This is really Manunggal trek week. I would have wanted to write today about former Compostela mayor Gilbert Wagas’ e-mail about politics in the fifth district but readers just couldn’t get over the first two articles I wrote about Manunggal. More info about the early trekkers and those who helped develop the camp site has filtered in.
Take this one from a TextReax contributor (0906-4507778): “If you want to know the Manunggal trekkers in the early ‘80s, these are some of the guys—Rolando Plaza, Karen Villarica Reina, Victor Cortes and owners of Habagat. They started it all.”
Another texter (0921-2183821) said that Boy Scouts of Sacred Heart School in the ‘60s climbed up several times to the crash site. “Some plane parts were even retrieved,” the texter claimed, “and mounted and displayed in the scouting room of the school. The hike then was tougher as the terrain was still forested and climbers got infested with leeches. Mr. Apolinario Leyson was the scout master.”
Meanwhile, my mention of the chapel and Magsaysay monument in Manunggal had Beth Sestoso of the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJR) offering additional information. The school helped pave the way for the “conquest” of Manunggal in the ‘80s but only played a minor role in organizing the treks from the middle ‘90s onward.
A fact sheet e-mailed by Sestoso noted that USJ-R’s foray into the hinterlands was a response to a challenge hurled by Brig. Gen. Romulo Querubin of the now defunct Regional Unified Command (RUC) 7. Project Pakigdait sa Barangay Gaas was born on July 14, 1986. Gaas is near Barangay Magsaysay, Balamban where Manunggal belongs.
On Oct. 20, 1987, Josenians and RUC 7 elements adopted Mt. Manunggal through Project Pakigdait sa Manunggal. Like Gaas, Mt. Manunggal and the entire Barangay Magsaysay is a depressed village and at that time a haven of marijuana planters and insurgents. There, Josenians hatched projects similar to those implemented in Gaas.
Going to Manunggal in those days was not easy. USJR people had to travel with military escorts, ride 6 x 6 trucks and walk by foot for hours. Projects at the crash site were by then a joint effort by the academic and service departments of USJ-R and the Visayas Command, with financial help from Ang Bisaya Inc. of Metro Washington.
Those endeavors resulted in the construction of landmarks familiar to trekkers and other Mt. Manunggal visitors even now: a community chapel on a hill, the Magsaysay monument below and the crash site marker on the slope some 50 meters away. Josenians also provided religious and health services and other outreach projects through the years.
USJR’s projects in Barangays Gaas and Magsaysay was turned over to the parish and local government of Balamban on Feb. 17, 2001, or 15 years after Project Pakigdait sa Barangay Gaas was set up. Josenians, though, have not left Manunggal altogether. Priests from USJR, for example, usually handle the masses at the camp site during treks.
Finally, I also received an e-mail from Alvin Tancinco, member of the Climbing Enthusiasts and Backpackers Unlimited (CEBU), the first group that made me feel I belong in the Manunggal trek. I could not remember Alvin but he said we were together in previous climbs. I am sure that, reading this, he will realize what he is missing.
—Candido O. Wenceslao (I wrote this for the March 16, 2007 issue of Sun.Star Cebu)