General Aguinaldo Trail: Hike & Survey (Part #1)
For four (4) days, I went for a hike and survey to the historic General Aguinaldo Trail from Candon, Ilocos Sur to Lamut, Ifugao which covers an estimated total of almost 300 kilometers of trails and paved roads.
After studying the available maps and sketch of the posted route of General Emilio Aguinaldo, I decided to start the survey and hike at the intersection of Candon Highway with the road going to the towns of Galimuyod, Salcedo and Gregorio Del Pilar. The road intersection is in front of the Candon South Central Elementary School.
I’ve been running on the road from the said intersection in Candon to the Poblacion of Salcedo when I was a Battalion Commander where my Headquarters was located at a high elevated portion of the town which is about one kilometer away from the Municipal Hall. The distance from the Highway Intersection is exactly measured as 12 kilometers to the Poblacion of Salcedo.
When I was the Battalion Commander of the 60th Infantry Battalion, I would hike up to the peak of Mt Tirad almost every month and I have measured it to about 24 kilometers from my Headquarters, one way. I had to pass and cross the Buaya River for fifteen (15) times before I would reach the intersection road to Gregorio Del Pilar and Sigay, Ilocos Sur. Bringing with me 15 Scout Rangers who are fast hikers would complete my weekend trips to Mt Tirad.
My first step in my survey for the General Aguinaldo Trail was for a courtesy call to the City Mayor of Candon City (Ilocos Sur). The travel from Manila to Candon City is about 5 to 6-hour easy driving in a private vehicle. There are also commercial buses that would pass the city that go to northern destinations like, Vigan, Laoag, or Bangued, Abra. Candon City has also hotels and pension inns located along the Highway and at the Commercial Center of the City. My purpose in paying a courtesy call to the City Mayor of Candon is for him to be aware that his city will be the starting point of the General Aguinaldo Trail. Unluckily, I was not able to catch the presence of the City Mayor in his office after his meeting with his City Council.
My next visit from Candon City was towards the town of Salcedo where I’ve stayed for almost seven months in 1995 and where I’ve established my Command Post while my Battalion was in charge of the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and Abra in our efforts to solve the insurgency situation in the area.
I was surprised to be entertained as a special guest at the Resort of the Former Mayor of the town, who happens to be the Municipal Mayor when I was posted in the area. For the two days that I’ve stayed in the Candon-Galimuyod-Salcedo-Gregorio del Pilar area, the Resort became as my “Base of Operations”.
On my second day, I went for a hike from Salcedo to the town of Gregorio Del Pilar, the trailhead of Mt Tirad. I was surprised to see that there is already a paved road on the side of a mountain that connects the two municipalities. However, the road does not completely avoided the crosssing of the Buaya River. I was surprised that I had to cross the river for two times only instead of 15 times!
Along the way, I had a chance to talk to the people whose houses were located beside the route and where little convenience stores are located. I will post a separate story on these encounters and conversations with the local people.
From the intersection of Gregorio del Pilar and Sigay towns and after crossing the river for two times, a paved road which is 6 kilometers in distance would lead me to the Poblacion of Gregorio Del Pilar. The paved road is covered with trees and thick vegetation as I could see the peak of Mt Tirad getting closer. I have observed that the trail that I’ve been using during my hikes to the town 19 years ago was still being used by the farmers who would walk from one barangay to another and before reaching the Poblacion of Gregorio del Pilar.
In less than two hours of hiking and jogging from the Intersection of Sigay and Gregorio del Pilar, I was able to reach the Poblacion of Gregorio del Pilar. The place seems to be congested with buildings and houses. There is a newly-constructed Municipal Hall, a separate Rural Health Office/Clinic One-Storey Building, and the Municipal Plaza is now covered with roof which could be transformed into a basketball court and Assembly Area. The old Municipall Hall is still there and being used as additional offices.
The Municipal Mayor is a lady but unfortunately, she was not in the area but her staff in her office were very kind, courteous, and accommodating. I was able to make a very quick rapport with her secretary and the administrator of the Municipal’s Facebook account. The young and energetic Municipal Tourism Officer, Macario Burgos, was able to brief me about the tourism developments in the town. All the needed information about Mt Tirad and the Municipality were provided by Mr Burgos. He even gave me additional information about the General Aguinaldo Trail.
There is only one eatery/restaurant in the Poblacion and Mr Burgos was kind enough to accompany me and joined me for lunch. At the eatery, I was able to talk to more locals who would drop by to have their lunch. The Municipality had progressed due to tourism and agriculture since the mid-90s.
After lunch, I decided not to proceed to the peak of Mt Tirad having known the place and distance from the Poblacion when I was assigned in the area. I’ve found out that the Municipal Tourism has a registration area at the Trailhead at Barangay Mabatano and every hiker has to pay an Environmental Protection Fee of P 20.00. In my future thru-hike along the General Aguinaldo Trail, I will have to be back to this place and renew my experience in reaching the peak of Mt Tirad.
Getting back to my “Base of Operations” in Salcedo was uneventful and my staff and I had an easy jog and hike for the distance of 12 kilometers. We had more time to appreciate the beauty of the scenery and take more pictures on the things that we saw along the way.
The following picture gallery will explain more about my hike from Salcedo to Gregorio Del Pilar and back.
To be continued.
My Thoughts & Plans On The General Aguinaldo Trail
As I am trying to re-trace the route that General Emilio Aguinaldo and his entourage took in his journey to avoid being captured by the American Forces during the Filipino-American War/Insurrection War in 1898-1902, from Candon, Ilocos Sur to Palanan, Isabela, the following thoughts played into my mind.
More or less, these thoughts will be implemented in the events that I would conduct and share to interested persons or groups who would like also to experience what our forefathers have trekked in this historic route.
1. The General Aguinaldo Trail is a HIKING destination. Going through what General Aguinaldo and his entourage had taken almost 115 years ago in five months and 18 days with a perceived armed enemy on their tail is beyond comparison to what the present day hiker would do along this route. There NO need for a hiker to be fast and come up with a new hiking record to travel on foot along the said route. However, anybody can do this kind of risk on their own.
2. A hiker can be on self-support, carry his/her own tent, sleeping bag, and his food provision. A hiker can take advantage of the Barangay Halls or Village Centers along the route or residences of the locals in the area as their resting places. There are also convenience stores and eateries along the route as most of the parts of the road are being used for commerce and visitors.
3. The route is no longer pure trail or dirt road. Some parts of the original Aguinaldo Trail are now paved where transport system is well established. Commercial transport as well as private vehicles can now travel along this route. However, the challenge on the elevation gain and loss is still there.
4. Honor System is encouraged to all the hikers from the start up to the finish.
5. Patterned after the famous trails like, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail and other famous trail systems in the world, an Association will manage the entry and processing of each hiker that will pass through the route. Actually, I have created “The General Aguinaldo Trail Association, Inc.” and have it registered to the Securities and Exchange Commission as the sole association that will process interested hikers to this route.
6. Registration to Hike on this trail will be for “Thru-Hikers” Only. “Thru-Hikers” are those hikers who will stay along the route from start up to the finish or until they reach the final destination. If a hiker decides to take a break or rest in Baguio City or Manila or in his/her place of residence and then proceed back to where he/she stopped to continue the hike, this is NOT considered as “thru-hiking”. A hiker is considered DNF once he/she leaves the trail beyond the radius of 10 kilometers. It should be NOTED that there is only ONE Direction in “thru-hiking” this route—from Candon, Ilocos Sur to Palanan, Isabela. If a hiker decides to hike a section of the route, then there is NO need to register.
7. Registration to hike along the General Aguinaldo Trail will be On Line through my blogsite at http://www.baldrunner.com and/or through the General Aguialdo Trail Group Page on Facebook. This system/ arrangement is temporary while a dedicated Website for the General Aguinaldo Trail Association, Inc. is being constructed.
8. A corresponding registration/processing fee will be paid by each hiker (officially registered) which will cover the following:
a) Passport and Map/Directions of Route
b) Commemorative Shirt (Short-Sleeved)
c) Finisher’s Medal
d) Finisher’s Certificate
e) Finisher’s Shirt (Long-Sleeved, Dri-Fit)
f) Donation for the Establishment of Permanent Markers along the route.
g) Coordination Fee with the LGUs
h) Website’s (General Aguinaldo Trail Association, Inc.) Maintenance
i) Postage/Shipping Charges (For the Finisher’s Medal, Finisher’s Shirt and Finisher’s Certificate)
9. The details of my thoughts and plans will be duly coordinated with the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism, Department of Transportation and Communication, and the LGUs (Provincial, City and Municipal Levels)
10. Passport must be duly marked and stamped by the Municipal Tourism Officer or Philippine National Police in the Municipality with Signature of the Person On Duty with the appropriate Time & Date of Check-In in the stated office/s.
11. The following trail/route marker will be seen along the way to guide the hikers:
12. There is a possibility that some portions of the route will be used for ultra running events in the future. Details of these events will be announced through this blog or on Facebook.
13. Hopefully, the General Aguinaldo Historic Trail will be open for “official registered hikers” by January 1, 2015. This will make the “General Aguinaldo Historic Trail” as the FIRST Thru-Hiking Destination In The Country!