Wednesday, July 26, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 15 (Ginatilan to Lawaan)

IT WAS COLD LAST NIGHT. Breeze kept blowing through the iron grills that is part of the wall of the storage house where we slept in. This community in Ginatilan, Balamban begins to stir to life in the early morning. Today is February 2, 2017 and, any hour from now, we will start Day Fifteen of our Thruhike. Coffee smells good as I stirred its powdery contents into hot water. Jonathaniel Apurado, as usual, cooks the rice and Knorr soup which begins to lose its appetizing mien on me. Capsules of multivitamins and natural raw Guarana completes our breakfast.

Residents came to know more about us after studying our vinyl banner tied on to the storage house announcing our activity. Located in the most remote part of Balamban, this community is nestled deep in the valley but is now accessible by a newly opened road. It once was the center of the village and engaged in commerce directly with Cebu City through the unpredictable Lusaran River until they transferred the seat of governance up a hill for better accessibility. The name of Ginatilan, I suspect, came from the Cebuano word “kinati-ilan”, meaning “at the lowest spot”.

Deprived of a bath for three days, I am still fresh and comfortable. A good night’s sleep sure helped a lot. The blisters on my feet are now history. The Hi-Tec Lima shoes mothered the affected part well. I have changed into a fresh pair of Kailas socks as well as a fresh pair of Accel elastic undershorts. The load inside my High Sierra Titan backpack is getting lighter and it helped a bit as we still have rugged terrain to hike up and down to.

Although I have explored these places in 2015, I cannot assure myself that I would be walking on the same trails again. I did not explore it with the benefit of a modern gadget like a GPS. I did it with dead reckoning most of the time and only once did I use a map and compass to check on my location when I found the website-sourced maps completely inaccurate when it came to placing names. A GPS transmitter is provided in this Thruhike by Galileo Satellite Control System Philippines so it could track our progress and save these in a cloud environment.

Right now, I will be walking on sheer memory, the product of the oddities of traditional navigation. After saying our thanks and bidding farewell at 08:10, we follow an unpaved road that goes down to the banks of the Lusaran River. This river is the second biggest river system in the island of Cebu. It has many headwaters, some of whom cascade down as barriers between local government units like between Cebu City and Balamban and Asturias.

The water level is at thigh level at its middle while current is moderate but it could carry you far downstream if you lose balance. Saw two boys ahead of us nimbly tiptoeing on concrete footpaths but once they were on water, they know where to place foot. I followed where they stepped at and I went easy on the other side. Jon struggled midstream as he failed to study the boys and almost tumbled over. He reached on the pebbly shore safely.

We stayed for a while to dry our feet. A man came over asking a question which turned into a conversation. He is a typical farmer, unkempt and unassuming, but beneath that rugged veneer, he is none other than the legal son of the late Sgt. Dionisio Calvo Rojas of the former 38th PC Company. It may not ring a bell to you but his father saw action in the Korean War as a member of the 10th Battalion Combat Team and came back home alive. He is the son of a hero and I reach out my hand as my sign of respect and shook his.

Our BCTs sent to Korea under the command of the United Nations did our country proud. I came to know them when I had the privilege of listening to three veterans talking among themselves many years ago. Your pride would swell when you learned how these guys from the 10th, the 14th and the 18th would stand on their ground on the trenches when other UN units abandoned theirs in the face of overwhelming odds, even in the dead of winter.

They would inflict heavy casualties against the North Koreans and the Chinese in close combat warfare. It simply is amazing since we do not have winter here and I could not imagine how our guys adapt quickly to that semi-arctic environment they are in but, they said, they learned painful lessons when they failed to wear mittens while touching metallic objects such as a spoon or a trigger. Chocolates, thick trench coats and PX goods made their life better there and raised their morale.

His is a sad tale though. His father remarried and sired many sons from other women. Deprived of support, he was forced to stop his studies and worked on odd jobs which took him to even as far as Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. His mother is still alive, old and frail, and he needs help so her mother could avail of the survivor’s pension due her as the legal wife of a veteran. Here, in the most remote part of Cebu, of all places, I met the son of a hero.

The tale he spoke about his father’s service to country and the sad chapter after that moved me to put it in print here. As I have posted before, the CHT is not just about ecstasy of landscapes and adrenaline rushes, it is about people. People who have tales to tell. People who are hungry of news of the world beyond their places. People who are positive of improving their lives and grounded on their faith that someday they will be delivered from poverty.

We are now in the side of Asturias town. This is their farthest and their most remote part. We are in the village of Kaluwangan II. After crossing another stream, I am on to drier ground. There is a path and there is a school nearby. I pursue the trail up a mountain. It is always ascending and I looked back and relished at the beauty of the Lusaran River as seen from my vantage point. The river bent along the foothills creating deep pools almost oxbow-lake like.

I am not following the old path that I took two years ago but is in the midst of a new one where I thought would bring me direct to Uling Ridge. This is a small mountain range but it is formidable just the same. Not far away would be the Garces Homestead. I am told that today is the birthday of Candelario Garces and so have prepared something modest for him, his wife and his grandchildren. Actually, it is just surplus food that I carried for emergencies. Anyway, we will get a resupply once we reach Lawaan, Danao City.

The trail I am following goes into a cassava plot which was recently harvested, depriving us of handholds for balance. On the other side is the sheer drop of a steep slope without any vegetation to stop a roll. A careless slip would send you down tumbling a long ways. When you are into these situations, your senses and attention peaked a notch and you went carefully. The trail passes by a very small community of three houses. At this point, I sent a text message to the Asturias Police Station informing them if our presence.

Candelario is there and I greet him a happy birthday. He smiled but he seems to be sad. He is mourning the death of a grandson who was murdered in Cabasiangan, Balamban a month ago. I was saddened at the news since his late grandson was just a boy, still in his teens. Who would do such bad things to a teenager? These places we are trodding upon is still a semi-lawless region where scores are settled in violence. I gave him my gifts. In return, we refilled our water bottles.

He is alone as his wife is out there in the fields tending their farm plots while his other grandchildren are in school. His house is located near the peak. I was wondering if there is a name given for that peak? If there is none, then I will exercise my privilege of giving it a name being the first outdoorsman who explored this area. Why not Garces Peak? I dare say it is quite appropriate, is it not?

From here, I propagated VHF signals for the direction of the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City, but it failed. Instead, I redirect my transmission to the coastline and I got a reply this time from an amateur radio station, 4F7MHZ. What amuses me is that I sent it in simplex VHF and the remote station received my signals in duplex UHF. I just cannot explain why? By the way, I am using and testing a Versa Duo VHF transceiver, at 5 watts power, loaned to me by Tech1 Corporation.

Before leaving, Candelario parted some of his prepared food for his birthday to us. These are two pieces from the free-rein chicken cooked in estofado and wrapped inside a small plastic that used to store cookies. How touching. My heart wept at his kind gesture. He has less in life but he still gave. He is an old man and frail. He goes to his farm on a horse because his lungs cannot endure walking on even moderate distances. He suffered incarceration in the past by a miscarriage of justice but that is another story.

We go down Garces Peak into a long route that passes by into more remote places. Unbelievably, a small house exists here and, further on, a bigger house where there is a woman weaving natural fibers on an ancient loom. We cross a small stream and debated on which route we would take when we faced a fork on a trail. I opt the more beaten one and I was rewarded by my guess when I met a mother and her son going home to Ginatilan from Danao City.

My eyes now fixed on the trail and on the landmarks ahead, it was not difficult anymore. We come upon a ridge overlooking a stream. On the other side would be Danao City and there is an activity on the stream. Under the shade of Mexican lilac trees, I watched the stream while munching on our noontime specialty of Nutribar and our trail food mix of peanuts, coated chocolates, marshmallows and raisins. Water does the rest of bloating it. Popped in another Guarana extract and then I chased sleep in humid temperatures.

We go down the mountain and into the bank of a stream. A father and his son are catching fish by hand using stones and barriers to trap these in small pools. Ingenious. So bushcrafty. So much to my liking. I practice bushcraft and championed this as a better outdoors activity over those that imitate Western culture or that relies so much on expensive gear, clothing and equipment. Bushcraft is a realistic activity that fits well in austere environments like mountains and jungles.

We cross this unnamed stream that drains into the bigger Lusaran River on the map. It is smaller but it is wilder and so was harder to walk across. There is a dangerous trail over on the other side, whose surface had been gnawed away by water, undermining rocks to precarious situations. Once we got past it, the path goes up and up. It is very warm. I do not know why, perhaps, there might be rain later. I see an electric post on top of a hill and it becomes my reference. Perhaps too, there might be a road or a community.

There is a house and another one and a good trail over the side of a hill and, ultimately, a paved road. On one side of this road is the village of Sacsac, Danao City, while on the other side would be Lawaan. We stop by a small store to rehydrate. There are cold bottles of RC Cola and I opened it with my Victorinox Ranger. It is good to just sit down and enjoy the shaded bamboo bench after a hard day of walking on rugged terrain. The rest allowed me to inform the Danao City Police Station of our activity.

The route we took is the same one used by residents of Ginatilan pushing their farm produce to the markets of Danao City and bringing home their weekly needs. Thankfully, our loads are light now as we used up most of our food and fuel. The concrete hardtop is unkind to feet as it goes on its rolling progress. We finally reach the edge of the village of Lawaan, passing by a school then the San Isidro Labrador Parish and, finally, the village hall at 15:35.

Village officials led by Hon. Pilarino Monte and Hon. Shirley Ramos, welcomed us to Lawaan and ushered us to our billeting place. After 15 minutes, our supply team arrived early on board the Toyota Hilux pickup driven by Swiss Markus Immer. Coming with him are Ernie Salomon, the couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon, Aaron Binoya and Justin Apurado. They got lots of Park N Go bread and baked products and 20 bottles Yakult Cultured Milk.

The people of Lawaan treated us all to a dinner of free-rein chicken soup and we were so much indebted to their kind gesture. They have given the upper floor of their village hall for our use. Markus and the rest left us when the rains fell, but Justin and the Lepon couple stayed. They would walk with us starting tomorrow to as far as to where their vacant schedules allow. Indeed. Tomorrow would be another hard day but it would be a very complicated trail, slippery and dangerous.

Distance Walked: 8.35 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 554 meters and a low of 107 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer


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Adrenaline Romance said...

I think this segment is one of the most scenic in the CHT.