Saturday, December 24, 2016


I JUMPED AT THE OPPORTUNITY of an invite by a good friend to plant trees in her just-acquired property located in Bakhawan, Daanbantayan, Cebu on September 9, 10 and 11, 2016. The invitation assures me of staying (and dining) in her modest, home-like and very comfortable resort, Bakhawan Beach Home, at no cost at all to me. Not only that, the privilege extends to a young couple – Bogs and Bingle – whom I tempted to volunteer with me and give back for Mother Earth.

We three arrive at Bakhawan Beach Home in the early evening of the first day where we were immediately assigned a room. I insist to sleep outside on a cushioned divan so both Bingle and Bogs could have a sense of privacy. My friend, Lani Perez arrive an hour later where dinner was instantly served. A strong, but very quick, downpour came in the late hours but it had not ruined my instant bed nor it influenced me to transfer somewhere warm and sheltered.

Lani is an old friend of mine. We knew each other during the days when I was active then with my former outdoors recreation club – the Cebu Mountaineering Society. That was in the early ‘90s and she was then in the process of poking in on my close circle composed of younger but very opinionated members. Work and her passion of excellence took her abroad and I had not heard of her until we messaged each other in Facebook just this year.

Bakhawan Beach Home is the other sum of all her life’s work as an expatriate in different foreign lands. She collects old wooden furniture and tools – in her free time – that were discarded by modernism and she insists to preserve these, even if it costs her, and brought it here. These items became part of the internal and external décor of the two rest houses inside this very private beach resort.

Bakhawan Beach Home is a sponsor of my Cebu Highlands Trail Project which, as of this writing, will be terminating its course soon in November after I will walk the last few kilometers, starting from where it last stopped, at Lake Lanao, Daanbantayan, to the northernmost tip of Cebu – Bulalaqui Point. In fact, it provided billeting for me and my team last August 19 when we passed by here during the Segment VII Exploration Hike which was aborted the day after.

The night is cold but I am warmed by the body cushion, the pillows and the blanket under a deep awning facing the sea. It rained again in early dawn with flashes of lightning. Strong gusts blew and threatened bringing with it spray of salt and water. I refused to be awakened and snuggled closer into the warmed up recesses of my blanket. My mind wandered off into space and senselessness.

Sounds of surf materialize into my consciousness. There is light in the sky and my eyes could not deceive me that it is now early morning and the start of a new day – September 10. The sea is a calm mirror but a slow tide made its presence felt. After a breakfast of freshly-caught fish in soup, a dish of raw fish in vinegar, egg omelet and fruit, I prepare my work clothes and my tools which are just my Victorinox Ranger Swiss knife and my William Rodgers bushcraft knife.

Lani had informed me that the young people I have seen last night had planted seventy young cacao trees yesterday in an open lot. I would plant today green limbs cut from Mexican lilac trees (Local name: kakawate) between each young cacao as what I have suggested. Bogs and Bingle would help me with that. Both brought their tools like trowels, work gloves, a Victorinox Camper Swiss knife and a Tom Brown Tracker imitation.

The purpose of the Mexican lilac tree is to shield the young cacao from direct sunlight with its foliage during the time it starts to bloom. It is a fast growing species which is not obtrusive on its neighboring plants even if it is an introduced one. In fact, it gives off nitrogen and oxygen into the soil system making it fertile. The Mexican lilac is one of those exotic ones that have adapted well in Philippine clime and soil and highly valued by farmers and herders.

Lani showed us first her garden of organically-grown vegetables and herbs. Her Indonesian pepper variety has my attention for the ripe fruits were a gleaming healthy red. Then she has her pride of dragonfruit crawling cacti starting to flower. I have brought her one cutting which came from a wild-growing one that grew in the wilderness of the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range of Tabogon last August which is now showing signs of life.

Laborers were already at the scene and have started fencing off the property from grazing animals. Poles of mahogany wood were transferred from a small truck to the vacant lot. I carried four thin poles on my shoulders and place it down in the collection area. I scan the field of young cocoas. Between it are spaces wide enough to accommodate a bush that will “mother” them. In two bundles are the green limbs of Mexican lilac trees.

First of all, I have to make a digging stick from one of the poles. I chose a thick one and begin sharpening it with the faux Tracker. Then I started to dig hole after hole while Bogs and Bingle fill it up with soil and the upright limb. It rained, removing direct sunlight, cooling us a bit, but after that, it was difficult work. Sticky mud and humidity.

I have counted 35 holes but I still have to dig 25 more until one laborer with a digging iron decides to join me. In a matter of half an hour, the planting of the Mexican lilac limbs were finished. I brought more poles nearer to where the laborers were making the fences. I loved the labor even if it cuts the skins of my palms. I do not mind it. The exercise of my upper body is a good preparation for my Segment VIII in a matter of weeks from now.

When I found I have proved my usefulness, I depart from the scene and cross the road to a wide open space where sea and sand are accessible. No, I do not want to bathe. I just want to cool my body with the breeze as the warmth of humidity is now becoming a nuisance for comfort. After 15 minutes, I walk back alone to the resort and found Bingle and Bogs already there.

The sea is not that high enough to tempt me into it. Nor would the young couple. I decide to take a shower instead to tidy up for lunch would soon be coming. By the time Lani came from the field, it was served in Bakhawan Beach Home style which, to me, is such a splendid thing. All the ingredients came from her garden and from the sea delivered fresh and sparkling like the sea urchins and squids.

The afternoon saw Bingle and Bogs hurrying up to dip in the water and both tried their hand on a paddle board but I while my time instead reading a book. I expect an old friend to arrive soon. He did arrive, early enough to partake of another wonderful meal of spider conch, conetip shells, squids, seaweeds and more of the garden stuff.

Bebut Estillore was the most opinionated among our close circle of that era where we were young once. Despite the onset of years, Bebut is still my “tormentor” but his boast and his grand battle with the bottle is now losing its sheen. I guess, too much of that in the past – without me - have caused him to slow down. He just came from Bohol and was also invited by Lani to plant trees of which he will have his day tomorrow.

For the meantime, we shared a big bottle of the coldest Red Horse available, which were aplenty. Anyway, we had a deal. He would drink one glass only while I finish the rest of the bottle. Sounds fair. I believed there were six big bottles emptied as was the last count before I turned in half-drunk. I transferred to another divan on the second guest house in the wee hours of the night.

September 11 is the special holiday dedicated for the followers of the Islamic faith called Eid’l Adha. We will plant more trees today on the same property. There were poles to transfer from the truck to the ongoing fence work and the young trees in its temporary pots to the places where it will be planted. The rains of yesterday had made the ground wet, soggy on some parts.

Another upper body workout for me. My hands are still sore but I would not dig holes this time. I will just plug the holes with the young trees along with its complementary soil – gently with reverence. I place sweetsop, soursop, avocado and Malabar almond as well as bougainvillea within the fringes of the lot. Bebut crouched while he can and he looks like an old man now with his sombrero and a very unfamiliar slowness which is kind of strange from someone who was so hyperactive before.

We finished the work before noon. Another wonderful meal. After that, I joined the rest frolicking on the sea. Lani paddled the board to the farthest buoy where an empty small fishing boat is anchored. Bebut and I decide to try our skills with a small outriggered canoe and paddled in the direction of Lani, where the water is deep. The fisherman was catching his fishes underwater with a spear.

A squall begins to appear coming from a nearby island and we have to paddle back to shore. The seas became rough while the strong gusts carried us off course. Lani made it safely to shore while the wooden vessel was unwieldy but I steered it to shore safely and dragged it beyond the water line. The squall left as quickly as it had came. I washed myself with fresh water and retreat to the comfort of book and reclining seat.

The day wore out as last days would always do, kind of sad and a longing for the familiar. It had always been like that and today is no exception but the hope of coming back in some future date is something which is always cherished that the departure blues cannot rebuff. I have felt this ambivalence of emotions when I came here last April. I am sure I would be back to Bakhawan Beach Home. It is like another home but spacious and cool where the sky kisses the sea in a scarlet wonder of a setting sun.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

NAPO TO BABAG TALES CXV: Monotony is Sweet

IT DOES NOT MATTER IF I had been here two days ago. The opportunity of working out myself on my sweat room without walls is welcome anytime. I do not mind the monotony of it. Maybe I am sick or it could be you but, I am sure, it has to be you. The YOU that have had no time for moments like I loved doing all the time or, if you do have time, you may be dreaming of those faraway spectacular places where the purse makes a difference. And how did you fared after that? Or how many times can you do it in a year?

Yeah...yeah...yeah...blah...blah...blah. I have heard that before.

No matter. There is hope after all. You have not mastered your own self and you are there on the fringes of your daydreams. You should shift paradigms and dig down into your roots, past that veneer of Western-style education where you are taught conventional thoughts, and that corporate hum-drum which generates so much stress on your body, your thoughts, your emotions and on your spirituality. You can escape all that and reinvent yourself every weekend and learn to accept the mother of all monotony by being unconventional for just a day.

