Saturday, October 24, 2015


I WILL BE EXPECTING that the Buhisan Watershed Area – my training ground – would soon be off-limits to people. While it may bring in good results for its upkeep, it denies people to make a living there. The protection of the watershed from illegal logging, charcoal gathering, wildlife poaching and, to a lesser degree, recreational activities, will make the man-made forest generate healthily and ensure a cleaner water supply for the metropolis.

The Buhisan Watershed Area, known previously as Lensa (and still do by the locals), is 5.5 hectares in size. It is mostly found in the village of Buhisan but parts of it are found or are bounded by the villages of Toong, Pamutan, Sapangdaku, Tisa and Guadalupe. It has a man-made lake that often disappears because of siltation and a 100-year old but still working dam which was constructed by the Americans when Cebu was under their administration.

As a man-made forest, early reforestation work focused more on the planting of exotic trees which modern soil scientists have found to be incompatible with local flora and fauna and causes leaching of soil which does not produce good results for a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Only the hardy rattan palm and other equally hardy weeds grow compatibly underneath mahogany trees, a South American import.

The dry water channels, where rainwater passes, and the small streams are choked with indigenous species and it is where healthy trees and shrubs are found. Likewise the catchment basin and its nearby marshland. There is life there. Birds, butterflies and all sort of wildlife abound on those narrow corridors. My activities are focused on those corridors too which a few cannot be penetrated by radio, cellphone or satellite signals. These are dead spots.

Somewhere among those hidden places where vegetation is thickest, I will find my Indian-style camp. My own “spirit lodge” where I would vanish into its solitude and do meditations to purify the spirit. Although I have found it long ago, I had ceded it to the hosting of the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in 2011. It is not applicable now since it is now a known location. I will look for another and it is on this quest today, March 15, 2015, that I took to exploring the Buhisan again alone.

It is a very warm morning as I start my hike. I am late in waking up and have failed to join my brethren in the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild doing a knife safety class in the other part of the mountain range where I am at. I had bought food ingredients for my noontime meal at Guadalupe but I doubt if I could eat at exactly noon since it is now 10:30 and too few hours to prepare that given the time that I will consume most later for walking and exploring.

The underbrush had wilted and tree branches had thinned. Sunlight is now felt even under a man-made forest of Burmese teak with which branches own the widest set of leaves. The ground is parched dry due to absence of rain for a good three weeks. Branches of a star-apple tree almost kissed the ground as the fruits are now heavy and ripe for the picking. I took four ripe ones with me. I stop for a while under the shade of a mango tree to get my AJF Gahum knife from inside the Sandugo Khumbu 40L bag and open carry it.

After a small sip of water, I proceed on. Today I will try to inspect another trail that branch on the right, which is different from the route that I used to hike which led to Boy T’s Hell and then down to Creek Alpha. This new route is not going uphill but going down in a very moderate manner which I suspect would lead to the same Creek Alpha. I walk slowly trying to absorb the heart and soul of the trail, inhaling to memory its distinct aroma and listening to the sounds of the wind and the birds.

Another trail branched off the ones I am following but I shrug it off. My focus is on the main trail which now goes down into a dry streambed where there is an abandoned sack of sand. I see drops of liquid on a stone and it looks like sweat. Moisture would instantly evaporate at this very late morning but it is still recent. I look for human signs and I see grains of wet sand on a rock, the kind you see when a shoe transfer sand to a polished floor.

A smudge here and a deep footprint there. Whoever he is, he must have been in a hurry and his direction goes downstream. I do not have to follow the gait of a man on flight. His presence is enough for me to keep my eyes and ears open and sense everything unusual. Walking on the dry stream, sand gave way to granite. Depressions on the rocks hold water, colored in a transparent reddish tinge, and minutes of life swim on the surfaces.

I see a very slow seep of water coming out of a crack of granite and above it are the greenest shrubs. An unknown number of birds could be heard tweeting and chirping from that direction. So, there must be a good supply of water to make those shrubs perpetually green under the steaming heat of the day which also made the birds happy. I mark the spot in my memory and I would explore it on my next visit. Promise.

Following the stream down, I see a familiar place, only it is dyingly dry, and then a trail. The most beautiful trail on this balding forest is still beautiful as ever since it is shady and the ground is carpeted with dried leaves. Only it is too short. I stay for a while to answer the call of nature and to leave something housed in plastic and hang it from a branch. It is intended to mark the spot as a camping site for visitors who will come here in a few days.

The trail ended abruptly on the creek, as expected, and I walk the dry bed where another trail begins on a high bank. I had found one of the last missing puzzles of Lensa Trail which happened more than an hour ago. Yes, I spend more than an hour for that new route I tried which is not even a kilometer long. The sun is almost at its zenith but I do not intend to hurry. Hurrying is playing in to stupidity. A thinking man do things in a comfortable pace.

The path is littered with dried leaves of teak and mahogany. The bigger teak leaves are more noisy as it crumble in a loud crunchy sound as you step on it. I try to evade stepping on it but there are just too many and my walking sounds like a huge popcorn feast. It betrays my presence. The smaller mahogany leaves are not noisy but stepping on it is like stepping on a soapy tiled floor. The leaves slip against each other and you literally float on dry land. Whichever, I found these dry exotic leaves annoying.

I reach the very dry Creek Bravo and take rest. It is now 12:00 but I am not hungry. I open the biggest star apple fruit and munch it. I hope the seeds grow where it landed. I need to inspect the groves of water bamboo up a high bank so I climb it. I see six groves but only one is healthy enough to have recovered so well from wanton harvesting last year by locals. The other five, including the one burned down, have slowly recovered but all are not healthy yet.

I go down back to the stream and I see four boys accompanied by two adults. They are on a hunt for the edible tree snails (Local name: taklong, takdong, takyong, korakol) and they are going downstream towards the bigger Lensa Creek which, I believe, is also dry. I need to go up a ridge and prepare my meal at Camp Damazo. The camp, which hosted two more episodes of the PIBC, is on a high-ground but, the good thing is, there is a good water source near there.

I notice that the trail had not been cleared of debris that Typhoon Seniang dealt with last December and so I get to work on my AJF Gahum and start clearing. Trail maintenance is a manly labor and I love doing this. The sound of the chopping and the slashing motivates me more of the importance of my existence and purpose. It makes me think clearly aside from the opportunity that silence and solitude had already presented.

In my active pursuit I get to know of a plant which, to the rest, is just a pesky vine that hurts skin. A weed. This is the Asiatic bitter yam (kobong). I found the rootcrop as I was going up the ridge since it was exposed. I open the bulb and the flesh is colored yellow and starchy. The stem is olive green and full of thorns. At this time of year, it does not bear leaves. It adapts. I collect pieces of the rootcrop and bring it with me for propagation.

Once I am on the ridge, a whole branch that broke off from a tree block the trail. I clear the smaller branches and stack it above the other. I make it sure that good-sized wood are not touching the ground. Who knows, I may have use of it one day? Rattan palms cross the path. I did not cut it but move it sideways with the use of a forked stick. I place a few trail signs on the trunk when I think a branch of a trail might mislead people.

After I picked up a wrist-sized wood that cross the path and place it beside a trunk, I notice a glossy liquid on a stone near a tree. The liquid came from the tree and it slid down the trunk down into the ground and that stone. The source is too high to see and I notice that the tree is dead. I touch the glossy liquid. It is partly dry but sticky. I taste it and I found it sweet. Honey! No beehive. Only a stingless bee (kiyot) could produce honey without building a beehive. It bores through wood and make their honeycombs inside.

