Monday, September 22, 2014


SINCE THE TIME I shifted to Bushcraft and Survival, I now know where I am going. This is no accident for me but it had been motivated by one popular TV show whose producers made one fine dude into a buffoon. That show had made nonsense of what bushcraft is really all about. I know that, for I had been taught primitive-living skills by my late grandfather, who exposed me to woodlore at a young age.

In the Philippines, bushcraft or primitive-living skills or wilderness survival or off-the-grid living is still practiced by a good percentage of the populace, even more so, when you travel to the far countrysides. Shades of it are even carried by migrants into the big cities but that is just all about it. Nobody is interested anymore because it is low technology and inconsequential. This present generation thinks that the search engines and their tablets could provide them of what they want.

This direction I am talking about is imparting my knowledge to people and, at the same time, converting contemporary yuppies into weekend bushmen. My philosophy of enjoying the outdoors is not conventional and does not follow how the mainstream work but I place it in a proper perspective so it could be understood better by those who may practice it. It is an activity that uses a lot of common sense and a good dose of hard labor, although it is disdained by many conventional types because of its nonconformist methods.

I would like to emphasize that there is more of the outdoors than just being conventional or mainstream. I have seen the difference because I had been there. I cannot comprehend long ago why my hands were tied when I am supposed to enjoy “ultimate freedom”? It is not a very good idea going on camping with someone watching behind your back constricting your movements along the rigid lines of a foreign ideology called Leave No Trace.

Be advised also that there is a limit to enjoying a bushcraft activity which is really different from what you see on TV. You do not just cut green branches without considering the type of species. You do not just make fire without a purpose and without also considering the impact it gives to the camp ground. You do not just show off your blades on popular mountain sites without offending the sensibilities of certain people. Our own concept of the outdoors does not necessarily gets appreciated by the mainstream crowd.

People are now more aware of their environment because they choose to help and preserve Mother Earth in a good state in whatever way they can and that is good. Their adherence to LNT made them better hikers or mountain climbers, I suppose, and educates other people who visit the mountains for recreation. Ethical backpackers are incensed of people and activities that despoil the environment and are now more forceful in their approach. Rightly so, for a lot of reasons like garbage to fire rings to mass climbs to crowded campsites to commercialism.

I am practicing Philippine-style bushcraft and I make it sure that its impact on the environment is negligible if you compare it with how Westerners does theirs. I shun popular campsites and I would rather be with as few people as possible so we could enjoy bushcraft better. I encourage my adherents to practice light backpacking and to absorb the principles of “adapt, blend and improvise”. Campfires are mandatory on preparation of meals but, do not worry, we keep it small.

Conventional hikers always love to camp on high places and when they see fire rings on their beloved campsites, they would attribute that to bushcrafters even though it runs contrary to how and where we choose our fireplaces. We prefer hidden nooks, inconspicuous places that are too remote and wild, even to an adventurous urbanite but, sometimes, we use our old haunts which are now frequented by people. We equate our activities akin to those of indigenous people and we imitate their ways of moving about in a forest.

We learn plant ID by heart and that distinguishes us from firewood and charcoal gatherers who cut trees wholesale. We prefer cutting green limbs from introduced or invasive species, if we do not find any left behind by locals, when we need it for general bushcraft work. Firewood and kindling we get from dead branches which do not touch the ground and save someone the trouble of being hit by a falling one. We forage and use wild edible plants on our cooking; natural fibers for cordage; and natural tinder for our fire kit.

What we cannot leave behind, we burn. Any organic refuse, goes back to the land. As much as possible, only opened cans and empty bottles goes back to civilization to be sold in junk shops. Bringing in of garbage back to the cities are unnecessary since it would only use more fuel needed to transport these to dump sites, add more man hours and help hasten the filling up of landfill projects. Smoke from small garbage we burned in an hour of a weekend are peanuts compared to everyday poison unleashed by coal-fired power plants and vehicle fumes.

The importance of knives in bushcraft and survival are supreme and its presence in all our activities are mandatory. If you cannot stomach the sight of it, then keep your distance else learn from us. We have no other purpose for the knife except as a tool and, without that, tasks would be downright difficult to accomplish. Nowhere else is an outdoors hobby would you get to learn a myriad of skills except here in bushcraft and, as always, the knife is very relevant.

