Saturday, May 21, 2016
I HAVE TAKEN TO a liking of the route that passes over Tagaytay Ridge which links up with the main ridge of the Babag Mountain Range. Going to the Caburnay homestead, which sits before Babag Ridge takes about three to four hours, so you can prepare a meal, is a perfect option. Water is nearby which actually is sourced afar. Besides it is shady there too.
I am going there again today, August 23, 2015, to loosen up some muscles so I could prepare myself for that very difficult Segment IV of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project, which is in October. Coming with me are my adherents from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild namely Jonathan Apurado, Justin Abella, Faith Gomez, Richie Quijano and Nelson Tan.
I have last walked here in July 19. Jonathan and Richie were with me then. It had rained for many days but today it had not but I am quite sure the ground would be wet and vegetation would be thick. Once we cross the footbridge, we begin the ascent. Manggapares Trail is an old forgotten route which I began to revive when I rediscovered it in 2013.
I am wearing my worn-out 5.11 Tactical Series Shoes. It is almost disintegrating but I choose where I step and I have to be very careful. Upward we go into the back of the ridge yet it is very shady, almost gloomy. I have not met other hikers here except by a very few locals. I am following a fresh set of spoors made by a pair of rubber boots. Reading trail signs gives a different dimension on my purpose here and my mind work out the puzzles left by somebody.
I meet a mother and a daughter in their Sunday's best of clothes going downhill. Both carried baskets of mangoes above their head and both were sweating. Familiar faces and they were both smiling despite the toils they are having. I give them the privilege of the trail and on they would go to Guadalupe to hear mass. Me and my friends still have a long way to go.
We reach the first tower after an hour. We have started our walk at 07:30 and it is a good pace. For now. We will soon be exposed to sunlight but we will have a good view of the countryside scenery that goes beyond the coast and the harbour channel. The second tower stands very imposing at a higher height and I wish the clouds stayed as they had been when we started our climb.
We take a short rest after hurdling the second tower and our sights gaze on to the next three, which are not that difficult anymore. The relic of a backhoe is still there and I am quite surprised that people had not cannibalized the abandoned heavy equipment. So be it and I hope it shall remain as part of the landscape.
There is a trail up ahead that veer to the right and I go down to follow it then take another branch on its left. The second trail is very difficult to discover unless you are now very familiar to it as I am now or you know your lessons well in trail sign reading as I had done some eons ago. This is the Liboron Trail and I shudder at it everytime it becomes soft and muddy. But today it is not despite the heavy rain of yesterday.
I hear noises below us, some human activities. I hope it is not Timoteo Gabasan because I am waiting for him to make good his threats. I follow Liboron Trail as it weave itself in and out of the lower contours of Tagaytay Ridge until I come upon the hidden coconut plantation where there is level ground.
I saw a young man and I noticed that he showed fear and anxiety upon seeing us. I smiled and gave a morning greeting and walked directly to a tree full of ripe Chinese currants (Local name: bugnay) hanging down in its dark purple and red splendor. His tenseness is gone when he saw me and us as harmless and he smiled a little. He is with an old woman, who hid among tall grass. I wonder why they acted so strangely?
All of us plucked the ripe fruits of the Chinese currant tree and indulge at its tart sweetness. I wished Jhurds Neo was here. He would have brought all of the tree to town. We had a happy disposition when we enjoyed the fruit. It has dissipated our fatigue and little stress that we felt when we climbed up Manggapares Trail. When we were done with that we proceed to the Caburnay homestead.
There is warmth as we climb up a hill overgrown with waist-high grass. Once we top it, the path would swing down onto a couple of sentry groves of bamboo and then up another hill where the homestead is located. Along the way I foraged the driest tinder I could find so we could start our cooking fire. Julio Caburnay is around and he welcomed us into his humble place.
When we have settled our bags we begin the fire with the sparks of the ferro rod. Although we have matchsticks and lighters, it boosted our confidence to start a fire with the rod. It might be unnecessary but, when you are outdoors, you take that chance. Some sort of training. Everybody then pooled their hands in the preparation of our food.
Julio offered us his organically-grown little bananas, which everybody relished very much, and his red dragonfruit. We reserve the dragonfruit to Nelson. His wife is expecting their first baby and it would be good for the wife – and the child – to get some nutrients from this exotic fruit which had adapted well in our environment. Julio also parted a bunch of his recently-harvested corn.
Jonathan takes charge of the cooking. What's cooking then? We got rice, yes. Then that sweet smell of pork adobao wafted by your nostrils, while the rest help themselves in cooking the corn on naked embers. We got a treat, wow! Then you add a pre-cooked “pancit guisado” (Local noodles) that Faith and Justin brought and our lunch takes on a different dimension.
I keep a share for Julio and his wife plus sachets of coffee, sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce and a can of unopened tuna flakes which I intentionally brought for their consumption. After staying for more than two hours we are now ready to take on the rest of our journey. Before we leave, Julio gave me six stems of his prized dragonfruits so I could propagate it. I could give it to anyone interested.
It is cloudy and that is fine with us as we negotiate the last part of Tagaytay Ridge before it joins the main ridge of the Babag Mountain Range. The path is now thick with overgrown shrubs and cane grass and I unsheathed my AJF Gahum for this clearing work. A tree had fallen between today and the last time I passed by here and it blocked the path. I have to do a little detour and slash more shrubs and those hardy crawling bamboos (Local name: bokawe).
I follow the Babag Ridge Trail – a very fine old trail – which I lost long ago and rediscovered it in January 2013. I always love this stretch. It gave me serenity by just walking on it. This is a good place to reflect on things and too few locals come here. Unfortunately, off-road motorcycles and their riders pass by here every so often disturbing the calmness and the sanctity of the ridge leaving ugly furrows on the path.
More disturbing, is the presence of a habitation located before the old campsite. It had cleared vegetation along its premises for a small farm and it may expand soon when no one from the DENR is checking. I do not want this to become another “Forbidden Farm” which one homestead is claiming and blocking a route as theirs when you climb Mount Babag from Napo.
This is a historical place. Small battles were fought here between the local resistance and against succeeding colonizers from Spain, the United States and Japan. Then a bigger battle between Japanese defenders against the American liberation forces have made this mountain range famous. It is still home to an artery of war-time tunnels that had been exhaustively explored by crazy treasure seekers.
We are now going down a ravine because fences have blocked access to the rest of the ridge by one family who claimed a part of the path as theirs by mere possession of a tax declaration. This is government land classified as timberland and inalienable and the DENR is an inutile institution. These documents came from them and they cannot regulate the recipients who have been using their privileges the wrong way, blocking access to water sources and rights of way.
We climbed up from the ravine and continue on the rest of the trail. Before reaching the tower area, we slip down the East Ridge Pass to the Upper Kahugan Spring where there is a water source and where “Forbidden Farm” is located. Then we continue until we reach the abandoned homestead of Fele and Tonia Roble, where their children Manwel, Juliet and Josel used to live and play and study at Napo and at Guadalupe.
It is now silent except for a PVC pipe which pour water that is channeled from the Upper Kahugan Spring. Fele's brothers, Zene and Roger still clung to the place in constant fear of Timoteo Gabasan, who have been discovered to have prowled their place at nighttime by neighbors, still hoping to finish off the absent Fele. Anyway, I part a gift for Zene, courtesy of the guys from Camp Red, and two of the dragonfruit stems.
My pair of turkeys have successfully laid another generation of young ones but all died. I could do nothing more about it except wish that Zene and his wife focus more attention to caring for the chicks. I have given them the opportunity to gain from it but their half-hearted attitudes on the turkeys gets into my nerves to the brink of sheer disappointment. I am tired of giving the best advice and seeing the same results. I am tired of seeing this place!
The afternoon is getting late and it seems I have no more business here. I look at the unfinished house and it begets a frown and an anger from me at the sight of this failed project. I have involved many people and I was very optimistic about this when that tragedy on Fele struck. Because of overconsumption of alcoholic drinks which led one bad thing to another like the burning of their home. It destroyed the children's future and my hopes for them.
Yes, I have no business here. I just hope the dragonfruit stems would be taken cared of and bear fruit. That would be a good reason to inflame back a dying ember that I have felt of this place. If not, I leave the dust of my shoes and take my kindness elsewhere.
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