Friday, June 16, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Days 9 and 10 (Mantalongon to Buot)

DAY NINE ::::: I WOKE UP TO A FIERY SUNRISE from the vantage of the upper level of the village hall that we stayed in last night. Jonathaniel Apurado was already up and he has regained his strength from the struggles of the early days of the Thruhike. He has adjusted to the rigors of the hike under adverse conditions as well as to the load he is carrying. I had begun to call him Doc Jon after he treated my feet blisters last night and, likely so, for today – January 25, 2017.

Day Eight was a longer day than the one before that and the comfort and rest we got here at Mantalongon, Barili was good enough to stave off the fatigue that went with it and revitalized our mood and enthusiasm for today. A breakfast of Knorr soup and rice tells me otherwise. The blisters on my toes are dressed up after the meal and the feet is housed in another pair of clean socks. In the old days, I used to encounter blisters on the insides of my thighs but I am wiser now. I wear elastic undershorts now and “de-salinize” it every night if I ever wear it for three straight days. Then I changed into a clean pair like today.

Walking with us today would be Willy Muit, the village councilor whom we met yesterday who was on the lookout of us. He would accompany us up to the boundary between Barili and Carcar City. Joining him is his fellow councilor, Jun Mag-usara, and a local peace officer, Glen Paras. Willy and Jun were in athletic attire. They walked fast by the time we hit the road at 08:10, nonchalant about the heavy bags we carried. We have to keep pace with them on the paved road. I sent a text message in advance to the Carcar City Police Station informing them of our presence, for very soon we would again be in their area.

We arrive at the boundary of Guadalupe, Carcar City but Willy and Jun enjoyed the morning exercise that it extended all the way to a place called Tapal, located in Valencia, Carcar City. By then, at 09:00, we are on our own. I walk by memory as the hike on nice paved roads begets nothing from me but uneasiness. It just does not fit being called a trail as in the Cebu Highlands Trail although it was a trail long ago. The weather is strangely warm with few clouds to shade us. We are now primed up by the swift pace we had with the village councilors early in the day that maintaining it was the best thing to do for, by 10:30, we are now at Buenavista, Carcar City.

We took our second rest here and doused the parched thirst with cold bottles of RC Cola. Our rests are also opportunities to talk with the locals and it helped to our cause. Their familiarity of their places are so valuable. Nevertheless, we have to proceed as the day is still long and our next night stopover would be quite far. I reviewed my itinerary and it says: Noonbreak at Buenavista, Carcar. Campsite at Tubod, San Fernando. It seems we arrived too early to enjoy a noonbreak at Buenavista. I would again tamper my itinerary and find a good place ahead for that well-deserved break.

We arrive at Calidngan, Carcar City at 11:30 but I saw a good shady area with a big log to sit upon. Nearby is a well where women wash clothes. It is a cool oasis under the brunt of a noontime sun. We took our Spartan lunch of four pieces Park N Go bread, a Fitbar and my trail mix of coated chocolates, different nuts, marshmallows and dried raisins. Popped in afterward a Herbalife Natural Raw Guarana capsule to keep me from drowsing. I have to wait the one hour to pass before we proceed to the next.

The road that we had been walking on once we left the concreted ones are a combination of asphalt and unpaved. The Jack Wolfskin shoes provided by Niño Paul Beriales worked very well in different conditions. It is very light and it dries quickly. After eight days of walking it had been properly broken but not after bruising my feet with a blister each. I am aware of that and it is properly dressed up. Once we reach the next night stopover, I would have it washed again by Doc Jon and smeared with calamine ointment.

The warmth is beginning to be felt. Moments like this gives a calm sea to a fisherman. I am shielding my face and head with a camouflaged sniper’s veil. I find the veil too versatile for a mere hat and I look good with it on photos. The dark sunglasses provided by Zue Fashion worked well on very glaring moments and protected my eyes from UV rays. The road goes up again and we saw once again two men carrying big cabinets on their backs whom we met yesterday at Bae, Sibonga. After a brief happy conversation, we passed by a beautiful rice field in a hidden valley. We are now entering the mountain boundary of Balungag, San Fernando. It is 13:12.

I crossed a spillway where a herd of swamp buffaloes are cooling on a water hole. I sent another text message for the San Fernando Police Station about our presence. Up ahead is a rustic view of a rough road with coconut palms lining it reminiscent of an old photo of Cebu I had seen that was taken in the 1930s. I am beginning to like it even though it is utterly warm. Nobody is in sight and that is better. Locals usually stay in their houses at this hour glued to their AM transistor radio listening to a popular drama series called Handumanan sa Usa ka Awit. Those that were not, are alarmed at our presence. Either they would ask us what are we selling or we get just get a hard stare.

When I saw a small chapel, I hastened my pace. I thought I am in Tubod, San Fernando this early at 13:30 and it would be a bonus for me since I could do a courtesy call and a long rest after that but I was wrong. I was still in Balungag. Nevertheless, we stopped to join a couple of locals enjoying an early afternoon recreation of drinking palm wine in a cool and shady part. We bought a jug of “tuba” for ourselves from Teresito Tangente and began to talk about a local work blade that he owns. It is called a “butetehon” and is made by a local blacksmith named Fredo Yangyang.

After sitting for 15 minutes, we decide to retrace our route and proceed to Tubod which we reach at 14:30. I do not like the reception I got today. I have bad memories of this place. It happened during the Segment II Exploration Hike in March 2012. There are still places here in Cebu which do not welcome outsiders as much as you would like them to embrace openness. When I made my itinerary, I cannot find a better place to stay during Day Nine except in Tubod. It has a good water source and has nice places to set up a campsite. It had also become familiar with me.

I was hoping that my meeting with municipal tourism officers in early January would enlighten people of our presence on the places where we would pass or stay. There was a breakdown of communication somewhere. My constant updates to the different stations were done to protect us, first and foremost, and to remove any suspicions of our presence. Of course, how could two people who walked for nine days across mountains and burdened by heavy loads and blistered feet threaten the peace and order situation of communities? It is like seeing the banana eating the monkey.

I have to change my itinerary pronto. I will go further along the route to look for that safe refuge. We left Tubod and follow the trail that I loved to call as the “Carabao Highway”, which would lead me to the boundary road of Pinamungahan and San Fernando. We arrive at the road at 15:30 and properly dished out a text message for the Pinamungahan Police Station. In the waning hours of the day, we doubled our pace down the trail to Sibago, Pinamungahan, churning kilometer after kilometer bound for Lamac, Pinamugahan. We reach it at exactly 17:45 but found the village hall already closed.

In dusk we walk up a steep road where the Hidden Valley Mountain Resort is located. I have cash prepared for any unforeseen event, thanks to my donors. We booked a room after a wait of a half hour. The facility has free WIFI and I enjoyed the liberty of updating our hike to friends, sponsors and followers. We have airconditioning but we toned it down to fan. We cook our food inside and eat a silent dinner. The stress was great for this day. This has got to be the longest day. I have not mentioned that I have developed blisters on both my shoulders when we were approaching San Fernando.

The blisters on both of my big toes are throbbing with pain as the old dressings are removed. It is smeared with calamine ointment. My shoulders are treated. On a soft warm bed, I wrote the day’s activity on my journal, as I had done in all the days, recording the times I sent messages to the police stations in every municipality we passed by. Same with the weather and places we stopped to rest which I sent to the base support team. I am tempted to take a bath but I saved it for tomorrow. The room starts to feel warm and Doc Jon flipped it forward to Low Cool. An early rest on a soft bed is the most sensible thing to do.

Distance Walked: 25.43 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 293 meters and a low of 57 meters

DAY TEN ::::: I TOOK A BATH FOR ONLY the second time on this southern leg of the Thruhike. I am fresh but sooner or later I would smell again like hell and get sweaty. I do not care. This IS the Thruhike! There is not much I can do for that but give a big smile and a wide berth. We checked out at 08:00 from the Hidden Valley Mountain Resort after a different breakfast of Japanese miso soup and rice. As every after breakfasts, capsules of multivitamins and Herbalife raw guarana extract are swallowed along with Yakult cultured milk. My blistered feet are swelling and I decide to have it covered with small adhesive plasters. It goes its painful cycle of healing.

We leave Lamac, Pinamungahan at 08:25 with heavy burdens and thinner pockets. The road took us higher and higher and on some stretches of scenic views until we were on the boundary of Bunga, Toledo City. We passed by Lake Poog and then the bigger Lake Bunga which is drained of water to accommodate rice farms. I stop by at 10:15 to see how Antonio Vergara is doing and to shoot a text message to the Toledo City Police Station. He was my guide on the Segment II Exploration Hike which we start from Lutopan, Toledo City to Mantalongon, Barili that ended at Mantayupan Falls, Barili in March 2012.

I learned that he suffered a mild stroke which made him slightly incapacitated. We decide to part to him our unused powdered turmeric tea and, for his grandchildren, baked products from Park N Go Bakeshop. He seems healthy than the last time I saw him. He is ecstatic to know that he had contributed something so grand like the Cebu Highlands Trail where it is realized now with this Thruhike. I would have loved to stay for the whole day to talk of the old days but time is too precious to me right now because of this piece of paper called the “itinerary”.

We arrive at the national highway that linked Toledo City with Naga City, cross it, and we are now at Don Andres Soriano, Toledo City, which was known formerly as Lutopan. It is very warm. Maybe because we are walking on concrete pavements or maybe that there are no trees to shade us on our late morning walk. Our food plan for this day is lunch with real food and we got it at exactly 12:00 from a stall vending food on the village plaza near a big gymnasium. The progressive village and the city of Toledo derived its income and its progress from a big copper mine operating here.

After a rest from the overwhelming warmth of a noontime sun, we proceed at 13:00 for Cantabaco, Toledo City and took rest at Lower Camp 8, Toledo City at 14:30. An old woman, who says she lived alone at Upper Camp 8, stopped by to ask us of what we are doing here? She must have been curious about our attractive CHT jerseys and our big bags. When she asked us for food, we were happy to part her our coins worth around 45 pesos. It brought her a big smile since she had not have a meal this day but she has to walk many kilometers to buy food at Lutopan and back to her home.

I am sad at the old woman. Life is hard when you are living alone and frail. After 20 minutes of rest, we proceed to Camp 7, Minglanilla and arrived there at 15:30 where I dished out a text message to their police station to let them know of our presence. We were now in a man-made forest when a group of young people came running after us. They surmised that we were the ones on a Thruhike and they have guessed well. Our CHT jerseys and backpacks were a dead giveaway and so were our smell. They are the young bureaucrats called the “Eco Warriors”, which is the pride and joy of Boboi Costas of the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office.

Their presence in Camp 7 were to study the flora and fauna here and it was just a coincidence that our paths crossed. A young woman did an impromptu interview of me while a male colleague of hers took a video. After that, all five of them had their photos taken together with me and Doc Jon. A motorcycle rider with full-faced helmet happened to pass by as we were posing before the camera and I had a reunion of sort with a classmate, Noe Rondina, whom I have not seen for some 20 years. Such coincidences glued our feet on one place while the minutes ticked by. I have to break from this impasse but, as all good things that went well, it flowed through its course seamlessly.

We arrived at the tri-boundary of Minglanilla, Talisay City and Cebu City and I had a cold Sparkle to douse the thirst caused by heat and stress and promptly sent off text messages to Cebu City’s tourism officer, Punky Oliverio, and its police headquarters. It is now 16:00 and too few daylight and government hours to make it to Buot, Cebu City. The paved road going there is on rolling terrain but, once we reach a place called Odlom, it would all be downhill and partly paved, which would help to our cause. Our pace hastened and it increased when it goes downhill on that almost abandoned road.

The road is cut off by a brisk creek but, once we are on the other side, the funny looking road beside the Bonbon River just tossed us later to the doorstep of their barangay hall. It is 17:55, almost an hour beyond official government hours but their office is still open. I half-believed we were expected but the staff has to go about the full details like counter checks, confirmations and several phone calls. I am supposed to be in home territory but I seemed to be the one speaking a different language. Or maybe them. I am tired and rest could wait until the green light glowed, which it did after almost an hour.

I thought I would finally see another banana eating the monkey but it was just a thought. It went well and we were assigned a room in the third level, with bathroom and running water. I would have loved to take a bath but, what the heck, tomorrow would be the last day of the Thruhike’s southern leg. The Thruhike will enjoy a temporary stopover once it reaches Guadalupe, Cebu City and we will also enjoy that two days rest promised to us by the itinerary. The room is wide but we preferred to sleep on the floor with our sleep pads.

Doc Jon cooked spicy Korean noodles while I made myself busy stirring an Extra Joss energy drink and catching faint cellular signals for my regular real-time uploads. Two policemen from the Mabolo Police Station arrived shortly to provide security for us. Mabolo is far away yet these cops travelled swiftly at short notice to fulfill their beat. This is unprecedented. I have not had experienced this special attention during the exploration hikes. We were simply left to our own wits then, even accosted when we were erroneously and maliciously reported as “armed and dangerous”.

But both the Cebu Provincial Police Office and the Cebu City Police Office, under their respective commanders, Sr. Supt. Eric Noble and Sr. Supt. Joel Doria, are serious in their commitment of ensuring our safety and the Thruhike’s success. They sent their people to check on us and that is good. I appreciate it very much. It gave us peace of mind and the legitimacy of our undertaking. I wished these good officers success and may they reach their respective stars in a shorter time than usual.

I failed in my photo uploads but I was able to sent text messages to my wife and my base support team. It seemed like a big burden have been taken off me, knowing that we are just a day away to reach the mid point of the Thruhike. We had been hiking for ten days straight and, by a stroke of fortune, we did not encounter difficulties, accidents and anything that might delay us. My plan worked so well even if I have to vulgarize my itinerary. Even when I suffered blisters on my big toes and on my shoulders. This is the first Thruhike of Cebu on a route that I have painstakingly explored for more than five years that became the Cebu Highlands Trail.

I touch the image of the Señor Santo Niño and made the sign of the cross as a sign of respect. The whole of Cebu honors the Holy Child Jesus every third Sunday of January and every able-bodied Roman Catholic goes on a pilgrimage to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño to pay homage and ask blessings. I was not there. The preparations of the Thruhike had taken every attention of me and it is most intense when there were just a few days left. That was the time when my sponsors shared their graces for this Thruhike. He understands and I am in good hands.

Distance Walked: 24.95 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 507 meters and a low of 101 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

1 comment:

Meike said...

Hey :) Great blog with interesting articles. :) Keep up the great work! Greetings, Meike