Saturday, June 22, 2013

STREET SMART AGENDA: Knowing & Avoiding Road Sharks

THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT the road-use situation in the Philippines and the modes of public transports plying therein. I am not an expert but I can say my piece of mind basing upon my own direct experience as a road user. I would discuss about what type of public vehicles you would come across; the habits and behaviour of their drivers; and how to evade these.

For those who had been driving and commuting our roads for a long time, this essay is so familiar based on their observations and experiences. For those who are new to driving and/or commuting the roads, this piece may come very handy and would give them added knowledge to preempt future road accidents and “road rage”.

For those who are non-natives or foreigners, this effort is something to get acquainted with the different system of public transports plying the country’s roads, streets and highways and the behavior of local drivers. The situation here is not at par from where they came from and, perhaps, too chaotic or amusing for their own comfort.

This write-up is about being smart on the streets especially when using the road. I write this article from the eyes of a motorcycle driver. As we all know, the motorcycle is the most vulnerable mode of transport not only here but also in other parts of the world and I always see it on the losing end of a vehicle collision.

Anyway, for those who are not yet aware, there are many modes of public transport in the Philippines. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board or the LTFRB is the one government agency tasked to regulate all public land transports. Main office is in Metro Manila but there are regional offices scattered around the country.

Regulated public transportation are buses, jitneys, taxicabs and vans-for-hire. There are other modes of transport that are regulated by cities and towns like the tricycles and horse carriages; and there are those that cannot be regulated and are illegal per se but have been tolerated by the authorities with a blind eye to ply the roads and these are the motorcycles-for-hire and the pedal-powered tricycles.

Basically, you cannot drive a vehicle if you do not have a driver’s license issued by the Land Transportation Office or the LTO. There are two types of driver’s license issued to any individual and that is the Professional and the Non-Professional. A special license called the Student’s Permit is issued to those that are still learning the rudiments of driving and to those that knows how to drive but have not reached legal age yet.

Anyone could apply for a driver’s license. It doesn’t matter if you are a PhD or unschooled. Just as long as you are a Philippine citizen; of 18 years old and above; physically fit; of good eyesight; and do not use illegal substance. Driver’s license applicants are also directed to attend a half-day traffic seminar conducted by the LTO.

Now here’s the problem. A lot of “professional” drivers – the ones driving high-speed vehicles like taxis, jitneys, motorcycles and buses – do not have good reading comprehension. The Philippines adopt the English language for traffic directional aids and signboards and have an equal translation in local dialects below these. Even if these signs are explained in vernacular during that short seminar their retention of instructions are suspect.

Most of these kind have shunned the classrooms at an early age by factors which this writer do not have the liberty to expound and which is out of topic anyway. The competence of these drivers to ply the road are questionable for they lack sound instruction-retention skills and a basic understanding of grammar learned while young.

Another problem are the “short cuts” in acquiring the driver’s license. Fixers compound that problem in the past. There are now less fixers but you can fix yourself to be tested in suspected medical clinics and drug-testing laboratories which are in cahoots with enterprising government employees. Sometimes, you do not have to trouble yourself to attend those short seminars if you know (or have been instructed to by) someone inside to know your way around.

Now, we come to the modes of public transportation that you need to look out for and avoid, which also includes the unregulated. I will start with the most dangerous and end with the most interesting.

TAXICABS: Taxi, for short, these operate in big cities like those found in Metro Manila; in Metro Cebu; Cagayan de Oro and Metro Davao. A long time ago, they come in many colors according to the whims of their owners; but now they are painted white with big bold numbers painted on their sides and back windshields indicating that these are registered and regulated by the LTFRB. The name of the taxi is also indicated.

Taxis are efficient modes of transit and could go anywhere and quick but, unfortunately, they have the most undisciplined drivers. Their drivers drive fast and stop at a corner at the last minute and just a few uncomfortable inches from you. They are unpredictable and they change lanes as fast as you could imagine without even the benefit of using signal lights.

They drive their taxis as if they are driving motorcycles and would force their way into tight spaces especially at the rightmost lane thereby blocking passage of even motorcycles and bicycles when these want to take a right turn. They do not practice road courtesy and would take advantage of any open opportunity, even how tight, just so they could not be stuck at street corners and crossings.

They stop anytime and wherever they choose to when they think prospective passengers are ahead and they don’t give a damn of who is following them. They overtake you near corners and suddenly take a right turn, closing your lane and leaving you only two choices: either you collide with the taxi or evade and crash in the sidewalk or ditch.

Do not ever follow or tail a taxi. Do not even race with a taxi. Leave them if you are able else let them pass by. When you see something white with the unmistakable roof accessory that indicates that it is a taxi, take immediate evasive maneuvers and get away from these as fast as possible. Monitor them closely on your mirrors. Just imagine how chaotic and traumatic it would be if they were still in different colors.

JITNEYS: Officially, these transportation is called the Public Utility Jitney or PUJ. These are common in all cities and provinces of the country. These are garishly decorated and painted in all color imaginable. They follow a specific route and the names of places are indicated on the sides. Types of PUJ come in different shapes and sizes; from big-engined 30+ seaters to 15-seat Suzuki Multicabs, which I love to call “public utility midgets”.

The first PUJs were made from original surplus World War II-era Willys Jeep and converted to carry passengers, eight a side plus driver and two passengers on the front seat. Later on, local manufacturers like Baisac, Sarao, Lawin, Armak and others copied this durable transportation. These are mostly used in Metro Manila. In Cebu, PUJs are bigger, more modern looking and travel fast using engines from Fuso or Isuzu light trucks.

Automotive technology is far from perfect. Parts used are surplus components coming from Japan or Taiwan and their mechanical problems are a constant nuisance for commuters and other road users. Their headlights don’t shift from high to dim; it remain at high and causes glare to other motorists. The drivers don’t use signal lights and brake lights are intermittent. The reason: inferior automotive-wiring system. Blame these to the LTFRB for giving these franchises.

When a PUJ stops to pick up or disembark a passenger, most likely they would slide to the side, but not entirely. Most often they stop where they are, leaving the lane impassable to other vehicles. They do this because they want to make sure that other PUJs would not overtake them and pick up more passengers up ahead which should have been theirs. Other times they would stop right on the middle of the road and on street corners. When a PUJ stops, everyone stops behind it and always cause traffic. Remember that!

Nearing street corners they would crawl at one kilometer per hour and time their stop when the red light glows to the consternation of the ones following them. Or they would race at each other and jockey for position so they could arrive first and pick up the most number of passengers and woe to those found in the middle. It’s like swimming among sharks in a feeding frenzy!

Get away when they are in a feeding mode. Do not follow them. The rightmost lane is their domain. If possible, identify the streets where there are PUJ routes and evade those. Take another street instead where there are no jitneys. Simplify your day this way so you will not be stressed.

BUSES: Known also as a Public Utility Bus or PUB, it is the main public land transportation in the country and travels long distances to the northernmost tip of Luzon and to the southernmost tip of Mindanao. They are in different colors according to the name of the bus liner. They may be airconditioned or not and a lot of these buses ply on or pass by EDSA in Metro Manila.

They have certain routes and they occupy the left lane when travelling in provincial roads then shift to the right when picking up or disembarking passengers. If you are in a hurry, you cannot overtake on the right else they close it suddenly. You have to wait when they move to the right. They function like PUJs, but bigger and emit more black exhaust fumes!

They block the lanes just like the PUJs. If PUJs are sharks, PUBs are orcas and certainly more dangerous when you are caught in between. They travel faster and you should be concerned when PUBs are racing with each other and are behind you. Surrender immediately the lanes to these PUBs and let it overtake you while you can.

Avoid routes taken by buses so you would not be inconvenienced or in the line of danger. Most often these buses are found on national highways but they may be found on city streets because bus terminals and their garages are located in there.

VANS-FOR-HIRE: There is only one country-wide franchise given by the LTFRB for these kind of transportation. I don’t have a problem with V-Hires when competing road space. My only problem is when I become a passenger in it. Just imagine a 10-seater passenger van converted as a public transport and operates to accommodate fourteen people. Their airconditioning system cannot cool the interiors and people are packed like corned beef.