Satisfied with my discovery, I continue with trail maintenance until I arrive at Camp Damazo. Exhausted by my walk and by my work, I take two sips of my diminishing water. It is now 13:00, so I decide to stop here and make my meal. I retrieve one of my bigger pots and my cup and, along with my almost-empty water bottle, I walk a little distance to a natural spring, leaving my bag behind perfectly hidden. The spring had not diminished its flow and may need a change of its bamboo trough though.

When I came back, I look for dry wood. There are plenty but I prefer the twigs and small branches. I break it into small pieces and prepare a fireplace. I need to drink coffee so I will heat the water inside the bigger pot. I look for three sticks to make a tripod and lash it all on one end with a green vine. When it was done, I hang the pot and start making a fire with a lighter. The warm temperature made my fire easy and soon I will have my coffee.

I transfer some of the partly boiled water into the smaller pot so I could commence cooking the milled corn while providing my cup some amount of this water for instant coffee. The smaller pot does not have a handle like those of the bigger one which can be hanged. I found a flat stone and place the second pot above, one half of its bottom to the fire, the other half balancing on the stone. The good thing about milled corn is you do not have to reposition the pot to evenly cook it. You just have to stir forcibly the contents.

I grab the pork meat and slice it with my Mora Companion. Same with the onion, garlic and green pepper. I pour oil on the bigger pot and hang it back feeding the fire with small sticks. I found two more stones and confine the fire to a small space so it would not spread and, at the same time, maximizes cooking efficiency. I drop the sliced onions, garlic and green pepper into it and stir. I add the sliced meat and stir more until it is brownish. I pour soy sauce and return the lid.

The milled corn is perfectly cooked without a trace of burnt particles despite the pot exposed to the flame on one side only. About the same time, my pork adobao is ready for serving after a sprinkling of black pepper powder. At 15:15 I eat my late lunch. In the silence of the afternoon, I savor the simple meal alone and without any distractions. It is a sweet time that pure backwoodsmen of old would enjoy.

Sadly, I cannot continue with my search of my Indian-style camp for I do not have the luxury of time. Perhaps, next week. I would find it while Buhisan is still blissfully open. I was not able to eat all I cooked but I have someone who would need this. I clean the place and burn anything man-made I found at Camp Damazo. After packing my things and making sure that the fire had died, I leave at 15:45.

I arrive at the road, cross it, and give my food to the “forest keeper”, Mario. I call him that because we frequently meet each other in the most remote parts of Buhisan. He makes a living there and the fencing of the Buhisan would affect his livelihood and deny his family a chance of decent simple living. I am sad for him but, I believe, he will find ways to earn his living on the same place of which I, too, would find access to visit my soon-to-be-found “spirit lodge” in the near future.

The day is now casting long shadows but the trail is easy now. The setting sun had washed Tagaytay Ridge in a beautiful glow. The skylined towers above it are now linked to each other by cables. In a while, I will be in the community of Lanipao and then in Napo, where there would be a motorcycle-for-hire waiting for me.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

MAN-SIZED HIKE XIV: Mantalongon to Mantalongon

I AM A MAN ON A mission and I am a man of my word. It is already 2015 and I am supposed to finish the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT this year which I promised myself that I will walk through in 2016. But other priorities got in my way that I let negligence get the better of me. But that will change. And I will have that promise a reality soon.

Today, February 19, 2015, I am embarking on the third segment of this Project after a hiatus of almost three years. Before taking on Segment III, I had prepared well the stamina of the members that will compose the Exploration Team as well as the items that we all need. I need this Team to be better prepared and organized than the previous ones I led so as to lessen waste of time.

I will lead the Team into places where mainstream outdoors people have not gone into before. There is more to Cebu and adventure can be most enjoyed here horizontally instead of vertical ascents. This is a four-day hike that will start from Mantalongon, Barili and, hopefully, would end at Mantalongon, Dalaguete. This exploration hike had first been scheduled in October 2013 and postponed to April 2014 and, finally, realized on this date of February 19.

