Friday, October 16, 2015
WE ALL LEAVE AT exactly 05:00 from the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Today, March 8, 2015, the “we”, who are composed of people from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, namely: Jhurds Neo, Justin Abella, Faith Tannen, Richie Quijano, Mark Lepon, Mirasol Lepon, Nyor Pino, Nelson Tan and, of course, me, are bound for Badian town. Going with us is Glenn Pestaño but he will just be dropping by at Carcar City.
We at Camp Red usually converge at the Babag Mountain Range every weekend but, sometimes, we go “out of town”. This time, we will go to Osmeña Peak, Cebu’s highest peak at 1,015 meters (unless proven otherwise), on a day hike. These guys need a break and need to gratify themselves for their unselfish deeds relating to the construction of a new house for the Roble family in Babag and what more to give them satisfaction is a visit to O-Peak.
Osmeña Peak can be easily reached by way of Mantalongon, Dalaguete and, because of that, a lot of people visit the mountain every weekend. While some would finish their hike to two places in Badian, which is either at Basak or at Matutinao, it is all downhill. A few hardy hikers would start from Basak and I am one of those few. I always believe, without doubt, that the satisfaction of a reverse hike to O-Peak is far greater than that taken from Mantalongon.
That is where I am bringing the troupe from Camp Red. It is no ordinary hike. In fact, I am engaging them to a survival hike training which, previously, they had not tried yet. Against this situation, they would also experience the different terrain the route from Basak to the mountain offered. It is rocky, demanding constant attention and good footing, and slippery when wet.
On the higher elevations, they would feel the temperature dipping to two or more degrees. Body resistance to cold would be tested and this would be felt more when your stomach is deprived of a full meal. Your reservoir of energy provided by food and water would be drained quickly as you gained elevation. Colder temperatures, rain, fog and wind would hasten its loss and you have to subsist on another source of energy – adrenaline.
Once at Badian, we waste no time to go to the trailhead at Basak by riding on tricycles. Basak is an upland village and this is where most of O-Peak visitors terminate. For us, our journey has just begun at 08:30 sharp. The sun is also sharp and very warm. I lead them through bare fields of corn and cabbage plots hacked from rocks. Sometimes I have to turn around when I find I am going the wrong way.
I am not good at remembering paths but I am relentless when I am on exploration mode. But this is not the first time I pass by here and I do not have to use a lot of energy just to use a lot of thinking. I would need some food and water for that and a good night’s rest. I just slept less than three hours. I had not taken breakfast and I did not carry a full bottle of water. Although I carried light, it is not a good idea if your bottle content is just less than 300 milliliters.
Nevertheless, I have to go slow or I miss the details and familiar landmarks. My big AJF Gahum knife swung happily beside me openly for all to see. The rest, even Faith and Marisol, open carried their blades. Locals are familiar of me hiking with an open-carried knife here, even alone, and they see nothing unusual on that for they themselves open carry theirs. For the guys, it is an exercise of their confidence to open carry a knife outside of their comfort zone of the Babag Mountain Range.
We pass by a small community in Malagaring and, beyond that, we meet the first of O-Peak visitors going home led by a very young guide. The boy, whom I have met a month ago (February 8) while training with the Exploration Team of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project, is barely 11 years old. He had been earning while carrying the things of those he guided and carries now some things that he now guides. I gave him a high five this time.
I need to check on another trail. I do not like to follow an overused trail like the present downhill crowd are using now and I also do not like to meet morose individuals like the one guy who refuses to smile and answer a simple greeting of “Good morning”. Behavior exemplified by that guy only shows the lack of outdoors orientation which you learn in seminars or being in the company of experienced outdoorsmen.
We rest near a house where another set of ascending trails start and eat bread. It is a deserved rest considering how heat bounced to us after it scorched the rocks where we passed and it is also a good time to recover energy for the next path would be more exhausting to walk. When a good ten minutes have elapsed, we continue on under the shimmering heat of the sun.
The trail follow over the slope and wind up into something more shady. Trees still exist on this constricted part where walls of limestone face each other but, in a few years, it will be gone. Dead branches with leaves on the side of the trail indicate that the slaughter of this tiny forest is ongoing. Up ahead is a mound of soil. Underneath the mound and invisible to the eyes are the missing tree trunks and large branches that were part of those dead branches with leaves I saw. In a few hours it would be charcoal.