TRICYCLES: This is a motorcycle with an improvised side car. Cities and municipalities give franchise to these. They have big bold numbers at the back and they have routes to follow. They are slow-moving and they service narrow secondary streets. They are banned along national highways and along primary streets and so it would not be difficult to evade these. When you follow one on a very narrow road, it is torture for those with appointments.

ANIMAL CARRIAGES: These mode of transportation are remnants of a vanishing era but city administrators and cultural sentimentalists retain these as tourist attractions. These are given special franchises and have their own special routes. Only the cities of Manila, Cebu and Vigan allow horse-driven carriages to make a living ferrying passengers. The bad side about this is the horses are more often influenced by illness, fatigue and heat and would go berserk when not in the mood. I would not want to be near that when it is in that temper.

MOTORCYCLES-FOR-HIRE: Locally known as “habal-habal”, these are rampant in the countrysides and slowly made themselves felt in the big cities. While these could access the most remote corners of the farthest hamlets, which is good; maintaining these as modes of transportation in cities is dangerous. For one, the drivers do not respect traffic laws and do not have knowledge about safety. They don’t wear helmets and they deny that as well to their passengers.

They are illegal and therefore, cannot be regulated. They cannot even police themselves. There are too many of them and competition is stiff amongst them. They do not give premium to a good night’s rest for they are awake for the most part of the day and night just so they could earn to pay for their motorcycles which they loaned from money lenders. They charge you high if you are not from their locality and they would take advantage of that and seemed to enjoy it most of the time.

They are so ill-disciplined and so rude, probably, most of these kind graduate to drive taxicabs one day for they have the same mindsets. But not all. A lot of them die young. Watch them when they drive past you and watch them how they swerve and close the lanes right after overtaking you. So James Bondish yet so near to an out-of-body experience. They throttle at racing speed and they do not understand motion dynamics, much more so, reading a road sign. Just let them pass and do not race with them but watch out for them coming from all the other directions.

PEDAL-POWERED TRICYCLE: A folk favorite, especially in small towns, this is actually a bicycle with a side cab. Fondly called as a “trisikad”, these are slow-moving modes of transport that are given franchise in some towns because of the lack of modern transportation system or that these are politically expedient for the powers that be. These do not have head lights, tail lights, brake lights and signal lights and take any directions and turns as they wish when empty. Do not follow these for they retard your movement. Take main arteries and highways instead when you happen to find yourself in a sleepy town.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LX: Night Navigation Training

PEOPLE GET A FEEL OF excitement when they hike up the mountains during night. Some do this for fun; others do this because they have to; and a few do this to train themselves. Except training, all rely on the battery-powered flashlight and they all go up to their campsite destinations in a long chain of lights, a wonderful sight to behold from the eyes of a startled toad.

The battery-powered flashlight, which have developed from a low-voltage incandescent bulb to halogen to light-emitting diodes (LED), is the standard equipment of a backpacker and it is a good option to carry an extra. The LED have multiplied the ordinary bulb’s lumen power a hundred times over and changed the name of the flashlight into a torch. Credit that to technology.

However, when you use a torch, there is one primeval function that you inadvertently choose to ignore and disregard. It is not one’s fault though but this is an instinct that have evolved through constant use in the past by our earliest ancestors and have, likewise, declined through neglect, through our dependence with modern technology and through ignorance.

This natural night vision is developed to great advantage by nocturnal hunters. I am not a hunter but I prefer to use my eyes to work my way in the dark. That is a fact. I have led people on the trails many times and, by situations beyond my control, commit them to walk in the night. Of course, they used lights but I advance my natural sight to good use on myself.

Night Navigation Training is taught in the mil but I am fortunate to be taught by them. Like water, knowledge should meander down and be taught to others and when it does I make sure my people at Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are given priority. Actually, NNT is one of the skills that is highly valued in bushcraft and survival. However, I am generous enough to welcome members from other outdoor clubs or anyone willing to learn upon my invitation or through referrals.

