Thursday, January 17, 2019

WARRIOR REVIEW: Versa Duo Portable Radio

DURING MY EPIC THRUHIKE of the whole length of Cebu Island, from southern tip to northern tip, in 27 days between January and February 2017, I gave premium for radio communications, simply because I am a licensed amateur radio communicator and I also wanted to test the repeater equipment of Ham Radio Cebu at distances and remote locations that were not done before with any amateur club in Cebu on their own by their members. It was an expedition within an expedition.

I am advocating for people to rediscover the joys of amateur radio because radios function long after cellular phone signals flounder during and after calamities and disasters. And also because I am an advocate of bushcraft and survival which I taught to a lot of people anywhere in the country. Portable radios are always part of the equipment when I am doing dirt-time with my outdoors club – the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, or when I am doing seminars.

Now back to the Thruhike, I was fortunate enough that TECH1 Corporation loaned me two units Versa Duo VHF/UHF portable radios, together with extra batteries and desk chargers. Me and Jonathaniel Apurado carried a set each as part of our load. We both attached or clipped the radio to one of our shoulder straps. Sometimes, I just place it among bread and Yakult bottles inside a plastic bag I carried with a hand as I walked.

The casing and battery are black with orange highlights on the volume control, the flashlight, squelch button, VFO/MR button and the functions printed on the keypads. The antenna is about 11 inches long. It is longer than my Yaesu and Cignus units. Yes, it is made in China and it looked like a Baofeng UV5R but, unlike the Baofeng, Versa radios are approved for use in the Philippines by the National Telecommunications Commission and come with proprietary programming software.

When I received the radios, TECH1 Corp. had their showroom located then at Tipolo, Mandaue City. Currently, their showroom is located at SM Seaside City, in the South Road Properties, Cebu City. All Versa radios sold by TECH1 Corp. are under warranty. Besides that, TECH1 Corp. accepts repair of defective Versa radios and would program and load frequency channels for you on request. It is a very flexible radio that can be used in ham communications, civic activities and business operations.

The radios were exposed to the elements at any time of the day or night everyday for 27 days, along the routes and in our campsites. It functioned well even under prolonged exposures to the sun and heat, dust, moisture, rain, cold wind and, of course, rough handling. The total length of our walk was 400 kilometers at least, from sea level up to 972 meters, over an irregular and jagged landscape of ridgelines, rivers and valleys, steep hillsides, limestone forests and remote hamlets.

Operating the Versa Duo for propagation tests were done at 06:30, 12:30 and 18:30 everyday for 5 to 10 minutes duration. The Versa Duo allows for manual storage of frequency channels of different civic radio and FM stations and it could also be done with a software program, provided you have a Versa programming cable. The rest of the time, I turn off the Versa Duo to save power, unless I catch an FM signal at night and listen to music.

At the most, it took five days for the batteries to drain and charging power was never a problem since we sometimes stayed in villages. Power output for the Versa Duo is 5 watts and you would be amazed that at such strength, it propagated successfully to the repeater site of Ham Radio Cebu, located at Busay, Cebu City from Mount Bandera, Cansaloay, Oslob on Day 3 of the Thruhike. That is a distance of over 100 kilometers on line-of-sight principle!

The weather that time was stormy and we were enveloped by thick fogs yet it functioned well enough to maintain an exchange of readable conversation with another amateur station far away. It was amazing. At another time, on Day 15, I propagated from Kaluwangan, Asturias over mountainous obstacles about 20 kilometers away, but I pointed the antenna to the coastline, and I surprisingly received a reply. Another time, during Day 16, from Mount Mago, on the tri-boundary of Danao City, Tuburan and Carmen which is around 28 kilometers away.

My last successful propagation test was from the upper rim of the Doce Cuartos Mountain Range, in Mabuli, Tabogon, during Day 22, about 68 kilometers away. Beyond this line, it would be impossible anymore to do tests and I let the Versa Duo catch FM stations instead. On the last day of the Thruhike – Day 27 – I caught a transmission signal coming from Ham Radio Cebu at Bulalaque Point, Maya, Daanbantayan. The distance was just too great, about 120 kilometers. The Versa Duo propagates at just 5 watts. If it had 10 watts, I could possibly connect.

