Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXXXI: Exploration Gallery

MY EXPLORATION OF THE whole of the Babag Mountain Range is still a work in progress. It would not had been possible were it not for the lure of the wild which had compelled me to go back there again in 2008. Yes, I visit this mountain more often than anyone else except, maybe, by local inhabitants yet, despite it, I have not yet really known the whole nook and cranny of its existence. That would take a lifetime which a 5-year old child could pursue until old age but it is an opportunity that I do not possess.

During the early ‘90s, I had that tendency to overlook this mountain range preferring instead the more spectacular big mountains across the archipelago. It was motivated by the novelty of discovering more of your country through the climbing of mountains, famous or not, and be associated with one of only a few groups then who were into that. Then mountaineering became mainstream and I stopped becoming like one but the Babag Mountain Range is still here.


I helped pioneer the establishment of a direct trail, called Ernie’s Trail, to Mount Babag (752 MASL). For me, it was a route that satisfies my requirement of complete exercise. I need to gain my stamina back and I was littered with severe muscle pains days after every climb. It was a hard time for me and I struggled to keep fit yet it also gratifies me to share the route to others. I explored the other sides of the mountain range and it took me to Buhisan, Bocawe, Cabatbatan, Bonbon, Kalunasan, Baksan, Patay’ng Yuta, Tagaytay and Lanipao.

I gave names of the trails and I showed it to the public. I brought people to my discovered routes but I never expected they liked it and some would return all by themselves with their friends and whose friends return by themselves to bring more friends and so on and so on just like at the Buhisan. The only concern in Buhisan that I feared most is that of an incident that would involve hikers which might compel government administrators to close the watershed to outdoorsmen for good as they are already straining on the problems of wildlife poaching, illegal logging and criminality.

The Buhisan is a special place. It is the only place on the Babag Mountain Range that I give time to lecture people about the environment. Although I do not endorse Leave No Trace, I am comfortable with people who go on into the Buhisan with a stock knowledge of the principles of LNT. I used to hold the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp there but I respect the ongoing tree planting activity at Camp Damazo that I transferred the PIBC to Sibonga. Other places, I would rather not bring people, especially at the “last wild place”.


Meanwhile, the known side of the Babag Mountain Range is now too crowded and I am going back exploring other trails that had not been discovered or were denied discovery on purpose. There was this branch of Liboron Trail that I need to look into. This branch gets into a hidden meadow that would suit itself as an ideal ground for a future PIBC site except that it needs a water source somewhere nearby. Maybe that untried route would answer my query. For me, this mountain range is like an art gallery where, instead of pieces of paintings, it is dotted with trails less trodden waiting to be found.

We had just taken our delayed lunch. It is 14:30, July 13, 2014, and we decide not to resume our hike towards Babag Ridge as it is already too late in the day to tackle it before taking a long descent to Sapangdaku Creek. Why not backtrack and go exploring? The others – Jhurds Neo, Justin Apurado and Nyor Pino – liked that idea. To see new places that had not been seen by others is a privilege that had been always enjoyed by me but I am gracious to share them that joy this afternoon.

Before that, it was a beautiful morning in Tagaytay Ridge as the clouds provided us a cooler day which would, otherwise, be very warm. We started early because we want to finish the activity in daylight. We reached the halfway point and, in the middle of our cooking, rain started to fall. It ruined our open fire pit and our cooking. Worse, one of the black pots has holes. It was a good thing we had taken coffee earlier and feasted the eating of ripe dragonfruits given by Julio Caburnay, the farmer. When we had left, we carry each a dragonfruit.


I am testing, for the first time, the Silangan Predator Z tactical backpack. It is bigger than the commercially available 27-liter Predator Alpha, because it is custom made for my personal requirements and tests. It is in two-toned tan color with three zippers for easy deployment and storage. The presence of webbing all over it makes it possible to attach smaller accessory packs to it like I did with a US Army Trauma Kit. It has several internal pockets to better organize things.

All of us open carry our knives. I carried my Chipaway Cutlery Bowie knife; Jhurds with his Spyderco Forester; Justin with his Knifemaker woodlore knife; and Nyor with his Seseblades NCO. We are with the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild and there is nothing unusual in what we do. The knife made easy work on wood where teeth and fingernails would had made it impossible to accomplish like the walking stick I fashioned for Jhurds made from a dead branch.


The trail is descending. It was cleared and widened for use just recently by mango gatherers. It followed a dry gully and onto a flat ridge. I hear voices from below then a dog. That is why I see urine on the path which I attribute at first to a person. It belonged to the dog. By then I see a house. It is an old house with architecture and design reminiscent of the ‘50s. It is a big house if you considered the standards of a mountain community. A dog barked at my approach and a man stood on the doorway.

I advance slowly and gave greetings. A boy knows me and he smiled. I remembered the boy during our outreach activities at the Roble homestead. The place has a meadow with coconuts, mangoes and other fruit trees. A couple of giant bamboo groves grow nearby. They have water! It is supplied by a natural spring a kilometer away which is channeled to a network of PVC and rubber hoses.

I look up the ridge from where we came from. It is just too daunting to take a walk from that hidden meadow I talked about to here and back to fetch water. I gave up the idea of sourcing water from here but this is a good place to play dirt. Even an overnighter. This place will be another alternate Camp Red dirt-time place. We were offered green coconuts and it is so sweet. Before leaving, I paid for it.


We go down the ridge taking the rightmost trail, not knowing that it led to a farm. The path vanished and I have to search and find a route on a very difficult terrain as it is very loose and very steep. Eventually, I am able to extricate the rest and took the correct path which brought us to a clearwater creek. This place is very familiar since I pass by here more than a year ago during an exploration of the “Last Wild Place.”

Ultimately, we reach Sapangdaku Creek. We were all tired from the exertions of the day but the excitement had kept the rest egging for more. I promised them of that hidden trail at Tagaytay Ridge which I aim to explore next. But, for now, it is best that we keep this to ourselves and talk about it later. Bringing people outside of our sphere are not advised as of yet, for the moment.

In time, it will be revealed, but first, I have to study the flora and fauna here and some special concerns, like a unique ecosystem, which may be altered by the impact caused by a regular intrusion of leisure hikers. Anyway, I will come to that conclusion once I have completed my observations, complete with a little guidance which I will provide here in this blog so you would know that you do not need to pay people to visit the Babag Mountain Range.


Because, as I had always observed, some dayhike organizers act like commercial tour operators and do no take consideration of the trails by inviting as many people as possible. At times they snare more than 50 gullible people. All those who participated are sometimes milked of cash and provided only with cold packed meals. The organizers do not even know how to make sense of the places they visit. They act like tour guides yet they showed their ignorance by giving people silent treatment all the time.

Warrior Pilgrimage pursues the idea that roaming our mountains should not be subject to commercial interference. An individual’s right to travel on paths less taken should not be taken advantaged of by profiteers. When an individual discovers that freedom, he or she should abide by the following basic considerations: Am I safe? Am I prepared? Am I responsible? Do I have other options? Should I involve other people?

If you know the answers to these self-assessments then you are prepared to start on your own free, but very fulfilling, journey like I always do. Godspeed!


Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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