We rest here and drink more water. I cut a dead stick with my Buck 112 folding knife and clear it of small branches. I will have use of it when I reach Osmeña Peak. We did not tarry long and pursue our journey towards the higher elevations. We pass by five stumps of sawn mahogany trees. I cannot do about it but wish trees grow faster than people cut it. I look up the foliage trying to find the stinging tree but it is already gone.
I meet a few locals. This is a very remote trail but on the forested enclave of a narrow valley I hear voices of children. I walk on a path that keeps on rising and rising. It is exhausting but very good when there are no people to sidestep to coming from the other direction. The temperature begins to drop as we entered into the realm of foggy places.
Wisps of light rain carried by gusts of wind are felt, dropping the temperature some more. I reach the top and I wait for the rest, especially those that are lagging behind. I saw the children – a boy and a girl – with a bundle of firewood each over their head accompanied by their father, who got the biggest bundle.
I follow them over a farm of spring onions and vegetable pears and they take another path while I pursue the familiar one to the community of Patong. Access to electricity have given the locals an option to improve their living which, in the case of one household, sell cold soda drinks to thirsty hikers. We stop by here and eat bread as well as taking advantage of the cold drinks. It is 11:50.
We continue on after twenty minutes. Light rain had caused the ground wet and smoothed rocks slippery. We follow a footpath of concrete and it provided good traction but, once you are onto rocks again, you have to go slow and make your steps stable as possible. These rocks are placed on a trail providing hard surface to step on instead of the soil which would be muddy if it rained hard. Soon these rocks would also be covered with concrete.
The trail follow farms and foothills until we are onto a saddle that lead to more farms and more foothills and more saddles. We go around a false peak and climb another saddle until I see the level campsites afar. Walking on I see a lot of colorfully-dressed people as opposed to our earth-toned clothes. Even on a Sunday afternoon, Osmeña Peak still gets its share of many visitors.
I lead the way to the top of the peak and I meet many people going down as well as following others before me. Once my group had reached the top, I shook hands of each of them, congratulating them of their effort to climb Osmeña Peak from the other side. Most of them had been to O-Peak at one time or another but for Jhurds, Richie and Nelson it is their first. What gives credence to their feat is the route from which they start.
I produce a small flag of the Buddhist Kingdom of Tibet and insert the end of the foraged stick into the flag’s sleeve. The flag of Tibet, outlawed in its own land by the People’s Republic of China, danced freely in the breezy atmosphere of freedom-loving Cebuanos. Then I have myself photographed with it (as well as the others) so I could send a strong message to Red China.
I am against the illegal occupation of Tibet by China. I am also against their forced domination of East Turkestan and Inner Mongolia. The Tibetans, the Uighurs and the Mongolians should have their ancient lands back to them so they could self-govern, practice their religion and do as they wish with their natural resources. Finally, I am against the claiming of the whole West Philippine Sea, including rocks and shoals, as theirs.
I do not like the way China bullies its small and weak neighbors. I believe that a band of unified countries would be enough to deter their dirty tactics. Japan and India are irked at China and the US is shadowing them. I am not afraid of China. I go beyond that by boycotting its products. I detest all that is imported from China, especially food products. My photo with the flag of free Tibet is a political statement that China is a rouge state, whose imperialistic ways are not accepted.
They should commit their government to work for peace, unity and cooperation with their neighbors. They should help in stabilizing the region instead of taking advantage of their fledgling economic and military might. Their crude tactics made them look like a thug before the eyes of the international community. They have lost their credibility as a leader of nations for Asia.
Their 9-dash lines on their maps and their man-made islands that goes inside the exclusive economic zone of my country attests to their disrespect of international treaties and conduct. I am really angry at this nation called the People's Cockroach of China. They are vile in my eyes and their propensity to engage in lies, play of words and double-speak are revolting to my senses. They are a nation of dogs and cowards.
I come down from O-Peak and reach the road were many motorcycles are converging, waiting to gain a fast buck from visitors. I politely decline their offer of a ride and we walk instead the old trail, which I lost, and led me instead to that same road that I had evaded some minutes ago. We reach the Mantalongon Public Market and we eat a late lunch at an eatery.
Finally, we hire motorcycles – two astride – that would take us all down to the highway passing by near the coast of Dalaguete. There was a long moment of waiting for a bus ride and, after an hour, we all got inside one bus. I stood at the aisle waiting for a chance of a seat. That came at Argao and I squeezed in between two other passengers and dare catch Lady Starlight.
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