Try the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City. IT IS just THERE!

Elevation does not matter, my friend. It is the effort and, conversely, there is so much freedom of movement and access, that effort seems to be just a footnote, to include your expenses. You can not spend so much just to climb over your fears. Ask some of our friends from Metro Manila and they will tell you how they have wished they were born in Cebu or were working here. You are so fortunate that this mountain range is right in your backyard yet you disregard it for somewhere else.

Explore your own backyard instead. Learn the game of Monotony.

Start with just a few friends. When I begun to reclaim my place in the outdoors in 2008, I hiked from Guadalupe to Napo to Mount Babag (752 meters) and back each Sunday of each month. FOR ONE YEAR! When I have gained enough stamina, I roamed confidently the Babag Mountain Range and beyond. Even beyond that very moderate monotony of one weekend day for it increased into four Sundays of each month. Anyway, when you start being adventurous, you develop good relations with local residents first for they know their places very well.

Fast rewind: A look at the past.

You know, I used to climb mountains in faraway places during the ‘90s. After Mount Apo (2963 meters), you have to cross international borders to feed more your ego of chasing dreams and higher elevations. For an ordinary laborer, that would be extravagant and unthinkable. Running a household and providing education to your children are more important. I admit, I started on the wrong foot but, at that time, climbing peaks were bohemian. It was years later that I am no mountaineer after all and no desire to be. It was just the wrong choice of words.

Remember this: Big mountains demand big pockets.

The word mountaineering has a special ring to it. It is associated with the legendary individuals who made their living off the forbidding peaks of the Himalayas, the Denali, the Karakorum, the Andes, the Alps, the Caucasus and the massifs of Antarctica. All above 4000 meters! All technical climbs requiring all fours, experience, more time, coils of ropes, gears and special equipment and they were all appropriately dressed. All can afford it because they were backed by big industries who loved to plaster their names on every inch of space of synthetic fabric and by paying clients.

Forget mountaineering. Be realistic. Just be an ordinary outdoorsman.

That is what I am doing now. It is September 4, 2016, just another long sequence of monotonic Sundays. Working out with my fellow outdoorsmen belonging to the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Another dirt time. We are above Camp Xi and are in a low ridge that goes up to the Babag Ridge but we do not have to walk all the way there. We stop whenever we find a good place to enhance our cooking skills and, of course, to indulge in a quiet feast. A real fire has just been started and soon we will have coffee. It is good to be just a lowly bushman.

Monotony is sweet but it will not be forever.

While access to places in and around the Babag Mountain Range are very much free, why go to places where entry fees and all other charges, invented or not, gave you so much stress instead of escape from it. I can always read people ranting in Facebook about these things and I could not understand why these same people keep on going back to these places and rant again? I rather choose monotony. However soon, I expect stupid foreign-sounding subdivision names claiming the foothills here and make access difficult for us. Possibilities like these are just around the corner. It happened in many places.

The great outdoors workout.

The mountains and all that is found in nature nurtures the mind and makes it sharp. It expands its curiosity into nooks where you had not been to yet. That could have been alright with you in your expensive treks but you are restrained by time. In the Babag Mountain Range, you are not and you could do it anytime you wished. I just discovered today a small waterfall and a surviving marang tree (English: Johey oak) which the oldest locals never even knew of its existence. A possible heirloom species. Then there is a cloud rat that has no fear of my presence. These are small discoveries yet it ensures my workout of mind and body is going perfectly.

What lies beyond?

The Babag Mountain Range is the seed of where my great exploration of the whole backbone of the Island of Cebu which metamorphosed into the Cebu Highlands Trail. These often-ignored mountain range developed me into someone which, twenty years ago, I could not have even comprehended. When I stood on that ridge of Babag in 2008, I looked beyond the other side and saw my dreams unfolding before me. There was bigger country out there and there were more mountains and trails. And then there was me.

Post-euphoria remedy.

Why go to these spectacular places just to be seen in your social circles? I know how you feel when you open your Facebook account and you are reminded of a memory of your impressive trip of three years ago. Most of us go to places only once in our lifetime and, sometimes, twice but, I am quite convinced, you can do it many times as you would wish as long as it is realistic, achievable and cheap. Sometimes, it takes just common sense. Monotony is part of that.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

NAPO TO BABAG TALES CXIV: Country Good for Old Men

IT IS MILDLY WARM TODAY AND I HAVE so much time in my hands. Today is Friday, September 2, 2016, and I have a guest from Switzerland. We knew each other before when he dropped by last December 2015 to place a donation for a fund-raising gig of Christmas United IV held at The HeadquarterZ. He stayed for a few hours to know the wonderful guys running this outreach event and of the crazy people of this Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.

