Wednesday, September 9, 2015


THE CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL Project is an exploration activity. Its main purpose is to find a route and would ultimately link the northern tip of Cebu with its southern tip or vice versa through a trail or a route which would traverse axially on and among the island’s rugged and middlemost mountains and hills. It is an ambitious undertaking considering that it is a personal crusade pursued by this blogger almost without sponsorships and support.

Cebu is about 260 kilometers in length, more or less, in a straight line and, presently, it can be traveled north and south and all around through the coastal highways. A route blazed by the Exploration Team of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project would someday make Cebu a very tantalizing magnet for backpackers, both here and from abroad, since the idea itself is lent from the Appalachian Trail and by the Pacific Crest Trail of the USA.

The Exploration Team which this blogger will lead will identify and document the possible river crossings, water sources, campsites, entry and exit points, evacuation areas, escape routes, bivouac sites, meal stops and communities, along with its peace and order situations, which the chosen route will pass. The team will rely more on traditional land navigation like terrain and shadow analysis, local knowledge and location of celestial bodies.

The Global Positioning System which everyone favors because of its real-time information is not, and will never be, part of the team’s equipment. On the other hand, each member of the Exploration Team, to include the Base Support Team, will be taught and will learn the basics of map information, knowing how to read a bearing, use protractors to get back azimuths, understand grid coordinates and ascertain locations basing on this time-tested and fail-proof methods.

For this occasion, this blogger is inviting the members of the Exploration Team and the support group to a free Map Reading lecture. I have taught many times practical map reading to a number of outdoorsmen in the past, especially to my adherents belonging to the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, and, I believe, it creates better outdoorsmen of everyone. GPS can fail you anytime but the map, the compass and the protractor would not.

From the team are Jonathan Apurado, Jovahn Ybañez, Justin Apurado and Chad Bacolod. A few of those whom I have invited also came like Aljew Frasco, Bona Canga, Jerome Tibon, Nelson Orozco and Jon Daniel Apurado. I seldom teach technical sessions because it wracks my brain but, just the same, I am glad to share this valuable knowledge to the team members and to the rest.

It is a rainy Sunday morning of January 25, 2015 yet it does not matter. I will do the theories under the wide front awning of the Cebu Cultural Center in Lahug, Cebu City. Everyone are here, except two or three, and I use an unused plywood to act as a “blackboard” and, at the same time, to attach different maps. Of course, there are many kinds of maps but, in land navigation, the topographical map is preferred.

The topo map has all the important ingredients which you could use for navigation. It has contour lines, different shades for elevations and vegetation, bar scales, a declination diagram and, most of all, it can be improved further by drawing intersecting grid lines across it. What this blogger did was photocopying a part of the map and draw grid lines and reproduce it as test maps. The test maps would then be used by the participants during the practical phase of the lecture.

The contour lines are those very thin crooked lines colored brown. Contour lines interpret the different elevations of land as seen on a map and are sometimes seen as eccentric circles. Interpreting actual elevations based on a map are quite catchy and, sometimes, are confusing. For this occasion, this blogger gave the participants a written exercise in profiling a mountain range based on a sample set of contour lines.

After getting familiar with the choice of a map, the choice of a compass is next. While all compasses are made to be dependable, one compass that stands out from the rest because of its design is the one with a base plate. This compass has a transparent plastic rectangular base that functions as a short ruler with measuring units in metric and in English. It has a small magnifying glass that lets you read small details on the map. It is lightweight and very simple to use.

A stand-alone compass is already enough to get the cardinal directions but, paired with a map, it can locate your exact location. How to do that? First, you have to orient the map with the compass. You have to find true north. Your map has a grid north while your compass points to the magnetic north but you have to adjust both map and compass according to the declination diagram and, after doing that, you now have the true north.

Here in Cebu, where we are ten-degrees above the tropics, adjusting the map based on the declination diagram is not necessary. What matters instead is where would you use the compass. The compass needle is subject to magnetic interference and you must avoid, as much as possible, steel towers and metal you wear. Yes, your ring, necklace and your electronic gadget would create a false direction on the needle.

When you have oriented your map and compass, you only need two prominent landmarks to sight your compass at before determining your location thru the dissecting back azimuths as in the method called Resection. On the other hand, Modified Resection uses an already identified feature on a map (like a road or a river) where you assumed you are on and sight only one landmark. The back azimuth dissecting that location on the map determines then your exact position.

Giving a demonstration on the open grounds across the University of the Philippines is quite difficult for these two methods since tall buildings obstruct all view of mountains, leaving me no recourse but to apply dead reckoning on our present location, which is easy anyway, for the features on the map are second-nature for a Cebu native to guess at correctly. Anyway, I proceed to teach them about how to read grid coordinates.

We transfer to higher ground which is near the GMA TV Station on the hills above the Mahiga Creek Watershed. Rain make our map reading difficult to execute since the maps get soaked. Besides that, thick fogs befell on the mountain range where our precious landmarks are and on the very places where we are. We need to find a much suitable place and much much higher than this place.

We found it near where Mr. A Restaurant is located. This time we got what we wanted – mountain peaks, islands, shorelines and man-made landmarks. The guys practice their skills on the compass and the map doing the two methods – Resection and Modified Resection - and converting it into grid coordinates. I am satisfied that I had imparted this valuable skill and my XTeam comes equipped now with this.

For that matter, the Xteam of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project would now be ready to take on Segment III next month and the rest of the segments.  

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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