Sunday, December 20, 2015
“I DO NOT KNOW WHAT lay awaits me. I only know that I must be brave...” This line from the theme song of the movie High Noon kept ringing in my head as I begin to start on my solo exploration from Hagnaya Bay to Bogo Bay on this 28th day of April 2015. I just checked out from the San Remigio Cultural Center and Leisure at 04:00 and I am walking down the road to Hagnaya Port in darkness.
I had arrived at the Municipality of San Remigio yesterday morning and I had met Mr. Niño Ybañez, the town’s public information officer. We discussed about my Dayhagon Canal Adventure and I promised him that there would be good publicity afterwards when I post this in Facebook and here in Warrior Pilgrimage. It may be not much but, just the same, it would generate interest on the Dayhagon Canal and people would use San Remigio as the jump-off point.
Hagnaya Port, the gateway to Bantayan Island and the Province of Masbate, had expanded its size since I visited it the first time in 1983. That time, it was just a finger of concrete over shallow waters. Now the port had reclaimed water east of it and will do so in the coming years. I stood on its farthest edge and gazed at the shoreline from where I plan to walk. A local instructed me to walk an unpaved road following the shoreline to a place before the village of Argawanon and start my journey instead from there.
I followed the instructions to the letter wearing a bright-orange PAC Outdoor Gear float vest. I may have looked like a Martian with a Petzl Elite headlamp ringed on my forehead while a desert camo hat sits uneasily over my head. I am carrying my Sandugo Khumbu 40L backpack with a 30-liter Triton dry bag hiding a Silangan hammock, an extra shirt, a medical kit, a 10-meter 7mm paracord, a Leatherman S2 Juice, a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster and a LuminAid inflatable solar-powered emergency lantern fully inflated.
I am ready for sloshing in waist-high water and have worn my black Mammut Schoeller quick-dry hike pants and my sturdy Columbia Coremic Ridge 2 shoes. In the front pocket of the float vest is my Cherry Mobile U2 phone, a whistle, an ID card and my Canon IXUS camera. Hanging from my neck is my Suuntu A-30 compass. My general direction would be east. The sun and the shore would guide me, the compass just a fail-proof back-up.
I reach the spot and I follow a path lined by mahogany trees which goes down to the shore of Hagnaya Bay. Healthy mangroves are growing thick and wild and, where land meets sea, swampy. I step only on hard surface like stones, wood and on thins trips of sandy ground. It is a tiny wilderness frequented only by fishermen, whose small boats are secured safely within the small forest to shelter it from inclement weather.
The swamp floor are littered by debris carried by high tides and by wind and by another debris dumped by humans. I followed the coastline and sometimes wished that I chose higher ground for parts of the route I had chosen are difficult to navigate. My bag gets snagged by branches, I have to select the ground where I would tread and I have to watch out for those harmful plants.
Almost always, I retreat to the safety of higher ground when progress is hampered by impenetrable vegetation. Mangrove roots make foot space rare and travelling through it is quite tricky. When I unknowingly disturbed a wasp’s nest, I decide that plunging into thick vegetation is not practical and exposes me to more danger. I did not know of the hive’s presence until one stung my left bicep. I froze and backtracked very very slow to keep me off their radar.
I cross the first of the many water channels found between fish ponds, salt plains, islands of mangroves and mud flats. The play of tides caused these channels as it penetrates into lower inland plains and created a delta. My shoes sink deep into mud in midstream as I cross the channel but my eight-foot walking stick is a welcome ally. It helped me probe the depth of water as well as a reliable aid for balance.
I climb up and walk on the first of the many dirt embankments protecting fish ponds from high tide and surf. I walk on the narrow dirt causeways with the bay water on my left and the ponds on my right. Right where there are sluice gates, I would go down the pond and cross to the other side. Then another water channel and on to another fish pond.
I had calculated my exploration would time with a very low water rise during tides. Low tide was 0.33 meter at 01:16 and high tide would be 0.76 meter at 08:56 and I would just have to contend with a rise of just 0.43 meter in between the hours. It is a good window of opportunity to tackle this route, especially at the channels and the mud flats, for this would be inundated with water if ever high tide would reach by even just a meter.
I meet only a few people to ask directions on this intricate maze of mud-lined channels and steep dikes. One of those whom I met are a couple of old women. They gather shellfish for a living. They offered me a ride on their old canoe but it defeats my purpose and I politely declined it. I would rather be wet and struggling on my own accord and this lent my unusual journey a color all its own. However, they point to a place where there is shallow water to cross.
I follow a narrow finger of land going to a forest of breast-high mangroves. The leaves part to reveal more muddy floors. I changed routes as often as I can to take on firmer ground. I am successful until I come upon another finger of land that led me to nowhere but deeper channels. I tried to brave the divide but once I sank deeper up to my waist I gave up that idea. These are the very places where quicksands are possible. I backtracked and tried other routes until I am on to another embankment.
This time I am gazing down on a salt plain. I could hear the faint sounds of running motorcycles. About a kilometer away are two radio transmitter towers. A message alert tone from my mobile phone halt me in my dizzying task of gaining on the Dayhagon Bridge, a significant feature of the route that would mark the halfway point of this adventure. It is a message from Johnas Obinas. I replied that I would be approaching the Dayhagon Bridge at any moment.
I re-assess my position and plan a better route by referring to my compass. I got past the salt plains and I see a glimpse of solid concrete washed in sunshine a half kilometer away, perhaps it is the bridge. By now the body of water is narrowing and the coastal side of Medellin are no more than a slingshot throw away from me. I am now on the Dayhagon Canal proper and I see two elder women crossing the canal up to their knees and a dog after them up to its flanks.
I walk the bank of the Dayhagon until I can see Johnas standing and weaving his arms at me on the middle of the bridge. I reach the span at 07:53 and maneuver myself to climb up on it. It is good to see Johnas again. He is one of the few who learned bushcraft from me and he is assigned in Medellin as a jail officer. I think I need a break as he is bent on treating me to a free breakfast. He whisk me away to Don Pedro Rodriguez on his Skygo motorcycle.
For a good 30 minutes I get to relax and eat inside a local restaurant. We go back to the bridge and we parted. It is now 08:35 and still is the best time to resume a journey. I will now be walking on the side of Bogo City. I retrieve my walking stick and go down the bridge into a tree-lined path. I go down a channel and cross it and then cross another waterway after climbing up a small island in between.
After that, I begin to traverse the first of the many private properties. I had completely evaded private lands while walking the shorelines of San Remigio but, here, I have almost no options. Fences above fishpond dikes keep away people but there are gaps where one could pass. Strips of mangroves lined the dikes and most of the dikes are built right up to the water’s edge.
I walk above the dikes and it is easy navigating the Dayhagon Canal here than the ones at San Remigio. I met some fishermen sitting on the embankments with fishing rods pointing on the canal while one guy took chances on ankle-high waters of a fish pond. Muddied people work on the dikes plugging holes and they ignored me. It is a big fishpond and I enjoy the walk even though the heat of the sun begins to make its presence felt.
I have thought long ago that the Dayhagon Canal was a fresh-water creek whose source I could not determine everytime I go north passing by the Dayhagon Bridge. I did not even know that it is called Dayhagon until I studied Cebu using Google Map. I found something unusual on the land feature between Hagnaya Bay and Bogo Bay. There is a very narrow body of water traversing on the narrowest part of a neck of land that made the northernmost part of Cebu look like an island.
The creek that I once had thought is a canal after all. It crossed from one body of sea to another and had separated the land north where Medellin and Daanbantayan are found from the rest of Cebu. In fact, the man-made canal looks like a neckline. Who were the people who built this canal? Why? When?
I do not know the history and the reason why the Spaniards built this canal. From what I perceived, the Dayhagon used to be an isthmus connecting the northernmost part of Cebu to the rest of the island. Economic considerations when demand for sugar became high in the middle to the later years of the 19th century might have been the prime reason why this canal was built.
Sugar canes from the haciendas of Bogo, Tabogon, Borbon and Sogod may have found its way to the then town of Bogo. The lack of a deep-water port forced it to travel by land to Hagnaya Port which would had been time-consuming considering that there were no developed horizontal infrastructures at that time. The isthmus might had been so low at some places that it is cheaper to build a canal than building a road.
The canal might have made possible the transporting of sugar canes easily to Hagnaya from the depots as Hagnaya is much convenient for a boat to dock coming in by way of or out towards Negros where the much bigger plantations of sugar canes are found. That was before the Industrial Revolution, the steam engine and the locomotive found its way to Asia and las islas Filipinas.
I have come upon to the endmost part of the big fishpond and gaze across an estuary to an open field that had recently been harvested of sugar canes. I walk along the dike looking for a good place to cross this small stream. Children had just came out of that stream with a good number of catch. I cross on the other side and squeeze into a barbed wire fence.
The wide plain had been burned off to prepare for another cycle of planting sugar canes. The fire had reached a buffer zone of wild vegetation growing between the farm and the mangroves. I walk along the edges of this narrow wilderness, my observation is at a peak since this is a favorite hunting ground for all kinds of snakes and I do not want to be surprised. I open carry a Mora Companion knife though and it satisfies my requirement of security.
The path weave along the edges of another farm located on a gentle hill where there are dried cogon grass. A quail flew away upon my coming and a lot of flying it did to keep its distance. Typhoon Haiyan had left many scars on the land and felled many big trees, the spread roots providing sturdy windbreaks for the next storms. The canal begins to widen and I am now gazing at the waters of Bogo Bay.
I walk an open field of scorched grass, cracked soil, termite mounds and an abandoned house. Not far is a small community on a finger of land reaching out to the sea. It is a fishing community and a lot of small boats are kept on dry land. Strong breeze are all over here and it cooled my now very warm body. Across the bay is Medellin where there is a golf course.
I follow the shore southeast to a thick forest of mangrove where there is a tiny stream. I can see the Polambato Wharf a kilometer away but going directly by shore is impossible now as a cock farm nearby is fencing off access to the sea with high nets. I cannot pass by but have to take another route out instead into dry ground, farms and more felled trees that became shelters for cows and swamp buffaloes.
I reach an unpaved road and leave my walking stick among bundled firewood of same size and height. It is now 10:00 and it is very warm. I am not surprised by people raising an eyebrow when they see me passing by. Do not I look like a Martian? Anyway, I reach a small store on the Bogo-Polambato Wharf Road to take cold refreshment and eat a banana I saved for this occasion.
After having an amusing conversation with three elderly women, I rode a tricycle bound for the bus terminal of Bogo City. It is almost 11:00 and I might as well eat lunch on one of the small restaurants in the terminal. I would have wanted to make a courtesy call to the city’s tourism officer and its police station but I looked like a muddy Martian even without the float vest. I am not appropriately dressed and nobody would take me seriously.
I do not profess to be the first person to have walked through the Dayhagon Canal from Hagnaya Bay to Bogo Bay. There may have been older adventurers before me and, of course, fishermen and seasonal workers of sugar farms, who might have traversed it on foot in the course of their finding a living and were not known for those efforts for it could not have been part of their priorities and plans or that they do not have the means to “broadcast” it in popular media as I do presently with Facebook.
Only the Municipality of Medellin had included the Dayhagon Canal on their tourism program but it is done with kayaks and native canoes. See their website here. My visit of the whole length of the Dayhagon Canal, to include parts of Hagnaya Bay and Bogo Bay, is a testament that it could be done by foot, provided that it is timed at low seawater levels. Since it passes through a lot of water, however low it may be, flotation devices and safety equipment are a must.
For sure, there would be others after me and will make San Remigio as a springboard of their own adventures. The Cebu Highlands Trail, which I am in the midst of establishing a route from northern tip to southern tip or vice versa, will be passing by the Dayhagon Bridge, without a doubt. Because of this, the Dayhagon Canal would be an ideal side trip, as well as other nearby places that will surely attract local and international visitors.
My solo traverse of the Dayhagon Canal would not had been possible of the following whom I owed a great debt of gratitude. The Municipality of San Remigio, thru its Public Information Officer, Mr. Niño Ybañez, for providing me free overnight accommodation at their San Remigio Cultural Center and Recreation. Likewise, the staff of their hotel for providing me excellent service.
The police stations of Bogo City, Medellin and San Remigio for ensuring security of the route incognito. JO1 Johnas Obinas, the Community Relations Officer of the Medellin Municipal Jail, for that well-deserved breakfast and it came at the right time and place. PAC Outdoor Gear and their great guys – Mr. Anthony Espinosa and Mr. Carlo Genova, for loaning me one of their reliable float vest from their shop.
Mr. Glen Domingo of Portland, Oregon, USA, for providing me an excellent compass – a Suuntu A-30. It is a fail-proof piece of navigational equipment that had been handy during the most difficult part of the hike. Finally, to the warm people of San Remigio and Bogo City whom I have met and conversed with – THANK YOU!
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