10:30 AM March 20, 2011/Santa Rosa to Laur, Nueva Ecija
The last time that I passed along the Santa Rosa to Fort Magsayay Road was in the mid-part of 2004 when I was a Brigade Commander of the 702nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division with my Headquarters located in Barangay Calaanan, Bongabon, Nueva Ecija. The road was not yet paved/asphalted as most of it was a narrow dirt road. This road is the most direct route to Fort Magsaysay from the Maharlika Highway in Santa Rosa and I take this route as a short cut to avoid the traffic of vehicles in Cabanatuan City. The road has a distance of 20 kilometers where both sides are open with rice fields and dry lands which were planted with mango trees as you approach to the military reservation of Fort Magsaysay.
Fort Magsaysay is the biggest military camp in the country which consists of hundreds of thousands of hectares from the eastern portions of Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija up to the seashore of the Pacific Ocean. The area is so vast that the military could not guard the reservation from informal settlers; kaingin farmers; and other kinds of squatters. Even if various types of military training are being conducted in these areas ranging from artillery fires, tank manuevers and combat fires, military exercises with other allied armed forces in Asia and the USA, and other kinds of special operations, those unscrupulous illegal settlers are still there to claim a portion of the military reservation. It is sad that the military reservation is now shrinking.
When I was the Camp Commander of Camp Aguinaldo, I had a chance to play a round of golf with the Speaker of the House of the Representatives then and he asked me what is my solution for the unabated military adventurism of young officers to topple whoever is in power in the government. I told him that my idea is not a solution but it is a firm message that AFP Officers and Soldiers who are involved in this kind of military adventurism should be punished severely. I told the politician that it is about time to establish a State Penitentiary (outside Metro Manila) with a Military Prison Facility at the middle part of the Fort Magsaysay Reservation Area! And let these prisoners develop the area as homestead where they can produce and cultivate food and herd some domesticated animals and be away and out of reach from the media. The politician liked my idea and it ended there.
I expected that today’s run will be the most challenging stage due to the hotter temperature of Nueva Ecija and the looming hills/mountains that I am going to traverse as I progress towards my destination. I was informed by some of the officers assigned in Fort Magsaysay that there is already a short cut route from Fort Magsaysay that goes all the way to Laur, Nueva Ecija that traverses the mountains east of Fort Magsaysay. And the road has an estimated distance of 64 kilometers from Fort Magsaysay to the town of Dingalan, Aurora.
The flat, wide and hot road from Santa Rosa to Fort Magsaysay was already a challenge as I started my run at 10:30 AM. From where I started, I estimated that I still have at least 81 Kilometers to my destination and covering one-half of the distance was already enough for my day’s run. I started my run from where I stopped the previous night. I was still using the Adidas Tech Fit Compression Shorts and with my Gray NIKE Compression Shirt. I decided not to use my arm sleeves as I would like to see my perspiration simply dry up from my skin while I was running. I prepared for my Ice Bandana to cool off my neck and nape and my Buff to cover my face. The ritual for hydration was still there and my strategy for my pacing but every time that I have my pit stop, I have to pour cold water on my head making my running cap wet/damp while running. This was the first time that I did such ritual of pouring cold water on my head and nape every time I take a sip of water from my support vehicle. Since I did not bring sponge, this ritual gave me a refresh feeling every two kilometers.
The pain on my knee/left quads was tolerable and I have to make some adjustments with my footwork. The ASICS Gel- LyteRacer DS was very nice and comfortable to my feet as they are light with the much-needed cushion. I decided to use this shoe throughout the run after my bad experience with my Adidas Adizero Mana on my 4th day leg.
As I got nearer to the boundary of the Fort Magsaysay reservation, the road started to ascend but I knew it was runable but I opted to conserve my strength by brisk walking through the uphills and resume running on the downhill parts. As I reached the intersection of the road that goes to the Gate 1 (Main Gate) of Fort Magsaysay, trucks that carry US Armed Forces mobility assets and other equipment were still passing me and saw them entering the premises of the camp. I concluded that with the volume and number of trucks that passed me for the past two days, this military exercise would be involving a lot of troops and administrative personnel!
As I crossed the Bangad-Fort Magsaysay Road, I could see in front of me a newly constructed and newly-opened highway that goes way up to the mountains of Fort Magsaysay. The peak that I am going to reach was still vivid in my mind. It was the same “impact area” or location of our target when our basic infantry class had our hands-on firing of the 105-mm Howitzer Artillery pieces. Yes, those were the days when we were trained to request for an artillery fires by following some “structured” steps so that the one who is adjusting and pulling the trigger of the artillery piece would be able to land the artillery ammunition/rounds accurately to where the target is.
After running at least 3 kilometers from the crossing/entrance of this new highway, I dropped by a roadside eatery, the only eatery before going up the peak of the mountain. It’s called Big Joe’s Eatery and I immediately asked for the viand available for lunch. They have Sinampalokan Na Manok which was the viand with a soup/broth for the day and I ordered two orders. The taste of a home-coke viand is heaven, moreso, if you are running a multi-day stage run! They simply call the place “Tanawan” which is the common name they give to a place at the foot or mid-part of a mountain as you go to the peak. While I was eating, a white Lexus Car stopped at the place and the occupants also took their lunch thereat! What? These people could be locals, I thought. But when they were finished with their lunch, they asked how far is Santa Rosa is from the place. A-ha! They are also first-timers like me on this road!
The road leading to the peak of the mountain was very challenging and the temperature of the day was so hot that I have to be supported every 500 meters. Definitely, this is the hardest leg of my adventure run. If the ascending portions are very challenging, the descending parts are much more challenging. I have to control my footsteps on the steep descending portions as I don’t want more pain and swelling of my left quads and knee. I took light and short strides on these downhill portions as I was careful with any untoward incident or issues on my leg muscles. I don’t want to do any foolish thing that may cause any untoward accident to happen with barely 50 kilometers away from my destination as I wanted to finish this adventure run. It could be funny to see me running on those descending portions as I could visualize myself to be running very erect with my back straight up as I control my footsteps/stride.
I admit I walked on those steep ascending portions of the route that leads to the peak of the mountain. Sometimes, I tried to walk backwards just to relieve the pressure on my quads and knees as my calf muscles are the ones that are working and being stretched. There was no point on attempting to jog along these parts of the road. I feel much comfort that I was able to see a military detachment on top of the mountain where you can see Cabanatuan City on the west and the Sierra Madre Mountains on the east. Aside from providing security in the area, the military is also reforesting the place with young trees. There is also a road side eatery where food and refreshments are available and I could see some Nipa Huts which you could rent for P 50.00 per hour to enjoy the view of the place!
As I passed the peak of the mountain, I knew it will be a roller-coaster run/jog/walk up to the crossing on the old road/highway that goes to the small town of Laur, Nueva Ecija. The eastern side of the mountain is more developed and more populated as I could see some mango orchards and cultivated fields on the side of the mountain. There are also groups of houses (they call itself as “puroks”) which I assume are also illegal settlers. But most of all, I really wonder who owns those mango orchards whose trees are already bearing fruits that nearly touch the ground. I hope these mango orchards are under the administration of the military units stationed in Fort Magsaysay!
I told to myself that I have to reach the crossing towards Laur before it becomes dark. With consistent pacing and following my hydration and nutrition strategy, I could see already in a distance the vehicles that are travelling along the Laur-Gabaldon Road and it gave me the satisfaction that I still have one more day to go before I finally reach my destination.
As soon as I reached the crossing, I found out that I was able to cover a distance of 41 Kilometers since I started my run from Santa Rosa but I wanted to reach the Km Post 0 that is located in the Poblacion of Laur. I instructed my support crew that I have to complete at least 42 kilometers and I need one more kilometer to run. So, while I was running along the Laur-Gabaldon Road, in a few meters, I saw a Km Post that says that there are 4 kilometers more to go before reaching the town of Laur. I decided to continue my run with my support vehicle providing me with the illumination I needed. The road was not busy and it was already dark. I comfortably maintained my strides with the objective of reaching Laur and be able to run a distance of 45 kilometers for the day. As we got nearer to Km Post 0, we were able to pass by a store that serves hot mami and I decided to stop and take some hot noodle soup.
We actually want to ask some information from the locals about the nearest resort where we can stay overnight and the store was the best place where we can inquire about such information. As we were eating our noodle soup, I started the conversation with the owner and after some exchange of questions and answers, we decided to take a look at the said resort that the owner of the store had recommended. However, I still need to run and reach Km Post 0 of Laur, Nueva Ecija. I was surprised that the Km Post is only 150 meters away from the Store!
I stopped my run officially for the day on the said Km Post. I need to rest but the place where we are going to check-in for the night is still 18 kilometers away towards Gabaldon. It took us only few minutes to reach the place aboard our support vehicle. Although the place is not well lighted, we did not mind as we need a place where we can take a shower, wash some clothes, and sleep overnight. Unfortunately, there is no Wi-Fi Connection! However, I am sure that once there will be sunlight the following morning, the place will emerge as a beautiful place to rest and stay!
I was able to cover a distance of 45 Kilometers from the Starting Point in Santa Rosa up to Laur, Nueva Ecija. This leg is the hardest day in my adventure run due to the hot temperature in Fort Magsaysay and its immediate environs and the challenge of the steep inclines going to the mountain pass. The steep descending portions were also a challenge on my part because of my swollen quads but I was comforted with the nice scenery that my eyes could see all around me. These places and scenery are priceless!
We stayed overnight in a resort which is called Stone 8 Resort which 5 kilometers away from the Poblacion of Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija.
Some of the data/information on this day’s run:
Weather: Very, very hot along the Santa Rosa-Fort Magsaysay-Mountain Pass Road.
Distance Covered For The Day: 45 Kilometers
Time of Actual Running: 8 hours
Average Pace: 4-5 Kilometers Per Hour
Running Apparel: Adidas Tech Fit Compression Shorts; NIKE Compression Shirt; Adidas Running Cap; NIKE Black Soccer Socks; Ice Bandana; Buff; Sunglasses by Ray-Ban & Oakley
Running Shoe: ASICS Gel-LyteRacer
Lunch @ Old Joe’s Eatery (good for 2 persons)—P 120.00
Hot Mami @ Laur (good for two persons)—P 46.00
Total Expenses For The Day—P 166.00
Total Number of Kilometers (After 6 Days)—252 Kilometers
To be continued…