Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NAPO TO BABAG TALES CXII: Technology Meltdown and Dragonfruits

I AM SAD AND I HAVE no more inspiration and inclination to write an activity which took place last July 24, 2016. It was the 112th episode of my long-running Napo to Babag Tales which started way back in July 2008. This would have not come out if the pictures I took were lost. The articles and images of seven equally adventurous episodes before this were lost to a corrupted hard disk drive with all the rest of my files.

In these times where technology has almost perfected everything, storage drives for computers and other devices left a lot to be desired. They had never perfected these. My original files were made from scratch in 2007 and then, again, in 2010. I thought my present files are feeling free and safe when this technology meltdown came again, one after another, hitting my external hard drive, my micro storage drive, my thumb drive and the danged HDD. I guess I have to start from scratch again. With great pains!

It is more than a year since I walked over the Tagaytay Ridge branch of the Babag Mountain Range here in Cebu City. I need to visit Julio Caburnay’s homestead and see how he is doing. My mind is not focused. I could not get over the idea that all my prized files are lost. I have people from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild with me and a lady guest. I cannot show my frustrations now and I have to concentrate hard on the path before me else safety will be compromised. 


It had rained early in the morning before we came. The leaves are balancing moisture on their surfaces while the ground is damp. It is just a matter of choosing which surface to step on to prevent slippage. The vegetation is thick. It had recovered quickly from the grasp of that totally cruel El Niño that gripped the Philippines for over eight months. It was really really very warm. Springs and streams disappeared while the thought of running a farm would be totally insane.

When my files got lost, I thought of the same. Should I continue maintaining Warrior Pilgrimage without these? Warrior Pilgrimage is not only a personal blog but is also a conduit to people about my skills, my activities and my trainings offered to the public. A lot of people. Apart from the stories and pictures for the blog, a lot of those were lecture syllabuses. Even a future book and much more! It was where I based my livelihood. Now you know how I feel. Fate can sometimes be that: Cruel!

It is a very humid morning despite walking underneath a shaded path and protected partly by some passing clouds. Everybody is sweating and panting to keep steady their footing and balance on steep inclines. Manggapares Trail is a beautiful trail and would have been better where it not for the location of the five steel power pylons that had been constructed along it in 2012. The trail followed the ridge of Tagaytay from the ford of Napo along Sapangdaku Creek up until it joins the Babag Ridge Trail.

Few people, apart from locals, come here because this is not a route known to the usual hikers. We at Camp Red have identified the whole place as another of our playground but I know of a few hikers who have known of this and walked this trail after being guided by a local boy. They even named this as the “7 Towers Trail” to mystify this to their own kind. They exit to Bukawe through a dirt road. Our typical route would bypass Mount Liboron by taking a fork of the trail which led to the homestead.

We passed by five locals making a hut where there used to be thick vegetation. They have cleared it for charcoal. I do not have a right to question them because I cannot personally provide them alternative means of livelihood. The land is not mine nor theirs but they have the moral right to do so whatever they want it to because it is for their own and their family’s survival while I, on the other hand, is just a mere passer, hiking for recreation only.

A steel tower loomed like a Martian death machine – the second one of seven but, in our case, the first of five. On a hill is another and going there is an obstacle in itself because it is farther and the path is almost bare. When we reached our third tower, it would now be easy after that. We stop on an abandoned Mitsubishi backhoe, its yellow bulk becoming part of the landscape. We dared to boil water for coffee. I love coffee. Who would not be?

We resumed to our fourth tower and found our hidden trail and walked at it at a slower pace. There is no use hurrying up even though it is now almost noontime. Safety is observed better by walking slowly, the eyes sweeping in a wide arc, identifying hazards and toxic plants and venomous reptiles. This is a route not frequented by people and it is kind of remote although I see tracks of foot and hoofs of a few days old.

Lost in my thoughts was my lost files. I would need to recover those at all cost! I would need to bring the HDD to someone who knows how to stir the magic potion. I wonder how much would I pay or how would I sort the recovered files when each would now have a different name like it did in 2010? Thinking about it made me more thirsty and left me a half bottle of water for the rest of the day, including my share for the cooking.

We reach the Caburnay Homestead at last and a sentry dog announced our arrival. Julio already noticed us and I am glad to see him healthy and hearty. They suffered, says he, from the long drought spell. He has to source his water from far away and people were on their edge for the right to get a share of the water. He has to stop farming for a while and had to subsist on what plants that survived. Of course, he has a hundred square meters of fruit-bearing cacti - his prized dragonfruit - which can grow in drought or no water at all.

We started preparing our meal, Camp Red fashion. It would be cooked in real fires, no MSGs, always a royal feast, eaten while warm and we care not from bleeding violet-loving sissies when we post these in social networking sites. Never ever teach us outdoor ethics. We already saved you of a heartache because you do not have any idea where we do our dirt times. You just concentrate on your pristine landscapes while we take care of our own.

I leave the guys to the food preparation while I decide to test two home-brewed Slim Jim radio antennas. I may need a Slim Jim during the exploration hike of Segment VII of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project which would be next month. Communications is vital during explorations especially when in a remote area like a mountain range which is still unmarked and unnamed in any old or current map. I connect the antenna cable to my Cignus V85 VHF radio. It failed to transmit. Connection problem. Tried the other. Same result. Not fit for the exploration.

Cooking took a long time. We had our lunch at 15:30, as always, in Camp Red style. Fortunately, there is water gushing in the homestead piped from across a hill. We cleaned our pots after giving the share of our meal and the rest of the unused food ingredients to Julio and his wife plus a can of sardines. Julio never forgets to repay us with his kindness by sharing to us his sweet tiny bananas and his prized dragonfruits.

We left in a hurry as the day begins to give long shadows. We reach the Babag Main Trail. A few offroad motorcyclists left furrows on the surface and a broken piece of what used to be a covering that protects the engine and rider. Walking on we saw traces of one motorcycle falling on the steep side of a trail. I could not hide my amusement which I let the others know. They too could not help it but laugh when they see the side of the trail.

We have no more water but the concoction of juice from foraged limes and fresh cucumber mixed in warm water which we drank after our late lunch have removed our cravings for water. We were not thirsty but we could have water soon when we will tackle down the East Ridge Pass. We found the Upper Kahugan Spring alone without people.

Before we came down to the natural spring, we noticed the newly-opened trail smothered and very slippery. I learned later that more than a hundred people climbed Mount Babag from Napo that morning. This is a path for everybody’s use and I could live with that. What I could not live with is the corporate people turning Tagaytay Ridge into something like this. A crude water slide. No way.

That is why I am so choosy in bringing people there. I do not want people returning on their own without me and bringing others who also would come back without the very people who brought them there and bringing friends with them and etcetera etcetera... It is a vicious cycle and I have seen it many times. It turns the place ugly, developing animosity with locals and fellow hikers.

My idea of enjoying the outdoors is different from the view of the mainstream crowds who are, almost always, relegate theirs to scenic landscapes and the speed of their paces. For a lot of them, they cannot do repeats. It is kind of expensive and you have to pull an arm and a leg to get that much-desired approval for a leave. They can only pass a place once and disdain going to the same place or be dreaming about it which time they do not have.

I can, many times. So can my adherents at Camp Red. We enjoyed and will always enjoy and we feasted and will always feast every Sunday, be it four or five Sundays in a month. It does not matter. We treasure the locals we know more than the fleeting landscapes. We can see more by the number of footfalls we make and we can create a story by the footprints or animal tracks we saw. We know where to go instead of being led to.

We can accomplish much in a day what you would in a week’s tramping. In this case we can sit long and become part of the landscape while you are all spent up physically and financially trying to find that one great moment you believed existed and never have understood the environment you are trying hard to fit in. We can sit comfortably by the warmth of a campfire while you are busy spying neighboring campers for a misplaced candy wrapper.

When you are outdoors leave everything behind. Stress from your office work are unwanted garbage here. The same with personal turmoils. The outdoors, the mountains, the streams, the trees, all the sounds of nature, it heals. I do not care anymore about my files. I will start from scratch again if the recovery software fails. No big deal. The mountain had taught me everything to forget it. Warrior Pilgrimage will exist and will be there as long as Google will search for it.

We arrive at Napo at 18:30 and, slowly, one by one, we leave for Guadalupe on any available motorcycle with empty seats. I was the last to go. Nevertheless, we make it a day by spending a few hours at our new watering hole frequented by expats. These same faces that I am with on almost the same places never failed to inspire me. There is life after a meltdown after all and that is why this activity is published now.

Document done LibreOffice 5.2 Writer


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