I HAVEN’T been to the mountain slopes overlooking Cebu City in a while. The last time, I think, was six years ago when I dared to guide friends from Manila to a village of old called Bocawe in Sapangdaku. I thought that I still knew the mountains after more than two decades of being away. I was in for a surprise because we eventually got lost at that time.
Our jump-off point was that tower in Babag after a habal-habal ride from Lahug. We followed a trail going south that didn’t veer from the peak. I tried recalling the old footpaths and realized that my real markers weren’t the shape of the slopes but the houses that used to dot the mountains.
But by then many of those houses had long been gone, burned down in the upheaval of the late ‘80s. When the situation began to normalize again in the ‘90s, new villages had been formed. When we finally found Bocawe weeks after, it was no longer the Bocawe I remembered. One farmer I asked didn’t even know it existed.
It was when the sun had started to go down that I admitted to my two friends from Manila that we were in the wrong place. We had reached a road going downhill and I thought it was the route going to Buhisan had not some farmers talking in roadside shed asked us where we were going. They told us we were headed for Campo 4 in Talisay.
It was then that I realized the road we were following downhill was the one in Pamutan. We backtracked and went back up. Because it was getting dark, we decided to take a habal-habal instead. Weeks later we sought the help of another friend who was more familiar with the place. It helped that he had a multicab. We finally found Bocawe.
So when some office mates, many of them years younger than me, formed a group called Sarasay and decided to go on a trek following the Buhisan-Toong-Pamutan-Sapangdaku route, I willed myself to join. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with some of the places that, with the passing of the years, only existed in my memory.
The shape of the slopes, it doesn’t change much. What evolves are the structures humans build on the slopes. The rough road from the Buhisan dam going up is now a concrete structure going to Pamutan where it connects to the road from Baksan, which has also been concreted. And yes, there is now a concreted road going past Bocawe.
The roads and a vehicle or two owned by Barangay Pamutan showed how far this formerly neglected part of Cebu City has grown. We met hikers sweating it out along the way. At noon inside a roadside eatery was a group of trekkers who said they were going to Sirao following the road to Bocawe. Motorcycles and other vehicles are no longer daunted by the steep routes.
The biggest change was in Lanipao in Sapangdaku where four swimming pools have become an attraction, what with the road from Napo going there already concreted. Growth was in the lower part of the village with the upper part virtually deserted.
That was symbolic of the times. Upper Lanipao was once a dynamic village that hosted a historic moment in Cebu: the press con by the National Democratic Front (NDF) during the now forgotten localized peace talks in 1986-87.