Saturday, October 21, 2017

BEBUT’S TRAIL XVI: Bushmen Also Love Trees

THE LAST TIME I PLANTED TREES was seven years ago. I planted it along the Babag East Ridge Pass and it involved representatives of local hiker groups. Despite my effort and sacrifice to personally water it every weekend, one by one, the young trees withered and died. I cannot blame the local climate because all were nurtured and grown in a small nursery adjacent to the trail and, therefore, fully acclimatized. Domestic animals and fowls were the main culprit.

The last species to die was a boat-fruited mangrove (Local name: dungon). I lost it in 2015 to goats despite protecting it with bamboo barbs. After that, I did not spearhead a tree-planting activity again if local caretakers do not want it or are not interested to protect it. Local attitudes, mindsets and acceptance play a big part and, if they are not willing to get involved, why should I exert myself to nothing? Besides that, choosing which species to plant also plays a big part for me and that needs more time.

I am very critical about tree-planting activities. I do not take short cuts like most people do like planting mahogany, white leadtree (ipil-ipil), gmelina, Brazilian flame trees and other exotic species. I prefer indigenous species and fruit-bearing trees, even though these, unknown to you, were introduced many years ago by our Spanish and American colonizers. The good thing about these fruit trees are it had adapted well and are “good neighbors” with their native counterparts and now plays a perfect role in our local ecology. 

But today, March 4, 2017, gave me an opportunity to, once again, plant a tree. Jhurds Neo, the head shed of Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild got the green light from Ceno Laborte of Baksan, Sapangdaku, Cebu City to have his land planted with trees. Any kind. The Guild would be dirtying their hands. I suggested that he concentrate on collecting fruit tree seedlings and hardwood species, with a few mahoganies that Ceno could harvest once it matured for construction of a future house.

The tree-planting activity would also be a school project for the students of the University of San Carlos, of which Jhurds is teaching and he involved his CWTS class. From the Guild, came Ernie Salomon, Glenn Pestaño, Ann Jillian Yap, Justin Abella, Jonathaniel Apurado, Nyor Pino, Glyn Formentera, Jenmar de Leon and guest blogger Jean Louise Mainit. Coming with his father, is Jacob Neo. He likes the freedom of the outdoors so he could play “dirt time” with his local friends. From the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, we hired transportations to bring us all to Baksan.

From the road, it would be a twenty-minute walk to the property of Ceno. Each one carried gently a young tree on one of their palms. The species are soursop, guava, acacia, narra, lanzones, rambutan, cacao and mahogany. The hike took almost an hour for the USC students for they were not used to walking on dirt trails. For some, it is their first time. It does not surprise me. These are millennials. They are normally “wired” to the electric socket and the WiFi and are mall creatures.

The idea of walking on soil with abundant forest cover amazes them so much that they forgot Android phones for a while. Some recovered at the shock and paused for self-portraits but finding phone signals wanting they just used its other function of capturing images in still photos and in video. Some, unable to shake off their cosmopolitan nature, donned headphones wired to their phones and sang in sync with the subdued melodies. It was a wonder to watch these kids but Jacob ignored them. Jacob is miles away from them.

We arrive in a place called Sibalas. I have been here many times. This place was “opened” to us after we had successfully conducted outreach programs for the children of Baksan. In fact, the place is referred by one local as “kinapusuran sa Baksan”, which can be translated in English as the center of Baksan. It has a deep well where, not too long ago, was an open spout of water. Its flow never faltered the whole year round, even in the warmest drought season. People, as far as Gethsemane Hills, come here to collect its precious liquid during the worst times.

Watering and nurturing the young trees would not be a problem here. It is shady with breaks in the forest cover allowing adequate sunlight. The mature trees would mother the young trees from direct sunlight while retaining moisture on the ground after a rain. Sibalas has the capacity to retain water and its natural spring is a testament of its healthy underground water dynamics. The residents have valued this spot and they have refrained from rearing hogs along a radius of about 1,000 meters. That is why we chose this place and adopted the community for our outreach.

Jhurds begins to brief the students and assigned them the places to plant. They would also be assigned to plant fruit trees only and grouped into five individuals each, assisted by one adult from Camp Red, for they will be handling edged tools. The rest of the Camp Red people would gather bamboo and fashion these into long stakes to protect the young trees from stray farm animals and for easy recognition. The empty spaces along the path would be designated for fruit trees. The young mahogany would be planted by Camp Red people on a slope while I would plant the narra and acacia species on difficult spots.

Holes were dug four meters from each other and it lined along the trail. More holes were dug on the next layer and then the next. The last layer was reserved for mahogany trees, which holes were placed on sloped areas and would act as debris catchers when it matures. Debris would impede water from running directly to water channels and brooks. The acacia and narra species were placed on areas where it could water itself by its location within a few feet from depressions along water channels.

Every student carried with him or her, a packed meal. When noonbreak came, most of the young trees were planted and everybody paused for lunch. Likewise, with the Camp Red bushmen. Ernie, our camp fixer, was exempt from the tree planting activity. He has at his task of providing delicious nourishment for us. As always, three dishes, plus a dessert of raw cucumber and tomatoes in vinegar. Jacob has his special meal courtesy of Jolibee. There is an unfinished hut that served as our resting place. There is a table and benches on three sides.

This structure is one of two that we are constructing. When finished, it will be used as a recreation area and as an outdoor education center. People will be taught here about bushcraft, wilderness survival, homesteading, campsite management, backcountry ethics and safety, trailcraft, first aid, prepping, land navigation, child woodlore, specialist topics and outdoors leadership. This would be a base camp for trails going into the Buhisan Watershed Area, Mount Bokatol, Tagaytay Ridge, Arcos Ridge and the wilderness of Pagatpat, Buwabog and Cato-ogan.

The rest of the day was reserved for watering the twenty-six mixed-fruit varieties and ten for mahogany and placing the bamboo stakes on each individual plant. But my task was not yet finished. I have to dig holes and plant the last three narra and acacia trees. I have planted five already but mine was the most difficult location and the farthest. The good thing is that you do not have to water for the ground is moist and it is cooler. Just the same, I placed stakes around each for easy identification.

We finished early and Jhurds accompany Jacob and his students to facilitate their quick departure back to Guadalupe. Assisting him were Jonathan, Glyn and Jenmar. Ernie, Nyor and Justin washed the pots near the water source while Glenn and I entertained Ann and Jean at the hut. We boiled water and had coffee to pair with a few pieces of bread. The wash brigade came and joined us. Slowly, they packed their things while waiting for Jhurds and company.

I do not have to pack. I just carried a simple leather frontiersman-style bag that contained a Seseblade Sinalung, a Seseblade Matabia, a Victorinox Ranger SAK, an extra t-shirt and a one-liter juice retort pouch which I repurposed into a collapsible water bottle. The leather bag was a gift from Alan Poole of the UK, the Sinalung and the Matabia are from Dr. Arvin Sese and the SAK from Markus Immer of Switzerland.

We finally left at 15:30, retracing the path we took in the morning. Waiting is a Fuso Elf passenger van that Jhurds have commandeered from his father’s garage. It was roomy at the back. Jacob sat at the front beside his dad. We planted forty-six young trees today and we believed that most of these would survive, except for a few that were handled improperly. That was just the start. We would plant soon another batch of young trees. We would source indigenous ones and more fruit varieties. We would reforest Sibalas and beyond.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.4 Writer

Monday, October 9, 2017

GERVASIO LIRA LAVILLES: The 80-Year Wait for Recognition

HE WAS A CHILD OF THE MOUNTAINS of Lambunao, Iloilo, who took a one-way trip to Cebu in 1914 to visit his older brother who was stationed there as a Philippine Scout. Unfortunately for him, his brother and his detachment had been transferred a few hours before he arrived. He was a complete stranger in a big and busy port of Cebu, knowing nothing of the local dialect, much less, no relatives to seek refuge to.

He was living by his own wits on the streets until, one day, a kind Cebuano from Pasil took him in as a servant. Not only that, he was given opportunity to finish his studies. He studied by day at the Cebu Provincial Elementary School (now the Abellana National School) and worked at night for the Cabije Family. He graduated from seventh grade and proceed to secondary at the Cebu Provincial High School (now the Abellana National School) as a self-supporting student.

He had to stop on his fourth year to serve his country. He enlisted with the Philippine National Guards, intending to follow the footsteps of his older brother who was sent earlier with his unit to Europe. When his turn came, Armistice was announced, ending World War I. The boat where he and his regiment sailed with has to turn back to Manila. After receiving his honorable discharge he was able to catch up and finished high school after passing the final examinations where he graduated as salutatorian next to a valedictorian classmate who would become one day the President of the Republic of the Philippines – Carlos P. Garcia.

As a high school graduate of an American-run school during those early years, few but better opportunities come knocking at you. Gervasio had already been working with a newspaper as a delivery boy and learned the tricks of the trade from the printing presses to the fields and on the layout desks. He rose from the ranks and became editor one day in several newspapers.  He married Consuelo Lumen in 1920 and, inspired, studied law at the University of the Philippines Junior College (now the UP College Cebu).

In 1925, he entered politics and was elected with the most number of votes as councilor for the then Municipality of Cebu (now the second most important city of the Philippines). How could an Ilonggo able to win in a premier town of a premier province where he was not a native of the place in his first try in politics and by an overwhelming margin? Perhaps, the newspapers made him famous but, he once said to a grandson, that Consuelo was his lucky charm.

At the heels of that celebration came Gloria, the first born. She married Alejandro Panganiban Sr., a corporate lawyer. Gloria became the city librarian. Then Virginio and Evangeline followed. Virginio became a soldier a year before World War II. He survived the Siege of Bataan, the Death March and the horrors of Camp O’Donnell. He married Lourdes Galon of Labason, Zamboanga del Norte after the war. Evangeline survived her parents, her siblings and her husband, Jose de Paula Jr. of Jaro, Iloilo. She used to teach but is now focusing her time as a writer.

Gervasio went on to serve two more terms as councilor in 1929 and in 1933, authoring or co-sponsoring many ordinances that improved the well-being of the Cebuanos while expanding the services of the municipal government to reach far-flung places. In 1931, he authored an ordinance that would change the course of history of Cebu. It was Resolution Number 185. It requested the Lower House of Congress to sponsor a bill converting Cebu into a Chartered City, which was realized on February 24, 1937. What made it sweet is that he did this with opposition from fellow councilors, all native Cebuanos, for seven years and him, an Ilonggo.

Then he disappeared from politics. We do not know why? We learned that Consuelo died in 1936 and caused him so much grief. He graduated Bachelor of Laws in 1937 from the Visayas Institute (now the University of Visayas) and passed the bar the following year, the same year he married again with the lass from Potat-Bagumbayan, Purificacion Alba. World War II came and the Lavilles Family migrated to Bohol to escape the Japanese Secret Police who were looking for him. From that safe refuge, he fathered a daughter named Marietta, who later would marry Diego de Egurrola and both would serve as police officers.

A resistance force made up of a handful of American and Filipino soldiers was organized in Bohol and Gervasio’s experience with newspapers and as lawyer gained him commission with the rank of captain and was given the task of conducting a propaganda war against the Japanese. He published a monthly tabloid titled Bolos and Bullets and he became a marked man. Japanese patrols missed him many times by just a few meters in his farm and it was the worst time for food was scarce. He told a grandson that his dog, Dinky, helped them survive.

The Japanese even entice Gervasio to go above ground by using Virginio as bait but that was not to be. Virginio outsmarted his guards and soon found him reunited with his father, the same father who personally brought him to an Army enlistment camp when other families hid theirs to faraway places to escape conscription. Liberation brought the Lavilles Family back to Cebu and started life all over again from the ruins and despairs of war. That was in 1945 and life was hard and depressing.

Fortunately, he gained employment when he was appointed by Pres. Sergio Osmeña Sr. as the Register of Deeds for Cebu and then chosen as one of only three senior examiners in the country by the US-Philippine War Damage Commission. There were over twelve thousand candidates yet he was chosen for his honesty, integrity and industry. It was a very demanding job for it entails a lot of travel, surmounting some security threats and fending off many bribe offers from businessmen who wanted to pad the actual costs of the damage which would have benefitted them financially. 

The 1950s brought back a sense of normalcy for the Lavilles Family. Gervasio became a much-sought after lawyer, not because he was very good but because he was very kind to his clients. It was normal for him hefting home baskets of fruit and vegetables after a lengthy day in the courtrooms. He exacts no fixed amount but he accepts anything even a prayer of thanks. He worked with local newspapers as editor-in-chief and was tapped by national and international press agencies as their local representative.

Politics came calling him again but this time, behind the shadow of the son of Cebu’s Grand Old Man, himself becoming a great man one day, Sergio “Serging” Osmeña Jr. Gervasio served as his private secretary and aide-de-camp when Serging ran as Governor of Cebu, as Mayor of Cebu City, as Congressman and as Senator of the Philippines. When Serging was not campaigning, he would either be City Administrator or Provincial Administrator.

He had a long professional relationship with his employer and friend and has to let go of his newspaper jobs. He maintained only his weekly newspaper column in the Cebu Morning Times titled Merely My Opinion, and became a professor of history, literature, algebra and political science for the University of San Carlos, Southwestern University, the University of the Visayas, and the University of Southern Philippines. He still worked as a lawyer but limited only to consultancies and notarial services.

Despite many opportunities of enriching himself through his lucrative occupations and positions in government and by his association with Cebu’s most popular politician at that time, he lived simply and begged for privacy. He did not own a house and was content to live in government land. When Serging challenged Ferdinand Marcos in the 1969 Presidential Elections, he went with him on the campaign trail, sometimes accompanied by his wife and a grandson.

Martial Law brought his association with Serging to an end. He was not subjected to harassment and shame by the military administrators. He travelled to Bohol many times to look after his property with his wife and grandson. One day he sold it. Other properties, token of payments for his lawyering, choice lots now, he returned to his former clients. Even his own inherited property in Lambunao, he donated all to his only brother to the consternation of all. He stuck to his oath of poverty and owes this through his inspiration from Jesus Christ and Mohandas Ghandi.

He liked to tell stories to a grandson when both are alone. He, on the rocking chair, while the grandson at his side on the floor and who, most of the time, read the day’s news for him. He is an ardent historian, orator and poet and loved to quote literary works of Lord Tennyson, Poe, Kipling and other literary greats. He sung the songs of his time, sometimes strange sounding ones in an unknown language.

His eyes, healed long time ago by the presence of a very beautiful bird he saw when he was five years old, failed him for good. It is a family lore that smallpox brought by foreigners early in the century caused him blindness. His mother prayed and asked for intercession from Saint Lucia, the patron saint of the blind. On the ninth day of her prayers, this unusual colorful bird appeared to her mother and to young Gervasio and he regained his sight.

As a speech writer for Serging, he still found free time to write for his column, compose poems, write short stories for magazines and authored a book. His book, CEBU: History of its Four Cities and Forty-nine Municipalities, was published in 1965. Because of his literary achievement, he was recognized by the Province of Cebu during its 406th Founding Anniversary in 1975 for Best in English Literature, along with another literary great, Natalio Bacalso, who was honored as best in Cebuano.

He died on June 16, 1986, three days short of his 90th birthday. His epitaph - “He left us nothing but his good name which is worth more than all the riches of this world” - is a testimony of his uncanny humility. A street in the barangay where he lived out his full years of his life, was dedicated in his name in June 1989. He was an Ilonggo by birth but he chooses to be Cebuano. He was a man for all people, creed and status. He served everyone without fear or favor.

After EIGHTY YEARS, the Cebu City Government finally gave him the recognition that his descendants deserved it right for him, posthumously. When he was alive, he would have wanted none of that, not even by the urgings of his friend, Serging. He values his privacy although it is known that he accommodates everyone in his humble home at any time of the day and night.

There is another reason why he does not want to be recognized. In his conversations with his family, he was slighted by the act of President Manuel Quezon when, instead of recognizing the efforts of the entire municipal council of Cebu, he replaced all with people from his political party, some of whom opposed his sponsored ordinance. He, the wellspring of why Cebu became a city, was not even invited to the event. 

Today, February 24, 2017, is a date that the descendants of Gervasio Lira Lavilles, where he would finally be reconciled with history. All things should be placed in its proper order, without disregarding the memory of another illustrious Cebuano, Vicente Rama, who fought for it nail and tooth in the halls of Congress. These two contemporaries have given the foothold that Cebu City is now reaping.

The 80th Charter Day Celebration was held at Plaza Sugbu, infront of City Hall. Evangeline and Marietta lived long enough to witness this official city celebration along with their children and grandchildren. Mayor Tomas Osmeña gave the welcome address while Evangeline, now 87, recounts the deeds of his late father. Afterward, there was a wreath-laying ceremony before a photographed image of Gervasio. The affair culminated in the evening at the Cebu Grand Convention where prominent and contemporary Cebuanos who brought honor and distinction to their city were honored.

You might wonder why Gervasio disposed all his lands? He was a lawyer who fought for both the poor and the rich. Most of the litigation cases he handled have its roots in land disputes. He witnessed families parted ways, sometimes violently, because of these inheritances. It is not uncommon for a brother taking advantage of an unmarried sister or an administrator cheats on the children of his employer. Absence of property disputes made descendants of Gervasio closer. Remember his epitaph?

You might wonder also why an unnamed grandson is always cited in this short biography of Gervasio? The old man had many grandsons and most of them were with him in his journeys except for a few who were still too young. This particular grandson was fortunate because he was with Gervasio for the longest time, enjoying walks with him in the woods, engaging in long conversations and possesses the patience to listen to all his tales and songs. He became a repository of his memories. He was “educated”. That grandson is me.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Sunday, October 1, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Days 24 and 25 (Malingin to Bakhawan)

DAY TWENTY-FOUR ::::: WHEN I ARRIVED HERE YESTERDAY, I felt it was the sweetest moment of the Thruhike. I have walked over the last and the most difficult physical obstacle of the Cebu Highlands Trail – the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range in Tabogon. Here in Malingin, Bogo City, the high-octane stress and dread of the past 23 days are now beginning to lose its hold on me. There are now just four days left to finish this journey. I drank a warm Swiss Miss in a metal saucer to celebrate this milestone today, February 11, 2017.

In a little while, Day Twenty-four will roll towards another sunset. While I am beginning to feel light on both load and emotions, the idea of walking on the plains of Bogo City and Medellin is not a walk in the park either, especially on the latter. We will be treading mostly on a national highway that is straight as an arrow on some stretches which are almost devoid of shade. I gave up my breakfast of Knorr soup and rice after three spoonfuls and accept the parmesan cheese and wheat bread that were offered by Markus Immer. 

Markus, friend and benefactor and staunch supporter of the Thruhike, had extraordinarily delivered our supplies earlier than what was agreed at five different occasions. Not because he is Swiss, and the Swiss are very exacting when it comes to time, but because “he always has five minutes more time than the next guy”. That is his maxim and that is why he is extremely reliable. But on those five occasions, I beat him by an average of 20 minutes. I have my reasons why I arrived earlier than the supply run. One of these is that I planned this Thruhike as if I am engaging in a war campaign!

It is his wish and personal request to join me and Jonathaniel Apurado for the last stretch of the northern leg. He will have that slot and he will celebrate with us when we reach the end of this long journey on the northernmost point of Cebu, a handful of days from now. Still walking with us is Leomil Pino, who had been tagging for the past two days. But another fresh set of legs, Glyn Formentera, will be along for the dayhike just like he did on Day Five of the southern leg.

The Hon. Marilyn Calidguid and his councilman son, Darwin, both of Malingin village, sent us off at 08:00. Weather is warm and sunny. Not a good combination on the plains. We stop to honor the flag when the national anthem was sung at the Malingin Elementary School. Today, we will follow the old railway from here to Don Pedro Rodriguez, Bogo City. The paths are still there but the sleepers, the stays and the iron rails are no more. The path is now dirt which pass by fields planted with sugar cane on both sides.

This old railway was very relevant and useful during the years when sugar prices were booming in the ‘50s and the ‘60s, even up to the early ‘70s. This was the main artery that fueled the economy of the sugar producing towns of Bogo, Medellin, Daanbantayan, San Remigio, Tabogon and Borbon. The engines with their wagons brought the canes from the fields to the lone processing plant in Medellin, converted to molasses and were exported.

It is now a ghost of its old self. The skeletons now adorned somebody’s lawn like I saw in Malingin. But in the USA, they converted old and condemned rail lines into trails for tourism. One particular spot is the Katy Trail, named after the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad which stopped operation in 1986, is very popular for biking, hiking and handicapped-use rails-to-trails project. It is 300 kilometers long. How I wished Bogo City and Medellin sees the wisdom of this purpose and develop it for leisure outdoor tourism.

The fields are still planted with sugar canes with contract farmers doing the backbreaking work of planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. Part of the trail is planted with corn and the path goes through among stalks. A remnant of the old railway, stone buttresses that support a missing bridge over a small stream, remained. The former railroad are presently used to accommodate farm machinery and trucks. It is a good place to hike. There is abundant breeze coming from the north and the air is mild.

The old railroad goes its way through the plains and it intersects, for a time, a line of steel towers bringing in electricity from Leyte to power Cebu’s ravenous industries. We passed by the new administrative capital of Bogo City and I believed they are developing and leasing these lands for commerce and industry. Ever since it became a city in 2002, it begun to allocate land to accommodate its expected expansion. This small city has so much land area and many unused spaces. It has its own wharf but is also accessible to another bigger port in nearby San Remigio.                                                                                               

Unfortunately, somebody squatted on the right-of-way of the old railroad that would have brought us direct to the national highway, now known as the Central Philippines Nautical Highway. We have to detour to a small path to this highway in Don Pedro Rodriguez. Two hundred meters away is a crossroad where there is a very popular restaurant. We stop by here at 09:40 to rest from the unrelenting rays of the sun and rehydrate on cold beverages. Since I had a light breakfast, I have to open up one of my Fitbars for insurance.

After ten minutes, we are on our way again. I sent a text message to the Medellin Police Station to let them know of our passage through their area. The torment of the long walk along the concrete-topped and shadeless highway begins. At 10:05, we reach the Dayhagon Bridge. Underneath it is the Dayhagon Canal which separates Bogo City from Medellin. I have walked this less-known man-made canal last April 29, 2015, during low tide, from Hagnaya Port, San Remigio to Polambato Port, Bogo City, a distance of 11 kilometers. It was the stuff of adventures for I was alone and it was well-documented.

The sun was really unrelenting. Imagine a highway where there are no shades? What were planted on both sides are bougainvilleas, as unwelcoming as the highway to foot traffic with its thorns. There used to be trees here but Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made short work of it. The highway danced and shimmered from the heat waves as if you are walking on a desert. Only fools like us walk this very long stretch at this time of day. By 12:30, we arrive at an oasis-like setting on the village of Curva, Medellin for our noonbreak. It is another crossroad with a bakery and lots of cold beverages. Light meals of bread, Nutribar and a capsule of Herbalife natural raw Guarana as supplement.

I studied my maps of the surrounding areas. These are mere reproductions that I screen printed from the Project Noah website, now mothballed, enlarged to fit in short-sized bond papers and protected inside my Sea Line map case. I have to improvise because government maps are utterly outdated. These can be oriented with a compass like you are using a real map. I am not going to take the old route which I used during the Segment VII Exploration Hike last August 2016. I aim to walk up the Panugnawan Hills and cross the wide valley to Bakhawan, Daanbantayan.

After an hour, we resumed our journey. We take the middle road. It goes up its way dictated by the heights of the Panugnawan Hills. At least, here, there are shades. Pressed from behind by Leomil and Glyn, I increased the pace. I do not know how I got a lot of power but, I believed, the daily intake of multivitamins and Guarana extract have made its effect on my performance. I have never felt something like this before because I have never tried one. Since it was provided to me and Jon by Markus on one set and by Mirasol Lepon of Herbalife on the other, I decide to make the most of it.

As I walked the whole stretch of the Panugnawan Hills, I scanned paths that go down that wide valley. I studied the terrain well and waited for the right moment. When I reach a chapel and a dirt road beside it, I have to decide at that instant else it would be another story. Making the right decisions when doing terrain analysis on an exploration that doubled as a Thruhike is very important. You just have one chance and there are no alternatives. It is a make or break affair. I scan the farthest reaches of this valley and something inside of me favored this path. We walk down the wide valley.

The dirt road weave its way among fields devoted for sugar canes and dotted with coconuts planted along the edges. Some fields are bare, some are full and healthy, while some are littered with dried leaves and shrivelled trunks. There is a community halfway and someone said we are in the village of Dalingding Sur, Medellin. This primitive road goes up and sugar canes are now tall and healthy, depriving my field of vision. Worse, paths crossing each other are now common. Would I go down right, go up on my left or should I go straight ahead?

I was right all the time with my choices. I came upon a hump and I saw another valley. I realized I am standing above the Dalingding Hills, a low range of mountains that run between Caputatan Norte, Medellin to Dalingding, Daanbantayan and parallels the Panugnawan Hills. Across me are the familiar hills which I have once passed last year going to the north of Cebu. Behind it would be Bakhawan and safe refuge.

For another hour we navigate another valley planted with the same sugar canes and finally arrive at a road corner located on a mountain pass of the Pangadlawan Hills. This road goes to a national highway by the coastline. We are now in Daanbantayan. Another hour more and we will be knocking on the doors of our host, Bakhawan Beach Home. My muscles are aching. My bones are creaking. My soles begins to go tender. The dirt road is rocky but we will have rest at the end of this.

We overtook two locals who I thought were men. Both of them were carrying bundles of long firewood above their heads and they were women. One is middle aged and the other must be sixty. My God, they were strong! I offered to carry their firewood for them but they declined. Their husbands are working in Metro Cebu and goes home every weekend. They are left to fend their children for the rest of the week and gathering firewood is one of the tasks to survive day in and day out. When they were done with that, they went back to carry another set of firewood!

When I arrive at the gate of Bakhawan Beach Home at 16:50, Doming the caretaker was already expecting us, smiling. I shook his hands and we all entered the spacious beach resort which is composed of two structures: Balay No. 1 and Balay No. 2. Lani Perez, the proprietress, assigned the second home to us. She is a long-time friend and is a supporter of my Thruhike as well as my exploration of the Cebu Highlands Trail which I completed last November. She also hosted my Exploration Team when we passed by here in August 2016.

I slumped on a wooden divan and closed my eyes after a tiring hike. Everybody were relieved. Doming had already cooled a case of one-liter bottles of beer in the ref. I was so thirsty that beer tastes like water and two bottles disappeared fast. I just sat there and enjoying the rest as the sun sets beyond the horizon. Oh, one more task to make. I sent a text message to the Daanbantayan Police Station to inform them that we are now in Bakhawan. I got a prompt reply. Only a few police stations reply. Most of them never ever cared or that their numbers are dead.

The Hon. Lucia Eleptica of the village of Bakhawan came when she heard news of our coming. We were welcomed to stay at Bakhawan and she promised a free-rein chicken for our dinner. It was the best that she could offer since we were already taken cared of inside the Bakhawan Beach Home. I gave my sincerest thanks to her and we are again left to the soothing sounds of the waves amidst the soft scarlet hues that colored the skies as the fiery orb goes its way westward.

We will have guests coming and they are all from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, a club that I founded. They arrived at 18:30 and they are Ronald Abella and his son, Christian Jacob, and the couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon. I am expecting another guest, a common friend between Lani and me – Bebut Estillore. He came at around 19:30 together with Lani. With everyone present, a grand dinner, courtesy of Bakhawan Beach Home, entice everyone to sit around the long table that Lani had acquired from the long houses of Papua New Guinea.

I checked in early and claimed the second room of Balay No. 2 to myself. The soft bed is good for two people and the extra space allowed me more room to roll from side to side unhindered. The sea is at low tide so I have no other recourse to freshen up except in the bathroom. The cold water trickling down from the overhead shower gave a wonderful feeling. It soothed worn out nerves that have been forged for the last 24 days by heat, dust, grime, cold, rain, thirst, hunger and heavy loads. After almost a half hour under the shower, the soft bed simply whisked me to Lady Starlight.

Distance Walked: 27.69 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 110 meters and a low of 3 meters

DAY TWENTY-FIVE ::::: THE ECSTASY OF A GOOD NIGHT’S sleep on a soft bed and knowing that you would do nothing gruelling for today is a heavenly feeling. And what good fortune and timely occasion when you have the place all to yourself – by the beach. The soothing sound of waves roll into your consciousness as your nerves get smoothed by the unending flow of cool breeze under a shade. The Thruhike is not all sun and grime, it deserves a break and Bakhawan Beach Home is the perfect place to be in for that affair.

I woke up at 07:00 and found the balcony abandoned. Last night’s party left an almost-full bottle of local brandy, empty bottles, empty cups and cups with stagnant brandy, peanuts and empty saucers, Nalgene bottles, LED lights, knives and bags. The two divans are all occupied and I see a hammock, back almost kissing the floor. I see a white head jutting out from a sleeping bag laid on the floor. The sea have receded far and exposed the tidal flats. From a distance, a small yellow boat is floating offshore. Today is February 12, 2017 and this day is reserved for rest and recreation.

Slowly, some absent occupants of Balay No. 2 begins to rise from their warm beds. Jonathaniel Apurado and Markus Immer come to life. Then a couple of guys with reddish zombie eyes stirred. Ah, the party people. Leomil Pino and Glyn Formentera, two of my guests who walked with us yesterday, shook off their sleepy heads and starts to get busy doing nothing. The tidal flats got their attention. Lani Perez, the owner of Bakhawan Beach Home was already up. She is busy talking to Doming, the beach caretaker. I smell food! Bebut Estillore joins us.

Bebut, my tormentor and drinking buddy of 20 plus years ago. He laughs his patented laugh which sounds like a hyena smelling something to eat. The laughter, it gets on your nerves when you are at the losing end of a friendly repartee. That is Bebut and he is one of my best friends and he is the godfather of my youngest son. We are kumpare but we do not call each other that. We call each other “Magua”, the anti-hero of the Last of the Mohicans. He brought special ground coffee from Bukidnon and, oh God, it tastes and smells heavenly!

More party people, Ronald Abella and Mark Lepon, joined their brethren on the wet sand. Mirasol, the better half of Mark, and Christian Jacob Abella, were the last to rise. No, they were not part of the night revelers. They are normal people who observe normal sleeping hours like me, Jon and Markus. Slowly the surf begins to reach back towards the beach. High tide would be at 16:29. I keep track of these little things which are found on my itinerary. Slowly, the long table gets filled with seafood galore. Fish soup, grilled squid and dried fish, and complemented with sunny side up fried egg.

I opt to have that Bukidnon coffee again after the meal. It is nice to just sit down and talk with Bebut, Lani and Markus slurping warm coffee with the cool breeze blowing. Slowly the small yellow boat approached the shore. Doming carried an empty pail to meet the two fishermen. The boat is half-carried and half-dragged up the sand into drier land. The three men slowly removed the net from the boat’s hold and dragged its end six meters away to be cleaned of debris, weeds and catch. Lani, Bebut and Markus joined Doming and the fishermen, then the rest of the guys offered their hands for the harvest.

The collective effort produced a half-filled bucket of fish, crabs, shrimps, squids and edible kelp. The sight of the catch is enough to send my gastric juices boiling. Unknown to us, the sea crawled slowly up the shore. Even though the sea level will reach its highest at four, I decide to take a bath on the open sea. I waded offshore for about 200 meters before I reached chest level. Fifty meters away are the reefs that clashed with the white capped surf. Swimming in ideal conditions of a warm day and crystal-clear water where you could see bottom. The tides begun its work clearly where I frolicked as the current sweep floating debris northward out of the Tañon Strait.

The warmth of the sun on my shoulders and the warmth of the water below me is a good combination of a well-appreciated idea of relaxation. It is therapeutic even. Floating on the surface removes that everyday presence of gravity. I think I have stayed long enough which is just about fair. I waded back to shore where waterline are at a level of a few inches higher than when I did an hour ago. Time to hit the shower to remove the salt from my hide and my elastic undershorts. Then the call to meals. Wow!

After the sumptuous lunch, the unfinished bottle of brandy became the object of desire. Packs of peanuts and fried corn are mixed in the fray. The party continues and laughter and jokes put the company fixed on the table on the view deck. The hours became a blur of creeping shadows that expose and hide all that were hidden and bare. Most of the guys took to the call of the risen tide but I have been there a few hours ago and the invite of a cool room is much desired. The soft cool bed under the beat of an old ceiling fan pushed me to dreamland.

When I regained awareness, the day have reached its moment when it gave in to the law of nature. Sunset is but a half hour away and the banter of the company I left for the comforts of an afternoon nap transforms into a melancholic and subdued silence. Everyone knows that we would all part on the first hours of daylight and those that would be left could have wished they have free time to walk with us for the rest of the Thruhike. Dinner comes and the voices goes up in a high crescendo once again but not like before.

There are cold bottles of beer but the eagerness of turning it upside down empty are not there anymore. It is a silent gathering, almost strange, and the silence seems to strangle the words from flowing out. I have a long day ahead of me and I turn in early inside the same bed I slept on. The worrying are no longer there but the early signs of rapture starts to boil inside of me. This kept me from drowsing for two hours or more. It is the same as those of anxiety moments that appeared prematurely hours ahead. There is the toilet to flush what it impose on the body though so, Good night.
Distance Walked: 0.0 kilometer
Elevation Gained: 3 meters and a low of 0 meter

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Sunday, September 24, 2017


I JUST FINISHED THE THRUHIKE and, four days later, on this morning of February 18, 2017, I would be standing on a stage before different troops of the Boy Scout of the Philippines belonging to the University of San Jose-Recoletos. I would be presenting a talk on the topic – A Boy Scout as an Environmental Warrior and, on another one, Survival in the Outdoors. Fortunately for me, both are subject matters closest to my heart.

I am gracing this occasion upon the invitation of the USJ-R Greenbar Council, without them knowing that I once cut my teeth as a Tenderfoot under the aegis of the greatest scoutmaster Cebu had ever produced, the late Sergio P. Damazo Jr. That was in the ‘70s, when I was then an element of Troop 38, in their old campus at Magallanes Street, Cebu City. They have not erred in contacting me.

This is my first time to visit their campus in Basak, some thirty-nine years after my last days with my alma mater. I am excited but I am well prepared even though I was tapped on short notice. I made it to the gate incognito and, upon entering a second building where the real activity is held, I saw the picture of my dearly beloved scoutmaster. The friars had cherished his memory well by devoting a small museum for him. I am touched.

After meeting the acting scoutmaster, Romulo Sevilla Jr., his most senior scouts led me to the Audio Visual Room where I am going to give my talk and to meet my audience. This AV Room is much much bigger than the one they have at Magallanes. It is still empty but it soon will be filled by warm bodies. There is a projector and screen on standby and, pretty soon, a laptop will be provided for my Powerpoint presentation.

Then they came in military cadence and order, 250-strong. The newer versions of Cebu’s Best. This is their first day and they were on drill formation earlier. They must be tired and so I gave instruction to the troop commander to make them sit on the concrete floor. My greatest challenge today is how to prolong their short attention spans. These are pampered kids studying in one of the finest Catholic schools of Cebu.

When I studied on my first year at the old campus, back in 1975, I felt that my father had made a mistake of enrolling me in a wrong school. I was a product of a public school system but he was happy I passed the entrance test. He thought I have a good head but he never could imagine I was out of place. My classmates where well off, smart and bigger. Every week was a meat grinder for me and I was a weekly customer of the guidance counselor.

We were taught to be pious. Oh yeah, I did more kneels than any of my classmates. I do not have to go to the altar. The space near the teacher’s table or the principal’s office were the right spots to tame me. I was a wild kid in a well structured environment. Then Mr. Damazo took me into his care and responsibility and I understood why the Josenians wear shorts as against other schools who parade on streets in long pants.

One member of the Order of Agustinian Recollect is attending as audience as well as the scoutmasters of the University of Santo Tomas-Recoletos, from Negros Occidental, and the USJ-R Balamban Campus. I think they were there to reign in their boys. But there are girls among them. Yes, I saw many marching with the boys at the quadrangle with the same uniforms as the boys were. And THIS is a Boy Scout event.

After the preliminaries, I deem it proper to give my audience a peep into my past, as a Josenian Boy Scout which jolt them from their stupor, and my present life, which everyone now were all ears of my accomplishments as an outdoorsman, enjoying the life of a wandering bushcraft enthusiast and living the dreams of a Boy Scout of long ago. My Thruhike across Cebu’s 400-kilometer length in 27 days got them thunderstruck and bewitched.

A Boy Scout can never be an environmental warrior if the lessons he learned as a citizen scout are different from what he witnesses in his home, the community and even inside malls. It erodes his youthful enthusiasm. If push comes to shove – like the threat of climate change – then he has to lessen his carbon imprint if he wanted to extend the living years of our only home in this universe.

Climate change and man’s manipulation of the environment to suit his needs caused this environmental degradation we are experiencing right now. It had already been mentioned in the time of Noah, Joseph and Moses of the Old Testament. The impacts now are bigger and everywhere: mountains, river systems, lakes, the ocean, the atmosphere, the arctic regions and even on urban centers. Industrialization, mining, logging, consumerism, you name it, causes degradation and pollution and it has a common denominator – greed.

How do we overcome this? Almost impossible but there are organized activities that influence the mindsets of people or compel them to, about the state of our planet. We now have peaceful mass actions, legal actions, even extreme strategies. Greenpeace is on the vanguard of this for so many years. Leave No Trace was introduced in national parks across the globe and are being used incorrectly by activists, forcing people to toe the line. Then we have the grey wolves of this movement – the Sea Shepherds.

As a Boy Scout, the above methods are themselves equally daunting since it exposes them to harm’s way. But there are more peaceful ways that are much better and much more proactive. Planting trees or mangroves may be one of the best but organizers almost always choose the wrong species, mostly exotic, or monopolize one species on a big area. You can plant your own trees without having to join mass tree planting activities.

Join or organize community projects which keep away residents from engaging in destructive methods on the environment. These could be tree planting, coral propagation, beautification projects and alternative livelihoods. Information and education will guide simple folks from ignorance, indifference, superstition and half-truths. Engage in a personal crusade that does not involve people like practicing Reduce Reuse Recycle and LNT.

Can you change the world on your own? Yes you can. There are many advocacy tools. Documentation for a community or school magazine about the environment is a good start. Or you could start a blog. Internationally-acclaimed blogs about environmental awareness started from small ones and there are many free platforms to choose from. Create more awareness on online petition websites like or transcend borders and government control by posting on social network sites to a much wider audience.

A Boy Scout can indeed be an environmental warrior. I once was that Boy Scout and I am on this personal crusade as an activist for no one, a blogger, a writer and a lecturer for the environment. The methods I used are simple but I am always on the frontlines where man and environment clashed, never a good consequence for the latter. Someone has to fight for the environment – peacefully. A photo with a caption of facts is good enough to catch fire in people’s consciousness across the Internet.

That was a long talk and I may have delivered my message to the majority of my audience or not but, it does not matter, because I am not expected to convert all into environmental warriors. I only need one from the 250 and he or she could already make a big difference.  The next topic – Survival in the Outdoors – would be the most awaited one and everyone begins to reposition themselves after a break of five minutes.    

The outdoors, for most, is a beautiful romantic place. Simply because they may have experienced and enjoyed it on the frontcountry. The backcountry is different for only a few people visit it. It is mountainous and navigation is difficult. Then there is the wilderness. All these places found in the outdoors are dangerous. It has an unpredictable weather system and streams go suddenly wild even if the day is warm. It has a mean wildlife population and thick stands of forests that no sunlight could penetrate.

Getting caught in the outdoors in the wrong weather or time causes you stress which tend to force you to make mistakes. Small mistakes can create a big impact on your thinking. When you are lost or helpless, survival mode begins. Your increased awareness is a result of uncontrolled release of adrenaline. Your thoughts are fed by the senses, the nerves and the guts, all agitated, causing you confusion and more mistakes.

Our prolonged survival depends upon our discovery and rescue. If it does not happen, you need to have nutrition. Hydrate as much as possible because a deprived brain cannot function properly. Eat some food. If you do not have enough, look for one. Fruits supply you natural sugar, which is converted by enzymes into adrenaline. Fat is the hardest to find in a jungle environment but, unknown to you, you have layers of fat that your own body would subsist on when food becomes difficult to obtain.

Water is the first thing to find during survival. If you still have strength, you look for a shelter or make one. Food is the next thing to look for. When you have water, shelter and food, you start to go warm. Make yourself more warm by making a fire. If making a fire is impossible, do not expose yourself to the elements. Increase your security by blending in with the environment or standing out. It depends if there is an immediate threat. These are the priorities during a survival situation and could change with water always on top.

When you are outdoors, there is a thing we in the bushcraft community called as “outdoors common sense”. Bushcraft is a hobby and a lifestyle which uses the outdoors as a learning environment for survival. The purpose of this outdoors common sense is to increase our safety and security. We have developed certain protocols that guided our behavior and our presence in the outdoors. This set of protocol includes how we deal with wildlife encounters.

You do not learn these things in a classroom. I teach these in a bushcraft camp. Those who learned from me became members of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Instantly the guild logo and my activities appeared on the projector screen. The images swelled their pride, knowing that an alumnus of their school does these things for a living and brought sparkles of interest in adventure in their eyes.

My talk ended at just the right time. I was presented by the USJ-R Greenbar Council with a certificate of appreciation and an invitation for lunch. Outside, the field begins to be filled by the Boy Scout units. Platoon formations are hurriedly organized under the bare sky. The units began counting off the elements in preparation for their own meals. It will be a long day today, to include night activities and campfire rites.

Meanwhile, my day is not yet finished. I have to join and witness the Jamboree On The Air which will be participated in by the Girl Scout of the Philippines unit of USJ-R under the adult supervision of Ham Radio Cebu. It would be held at the Talavera House of Prayer, in nearby Quiot, for the whole afternoon. Ham Radio Cebu is an amateur radio club which I also belonged. The JOTA is a worldwide event that uses high frequency radio to contact amateur radio stations on far locations at 7.095 MHz.

Under the guidance of Jet (4F7MHZ) Manuel, Nick (DV7FCC) Manuel, Ariel (DV7FAL) Lim, Wilson (DW7REE) Aliganga and Marvin (DW5CIA/7) Reynes, the USJ-R Girl Scouts were able to contact twenty-three amateur radio stations from all over the Philippines at the end of the day. This is a friendly competition where the winners and their tutors are rewarded points and certificates by the International Amateur Radio Union and their local counterpart, the Philippine Amateur Radio Association. It is an event designed to rekindle the love of amateur radio propagation to the younger generations.

It was really a busy day for me. I reconnect with the beloved school of my youth. The only familiar face I met is the framed picture of my dear scoutmaster. I am happy that the Boy Scout spirit of the Josenians lovingly nurtured by Sir Damazo are kept alive and burning, along with their traditions and lore. I have been part of Cebu’s Best during my younger years and I am proud the present descendants behaved like one. I am also elated to know that their Girl Scout counterparts have partnered with Ham Radio Cebu and will earn themselves badges in amateur radio. Adelante!
Some photos courtesy of Markus Immer
Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer