Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MOUNT BOKATOL

I ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT WHEN you show goodwill among our brethren living on the mountains, trails and paths which lay unknown to you for years, would be given to you on a silver platter. You will be surprised because you will not be doing the asking. In fact, the asking will be from them. From them.

You might wonder why I have so much complete mastery and knowledge among our mountain trails here in Cebu? It is this line of thought that I follow. With all sincerity, of course. Since we transferred our May and December outreach events, respectively called Who Put the “N” in Nature and Christmas United, to Baksan in 2015, each year we get to explore a new route.

This year, which actually falls on the last days of 2016 – December 30 – I will be again following the wake of a local guide. Coming along is the full force of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. We would not be doing dirt-time this time but just a hike in the woods, an exercise to purge off party fats incurred during the Christmas season.



For me, it is an ongoing preparation for my Thruhike of Cebu which would commence in a fortnight or so. The opportunity of following the guide gives me the luxury of knowing the information about water sources, interesting plants and people, place names and the lore associated with the places we passed by. The same information that I would be doing for myself from no other than me starting January 17.

Right now, I am balancing on a series of boulders along Sapangdaku Creek as ably as my aging knees could accommodate as I try to keep up with the pace of the guide. The guide brought us upstream. People are washing clothes along the stream, some taking a bath. It is so interesting to see rural life this close in a city as big and modern like Metro Manila.

From the streambed we follow retaining walls wide enough to be used as a path by locals and reach the Sapangdaku Spillway. People are washing their motorcycles here and a petroleum tanker crew washed the insides of the big tank, the sludge and hydrocarbon effluents mixing in with the flowing stream towards where people are washing and bathing.



Nobody from the government have thought of watching the streams. Of even placing a simple environmental signage to create awareness among the populace. Cleaning a vehicle, much less, a petroleum tanker is a health hazard to the poor folks who still use the stream for washing and bathing. I have even seen an open well downstream which the folks still used for domestic use.

From the spillway, another problem emerged upstream. Asphalt slabs from a repaved road nearby were dumped along the riverside, constricting the channel and the flow of water. That is dangerous! It would create another water channel when a strong current of flood water cascades down from the mountains and there are a lot of houses infringing on the easements.

It opened my eyes to these problems here. Nobody was thinking. Not even the safety engineers of the construction gang nor the operators of the petroleum tanker nor the barangay officials who are supposed to look over these things. I pity at the standards of our safety education. People should be informed of these lapses in judgment and procedures, committing to that lazy Filipino trait of looking at and doing things as in “Pwede Na”. Good enough. Good gracious!



The broken asphalt pavements became another dry path to navigate the stream and we stop for a while on a local artisan whom I know simply as Paket. Paket is a wood carver and a furniture maker. His carved work, especially blade handles and sheaths are masterpieces which is appreciated in our small bushcraft community. We exposed his craft in Facebook and survivalists in Luzon begins to appreciate his work too and so have given him an extra earning.

Continuing our river walk, we pass by under a bamboo bridge that I had not thought existed. It is private property and we push on until we came upon a part where there is a tiny stream joining the Sapangdaku. The place is called Amia. There is a trail and the guide start to follow it. It is a good trail and only the locals knew of its existence until today. I saw some familiar signs that it had been used before by the “other people”.

We are quite privileged to have been led to this place and we will keep it a secret, hoping it would have a strategic importance to me if ever our country will be invaded by a foreign power. Of course, I have countless other locations, too numerous to mention, which I could convert into redoubts and can be connected with each other by a flexible line of communication. My trysts into the mountains is not just about recreation, it is also planning for the future.



I do not trust a big bully across the sea who keeps on gobbling up islets and rocks and reefs as theirs even though it is within our exclusive economic zone. Then we have a national leadership who seem to acquiesce to these dastardly activities by undoing the efforts of the previous administration before the International Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which favored our claim.

I intend to use these places when SHTF comes and I intend to resist invasions from there. I do not see a soul. Not yet. Maybe during the season of ripe mangoes and star apples. Moving up the trail, I see an abandoned camp. It belonged to mango sprayers. Mangoes in Cebu are sprayed regularly with chemicals to induce it to flower and bear fruit beyond the natural cycle of only once a year. They do it thrice and thrice the gain. Greed!

Over the years bottles and plastic packaging of chemicals are littered everywhere together with discarded rubber hose and empty plastic drums. A cheap laminated nylon sheet houses a crude shelter while another sheet is converted into a water reservoir filled with water from a small stream that is tapped through a PVC hose. I am tempted to burn the whole place but I would not compromise my guide’s goodwill. And I intend to go back.



I checked my temper but I took pictures. A lot of people surely would not like what I saw if ever I post this in a social network site. Maybe an environmental watchdog or NGO would notify concerned government agencies when they see these photos. Maybe not. But in Facebook, attention comes in short notice by the act of fingers doing the talking. Almost everybody has an Android phone and the dance of fingers on glass is swift and loud.

That done, we proceed. We pass by what seemed to be an abandoned hut but dogs barked at some distance and came hurrying to our location. A little later, the owner talked to our guide. Later, beyond hearing distance, the guide warned us that the man is suspected to be a witch. At this knowledge, the pace quickened.

We arrive at a spot where a motocross event was held last month. It is a good place for picnics since it has benches and net hammocks and kind of breezy. It has a good view of the city and has lots of shades. We are now on the other side of the mountain. This can be accessed from Baksan Road and a path had been widened to allow motorcycles here. This is perfect place to rest long and cook our meal.



Everyone retrieved their cook pots, the food ingredients and their prized knives. After dumping the ingredients and my blackened pots, I left them for awhile to have a look of the whole place. I found a bench under a wide shade and enjoyed the view of the metropolis, the harbor and the islands. There is a good supply of breeze and, instantly, I forgot everything. I could not resist Ms. Slumber.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, I awakened. I napped for about fifteen minutes and that is well. I rejoined the group and they were in the middle of their coffee time. A pot is instantly refilled with water and boiled. I waited for my own coffee time but, when it do came, I had it one after the other. Stories and laughter filled the ridgetop masking hungry stomachs whose owners took a lot of quick glances on the hearth.

In meals done by the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, it is never a boring moment. It is always warm, cooked in real fires, and it is always a feast no matter if it is done on a beautiful day or under the onslaught of storms. There is the main dish of mixed-vegetable soup and pork liver estofado and the side dish of fried anchovies and raw cucumbers in vinegar with either plain rice or milled corn to pair those. And it is 13:15, perfect time to tease gastric juices.

After 15 minutes, I open coconuts with my AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife for beverage and desserts with its meat. Feeling refreshed and knowing that we must continue our journey, we cemented our moment here with our good old tradition of the blade porn. A decaying log becomes a spiny caterpillar with all those knife points pierced on its surface standing up. I am just amazed at how such a small activity could start a lively conversation all its own.

We begin packing and everyone are ready to walk once more and fulfill that chance to climb Mount Bokatol. This peak is a solitary one and no one except the locals visit the montain. It is steep on all sides but there used to be a trail according to the guide. We left this nice place and follow a trail that goes through a forested part where there are more mango trees, a concentration of grapefruit and star apple trees.

Then we came upon a patch of horse radish planted in straight lines. We have to weave among the trunks and branches on sloping terrain, afraid to disarrange a tangle of small leaves. The invisible path goes down a steep slope where there are no handholds except maybe some slender cassava trunks. The guide was walking it straight down. I find it hard to keep pace even if I am agile enough but I worry those who are not used to this kind of terrain.

We reach a saddle and Mt. Bokatol would be somewhere over the top but the path is strewn with thick vegetation and it is straight up. The ground is loose but we have handholds to halt our downward slide. A long vine becomes a lifeline of would-be Tarzans, sturdy enough to hold the weight of a man as heavy as my own. By 15:10, everyone have scaled the peak.

On any topographical map of Cebu City, it is measured at 301 meters, almost a thousand feet. Half-buried is an old concrete marker and there is a new one, as tall as a man, painted with yellow bands. On the side where we came from are a teeming ecosystem of jungle tangle and, on the other side of the tall marker, is a man-made forest of Burma teak, dead and silent.

Remembering the guide’s tale that it was used by the Americans as a machinegun pillbox, I looked for traces of it. A hole on the ground confirms my find. It was changed in size by “treasure hunters”, hoping to find that elusive Yamashita loot. On the government side of the peak is a trail going down to who knows where. We go down it and the ground is more loose in the absence of grass. Forests planted with exotic trees do not permit healthy diversity and it is bald forever under its branches.

I saw traces of recent motorcycle activity here. Somebody was trying to climb Mt. Bokatol using this route and failed. He could not get past another hole on the ground where a step-like two-meter high ground divides the rest of the trail. On foot it was easy to navigate because you can hold on to the trunks for balance. I go down another saddle and it looked familiar.

On this saddle lay the trail to a steep ridge running perpendicular to the Sapangdaku Creek and the Guadalupe-Kalunasan Circumferential Road which goes all the way to Napo. I found this place in 2009 and have used the trails here during some weekends, the last itme in January 2015. This used to be thickly forested but now only Burma teaks remain standing. A path gently goes to Baksan Road and we made our exit, going all the way to the Sapangdaku Spillway and, lastly, Guadalupe.

Document done LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

No comments: