Hiking in the Philippines
Despite being an archipelagic nation, hiking and hillwalking has been relatively famous in the Philippines. Graced with pristine rainforest covers and rough terrains, an ascent to a mountain peak proves both challenging and rewarding. When I started hiking nine years ago, not a lot of people understood what I was doing – not friends, not colleagues, not college professors, and especially not my parents. All risks were always highlighted – storms, injuries, wild animal attack, not to mention me missing classes or work sometimes and using up my lunch money in advance so I could travel. However, only those who have encountered the serenity of the wilderness will understand how fulfilling it is to totally disconnect from the busy city and discover that we are capable of doing things far beyond our daily routine lives where all those highlighted risks become manageable backdrops.
While the Philippines boast of technical mountains such as Mt. Guiting-guiting and Mt. Halcon, and double traverses such as Kitanglad-Dulangdulang and Kalatungan-Makaupaw, most expeditions last only for 2 to 5 days – although these somehow work for people with daytime jobs. However, one man decided it was time to break away from this typical hiking itinerary, and that it was time for the Philippines to have its first long distance trail. Mr. Jing de Egurrola, known to the outdoor community as Sir Jing, an outdoors educator, writer, blogger, explorer, wilderness guide, bushmaster, amateur radio hobbyist, and a knife advocate, is the first to design a continuous long distance walking trail from the southernmost to the northernmost of Cebu Island.
Long Distance Backpacking
The idea of coming up with the Cebu Highlands Trail has been inspired by other international long-distance backpacking trails such as the Triple Crown of Hiking in the US, consisting of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. Another long trail is the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James, which is originally a pilgrim route that has become a known long-distance hiking trail that leads to the shrine of St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
In February 2011, Sir Jing came up of this idea after a day hike and has since been exploring parts of this potential trail. Six years later, he along with his partner Jonathaniel Apurado and few more segment hikers decided it was time to put this thru-hike to test.
“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness” – John Muir
Cebu’s First Long Distance Trail: The Fine Print
The Cebu Highlands Trail stretches from the south at Liloan Point in Santander and to the north at Bulalaqui Point in Daanbantayan. The hiking distance is roughly 408 kilometers and should take 27 days as planned. The test thru-hike will commence on January 17, 2017 and will be concluded by February 14, 2017 with an additional contingency of 5 days for possible itinerary adjustments in the course of the hike. The trail profile is a mix of asphalt and cement road, agricultural trails (marked with carabao sleds as Sir Jing would describe), railroads (that formerly served sugar mills, although the actual rails and ties are no longer there), and mountain slopes, a majority of which are government owned timberland. For this reason, the test hike has been fully coordinated with local tourism officers for each municipality included in the trail.
South: Santander, Oslob, Boljoon, Alcoy, Dalaguete, Argao, Sibonga, Barili, Carcar, San Fernando, Toledo, Cebu
North: Cebu, Toledo, Balamban, Danao, Tuburan, Carmen, Catmon, Sogod, Borbon, Tabuelan, Tabogon, Bogo, Daanbantayan
The lowest point is nearly 0 masl, as the trail begins and ends at sea level, and the highest point is 954 masl at Mt. Manunggal. It will also cover the 800 masl peak of Mt. Bandera in Oslob on the third day of the hike. With a typical load of 15kgs, the team will be doing six resupplies by stopping at identified markets throughout the hike. The team’s progress will be uploaded at Galileo Satellite Control System’s website with an update interval of five minutes. While the thru-hike team has visited 100% of the trail by hiking segments of it in the last six years, only about 2% of the total trail is known to both local tourism and mountaineering groups, a concentration of which are the trails in Cebu City and Balamban area.
Putting the Cebu Highlands Trail to Test
Preparing for a long walk such as the Cebu Highlands Trail wasn’t an easy task. In fact, it took years of exploration and planning. But for a conservationist like Sir Jing, it was something that he wanted to do not for himself but for the local hiking and tourism community. For him, it is time for us to engage in a healthy lifestyle that helps promote our highlands and its produce while encouraging responsible tourism. Also, it is high-time for the Philippines to be recognized in the international backpacking scene.
Once the test thru-hike is done, we will be looking forward to the recommending of the team. Moving forward, they are hoping to gather the commitment of local mountaineering and tourism groups to keep the trail well-maintained and safe for hikers. Outdoor groups may also help refine the trail in the future and encourage more and more people to engage in backpacking activities. Thru-hikes may be recommended for well-experienced hikers while segment hikes are also possible for those who wish to do it in parts.
In behalf of the Cebuano outdoor community, we wish the thru-hike team all the best and for this historical endeavor to be a success.
“This is for all hikers who’d like to walk his own long trail. This is an opportunity to disconnect from the power outlets and enjoy nature once again.” -Mr. Jing de Egurrola
This thru-hike has been made possible by:
Derek’s Classic Blade Exchange, Titay’s Rosquillos, Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, the Provincial Government of Cebu, GV Hotels, Silangan Outdoor Equipment, Lavilles Australis, Warrior Pilgrimage, Cebu Tourism Office, Frontgate Cebu, Viajero Outdoor Centre CdO, Bakhawan Beach Home, HAM Radio Cebu, App GPS Philippines, Adrenaline Romance, Galileo Satellite Control Systems, Versa 2-Way Radio, Park N’ Go Bakeshop, Tactical Security Agency Inc.