When I wrote yesterday about the Manunggal trek, I warned that I was not there when this annual activity was first launched. I was not surprised, therefore to get a text message from Milo Osmeña, one of the Boy Scouts who reached the peak “25 years ago.” Meaning the first trekkers must have launched the activity within that time span or earlier.
“As I recall,” Milo said, “we weren’t even the first ones to pay tribute to (the late president Ramon Magsaysay’s) crash site. I remember still seeing parts of the plane’s massive engine.” I won’t say how old Milo was at that time but I agree with his contention that my information that the first trek was launched “15 years ago” was “a bit inaccurate.”
I won’t question Milo’s recollection because reaching Manunggal peak at such a young age would have impacted much on a young boy’s mind. I hope the organizers of the first trek will e-mail me to clarify matters. But pending that, I did try to mine whatever memories I could dig of those times using Milo’s “25 years ago” information as guide.
The first trek must have happened in the early ‘80s, I reckon, although I don’t think it was sustained considering the situation in the hinterlands of Balamban and Cebu City. That time, two peace and order glitches hounded Central Cebu. Rebels were active, more so in the Balamban-Cebu City border. And armed marijuana planters had territories there.
I would even consider the initial foray of lowlanders into Manunggal as linked to efforts to curb the activities of insurgents and marijuana planters in the area. Government troops secured the mountain and a chapel was constructed with building materials transported under difficult situation considering that no decent road reached the peak then.
The situation only became conducive to further development of the camp site and the institutionalization of the Manunggal trek in the ‘90s when the influence of the rebels in Central Cebu waned and marijuana was replaced by shabu as substance of choice among drug addicts, meaning its price plunged and sale was no longer as productive as before.
By the way, this year’s trek, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the death of president Ramon Magsaysay in Manunggal, will be on March 17 and 18, although there will be activities as early as March 16. You can choose to go directly to the peak passing by the Transcentral Highway or climb with us early in the morning of March 17 via Barangay Tabunan.
–-Candido O. Wenceslao (I wrote this for the March 15, 2007 issue of Sun.Star Cebu)