Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coast to Coast Route Setting (Cebu)

The coast-to-coast quest

The idea was to find a route from the west coast to the east coast of southern Cebu. Alegria would be the default origin in the west and Alcoy would be the terminus on the east.
So instead of celebrating Sinulog with the rest of Cebu City, I once again headed for the south.
Saturday (January 18th) happened to be the barrio fiesta of Tumandok. I had more than my dose of carbo-loading courtesy of the Otadoy family. They had prepared lechon and all sorts of fiesta dishes.
carbo loading on Saturday
The following morning, after just a cup of coffee, I started my cross-country at 7:30. I ran the first half of my previous route up to the point where the path ramifies into one that leads to Mantalongon, another to Sitio Tigib, and the other to the continuation of my route last weekend. Mantalongon seemed inviting not just because it offers an east coast exit but also it gives you O-peak along the way. My Lanaya-Opeak double traverse would finally be realized. But as I am no longer interested in collecting peaks, the one thing that I factored in was what the man at the sari-sari store told me—it was going to be a paved road from that point all the way to Mantalongon. The path to Tigib, on the other hand, was rough and it has a possible exit to Alcoy. The mission was to avoid as much paved way as possible so I went for the uphill Tigib.

The  locals call these snakes
udto-udto.If you get bitten,
you die before noon (udto).
Along the way, I would be scrutinized by the curious gazes of the local folks. At times, their gazes would be accompanied by their one question: What are you doing here? And I would answer them with my one question: Will this trail lead to Alcoy? They would always point me to where I could get a habal-habal ride. But I would just tell them I was looking for the path of more resistance. Then they’d come up with a sequence of names of sitios. At this point they gave me Gitara and Lepanto. Then I went on with my slow run.
In my search for Sitio Gitara, I came across a girl who told me that I had strayed a bit too far. She told me instead of an alternate route—via Sitio Inghoy. From Inghoy, I was to take the paved road all the way to Alcoy. She said there was no other way to Alcoy but that road. On my way to Inghoy, I caught up with a man who told me that I was on the right track but I still insisted in asking whether there was another way to Alcoy that didn’t involve a lot of paved sections. He said it was really far…but in the end he told me to go back and ask for Sitio Miyan-a then at Miyan-a, I should ask for Nog-as. So I backtracked uphill in an effort to avoid the paved road in Inghoy.

It is not rare to mishear a name of a place when exploring
The trail to Miyan-a was long and tricky. It was at this point where I had to do a lot of backtracking. I didn’t have any map or compass with me but my instincts alerted me every time I was going the wrong direction. Finally after asking a farmer for more directions I was able to find Mayana. From there it was a clear barangay road to Nog-as.

Then after 24kms of pure trails I got to Nog-as! At Nog-as there was a crossroads that gave me three options. My path was crossed by an asphalt road that leads to Alcoy in one direction and back to Alegria in the other. Across the paved road was the third choice, the rough road going to Boljo-on. When I asked the guy about the lengths of the three routes, he told me with an authoritative and quick answer: Alcoy 6km paved; Alegria 18km paved; Boljo-on 17km rough. That made the choice very easy!
In life, there are many crossroads...but if you know what your heart wants, it's easy to choose which way to take.
So I followed the road to Boljo-on and the 17km turned out to be 21km! That Long Slow Distance (LSD) training was 45.7km long and lasted 10hours and 13 minutes! It was 70% unpaved and I had the perfect weather—drizzling and windy. I’d have to say I had nothing more to ask of that trip!
First glimpse of the shores of Boljo-on: a beautiful congratulation after the 45km journey.
Y’see the challenge in route setting is coming across bifurcations on the way. And this is how route setting becomes different from mountaineering and orienteering. In mountaineering explorations you have a peak as your destination. You need to carefully choose which way to follow at a fork. In orienteering you need to find a way from one particular point to another, typically using a map and a compass. In route setting, you just need to find a way! There is no predefined destination. You may define your route according to different broad parameters. You could set your route according to distance, roughness, or time. Sounds pretty easy, eh! Well, it is, if the way you want to achieve is the WAY BACK. But if you wanna push on in the heart of the woods and all you see is green with no one to ask, there is one thing you need to learn to do—manage your fear! 
for about an hour, all I see was green
The only dictum a route setter has is ‘This trail will definitely lead to a place with people’. But don’t trust this promise too much! The trail only tells you that it is a trail. It never tells you how long it is before the next community or before the next water source. Last weekend was exceptionally challenging because the sun was not out to tell me whether I was going round in circles. To tell the truth, I’ve never really used a compass (the technology). I rely on the sun for directions. And these challenges will lead you back to square one—manage your fear! How do you do that?! Well, fear is all in your mind. Replace it with something else.

If you don't manage your paranoia, you'll fail to see the beauty around you
Your mind has an infinite number of choices. As for me, I chose to imagine that the trail would transport me to somewhere in the wilderness of China where a handful of monks were practicing Wushu and they were awaiting my arrival and they would call me THE ONE! Another imagination that fuelled my excitement was an adaptation of the folklore I was told in Alegria. I was hoping to find another snake with a flower in its mouth, then I would steal the flower and eat it and I would be an invincible trailrunner and become the first Filipino to win the UTMB. Yes, it’s funny. But for me thoughts of getting held captive by rebels, or dying of thirst, or falling off a cliff are boring fantasies. Sadly, the idea of becoming a Jet Li doesn’t appeal to a lot of people. Instead they love to dwell on thoughts of dying in the jungle. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like to explore with many people.

I may have failed to be united with the Wushu warriors, but I found myself on a trail of kind and welcoming people. And that's what I love about travelling alone. You are able to bring out the good in people. Many times, I was invited to lunch. When I was thirsty it was easy to ask for fresh buko. And at the end of my journey, a kind family let me use their outhouse to wash up.
I love the thought of Wushu warriors and charmed snakes...but the reality of kind people removes the necessity of those fantasies


  1. If you don't manage your paranoia, you'll fail to see the beauty around you -- good one!

  2. Sir, if you do this kind of trail running slash trail exploration every weekend, UTMB is just a stone throw's away! :D Move over, Kilian Jornet, Xavier Thevenard ug Miguel Heras! :D

    1. Haha, that's a boulder's throw away. I'm doing this to get fit while enjoying nature. The names you mentioned are gods in this sport.

  3. Amazing! We did a coast-summit-coast trek from Ginatilan to Mt. Hamubuyog then traversed to Oslob. The scenery is definitely breathtaking.


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