Saturday, November 26, 2016

BEBUT’S TRAIL XIV: The Italian-Sounding Abomination

WE AT THE CAMP RED BUSHCRAFT and Survival Guild begun to love Baksan when we discovered its secrets that we decide to transfer our “dirt times” there. At Baksan, we do not meet anymore colorful corporate hikers. Of course, they know where it is because it can be searched in Google Earth but going there is still a puzzle for them. Even if they will accidentally find it, they cannot fit in because there is nothing spectacular to talk about.

In the old Roble Homestead, we frequently meet them there. Meetings are mutual and friendly but we know that they talk behind us because we are different. We do not worship Leave No Trace, like they do in such vociferous manners on other people, yet they cannot impose it on us. We have our own set of values when it comes to enjoying the outdoors and LNT is not one of those.

We carry knives and we know most of them cringe at the sight of even the smallest Swiss Army Knife. We regard our knives as mere tools and we know the value of this simple tool in simple outdoor functions or, worse, during SHTF. Our difference from them stood out glaringly with our joyous attachment to our unique tradition of the blade porn. We delight at our “wrong turns” and it is the best thing in the world.



We blend well with the landscape by just being there and not mere passersby. We can sit idly by a campfire and enjoy its companionship of warm food and steaming coffee while some of these colorful hikers would be busy spying on other campers of their misplaced garbage. While some of them pounce people in Facebook by posting pictures that hurt their make-believe LNT sensibilities, we dare them with ours that totally ground against their beliefs.

We are now at Baksan always to save them of their frustrations of seeing us doing many things that ran contrary to their Western-inspired outdoor principles. We regret to inform them that we never camp on bald peaks nor make campfires there. These are the very places we evade for it ran counter to our adherence of Blend, Adapt and Improvise. On the other hand, we do not stay a minute and we had rather be on our way quick.

This day – August 14, 2016 – I am with these crazy bushcrafters. Two male guests came along upon the invite of one. Our plan would be to test the route between Tisa and Kilat Spring for we heard rumors of this greedy Italian-sounding abomination called the Monterazzas de Cebu trying to gobble up the whole of Banawa Hills and part of Tisa Hills, thereby, close access to a valuable water source at Kilat forever.



Although it is still 07:30, by my own experience walking both Tisa and Banawa Hills at this hour, it should already be warm. The hills are grassy but devoid of trees. It is rare to find a copse of different trees, most of it among deeper cleaves and on a few ridge tops. A power pylon stood guard on the trail. Its presence a hint that a corridor underneath it and its cables are government property. Why would this Italian-sounding housing development pursue its project?

Behind this low mountain range facing Cebu City is a watershed where Kilat Spring is found and the imaginary boundary is just a couple of steps away. Do not the Metro Cebu Water District find this position irregular? Is it okay to supply water to the metropolitan area whose source partly comes from the Buhisan Watershed Area which is now a close-door neighbor of this Italian-sounding residential area?

Did they check where their drainage flowed this time because there had been silence lately of places which had been inundated with water and mud coming from them in the past? I am just curious because one small stream in the Buhisan showed brown and silty effluents during a downpour. I understand it has been issued an Environment Compliance Certificate by the DENR because you cannot proceed with earth-moving activities without one? Is this ECC acquired with all the proper requirements? Is it above board?



Is it not a part of this Italian-sounding residential area transgressed by a corridor of high-voltage power lines supported by two steel towers on two separate points can be a risk to life and property? Can City Hall just allow and provide them building and land development permits without closely scrutinizing its close location to a watershed and a power corridor? Would City Hall not consider preserving a historical landmark that is now being trampled underneath this Italian-sounding abomination? It is a kilometer-long Japanese tunnel.

I waited for the others as they slowly negotiate the trail. I found a branch of a trail that would lead us to Kilat Spring. I know most of them have exhausted their water bottles but, over that ridge where there is an old mango tree, a path goes down into the Buhisan Watershed Area and abundant water. It did not take long and we reach Kilat Spring. We have all the water in the world. We celebrate by boiling water for coffee.