Where does one learn bushcraft here? If you search the Internet, this word is confined to countries that are mostly found on the temperate zones. In the Philippines, your search will take you to Cebu, the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp and me. Yes, I teach bushcraft only during the PIBC, which is always held on June 10 to 12. The Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines also requests me to teach their members wilderness survival each year. Apart from that, I instruct people indoors about urban survival techniques.

To keep and maintain the skills of local bushcrafters sharp all the time, I established an organization for this purpose: the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. It is the only one of its kind in the Philippines and is based in Cebu. Camp Red members are always out there on the field every weekend, hiking mountain trails, exploring, foraging, learning outdoors culinary, firecraft and a lot of real-world skills. You can distinguish them by their preference to carry openly their knives.

Bushcraft, for me, is the ultimate experience. You are the sole master of your own fate and you will know the mountains and its valleys and rivers more than anyone else. You just stay in a few places while everyone else are preoccupied of their time and destinations, totally missing out the finer details of a journey which would have given one lasting impressions, wonderful discoveries and irreplaceable wisdom. I have achieved total and unimpeded freedom doing all these and no foreign ideology, modern technology or expensive gears had altered or prevented that.

Bushcraft shall remain outside of the mainstream and so would the men and women who had embraced it. It will never ever replicate activities of conventional outdoor interests nor would it intrude on their realm but it can be integrated into theirs, with a few adjustments to their individual’s mindsets. I have come to the conclusion that Philippine-style bushcraft will stay for good and it will develop people into self-reliant individuals who may become leaders of a community of survivors should there be a SHTF situation.

The introduction of bushcraft as one of the activities in the Philippine outdoors scene should be welcomed, even from those whom have thought that the outdoors is their monopoly. Although we do not abide by the principles of LNT, we understood the spirit by what it was meant for and we have our own set of values when in the outdoors. We appreciate nature very much and we, like the rest, are never in a good mood when our mountains are abused. It is our playground as much you had considered it as your own.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014


THE BOAT FROM CAGAYAN de Oro arrived at 06:00 today, February 2, 2014.  I know that the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are congregating right now at Guadalupe for another outdoors sortie at the Babag Mountain Range.  I have to be there in the fastest time possible as this is an important activity which would not go well with my wife.  She kept complaining that I have no more time in the house except to eat dinner, watch TV, sleep and drink coffee in the morning.

Well, deep inside, she knows that men of my age are prone to heart diseases caused by inactive physical exertions and unhealthy lifestyles.  I know she would agree with my continued absence during weekends as long as I do not go home drunk and cut in noisy.  In a blur, I am out and running to the street carrying the same bag that I used during that travel to northern Mindanao.

I commute twice from home to Jones Avenue to Guadalupe and I notice people with candles on the streets and inside public jitneys.  Of course, it reminded me that today is the Feast of Candles and it marks the end of the Advent of Christmas.  It is the birth anniversary too of my late maternal grandmother, Purificacion, and my late paternal grandmother, Presentacion.  I arrive at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe at 08:30 and I feel that the Camp Red guys are now hitting the trail from Napo to Lower Kahugan Spring.

After eating two moon cakes at a bakery, I hurriedly take a motorcycle ride for Napo.  At around 8:50, I am now hitting the trail myself.  I notice the Sapangdaku Creek very robust and noisy, the result of a typhoon that had passed by a day ago which dumped a great volume of rainwater.  I open carry a Seseblades JEST Bolo for today to test it.  I follow the trail and begin counting the footprints.  Each individual are distinguishable by a different shoe tread but there are just too many, overlapping each other and I have to try.

I was at this act of studying the tracks when Dominic Sepe arrive near a mango tree and we both help each other distinguish the shoe prints.  Here is a Vibram sole and there a running shoe.  No, two people with running shoes!  Quite small, maybe a woman’s, but the imprint is deep, it could be a man’s.  There are a lot of hiking shoe prints, very wide and with deep furrows.  Some smudges, made by locals wearing rubber slippers.  I do not think that all these shoeprints are made by Camp Red people.  Surely, there are other groups of hikers today.