The Swiss is also my benefactor and friend. He is married to a Cebuana and he lives here in Cebu City. He lets me know of his plans and, one time, he invited me and my wife for an overnight trip in Dumaguete City to have a look over of the property he had bought. Not only that, he gifted me a beautiful Victorinox Ranger Swiss Army Knife when he came back last July. Believe me, big SAKs do not just drop from the skies in this country and I am quite indebted to him.

He wanted to the see the backcountry of Metro Cebu and he wanted to test his own Ranger and a small Gerber fixed-blade knife. He wanted also to improve his stamina after recovering from a minor operation and he wanted to have a dirt-time of his own. We arrived at the same time at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at 07:00 and proceed immediately to the back of the church where all journeys to the Babag Mountain Range began, begun and begin.

I am carrying light. A tan Lifeguard USA rucksack is all I need to bring to what few things I have like a spare t-shirt, a few bread, my Ranger, another Victorinox Trailmaster Swiss Army Knife, a William Rodgers bushcraft knife, a Mora Companion knife, a Cignus V85 radio, a Magellan GPS, a laminated nylon sheet, a Tingguian Tribe Sierra hammock and a full Nalgene bottle. My Swiss friend carried a sling bag with two liters of water, his own Ranger, the Gerber, his sandwich and more bread.

I am testing, for the first time, an old Magellan Blazer12 GPS unit. It had been donated to me by an outdoor friend along with a thick manual, sometime in late 2014, when I pleaded for sponsorship of any kind and form to equip an Exploration Team that I was planning to organize for the Cebu Highlands Trail Project which, at that time, was woefully lingering at Segment II. It had never been used and never would be in the exploration phase.

I tinkered with it last night, reading the manual, cleaning well the terminals, and made it work with new AA batteries. A date appeared on its screen: April 4, 1998. Wow! It had been that long since its last use. I cannot download nor upload its data. It is a second-generation GPS system. Even so, I set the Navigation mode for today’s test. I might use this when the Cebu Highlands Trail Project is done.

We arrive at Napo and follow the trail meandering above the now-brisk Sapangdaku Creek. I walk easy and slow and, as usual, do my own usual stuff talking about plants, recent occurrences and what to expect beyond. I am conditioning his mind so he could devise his own strategies to adapt to the situation at hand, the ones we called as the “economy of movement”, which the Swiss are good at.

We stop often under the shades when the sun is overbearing and walk the walk – the old men’s way – when we continue. We meet locals along the way and children going to school late, or early, depending on which subject. I am taking my friend to Camp Xi, which part I do not know yet. There are four campsites there, each different and isolated from each other by a stream or by a ridge.

I noticed something wrong. Weeds are hanging from a power cable line. Workers are re-attaching a cable today that had been deliberately cut by thieves early last year in the hope of stealing it. The cable lay in the ground for many months and are overgrown with weeds. When they brought it up, so were the weeds. That is the quality of work when no engineer is supervising and my Filipino brothers are good at it. Not our finest moment especially when the very efficient Swiss are around.

We arrive at Camp Xi at 09:45. My friend loved the place. It is an ideal campsite. Not here, my friend. Too open. We cross the stream and found a path going up on another campsite. It is hidden but the ground was used for farming. I checked an old lanzones tree if it is bearing fruit. It was but it is still green. We go down the stream and walk a few meters upstream then climb another path. Perfect.

The third campsite is good for activities not requiring observers. It is farther from the trail and covered by trees and bamboos growing beside the stream. I once conducted a wilderness survival training here for Army reservists last May. There are large mango trees that would gave shade and we found a spot to test the knives. I drag a dry bamboo pole that was left hanging on thorns after it was cut by a local many days ago.

I splay my laminated nylon sheet on the ground to place things and to sit on. I check the data of the GPS. Power went off. I tried to switch it on but it went blank after a few seconds. Batteries merrily drained away by the greedy unit. I was using the red-colored Eveready batteries and maybe it needs alkaline ones. I guess it has to sit long enough to gather dust before I could afford a set of rechargeable alkaline batteries.

My friend happily used his Ranger and his Gerber alternately on the bamboo pole. The tiny folding saw of the Ranger, which is by far longer than a Trailmaster, make cutting work fast. I tried mine and timed it on the endmost part of the pole where it is around 2-7/8 inches in diameter and about 5/16th of an inch thick. I was able to cut it three seconds less than the one I did with my Trailmaster. Without a doubt, SAK saw design and efficiency are the best when you talk of multi-tool set saws.

I leave him alone while he is toying with the Gerber. I set up the hammock on a nearby tree. After that, I go back to check on his current progress. It seems the Gerber is small enough to do a man’s work yet I believe it could handle well a kitchen job. The humidity is almost unbearable. I do not know my Swiss friend of how he is feeling now. I eat the first of my bread and paired it with water.

Turned the power knob of my Cignus V85 portable radio to monitor stations in the frequency of Ham Radio Cebu. I get lots of splats instead from another frequency used by a taxi company which enters accidentally all the time when you are communicating with another. I waited for it to die down before I press the PTT to check on stations. I do not get a reply. I just let the radio on, hopefully, a message might find my way.

It is now 11:30. I ask my friend how he is doing. He says he is fine. He was waiting for me of what my next plan is. It is too early to call it a day. I ask him again if he is okay for another short hike. A bit steep than before. No problem he says. So be it. I pack all my things back to my rucksack and keep the place tidy as if we were not here. We go down and cross the stream and climb up the main trail.

We arrive at Lower Kahugan Spring and I have to stop to refill my bottle. It is shady but it is empty of people. We resume our walk. I am planning of taking him to the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls. We meet people and children going to school along the trail, this time the children are early for their afternoon class. We rest when we could find shade and we do that many times because the trail is steep. It is necessary.

After about an hour or more of walking, I show him the first of the waterfalls in its grand splendor under a noon sun. I pause for a while to catch a glimpse of two big catfish I saw last March turning up its head at this same hour. They are probably washed downstream during heavy rains. “Can I swim?”, he asks. No problem. Taking off his bag, his shoes and his socks, he immerse himself in the cool water with his clothes on. He needs it badly. The heat stinks.

My friend seems to have recovered by the cool-down in the pool and he is smiling. We go up the path to the trail and go back to the Lower Kahugan Spring to rest for a short time. It is still 12:45 but we meet people and children coming from school. Big smiles for the little ones when my friend parted his untouched bread. In a matter of a half hour, we are now at Napo. A few seconds later, we were on motorcycles back to Guadalupe.

What better way to cool much further for the rest of the day are mugs of the coldest beer at my favorite watering hole. Ciao!

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

MAN-SIZED HIKE XXII: Ilihan to Lake Lanao

I HAVE ACHIEVED SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT after I have walked and finished Segment VI. Segment VI is the one I explored last February 22-25, 2016, starting from Caurasan, Carmen to Ilihan, Tabogon in four days and three nights and on a distance of 56.17 kilometers. I have accumulated a total mileage of 289.16 kilometers since day one of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT and this would increase very soon.

Today, August 17, 2016, I would start from where I left off the last time, which is from Ilihan, and hopefully, finish Segment VII on August 21 at Cebu’s northernmost end, which is at Bulalaqui Point, Daanbantayan. This will be the longest yet at five days and four nights and has a rough length of 65-70 kilometers. To recall, Segment VII had been denied me one time last March when the heat of the election campaign period and of El Niño forbid me to go on after I floundered in Mabuli, Tabogon on the first day due to scarcity of water.

The CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT was, at first, a personal undertaking which first has its beginnings with a dayhike with friends from Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City in February 2011. It metamorphosed into a longer multi-day hike from Lutopan to Mantayupan Falls, Barili in March 2012 which I designated as Segment II. In October 2013, I completed Segment I with a cross-country hike from Mount Manunggal, Balamban to Guadalupe.

I would have finished the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT in two years were it not that I was holding a vital position in the company where I worked. If I would have to realize the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT in 2015, I would have to sacrifice my comfort zone and put all my energies into it. At that time, it was impossible and letting go of my day job would put me and my family in dire straits. So it goes that 2012, 2013 and 2014 passed by with just one or without any exploration hikes.

Realizing the immensity of this endeavour, I decide to form an Exploration Team (Eagle One) and a Base Support Team (Eagle Base) dedicated for the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT starting in 2015 so I could finish it before 2017. I took the XTeam to stressful and difficult day treks, without meals in between, during trainings in traditional navigation. Together with the Base Support Team, I taught them the basics of map reading, putting more emphasis on the more practical military methods.

I have picked my team carefully, after careful considerations of their capability, initiative and ability to accomplish the functions assigned for them like Jose Neo and Chad Bacolod of Eagle Base. Endurance and stability under pressure will be the hallmarks of Eagle One and these are composed of Jonathaniel Apurado, Justin Apurado, Jovahn Ybañez and the new member, Fritz Bustamante. I am the Team Leader, Navigator, Security Officer and Project Director all rolled into one.

I cannot accomplish this project without the logistics and the funds. Answering to my call for support in whatever form it may be, individuals, here and abroad, and businesses responded. Notable among them are Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos and Native Delicacies, Alvin John Osmeña, GV Hotel Philippines, Silangan Outdoor Equipment, Jonathan Blanes, Glen Domingo, Alan Poole, Jose Neo, Tactical Security Agency, App Ops Philippines, Lester Padriga, Harold Butanas, Lavilles of Australia, Bakhawan Beach Home, Glenn Pestaño, Amaya Montecalvo and Markus Immer.

The following also provided the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT, in one way or another, services and goods and acknowledgments which are valuable in accomplishing our goals like Drinox’s Kitchen, the Quijano Family, Melo Sanchez, Jeremiah Dayto, Matthew de Leon, Mountain Stories Blog, Warrior Pilgrimage Blog, Ham Radio Cebu, the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, PAC Gear, and the Philippine Mountaineering Blog.

That 2015 produced amazing results which led to the explorations of both Segment III and Segment V and, partly, of Segment IV. Segment III was finished in just three days, instead of four days, in February. The route was Mantalongon, Barili to Mantalongon, Dalaguete. On the other hand, Segment V ran from Mantalongon, Dalaguete to Upper Beceril, Boljoon but the XTeam decide to walk the extra mile to Poblacion, Boljoon. It was done in two days, instead of three, last May.

The extremely-warm conditions of a queer climatic phenomenon in October caused by forest fires in Indonesia slowed down the XTeam and caused them to abort their Segment IV hike at Danasan, Danao City after four days but not after hiking the “no man’s land” coming from Gaas, Balamban. However, Eagle One returned in January 2016 to finish Segment IV, starting from Cambubho, Danao City and ending it, after two days, in another “no man’s land”, to Caurasan, Carmen.

After that, was Segment VI, and, now, this – Segment VII. Composing Eagle One are me, Jonathaniel, Justin and Fritz with Jose Neo at Eagle Base. Eagle One is equipped with dark sunglasses provided by Zue Fashion. Described below are the highlights, weather and other bits of information of the whole itinerary of Segment VII, which was aborted on the last hours of the fourth day:


AUGUST 17, 2016

04:30 – Leave Cebu North Bus Terminal, Mandaue City for Ilihan, Tabogon by bus.
06:45 – Arrive Ilihan. Courtesy call on peace officer, recording our presence and purpose.
07:00 – Leave Ilihan for Labangon, Tabogon. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Warm with cloudy skies.
08:15 – Arrive Labangon. Courtesy call on village head.
08:30 – Leave Labangon for the “Unnamed and Unmarked” Mountain Range.  Pace: Slow.  Weather: Very warm and sunny.
09:40 – Rest and rehydrate on unnamed peak, elevation unknown. Decides to name this    peak as Mount Lo-ong, in reference to its proximity to a small community of same name. Old path vanished due to thick vegetation.
09:55 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
10:43 – Rest and rehydrate on another unnamed peak, elevation unknown. Decides to name this peak as Mount Lutaw, in reference to its proximity to a small community of same name. Rock surface bounced off heat to us. Found a blooming wild dragonfruit cactus. Collected four specimen samples. Took naps under the shade after a snack of rosquillos and dried fruits.
12:00 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
13:00 – Rest and rehydrate at a rare habitation. Found trail to here after many tries. Local named Enteng, very helpful. Jonathaniel, Justin and Fritz proceed downhill to  fetch water at a small community of Timbangan.
13:35 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
14:50 – Arrive at area of sinkholes and abandoned phosphate mines. Thick vegetation    cover many sinkholes. Two big sinkholes recently caved in. Dangerous to explore.  This is the place referred to by the locals as the Doce Cuartos, a cavern system of twelve chambers. Looking for paths on this trackless wilderness for the other side of the limestone cliffs.
15:35 – Rest and rehydrate after path finding.
15:45 – Proceed exploration. Pace: Slow. Weather: Very warm with sparse clouds.
16:00 – Rest and rehydrate on top of peak with a covered sinkhole. A small flat ground is encircled by a rim of dwarf forest and limestone rising ten feet above us.
16:15 – Proceed exploration after finding a notch on the rim. Pace: Slow. Weather: Very warm and sunny with clouds.
16:20 – Propagated VHF signal on top of the highest limestone cliff using a Cignus V85 portable radio with stock antenna at 5 watts power to a repeater tower of Ham Radio Cebu located in the Babag Mountain Range, Cebu City, 89+ kilometers away.  Communicated successfully with amateur station 4F7MHZ.
16:25 – Hereby named the unmarked and unnamed mountain range, not found in any old or current maps, as the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range, in reference to the cavern system of same name which is the most known feature.
16:30 – Proceed exploration and to find a suitable campsite. Stopped along they way to   drink water of an unopened coconut found on the ground.   Pace: Slow to moderate.  Weather: Warm and cloudy.
17:30 – Halt the day’s activity at a covered saddle. Set up hammocks and shelters and  produce campfire to smoke away mosquitoes. Countless cave bats stream out of underground habitats. Limit water use for drinking and cooking only.  Dinner is crab meat soup, rice and egg-chorizo omelet. Enjoyed coffee afterwards.
19:00 – Taps.
Distance Covered: 9.1 Kilometers.

AUGUST 18, 2016


06:00 – Wake up call. Start cooking fires. Breakfast is seaweed soup, rice and boiled eggs with coffee. Water supply very low. Campsite is among Leichardt pine trees which attract pollinators and a strange hummingbird.
07:55 – Break camp. Proceed exploration for a route to find a community or a habitation.   Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny. Trackless wilderness, talus rocks, tight valleys and low hills. Conserve energy by following cleavage among hills and long rests under the shade. Forage wild papayas for fluid and electrolytes.
11:00 – Rest and rehydrate on last drops of water. Took naps under the shade after snacks of energy bar and dried fruits.
12:30 – Proceed exploration for a community or a habitation. Pace: Slow. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
13:00 – Arrive at small community of Tindog Bato. Rest and rehydrate with water, soda drinks and iced water.
14:00 – Leave for Manlagtang, Tabogon. Pace: Moderate. Weather: Very warm and sunny.
14:30 – Arrive Manlagtang. Rest and rehydrate.
15:15 – Leave Manlagtang for Guadalupe, Bogo City by bus to make up time when I found  we were navigating off-course by forty degrees due to the passage afforded by tight valleys.
15:50 – Arrive Guadalupe and proceed to walk a route towards the Hagnaya Port Road  found in Dakit, Bogo City.
17:00 – Arrive highway. Took early dinner at a small eatery.
17:30 – Leave highway for Malingin, Bogo City.
18:00 – Arrive Malingin. Courtesy call on village officials.  Set up hammocks and shelters.  Enjoyed coffee.
21:00 – Taps.
Distance Covered:  13.6 Kilometers.

AUGUST 19, 2016

06:00 – Wake up call. Start cooking fires.
08:00 – Leave Manlagtang for Don Pedro Rodriguez, Bogo City. Pace: Fast. Weather: Warm with sparse clouds. Followed a route of an old and abandoned railroad line.  Foraged sweetsops along the way.
10:30 – Arrive Don Pedro Rodriguez. Rest and rehydrate.
10:40 – Leave Don Pedro Rodriguez for Curva, Medellin. Pace: Fast. Weather: Very warm  and sunny.
12:15 – Cross Dayhagon Canal Bridge. Rest and rehydrate.
12:25 – Proceed hike. Pace: Fast. Weather: Extremely warm and sunny.
14:05 – Arrive Curva. Rest and rehydrate. Feet soles suffered from walking along treeless and shadeless sidewalks of the highway in Medellin. Prepared late lunch.
14:45 – Leave Curva for Poblacion, Medellin. Pace: Fast. Weather: Very warm with sparse  clouds.
16:50 – Arrive Poblacion. Rest and rehydrate.
17:15 – Leave Poblacion for Bakhawan, Daanbantayan by bus to make up time for my lapse in identifying and finding a suitable direct route to there. (The next morning, I found it.)
17:30 – Arrive Bakhawan Beach Home. Rest and rehydrate. Start cooking fires in makeshift kitchen. Dinner is vegetable in coconut-milk soup and milled corn. First bath after three days. Bakhawan Beach Home is a sponsor of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT.
22:00 – Taps.
Distance Covered:  30.4 Kilometers.