Ten new participants arrive at Guadalupe in the late afternoon of Black Saturday – March 31, 2013. They are Antonette, Patrick, James, Mario, Nyor, Silver, Maria, JB and a couple of guys. Most of them have never tried hiking in the mountains under a pale moonlight. Old hands Ernie, Dominikus and Eli Bryn will assist me in this activity. I give a short overview of NNT and final briefing before proceeding.

We start from Napo, Sapangdaku at 7:00 PM. I advised the participants to use their flashlights when crossing streams and when in doubt of the ground where they are going to tread at. Always fix a certain celestial body as reference when the moon have not yet risen. By the way, the moon waxed full last Holy Thursday and is still bright tonight although it may rise later at 8:30 PM.

Our pace is slow. Deliberately done to control the brain from sending the wrong signals. We arrive at Lower Kahugan Spring at 8:00 PM and proceed to refill water bottles. Sooner, we will be at the place where we will prepare, cook and eat our dinner. Camp Red prefer to eat their meals fresh from the cooking fire.

We leave the spring after a brief nocturnal hunting along the river and I lead them to a steep switchback and, at exactly 8:30 PM, we reach the Roble homestead. We are welcome anytime to prepare our meal at this place and make noise at that certain hour of the night. We begin unpacking things to retrieve our food ingredients.

I start the cooking of the milled corn while Dominikus boil water for coffee. Meanwhile, Ernie begins to prepare an assortment of palatable dish like pork adobao, pork sinigang, swamp radish salad and fresh-water crabs. Silver cook red beans and JB fry dried fish. The rest help in the slicing of the pork meat, vegetables and spices underneath the silver sheen of the moon on the landscape.

In between, I show the participants how to look for Polaris using Big Bear and True South through Cygnus, the Southern Cross. We eat our supper at 10:00 PM. This day is my last day of fasting. I do this every Holy Week and I should have broke my fast at 6:00 PM but my commitment to teach NNT precedes over my gut. We leave the place for Babag Ridge at 11:00 PM. Nevertheless, NNT should proceed without haste.

We follow the East Ridge Pass and I could see clearly the trail. The fogs covered the moon yet it is still bright enough for my eyes to see. Rest is given to those who toil and everyone give their best to ignore pain, fatigue, unfamiliarity and that primeval fear of the dark. Safety in numbers negate that fear and those who paced faster wait for those who lagged.

We arrive at Babag Ridge at 12:00 midnight and everyone take a rest to recover their breath. We walk in almost daylight speed to the top. Wow! The brain must have to do something with this. The fogs are not that thick and it is around twenty-three degrees Celsius. We walk the road down to Babag I and then up to the trailhead a kilometer-and-a-half away.

The last half of our journey will be downhill and it is perilous. The moon is on the downswing of its orbit and it may disappear anytime behind the mountain range. This time I encourage everyone to use their lights and provide walking staffs to those I think who need it most.

This trail to Kalunasan is seldom taken by me and I always have trouble remembering my last route there even during daylight. The night presents a bit of a problem for me this time so I arm myself with a heavy staff. I could use it as a weapon, a probing stick and as an anchor to stabilize my downward pace.

The No-Santol-Tree Trail is a route that I have discovered four years ago based upon the description of a local about the presence of a santol tree (sp. Sandoticum koetjapi) that marks the trailhead. The moment I looked for that tree, it is nowhere to be found, and I got lost as well, walking in circles obviously wanting to satisfy my exploring spirit never knowing that I found a different path.

I have limited control this time and this is the most difficult part of the activity and it is where the old hands come in handy to keep watch of those that are beyond my scope of vision. I have to use my small LED light as well. I remember I slipped here many times last year. Vegetation is much thicker here but I am not worried because I have a torch and a new pair of Columbia Coremic Ridge 2 shoes which I am testing.

The shadows play on my brain and I begin to doubt at myself. The route I followed seems unfamiliar leaving me lost for a while, then I detoured and I persisted until I see a hint of a faintly-familiar bend in the trail that led me to a more common contour. I am the navigator and guide and I use my trailcraft skills to the max despite the deceptive appearances caused by shifting shadows.

