Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 6 (Mantalongon to Balaas)

IT IS A COLD DAY AND IT IS DECIDED that Jingaling Campomanes, Mark Lepon, Christian Tan and Glyn Formentera would not walk with us today, January 22, 2017. They were planning to separate from us once we reach the foot of Mount Kandung-aw but plans changed as easily as water shifts its current. The artificial mood of yesterday left. Back to reality, of walking the Thruhike with only Jonathaniel Apurado as companion. We do not speak often because I walk far ahead of him. We only converse during rests and with locals. The Thruhike is not a jolly activity, it is solitude.

The Thruhike then is a pilgrimage of silence, imposed on you by no one else, except, by you. Seriously, the Thruhike is thought to be an amazing journey of the self through places where your soul would want itself to be – in the serenity of the hills. I can not yet decipher the intrinsic value of the Thruhike for I am yet at Day Six and the hardest parts are yet to come, although five days of hiking are daunting enough. I will soon arrive at places where either my will, my patience or my determination will be stretched thin or pressed hard. I have experienced these often during the early explorations of the Cebu Highlands Trail and I was fortunate it had a short time frame of three to five days. But this is different. This is 27 days!

After saying my appreciation and thanks to the officials of Mantalongon, Dalaguete, we set off at 08:30. The weather is almost Baguio weather, cool and very mild. A thick cloud dropped a wispy shower that vanished instantly as it began. Sunday is a day of rest for most of Cebu and the rest of the world. For most people visiting the outdoors, it is a trip to peaks, beaches or waterfalls. For most destinations, people are expected, whether on official routes or on “backdoors”. In a Thruhike, or for that matter, explorations, you are viewed with suspicion since you are not supposed to be there or there are no precedents of people turning their places into tourist destinations.

Sunday is then a day which I considered very much with importance in my itinerary. This is the Thruhike’s first and I designed it that we walk today for Balaas, Argao. Whether we arrive early or late, it does not matter, for people there are already familiar with us. We spent a night there last February 20, 2015 after a lengthy explanation. We were then in the middle of the Segment III Exploration Hike and the late afternoon brought us to there. It ended well and, today, it would not be difficult to obtain their goodwill again.

There is no other way to walk the “Vegetable Highway” except on pavements. As of today, I cannot see a good reason yet to find a trail to Argao. I see many and they criss-cross deep valleys and climb over hillsides, which might be romantic but impractical due to its difficulty. Whoever designed this road was a genius and this road was not made when things were started to be ran by people “running the country like hell”. It was designed and constructed by someone who belonged to a country that was supposed to “run this country like heaven”, if you quote a dead president’s statements which does not make sense.

However, I see such two options in a future shift of paths. The first would enter Argao through the Cambantug Mountain Range, cross the Salug River over to Cansuje, Argao and go north to Alumbijud, Argao. The other would be that you would have to go to the side of Badian from Osmeña Peak, follow a route over the mountain ridges that connect with that of Argao which are dotted with coal mines and pockets of lawless enclaves. If I could have started the explorations 10 or 20 years ago, I would have not been wandering on roads but on trails. The fact that I started this epiphany in 2011 and finished it only in 2016, is a testament of that shortcoming plus, another fact, that I have no big corporate backing or a team of corporate personalities.

You would have to appreciate of what I did in completing my explorations of finding a route for the CHT, which no one had ever done before on the island province of Cebu, without support, except from a few notable individuals like Alvin John Osmeña, Aljew Frasco and Jose Mari Gochangco, who believed in what I was doing. And you would also have to appreciate me even more of my boldness to go on a Thruhike of a CHT that was not even made and documented with the benefit of a global positioning satellite system but on the premise of memory borne out of the quirks of traditional navigation.

Anyway, this memory brought me to the sixth day in such progress and precision as good as using a GPS. The week-long rain that happened before I started the Thruhike had left its mark on the appearance of this road. Just repaved with solid concrete, rockfalls from above and landslides undermining below threaten people who use this. It is simply dangerous to use this road for the moment. We are forced to walk on the outer edges, a safe distance from a rock fall, of even a size of a thumbnail, could be life threatening if it falls directly on the head.

Hazardous that might be but one village seems to live with that. On the road to Ablayan, Dalaguete are many small banners placed on both sides of the road, aside from three bigger ones strung across, declaring a fiesta celebration. People were in a festive mood and screams of pigs were heard everywhere up a hill or down a gully. The road wove on more hazards but not that many anymore yet this is one scenic stretch highlighting the valleys around Mantalongon as the “Breadbasket of Cebu”. We arrive at Maloray, Dalaguete at 10:30 and you will see many little rice terraces planted with an upland variety.

Mount Kandung-aw towered over us but we had been there in February 2015 and is now included as one of the interesting features of the CHT. The peak is a good alternative to spend a weekend in these parts and would relieve the pressure off the very popular Mount Osmeña from local tourists. We walk on and we see a lot of people waiting for porters to carry their goods over the other side of the road since a big part of the road was swept away by the rains of early January. Likewise, farm produce were dumped here coming over from the other side where it is loaded onto trucks while motorcycles waited on both sides. Ah, commerce.


We crossed the chasm nimbly as locals do while a few motorcycles braved the slippery and steep stretch. Since we covered so much ground in the morning, I deem it necessary to take our noonbreak as early as 10:55 since the mild climate changed into warmth. I munch on two pieces Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos, six pieces of Park N Go Bakeshop bread, a Nutribar and my jumble of trail food. With water I popped in a Herbalife Natural Raw Guarana capsule into my mouth and watch three locals walk past me with big baskets at their backs, carrying 70-80 kilos of vegetable pears, cauliflowers and carrots supported with tumplines to their head. This road made their lives bearable.

At 12:00, we proceed up the road. We saw another road joining the ones we are following. The junction got washed and a temporary patchwork of rocks and concrete were arranged to hold the earth above it but got washed again. It looks scary and that is why I saw no trucks parked on this side from the chasm we crossed. This road goes up to Badian while our direction goes to Argao. We stop by a new parish somewhere in Manlapay, Dalaguete where parishioners in their Sunday’s best just came out from a church service. The rest took longer, since there is a shady spot and a cold Sparkle to beat the heat as Jon enjoyed talking with the locals.

The journey continues into the heart of Manlapay, the last village of Dalaguete, and then into Argao. At a road corner going to Balaas, Argao, I immediately dispatch a text message to the Argao Police Station so they will be informed of our presence and our activity. We arrive at Balaas at 13:40 where the honorable barangay chairman, Ricardo Gonzaga, and the village council welcomed us. They expected us at 16:00 since that was the one indicated on our itinerary but we somewhat have developed wings on our heels. Or is it that I just made this day’s schedule conservatively kind?

Why are we expected along the way? Well I found it out the hard way early in my exploration hikes, especially at San Fernando during Segment II which was done last March 2012. Since then, I made it necessary to make my activities known by sending out letters to Capitol and to the Cebu Police Provincial Office but, sometimes, it does not give assurance like what happened during the last day of Segment VII last August 2016 in Daanbantayan. To make my Thruhike seamless, I made a courtesy call on the Honorable Governor Hilario P. Davide III last November 25, 2016 and the rest is history.

Under the protective shelter of the barangay hall, we claimed our billet area. We released all the stress of the day and just enjoyed the stillness of rest. Across us is the view of the wide Salug River Valley, the Cambantug Mountain Range and Mount Lantoy. We are treated as guests and a plastic tray with cold Sparkles and bread came our way courtesy of Hon. Gonzaga and the people of Barangay Balaas. We arrived early and the early rest benefited our feet. We are now in the middle of the southern leg and we made good progress. Tomorrow would be different. We would be expected at Sibonga and it would be a long day.

Distance Walked: 13.47 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 793 meters and a low of 502 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

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