After waking up at 02:00, I walk out of my house an hour later to the 7Eleven Convenience Store located across the Cebu South Bus Terminal and waited for the rest. Jovahn Ybañez, a trailrunner from Lapulapu City, arrived after me. Jonathan Apurado, a marine biologist and an inactive mountaineer, came last. Not coming but still part of the team is Justin Apurado, an electronics engineering student and son of Jonathan, whom I placed as reserve.

As in every organized explorations, there is the Base Support Team. Its primary function is communications and assistance. It will monitor the progress of the Exploration Team and will give updates on weather to the Team and informs the outdoors community in Facebook. Chad Bacolod, a communicator from Naga who is with Ham Radio Cebu, will man the desk. Another crew, Jhurds Neo, of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, will be on standby and would be mobilized when needed.

The Team, will carry a banner that describes our activity as well as the logos and names of sponsors. These are Silangan Outdoor Equipment, Titay’s Lilo-an Rosquillos and Native Delicacies, Tactical Security Agency, Jonathan Blanes, Glen Domingo and Glenn Pestaño. Also included are entities who contribute to the Team by other means like Camp Red, Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, the Philippine Mountaineering Blog and the Warrior Pilgrimage Blog.

The elements of the Team are proudly wearing the team uniform jerseys provided for by Silangan with the name of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT emblazoned on the front. Silangan Outdoor Equipment is my official outfitter since I endorse their products through my Warrior Pilgrimage Blog and in fora where the outdoors community interact. I am wearing their Greyman Hiking Pants and carry their Predator Z Tactical MOLLE Backpack.

Aside that, the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT is officially sanctioned by the Cebu Provincial Government as a legitimate outdoor activity that would help them identify places where adventure tourism would be developed on the once-remote mountain areas of the island. This, after my meeting with the Honorable Grecilda Sanchez, board member representing the Third District, and Ms. Mary Grace Paulino, the provincial tourism officer.

The following are the narrative of events in chronological order that tell the whole picture of SEGMENT III, CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT:

DAY 1 – February 19, 2015

  • Leave the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 05:25 by bus bound for Barili.
  • Arrive at Mantalongon, Barili at 06:40 and then a quick breakfast.
  • Start of first day hike. Leave Mantalongon Livestock Market at 07:00 for Guadalupe Hills by trail. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Cloudy.
  • Cross boundary into Guadalupe, Carcar City at 08:00 and pass by Hunob Elementary School. Begins walking on paved roads of asphalt and concrete which is known as the “Vegetable Highway”.
  • Starts communicating with Base Support of our progress by radio, through a frequency provided by the City of Carcar, and by mobile phone. Exploration Team use EAGLE ONE as its callsign while Base Support use EAGLE BASE. Radio equipment in use is a Cignus V85 VHF Portable Radio Transceiver but radio contact weak.
  • Cross boundary into Mayana, Barili and stop at Lamak Elementary School at 09:30 to rest, rehydrate and eat trail food.
  • Resume hike at 09:45 and proceed to somewhere in Sibonga. Weather: Partly cloudy.
  • Cross boundary into Basak, Sibonga at 10:30 and stop to collect specimen and to document a strange apple-like fruit that hung from a vine. The fruit is locally known as “unlan sa bitin” and its flesh tastes very bitter.
  • Stop by a communal water source at 11:30 to rest, rehydrate and eat trail food.
  • Resume hike at 13:00. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Warm.
  • Arrive at the village center of Basak at 13:45. Head of village very helpful in identifying for us a mountain range situated nearby as the Tres Sierras Range.
  • Pass by Cagay at 13:50 then stop at Libo at 14:30 to rest, rehydrate and eat trail food.
  • Resume hike at 14:45 for somewhere in Argao. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Partly cloudy.
  • Cross boundary into Mompeller, Argao at 15:00. Left heel starts to go painful.
  • Arrive at the village center of Mompeller at 17:00. Make courtesy call to head of village and ask permission to spend night at their multi-purpose building. Prepare coffee then supper. Food are enhanced noodle soup, fried chorizo Bilbao and milled corn. Dinner at 19:00. Weather: Cool. Taps at 20:30.

DAY 2 – February 20, 2015


  • Wake-up alarm rang at 04:00. Prepare coffee then breakfast. Food prepared are fried beef jerky and chorizo Bilbao and milled corn. Breakfast at 07:00.
  • Start of second day hike. Leave Mompeller at 08:00 for somewhere in Argao. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy and scattered rainshowers.
  • Pass by Anajao at 08:30 and Tulang at 09:20. Radio transmission very excellent.
  • Stop by a resting shed at 09:45 to rest, rehydrate and to eat trail food.
  • Resume hike at 10:00. Pace: Moderate to fast. Pass by Alambijud at 10:20. Weather: Warm.
  • Stop by a resting shed at 11:10 to rest, rehydrate and eat trail food.
  • Resume hike at 11:25 for somewhere in Argao. Pace: Fast. Weather: Very warm.
  • Stop at an open market of Bayabas, village of Cansuje, at 12:10 to rest, rehydrate and take a meal at a small eatery.
  • Resume hike at 13:15 for somewhere in Argao. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Warm.
  • Pass by Butong at 13:50 and stop to take photographs of a huge strangling-fig tree at 14:40.
  • Pass by village center of Linut-od at 15:00. Head of village very helpful in facilitating of our coming to the next village of Balaas through radio. Weather: Partly cloudy.
  • Arrive at the village center of Balaas at 15:45. Make courtesy call to head of village and ask permission to spend night at their multi-purpose building. Head of village very helpful in identifying a mountain range situated across us as Canbantug Mountain Range. Likewise to a lone peak as Mount Lantoy and to a robust stream as Salug River. Prepare coffee then supper. Food are mixed strips of vegetable pear, pechay, green pepper and carrots; beef jerky; fried krill with tomatoes; raw sliced tomatoes and milled corn. Dinner at 19:00. Weather: Rainy and cool. Taps at 21:00.

DAY 3 – February 21, 2015

  • Wake-up alarm rang at 04:00. Prepare coffee then breakfast. Food prepared are corned beef, scrambled eggs and milled corn. Breakfast at 07:45.
  • Start of second day hike. Leave Balaas at 09:00 for somewhere in Dalaguete. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy.
  • Cross boundary into Manlapay, Dalaguete at 09:25 and pass by Manlapay National High School.
  • Arrive at Maloray at 10:45 to rest, rehydrate and eat trail food. Decide to investigate and explore Mount Candungaw for possible inclusion as a tourist spot. Arrive at first peak at 11:30. Jovahn decide to explore a cave nearby while me and Jonathan proceed to second peak. End exploration at 12:30 and return to base of peak. Ordered hot noodle soup as meal.
  • Resume hike at 14:10 for Mantalongon. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy.
  • Pass by Ablayan at 14:55. Change pace from moderate to fast.
  • Stop at a culvert at 16:00 to rest, rehydrate and eat trail food.
  • Resume hike at 16:15. Pace: Slow. Weather: Very mild.
  • Arrive at Mantalongon at 16:35. Visit first the Saint Isidro Labrador Parish to pay respects and thanks to Providence before proceeding to the Mantalongon Vegetable Market. A crowd begins to mill around us as we pose for the camera in the market.
  • Leave Mantalongon at 17:00 for Poblacion, Dalaguete by motorcycles-for-hire. Celebrate our success with cold beer and food by the seashore.
  • Leave Dalaguete for Cebu City at 20:00 by bus.
  • Arrive Cebu South Bus Terminal at 22:00.
This present Exploration Team had prepared so well in terms of physical conditioning that we shaved off a day of its original itinerary by our pace alone. Another factor which caused us to make this a 3-day affair instead of four is the presence of the “Vegetable Highway”. The existence of this little-known vein of progress actually is unknown even to some people living on the places we passed by. For most of those who lived along it, it is a blessing.

The Team officially have logged 53.85 kilometers of walking from Point A to Point B, basing upon the auto computation of Wikiloc, a web-based application which can either be manipulated by uploading GPS waypoints or by manual tracing of the route with a mouse, but it does not include the peripheral routes we had taken like the locations of our billeting areas which are actually located 200-300 meters from the main route and our climb of Mt. Candungaw. I believe we had logged more than that.

We each carried an average of 13+ kilos although we are observing light backpacking. Food, survival gears and our sleeping equipment had used up much of our cargo space. It is good that water could be had along the route. The places where we pass by are abundant of water so there is no need to carry more than a liter of water. Along the route are spring boxes which pour out cool potable water for man and beast alike.

On the other hand, folks see our presence on most of the places we passed, except at Mantalongon, Dalaguete, as unusual. They have not seen hikers or outdoorsmen or urbanites with backpacks before and they viewed us with suspicion until you break the ice by giving them a smile and a greeting. Ultimately a conversation begins, explaining your purpose, would make them see a bit but they cannot comprehend of why we walk when there are vacant seats on a few motorcycles passing by.

The completion of Segment III is but one step closer to my objective. The next routes would not be as easy as the finished segments nor would it ensure favorable conditions. Definitely, the next segments will not be a walk in the park and would demand navigation savvy from the Exploration Team, which that responsibility rests squarely on me. The CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT from hereon goes on a high swing of difficulty but the team accepts that challenge nevertheless.

I have learned so much from the different segment hikes that I have had with different teams. This present team is so flexible and very much prepared for the physical challenges at hand that it had given me a great assurance that we can deliver the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT true to its schedule. I am confident that we could overcome one of the most difficult stretch of the Project, which is Segment IV, in October and the longest, Segment VII, in 2016.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LCI: Bayanihan and Bushcraft

FOR MANY WEEKS NOW, the Roble family had been living on a small shelter which they call home. Their original house had been brutalized by Typhoon Yolanda and Typhoon Ruby in the past but Typhoon Seniang had given it a death kneel. I have learned of that when I visited them in early January and began informing others of the state of their house.

So far, a fund drive was started separately by Boy Toledo of the Redtrekkers and Jhurds Neo of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild while other hikers donated directly to the family on their way to Mount Babag. Although giving directly is showing compassion and empathy, it could not provide what is best for the affected family. A tangible benefit could only be achieved if a community of individuals would link together for a common good.

Because there is a collective effort, on the part of Camp Red, there is bound to be a positive result. The Roble homestead is Camp Red’s favorite place to spend their day, call it their dirt time. It is not their turf nor they claim it is as their exclusive own. It is just that they preferred to stay at the shaded bamboo benches and enjoy the company of the Roble family.

Because of the Roble’s kindness and their willingness to share their frontyard to this noisy breed of outdoorsmen, the family had endeared so well to the members. While many choose to pass the place on their way to the higher places, Camp Red choose to stay. It is like a second home to them. In fact, they choose this place for outreach events. They do it twice a year here. One before the opening of classes and another one during December.

For today, Jhurds had produced some housing materials, either through donations and by direct procurement, and brought it to the parking area of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish today, February 15, 2015. I arrive at 06:30 and Jhurds was already there together with couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon, Nelson Tan, Richie Quijano and Ernie Salomon. Behind me comes Jonathan Apurado, JB Albano, Dominic Sepe and Rommel Mesias.

Inside a Suzuki Mini Van are pieces of coconut lumber, sheets of thatched bamboo strips, some light GI beams and small pre-owned boards. The small boards can still be used as cabinets or as window shutters while the GI beams can be used to support the roof. The coconut lumber can be used for the house frames and the thatched bamboo as temporary walls. The plan is to carry all these items to the Roble homestead.

Jhurds drove the Suzuki to Napo while we ride on motorcycles going there. We start our loaded journey at 08:15 as Jhurds ask leave for a family activity. The items are heavy and cumbersome to carry but nobody complained. Laughing as we set off, we rest frequently to preserve energy which we will need most during the ascent. We reach a mango tree and we assess ourselves if we can pursue our objectives. It is an opportunity also to exchange cargoes.

The pre-owned boards are heavy and difficult to carry since these are tied as a set of three boards each and the best way to carry it is either by propping it on one shoulder or over the head but the added weight of your arms above your collar bones make it more heavy to carry. The GI beams are heavy but it is easy to handle and carry. Same with the coconut lumber although you have to watch out for those sharp grits but we provide ourselves cotton gloves. The thatched bamboo sheets are rolled and bulky but it is the lightest.

We reach Lower Kahugan Spring and take another rest. It would be difficult after here since the route would be ascending. Grudgingly, we take that challenge. The cool shades of trees helped us greatly a few feet by a few feet until we are just a couple of a hundred meters to our objective. We frequently change cargoes as we stop so others could enjoy a breather on their weary arms.

Finally, we all arrive at close to 11:00 and pile the items neatly on the side and proceed to our next tasks. Gleefully given the chance to unleash their blades, these hardy bushmen prowled the vegetation to forage firewood and start the business of chopping it into manageable pieces for the fireplace. The first order of things is to enjoy coffee. An empty pot appears and water is hastily boiled in it. Coffee tastes heavenly when outdoors, be it rainy or warm.

Ernie takes care of the preparation of the food helped by Mirasol and Rommel. The fire roared to life and the pots are readied over it. Boy T arrive by himself and produce a bottle of Tanduay Light Smooth Aged Rum which gives fuel to conversations as we get on with our tasks. We at Camp Red prepare and cook our meals exquisitely as if we are in a king’s banquet. Give that to Ernie. He does magic with his ladle.

Salmon belly are cooked in a spicy concoction producing a native fare called “linarang”. Likewise pork is cooked in a tamarind-enhanced soup resulting to another indigenous food called as “sinigang”. Then we have grilled pork, rice and an appetizer of raw cucumbers dipped in sweetened and spiced vinegar. Three fireplaces were set up to hasten the cooking and we are able to eat lunch a few minutes past noon.

I resign to my corner after the meal and retrieve three kilos of fowl feed for my pair of turkeys. I am quite satisfied at the difference of the health and the growth of the turkeys compared to the first time I introduced them here, especially the male, last January 3. They are now very agile and could leap to a horizontal wood beam seven feet above the ground. Fele and Tonya are just as happy.

I transfer to the company of Boy T. The bottle contents are now at the halfway point and I squeeze in the middle of the circle that Boy T had ably steered. The benches are full and so are the boisterous laughs from every jokes and comments. The conversations seesawed from the serious to the hilarious and all are brimming with pride that they had contributed to something good and worthwhile today. The glass never failed on its orbit.

The new house of the Roble family would stand, we assured that to Fele and Tonya and their children. The family hired a chainsaw and we provided an advanced payment amounting to 30 percent of the contract price of P5,000 to the owner. In a short while, Fele and the chainsaw operator proceed to the business of locating a mature China berry tree (Local name: bagalnga) which they found from a far distance if you judge the sound of the buzzing chainsaw.

The bottle of Tanduay gets decimated and a bottle of Emperador Light Brandy replaces it. The same crowd but different stories. Ultimately, everybody including Boy T gets tired of the fiery liquid and turn to their knives for another showcase of blades. The naturally-shaped wooden bench looked like a porcupine as blades stood on its back. I even add my custom-handled claw hammer to the pageantry as an “odd man out”.

Everybody knows that the blade porn is the activity that ends all activities and when one blade gets pulled from its niche, everybody followed suit. We leave the Roble homestead at 16:00 for Napo, for sooner we would be at Guadalupe again. In the back of our minds, we know that cold bottles of beer are now waiting at The Bikeyard. It had and we keep it pouring till midnight.

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