Saturday, June 24, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 11 (Buot to Guadalupe)

I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN more happy today, January 27, 2017. It is because this is the day when I would put the southern leg of the Thruhike behind me. It is also home ground for me. Day Eleven promises to be something worth cherishing because, at the end of this day’s journey, I will be home. Who would not be? I aim to snare that two days rest incentive before proceeding on the northern leg. That two days rest would be good enough to check on the loose ends of my planning and preparations for the remainder of the Thruhike.

The two policemen from the Mabolo Police Station who have spent an overnight watch over us are leaving early to make their report to headquarters and to enjoy a well-deserved day off. I felt very grateful of this gesture and my thanks to them as well as to their superiors. Jonathaniel Apurado is making the breakfast soup as inviting as ever by adding shreds of spicy squid and cooking another fare of chorizo Bilbao. Washed it all with coffee and my last bottle of Yakult Cultured Milk.

After checking on my blisters, we packed our things as orderly as we had done many times before and made ready for downstairs to say thanks to the people of Buot, Cebu City, who had been a kind host for us. The sun had risen and warm but it is blotted out by Mount Samboryo and the Babag Mountain Range. We crossed the hanging bridge which spanned over the Bonbon River at 08:15 onto the other side. We follow a very very rough road until we reach a landmark and transferred to a trail.

We passed by a water source and filled full our water bottles. We will not cook meals anymore but we just want to ensure that we have adequate water to rehydrate. It is just insurance since I am planning of lightening up our loads by giving away our food along the way. The excitement of walking on my playground and of going home raised my adrenaline a bit and I have to control the mind lest I would break down midway. The trail goes up and up over places where you would not meet people.

I did meet people. A woman and his young son are going down to a school in Buot. The boy is already late for the morning session or maybe too early for the afternoon. Life to someone living on the hinterlands is really hard. The boy has to learn it the hard way, walking far to school and back to home, sometimes on an empty stomach. Most of the time, it rains, making it harder still to get that education. Some of these kids do not finish elementary and became what their parents were: marry young and rear many children.

Life is really unfair. We have these kids in the city pampered by their parents and who could not do things on their own. These kids took for granted electricity, tap water, instant food on the table, constant attention and good roads. They have the Internet and the malls to keep them entertained and allowance money to spend. I have a soft spot in my heart for folks living on the mountains. The Cebu Highlands Trail is designed to give them opportunity to meet people and tourists and nurture friendship and to widen their knowledge of the world that they do not know. This Thruhike is for them.

I am now over the obstacle called Mt. Samboryo and a saddle entices me to take a trail on a knife edge which do not appear to be one. Then there is a wide meadow where there is a lone house. The view is so breathtaking but my attention is only to a family living there. It seems the woman reared her three young girls all by herself. We left them our remaining food supply like rice, coffee, chocolate drinks, powdered juice, bread, biscuits, chorizo Bilbao, dried squids, Knorr soups, soy sauce, cooking oil, vinegar and our goodwill. My bag is strangely light now yet it really was charity and kindness which made it lighter.

She had remembered me from last December where me and some friends left chocolate bars and biscuits for her and her three girls so they will enjoy the spirit of Christmas, which is as alien as ET for folks like her who are in dire poverty. I know how it felt with an empty stomach everyday waiting for food to drop from out of the sky. In fact, she and her children were foraging for food among the deepest thickets when I came today. The woman was most grateful and my heart wept for I could do nothing more.

I am grateful too for Derek Manuel of Derek’s Classic Blade Exchange, Aljew Frasco of Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos, Atty. Jose Mari Gochanco of GV Tower Hotel, Lester Padriga, Juliet Molina, Adolfo Olmedo, Percival Espina, Atty. Bruce Ragas, Emerson Benoza, Gian Carlo Jubela and Sheila Mei Abellanosa of Adrenaline Romance, Wilma Rellora, Alvin John OsmeƱa, and the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, for opening up their purses so I could pursue this Thruhike with Doc Jon and to finance the food, fuel and other expenses needed. Without these fine gentlemen and ladies, I could not have shared something to our poorest brethren living in unimaginable circumstances.

This Thruhike, I began to discover, is an interesting and enriching experience. It is a pilgrimage of the heart and the spirit. My mind goes empty of worldly ideas and things and focuses only on the scenes at hand and on the people I met. There is so much to learn from what you see and hear along the route as much as people try to learn something from you. The silence of the hills is simply marvellous right at its wildest and emptiest stretches. This is what I experienced on the southern leg. The other half might be different or it might be more than that. I do not know but it remains to be seen soon.

The trail wove among hills and swidden farms until we came upon an experiment of man that was abandoned – a narrow rough road obliterated almost by rock falls. This road tries to wiggle its way to the other side of the mountain range but nature is, most of the time, a hard fellow to please. We follow it downhill, cross a stream that became wild just recently, walk more downhill and cross another stream. Across me is concrete pavement. I am now in a place called Bokawe, a part of Pamutan, Cebu City.

The endless rises of the road under the brunt of a sun approaching its highest zenith takes away your enthusiasm. I just place my concentration on the sound of my footfalls and take a quick peek every now and then of what goes ahead and around you. Dogs, as what we encountered before, do not like smelly and sweaty strangers. They barked with contempt at you and follow a few inches behind you until you could not take it anymore and feint to pick up a pebble and they would instantly leave you alone.

When I saw the last rise of the road, my last of the myriad of worries are almost over. It would all be downhill and easy. We arrive at a junction called Bagsakan, still a part of Pamutan, at exactly 12:00 and I called in rest. There is a store selling cold Sparkle and cooked food. I should have left my last energy bar to the girls if I know I could eat lunch here. We did not know that the village chairman of Pamutan, Ronaldo Labitad, was expecting us. It was not difficult for him to spot us. His guess was right: sweaty and smelly guys wearing blue CHT jerseys with big backpacks.

Just as were were talking with him, a policeman from the Guadalupe Police Station arrived on a motorcycle. PO1 Gerald Ytom knew me instantly the moment he laid eyes on me, not because I was the one they were assigned to watch over but because I was his superior when he was working with a security agency that I was tasked to oversee by the owners. He was happy to see me jobless now but I am most happy that he is now a public servant, a peacekeeper. I taught him well in my monthly meetings and that made a big difference. I am proud of his present standing in life.

At 13:00, we have to go down the road to Baksan, part of Sapangdaku, Cebu City. PO1 Ytom rode ahead of us and back and so forth. Other cops joined him when we reach Baksan at 14:30. By now, they could do nothing more as I will be switching on a trail that goes all the way to Guadalupe, Cebu City. Their motorcycles are only good on roads. The silence of the trails is most welcome again at hours were you would not meet people. Before doing that, I part away my trail mix of nuts, coated chocolates, marshmallows and raisins to a group of children and you should see their happy faces.

The trail is very much familiar to me. I discovered this in 2009 and I enjoyed its pristine solitude. It is a forest really but you would not know it because it is blocked by the Banawa Hills if you happen to be standing on any street of Metro Cebu. This part is very shady with many fruit-bearing trees growing. Today I saw no fruit but it have started to flower. The route goes out to a bare hill and passes a World War II tunnel and a steel power pylon before it goes down to a street.

We reach finally the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at 15:40. I genuflected before the wide doors of the church and said my thanks to Providence. A few seconds after, Markus Immer of the Supply Team came with his Toyota Hilux to pick us up. First, we have to celebrate with toasts of the coldest beer. I missed the cold beer which I denied many times along the route where it was available. The first bottle became a second bottle and it is now late in the afternoon.

During the interim of our celebration, Doc Jon proposed to me to have photos of me and him right on the front steps of the Cebu Provincial Capitol, the seat of the Cebu Provincial Government. We have to wear again our sweaty CHT jerseys and the great backpacks and stood side by side a road marker which says “Kilometer 0” before a busy street where commuters look amused at our sweaty and burdened appearance. We have taken the southern leg and we are entitled to that two days rest.

Distance Walked: 13.7 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 571 meters and a low of 57 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

No comments: