Friday, August 18, 2017

WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE: Ten Years of Blogging

TEN YEARS AGO, I was exposed to an unlimited access of the Internet. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that I could manipulate with the click of a mouse. I navigated where my curiosity took me. There were that many. Too much data at the tip of my fingers but there were no information overloads even though I made up a lot of catching up. Where was I when this technology exploded in 2002?

Then I became interested in what people posted in their personal online journals. Everybody in the ‘Net called it a blog. I read a lot of blogs, most of them nonsense and many were really very good. In 2007, blogging was very popular. Facebook and Twitter were still strange creatures. I tried my hand in blogging just to exercise my mind and see where will it lead me. At first, I did not know where to start? I did not even know what would I write?

There were many free blog platforms at that time. The popular ones were LiveJournal, Wordpress, Multiply and Blogger. If I have to blog for a longer time, it had to be a stable platform that could last forever. I choose the last because it is owned by Google Inc. and promises me 40 gigabytes of data space at that time. I could also take advantage of their Google AdSense which could give me financial rewards.

I ran out of imagination of what to name this blog and settled instead with RiversideCROSSings, borrowed temporarily from the same name of my faith-based blog in MyOpera. That was on August 23, 2007 and I posted the first of my many articles, a poorly-written poem, Save Mount Manunggal. It was just a space filler but it kick-started my experiment with blogging. I had no niche but it steered to interests closest to my heart: mountains and the environment.

On October 8, 2007, I renamed this blog as Merely My Opinion. It became a rant station for some time with some very controversial articles that have generated me most visits and stirred up the most comments. By the end of 2007, I had published 10 articles – all originals, a modest achievement for someone who unknowingly was late in the game but, nevertheless, it inspired me to perpetuate this blog for eternity.

The end of 2008 saw me publish another original 40 articles, to include the first entry of the Napo to Babag Tales, that first appeared on September 6, 2008, but have fathered a total of 119 sequels through the years. In 2009, I dished out 50 more original articles and this number was the same and constant for the years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, which came to a total of 450 posts. Mind blowing!

It was on August 1, 2011 that it became known as Warrior Pilgrimage. That year, the blog added another niche, bushcraft and survival, and simply grew out from being just a blog. It became a name that is associated with what I do as an outdoors educator, wilderness guide, explorer, writer, event organizer and in speaking engagements. The blog functions as a media outlet for the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp and the Cebu Highlands Trail.

This blog with an audacious name went to many virtual places and caught the fancy of the reader’s consciousness. It had crossed boundaries and got its rare brush with the bright lights as finalist and as people’s choice during the Bloggys 2015 Philippine Blogging Awards held in SMX, Taguig City. It never was meant for glamour and glitter but it had its chance and was bestowed badges of honor.

Despite this blog churning new article after new article, I refused to convert it into one with a domain name which would have ensured more subscribers and more clicks from Google AdSense. This is a vagabond blog living an existence on the morsels of knowledge from its unconventional owner. Earning is just an incentive but it shall never be its main reason of existence. It exists because it has stories to tell.

This current post is numbered at 33 for 2017 or a total of 483 articles for the ten years of this blog’s existence. I am in celebration and this celebration would run to the end of this year when it will soon hit 500 original posts. God willing. Ten years is a lot. I have seen many blogs in 2007 and, sad to say, they disappeared or locked in time when you click a link. My side bar has some of it. Most of them had domain names.

Why did this blog survived? Common sense says it is cheap to maintain as it is in free platform. Yes, it has a life and a mind of its own. It is original despite its very ordinary template. Its value is better appreciated by its concept of creating opinion which guide people of their actions. It inspired people from its tales of adventure. The writer is still healthy and intrepid. It shows the soul of its owner. It has no peer and will still be here as long as I do not use up that 40 gigs of disk space.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Thursday, August 10, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Days 17 and 18 (Bangkito to Tabili)

DAY SEVENTEEN ::::: THERE IS A GOOD PROMISE from the heavens today, February 4, 2017. Yes, there is sunrise and the hillsides are painted in golden yellow. The small village of Bangkito, Tuburan would be bathed in sunlight soon. Although I may have the best sleeping place among my companions and among those who provided security for us, it is as if, just the same, I was sleeping outdoors. The cold penetrates layers and obstacles and no amount of hunkering and shifting of body could stop that until you use your head.

I put on a dry pair of socks last night but the real winner was, once again, a plastic bag covering the head. Yes, the lowly plastic bag. Just big enough to fit on your head and small enough so it will not slide down and suffocate you. Tried it first at Cantipla Ridge, Cebu City on a very wet day last November and I was surprised that I was able to sleep through the night without shivering. I stopped the shivering midway through last night only when I touched one of my empty plastic bags. They make noise, you see. My apologies then to to those experiencing a sleepless night.

Jonathaniel Apurado has helping hands this time cooking the food. Mark and Mirasol Lepon lent their kitchen knives, pots and their strange alcohol burner to the fray. But there would be no Knorr soup this time as I had some of it donated to the 13-man squad from the 78th Infantry Battalion who walked here yesterday from their detachment in Sacsac, Tuburan to secure our presence. Once again, I secretly passed some food for our army whom I feel should be fed better than just sardines and crackers. I shared a pack of Titay’s rosquillos to a group of kids as they happily show it off through their wee little forefingers.

We have a breakfast of miso soup with real floating seaweed, corned beef and a funny looking rice. Coffee then provides the closure after another morning ritual of swallowing capsules of Enervon multivitamins and Herbalife natural raw Guarana plus Yakult cultured milk courtesy of Jingaling Campomanes. The village center is a beehive of activity of children enjoying their weekend as well as folks looking forward to visit a market fair in an adjoining town of Carmen to trade their produce.

The 6-man team from the PNP Special Reaction Unit just had their breakfast courtesy of a village councilor while the Army is still haggling with a resident about a couple of native fowls which are to be their breakfast and lunch. I thanked each village official for accommodating me and my companions, to include the PNP SRU and the Army’s 78IB. The route of the Cebu Highlands Trail have chosen their village as either a stopover or as replenishment area and good things will happen once tourists come to walk it.

The 78IB guys choose to stay for awhile as we said our goodbyes at 08:40. They have things to do, building trust and communication lines with the villagers and that breakfast which has yet to materialize. The PNP SRU would walk with us down the only link of Bangkito to the rest of Tuburan municipality. We would split at a spot where there is a trail that would lead the Thruhike down to the boundary with the Municipality of Carmen.

The trail is good, muddy at many parts, and the challenge begins. It is not steep. It gradually goes down a small stream and on another bigger stream. After crossing it, the path goes up. It would have been easier in another time but today, on Day Sixteen, it sucks. Too many people have trodden it in the early hours of the morning, bringing with them water from the stream that their footwear carried, which mixed and mired the already muddied ground from yesterday’s rain.

The trail have widened to even as wide as six meters as people tried to walk on places where there were no mud yet. Then more people with their farm animals choose virgin ground and everywhere where it is possible to move forward and you got there a morass of a trail. It was hard on the steepest stretch where an effort, a step forward, would make you slide two or three steps back on account of gravity. Mark and Mirasol are struggling hard. Jon and Justin Apurado are doing well, barely.

I am listening to my feet. If it complains of the wet Kailas socks that I had worn for the second day, then I have trouble and change that with a clean dry pair tomorrow. If not then life goes on and it goes on its third day tomorrow. The Hi-Tec Lima shoes begun to show kinks in its armor. The thread that have sewn the rubber soles with its nubuck leather uppers began to loosen. I see a tell-tale sign that one of the pair would give up. For now, it would nurse my feet. For now, it will carry me along.

We pass by a natural spring and refilled water bottles. Soon we would be on the market of Taguini, which is a part of Caorasan, Carmen. We did arrive at 11:45 but not after muddying our shoes and trousers up to our knees. We ordered cooked food in one of these small huts that do business only during Saturdays. Sent a text message to the Carmen Police Station regarding our presence and the Thruhike when I found a signal hovering on the second bar, which is good enough.

Although the weather is mild, it is so humid. After an hour of rest, we follow a very rough road that goes on its rolling passage among hills and, at one time, over a long and steep climb. We intend to do courtesy calls on the village chairman of Caurasan, Hon. Tirso Andales, and on another Army detachment of the 78IB. We arrive there at 14:00 and we were properly received. At 15:00, we leave Caurasan bound for Bongyas, Catmon. A strong downpour overtook us along the trail, slowing us down. There is not much daylight left, especially official daylight government hours.

I noted that Mt. Kapayas could be scaled at a lesser height from where we passed. The narrow trail is winding, soft on some parts and, on another stretch, so slippery. It is also tricky since it connects with other trails and that was what happened when I got led into Amancion, Catmon. I blundered as my judgment got the better of me. Maybe fatigue and too much brain stress, evaluating all the risks we got past, to include dealing with people.

Fortunately, a lone woman walking towards us showed us back to where we came from and, not only that, she is going home to Bongyas! She gave her name as Belen Oro and she saw us at Taguini while we were having lunch, never expecting that she would meet us here. She just visited her sister after she sold all her budbud kabog, a native delicacy. She would guide us to the residence of the village chairman instead and told us that the village chairman’s wife is her older sister. We just had a stroke of fortune, oh dearest me.

We arrive at the home of Hon. Sulpicio Branzuela at 17:00, visibility good enough to offer recognition on our faces. The dear village chairman remembered me from last time, almost exactly a year ago, when I started my Segment VI Exploration Hike. I asked permission if he would so allow us to pitch shelters at the back of his humble home. He agreed but it would not be outdoors. He would accommodate us all inside since the weather is a bit disagreeable. Indeed it is cold at this hour and it would be colder still in the coming hours.

A roofed shelter is the best thing to dream about and that turned into a reality. The gods must have favored us. We were all wet, hungry, tired, thirsty and cold. Marciana, his wife was more than happy to welcome us. She misses her children, who are all grown up and married. I could feel the loneliness of the old couple. Their children, like everyone else, began to like living in the big cities where there are so many conveniences of life. They know that life on the mountains is hard.

Yes it is indeed hard. Marciana told me that she carried a half sack of millet in the morning to have it milled but came back disappointed. It meant that she has to balance the 8-kilo sack over her head on a slippery trail going down to the village center of Bongyas, which is one-and-one-half kilometers distant, and then paying 50 pesos for a motorcycle to bring her to Catmondaan, on the coast of Catmon. Finding that her regular miller is indisposed, she has to hire a motorcycle and pay another 50 pesos to take her back to Bongyas and then hike up that 1-1/2 kilometers back to her house in the afternoon. She is 68.

She showed me the unground millet. This was the staple food of ancient Cebuanos, before the Spanish came. It is not grown elsewhere anymore in Cebu except in Bongyas, Amancion and Cambangkaya, all in Catmon municipality. Boboi Costas of the Provincial Tourism Office have personally tasked me to document where the millet is specifically found and grown. I had taken a picture of the millet and has a name now of one of the traditional growers. Not only that, Marciana, knows how to make magic with the millet.

We cooked dinner on the couple’s hearth. Although firewood is offered, we insist we use our own alcohol burners and fuel. We got four alcohol burners glowing simultaneously to boil water for coffee, cook rice, warm up pork and beans and make my Korean spicy noodles more alive and tasty! We dined together with the old couple and their home begins to go warm as conversations light up the dreary cold night. There is electricity but, the couple says, they had it just last year. What available outlets present, are left to the mercy of the battery chargers.

The winds howled outside. Cold could have crept early if we have pitched our sleeping quarters outside. The good village chairman and his equally good wife made a difference why we are warm tonight. We have rugs instead of ground pads, we have pillows instead of stones, and we have blankets instead of fogs. Our warm bodies, closer together, made our sleep most comfortable as possible. On a night like this, someone said, angels come down from heaven and hover over every night to watch over honest people. Just my dream.

Distance Walked: 13.37 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 687 meters and a low of 341 meters

DAY EIGHTEEN ::::: WE COULD NOT BELIEVE our streak of fortune we had yesterday. We were truly blessed with meeting the right people. It surprised me that people with simple but beautiful dispositions in life are still that many in these places that, not too long ago, if my memory serves me right, were a hotbed of insurgency. I know these many places I passed by since Day One because I read it in newspapers almost everyday in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, and gets mentioned sometimes in the early years of the new millennium.

I know it was like a nightmare for those who stuck to their farms and homes here up to the very end when darkness was finally overcome by the goodness that were a combination of Cebuano cultural traits, justice and reform, and faith in God and governance. Of course, I may have had second thoughts when I first did these exploration hikes to complete the Cebu Highland Trails but my trust and belief in the goodness of man, no matter how hard fate and injustice may have caused him in the past, won out. I will not deny them that chance of good fortune if ever the CHT brought in ceaseless blessings for them.

The coldness of early mornings are getting intense as I walk more to the north. Februarys are always like that in Cebu when the northeast monsoon winds carry the winter cold of Japan, Siberia and China to the equator. I am the first to rise for I seek the call of nature. When I came back, Marciana, the wife of the village chairman of Bongyas, Catmon is already up. His husband, Hon. Sulpicio Branzuela, had fired up their hearth, feeding it with more firewood. A big black pot belch steam coming from the insides.

Jonathaniel Apurado finished checking last night’s charging of the batteries on his Nikon camera and Cherry Mobile U2 phone. I took advantage of the vacant portholes and charge my own Cherry Mobile U2 and Lenovo A7000 smartphone, even though how little time left to fill those hungry batteries. Although the rain had stopped on this cold day of February 5, 2017, the ground and everything above it are wet. The valley below me is shrouded in fog and I thought I heard thunder.

Justin Apurado decides to move from his warm bed and goes outside to worship nature. The couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon are still absent from my view. They slept inside a room which the Branzuela couple have offered them. Marciana, the wife, informed us that they are cooking something for our breakfast. It was awkward on our part to decline their offer. We promised them however that we will leave some of our food with them as our token of thanks. We explained to them that we will be supplied food and fuel soon.

Day Eighteen promises a re-supply at Tabili, Catmon later in the day. We only need to get there and wait for the supply team. It is already fixed. Planning the Thruhike took me many years but putting in the pieces to make the big pie took me just 60 days, give or take 5 days. If you compare mine with big expeditions, I think mine comes to the term as short notice. Only one sponsor, Derek’s Classic Blade Exchange, opened up their purse early to start my machinery moving. The rest flood me theirs on the last minute which induced me a dose of panic buying.

The good Branzuela couple, distinguished family of Bongyas, cooked milled corn and free-rein chicken soup for a grand breakfast. We all eat on their round table. The lady is a good cook. She mixed an edible legume which enhanced the taste and thickened the soup. It is so different from all the rest. When we have finished, we leave our Knorr soup packs, rice, sachets of soy sauce and vinegar, cooking oil, Tang, Goya and Ovaltine chocolate drinks and Blend 45 coffee. Not only that, Mark gave Marciana his DIY alcohol burner and DIY windscreen. The old couple were mesmerized by our alcohol burners.

Outside of the house is a dead black bird. It was not there yesterday. It froze to death. How strange? There must have been angels here last night. We said our goodbyes to the good couple as we start to walk down the trail to the main village at 09:46. We spent a longer time with them as we were endeared to their fine manners. The ground is slippery. Marciana said that this is not the right season to plant millet and so there are no fields to take photos of.

From Bongyas, we walk on a road that is only paved where the wheels would roll about. In between and on the sides are green grass. We follow this strange road, passing by a part of Anapog, Catmon, wherein it becomes unpaved and muddy. A few motorcycles ply this road to pick up passengers. Twice I saw small Suzuki 4-wheel drive flatbeds, a Japanese surplus import that became a choice vehicle for farmers and upland residents. It is cheap, sturdy, low gasoline consumption, navigates easily on narrow roads and spare parts are common.

By 11:50, we were now in Agsowao, Catmon. We observe noonbreak and munch on Nutribar. Cold Sparkles complete our rest and rehydration. After an hour, we proceed to our destination. The road is now paved with disintegrating asphalt. I did not feel a soreness on any of my feet even though I am wearing a damp pair of socks and damp shoes. This would be the last day for the socks and I would change into another pair tomorrow. A short thread that sew the rubber soles of the Hi-Tec Lima shoes with the upper nubuck comes loose. Ah, the beginning of the end.

We come upon a concrete sign announcing that we are now in Tabili. A noisy party stopped when they sensed strangers and a drunk party-goer pretended to befriend us. Asked so many questions and repeating the same questions over and over again. I know that scene. Better leave the premises because it is pointless talking to someone who is suspicious and tipsy. He thinks he is James Bond and we are KGB. I ignored him but he found Mark a willing listener and we waste more time there.

It was farther than I thought, the location of the residence of the former village chairman, the late Dante Limana. I have nurtured friendship with him ever since the time I met him here last February 2016 while I was doing the Segment VI Exploration Hike. I came to know of his death just last month when I visited this same place. Before he died, we met at the Search and Rescue Summit in Cebu City last July 2016 and gave him a Seseblade Sinalung knife. It is tragic on my part because I found him to be a good public servant with a bright future in politics. He was 36.

His father-in-law was expecting our arrival today and he is there by the time we arrive at 14:59. After the usual cordiality, he assigned our place of rest at the back of the house. There is water and a hearth and we are under a roof. Maybe tomorrow, I will have my first bath. There is a young katmon tree that Dante had planted. His yellow Suzuki Scrum is parked nearby. This small truck carried him safely to the hospital, driven by his 9-year old son. He was in ICU but succumbed a few days later.

At 16:00, the supply team arrived. Markus Immer, as always a reliable fellow, delivered the goods. With him were Ernie Salomon, JB Albano, Jingaling Campomanes, Locel Navarro, Ronald Abella and Christopher Ngosiok. They spent three hours with us, emptying a bottle and half of local brandy, unloading funny tales and controlled laughter. Too bad, happy times do not last long. Justin, Mark and Mirasol went with them as they left us at 20:00. The silence was deafening.

We made our way to the back of the house and distribute the supplies between us. Part of that is our fuel for the Trangia burners. We got a lot of Park N Go bread and parted some to Dante’s father-in-law. We also got more Yakult Cultured Milk and add these to the plastic bag that I am carrying with my hand since Day Twelve.

We strung our hammocks but used it only as a mosquito net. No hang time. It would be cold but I have not felt it yet. Jon begins cooking the first of the fresh supply of Korean spicy noodles and a hundred grams of rice. We forgot that we had not taken dinner. The company of noisy visitors caused that. Anyway, I will have that bath tomorrow.

Distance Walked: 11.56 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 559 meters and a low of 234 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Thursday, August 3, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 16 (Lawaan to Bangkito)

IT STILL RAINED TODAY as it had last night. Although I expect extreme changes in weather for this Thruhike but never so depressing as it is today. I am told that there is a weather disturbance. I am warm inside the village hall of Lawaan, Danao City but, outside, it is wet and cold. Today is February 3, 2017 and we will be commencing soon with Day Sixteen of our Thruhike. The couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon, our donor for the Herbalife Natural Raw Guarana capsules would be going with us.

Jonathaniel Apurado would not be tinkering with the cooking pots and burners today. We will have another breakfast of warm free-rein chicken soup prepared by the people of Lawaan for us. Hon. Pilarino Montes and Hon. Shirley Ramos made it sure that we will be full for the day’s journey to Bangkito, Tuburan. Jon’s son, Justin, would be hiking with us also. Jon and I have food good for three days that Markus Immer and company brought yesterday. I would be meeting our supply team three days from now.

The skies are crying and I could do nothing about it except steel myself from the cold. I am used to these kind of weather. I would have warmth and comfort at the end of the day’s walk, which would most likely be in Bangkito. But I love these moments. It raises the bar of my alertness. I know it would come out naturally, providing me sane decisions in situations where most people would melt. Years of learning my own behavior and how my brain worked have taught me patience and timely decisions, or what we call as common sense.

Of course common sense forbid you to go outdoors in stingy weather but there is always a narrow crack of opportunity that only a very few skilled people could identify and take advantage of. It made their lives more meaningful and these few thrive where others dared not. I may not be one of them but I follow in their footsteps and it made my life gratifying and those that are or were with me. We simply enjoyed the adrenaline rush and the experience simply embed in our subconscious as added knowledge which would be useful in dire situations.

We leave Lawaan at 08:30 but we have company. Ma’am Shirley would walk with us up to their boundary with Pili, Danao City. The village secretary is also going with us as well as five of their peacekeepers. Well, they came of their own accord and they were most happy that we made their village as part of the itinerary of the Thruhike. Lawaan is the traditional convergence area of agriculture produce coming from the mountain communities of Danao, Asturias, Balamban, Tuburan and Carmen. It has a public market, public schools and the San Isidro Labrador Parish.

Its standing as a leading village on the mountains have been challenged lately by another, whose thrust is more on tourism. Tourism gave more revenues which, in turn, translate into more services and infrastructure projects. The Cebu Highlands Trail passes between these mountain villages and peripheral tourism gets developed over time and becomes an income-generating vehicle for communities. The value of the CHT is not yet appreciated since it had not reached its time but, when hikers become a regular sight, expect a boom in services and goods.

Under the rain, my brain goes numb. It goes its usual behavior, directing the body to increase its production of heat and oxygen. The body oblige and the heart pumps blood at a higher pressure, creating friction, while the lungs inhale pure mountain air, cooling the human dynamo at an ideal temperature conducive for the processing of good thoughts, of good common sense. It is not easy. You have wet clothes and the natural drainage goes to the shoes and the socks, making it water logged. Your bag goes partly wet adding more grams of unwanted weight.

I am prepared for these things. So are Jon and Justin. But I am slightly worried of the Lepon couple. Not that I do not trust them how they would fend off a cold and wet walk, they simply do not know what to expect yet. This is their first day and they would be tested here. Today would not be a long route, tomorrow is. And a little harder. Anyway, we are all with the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. We all specialize in skills for the real world. Adaptation to any environment is one of those. We liked it better that we are part of the landscape instead of the other way around, which most are doing.

The peacekeepers are walking ahead but I paced myself to make life more comfortable for Ma’am Shirley and their village secretary. A small Suzuki vehicle owned by the village of Lawaan trailed us, its welcoming presence designed to accommodate the ladies should they feel tired and cold. The ladies are partly wet despite their jackets and umbrellas. Sometimes the gusts made the umbrellas ineffective. This used to be a trail and now it is a concrete road, recently paved. I could do nothing about change. I work around it. The road goes higher as it twist and bend among the slopes like water.

Ahead are people and motorcycles. As we go nearer, we found out that they are the contingent from the village of Pili, led by their chairman, Hon. Joverlito Martel. They were expecting us and they have prepared another meal of free-range chicken soup and milled corn. We just had one during breakfast and brought some leftovers for our lunch but it is bad manners to decline a meal offered by friendly villagers, let alone from their highest village official. Ma’am Shirley and her retinue walked with us for another kilometer up to a place called Purok, from whence a trail to Mt. Mago is located.

At that moment, under the onslaught of a feisty weather outburst, we all decide to add the offered meal to our lunch instead. We will bring this along the way. I, in behalf of my team, sincerely thanked everyone from the villages of Lawaan and Pili for their kindness and generosity. I have not experienced something like this in the southern leg and it moved me. We were treated like VIPs here and these kind people went out of their way to relish and enjoy our company even in the most unkindly weather. No words could describe my feelings.

That was not the end of it. Four peacekeepers from Pili would accompany us to Mt. Mago as our guides and escorts. They were in raincoats and rubber boots. Jon, Justin, Mark and Mirasol are in raincoats too. I am the only one who is not wearing rain protection. I simply forgot about my garbage bag converted into a crude raincoat as my adrenaline goes high treading on muddy trails. The winds lashed at the plastic garments and rain punched a million needles at us, almost horizontal. I sent a text message at 08:47 for the Tuburan Police Station informing them of our coming, since there would be no more cellular signal up ahead.

The peacekeepers walked at a good pace which suits me but I have to look back and stop from time to time to keep us close together. The ground is slippery. Rainwater filled every hole and furrow and it overflowed. The fields are shrouded in clouds and fog. Visibility is good for 20 meters, at times at just 5 meters or so. Winds have not wilted its stranglehold on the exposed ridges. Chill is bearable but in a few hours it would be cold. At 10:40, I sent another text message to the Cebu Provincial Police Office, while I still have a signal, informing them of our direction. I got a feedback. It gave me a sense of security, at least.

We reach the concrete marker of Mt. Mago that marked the corners of Danao City, Tuburan and Carmen. It is almost 12:00 and we decide to stop here for a noonbreak and make use of that meal of native chicken, milled corn and rice for the nine of us. Then I remembered the estofado chicken Candelario Garces gave me yesterday in Kaluwangan II, Asturias as he was celebrating his birthday. I added it to my own share of the lunch and it was delicious. I could have eaten it in better conditions were I have the opportunity and so would have relished its taste better.

Everyone were really hungry and cold. The meal, or what used to be one, lay on a bed of banana leaves. We ate it under the shade of a small tree. Mt. Mago is almost bare save for vegetation growing among narrow gullies and tiny cleaves and on a rare spot like the small tree that we are sheltering under from the rain. There is a small pond which water meander into a small water course. This could be the source of the mighty Luyang River that flows out of coastline Carmen and into the Camotes Sea.

I have to release the four peacekeepers from Pili of their responsibilities for we know the way to the village of Bangkito. I thanked them and parted a little something for them which made them smile. As they walked away, Justin propagated a VHF signal for the direction of the Babag Mountain Range, in Cebu City, using a Versa Duo 2-way radio with stock antenna at 5 watts power. He was communicating with the repeater tower of Ham Radio Cebu, 40 kilometers away, and connected successfully with station 4F7MHZ under adverse weather conditions.

As navigating trails finally returned to me, we immediately left the peak and follow a trail that goes downhill. Several landslides have erased trails but I managed to seek out a path across these and we found ourselves on the safe side. Met a man from Bangkito carrying a big basket full of cabbage on his back supported by a tumpline on his forehead. The chance encounter in the foulest of weather provided us information that this same trail is used by them going to Santicon, Danao City, to include 20 of their children who are studying there.

I trembled at the thought of the children when I looked back at the landslides we just passed. The good thing is these children do not walk singly or in separate groups. They all travel in one group. These children were forced to study in Santicon since their school in Bangkito was also forced to close due to few students. It is about five kilometers away, most of it on open terrain, exposed to all the harshest of elements. It is a very remote country. A place that could host and hide predatory individuals and insane criminals.

We reach Bangkito at 14:15 and I made a courtesy call to their village officials. The lady councilor knew me from last time and it was easy to obtain permission from them to spend a night in their village. They assigned their multi-purpose building as our billeting place but the rest decided to strung their hammocks and canopies near the closed school building. So little have changed since the last time I was here in October 2015, during the time of the Segment IV Exploration Hike. I saw for the first time a blue concrete box which served as the source of clean water for the community.

So I have the village hall to myself and dried my clothes, socks and shoes outside when the weather turned nice with a faint presence of sunlight. My things inside my bag were dry, thank God. Those that were half wet, I let dry. I lit my Trangia alcohol burner alive and boiled water. I need hot beverage to keep me warm. I got my Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate drink and I felt better. I splayed my ground sheet on the concrete floor and, over it, the Therm-a-Rest provided by sponsor Michael Schwarz. It would be cold tonight but the sleep pad would be a good provider of warmth and comfort.

A six-man team from the PNP Special Reaction Unit arrived at 15:30. They were directed by CPPO to provide security for us on the duration of our stay in Bangkito. To remember, we have cops coming in to watch for us but they did not stay overnight. These were in Alcoy (Day 4) and Barili (Day 8), which were good enough. In Mt. Manunggal (Day 13), they stayed but we did not see each other. Tonight we will be with them. Finally. I have to thank the leadership of Police Sr. Supt. Eric Noble for taking primary importance of our safety as well as taking cognizance of the value of the Thruhike for the Province of Cebu. Such intelligent officers are hard to come by.

As everybody were preparing dinner, a squad of thirteen soldiers from the 78th Infantry Battalion came at 18:15. They were sent by their headquarters through radio dispatch from their detachment in Sacsac, Tuburan. They came on foot and on short notice. They barely have food for the night and not all have sleeping gear. But they came, to provide us another layer of security. I pity them and I decide to donate my excess food for them. Three meals of mine and Jon’s. Mark and Mirasol parted some of their food supply too.

I did not expect that CPPO and the AFP Central Command would send their forces for us at the same time in one place. While it may have boosted our safety, I have contrasting thoughts. Were there sightings of armed rebels? I know the places that I have visited in have been a hotbed of insurgency in the past but I do not see a resurgence of that, given the fact that the Philippine government have opened up negotiating channels with the CPP-NPA-NDF, although stalled, but both parties talk the same language since the current administration is top-heavy with people from the left spectrum, led by the president.

The timing of the separate arrivals of the PNP SRU and those of the Army detachment of the 78IB could have caused a misencounter. There was no assigned challenge and counter-challenge, a common procedure among government operatives. Both do not know each other’s presence when they were directed to serve their missions here. There was no proper coordination. Fortunately, the latter did not arrive in darkness. It sent shivers through me when I go through the notions of that. Even today as I write this several months after.

As expected, the cold came in. I could not sleep properly knowing that there are many good men within my proximity suffering from the cold staying out of doors to watch over me and my companions, complying with their mission. How could I be so insensitive? I went out and checked on their conditions. The cops were in the best place for they arrived first and so have chosen the choicest spot. The army guys were in a place that was, to me, not even a good choice to stay warm, but made up for it by being the most secure just in case. They ditch comfort for survival. They think like me.

Distance Walked: 9.48 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 780 meters and a low of 440 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 15 (Ginatilan to Lawaan)

IT WAS COLD LAST NIGHT. Breeze kept blowing through the iron grills that is part of the wall of the storage house where we slept in. This community in Ginatilan, Balamban begins to stir to life in the early morning. Today is February 2, 2017 and, any hour from now, we will start Day Fifteen of our Thruhike. Coffee smells good as I stirred its powdery contents into hot water. Jonathaniel Apurado, as usual, cooks the rice and Knorr soup which begins to lose its appetizing mien on me. Capsules of multivitamins and natural raw Guarana completes our breakfast.

Residents came to know more about us after studying our vinyl banner tied on to the storage house announcing our activity. Located in the most remote part of Balamban, this community is nestled deep in the valley but is now accessible by a newly opened road. It once was the center of the village and engaged in commerce directly with Cebu City through the unpredictable Lusaran River until they transferred the seat of governance up a hill for better accessibility. The name of Ginatilan, I suspect, came from the Cebuano word “kinati-ilan”, meaning “at the lowest spot”.

Deprived of a bath for three days, I am still fresh and comfortable. A good night’s sleep sure helped a lot. The blisters on my feet are now history. The Hi-Tec Lima shoes mothered the affected part well. I have changed into a fresh pair of Kailas socks as well as a fresh pair of Accel elastic undershorts. The load inside my High Sierra Titan backpack is getting lighter and it helped a bit as we still have rugged terrain to hike up and down to.

Although I have explored these places in 2015, I cannot assure myself that I would be walking on the same trails again. I did not explore it with the benefit of a modern gadget like a GPS. I did it with dead reckoning most of the time and only once did I use a map and compass to check on my location when I found the website-sourced maps completely inaccurate when it came to placing names. A GPS transmitter is provided in this Thruhike by Galileo Satellite Control System Philippines so it could track our progress and save these in a cloud environment.

Right now, I will be walking on sheer memory, the product of the oddities of traditional navigation. After saying our thanks and bidding farewell at 08:10, we follow an unpaved road that goes down to the banks of the Lusaran River. This river is the second biggest river system in the island of Cebu. It has many headwaters, some of whom cascade down as barriers between local government units like between Cebu City and Balamban and Asturias.

The water level is at thigh level at its middle while current is moderate but it could carry you far downstream if you lose balance. Saw two boys ahead of us nimbly tiptoeing on concrete footpaths but once they were on water, they know where to place foot. I followed where they stepped at and I went easy on the other side. Jon struggled midstream as he failed to study the boys and almost tumbled over. He reached on the pebbly shore safely.

We stayed for a while to dry our feet. A man came over asking a question which turned into a conversation. He is a typical farmer, unkempt and unassuming, but beneath that rugged veneer, he is none other than the legal son of the late Sgt. Dionisio Calvo Rojas of the former 38th PC Company. It may not ring a bell to you but his father saw action in the Korean War as a member of the 10th Battalion Combat Team and came back home alive. He is the son of a hero and I reach out my hand as my sign of respect and shook his.

Our BCTs sent to Korea under the command of the United Nations did our country proud. I came to know them when I had the privilege of listening to three veterans talking among themselves many years ago. Your pride would swell when you learned how these guys from the 10th, the 14th and the 18th would stand on their ground on the trenches when other UN units abandoned theirs in the face of overwhelming odds, even in the dead of winter.

They would inflict heavy casualties against the North Koreans and the Chinese in close combat warfare. It simply is amazing since we do not have winter here and I could not imagine how our guys adapt quickly to that semi-arctic environment they are in but, they said, they learned painful lessons when they failed to wear mittens while touching metallic objects such as a spoon or a trigger. Chocolates, thick trench coats and PX goods made their life better there and raised their morale.

His is a sad tale though. His father remarried and sired many sons from other women. Deprived of support, he was forced to stop his studies and worked on odd jobs which took him to even as far as Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. His mother is still alive, old and frail, and he needs help so her mother could avail of the survivor’s pension due her as the legal wife of a veteran. Here, in the most remote part of Cebu, of all places, I met the son of a hero.

The tale he spoke about his father’s service to country and the sad chapter after that moved me to put it in print here. As I have posted before, the CHT is not just about ecstasy of landscapes and adrenaline rushes, it is about people. People who have tales to tell. People who are hungry of news of the world beyond their places. People who are positive of improving their lives and grounded on their faith that someday they will be delivered from poverty.

We are now in the side of Asturias town. This is their farthest and their most remote part. We are in the village of Kaluwangan II. After crossing another stream, I am on to drier ground. There is a path and there is a school nearby. I pursue the trail up a mountain. It is always ascending and I looked back and relished at the beauty of the Lusaran River as seen from my vantage point. The river bent along the foothills creating deep pools almost oxbow-lake like.

I am not following the old path that I took two years ago but is in the midst of a new one where I thought would bring me direct to Uling Ridge. This is a small mountain range but it is formidable just the same. Not far away would be the Garces Homestead. I am told that today is the birthday of Candelario Garces and so have prepared something modest for him, his wife and his grandchildren. Actually, it is just surplus food that I carried for emergencies. Anyway, we will get a resupply once we reach Lawaan, Danao City.

The trail I am following goes into a cassava plot which was recently harvested, depriving us of handholds for balance. On the other side is the sheer drop of a steep slope without any vegetation to stop a roll. A careless slip would send you down tumbling a long ways. When you are into these situations, your senses and attention peaked a notch and you went carefully. The trail passes by a very small community of three houses. At this point, I sent a text message to the Asturias Police Station informing them if our presence.

Candelario is there and I greet him a happy birthday. He smiled but he seems to be sad. He is mourning the death of a grandson who was murdered in Cabasiangan, Balamban a month ago. I was saddened at the news since his late grandson was just a boy, still in his teens. Who would do such bad things to a teenager? These places we are trodding upon is still a semi-lawless region where scores are settled in violence. I gave him my gifts. In return, we refilled our water bottles.

He is alone as his wife is out there in the fields tending their farm plots while his other grandchildren are in school. His house is located near the peak. I was wondering if there is a name given for that peak? If there is none, then I will exercise my privilege of giving it a name being the first outdoorsman who explored this area. Why not Garces Peak? I dare say it is quite appropriate, is it not?

From here, I propagated VHF signals for the direction of the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City, but it failed. Instead, I redirect my transmission to the coastline and I got a reply this time from an amateur radio station, 4F7MHZ. What amuses me is that I sent it in simplex VHF and the remote station received my signals in duplex UHF. I just cannot explain why? By the way, I am using and testing a Versa Duo VHF transceiver, at 5 watts power, loaned to me by Tech1 Corporation.

Before leaving, Candelario parted some of his prepared food for his birthday to us. These are two pieces from the free-rein chicken cooked in estofado and wrapped inside a small plastic that used to store cookies. How touching. My heart wept at his kind gesture. He has less in life but he still gave. He is an old man and frail. He goes to his farm on a horse because his lungs cannot endure walking on even moderate distances. He suffered incarceration in the past by a miscarriage of justice but that is another story.

We go down Garces Peak into a long route that passes by into more remote places. Unbelievably, a small house exists here and, further on, a bigger house where there is a woman weaving natural fibers on an ancient loom. We cross a small stream and debated on which route we would take when we faced a fork on a trail. I opt the more beaten one and I was rewarded by my guess when I met a mother and her son going home to Ginatilan from Danao City.

My eyes now fixed on the trail and on the landmarks ahead, it was not difficult anymore. We come upon a ridge overlooking a stream. On the other side would be Danao City and there is an activity on the stream. Under the shade of Mexican lilac trees, I watched the stream while munching on our noontime specialty of Nutribar and our trail food mix of peanuts, coated chocolates, marshmallows and raisins. Water does the rest of bloating it. Popped in another Guarana extract and then I chased sleep in humid temperatures.

We go down the mountain and into the bank of a stream. A father and his son are catching fish by hand using stones and barriers to trap these in small pools. Ingenious. So bushcrafty. So much to my liking. I practice bushcraft and championed this as a better outdoors activity over those that imitate Western culture or that relies so much on expensive gear, clothing and equipment. Bushcraft is a realistic activity that fits well in austere environments like mountains and jungles.

We cross this unnamed stream that drains into the bigger Lusaran River on the map. It is smaller but it is wilder and so was harder to walk across. There is a dangerous trail over on the other side, whose surface had been gnawed away by water, undermining rocks to precarious situations. Once we got past it, the path goes up and up. It is very warm. I do not know why, perhaps, there might be rain later. I see an electric post on top of a hill and it becomes my reference. Perhaps too, there might be a road or a community.

There is a house and another one and a good trail over the side of a hill and, ultimately, a paved road. On one side of this road is the village of Sacsac, Danao City, while on the other side would be Lawaan. We stop by a small store to rehydrate. There are cold bottles of RC Cola and I opened it with my Victorinox Ranger. It is good to just sit down and enjoy the shaded bamboo bench after a hard day of walking on rugged terrain. The rest allowed me to inform the Danao City Police Station of our activity.

The route we took is the same one used by residents of Ginatilan pushing their farm produce to the markets of Danao City and bringing home their weekly needs. Thankfully, our loads are light now as we used up most of our food and fuel. The concrete hardtop is unkind to feet as it goes on its rolling progress. We finally reach the edge of the village of Lawaan, passing by a school then the San Isidro Labrador Parish and, finally, the village hall at 15:35.

Village officials led by Hon. Pilarino Monte and Hon. Shirley Ramos, welcomed us to Lawaan and ushered us to our billeting place. After 15 minutes, our supply team arrived early on board the Toyota Hilux pickup driven by Swiss Markus Immer. Coming with him are Ernie Salomon, the couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon, Aaron Binoya and Justin Apurado. They got lots of Park N Go bread and baked products and 20 bottles Yakult Cultured Milk.

The people of Lawaan treated us all to a dinner of free-rein chicken soup and we were so much indebted to their kind gesture. They have given the upper floor of their village hall for our use. Markus and the rest left us when the rains fell, but Justin and the Lepon couple stayed. They would walk with us starting tomorrow to as far as to where their vacant schedules allow. Indeed. Tomorrow would be another hard day but it would be a very complicated trail, slippery and dangerous.

Distance Walked: 8.35 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 554 meters and a low of 107 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Friday, July 21, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 14 (Mount Manunggal to Ginatilan)

SPIDERS ARE EVERYWHERE AND I have to rise up earlier than usual. Jonathaniel Apurado have been searching for these in the half-light when night gave in to morning. The comfort and warmth that the Therm-a-Rest provided me during my sleep was unbelievable. I know because I was here without one and I was deprived of sleep that time. Thank you Michael Schwarz. Anyhow, the Therm-a-Rest would not protect me from the bite of a hairy wolf spider. Today is February 1, 2017.

I do not have a fear of spiders like most people I know even though I have experienced its painful bite. I just drowned a black one on the sink today. I shake my shoes and clothes before wearing it. You can not be too sure. I retrieve a Blend 45 Barako sachet and disemboweled its contents on my secondary pot lid which I used as a cup, then I poured hot water. Ah, coffee, in the interim before breakfast on a cold morning is most welcome. Jon is busy cooking rice and the Knorr soup. Soon we would have a meal.

The blisters on my toes are getting better. The much roomy Hi-Tec Lima shoes may have to do with that. Just a year ago, this pair was provided by the Lavilles Family of Australia for my adventures. They simply enjoyed what I do and it makes them connect to the old country. Even so, the wear and tear of my weekend activities and the exploration hikes of the last three segments of the Cebu Highlands Trail last year have taken its toll on the shoes when the adhesive material that gripped the rubber sole with the upper nubuck leather gave away. I simply have it sewn by a cobbler.

The new Lorpen hiking socks may also have contributed to the healing. Four pairs were provided by Viajero Outdoor Center of Cagayan de Oro City at a special price where it is divided between Jon and me at two pairs each. It is thick and gave comfort to my injured feet. These same pairs were used during the southern leg of the Cebu Highlands Trail. I have worn my first pair since Day Twelve and today would be its last day.

At 08:45, we start our journey for Day Fourteen. Yesterday and the day before that were eye openers of how difficult the northern leg would be. Two physical obstacles removed from the Thruhike. Today, I would face another obstacle. It would not be the difficult terrain. It would be people. During my Segment IV Exploration Hike in October 2015, I and Jon’s son, Justin, were subjected to interrogation in one of the villages here, by their officials who were under the influence of alcoholic drinks.

We were denied sleep in their village hall when we requested that, we were able to find ways and so finished our exploration. Today, I hope, they would not be tipsy when we meet again. This part of Balamban, beyond the tourist circuits of Mt. Manunggal, Mt. Mauyog and Gaas, are places where a stranger is bound to suspicion. People here have bad memories of experimenting in a foreign ideology many years ago. Although times have changed, the memories are painful.

This part of Balamban has a lot of wide open spaces, very scenic, and it would be a waste if it should be off-limits to tourism. The populace could gain from local and foreign tourists visiting their local attractions. There are many here starting from the hole on the hill at Sunog, Balamban where there is a trail beyond. We were about to take the trail when somebody familiar took our attention. She was the woman last night who awoke from sleep and told us the trail to Mt. Manunggal.

Her name is Belen Corbo. She has a farm planted with ginger somewhere along this trail we are about to take. She would be harvesting some of it and she is waiting for her husband. Jon gave her a small pack of Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos after she said that she had not taken breakfast yet. There had been an attempt to make this trail a road but, nature claimed it back. Landslides caused by rains make it impassable to motorcycles. Even foot traffic have a hard time.

The soil is red and loamy clay. It is soft and stores water. Running water on its surface have scarred it. Try paving it and you waste money. This cannot be tamed easily. A dog followed us as we follow this beautiful trail into forests. Sometimes it overtook us when it smells something unusual up ahead. The trail wove like a ribbon among hills and cross small streams with running water. Traces of animal droppings, tamed and wild, compete my attention. You can spot a dog easily because it has plastic.

The weather is mild with a bit of sunshine alternating with passing clouds. The terrain is rolling and the dog seemed to like our company although we did not gave it something to eat. I simply discourage that. It is not unkindness to dogs, I just do not like dogs change their eating habits. It should be with the ones who regularly feed them and not with strangers. Anyway, walking with a dog who is not afraid of other humans is reassuring enough. Like building up a phony feeling that you are from here.

I do not know the names of these places while walking this trail for there simply are no locals to ask. I just presume that this high peak is Mt. Matun-og for it is very imposing and gives an impression that it is in league with Mt. Manunggal. Beyond this mountain is a scenery that you would not see anywhere else in Cebu. Right before you is a vast land with endless mountains to the north as far as the eye could see. Unlike other mountaintops, you would not see any semblance of the sea from here.

Across me, sitting squarely on a small mountain range, is the village of Matun-og, Balamban. I would not be going there. The trail became an unpaved road starting from where I stood to inhale the majesty of the vast scene. We take a short rest here, just to regain strength by rehydrating and then munch on my trail food of mixed nuts, marshmallows, coated chocolates and raisins. We will be going to Cabasiangan, Balamban. It would be more empty spaces. God simply forgot to put people here.

The dog, if I leave it at its whim, would be a long way from its master. We need to part from each other. Forcefully if that need be. It ignored me many times everytime I shooed it away. It pretended to run away but, when you are not looking, it sneaks silently until you notice its presence again. With a good-sized pebble thrown at 20 meters, I hit its rib and it ran away yapping. We proceed on our journey. I look back and the dog is wiser now. It had simply lost its appetite.

The unpaved road is not the same one that I walked last time. It had lost its right to be called one. The rains have made this unusable. I do not see a motorcycle for many hours now. The landscape is so silent save for the sounds made by our shoes and our breathing. Movement is limited only to grazing animals and tall grasses dancing before the breeze. The road wove in and warped, most of the time, with a deep furrow on the middle.

The hills have markers on top indicating that this vast place is part of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape. It is reserved as timberland but I see no timber. Some of it are farmed but a lot of it are just open spaces, meadows and bald hills. However, in deep valleys, trees have choked these forbidding spaces. I see a few houses but, most of it are abandoned by their occupants who, I believe, would be toiling on the fields or, if they be children, inside classrooms.

I have to thank the very cooperative skies for it gave us good weather. Remember this is open country without forest cover. We arrive at a crossroad where there is a store. It is 12:00 already and just about perfect to spend noonbreak. The village official who interrogated me more than a year ago is here. He is not drunk this time. There is gambling right under his nose. One is the card while the other is the coin-toss. It seems he maintains a small racket.

Me and Jon just rest under a tractor shed, eating our meal of Fitbar, crackers and the trail mix paired with cold Mirinda. We are now in Cabasiangan. This rough road will lead us to it. The other end of the road will lead to Lusaran, Cebu City. We just spend thirty minutes here, for the itinerary says that we would have to camp at Ginatilan, Balamban. We just want to be there before dusk sets in. We need to be there during official government hours. This is a different place and you need to play safe.

The last two days found us sleeping without the benefit of calling on village officials. This time we would. I will make it sure that we would, at the earliest time possible. Noon times are moments when you see nobody, except a few. But I noticed old people resting under the shades of Mexican lilac trees. They were four of them, two old couples. They were smiling not because they were happy. They were smiling because they find us odd walking with big burdens upon our backs at the unholiest of hours. Why are we walking? They would ask. Gave them our honest answers as we stayed for a few seconds with them.

Pushing on, we overtook a group of more senior citizens. We found out on this one group that they would be receiving a government stipend allotted for older people aged 60 and above. Somebody from the municipal government would be coming over to distribute cash for them at the village hall of Cabasiangan. We arrive there and the village head is calling in a session. The one who interrogated me last time introduced me to their chairman.

There is a bulge of rainclouds coming from the direction of the coastline and it is beginning to threaten the good mood of the day. I hope those senior citizens would get here in time before the belly of the clouds open up. On our part, we did not stay long. We proceed to another unpaved road that goes up a mountain. The moments before the rain comes, are moments that are quite so welcome. A gush of cold wind turns the air around us instantly cold and then the single drops of water spaced far among each other came.

I brought out the rain fly to shield my High Sierra Titan bag while Jon unleashed his own rain fly, his poncho and his magic umbrella. The Trailhawk who disdains wearing a raincoat meets the dry Saint. The rain with all its might and volume for that day washes away my smell and my optimism. Although I have complete trust of the quick-drying qualities of my Silangan hike pants and CHT jersey, the bottom of where rainwater spills down is where I most worry of. I am talking about my shoes and socks and the blisters that are still tender.

Slowly, I climb up a mountain which seems to have no end until I reach a public school. We are now in the village of Ginatilan and, further down the path, would be the village hall. We arrive there at 14:30 to the beat of the Sinulog that was performed by a group of schoolchildren practicing for a town festival. I introduced myself to the village chairman, Hon. Eva Villamor. I asked her if we could spend a night in their village and I went into the matter of explaining the CHT and the Thruhike. I seem to favor the old village hall down the place where the road end by the banks of the Lusaran River.

I immediately got her approval and a glass pitcher of cold water. I am wet. The weather is cool but I am thirsty. The presence of cold water in this far land during a Thruhike is a rare opportunity that do not come often. Thank you very much. When we got our fill, we continue on our journey down a paved road to the former seat of Ginatilan, which is found at the very bottom of the mountain that we just climbed an hour ago.

We arrived there and a place was arranged by the villagers for our use as billet area. It is a community storage house. There is a bamboo cot but we prefer to sleep on the concrete floor close to the four-foot concrete walls that would partly shield us from wind chill. Curious children began to arrive and see Jon cooking. They marvelled at the small alcohol burners. Jon taught them knife safety to entertain them.

When the kids transfer their attention to me as I tinker with my Lenovo A7000 smart phone, I decided to entertain them with videos that entertained very well my grandson. I propped the phone on my plastic food containers and the show commenced. For a full 20 minutes, their attention were glued to the nursery rhymes until the battery ran out. Thankfully, there is an electric outlet to charge our depleted batteries.

The village is silent after supper and lights are turned off from each house. Cold begins to creep in through the iron grills which is part of the wall. As the night wore on, rats starts its business of survival by foraging on the stocks of corn kept in an inner room. We already expected that and we have secured our food far from their reach. I thanked Providence for steering us away from trouble for this day. This northern leg is harder and there will be more obstacles to encounter as we travel northward.

Distance Walked: 15.14 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 955 meters and a low of 156 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Some photos courtesy of Jonathaniel Apurado