Water from Kilat Spring, according to an old-timer that I met some years back, burst forth after the ground was hit by lightning. A stump of a burnt tipolo tree is a testament to this incident which happened many many years ago. The water is now caught inside a concrete box and is diverted to the dam structure to serve as water supply for the MCWD engineers while the rest just flows freely thru a tap. Above the spring is a talo-ot tree, which nurtures the fine quality of the spring.

After 45 minutes we proceed to the Portal. We are now traversing thick jungle on a path that had not been used frequently by many people as before. Some parts of the trail are beginning to be overrun by weeds and it came at a point where there is a spot that had, so many times, led me to walk in circles and I am doing it again. I finally caught the true path and it relieved all the stress that I am now beginning to accumulate.



We pass by a forest of mixed sugar palms (Local name: idyok) and upland marsh palms (saksak). There has been an attempt to burn down these and a few of the palms are molested and cut without meaning. How could anyone be so vicious on these palms? I carefully pull the hair-like fibers of a sugar palm and the others did so. We collect this for our fire-making needs as it is a good tinder. I stuffed mine inside a small plastic bag where it will be transferred to my fire kit soon.

We reach the Portal but we continue until we reach Sibalas, the “Navel of Baksan”. There is also a natural spring here which is now housed inside a concrete box. Nearby, is the resting hut of the old steward of the water source and of the big swath of the place itself – Luceno Laborte or Noy Ceno. He is around and Jhurds Neo, the head shed of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, gave him two brand-new stainless-steel cups which elicit a very happy smile from him.

Everybody settled down and proceed to the foraging of dry firewood, which are few. Nevertheless, we have ways to make it fire-ready. The sound of wood being split by knives echoes down to where I sat talking to Noy Ceno and Jhurds. I watch the two guests, both wearing red t-shirts, watching silently the show the guys are now running. It would be their first time to see “dirt time” and they are glued to the spot where they are crouched.



Ernie Salomon, the camp fixer, is busy preparing the food while the rest are keeping him company in the slicing business. Fires are lit on two hearths. A pot for coffee is now above one while another pot of rice claims the other. Ernie’s home-made hobo stove spews out a smoke and a tin cup for coffee is placed over it. I was tired of the hike. Maybe I am just too busy. I was guiding people yesterday. Or maybe I am getting old.

I drank coffee again and I tinker with my Cignus V85 VHF radio. I am able to contact amateur station DV7FAL of Linao, Talisay City from my hidden location in Baksan, bouncing my signal to a steep flank of Banawa Hills which then makes a ping-pong to a repeater in Busay. Ingenious maneuver. When you are into ham radio, you tend to experiment and that is what I just did with an inferior made-in-China equipment. Think of what I could do with a Japan-branded radio?

Immediately after that, I caught the attention and interest of Christopher Ngosiok, Nelson Tan and the two guests about ham radio. We talked about licensing, acquisition of radios, review classes and preparing for that written examination administered by the National Telecommunications Commission. I am a licensed ham operator for three years now and I carry a callsign of DW7EUV. Many of the guys from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are licensed hams.

Radio equipment is always part of mine and someone else’s gear. Radio communications is essential when SHTF sets in. I have personally witnessed cellular signals fail in the aftermath of a 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and in places in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. Only radio signals were able to provide a link between the distressed communities and relief agencies. It happened in 2013 in many places of Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Northern Cebu.



Spoon is rapped on a pot lid, signalling the start of our late lunch. Ernie did wonders with chicken meat with an estofado dish. For a dayhike, we at the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are pampered to feast like kings! How could we reduce our weight with food like that? More servings please! We gave a share of the meal to Noy Ceno and his family and our bellies bloat like that of Jhurds’. Hahaha…

When dark clouds begun to appear in the middle of the afternoon, we decide to pack our things back into our bags, including the blackened pots. We will be exiting to Guadalupe this time but, first, we will have to pass Enas. I lost the trail to there and I decide to explore the many strange trails that crisscross Lower Baksan until I call it quits and followed a trail that led to high ground. So familiar. So, Bebut’s Trail it is.

We go down that dreaded place called “Heartbreak Ridge”. We walk on the fringes of that Italian-sounding abomination and I see they are now starting to fence off the poorer quarters. How can you fence off a fault line? It is recently discovered in Buhisan, just at their back. I wished the new homeowners well.


Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

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