I cross a low saddle that lead into another ridge and, this time, I know where I am going but the going is not easy as I have expected. The path have been obliterated almost by thick growth due to non-use by people and I hack the vegetation with my wooden staff to part a way and to shoo away anything lurking there.

Meanwhile, the peaceful night is shattered by blasts of firecrackers in the distance. A religious activity signifying the Resurrection of Christ has just started. I wait for the slow walkers and give myself a break. The trail is very misleading and I would prefer that those behind me are very visible from those much much behind. I walk as if without purpose just killing time so that those from the tail end could catch up.

Satisfied with the pace, I cross several arroyos – dry waterways – where loose broken rocks and detritus accumulate in an unstable manner. I arrive at the first of the many tamarind trees found along this trail. I reach a copse of tamarind trees and rehydrated. I rest and wait for the participants to arrive. One by one they came and welcomed the opportunity to sit again after many hours of walk.

We finish the walk at 3:30 AM and it is still dark. We decide to walk back to Guadalupe on the road and reach it at 4:30 AM. We have come and walked from the dark mountains of yesterday to greet Easter Sunday and it was a great sacrifice. Osiyo!!!


  • Night is different than day, caution should be exercised.
  • The walking stick is very useful in night navigation. Not only it could aid you in your balance and a counter to gravity, it could be used as a probing stick and a weapon.
  • Check night sky fixtures as your reference. It will aid you in your general direction.
  • When using your natural night vision, refrain from switching on your torch. The glare of unnatural light destroys your night vision. If it does, switch off the light and close your eyes for ten seconds and blink several times afterward to fine tune it back.
  • Use your peripheral vision to great advantage. It is that part where you could detect movement and the details of the trail which cannot be detected by a frontal sight.
  • Use your light when crossing a stream or when you are in doubt of the part of the path before you.
  • Do not play in to your brain. The brain receives signal from your eyes and tenses the muscles and release more adrenaline. Heart pumps more blood and would need more oxygen. You hasten your pace and you gasp for air and you become fatigued. Save your energy instead as you are not chasing someone in the dark.
  • Walk very slow. Take your time.
  • Walk during full moon or at least where the moon is not less than half.
  • Wear visible clothing.
  • Prepare a route card and leave it to your base support crew, a friend or to the authorities; and indicate the time when you will arrive and to notify them.
  • Train in a controlled environment.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013


IT IS THE MONTH of June once again and it is time for the opening of a new school year as well as the celebration of Philippine Independence Day which fall on the twelfth. Warrior Pilgrimage pay homage to our country’s well-deserved freedom by organizing the yearly PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE BUSHCRAFT CAMP. Cebu City will, again, play host to ladies and gentlemen willing to learn the rudiments of bushcraft and survival on June 10, 11 and 12.

The PIBC is a rare outdoors event which differ so much from the traditional mass climbs done every Independence Day by outdoor clubs. Instead, PIBC teaches people wilderness and survival skills while enjoying the outdoors. It is a pilgrimage of learning, of camaraderie and of love of country. It delve into the roots of your primal existence and your relation to your environment. It develops character and prepares yourself when the ice cream hits the fan.

In 2011, when the first PIBC was held, fourteen participants came. Last year there were sixteen and, this year, I limit the participation to twelve for this is not a commercial endeavour. The location will still be at Camp Damazo, a concealed place found deep among the bowels of the Babag Mountain Range. Lending me a hand are members of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, themselves alumni of PIBC MMXI and PIBC MMXII.

Randell Savior shall again be the Camp Ramrod. He shall be in charge with the administration of Camp Damazo like ground space allocation, camp hygiene and the tasks to retrieve water and firewood. He shall brief regularly the participants about camp rules that will be implemented and the daily routine that each participant will take part.

Ernesto Salomon is still the official Camp Fixer. He shall prepare, fix and cook the six meals allotted for PIBC MMXIII participants and staff. He shall coordinate with the Camp Ramrod pertaining to the collection of water and fuel. Eli Bryn Tambiga shall be the designated Camp Medic and Scribe. He shall document all camp activities and related events through the camera lens as well as administer first aid to injured participants and camp staff.

Glenn Pestaño shall again demonstrate and expound the module on Every Day Carry or EDC while Fulbert Navarro shall concentrate on the chapter about Basic Knot-Tying. Both shall provide their respective training aids as may be desired and both shall assist the Camp Ramrod with the administration of Camp Damazo.

Camp Hands shall be composed of Jhurds Neo, Dominic Sepe and JB Albano. Each have separate functions and all shall assist the Camp Ramrod with the administration of Camp Damazo. Expected to grace this year’s PIBC are other alumni from here and from Luzon.

Here is the final list of PIBC MMXIII participants and are as follows:

  1. Ricardo Caliolio
  2. Aljew Fernando Frasco
  3. Aaron Maderazo
  4. Anthony Echavez
  5. Marc Josef Lim
  6. Warren Señido
  7. Allan Aguipo
  8. Christopher Maru
  9. Ariel Cercado
  10. James Ryan Combista
  11. Barry Paracuelles
  12. Johnas Obina

When this organizer have closed the deadline for the slots of participation, it cannot say no to the demand of more people wanting to join the PIBC MMXIII and the PIBC is obliged to accept them, nonetheless:

  1. Anthony Espinosa
  2. Yuri Postrero
  3. Patrick Henry Calzada
  4. Antonette Bautista
  5. Aaron Francis Binoya
  6. Chad Bacolod

All have paid their registration fee of Eight Hundred Pesos (P800.00) which already includes the event T-shirt, six meals, certificate of participation, instructional literature, the free use of Lanipao Rainforest Resort and other operational expenses like security and site transportation. The cost is fair enough and you could not avail of this elsewhere unless you pay expensively.

If interested for next year’s PIBC, contact this blogger at +63933-3911-62 or at +63927-397-1214 for an early reservation.

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

MAN-SIZED HIKE VIII: Lutopan to Guadalupe

IT HAD BEEN MORE than a year when I walked from Toledo City to Cebu City through a route that I had trail-blazed in 2011 and made permanent on succeeding hikes. I have hiked on this for four times with the last on February 12, 2012. This is part of Segment I of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project and have been adopted by the Camp Red Bushcraft & Survival Guild as one of the routes for their selection hikes for new members.

I remembered on my first effort two years ago. Five people were with me exploring this route. It was not easy. I have to do recon and double back and the river bed was like an oven as it is now. I have to read the lay of the terrain, analyze the shadows, observe unnatural movements and peak my senses to a high level for it was then an unfamiliar ground and I have to contend an unexpected peril: flash flood.

Today, March 24, 2013, I am on my fifth crossing and I am with Ernie Salomon, Jhurds Neo, Dominikus Sepe, JB Albano, Silver Cueva and nine other people. Other people I mean are those outside of Camp Red. One of the first-timers is Chad Bacolod who is also my fellow member of the Luzon-based Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines.

This is cross-country walk that traverse the middle of Cebu although, I must admit, that we have to ride motorcycles from Lutopan, Toledo City to Camp 7, Minglanilla to catch on lost time. You know, the bus leave the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 6:20 AM and travel very slow until it reach the corner going to Uling Road where, ultimately, it reach Lutopan at 7:45 AM. Then we have to eat breakfast there and buy food provisions for our noontime meal along the route. We leave Lutopan at around 8:40 AM.

We start at 8:50 AM from Camp 7 and walk up the Manipis Highway to the corner of Sinsin Road, now a part of Cebu City, and take another rest for those who have not snatched breakfast in Lutopan. Finally, at 9:15 AM, we finally concentrate on the hike and follow this ridge road going to Odlom. From there, the dirt road goes down into Buot-Taup, located along the banks of Bonbon River.

Along the way I meet two boys on a wooden cart pushed by another boy. They were all smiles despite the heat of the day. Another set of children played on the dirt, running and jumping over stacked hands. I was just like these children long ago doing what we do best with less. Sadly, unstructured outdoor games are replaced by those coming from an electrical outlet and it is not a healthy lifestyle.

I found the river receding a bit due to the onset of summer. At its widest, I cross it without the trouble of getting wet by stepping and balancing on stones. As I was doing it, it occur to me that my adroitness might cause accident on those who are behind me and I begin to worry that people might get hurt trying to imitate what I do, so I decide to wade on the streams and show them that it is alright to get a wet pair of feet.

Looking out for hidden craters were not difficult as was the last time when water was brisk and deep and we just walk around the holes but careful enough not to tread on the rims. I notice the river banks have been quarried and some parts of the river are starting to get wide by this illegal activities. Landslides occur and bamboo groves and trees are uprooted and fell to the banks and are decimated by residents for firewood.

By 11:30 AM, we reach the place where we are going to cook our noontime meal. Even with the advent of summer, we were afforded of a constant water source that spurt out of a green rubber hose. Everyone make themselves comfortable under the shade while me, Ernie, JB, Doms and Silver show the others how we Camp Red work our meals. We don’t settle for cold meals but make the best food even on a day hike. It might be time consuming for other outdoor clubs, but, nevertheless, our outdoor cooking skills are polished everytime we do this.

We leave our resting area at 1:30 PM bound for Camp 4, still treading the river. We reach a forked branch of the river and the Mananga River starts from here. Water quality on the river is not good anymore here as residents flush all their sewage along the banks. I am very careful not to wade on parts where it is in stagnant form and commence where water is flowing.

We pass by the mouth of Bocawe Creek and soon I will be at the trailhead to Cabatbatan. We arrive at Camp 4 at 3:00 PM and I get disoriented when I missed the landmark and then walk further downstream and I see a bridge. I have not noticed the huge acacia tree and assumed it is further ahead and that is where I really got lost.

It took me another twenty minutes to find the correct place and the tree had been intentionally cut by chainsaws, its remains made into charcoal. Danged cockroaches! Inutile Camp 4 village officials! The tree was just across their building and they never lifted a finger to protect. It was there last year and, perhaps, before I was born and it was a beautiful tree providing shade to travellers.

I look for another comfortable and shady place to remove water from my shoes and socks before taking that ascending and unrelenting trail to Cabatbatan. I wasted precious minutes to look for the now-absent tree since this is the halfway point and we have now a few day hours left. It is a long way off to Guadalupe and it will be dark when we get there.

Chad struggled up the trail but game enough to take breathing rests in between. I see Jhurds doing good as well as JB, Doms, Silver and Ernie while the rest take it in stride and adjusting their pace and carefully controlling their strides to avoid overworking their legs.

This is the crux of the route, an unending ascent of about three hundred meters length where, after that the route cross the upper part of the Bocawe Creek, a kilometer of rolling and slowly ascending trail going to Cabatbatan. Fortunately, there is a small store selling cold soda drinks and I hope the storekeeper is there else it is closed and it would be three kilometers to the next store.

The store is open and everyone gets to quench their thirst with two bottles each of soda drinks. I opt a cold big bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen and shared it with Ernie. We stayed a good twenty minutes before we walk again, this time, on a snaking road that rose everytime we reach a rise. We arrive at Bocawe at 5:15 PM as the sun is setting but it still a long way to our destination.

Jhurds is a revelation today: he is with the lead pack. The road goes higher and higher until it reach a part of Babag Ridge where the Pamutan Junction is located. It is a crossroads of four ways going to Bocawe (which we just came from), to Pamutan, to Buhisan and to Sapangdaku (which way we will go). It is now 6:00 PM.

We follow the descending road and it is a torture by the time we walked on concrete. All used their headlights or LED torch but, as usual, I rely on my night vision. Minutes ticked and soon this will be over. I would have loved to hike again over Bebut’s Trail in the dark but the route had been sealed at its nearest approach from the church. I now make a long detour to the Sapangdaku spillway which we reach at 7:45 PM.

Twenty-eight kilometers of rugged terrain under twelve hours of hike is not bad. All fourteen souls are safe. A bragging right for the newcomers yet it is still a challenging route for the repeaters, especially I, wrought down by age and aching bones. This has been the first route I took for this very ambitious project but it is worth visiting this time and time again even with a missing acacia tree.

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