AUGUST 20, 2016

06:00 – Wake up call. The proprietress, Lani Perez, and her staff at Bakhawan Beach Home hosted a breakfast for the XTeam. Food consists of dried fish, organically-grown vegetables, rice and fruit with coffee.
09:05 – Leave Bakhawan Beach Home for Dalingding Hills, Daanbantayan. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Warm with cloudy skies.
11:30 – Arrive at Dalingding Hills. Rest and rehydrate.
11:45 – Leave Dalingding Hills for Libertad, Daanbantayan. Pace: Fast. Weather: Mild and rainy.
12:25 – Arrive Libertad. Rest and rehydrate.
12:40 – Leave Libertad for Lake Lanao, Daanbantayan. Pace: Moderate. Weather: Very warm and sunny.
15:20 – Arrive Lake Lanao. Water shrunk to just a small pond. Most of the lake had been converted into rice fields.
15:30 - Proceed for the village of Lanao. Pace: Slow. Weather: Warm and cloudy.
16:20 - Arrive Lanao. Rest and rehydrate.
16:30 – Elements of Daanbantayan Police Station arrived to respond to an “Armed Person Alarm” which turned out to be the XTeam. XTeam decides to go with the police peacefully, without any protest, so our presence would be recorded officially.
17:30 – I decide to abort the exploration, to include the final 7 kilometers or so for tomorrow, for the safety of the XTeam.
18:00 – Leave Daanbantayan for Mandaue City by bus.
22:30 – Arrive Cebu North Bus Terminal, Mandaue City. Terminate exploration.
Distance Covered:  18.12 Kilometers.


One of the biggest obstacles to the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT is local cooperation or acceptance. Their life-long habits and beliefs, shaped by their isolation to modernization and urban fads (hiking, exploration), placed us in extreme disadvantage. I may have the documents to show the legality of our presence and activity but, still, we are viewed with suspicion. On our side, we interpret it as either indifference, arrogance or ignorance and it is most dangerous when strong spirits are mixed or there is too much politics in a place.

Next are government bureaucrats who are tasked to act on my request contained in my letters addressed to the office of the Provincial Governor and of the Cebu Provincial Police Office. Their ineptness and lack of initiatives have caused me dismay for they failed to disseminate the information contained in my letters that could have explained everything even before I was at these places like Daanbantayan. This is but routine and demands less work and I cannot understand why it cannot be done?

Difficult terrain is nothing, but when an uncooperative weather condition is blended into the fray, it would really really be difficult, like on my first day in an earlier attempt, and on the first and second days, on an unnamed and unmarked mountain range bounded by the villages of Labangon, Mabuli, Manlagtang and Somosa, all in Tabogon. There is no known water source on the range and whatever it had would have immediately wither under the onslaught of warm weather. That condition will bring down your water supply.

There were three highlights in the exploration for the route of Segment VII. First was the exploration of almost the whole mountain range, previously unmarked and unnamed in any map. Nobody goes there except of a few intrepid wood gatherers. It is an uninviting terrain of loose rocks, bare and sharp, which host a forest of unwieldy and spiny bushes and have no known water sources. It is my honor and privilege then to bestow it with a name that is just as enigmatic: Doce Cuartos Mountain Range.

Next is the rediscovery of a long-forgotten relic of an earlier era which was the route of a railroad line that serviced the sugar cane plantations of Bogo City to its destination to a sugar refinery in Medellin. Its presence in old maps gave me the more reason to include this in the route of Segment VII. The route goes straight and seamless until a big house blocked its route in Don Pedro Rodriguez, Bogo City. It would be wise for the city and the Province of Cebu to preserve this old railroad route as a Cebuano heritage.

Last is our privilege to be hosted by Bakhawan Beach Home. It is not everyday that we can enjoy amenities of an exclusive resort yet it is just fortunate that Bakhawan Beach Home is one of our sponsors. The XTeam are used to hard and uncomfortable campsites on all our exploration hikes but the soft beds under the warmth of a roof in close proximity to the lulling sound of surf on shore are just heavenly. It is then my pleasure to thank Ms. Lani Perez and her staff for the warm reception and accommodation given to Eagle One.

After I have parted from my employer in the last days of 2015, I was determined to finish the CEBU HIGHLANDS PROJECT before 2017. I trained with the XTeam when we have no exploration schedule to keep us fit. I refined and re-routed Segment I, especially the Lutopan-Guadalupe route, when the thought of a future dam construction occurred to me, which would surely bury the old route under a man-made lake.

I have, segment by segment, reached the threshold of completing the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT. Although I have aborted Segment VII, I have covered enough ground to consider it a success. The last stretch of untouched territory to Bulalaqui Point is just about seven kilometers long. A mere day hike. An “icing in the cake” when its time to be walked will come. Eagle One have accumulated, after the last segment, 355.33 Kilometers or Eighty-Seven Percent of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer