Monday, January 16, 2017

WALK, CRAWL OR DISAPPEAR: The Test Thruhike of the Cebu Highlands Trail

HERE IS A LABOR OF LOVE: THE CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL.  It is served on a silver platter.  It is raw, full of imperfections, but it is there: long, beautiful and beckoning.  I could have been in another place but I choose to be at my rightful place as the progenitor of the Cebu Highlands Trail.  I will walk it for the very first time on January 17, 2017, from the shores of Liloan Point, Santander, all the way through Cebu’s northernmost tip, in Bulalaqui Point, Daanbantayan, our own “finisterre”.

It would be a crazy attempt.  Crazier than you would have thought it to be.  Blame that to the influence of both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, or even that of the Camino de Santiago.  You and I know that we could never hike through these Holy Grails of backpackers.  Not even in our wildest dreams.  Why make life complicated when we could enjoy a long hike here?  Cebu is just as perfect because of its elongated shape.  Although it is just a fraction of the AT and the PCT, you are assured of a dip in the sea after journey’s end.  Either ways.

Looking back, it never occurred to me that, one day, I would extend that dayhike that started from Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City on February 20, 2011 into a full-blown love affair called the Cebu Highlands Trail Project.  It became a means to an end: To expose the other side of Cebu to the other brand of tourism, with its natural shape, a very trying terrain and a warm tropical heat imposing its will on the more intrepid travellers which, unfortunately, not all could be.  

Adventure tourism in Cebu is not just about adrenaline rush and, certainly, it is not about elevation for we certainly have less.  It can be done here in irregular horizontal patterns with length, time and space painstakingly taking on your resolve.  There are no spectacular heights and no seas of clouds but there is just the distance and the weight on your back.  You get to know real people and witness rustic living that had changed little.  You go hungry as your food supply runs out but the beauty of the CHT is that you can retreat and then return to the last place of engagement.  Just like paying installments for a loan!

The CHT is about 408.29 Kilometers long with an elevation gain of 954 meters, according to Wikiloc, but it bends and turns and it goes up and down along the rugged and forbidding spines of the island province of Cebu.  During the exploration phase of its eight segments, navigation were done by traditional means only to keep people guessing and to raise its standing.  No GPS device was ever used.  All routes were later traced by hand and mouse and saved in Wikiloc and, therefore, inaccurate.

After the last few meters of the exploration had been achieved, preparing for the Thruhike was next.  Jonathaniel Apurado, my second in the CHT Exploration Team, would be joining me.  I had to knock on the hearts of friends, peers and business so I could raise funds to cover expenses for food, equipment, apparel, fares, fuel and other contingencies for this test Thruhike which would be about 27 to 32 days long.  After I have sorted out the itinerary, I was able to identify the needs of this month-long activity.

Derek Manuel of CLASSIC BLADE EXCHANGE, the preferred choice of Philippine preppers for imported blades, was the first to open his purse for this long hike, which is unprecedented yet in Cebu’s outdoor scene, even in its general history.  Then I had a meeting with Carlo Torres of GALILEO SATELLITE CONTROL SYSTEMS PHILIPPINES who was interested in helping Cebu tourism and he donated a Global Star GPS tracking device.  The gadget would give my location every five minutes in any Android or iPhone devices. 

On the other hand, TECH1 CORPORATION lent me two of their Versa Duo Radios for VHF signal propagation tests to the repeater station of Ham Radio Cebu located in Busay, Cebu City and other designated repeaters.  My outfitter, SILANGAN OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT, provided me the event jerseys and a couple of their elastic hiking pants while VIAJERO OUTDOOR CENTRE provided four pairs of high-quality hiking socks at a special price reserved, according to them, for those "who respect the outdoor and conservation efforts".

An alumnus of the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp of 2015, Niño Paul Beriales, shipped brand-new Jack Wolfskin hiking shoes to Cebu from the Middle East to be used for this Thruhike which is a good thing considering that all our existing shoes have seen good days exploring the different segments.  Same with Mark and Mirasol Lepon who provided us herbal supplements for our journey.  Another protegee, Michael Schwarz, sent a ThermaRest Ridge Runner sleep pad for camp comfort.  Lani Perez of BAKHAWAN BEACH HOME would again host me when I will be in Daanbantayan.

From places here and abroad, goodhearted individuals and friends donated part of their blessings for the purchase of the Thruhike’s need.  The list is long yet these deserve printed here for they are the very people which I am also indebted to and for which I most dearly give away my appreciation and thanks like Amado Olmedo, Juliet Molina, Val Espina, Lester Padriga, Atty. Jose Marie Gochangco of GV HOTELS, Morgan Kanae, Aljew Frasco of TITAY’S LILOAN ROSQUILLOS & NATIVE DELICACIES, Jose Neo and the CAMP RED BUSHCRAFT & SURVIVAL GUILD, Bruce Ragas, Wilma Rellora and Emerson Benoza.  

Another PIBC 2015 alumnus like Locel Navarro, created the design as well as shouldered the printing of the CHT event banner; while internationally-renowned layout artist, Ronald Abella, took care of the designs for the commemorative t-shirt, badge and sticker, and facilitated our event press release for a local newspaper.  On the other hand, Randy Salazar negotiated with PARK N’ GO BAKESHOP on my behalf, so bread will be part of our food supply.

Markus Immer will personally drive his own vehicle, at his cost, to deliver our food and other needs during rendezvous points at the following places and dates in Mantalongon, Dalaguete on January 21; Lutopan, Toledo City on January 26; Lawaan, Danao City on February 1; Tabili, Catmon on February 5; and Labangon, Tabogon on February 8.  I favored the rendezvous method since the CHT does not have the infrastructure yet to host food depots.

Fellow outdoor bloggers came to pitch in their help by promoting the CHT like Gian Carlo Jubela and Sheila Mei of ADRENALINE ROMANCE, Ven Ap of MOUNTAIN STORIES and Andrea Gaurana of SHOESTRING XAYD, spreading this good news to hikers, mountaineers, travellers and subscribers, who all had been following the exploration updates with noteworthy articles; of sourcing potential sponsors; even personally parting their own blessings.

This test Thruhike, is recognized by the CEBU PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT, this after my meeting with the Honorable Governor Hilario P. Davide III and Provincial Tourism Officer, Mr. Joselito Costas, last November 25, 2016, turned out well and cordial.  The meeting also touched on the possible collaboration of the Province of Cebu on a book that I am currently writing – A WARRIOR’S PILGRIMAGE: THE MAKING OF THE CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL.  The result of the Thruhike will nail the last chapter for this book, hopefully.

There will be guest hikers that will come with us but they could only choose a route either from Liloan, Santander to Mantalongon, Dalaguete in southern Cebu or from Guadalupe, Cebu City to Lawa-an, Danao City at the start of the northern leg.  Then some will spend a single night in camp to keep us company.  They will come from here and from other places and all will experience of what to expect if ever they would come back to engage in their own Thruhike of the CHT.

After this Thruhike, I believe, the Cebu Provincial Government has the last say on whether they would perpetuate this long trail for tourism or ignore it.  It would need good capital and the involvement of both the local government units and upland communities to maintain and enhance the CHT into a better one.  Perhaps, it would be logical to welcome Cebu’s outdoor community also, as part of the stakeholders for, from them, comes their know-how in the CHT’s future refinement, and their capacity to bring in tourists catered to this activity comes without question.   

As for me, I have done my share of connecting all the routes into one long trail worthy of its place in the books of the international backpacking circuit which were started and accomplished at my own initiative and inspiration.  It was a very laborious task fraught with unexpected circumstances that would melt away enthusiasm.  I dug deep into my ancestral roots and the skills, creativity and audacity that go with it.  I persevered and I succeeded.  It is my privilege then to test my creation before opening it to the community at large.

It is worth mentioning also that I could not have had accomplished this were it not for God’s kindness, protection and guidance in my walk through the wilderness of my soul and the real landscape; my wife and family who have to go through dire straits as I focused all my energies into this; my Exploration Team composed of Jonathaniel Apurado, Justin Apurado, Jovahn Ybañez and Fritz Bustamante who sacrificed family time and work like me; and my Base Support Team comprising of Jose Neo and Chad Bacolod who went out of their way to deliver the message.

Likewise, the unceasing support in the past coming from Alvin John Osmeña, Glen Domingo, Lavilles Family of Australia, Alan Poole, App Ops Philippines, Harold Butanas, Amaya Montecalvo, Ham Radio Cebu, Rommel Mesias, Melo Sanchez, Jeremiah Dayto, Glenn Pestaño, Drinox’s Kitchen, the Quijano Family, Matthew de Leon, Zue Fashion, Tactical Security Agency, PAC Outdoor Gear and Cirilo Toledo are most valued.  They all deserve the same recognition and acknowledgment for the success of this Project.

After I will have reached the end of this Thruhike – that would be in Bulalaqui Point – I would place a small token from the beach of Santander and begin a new tradition for Thruhikers in this part of the world.  It is a legacy I am leaving for soon I would grow obsolete and old.  My pilgrimage would soon be also yours and no one could deny your own adventure.  The CHT will stay.  I believe so.

- - - - - - - - -
Postscript:  I would like to offer slots for those who would like to join me on the northern leg of the CHT on the following routes:

        Guadalupe, Cebu City to Mt. Manunggal, Balamban
January 30 and 31.  Campsites Mt. Tongkay and Mt. Manunggal.

        Lawaan, Danao City to Caurasan, Carmen
        February 3 and 4.  Campsite Bangkito, Tuburan.

        Malingin, Bogo City to Bakhawan, Medellin
February 11.  Dayhike.

        Bakhawan, Daanbantayan to Bulalaqui Point, Daanbantayan
February 13 and 14.  Campsite Lanao, Daanbantayan.

Kindly contact Jhurds Neo in his Facebook account or his mobile phone number 923 880 8900 so he could properly brief and instruct you.  

Likewise for those who would want to spend a single night with us starting from Nug-as, Alcoy all the way to the north.  These are the camps:

       January 20 – Nug-as, Alcoy               January 21 – Mantalongon, Dalaguete
January 25 – Mantalongon, Barili         January 26 – Tubod, San Fernando
January 27 – Buot-Taup, Cebu City      January 31 – Mt. Manunggal
February 5 – Tabili, Catmon               February 8 – Labangon, Tabogon
February 10 – Malingin, Bogo City       February 11 – Bakhawan, Daanbantayan
February 13 – Lanao, Daanbantayan

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer


Michael Ignacio said...

wow, sarap neto...

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