Anybody who’d by chance see that kick would be astounded. He was still his bubbly old self but for those who’ve known him deeper, they’d know how paralysis changed him. He was smiling upon the recollection of his old friends but his eyes were empty and distant. My heart sank and tears were on the verge of falling upon seeing him. It’s difficult to believe that he was once the ace of the soccer team and now… he barely knew where he was going as he was blinded – permanent or temporary, that nobody knew. Bu were hoping it’s the latter. Later that day, I saw a former tutor buddy. She was all smiles as we chatted for a bit. For most, she would just be another college student who rants about research and reporting but to those who knew her story, the bullcap will automatically remind them of her chemotherapy and the sufferings she’s undertaking because of that effin’ cancer.
It was a rough week. We were on duty for straight six days and was ordered to submit all reports and documents while attending as well to the needs of the biggest event of the year. But instead of getting through all the stress, here I am in Campo Siete mesmerized by its waterfalls and manmade forest.
We were on our way to its famed “Seven Caves of Minglanilla”. But instead of taking the long route of crawling, sliding, lurking in the caverns of each cave (the way we did with Laag Sparkles the last time we came), we took the direct trek to the seventh cave – the White Cave. It was an hour and a half of river trekking and direct ascending to the grandiose cave which was located several meters above sea level. While it’s fun while it lasted, our “Barangay Youth Leader” guide also shared how many lives were taken by the river we were trailing because of flood and heavy rain.
After an hour and a half of battling against the current of the river and the thick vegetation, we marveled the beauty that is of the White Cave. It was a home to swifts, bats, and monkeys – not to mention the snakes and insects like talipaso.
And while it’s the second time that I visited the place, it’s still difficult not to feel bewitched by its splendor. Its natural stalactite and stalagmite formation spoke only of grandness. I always had that theory that the place was once a grand palace with a “Game of Thrones” theme including the dragons.
When the clock struck twelve, we then decided to go back to the town proper and eat; however, our guide – Shai – insisted of taking our lunch on their house. Visitors were not new to their family. In fact, several European speleologists have taken shelter on them when they visit Cebu and the White Cave. They were so hospitable that we got ourselves free lunch, drinks, and biko.
After exchanging stories of adventures and misadventures with Shai’s family, we headed to our second stop – Calbasaan Peak. It was actually across the grand White Cave. By across, I didn’t mean just crossing the other side of the street. Rather, this means from the White Cave, we have to go down back to Campo Siete (its base) and hike again another mountain range. And because it’s already past three in the afternoon, we have to double our pacing as to not get caught by the darkness upon going back. Unlike the trail to the White Cave which consisted of rivers and crops, the trail from Campo Siete to Lubas involved dealing with dipterocarps – mahogany, pines, and many other tall trees. As a local of the place, Shai shared numerous stories of snake encounters, flash flood, and many other tragic incidents that happened in the forest. I was quite amazed that pines actually grew in the place and how the trails seem to look like Pulag’s Akiki trail. The term “lubas” was derived from the method of taking some parts of the pine trees and allowing it to excrete chemicals that would cover the remaining part of the tree. This chemical will enhance the capacity of the wood to fuel the fire once lit since getting firewood was one of the main livelihood in the place. Sadly, after cutting, these trees were not replaced. Yes, deforestation is real.
She also inquired why Calbasaan Peak earned our interest when in fact, Lubas Peak has a better view from the top. I was curious as well. What I only had in mind was that I wanted to see the clearer version of the rolling hills that we saw from the White Cave. When Shai announced that we’re already in Lubas, my inquiries were answered. Just like what Shai shared, the view from Lubas Peak was the vibrant “Batanes” look alike rolling hills.
So how does Calbasaan Peak looked like? “Calbasaan” came from the local term for squash “kalabasa”. But instead of seeing a plantation of squash, we saw turmeric or “luyang dilaw” growing abundantly in the area. Calbasaan peak gives a one hundred eighty degree view of the city of Naga and the town of Minglanilla, including Cebu Strait (almost the same view as Mt. Naupa in Naga). When luck is on your side, Shai shared that it would even be possible to witness a sea of clouds early morning in the vicinity. When we’re through savoring the place, we decided to head back to Campo Siete.
And just when I thought we’re done with the day’s adventure, fate prepared a rather strenuous conquest upon going home. Since it was a Sunday, many people were waiting for a bus/ v-hire to ride. However, it was already seven in the evening and the last trips were full. Several habal-habal drivers offered a cutting trip to Naga, but the amount they charged was more than thrice the bus fare in going to Cebu City. The desperate ones took the bait but Debby and I decided to wait. Just when the habal-habal drivers were about to bug us again with their offer, a pickup truck with loads of products and locals from Toledo City passed and offered a ride to Cebu City. As if on cue, we embarked at the back of the truck, fitted ourselves in between the narrow spaces, and tried to maintain our balance while standing all through the journey. But it didn’t end there. When we reach Naga City, rain began to fall and the wind lashed our faces. It’s hard not to get frustrated. What I wanted was to relax from the whole week’s stress, but there I was… battling the weather, fighting against cold and exhaustion.
I know. I know. It’s partly our fault for getting home late and setting forth on such adventure. However, even if it’s easy to admit our faults, it’s a hundred times easier to complain, attribute to the universe our misfortunes, and give up – the way most people do. In our little inconveniences we easily stop life from taking its course. And end it. It’s easier to think that we’re the most unfortunate people in the world neglecting the fact that there’s still instability experienced by people in Marawi, there’s still fear from people living in Mexico (and other places hit by calamities), there are oppressed and abused women and children still fighting for their right to live, and there’s that soccer player who lost his vision… and cancer patient trying to live a normal life. It’s easier to entertain the demon inside us. Or should we?
Campo Siete Dayhike Adventure Itinerary:
7:00am – South Bus Terminal Meetup with Debby
9:00 am – Meetup with Ate Jah and Shaina
9:30am – Photo op at the Manmade Forest
10:00am – Ascend to White Cave
11:30am – ETA White Cave
12:30pm – Descend
1:00pm – Lunch
3:00pm – Ascend to Lubas Peak
4:00pm – ETA Lubas Peak
4:30pm – ETA Calbasaan Peak
5:00pm – Descend to Campo Siete
7:00pm – ETD from Landing Toledo
8:30pm – Home Sweet home
*Thanks Ate Jah and Debby for this random trip. For guideship plus entertainment, feel free to contact Shaina via Facebook.