allows you to upload GPS readings or retracing a route by hand and mouse with Google Map technology, I decide to record my old training route for posterity. But there’s more to this route that would perk your interest. To would-be warriors, here it is:

Sometime in the middle of 1993, I see a group of seventeen foreigners and locals walking briskly at the vicinity of the Carmelite Sisters Monastery. Instinctively, I transfer on the other side of the road. I am going to Upper Busay while they were going to Mabolo, perhaps, to the North Reclamation Area. It was 3:15 AM. They were wearing long white robes with turbans and skull caps and carry military-type backpacks.

Obviously, they were of the Islam faith. It is best not to antagonize them by not staring at them. But I have this ability to look without really looking. There are island barriers at Juan Luna Avenue that kept me safe from them and, besides, I believe in my stamina and my legs. From the corner of one eye, I observe as I pass.

Leading the group is a tall man of Arabic features with a long beard. Others were less imposing but there were other Arabs and a sprinkling of other nationalities. I see two Africans; some Pakistanis; and the locals could very well be mistaken as either Indonesians or Malaysians. They were walking two abreast and I thought they were on a pilgrimage to Mecca. But I doubt it.

Fast forward to 2002, right after 9/11. The CIA were able to extract stale intelligence reports from Al Qaeda militants during interrogation at Guantanamo Bay. It was reported that Osama bin Laden and select Al Qaeda operatives passed by Cebu on their way to Afghanistan from a training camp in Mindanao. One of those that was with bin Laden is Ramsa Ahmed Yousef, the author of the first bombing of the World Trade Center.

The report stated that they boarded a cargo ship which was docked at the Cebu International Port. This port is at the North Reclamation Area and this happened in 1993 with which year I saw this group led by an Arab. What coincidence! I unknowingly crossed paths with Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda!

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer


LAGATAW said...

wow! Nice encounter sir!

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