We reach Lower Kahugan Spring and I top off my water bottle.  The stream is flowing freely and it is full.  Gone are the debris and the big stones used as a footpath and replaced by another set of stones, smaller and unstable, that looked like a tiny dam.  I surmise that our guys would take the long Kahugan Trail and so, I decide, we take a shortcut to our destination which is at the Roble homestead.  I follow this route and I see fresh footprints and no Camp Red bushmen would surely walk this very steep path.

When we arrive at our meeting area, the group of Barry Paracuelles and Maria Mahinay are already there.  Two ladies and another guy are with them and I notice Barry and the other guy wearing running shoes and that answers the shoeprints I studied a while ago.  So the Vibram sole must have belonged to Aljew Frasco as what Dominic had suggested.  When the Camp Red group do arrive, Dominic had guessed correctly about Aljew’s shoes, eliciting a smile from him.

I see Jhurds Neo, Christopher Maru, Fulbert Navarro and his girlfriend and the new guys, Jerome Tibon and Tope Laugo.  It is nice to see them again and I believed Jhurds had planned a firecraft activity for today.  I have brought my fire kit, which consists of safety matches, a butane lighter, a ferro rod, fatwood, charclothe and a jumbled mixture of foraged tinder.  I also brought pieces of pyrite which I found in that trip to Mindanao to test it if it could give a good spark if clashed with steel.

By now, the guys are foraging firewood and sticks to make tripods.  Black-soothed cooking pots are familiar fixtures of bushcrafters unlike those of the spotless ones that conventional outdoorsmen carry.  We at Camp Red prefer to cook our food with fire coming from wood instead of canned fuel.  The more we use firewood, the better our skills with making a fire and it does not matter if we use a matchstick or with friction to start it, just as long as it is done the bushman’s way. 

I make the JEST bolo work on the cutting and splitting of wood.  I use a baton on the stoutest wood.  I found the JEST bolo easy to use as long as it stay sharp.  This bolo had been given to me by Dr. Arvin Sese, through Jay Z Jorge, while I was conducting a Basic Wilderness Survival Course in Antipolo, Rizal last October 2013.  It comes with an Igorot-inspired wooden sheath and a webbing belt with clip lock.  I even use it with the pyrites and minute sparks appear. 

When the group of Barry and Maria had left, another group of five hikers came.  It seems, they are part of the first group but this habit of failing to come on time wrecked havoc on someone’s itinerary.  It is not our concern though and it has no effect on our activity.  The fires had now started and the rice is now ready for cooking which Fulbert is now focusing on.  Dominic produce iron grilles and lay it above the surging fire, a prelude to a delicious barbeque.

The pots used for rice are suspended on two tripods from which separate fires blazed below it.  The pyrites were tested on the steels and anyone could choose to keep the pyrites for himself.  I also brought an industrial bearing cap which composition approximate those of a micarta.  It could be sawed into small pieces and filed to proportion as knife scales.  I gave this to Jhurds for his unending knife projects and, hopefully, this piece would provide him satisfaction.

Anyway, a mixed-vegetable soup with oyster sauce is now on its final stage of cooking while the steamed fern tops are now transferred from pot to plate.  The thin strips of pork and beef are giving off smoke and pleasant smell and the gastric juices are beginning to play on our tongues.  It is 12:00 and everyone gets a seat inside the visitors shed as the prayer before a meal is lead by Fulbert.  Refills after refills, the food gets decimated by the hungry band of bushmen without a whimper. 

When we had recovered from that feast, Aljew produced pulp wood and begin carving a spindle and a fireboard; familiar items for a bowdrill.  On the other hand, I go downhill and look for a dry pole of bamboo which I found and cut it to size with the JEST bolo.  I carry it up and keep it near a fire to heat it and then refine it as a fire-making implement.  While Aljew is showing to all how to make a bowdrill set, I show to Jerome and Tope how to make a bamboo-saw set.

The knife, together with the folding saw of either a multi-tool set or a Swiss Army knife, are very essential tools since, without these, it will make this work difficult to perform.  Aside that, you need a lot of patience to make a fire by friction.  It is not done in conventional fashion but through stages.  You have to follow the process slowly and forcefully to achieve an ember.  Presence of smoke is not enough though but persistence will.

Aljew produced a fire with the bowdrill.  The bamboo saw did not although the presence of smoke is one step less to achieve an ember.  Jerome tried to improvise but with no result breaking the bamboo in two.  Christopher, on the other hand, produce fire with the same bowdrill.  Tope took the reins of the bamboo assisted by Fulbert and produce smoke yet the magic ember is missing.  Jhurds, after failing a first and second attempt, achieved success the third time on a bowdrill.  Persistence after patience. 

Fele Roble, a farmer who just observed what everyone did, made a fire using the bowdrill.  It goes to show that the techniques in the bowdrill are easy to do compared with the other methods and that is why when I conduct the yearly Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp, I make it sure that the bowdrill is given a demonstration on the same level as that of our hometown favorite, the bamboo saw.  On the whole, I find preference with the bowdrill as it does not use energy that much.

On the other side of these pyromaniacs, the steel and flint, although more crude than the modern ferro rod, could give off sparks as efficiently as those rods provided you use a charclothe.  The ferro rods, available commercially now through the advent of survival TV shows, produce a lot of sparks that could ignite even a sawdust from a half-dry wood.  It is now the standard equipment for all outdoorsmen, replacing the safety matches and the lighter, since it could be used more than a thousand times, even in wet or cold days, and is much safer.

The tinder could be sourced anywhere or you could make it yourself like the charclothe.  Foraging tinder is the best practice.  You collect and collect until you think you have enough.  Any combination of natural and manufactured tinder is good and would save you from a bad day in the woods.  For insurance, carry rubber strips and thick plastic.  These are good material to kindle a fire under extreme circumstances.  It will never fail!

When it is 16:30, we start to leave the Roble homestead together with a couple of hikers, who had enjoyed our fire session and the powdered corn coffee.  We go by way of the route I took in the morning.  It is not that slippery as the ground is moist.  We reach the stream and walk the trail back to Napo and to the parked red pickup owned by Aljew.  We take a dinner at AA Barbecue Grill, complements of Aljew, and capped the day’s activity with a few rounds of cold San Miguel Pale Pilsen.

To appease my wife, I gave her my Seseblades JEST Bolo.  She knows how to use a blade, she being bred from a prominent homesteading family who pioneered a community in the wilderness of Mindanao.  It all goes well. 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I AM ONTO THE FIRST of the many towers located over Tagaytay Ridge of the Babag Mountain Range today, January 26, 2014.  I am with Aljew Frasco and Christopher Maru and we take rest underneath it.  We are training for a climb of Mount Pangasugan which we will take on the last weekend of March.  It is my fifth time here and, for both Aljew and Christopher, their second.

The weather is mild but without the gentle breeze the last time around (NBT 71: Brave New Year).  But it is colder today.  My exhaled breath fogged as I chugged up the route to the lower ridge which I thought, at first, was smoke coming from Aljew’s cigarette.  I take a swallow from my water bottle, quite confident of my two liters I carried.  Up ahead, are five more towers and a dangerous hidden trail.

We pass by a lone local with a dog as we were going up to the second tower.  The sun is rising and give us warmth making us sweat.  We go down a saddle and up again to a third tower.  We take another rest underneath a Mexican lilac tree (Local name: madre de cacao, kakawate) and talk about guns and knives.  We all open carry our knives hanging by our sides. 

The Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are quite proud of their blades and espouses the open-carrying of knives while outdoors.  We do this to encourage other outdoorsmen that it is alright as long as you observe safety carriage and know the only Philippine law governing the possession and carrying of knives – Batas Pambansa Bilang 6, from which you will also base your rights. 

My AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife on my side is a wonderful sight to behold and I am proud of that.  Someday, it may wear a beautiful leather sheath but, for now, it may have to do with plastic.  The combination of polished rosewood (Local: narra) and hambabawod (sp. Neonauclia formicaria) scales gives the knife a character of its own aside from its long length.  It complements perfectly my persona.

We climb up at the place where the fourth tower is found, the lone local we met behind the trail had overtaken us and it might be good to engage in a conversation with him.  He introduce himself as Vicente Bonghanoy and his family owns all the land on Tagaytay Ridge between Sapangdaku Creek and Lanipao Creek.  He is a good source of information and I am happy to have talked with him. 

We part ways with him as he is going up the ridge while we take a different route towards Bocawe.  I follow a thin path down the ridge where another path breaks off from it.  This path is called Liboron Trail and it is a dangerous trail as the ground is soft and it is not wide.  Aside that, the vegetation is thick, hiding a very steep hillside.  When I passed by here the first time (NBT 57: The Last Wild Place), I fell for about six meters and almost repeated it on the same spot three weeks ago (NBT 71: Brave New Year).

When I am about to take on Liboron Trail, I see a common rat snake blocking it.  It is brown colored and it has just recently shed off its skin by the looks of its shiny scales with a rainbow sheen.  So it is starving then.  I approach it slowly until I am one-and-a-half meters close.  It is about three-and-a-half feet in length and about more than an inch wide.  It is not poisonous but I am alert just the same.  I show it to Aljew and Christopher before I take a picture.

I stomp a foot and the snake made a U-turn and hurriedly slither down the hillside to keep as much distance away from us.  I advise Aljew and Christopher not to lower their guards yet as snakes are known to travel in pairs.  That goes also with centipedes.  I push on, taking notice of the details of the trail and the vegetation beside it.  I stoop, once in a while, to touch the surfaces of stones, showing Aljew and Christopher my habits.

I see a crop of bird feathers in the middle of the trail but there is no blood on it nor on the ground so it must have been caught live from another area by a hunter or a predator and it is important that Aljew and Christopher know this.  You have to re-create and tell a story on the circumstances found on any object or anything that do not fall into place based on your observation.  That is the essence of tracking; of Trailcraft.

We arrive at a hidden meadow planted with coconut trees.  I see remains of a small fire.  The ashes are still intact and not scattered by breeze nor trodden by insects.  I touch it lightly with my open palm and I could ascertain that it is just hours old.  The ashes are not warm but, just the same, I could feel minute warmth sucked by my skin.  Whoever made this fire, must have boiled himself or herself water for coffee since he/she did not use a lot of firewood.     

We move on and I watch out the spot where I fell.  A trunk of a jackfruit tree partly blocked it and you have to raise your foot high to go over the next ground which is kind of soft but, this time, I am more careful and concentrate my attention on it instead of catching details of the next fifteen meters ahead.  I paused and looked at the steepness of the terrain and I shudder at the memory of my fall which I halted with a self-arrest procedure based purely on common sense.

We arrive at a saddle and rest for a while to show Aljew the previous route I made through thick  jungle (NBT 70: Manggapares Trail) on the last Sunday of December 2013.  Infront of us is a lone mango guarding the approach of a hill.  We climb that path onto a field of razor grass.  When we are in the midst of it, a big owl burst from the grass five meters away from us.  It flew across us then it circled above twice before diving towards a safe place.

I was shocked at its sudden appearance that I failed to take a photo of it while it was very near.  I did take a shot but it was already far and just a speck on the camera screen.  I cannot forget the owl’s face as it stared at me while it took its sudden flight.  I felt a sort of  kinship with it.  The grass owl (sp. Tytus liberimus) are now a vulnerable species and its habitat are now threatened by human activity and there are now few of this in the wild since it is hunted by wildlife collectors.

Aljew was greatly delighted at the unexpected surprises along this trail and he hoped to chance more of these wild creatures here in the Babag Mountain Range.  I need to find where it roosted among the grass so we covered a wide circle going in a spiral pattern when we found it.  The flattened grass is still warm and a tiny feather is snagged on a grass leaf.  It is good to know where it stayed.

We arrive at the place of Julio Caburnay at exactly 11:00.  The place is abandoned.  I looked for him and I found him on a far field and asked permission to stay at his place.  Upon my signal, Aljew and Christopher foraged firewood and kindling and start making a fire.  I intentionally leave my butane stove at home and live off the land today with food cooked by firewood.  We boil water and make coffee.  Stronger coffee, I mean.

Then we retrieve rice and raw vegetables from our bags along with our cooking pots.  We had bought purple yam, red squash, sponge gourd, eggplant, gumbo, green pepper, bell pepper, onion, garlic, upland swamp radish and jute leaves from the streetside market in Guadalupe.  I did not buy some pork meat or dried fish but would use instead the wood mushrooms (Local: kwakdok) that I foraged at Tagaytay Ridge as the flavoring.

The rice and and the mushroom-flavored vegetables are cooked on pots suspended over a blazing fire.  The thick vegetable soup was done with just salt and a spicy powder and it tasted alright.  We all take several refills until we were all filled up.  I leave a kilo of uncooked rice to Julio as well as three sachets of coffee and ten pieces of bread.  We leave at 13:35 for Babag Ridge.

The rest of the trail is thickly vegetated going upwards.  The thickest poles of the crawling bamboo (Local: bokawe) are still found here, sometimes crossing the trail at some point.  I used my AJF Gahum here to cut several red cane grass (Local: bugang) blocking the way.  This is a beautiful trail that connect to an equally impressive Babag Trail.  I do not encounter an off-road biker this time nor I found recent traces of them which is good.  It means, for a good three weeks, wildlife and plant had not been stressed by their noisy and smoky passing.             

A lot of debris and some broken branches had cluttered the trail which I had not noticed the last time but quite perfect if it is just left alone since it will block access on those absent Enduros.  We walk over the ridge trail that goes on a horseshoe bend, passing by above Buwabog and then passing by a small cave that is covered with small logs until I reach a clearing overlooking the Bonbon River Valley.  I mark the connecting trail with my own style of three knife hacks on a mahogany tree and continue on.

We follow the route down to groves of spiny bamboo (Local: kagingkingon) but very wary of the barbed wire fence running along the length of the path.  It crosses a dry stream and climb again until we reach a rarely-used road of what used to be part of the Babag Trail.  We rest inside a fenced property whose gates are opened at this hour.  I could see simultaneously both the lowlands and coastline on the east and the central valley and highlands west.  We stayed for about fifteen minutes.

We reach the vicinity of the towers of Mount Babag and pursue our final journey down the ridge.  We pass by six hikers resting on benches and we startled them with our presence, especially when they noticed knives hanging openly by our sides.  They must have thought us as lawless elements judging by their startled expressions but we ignored them.  We knew better and people with sense ought not to roam mountains without a very important survival tool.

The trail conditions are now better than the last time we go down here or it could be that I wear my Columbia Coremic Ridge 2 shoes.  It is an all downhill route and I feel my knees begin to shake.  I have not had this feeling before but, today, I sense that age has finally come knocking.  Would this condition shorten my time in the mountains or would it limit my presence here to just a few sorties?  I do not know it yet, but that question is still confined to my Creator. 

I notice something wrong in my downward journey.  There are different shoe prints going down and not the other way if I would base my assumption of the six hikers I saw earlier.  Then there must be other hikers just ahead of us as the prints are very fresh?  When I arrive at the Roble homestead, that question is answered.  They belong to the group of Maria Mahinay, Neil Mabini and Jodel Seville, who all were with me recently in a reverse trek to Osmeña Peak.  Their group today number around fifteen.

We take a rest on an empty bench and another two hikers arrive coming from Sapangdaku Creek.  I am not the only one who felt an unsteady pair of knees.  Aljew also felt his quaver.  We remedy this by drinking coconut water; a natural electrolyte.  We stayed for a few more minutes even when all had left.  I presume the group of Maria will take the route passing by a small community, so I take the other route, fondly called as the “Padidit Trail”.

On that route, I see traces of many people passing here instead.  I see many branches broken, the result of inexperienced people walking on difficult terrain or wearing the wrong kind of footwear.  The trail is cluttered with traces of people slipping down and I show it to Aljew and Christopher and both are grinning at what they saw.  Obviously, Maria had played a joke on her group and amused herself when people stumble and slip.

My knees are in pain but my steely resolve to finish this trek is always a great consideration.  My gait betray the pain and I control the pace to lessen its intensity.  We arrive at Napo at 16:30 but Aljew’s pick up is parked at Arko so I have to walk almost a half kilometer of uphill road to reach the site.  It is good to sit down again.  Better still, Aljew treat me and Christopher to a sumptuous dinner and a cold bottle of beer at AA Barbecue Grill in Guadalupe.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

ALLIANCE MATTERS IV: An Osmeña Peak Reverse by Team Tamad

WHEN I POSTED AN ARTICLE about the seldom-taken reverse route to Osmeña Peak which I hiked last August 2013 (Reversing the Trend), three mountaineers from the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, Inc. (MCAP) took this as a challenge and contacted me to engage in it.  I then requested Maria Mahinay to create an itinerary for this so as to accommodate the wishes of the trio from Team TAMAD:  Kris Shiela Mingi, Gene Arceno and Julius Roman.

Osmeña Peak is named after from the most illustrious son of Cebu – President Sergio Osmeña Sr. - because of its lofty location, being the highest point of the island province at 1,015 meters.  It is located within the Southern Cebu Mountain Range and, contrary to the common perception, is really part of the Municipality of Badian.  Local mountaineers used to approach it from Mantalongon, which is on the Dalaguete side, and is just a stroll in the park.  The peak is, thus, relegated as just another leisurely picnic area which I do not like.

Almost everyone thought that it is unthinkable to hike Osmeña Peak from Basak, Badian and all would rather take the easy route from Mantalongon and then take their chances downhill to Badian.  Daunting as it may seem, a few intrepid hikers had successfully tackled this reverse route and had given meaning to the climbing of O-Peak and of the totality of their journey.  It is best to start the climb early morning during warm days and, if it could not be avoided, is totally safe during rainy days as there are no streams to cross to.

Today, January 11, 2014, I will again return to the Southern Cebu Mountain Range to accompany my guests from Luzon.  Local MCAP members Maria and Barry Paracuelles are also coming in.  Barry is with his wife, Eva Marie.  We start at 4:00 AM from the Cebu South Bus Terminal on board a Ceres Bus bound for Badian.  It had been raining since last night caused by a Low Pressure Area approaching Mindanao and a lull had been experienced during travel until we reach Barili when it rained again.

After taking a light breakfast at the public market in Badian, Sien Alfanta, Ed Dablo and Neil Mabini arrive to boost our number.  Then comes Jodel Seville and Charito Matollama and that makes us twelve.  Although this is a dayhike, most of the participants will spend a night in Oslob and so have brought with them bulkier gears like tents and sleeping bags and some extra cargo.  We leave the market for the trailhead in Basak and start our hike at exactly 8:00 AM. 

I  travel light today and just brought my EDC kit, a trauma kit, a dry shirt, a rather heavy LED torch, a Cignus V85 UHF-VHF radio and a liter of water.  Going along is my Nessmuk trio: a William Rodgers bushcraft knife, an AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife and a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster.  I do not open carry a knife today because this is an entirely different activity.  My Kodak EasyShare digital camera is in the pocket of my Silangan Outdoors hiking pants.  A Buck 112 folding knife is kept in the beltline behind a Victorinox operator belt. 

Sien, Ed and Neil will spearhead the trek while I backstop the rear.  That relieves me of pressure and would extricate me of possible accidents as I chose the wrong pair of shoes for this occasion.  Anyway, as last man, I could take it easy on my pace and I could focus more on documentation and taking pictures freely, although sparingly, as I would not want to ruin my camera under the threat of this light downpour.

Neil and company started from the Basak communal well and climbed up a steep snaky route that pass by small plots of spring onions, corn and cabbages gouged out of rocky terrain.  The rain kept up a steady torrent but all burst with a high spirit of excitement and adventure and shut away the discomforts of cold and muddy trails.  Walking in foul weather are for the stoutest of hearts only and the people I am with did not waver from this hardship and that satisfies my expectations.

When you would want to develop your stamina and your resistance to the elements, you would need to keep only the bare comforts and become used to it.  Then you complement it with a good elevation gain which this route will provide.  You start low at Basak at 235 meters and gain 780 meters upon reaching the crown of Osmeña Peak which you cannot achieve if coming in from Mantalongon.  Aside that, you walk a steep incline of about four kilometers in length which is also impossible to get from Mantalongon.

We reach the small village of Malagaring at 8:55 AM and a local offer us free cups of coffee.  He is very happy that some of whom who went with me today sponsored a Christmas party for the children last December.  Nobody could beat charity and goodwill.  It would always open doors and windows and, here in the mountains, it will open wide as I have had done so in my own Babag Mountain Range.  If only more outdoorsmen would include charity works in their activities, trails that had lain invisible to outsiders would be happily given.

Neil and company follow a different route than what I took last November 17, 2013 and then it arrive to a point where the route they had chosen is the same as mine for about a hundred meters until it crossed a farm and it became totally different again.  This time it is more muddy and slippery and our footfalls are now forceful to get a good grip.  It is quite taxing to gain a foothold especially if you are wearing an old pair whose soles had seen better days and water ooze in among the hairline cracks.

What I lacked in good footwear I compensate with less of LNT.  Yes, I am no fool to just walk in the middle of the trail that is muddy where puddles of torpid water are present just because it is stated so in the Leave No Trace.  Forgive me but my common sense is better than that foreign ideology which was designed for terrain in temperate zones.  This is the tropics and our two seasons are conducive to speedy regeneration of vegetation.  I deliberately stepped on a lot of vegetation because I know better.

We keep up a steady ascent and the guests from Manila were up to the challenge.  Gene would take short rests but I keep my distance so he would spend a lot of it without worrying about the next person coming, which is me.  The route goes in a small patch of forest and, as it thinned, farms.  We reach the small village of Patong at 10:45 AM and it is a chance to quench thirst with soda drinks.  I opt to drink my supply of water instead and eat sweet buns which I bought at a bakery in Badian.

Although we started an hour late, we compensate for that by pacing fast and reached our rest stops with more than an hour to spare; muddy trails were not a hindrance though.  From what I ascertained, most likely we would be at the peak before noon.  We leave Patong at 11:10 AM for the last push for the top.  The rain had stopped but it is replaced by strong gusts of wind.  Wind chill factor is high but the guys had taken food and had a drink to replenish spent reserves of energy exerted in going up here.

The trail is decked now with broken lime stones, foreboding a great concrete coverup in the future.  This route would lead to the saddle where a concrete road had stopped.  We took a different trail that branched out from this route and it is muddy again.  It pass by hilly farms of spring onions, cabbages and vegetable pears until the trail weave out along the contours of roundish hills which gave a false impression that you are in the vicinity of O-Peak.  The pace became hurried but I keep to my own comfortable speed, taking on the scenery with my camera.

After a final turn below a false peak, the Grandfather Mountain of the South stood in mute silence without its shroud of mists.  We reach the top at exactly 11:30 AM and, by God, we were fast.  The cold winds are not hospitable in this exposed spot but we held onto dear ground by putting weight were wind is most felt.  I test my portable radio on an arranged frequency but the reception is not good although I could pick up very clear signals from harbor traffic and from a weather station.

I congratulated Shie, Gene and Julius for snaring Osmeña Peak the hard way and, probably, would be the first done by Luzon-based mountaineers coming in by way of Basak.  It is a textbook reverse traverse hike that will soon terminate in Mantalongon.  When the guests had their fill and had fixed the apex of their quest with photos, we slowly go down the hill into the breadbasket of Cebu – the high valley of Mantalongon.

It is raining hard now and the trail is very slippery, especially at the lower approaches, but when we had reached the road, we begin to feel that we are now in home territory.  We reach the public market at 1:00 PM and take a deserved lunch at a local restaurant.  It is still raining outside and windy and the inside of the restaurant is comfortable but we have to leave for lower ground to talk about the Oslob trip.  Six motorcycles accommodated us all and we go down the main highway located at sea level.

Shie, Gene and Julius had to shelve their Oslob trip as the waves spun by the inclement weather are not encouraging for whale watching.  We stay for a while at Dalaguete’s waterfront park for four big bottles of cold beer to fill up lost electrolytes.  We go back to the highway when we think that the rain would not stop for a bus back to Cebu City.  What people do not understand is that you get a good chance to ride on a half-empty bus in Dalaguete than that in Badian.  We just did that and we reach the big city at 7:30 PM.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer