At the age of 30 years old, General Emilio Aguinaldo was the youngest President of a self-proclaimed Philippine Republic and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces when the Insurgency War broke out with the Americans occupying the country after the Spanish authorities left the country. Although the different Regions of the country have their respective Generals and Officers commanding their respective Filipino Armed Resistance Groups against the Americans, General Aguinaldo was regarded with much respect and loyalty by all the Filipino Officers and Soldiers. His orders and command were strictly followed throughout the land but with the superiority in weaponry, logistics and the number of troops of the Americans, the “rag-tag” Filipino Forces were no match in the field of “face-to-face” battle with the invading/occupying forces.
Instead of surrendering due to some defeats and debacles in battles in the Tagalog area, General Aguinaldo with a group of one thousand two hundred troops to include his wife, children and some relatives, decided to move in a northernly direction towards the Ilocos Region with the hope to link up with Filipino Forces in the North and make a counter-offensive against the Americans. Because of his soldiers’ knowledge of the terrain in the plains of Luzon, they were able to evade the three-pronged offensive of the Americans to catch or trap him while he and his troops were on the move. A fast mobility was the only weapon or strategy left for General Aguinaldo for him to evade the dragnet being made by the troops of General Arthur MacArthur.
As he left the provinces of Pangasinan and La Union, he started to see high mountains ahead of him and immediately decided to take the risk in going to the higher mountains with the thought that he can hide in the area or use the mountains and the forests to prevent the Americans from pursuing him and his troops. The higher mountains that he chose were the mountains that lead to the Cordilleras. Before reaching the town of Candon in Ilocos Sur, General Aguinaldo was about to cross a river whose current was coming from the mountains in the east, instead of crossing it, he made the decision to follow the said river upstream. The said river brought him and his troops to the foot of a mountain range where Mt Tirad is located.
And the rest is history!
Sometime in 1996, a senior officer of the Philippine Army gave me a paperback edition of this book and I was impressed on how the author was able to describe and narrate at least four (4) different but related stories in one book. Eventually, the said book was lost from my personal library. However, two months ago, after going through my research on the General Funston Trail in the coastal towns of Aurora-Isabela Provinces, I was able to locate where I could buy the said book. Thanks to Amazon.com!
Presently, this book is now my “guide” in re-tracing the General Aguinaldo Trail and General Funston Trail.
So, while I am tracing the trails for the Luzon Ridge Trail, two other historical trail systems in the country, General Aguinaldo Trail & General Funston Trail, are presently being re-traced at the same time with the support of selected ultra running friends.
General Aguinaldo was riding on horseback when he trekked the Cordilleras and it took him 5 months and eighteen days to reach the town of Palanan, Isabela. General Funston hiked from Dinalungan/Casiguran, Aurora to Palanan in almost two weeks. David Haward Bain, the author of the book, took him ten (10) days to hike the General Funston Trail.
We will see how many days and weeks will I spend in trekking, hiking, and jogging these two Historical Trails.
My blog will be used as the main resource for updates in my adventures to re-trace the Historical Trails and the Luzon Ridge Trail.
1. Due to military-related activities in Fort Magsaysay scheduled for the weekend, all the Transient Facilities inside the Camp, to include the Special Forces Regiment and SOCOM Transient Facilities are FULL. However, runners who would like to spend Saturday night within the vicinity of Fort Magsaysay, they can avail of the hotels and commercial transient facilities in Santa Rosa-Cabanatuan City area. Most of these hotels are located along the Maharlika Highway. For those who choose to arrive early in the camp and rest inside their respective Support Vehicle, they can park their vehicle at the back of the 7th Infantry Division Headquarters and . Parking of Vehicles in front of the Headquarters Building is strictly prohibited. All the other roads surrounding the Headquarters Area is available for Parking.
2. The race will end on the shore of the Pacific Ocean at Purok Tanguige, Barangay Aplaya, Dingalan, Aurora. From the usual finish line at GINA’s Resort, follow the highway that is descending towards the Poblacion of Dingalan, Aurora. Runners would be able to pass the short section of commercial establishments and follow the road that leads to the Philippine Coast Guard/Dingalan Pier. Runners have to TURN RIGHT once they reach an intersection with a PETRON Gasoline Station on the right and a tarpaulin with an Iglesia Ni Cristo 100th Anniversary hanging across the said Gas Station. The road leads to Barangay Umiray.
3. From the road leading to Umiray, turn left on an alley which is a paved path, about 400 meters away from the PETRON Gas Station, good for one vehicle which is marked with PUROK TANGUIGE. Runner would see the seashore and the Finish Line will be few meters before the beach. On your right will be the Seaside Restaurant where lunch will be served and for the runners can have their shower.
4. Warning for those Runners with Support Vehicle. There is a limited parking space along the shore and vicinity of the Seaside Restaurant. Runners should advise their support driver/crew to park along the road leading to Umiray. The road is safe with few vehicles passing in the area and with the Barangay Hall within the vicinity.
5. The 65-Kilometer distance will be short by about 500 meters. As I don’t want each of the runner to make an additional distance along the Umiray Road and somewhere have a U-turn back to Purok Tanguige, this arrangement might result to some confusion, most specially when the runner is thinking of a cold beer waiting for him once he crosses the Finish Line. Just reserve that lacking 500 meters for your open water swim on the shore of the Pacific Ocean once you cross the Finish Line!
Benjamin Gaetos opened the floodgates for Pinoy Ultra Runners to shine in the prestigious Badwater 135 Ultra Marathon Race which is considered as the “toughest ultra running race in the world” today. As history would place in its proper perspective and understanding, Benjamin Gaetos is already considered as the FIRST and LAST Pinoy Ultra Runner who finished the ORIGINAL Badwater 135 Ultra which starts in Badwater, California (hence, the name Badwater in the title of the race), 280 feet below sea level up to Mt Whitney’s Portal at an elevation of 8,360 feet above sea level in 44:08:07 hours where the cut-off time is 48 hours.
With the latest restrictions and policy from the newly designated Superintendent of the Death Valley Park, the conduct of endurance sports activity is being prohibited and held in abeyance before a thorough study is being published to review on the safety of participants in such events being held in the said area. However, such restriction did not prevent the Race Organizer to conduct the annual event for the ultra runners but instead of starting and passing through the extreme hot environment of the Death Valley Park, the event was held at the adjacent Owens Valley which is equally challenging as the original route with the prevailing summer heat and more gain in elevation. The New Badwater 135 course covers three mountain pass ascents for a total of over 17,000 feet (5,800 meters) of cumulative vertical ascent and 12, 700 feet (4,450 meters) of cumulative descent.
In this year’s New Badwater 135 route, two Filipinos, Gerald Tabios and Tomas Zaide have been qualified and invited by the Race Organizers to join the event. But for me to be more focused on my story, this article will be devoted as a tribute to Gerald Tabios as the FIRST Pinoy Ultra Runner to have finished the New Badwater 135 Ultra Marathon Race.
I became aware of Gerald Tabios’ participation in the New Badwater 135 from a news story published in the On Line Edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Surprised that he has no account on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, I immediately browse his name at UltraSignUp and I was amazed with his ultra race portfolio/resume of his ultra finishes. He had finished a lot of 100-miler races in the Eastern part of the US, particularly in New York City and its suburbs and he placed as a Champion in one of the 100K races in the area and a number of them where he finished in the top 3 podium finishes. Notable of these ultra running accomplishments were the following:
Champion in the 2014 Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 100K Ultra Race held in New Preston, Connecticut with a time of 9:46:03 hours
2nd Overall Champion in the 2013 Three Days At The Fair Running Event (48 Hours Timed Event) in Augusta, Georgia where he was able to run a distance of 143 miles.
Consistent and 3-Time Finisher of The Great New York City Running Exposition 100-Mile Race with a best time of 21:22:34 hours.
Since his family migrated in New York, USA in 2001, he had his taste of his first Marathon Race finish at the New York City Marathon and since then, he had been a “streaker” of this most popular and the World’s Biggest Marathon Race for the past nine (9) years! Even if he considers himself as a slow marathon runner, he prides himself with an impressive Marathon Finish time of 3:31:32 hours at the Central Park Marathon in New York City. Aside from his numerous ultra events that are listed in the UltraSignUp Website, he had finished a total of 25 Marathon Races.
I was impressed with his ultra race results as his age as an ultra runner is still at his prime of 44 years old. Gerald is still starting as an ultra runner for the past 2 years but he has made already a great impression to his peers and to myself as a hardcore ultra runner. I have no doubt then that he will finish the New Badwater 135 even if he is not exposed to hotter environment (as compared to the East Coast’s climate) and he had never set his foot in the extreme heat and gusty winds within the desert mountains of California.
As an old runner and firm believer of the Arthur Lydiard Way, I believe that there must be something in Gerald’s childhood that greatly contributed in his passion and craving for running events. He was born in Malaybalay City (Bukidnon) on September 12, 1969 but he did not have to walk on mountain trails in order to finish his elementary and high school education as the family house is only a “stone’s throw” to the schools. His interest in running started when he was in high school with his brothers, who happened to be running enthusiasts during the “running boom in the 80’s”, and they would tow him along in public parks and streets in their jogging practices. He could still remember when spending vacation in Manila that his brothers would bring him jogging around a big street block in Quezon City which happens to be where the ABS-CBN Compound is located along the Mother Ignacia Street.
Surprisingly, a local elite runner who hails from Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Ronilo Indapan became his running idol and inspiration. Ronilo Indapan had been a consistent MILO Marathon Finals Qualifier in the 1980’s and he was then the pride of Malaybalay in Long Distance Running as he was sent to Manila with “free trip and accommodation” to and from Manila to join the MILO Marathon Finals. He could be the father of one of my former elite runners who is now a soldier of the Philippine Army, got married to my Secretary/Staff and now living with two children.
With Ronilo Indapan, a local running hero in their place, as his role model and inspiration, and with his brothers’ interest in joining running events, he started to train and join the annual MILO 10K Runs in Cagayan De Oro City from 1994-1997; and progressed to a longer distance event by joining and finishing the The Tri-City International 25K Race in Cebu City in 1995 & 1996. He even mentioned that his brothers would buy him running tops/singlets and shorts made by BOTAK; and ADIDAS Jogging Pants and Sweaters!
Gerald was neither a high school nor a college athlete, he just simply love and have fun in running long distance events. He finished his college education with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan in Cagayan De Oro City.
Twelve years later after he migrated to the USA with lots of Marathon and Ultra Marathon Finishes and most specially when he finished as 2nd Overall Champion in the 2013 Three Days At The Fair 48-Hour Run, he decided to send a letter of request to the Race Organizer of Badwater 135 for him to be included in the List Of Qualified Participants in this year’s edition. And the rest is history.
However, his toughness as a 100-Miler and Ultra Podium Finisher is not enough for him to secure an easy race and finish at Badwater 135. With a 48-hour cut-off time to run a distance of 135 miles with extreme heat, gusty winds and additional gain in elevation as compared with the original Badwater route, the presence and time-clock precision of pacing and assistance from his Support Crew is equally half of the effort for an ultra runner to finish this brutal ultra running event. Gerald was ably assisted by the following members of his Support Crew dubbed as the “Team Tabios”—-his wife Donna; Kat Bermudez, a Registered Nurse in New York City; and his brother Glen Tabios, a UP Diliman Professor and Civil Engineering Chairman who flew all the way from Manila. It was unfortunate that friends and relatives of Gerald in New York City came up with a nice Uniform for everybody in the team with the word BADWATER printed on them and they could not wear them during the race as it violates one of the Rules and Regulations of the Race—the word “BADWATER” is a registered trademark of the Race Organizer and nobody is allowed to use it in any form by any of the participants. Violation of any rules or regulations of the event would mean an outright Disqualification from the race.
Practically, Gerald and the members of the Team Tabios are “first-timers” in the desert environment of California. Based from the FB Status of Kat Bermudez who happens to be the an ultra runner and wife of a PMA Graduate and former comrade-officer in the Philippine Army, the Team landed in San Francisco coming from New York City. Kat was always complaining about the lack of Parking Spaces in the Windy and By The Sea City of San Francisco! It was too late to suggest to her that the team should have landed in Los Angeles! However, during the event, I never heard Kat from complaining about where to park the Team’s Support Vehicle along the desert of California! It was Kat’s regular FB Status Feeds that gave much information and pictures of Gerald’s “real-time” situation during the race as she later became the Official Pacer of Gerald; Donna, due to her observation on how the elite runners are being supported in Gerald’s past ultra races, she became the overall “conductor of a symphony orchestra” for all the Support Team members to be “playing the same tune” so to speak, and bring Gerald to the finish line strong, safe, and without any injury. Glen, Donna, and Kat did a splendid job as their Principal Runner, Gerald did not have any bouts of cramping, GI issues of “throwing up” of ingested food; dizziness and hallucinations; chafing; blisters; or dehydration. Gerald followed his pace, ate and drank his nutrition and did not mind the pace of the other runners. With patience and determination, Gerald finished the 2014 Badwater 135-Mile Ultra Marathon Race in 44:40:40 hours ranking as #69 out of 97 starters.
I was expecting Gerald to relate to me a little “drama” if he ever encountered some nasty feelings or pain in any parts of his body or doubts in his mind about the challenges he has to face or had any complaints about the hot weather, gusty winds in the desert and those additional gains in elevation of the new route. He said that he did not have any “drama” or “issues” with his body and the environment during the race. It speaks well of his good training/preparation and firm resolve to finish the race. If you closely observe his running attire and shoes, he did not change them except when he removed his gaiters and changed his wet socks. Would you believe that he used a New Balance 860 V3 shoes which he bought On Sale at Marshall’s for the price of $49.00 and with cotton socks from GAP? I wonder if Gerald has a bloodline to my own tribe which is the Ilocano!
Knowing that he had already recovered from this brutal course, I asked him about his training in preparation for this event. He humbly said that for the past year leading to the event, he was logging 40-50 miles a week where most of his weekday runs were his daily 6-mile runs from his home/apartment in Queens to this work in Manhattan, New York City. On weekends, he starts very early in the morning for his long runs but he makes sure to be back before mid-day and spend most of the remaining time of the day with his wife and kids, a boy and a girl (11 and 7 years old). He proudly said that he works as a Private Family Driver in Manhattan, New York City but remotely managing a small business that he owns in the Philippines. His humility would not show that his family, specially his father, grew up in a family of politicians and entrepreneur in their province.
Not even money or financial requirements for the event would hinder Gerald’s passion to the sports of ultra running. Gerald’s and his wife’s savings amounting to $3,000 financed his dream to finish the event and it covered for the Registration Fee for the Race ($1,050); RT Ticket for Gerald & Wife ($850); Support Vehicle/Van Rental ($600); Hotel Accommodation in Lone Pine, California For 5 Days ($550); and Food & Miscellaneous Needs ($400). His brother Glen and friend Kat shouldered their own RT plane tickets from Manila and New York City, respectively. Gerald’s relatives and friends residing in Los Angeles, California had also supported the team by lending those much-needed ice cooler/chest for his nutrition/hydration and cold towel/water spray.
Gerald was able to raise the amount of $1,200 for his charity through the US Fund for UNICEF which will ultimately be used in the rehabilitation/rebuiding of the damage structures brought about by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in Leyte and Samar. Gerald is a simple and humble guy with strong legs and a big heart!
When I asked him, “What will be your next adventure in ultra running?” He answered, ” Sir, I hope to run a distance of 180 miles in the next year’s edition of the Three Days At The Fair in May 2015 in Augusta, New Jersey and be able to improve my 143-mile record this year.”
And then, I asked him again, “What keeps you on “going and going” like that Energizer Bunny in the TV Ads?” He replied, “Running is the simplest sports that I know which has only ONE RULE—Do not stop running until you cross the Finish Line!”
But jokingly he added, “It is your fault, Sir BR! When I started regularly reading your blog three years ago, it transformed me to be a “crazy runner” like you!”
We both laughed and I raised my hand and I gave him a snappy salute!
Well done and Congratulations, Gerald! You made our country proud among the toughest and strongest runners in the world!
Carry On, Warrior!
(Note: Photos of Gerald Were Shared Through The Courtesy of Donna Tabios)
Next year will be the 7th edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race (BDM 102) and I firmly believe that this running event opened the awareness of our local runners on the possibility to finish a running event more than the distance of a Marathon Race. Its historical significance and the experience of past finishers had lured a lot of new marathon runner-finishers for them to train and finish the race. And slowly it is becoming more prestigious that you can not call yourself as a “full-blooded” ultra marathoner among the local Filipino runners if you have not finished this race. Better yet, if you consider yourself as a Race Director/Organizer of a local ultra running event.
Almost yearly, the course record of the BDM 102 had been broken by what we consider as our “elite runners” and nothing happens after that for them to be exposed to other ultra running competitions abroad and find out how they would compare themselves to international runners. With the help of ultra running friends and former comrades in the military service, I was able to expose some of these elite runners in three instances but these were the notable results: (1) Alquin Bolivar, an active Philippine Army soldier set a National Record for 100K with a time of 9:04:23 hours and placed #6 among the fast ultra runners of Asia in an IAU-sanctioned Asian 100K Championship Road Race in Jeju, South Korea in 2010 and (2) Marcelo Bautista, a 9:45:59-hour finisher of BDM 102, who placed #15 in the 2013 Hongkong 100K Trail Ultra Race among 1,250 runners coming from different countries with a time of 12:08:42 hours making him a qualifier for the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California, USA.
Due to different factors and reasons of which I don’t have any control, I could no longer afford to send such “elite” athletes to international ultra running competition. If TNF Philippines could not even afford to send the Champion of its yearly TNF100 to any of the Southeast Asian TNF100 events, how much more for a “pensioner” like me who does not have any profit from having less than 100 runners in my regular ultra races.
There are potential “elite” ultra runners among us who would like to be exposed to international races but I have the observation and personal opinion that they lack two of the most important considerations or attitude which are very paramount for me aside from the fact that they lack the financial resources: Loyalty and Humility.
Loyalty? Do I need to define what is loyalty? Humility? Do I need to define this word also? If you are one of the local ultra runners who know me personally or had been reading my blog since the time I created this, you would know what I am talking about. If you are new in this blog and don’t know me personally, you can always “search” for my rants and random thoughts in my past posts.
So, if you have the influence or the capability to send our elite ultra runners to international competition, you can do also your share in this effort. If you are one of the “Big Shots” in the Government Service or in the Private Corporate World, you can be a great help to these potential elite runners making sure to test them of their “loyalty and humility”.
For those who have the time, money and resources to participate in international races and considered as our “elite” ultra runners, the whole local ultra running community will be behind you to cheer and pray for your safety in your travel and for a competitive resolve to be faster and stronger than the other runners.
This brings me to a more focused observation to our “elite” ultra runners who are competing (not participating) in an international ultra running event. It is assumed that if you are an “elite” ultra runner, you are supposed to compete with the best of the other international runners. There is no doubt that your sole purpose and focus in this race is to be able to finish the race as fast as you could within the confines of your skill, talent, training and mental fortitude. It is assumed also that you have figured out, through your training and preparation, the best race and nutrition strategy for such event. There is NO point of thinking that you are there to simply to FINISH the race event. The ultimate aim of an “elite” ultra runner is to be able to land and place as one of the podium finishers (top 3 or top 10), period!
For the “middle-of-the pack”, their purpose and goal is to be able to pass or overtake as many runners as they can before they cross the finish line. These are the ultra runners who keep on coming back every year to improve their Personal Best or PR times for the event. They find satisfaction to beat a friend or an opponent or a training partner, whether their satisfaction is for bragging rights among other runners or silently praising himself/herself that he/she could improve some more. These are serious runners who always find ways and means for them to be faster, stronger and smarter ultra runners. They keep on improving with the end view of someday joining in one of the international ultra running events as part of their “bucket list” given with a well-balanced family and job/professional career. I can say in my opinion that these are the “Silver Medalists” in the past BDM 102 editions.
The “back-of-the pack” are mostly “whiners”, “fakers” in their training, pressured by their peers to join, old and aging runners who would like to put a tab on their “bucket list” before they fade away (that’s me!), non-believers to accept that they are little heavy in weight and very slow in running and ask a lot of unnecessary TLC in Aid Stations, those who don’t accept that they are injured in their training, and those who always have a laminated printed copy with them of their targeted split time in every kilometer post along the route in order to avoid being cut-off from the race. I call these runners as “hit or miss” ultra runners.
As more ultra running events, whether road or trail, are being organized in the country, there is a possibility of more runners being lured into joining ultra running events and you can easily distinguish them as the “elite”, “middle-of-the pack” or “back-of-the-pack” ultra runners. I just hope that their interest will not end once they finish the BDM 102. As for the elite runners, I am still confident that private individuals and/or corporate brands will be able to support and send them to prestigious international ultra running events, whether they are in Asia/Australia, Europe or in the USA/Canada, in the years to come.
If former President Marcos was able to invite past Boston Marathon Champions and Marathon Olympic Medalist in the past to be as special guest/runner and if MVP can bring a whole NBA Team to the country to play with our National Basketball Team or send our Basketball Team to play tune-up training games to a popular and former NBA Champion Team in the USA, I have the strong belief that our ultra runners will soon be running side by side with elite ultra runners worldwide or for these world’s elite runners to be running in our local ultra races.
I hope and pray that these things will happen before I finally fade away from ultra running as a “back-of-the-pack” runner!
The Pacific Crest Trail is commonly known by its abbreviation, PCT and it is often designated as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. The trail system is located on the Western Portion of the contiguous USA Mainland and it passes through the States of California, Oregon, and Washington. The trail covers a distance of 2,663 miles or 4,286 kilometers from South to North or vice-versa. It is one of the three most popular trail systems in the United States, the other two of which are the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail.
History on the creation of the trail states that the first proposal for the trail system connecting the States of California, Oregon, and Washington was made in 1926 which could be an exchange of mails and correspondence among early explorers in the area. The actual exploration started sometime in 1930 but there are no available evidence or journal to support this fact. However, in 1932, an oil magnate and explorer, Clinton C Clarke, started promoting the creation of the trail system as evidenced from his correspondence with John Muir and other explorer-environmentalist-outdoorsmen during those time.
In 1935, Clinton C Clarke organized and spearheaded the conduct of the first meeting among his friends and associates who believe in his vision and objectives. Thus, The Pacific Crest Trail System Conference was formed with the objective to formally establish the route/connect “all the dots”/establish a route map and to lobby or create awareness for the federal government of its existence and to protect the trail system. The Conference consisted of Clarke, the Boy Scouts of America, YMCA, John Muir, Ansel Adams (famous photographer-environmentalist), and other environmentalists. From 1935-1938, YMCA and the Boy Scouts of America did a splendid job of organizing a yearly “Boy Scout Relay” along the trail route where each of the team carried a Log/Journal. The objectives of the “Boy Scout Relays” were to provide an actual ground/activity to practice the skills of scouting; create awareness on the activities of the Boy Scouts; and as a proof that the trail concept of Clinton Clarke is doable. The dedication, passion and commitment of Clinton C Clarke to the Conference and its accomplishments earned him the title of “The Father Of The Pacific Crest Trail”.
In 1939, a year after, the Pacific Crest Trail system appeared on a federal government map for the first time. With the signing of the National Trails System Act by President Lyndon B Johnson in 1968, PCT was designated as one of the National Scenic Trails and protected by the federal government. The Pacific Crest Trail Conference became incorporated in 1977 and later merged with the Pacific Crest Trail Club in 1987.
The Pacific Crest Trail Conference changed its name as the Pacific Crest Trail Association which is the establishment that supervises, manages, and administers the Pacific Crest Trail. So, if you have plans of conducting a “thru-hiking” or “section hiking” along the PCT, it is best to visit their website for you to be guided in terms of permit, maps, schedules, and other details/announcements on the PCT. You can go to: www.pcta.org.
I became aware of the existence of the Pacific Crest Trail for the first time when I recon the route of the San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run two years ago as some portions of the first half of the ultra trail would course pass through the actual PCT. As I conquer and “peak bagged” some mountains in the San Gabriel Mountains and mountainous parts of Los Angeles area for the past 2 years, I’ve been seeing the PCT trail markings. However, I came through a published article about the exploits of Scott Williamson who was considered as the first “thru hiker” who did a “yo-yo” hike (South-North-South) on the PCT in a year and it gave me the resolve to read more about the people who were successful in their “thru-hikes” along the PCT!
This interest on the PCT led me to read more stories and journal about the hikers at the PCTA Website, most specially on the blogs of those “thru-hikers” who are on the route and at the same time blogging about their activities/experiences and pictorials on the trail. At this time, I have three (3) published books which I’ve been reading for the past weeks. I am not saying that I am already an expert on the details of the Pacific Crest Trail but it is worth knowing the experiences of those who successfully finished their “thru-hikes”.
It brings me back to a surprise conversation encounter with the Former President Ferdinand E Marcos during one of his annual Holy Week stay in soon-to-be Malacanang of the North at Paoay Lake, Ilocos Norte in 1979 with the then Commander of the Presidential Security Command (PSC) and Director-General of the National Intelligence and Security Authority (NISA), General Fabian C. Ver. In my recollection, the brief conversation went this way:
General Ver: Sir, this is Lt Narcise, our NISA Station Commander in Ilocos Norte.
President Marcos: Lieutenant, from where are you?
Me: I am a native of Laoag City, Sir!
President Marcos: How is the CPP/NPA situation here?
Me: There is not much of activity except for sightings along the Ilocos Norte-Cagayan boundary, Sir. They don’ t have any mass base or reported training camps in the province, Sir.
President Marcos: Try to locate the “Guerrilla Trail Route” that goes from North to South in the province all the way from Pagudpud to Pangasinan. I am sure the insurgents are using that route in their movements.
Me: Yes, Sir!
End of Conversation
In the late-80s when the CPP/NPA established their mass base and training camps/s in the eastern mountainous parts in the province, they used this trail system in their movements from Cagayan and Kalinga-Apayao to the province of Ilocos Norte and back. The information about the presence of this “Guerrilla Trail Route” in Ilocos Norte was shared to the Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army in their Test Mission Operations which eventually led to the crushing and destruction of the CPP/NPA Provincial Committee and its armed personnel/component. With this debacle on the part of the insurgents, Ilocos Norte was never been attempted as a “refuge” or training base for them.
In 1995 when I was a Battalion Commander of the 60th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army where my area of operations would cover the province of Ilocos Norte, I deployed a platoon of soldiers to monitor the movements at the said trail system. In a few weeks, it resulted to a bloody armed encounter with the insurgents that cause to the death of three (4) insurgents and capture of numerous firearms and subversive documents. This armed encounter with the insurgents was recorded as the last armed fighting in the province up to the present. In a few months, the province was cleared and I was ordered to transfer my Battalion to the Province of Abra.
At present, it is my plan to revisit the Guerrilla Trail System in Ilocos Norte and formally establish a route map to be shared to everybody. I envision a trail system that would start at the northernmost part of Luzon in the province of Ilocos Norte to the its southernmost tip of the province of Sorsogon. It will be a daunting task and a grand undertaking for me to accomplish with the support of my ultra running friends and my former/active comrades in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
Initially, I will call this trail system as the “Luzon Ridge Trail” (LRT). The history and establishment of the famous and popular Pacific Crest Trail Association will be the template of this undertaking. The activities on the exploration of this “Luzon Ridge Trail” will be one of the topics of this blog in the days, weeks and months to come. The exploration will start this month in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.
However, there is also a plan to start another trail system in Sta. Ana, Cagayan where the route will pass along the Sierra Madre Mountain Range all the way to the southern tip of the province Sorsogon. I might temporarily call this route as the “Pacific Coast Trail”.
This a dream, a plan, and an undertaking that is worth dying for. I can only envision that this undertaking will benefit the whole country.