Sunday, May 1, 2016


WHEN SOMEBODY IS SENDING you a long text message, you read it whole and do not jump to conclusions. Do not assume you know the full context of the message. If you do, you suffer inconveniences as well as admitting that you are yourself stupid, with which word, in my own case, I am fond of labelling at less-imaginative people. Oh, stupid me.

That happened for today, August 15, 2015. It is a Saturday and I am supposed to be in the office working my butt for my bosses. I requested to be absent from work at the last minute because I thought this is the day that I am going to guide biology students to the village of Sapangdaku. The biology class would pay me and it would compensate much my absence. However, they reminded me TODAY that it would be tomorrow!

I am alone at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. It is 09:30 and I am in the middle of my boo-boo. I am thinking of how I would spend the day instead. Going home is out of the topic. I am at the gateway to the Babag Mountain Range and the mountains are calling. I decide to do a solo hike instead to kill time. I shoot a message to Ernie Salomon that today's activity is postponed.

I am not carrying my usual items because the excursion with the biology students assures me that I do not have to cook food. They would carry pre-cooked food. Anyway, I decide to make today a training activity for myself in preparation for a series of bushcraft camps at the end of this month at Lilo-an, then probably in Luzon in September and back again to Cebu in October and November.

What I really worry about is the Segment IV of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project come October. It is a long hike that will start from Mount Manunggal over the rugged spine of the mid-north area to Carmen. I need a lot of second wind to develop and, for that matter, the third and fourth winds, if there would be such. Today would be a good opportunity to engage in a survival hike.

When I finished filling up my Nalgene from an automatic water dispenser, Ernie arrived. He did not receive my message I sent a few minutes ago. Oh well, I told him of my boo-boo and I have to postpone the activity with the biology students because of their inavailability. He decides to go with me, after all, the mountain trails are near. He needs to train himself too because he had not been to the mountains for sometime now.

Okay, I buy five bread, four mooncakes and two sachets of 3-in-1 coffee. There will be no cooking except boiling of water for coffee. Fortunately, I have brought my Trangia alcohol burner with its collapsible stand that is designed as a wind screen but I have no alcohol. Ernie has. We are good to go now and I choose Bebut's Trail because it is near and I am planning to visit again the fabled Starbucks Hill.

It is now 10:00 as I lead up the high steps of a concrete stair that will also lead to the lowest ridge of the Guadalupe Hills. It is very humid. There is mild sunlight and there is a promise of rain. Clouds begin to block the heat and it is a good moment at this tormentable hour to walk this bald hill which I had named as “Heartbreak Ridge” for it caused heartbreak to a lot of people.

I rest under the shade of a Jamaica cherry tree (Local name: aratiles, mansanitas) and I place my AJF Gahum knife on my belt and an olive-green meshed shawl on my head. Camera on the ready, I stalk the path leading to the power pylon, the tunnel vent, the small farm and beyond the ridge. The ground is wet since it rained early morning with dews on the leaves.

The rains had fattened the vegetation and stimulates growth of rare plants like the elephant foot yam (pongapong) and the pepper vine (buyo). Ernie is fascinated with my knowledge on plants and he wanted me to find him purslane (olasiman) so he could plant it in his small garden. I tried but I cannot find one which left me wondering why since it is very common like a weed.

We reach the place which I called as the Portal, which is really what the locals called in its vernacular version - “ang Pultahan”. For more than one hour we walked without stopping although we walked at a normal pace. At the Portal we rehydrate and eat a mooncake each. We engage a passing old couple with two empty 5-gallon bottles to a conversation. They are going to Kilat Spring. I gave them date seeds hoping they have better green thumbs than me.

I look at the path going to Starbucks Hill and it is overgrown with thick vegetation. According to the couple nobody goes that path anymore. My audacious outlook melted when they said that and my earlier plan to whack bushes got scuttled. I settled for an alternative. There is still the only path of the seven found at the Portal that I have had not walked. This trail goes up into an unknown peak.

Once I settled my backpack on my shoulders, there is no stopping. Ernie follow behind me, adrenaline rising and ready for another opportunity to explore places. Much of these hidden small places are now known because of my daring and my drive to quench my adventurous spirit. Nobody goes to these places because nobody wants to. Most outdoors people do not have the penchant to search because they do not know how. They like easy ones.

The path is steep and slippery. Blame that to my now toothless 5.11 expedition shoes made worse by rain falling down and getting soaked right up to my skin. The path disappears but I know where it goes and it led to a small cassava farm. Who would have thought people would plant something here unless there is a house nearby. More walking led me to loose earth being dug up. I thought it at first as another charcoal-making devise but I am wrong. It came from a hole in the ground. Treasure hunters?

It is deep enough but what could be hidden there? There is a horizontal shaft but I have no appetite to find ghosts in tight places. There must be somebody or some nearby house to engage in this earth-moving stuff. I look at the other side of the path – it is well used. I follow it and it goes upward until I reach the peak. There is a cairn but behind it is an even bigger hole. This is big. What could goad some people to dig big holes above a peak? I take a pinch of earth dug from the hole and it says nothing. Not even a hint of copper or iron. Yamashita again? Come on, give me a break!

We rest here for a while and analyze everything. If it is an enlarged cave then there must be something down there. There could be people hiding from sunlight, I mean from the law. It could be a “safe house”. I do not want to poke my nose on other people's business just as long as they leave mine. I am alright with that. Somehow, I have to continue my exploration of this route. A slight shower begins to pour and that spurred me to move on.

It is a well-used route. Meaning, people that worked on the small cassava field or of the enlargement works on the two tunnels came from here or passed by this stretch. Then a house. The same house which I passed by on September 14, 2014 (BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN 29: The Last Visit) during my relentless pursuit of re-discovering Starbucks Hill. I am perplexed at this discovery of the same house. Good thing it is occupied this time and I have answers to my questions.

One of the answers lead me to decide to cut this nascent exploration short, which means, we have to go down the hill, pass by a community and take the road back to Guadalupe. We reach the road alright but we have to take shelter at an abandoned structure to sit out the heavy rain and lightning that was now hurled from the skies. It is 12:30 and it might do us good to make hot coffee and eat the rest of our bread. Kids came and we parted most of the bread to them. I believe they needed it more than we do.

We continue on our way down when the lightning stopped to the creek spillway and reach Guadalupe at 14:00. My feet are now beginning to complain of the 5.11 shoes that I have been so proud to own and use in most of my adventure time starting January. It had seen good days even in such a short time but it has to remain with me until such time that I have not found the means for its replacement or its “retirement”. But the meat of the day's disappointment was really the boo-boo I made.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

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