MAIN FEATURES:
         128 Memory Channel, PC and Keypad Programmable
         Dual Display with 3 Color Backlight
         Dual-watch Operation
         Status Announcement Function
         VOX Function
         Lithium Ion Battery, 18 Hours Battery Life Continuous Use
         FM Radio
         Flashlight

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
GENERAL
         Frequency: VHF 144-146 MHz. UHF 430-440 MHz
         Channel Capacity: 128 Channels
         Antenna Impedance: 50 Ohms
         Operating Temperature: -20°C to 50°C
         Battery: 7.2V DC 2000 mAh Li-Ion
         Weight: 230 Grams
         Dimension: 115mm x 58mm 35mm
OTHER FEATURES
         Scanning Function
         Battery Saving
         Auto Keylock
         Emergency Alarm
         Busy Channel Lockout
         Time-out-Timer
OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES
         Standard Earpiece
         Professional Earpiece
         Speaker Microphone
         Battery Eliminator

 
It was the first time that a Versa 2-way Radio was subjected to severe tests in a very unwelcoming environment like my Thruhike of Cebu. The rough handling was bad enough but it went well, nevertheless, through the whole nine yards of exposure to the elements – extremely - like every other gear that I brought and worn. I would most likely purchase a Versa Duo in the future or another model because it is a great radio equipment and it has a legitimate distributor in TECH1 Corp., where I am assured of technical support.

TECH1 Corp. also sells other Versa 2-way Radio models like the Alerto, the Command Tri-Band, the Quicktalk and the Quicktalk Pro, as well as speaker microphones and earpieces for Versa and other names. Aside that, TECH1 Corp. distributes the Versa brand of surveillance equipment and car security and products carrying the name of Ocam and Amaryllo. You may visit their showroom at SM Seaside City, SRP, Cebu City or contact them at (+632) 414-5177.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

ADRENALINE ADVENTURE HIKE: Segment I-B

BUOYED UP BY THE SUCCESS of walking the first half of Segment I last week, the blogging couple of Adrenaline Romance, begins to develop a certain attitude, understanding and toughness necessary to understand how the Cebu Highlands Trail should be walked. Besides that, they begin to get used to my trail habits in such a short time and both felt comfortable with it.

On my side, I have a lot to improve and the presence of Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei last week was a good start. Today – February 24, 2018 – is the second installment of Segment I. We would start where we last left off and it happened to be in a place called Tugop, Babag, Cebu City. It is on the Transcentral Highway, right where a road goes to Bonbon and another road going up Babag Ridge.

We meet at JY Square, Lahug, Cebu City at 06:00 and proceed to Tugop by motorcycles-for-hire. The sky is moody and there is a weather disturbance somewhere east of Cebu. I would not mind rain and mud and cold. What I worry are those bolts of lightning. You cannot be too sure especially when you are on higher elevations and carrying electronic devices.

We arrive at Tugop and begin our journey at 07:05, in a slow pace, following a paved road that goes uphill. The morning is unusually cool and working up a sweat takes some time. We pass by this seldom-taken road and it created a life of its own despite its lonely location. Homestead farms gave way to homestead resorts, sometimes blending the two together.

 
On a point of the winding road, is a view of Mount Sibugay and Mount Pung-ol. Both mountains are the reasons why there is such a village called Pung-ol Sibugay. The higher of the two – Pung-ol (755 meters) – has its peak looking like it had been lopped off which is why it is called that. The second – Sibugay (741 meters) – is forever moving north-northeast towards the sea.

The imposing view also afforded me to study the horizon. Thick black clouds are approaching Mactan Island and obliterating the view of Bohol and Leyte. Soon it would reach the shorelines, plains and lower hills. Probably, in less than an hour, we would be swept by cold headwinds and swamped by heavy downpour. I could sense a slight stress in my brain but my other brain knows better. It says “take it slow”.

We arrive at an intersection of a road and we are now on Babag Ridge. We go south and more uphill walk until we arrive on a store owned by Vicente Bontiel, whom I have known and befriended through so many visits here since 2008. My itinerary says we should be here at 09:00 but our time says it is 08:00. We were not walking fast but were just dilly-dallying. You know what I mean?

Anyway, we stop here to rest and take a light breakfast which Sheila Mei prepared and packed for this occasion. Vicente has a big bamboo gazebo across his store affording a good view of the Sapangdaku Valley, the metropolis and the Bohol Strait. This is a very good location to rest since the store sells cold softdrinks. You could also use their washroom complete with running water.

The rain clouds are now on the city and very soon it would be raining here. I can feel now the cold headwinds blowing, churning up dust on the unpaved road and shaking the trees. We ignored the warning and enjoyed the blessings of a cold drink instead. The food also restored my confidence to lead the Adrenaline Romance pair to this rare adventure of a lifetime.

The CHT cannot be walked without a guide. Only two people know the routes and this can only be possible through their memories. Memory, sometimes, is not sharp and, in my case, always suffered some “senior moments”. Failing memory create mistakes, especially, when stressed. The CHT was not documented with radionavigation devices but by memory. Fortunately, my memory was very good last time.

Fortunately also for me today and tomorrow, I would not be needing my memory. I am in my home turf. We leave the store at 08:20 after covering our backpacks with rain covers. Gian Carlo and Sheila Mae carried Deuters and they moved good with it. They are product ambassadors of Deuter, a good-quality bag which is in everyone’s wish list; and of Se7en Outdoors, a local apparel provider.

Totally confident of moving about in familiar playgrounds, I carried my “SOP” - the name I gave to my folding stool which meant as the “seat of power”, inside my spacious High Sierra Titan. The bag was provided to me by Adrenaline Romance, halfway through my Thruhike of the CHT last January-February 2017. It is like changing from a mutlticab to an SUV. The bag was one of the reasons why I succeeded in my Thruhike.

The pair is wearing CHT t-shirts provided by my sponsor, Silangan Outdoor Equipment. I am wearing a yellow Cebu Mountaineering Society t-shirt in honor of my late mentor and friend, Dr. Abraham Manlawe, who passed away recently. The t-shirt came from him as a gift during the last time we walked a trail together last July 2017. This walk is for Doc Abe.

It started to rain once we approached the upper slopes of Mount Babag. We pass below the peak since it is off-limits now to people due to the presence of government telecommunications tower. We cross a high saddle and proceed to another hill where there is a commercial TV station tower. The rain did not peak up as it was blown off by strong winds. Although there is a light shower but it was cold.

We are now leaving the unpaved road for the trail. A couple of dogs caught our scents and followed us. I have enough of dogs following people so I tried my best to shoo these away and I thought I succeeded there. I did, for one dog. For the other, I failed. Now it is ahead of me and I cannot chase it down. I let it be. For the moment. Sooner it will tire. I hope.

We followed a path beside a fenced property. It goes down and up, sometimes squeezing between barbed wires and thorny bamboos (Local name: kagingkingon). Under a slight shower, I persevered, the dog pranced and jogged ahead of me, daring me to play catch-up. The moment I closed the distance it would sprint ahead and cocked one hind foot to squirt invisible urine on stone or trunk.

By now, we are on the hidden gem of Babag Ridge – its forested trail – lush and remote, it starts from a bare saddle and goes through another hidden feature – a World War II tunnel network – up to a barren mound called Bocawe. The covered trail gave us respite from rain and cold wind. Now you begin to understand why I preferred the treeline over exposed places with those spectacular views.

On the peak of Bocawe, a sea of mists covered the Bonbon River Valley. On the other side, the metropolis air is very clear. The rainclouds had passed over us and are now on the Sudlon Mountain Range across us. The sun is missing but humidity began to build up as the clock ticked to noon. The dog is twitching on its back rubbing against the grass and loving it but keeping one eye on me.

Gian Carlo had been experimenting on Facebook Live since the time we walked away from Tugop. He is rewarded with a couple of comments from his earlier try and a smile broke on his face while dictating to us what was said. Where signal is weak, he saved the video for a late upload. He is now holding his smartphone talking to it while pointing it all over counterclockwise.

We go down the hill and come upon a small pond. Upon this place I saw a human-like creature which I though was an ape. It happened in December 2016. I later realized then that monkeys here have a tail and that strange creature does not have one. Then I realized that the creature hexed me and I walked in circles until I outsmarted it and regained the true trail.

I do not feel dread of the pond. I do not even give importance to what I saw yet I always believe that they exist and it is just a matter of time if I see something similar again. I rarely do but when I see one, I just ignored it. That is it. No hysterics. No fear. Nothing. Leave them be and they leave you alone. I approach the pond and looked closer. There is a path downhill but it was created by water overflow from the pond. It is a brook! I would explore this one day.

Meanwhile, we continue on and follow a trail on scrubby grass. Faint smudges and a few bare patches of ground suggest that it is a path. Sometimes, it projects a different color from the rest of the field. We see fences where there were none before. Farmers placed these to discourage dirt motorcycles from ruining the trails and breaking the serenity of the places. 

We entered a crude gate by removing three sticks blocking the way and returning it back to its place when we got past it. The silence was overwhelming. It blended well with the beauty of the green meadows and the almost-perfect mound-like hills dotting the landscape. Locals call this place as Tagaytay. We leave the greens and entered a path in a small forest where it disgorge us to another path where there is a house.

We were supposed to take noonbreak at Mount Bocawe but we arrive there a bit early even though we were walking really slowly. It amazes me that I am always ahead of the itinerary, a far cry than when I used to in a faster pace. I do not know why? We need to make noonbreak near this house. A lady welcomed us inside her fenced frontyard so Sheila Mei got a good place to prepare our meal.

After lunch, we remained immobile, chasing siesta until it is 13:00. Our campsite would not be faraway. It should be if we were in Mt. Bocawe. Slow is best. No stress and the senses remain sharp. We move on and thanked the woman. Far ahead, I leave a blue plastic with a chocolate bar hanging on a bush in full view of the children looking at us from a window of a house faraway.

Locals are shy and are intimidated or feel discriminated by the affluent look of city people. Bright-colored sporty apparel could cause it, maybe, and, of course, your smartphones and headphones. That is why I prefer wearing clothes with earth-toned colors so you would not cause too much glare to the eyes but, today, I wore something bright. Well, one of those days that I have to honor a dear departed.

 
The path veered to the right and I show Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei a “knife edge” that connect Tagaytay to Mount Samboryo. You do not know it is there until you stop and study both sides closely. Then you become very careful. Samboryo has a life of its own and is full of urban legend tales. I just keep these things in secrecy and focus on the trail.

We reach a farmed hillside and, beyond it, level ground where there are trees would be our campsite. It is very early yet, 14:30, but we cannot change back the itinerary, would we? The blogging couple set up their Luxe dome tent while I did with my hammock and overhead sheet between two trunks. There are slight drops of rain but it is blown away by strong winds. I changed into rubber slippers and sit on the SOP. A liberating feeling.

Sheila Mei and Gian Carlo prepared the meal while I go talk to a farmer, asking his permission to stay near his farm. He offered us water he stocked in his work hut and we thanked him. With additional water, we could wash our dishes and boil coffee. Oh, coffee, I missed you today. I drank one before a meal and another one just before turning in. The last light of the day gave us a very beautiful crimson sunset.

Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei loved their privacy so much and disdained evening chatter and drinking into the night. I shared their preferences and I am most happy of it. I am like a cat. I need lots of sleep to be able to store enough energy for every tomorrow. The rain arrived at 20:00 together with strong winds. I secured my things placed on the ground and went back in the meshed hammock, awake and observant.

The downpour must have lulled around midnight but the winds stayed to shake vigorously the trees and my shelter. There is not much I could do but sleep through it. I am awakened again at dawn by the return of rain and, this time, it was not heavy. But it was an unexpectedly cold night as our campsite does not harbor a micro-climate that we have had enjoyed last weekend.

On the second day – February 25, I decide that the dog must go. I cannot stand of another dog getting transplanted from its home following strangers who it expect may throw morsels of food. After breaking camp, I chased the dog up a trail when it let its guard down. A couple of flying rocks were enough to send the message.

We go down the long pebbly trail to a suspension bridge of Buot, Cebu City. I looked back several times at my backtrail and I am quite satisfied that the dog have made up its mind for good. This day is the last day for the whole Segment I but it is a long way to Lutopan, Toledo City. We follow a paved road beside the Bonbon River until we reach a tributary.

This stream is fast-flowing and wide. I do not know its name and there is a sand-quarrying activity here which is unusual. They usually do that downstream in the bigger Mananga River. I really wanted to know the name of this river. I see an old lady helping a younger woman on a motorcycle, perhaps her daughter. When she was alone I politely asked her the name of the stream. I got a reply: Alpragatì.

I do not name places on my own whims. I take it from locals and not just any local. I prefer the older ones because they are the ones who grew up and toiled in these places. After thanking the old woman, we followed a paved road that goes uphill. It is steep and it was a nightmare for those who walked with me last time here. It is a fact of life for me as I walked it again for another time and, surely so, more of that in the future.

Slowly, without exerting so much effort, we toiled inches by inches, until we come upon the road where there is a water source and a beautiful view of the mountainous landscape – the same mountains that we walked and camped yesterday. The couple cannot believe we covered such a great distance in just a few hours of leisure walking.

Growing oddly among the shrubs is an Indonesian pepper which locals called as “sili’ng demonyo”, because it is so spicy hot. A man on a motorcycle stopped to talk to us. He was asking if we were the same people whom he saw yesterday at Tugop. We three answered him in unison that we were. He shook in disbelief that we covered so great a distance. He on a motorcycle and we on foot.

We reach Udlom, Sinsin, Cebu City and followed another paved road that exits to Manipis, Talisay City. From there, we walked a short distance and we are now in Camp 7, Minglanilla. We walk the rest of the morning, stopping by at Cantabaco, Toledo City to eat lunch in a family-run small restaurant. After that, we walk and walk until we reach Lutopan at 14:00 where we ride in a bus bound for Cebu City.

On two weekend dates, Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei of Adrenaline Romance Blog completed Segment I of the CHT. I estimate we may have walked a total of 52-56 kilometers over the most rugged and seldom-seen parts of Cebu. The walk of today and yesterday pales in comparison though to the ones we did last weekend and that one have only been tried by just a few. It is already an accomplishment for both.

Nevertheless, Segment I is just part of the bigger picture called the Cebu Highlands Trail and there are seven segments more. I believe Team Adrenaline Romance can overcome it and make one bucket list fulfilled. I could see they are more comfortable with the pace I churned and, vice versa, it had benefitted me. I think a lot when I am on a trail and follow the drift of moving, that sometimes I unintentionally walk fast. Slow is Best. 

Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei wrote about their Segment I-B experience on their Adrenaline Romance Blog under two installments:

Cebu Highlands Trail Segment 1B: Tugop to Mt. Samboryo
Cebu Highlands Trail Segment 1B: Mt. Samboryo to Lutopan

Photos courtesy of Adrenaline Romance
Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

ADRENALINE ADVENTURE HIKE: Segment I-A

THE CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL, is best appreciated in segments. But Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei of the Adrenaline Romance Blog, thought of it otherwise. Why not walk it in half-segments? Although I have tried it (and completely forgotten that I did) but, I believe, it is STILL a wonderful idea. Two weekend days. Overnight. Yeah, why not?

Segment I, the most intimidating of the eight segments, because it goes up and down through three separate mountain ranges, cross two major river systems, and break your will huffing and puffing while carrying your load for 4-5 days. I have walked it straight but once only last November 2017 and, if only it would be possible, I would not walk it again that way.

 
Why not break Segment I into two sub-segments like I used to during the exploration phase of the Cebu Highlands Trail and, unintentionally, during the Thruhike of January-February 2017? Why not indeed? Frankly speaking, it benefits me well. The two-day hike removes the stress that the third, the fourth and, maybe the fifth day would give to a person.

Why not? Why not? Oh, why not? Thank you Adrenaline Romance. You just gave me an idea how to safely proceed about the segment hikes of the CHT. This blogging couple, is one of my supporters during my 27-day Thruhike. They even provided me a replacement bag – a 50-liter High Sierra Titan – halfway in my Thruhike after a local bag created problems on my shoulders.

Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei, in one of their articles, choose the CHT as one of the seven destinations in their bucket list for 2018 but they do not want to hike it through for they simply do not have a generous time in their lives, they, being company employees. They fund their trips from their hard-earned salaries and write about it in Adrenaline Romance.

Their blog is what kept them going. The couple made mincemeat of any difficult challenges and obstacles and what becomes of it are well-written essays of their adventure experiences. They are into rock climbing, scuba diving, caving, mountaineering, snorkeling, canyoning and, of course, blogging. They walk the talk and, for that, they influence people about adventure destinations and activities and what gear and equipment you need.

Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei are product ambassadors of Deuter and Se7en Outdoors, a local apparel provider. Aside that, they are honorary members of Project Blue, an environmental advocacy organization. The couple, from to time, gets invited to cover events and services with their famous blog as medium like Bluewater Resorts, Trexplore, Bellevue Hotels, to name a few.

But, today – February 17, 2018 – their quest of the CHT starts on this early hour at Ayala Terminal, Cebu City. I would be their guide and we will be walking from Mount Manunggal, Balamban, to somewhere in the Transcentral Highway in Cebu City. Sounds easy but it is not. Not because it is difficult terrain, but because of my unreliable memory. The CHT is a product of traditional navigation. No GPS coordinates. Just memory only and it wreaks havoc on your itinerary!

The van-for-hire dropped us on a corner where there is a feeder road to Mt. Manunggal. Astride motorcycles-for-hire, we arrive at the famous parking lot of Manunggal. We checked our bags and retrieve items that we need for the hike. It is like a ritual. At 08:00, we go down a path that leads to the campsite where there are tents and people. We simply pass by going to a trail that these campers know not.

No, it is not a secret trail. Locals use this trail once in a while. Only a few hikers walk this trail. I am a regular here and I once walked it alone on a Good Friday. I talk as I walk and Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei were laughing as I told them my encounter of a big snake on this path. I jumped downhill out of fright, rolling and panting. Who would not? It travelled alongside you!

The path goes through second-growth forest and an original forest that clung to the steep rocks. The ground is muddy but we walk on firmer parts. As I walk I also talk about plants. An unusual vine bear oversized beans. I did not know matchbox bean vines (Local name: gogo, bayugo) grew here. It is so huge! Showed them rhododendrons (yagumyum) and Asiatic bitter yams (kobong) and explained what they for are.

Once we got past the forest I showed them a speck of white on a trough between two hills. It is a saddle, of course, and it is our next destination. It is called Inalad but it is pronounced as Ina-a-a-ad. The quirks of Cebuano vocabulary. We will arrive there at noon and we do not have to hurry. They were shocked at my casual disregard of distance.

I have to take it slow. I am nursing a fever. I have to honor a commitment and I must not let them down. Also, they must not know about my condition. Slow is better. We must not hurry or we get stressed out. It is a long day and tomorrow is another long one. I must conserve my strength for tomorrow for it is much different than today. Patience would win the day for me.

 
We go down into a grassy and open field and entered another forested but very tight path among rocks. Rock surfaces are well-polished by water and I take them so super slow here. I am wearing my Hi-Tec Altitude low-ankle shoes and I developed a certain level of trust on this pair. My High Sierra Titan bag looked heavy with a rolled Therm-a-Rest hitched underneath it.

On the other hand, the Adrenaline Romance pair wore their Deuters and the bags are almost like a part of their physical bodies. They move with it without any extra effort. They are good product ambassadors and Deuter did not err in choosing them. They looked also great with the CHT t-shirt made by Silangan Outdoor Equipment.

The trail goes into farms and we meet one family trying to wiggle themselves out of a path that was choked by a falling tree. Some of the higher branches and twigs have blocked the way and the children and women have to squeeze through with difficulty. The mature male among them, equipped with bolos, do nothing and just let the weaker ones manage themselves.

When they were gone, I break off the twigs and slimmer branches away from the trail. The bigger ones, I stepped on and put weight to break it in two. I am used to this work: Clearing debris in my playground at Camp Damazo and doing trail maintenance. Of course, I have with me bigger blades then. On this hike, I have only a Mora Companion, a Victorinox Trailmaster and a William Rodgers Bushlore, which I did not use.

We arrive at a homestead and rest for a while. It is 10:00 and we did good. We are now  halfway down the mountain and in about a half hour we would be on the shores of a stream. To celebrate that, I asked from Sheila Mei to part a chocolate bar to a shy small girl that had been spying us from a window. She goes to school far far away, up and down this mountain. They are deprived of little comforts which urban-bred ones take for granted.

After a rest of five minutes, we proceed down the trail, passing by little streams and more homesteads. Once, I stopped on the path to study a trail of a farm animal. It is the one made by a swamp buffalo and there is only a single line of hoof prints. I quizzed Sheila Mei about this anomaly. Actually, there is another set of hoof prints along the outer edges of the path and it could not be easily seen unless you study it at a different angle.

We arrive at the bank of the upper Lusaran River. This is one of the three major river systems of Central Cebu and it flows out of Balamban to the Tañon Strait. We will cross this stream five times and will have to remove shoes and socks. Walking barefoot on the sandy bed and on sandy banks made a soothing effect that removed the kinks in our nerves. It is a wonderful feeling.

Walking on solid ground once more, we met the first of the many animal farms tethered on to trails, most of these have their young with them. We met two cow families while going to Inalad, where we arrived at 11:30. That is 30 minutes early despite the deliberate slow pace. Inalad is a marketplace and the boundaries of Balamban, Toledo City and Cebu City converge here. We took lunch on one family-run restaurant and enjoyed siesta.

The 30-minute nap was good enough for me. The fever is almost gone save for brief dizzy spells. At 13:00, we leave Inalad for a feeder road that goes all the way to Tongkay, Toledo City. The village is located on the bottom of the valley and Sheila Mei bought a few vegetables there but failed to find a common ingredient: lime (lemonsito). We also filled full our water containers, renewing the weight we lost to eaten food and to rehydration.

We cross the uppermost Hinulawan River where it drained to the man-made Malubog Lake. We follow up a path that rode the back of a ridge. It is very warm, the sun slaps hard at your right, the part where the mountain is almost bare. Gaining more elevation, we come face to face with a bull, standing over the path. I make grunting sounds and the bull gave me space but regained that space immediately after I passed.

It created a bit of a problem for me. The bull refused to vacate when Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei slowly approached. Both made a difficult detour on a very tight space where the ridge is narrowest. My heart trebled its beat when the bull approached the duo. Unexpectedly, the bull slurped Gian Carlo’s hand instead. What a close call.

Once I reach my old campsite, I break off the trail and follow a narrow path that led to a hillside farm. A slight drizzle begins to appear and it elicits a frown from me. I hope it does not rain hard. The path disappeared when I got past the plowed field and blazed across waist-high grass to reach a ridge, which led to the present campsite. We came 90 minutes earlier than what was indicated in the itinerary and we are just walking very slow.

The slight drizzle became light rain and I have to set up a shelter over a space reserved for cooking. My hammock can wait. Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei found the shelter convenient to set up their dome tent nearby. Pouring drops of rain fell from the shelter eaves and I have to wait when rain begins to disappear. Winds added chill to the situation.

At 16:30, the shower stopped and there is still a lot of daylight. I hastily set up my hammock between two trees. Then I transferred my sheet from the cooking area over my hammock. The campsite is on a cleared ridge where a forest claimed the other side. We eat our supper early, availing of daylight. The grounds and vegetation are wet and it begins to go cold. We turn in early at 18:00 and the hammock felt warm.

I awoke at 21:00 hearing great gusts of wind roaring from below the valley. It never affected us. In fact, warm air dislodged from the valley floor by colder wind made its way up to our camp, giving us a comfortable night. This micro climate will stay for a few hours and would soon dissipate. I have noticed this phenomenon in my older camp down the mountain.

I feel good rising early on the second day – February 18. The long comfortable sleep was most welcome for my body. I did not feel any effects of fever today and that is good news for me because it would be a challenging task for me later. After a very early breakfast, we break camp at 07:00. We follow the path up a peak and show Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei, a big hole on the very apex. I believe this was used as a mine vent.

Beyond the peak, we follow a very narrow ridge that led to another peak – Etwi. The landslide that blocked the trail below Etwi had been cleared and it led into another narrow ridge that led to Maraag, a part of the Sudlon Mountain Range. A concrete marker bears information that this is now part of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape.

At Maraag, we savor a bottle of softdrink each and munch a few stale bread. After ten minutes, we proceed to the “hog’s back” (buko-buko sa anay) on a paved road but switched to a feeder road for Panas. I surely marked the place of the trailhead I took last time in my mind so that I would not miss the route to Bonbon again.

The trail is well-beaten but once you get past homesteads it becomes narrow. Some of it pass by scrubby grass that grew persistently despite being trod by many feet everyday and you get the impression that a trail do not pass by here. We cross the headwaters of the Bonbon-Mananga River System several times and these are brisk clean brooks.

It always excites me to walk this stretch because it keeps my mind to work and think, to read the right track from the false ones, and to study the terrain with much concentration of thoughts. These things make up traditional navigation so honestly demanding from even the most trail-savvy traveller. The changing contours here are themselves very demanding.

After four hours of walking, I am rewarded of an arrival in the last homestead in Panas that was a half-hour early than that found on my itinerary. We were not hurrying. We were just in a strolling pace, most of the time stopping briefly to talk about a plant, an outstanding land feature, previous observations, local attitudes, scenery and landmarks or even the shape of a hut. There is a clean water source here and we take some.

We rest for about five minutes and then proceed on, following a trail downhill to a forested part. I try not to miss this trail this time and it is well-marked in my mind. The route inside the forest is steep and slippery. Too few hand holds and most of them were unreliable taro stems and abaca trunks and springy vines that break at the first sign of force.

We arrive at the rocky bank of Biasong Creek and follow it downstream. We walk for about a half hour when I found a perfect spot to stop and prepare our noontime meal. It is shady with a wide sandy beach. Sheila Mei cooked our food with the butane burner and we proceed with lunch and a few minutes of rest.

 
After an hour, we are now fully rejuvenated and proceed on with the last hours of our journey today. The couple was amazed at the clean water of the stream as well as beautiful spots good enough for river bathing. Ahead of us is the sound of rushing water falling in a high elevation but we are deprived of its presence since it is impassable from our location.

We go over dry ground, this time, skipping the sheer obstacle and, from our new location, caught limited glimpses of the not-so-known Bitlang Waterfall. The trail put us on the part of the stream where there is another branch whose mouth is choked with humongous rocks. May God bless those souls caught up in here during a flashflood. It is a meat grinder.

Downstream, Biasong Creek gets tamer and tamer as black PVC pipes competes space with rocks and debris. These pipes channel water to communities and a local resort. We arrive at the resort and outside it is another local unofficial resort. We cross the last of the stream and walked again on dry ground to a store in Biasong selling cold softdrinks. We deserve that.

After fifteen minutes of rest and snacks, I followed a different direction this time given by a local as shorter than that of going to Bonbon and we do not have to cross another stream. Okay. Goaded by local knowledge, we followed a paved road and it seemed to rise forever. It did go downhill going to the St. John Marie Vianney Parish in Maomawan, but it goes up again.

 
We finally reach a place named Tugop, which is a part of the village of Babag at 16:30 but there is something wrong with the new route I took. It is much tiresome compared to the older route and there is but little difference in distance. It was recommended by a local because they travel nowadays on motorcycles and it is very convenient for that kind of travel. But, for walking? Nah.

Well done Adrenaline Romance, you made it this far and, on many times, bettering the itinerary by 30 minutes to even 90 minutes. Amazing! You have proven your steadfastness and your commitment to the first of the many that you would soon impose on yourselves. This is no easy walk but you are rewarded with scenery that was denied to most people and the experience that you could better describe in your popular and highly-rated blog.

The mysteries and idiosyncrasies of the CHT would simply be laid before you once you set your sights on the rest of the paths. You are on the right track to that quest and there is no turning back. Happy trails...

Gian Carlo and Sheila Mei wrote about their Segment I-A experience on their Adrenaline Romance Blog under two installments:

 Cebu Highlands Trail Segment 1A: Mt. Manunggal to Mt. Tongkay
  Cebu Highlands Trail Segment 1A: Mt. Tongkay to Tugop
        

Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer
Photos courtesy of Adrenaline Romance