Tuesday, July 1, 2014
I HAD BEEN MULLING for quite a while to walk alone the trail to that range of mountains where Osmeña Peak belong. Although I have been doing some solo walks to the peak in the past by way of Dalaguete, but I never have done so from Badian. I almost got there solo last August but two people got wind of my plan and scuttled it. However, today, November 17, 2013, that wish would come true.
Basak, a village in Badian, is an exit point whenever people visit Osmeña Peak (1,015 meters above sea level) from Mantalongon. In going down to Basak, people take the Malagaring Trail. This trail is torture to the knees and the shoes. It is rocky. Some sharp, some sloping and very slippery when wet. Although quite formidable, it is really a beautiful trail offering a breathtaking panorama of the narrow valley, of the coastline and of Badian Island.
I know this route very well but it is strangely unfamiliar when you do a reverse. Only fools would walk it from Basak. I am one of these then for insisting to do this for a second time and, for this occasion, under the unyielding torment of the sun. Why start from Basak when you could cruise easily from Mantalongon? The answer to that, my dear Pedro, are 780 meters worth of elevation gain. If you insist to be called a mountain climber, this is significant in your physical preparations.
I am a bushcrafter but, in the course of my outdoor activities, I climb mountains. Not because it is there but because it is just an obstacle to my route. My walk is the complete opposite of conventional backpackers’ route and my terminus would be at Mantalongon. I may not be the first one to do this alone but I may be the first one to blog this worthy activity and convert it into a trend. It should be documented and shared to all and, hopefully, would bring satisfaction to those who will try.
When I left the terminal bound for Badian at 7:00 AM, this quest is already half done. Even without breakfast, much less a cup of coffee. You know, I harbor grief and pain about the succeeding disasters that have struck our nation and I have gone to the very places where earthquake and storm came to give comfort to the affected. This walk is my way of releasing this melancholic stress; my own defense mechanism. This walk is dedicated to the survivors amongst us.
I am a survivor myself and the chance of being outdoors alone will solidify my existence and my link with Mother Earth. The bus arrive at 10:00 AM and, instantly, I procure the ingredients for my noontime meal at Badian market which I intend to cook along the route. More weight were added to my backpack but it is an essential weight. Before I leave town, I eat a piece of bread. This is my breakfast and I am experimenting how one bread, if bloated with water, would carry me through this journey.
I start my walk at about 10:30 AM after stretching my muscles at the very foot of the flight of stairs going to the Basak Elementary School. I am well-stocked with water this time – 2 liters or 2 kilos – and I am not known to use water excessively just to quench thirst. I know this would be a hot day since I start late but I have no misgivings. This walk is all about me and for the survivors of the recent disasters.
Once I am out of the settlements, I stop underneath a mango tree and retrieved my Puffin Magnum knife and sheath from the bag. I place it beside me hanging from my operator belt. I now carry my knife openly when I am outdoors and it is for a lot of reasons. Long ago, my old club used to discourage us about bringing a knife when climbing mountains yet I always had a small one stashed inside my backpack. I now defy that logic and today I spawned a breed of bladekeepers known as the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.
I carried another blade – a very rare William Rodgers. It is also sheathed and the wooden handle is prominently jutting out from a hole where bag and shoulder strap meet for easy retrieval. A classic Buck 112 folding knife is safely tucked inside my beltline while another classic folder – a Case XX – is inside one pocket. Last, but not the least, is a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster placed inside the zipped pocket of the 40-liter Sandugo Khumbu bag.
I carried a lot, didn’t I? I can afford to carry that weight and these, too, are essential weights. All are given by my benefactors, except for the Buck and the Case which I got from trades. They are all handsome tools and it takes a special kind of person to understand blades and handle it correctly. You should know your knife rights too and, conversely, know the laws that govern the carrying of knives which I teach everytime I convene a bushcraft camp.
The limestone formation gave the Malagaring Trail a character all of its own. The narrow valley floors are tamed by man but the edges are teeming with wild vegetation eager to reclaim what was theirs. Many deep valleys are choked with hardwood trees and bamboos. Although the day is very hot as it is near noon, the shades afforded by trees are very welcome. I follow a beaten trail and onto the heels of two locals with big but empty baskets carried on a trumpline from their foreheads.
I come upon a narrow pass where the two locals rested and they, with due courtesy reserved for visitors, immediately leave and give me space when I take my turn to rest. The view below is just too enchanting; the azure sea of Tañon Strait so inviting. I am thirsty from the initial exertions so I take a sip and let water stay long in my mouth before swallowing.
My camera is busy taking all what I perceive as very significant like landmarks, hardwood trees, rare plants, etc. It is placed inside one of my pant’s pocket for quick retrieval. My dark blue Rohan hiking pants are a sturdy pair, quick drying, with thick fabric but very light. This pair had not failed me in all my outdoor activities. I also wear my old Rivers 3514M hike boots since there are not too many long descents but I am too careful with foot placements since soles are not that thick anymore.
I just follow the trail, guided by memory, onto enchanting places. I say enchanting because I am alone and my thoughts are not disturbed by a company of chatting people and that kept me away of worries by their presence. I am excited to see many bamboos in places where there are no human activity and I entertain the idea at sitting out the rest of the day cutting one pole and prepare my food on bamboo but it is still a long way so I disregard that.
I push on my ascent skirting farms onto long ridges wishing when this would end. Within the forest, I saw the stinging tree (Local name: alingatong). It had not been cut by people even if it is beside the route although its neighbors are slowly felled dramatically widening the trail. I first saw this tree during my first visit in August 1992 coming from an overnight at Osmeña Peak with my old club. It is like seeing an old friend again.
In my relaxed pace I reach the village of Patong at 1:00 PM. I boil water for coffee first before starting to prepare my meal. I cook the milled corn then the viand. It is a concoction of mushroom and mixed vegetables, fried first before turning it into a soup. No MSG. As I am in the middle of this, two locals join me and befriended me. I am offered a glass of fermented coconut wine which I accepted. The single glass became a repetition and my tongue is loosened.
I told them the tale of my experiences shuttling relief goods to Bohol during the aftermath of the 7.2 earthquake and to Northern Cebu days after Super Typhoon Yolanda left. They were greatly affected upon hearing of the plight of their fellow Cebuanos and would have helped if they would have the resources. Although they had not suffered much but they had felt the unusual aftershocks. I shared my meal to them before I left at 2:30 PM.
I pick my way among farms of cabbage, spring onion and vegetable pear which are hacked from rocky terrain. The soil is good with fine climate associated with high elevations. It is now colder but I have just taken a meal even as I am not wearing layers of clothe. As I near the ridge, I meet people going the opposite way. They came from the market in Mantalongon and they are carrying goods which they could not produce from their own farms.
The ridge bless me a view of the high valley of Mantalongon which is Cebu’s former breadbasket. In the old days, all the vegetables that the markets of Carbon and Taboan in Cebu City used to come from here until other places, much nearer to the city, produce their own. I slowly follow the route to the market and I pass by indigenous hardwood species, still untouched and in its blooming splendor like the yakal (English: golden mahogany), the bagras (English: Mindanao gum) and the bagawak (English: starburst).
The afternoon shadows begin to creep but I am on the way to the market which I reach at exactly 5:00 PM. Mantalongon is known for its men who carry their blades openly in public. I keep mine and walked proudly with it. I get a lot of stares for I am different. Not because I am a stranger but because they are not used to seeing city people with backpacks carrying knives openly. I dare to be different and they better get used to it.
I stay for a while to return my Puffin Magnum and sheath and belt back to my backpack while the William Rodgers stay as its place. It is placed so for quick retrieval should I need it pronto. When I think that I have not sweated much, I replace my shirt with a dry one. I eat one bread from a mobile stall before hiring a motorcycle to take me down the main highway.
The road is good and wide but up ahead are recent landslides caused by the earthquake of October 15, 2013. Rocks of all sizes and dirt would have been all over the road but it was recently cleared. The motorcycle run with a dead engine as it negotiate the descent at moderate speed. When I landed at the highway, a Rough Riders bus came half empty and I can rest now - - - easy.
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