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Cebu Highlands Trail: The First Long-Distance Hiking Trail in the Visayas

By Adrenaline Romance @AdrenalnRomance

Cebu Highlands Trail

One of the greatest wishes of any outdoorsman is to walk thousands of miles and witness breathtaking vistas on the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, the Great Continental Divide trail, and other long-distance trails. For many, such an undertaking is the Holy Grail of hikes, the ultimate challenge, the grandest dream, or the best way for self-discovery and healing. Unfortunately, for those who are living on the other side of the world from these beautiful trails, such an endeavor may remain to be a dream.

Why is that? There are many reasons, but most would not be able to step on these trails due to the prohibitive costs, hassles, lack of time, and logistics of crossing borders.

Fortunately, one dedicated Cebuano decided to take on the challenge of creating a long-distance hiking trail in our own beautiful island of Cebu. Through this project, outdoorsmen can realize the dream of long-distance hiking without bankrupting their bank accounts or undergoing the hassles of applying for visas. After several long years of mapping, exploring, and establishing segments, the Cebu Highlands Trail is finally coming to fruition.

Cebu Highlands Trail

The Cebu Highlands Trail (CHT) is the brainchild of Mr. Jing Lavilles de Egurolla, the driving force behind the bushcrafter’s guild Camp Red. It is patterned after long-distance hiking trails in the US, Canada, and Europe. This is a labor of love that started 6 years ago in 2011.

Cebu Highlands Trail

The main trail, which is divided into 8 segments, traverses the borders of 33 of Cebu’s 44 municipalities. Feeder trails link the CHT to adjoining barangays, villages, and towns, allowing easy access or exit in each segment.

Cebu Highlands Trail

With a length of 408.29 kilometers and an elevation gain of 954 meters, the CHT snakes lengthwise along the entire Cebu island. It is not a straight line; it bends, turns, ascends, descends along and around the central spine of Cebu. Because it is divided into segments, trekkers have the option to complete the trail segment by segment. This is called section hiking, and it can be done without necessarily following the sections in sequence.

Hikers may also want to take on segments as day hikes or overnight treks.

Cebu Highlands Trail

This scenic trail takes hikers to rural villages, vast farmlands, thick forests, picturesque mountain ridges, flowing rivers, beautiful waterfalls, and more. It leads hikers to some of the most stunning—a lot of it rarely seen by non-locals—and rugged places in Cebu Island.

In addition, the team will establish camp sites, bivouac sites, billeting areas, rest stops, emergency and evacuation routes, water sources, and more after the first thru hike. All of these important points will be documented and integrated in future maps, GPS assignments, and other references.

Cebu Highlands Trail

With utmost government and private support, sufficient media mileage, and diligent local guardianship, the Cebu Highlands Trail is poised to attract local and foreign hikers, boosting the island’s adventure tourism industry. More than just the scenery and adventure, however, the trail exposes visitors to the history and culture of Cebu’s highland communities.

Cebu Highlands Trail

Press Conference and Send Off

Last January 16, 2017, together with a local media outfit and several other invitees in the outdoor community, we attended a press conference that served as a formal send-off for Sirs Jing and Jonathan. They will attempt to accomplish the first thru-hike of the Cebu Highlands Trail. That means, they will hike the trail end to end, from Liloan, Santander in the south to Bulalaque Point, Daanbantayan in the north. That’s a whooping 408-kilometer trek ,which, in their estimates, will take approximately a month.

Careful planning and logistics are absolutely required here; you don’t want to run out of supplies when you are still so far away from your next resupply point.

Cebu Highlands Trail

Joining him in this expedition is Camp Red member and co-leader of the CHT exploration team Jonathaniel Apurado. The Cebu Province, represented by Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer, Mr. Boboi Costas, expressed their full support on this endeavor.

During the lively and informative press conference, the trio answered our questions, explained the rationale of the project, projected the benefits of the trail to upland communities and province’s tourism campaign, and gave us an insight of the adventure itself. We later realized that hiking the CHT won’t just be a “walk in the mountains.” Navigating through 400-plus kilometers in the rugged terrain of rural Cebu requires a totally different mindset and fitness level. The undertaking is certainly taking hiking to a whole new challenge.

The conversation totally fired everyone’s interest in trying out the CHT. In fact, Sweetie and I were asking when Sir Jing is available to guide us through the trail segment by segment.

Cebu Highlands Trail

A  mighty undertaking such as this needs all the backing it can get. We were totally ecstatic to know that many bigwigs of Cebu’s outdoor community have openly supported the project. Some of them (shown in the photo below) are Camp Red President and CHT Coordinator Jhurds Neo (light blue shirt), Philippine Adventure Consultants Operations Manager Randy Salazar (orange shirt), and Silangan Outdoor Gear CEO Eis Amiel Servano (black shirt).

Other entities who supported this endeavor include Titay’s Rosquillos, Galileo Satellite Control Systems, Derek’s Classic Blade Systems, GV Hotels, Bakhawan Beach Home, Lavilles Australis, Park n’ Go Bakeshop, FG, Versa, and Viajero Outdoor Shop.

The Province of Cebu, Cebu Tourism Office, and HAM Radio Cebu, Inc., also provided the logistics, promotion, and communication for this project. Friends, colleagues, and other people also pitched in, whether in cash or in kind.

Cebu Highlands Trail

Here we are with the man himself. Sir Jing is an avid bushman, and he pens Warrior Pilgrimage, the only bushcraft blog in the country.

Bushcraft is the art, practice, and sport of using wilderness survival skills, such as fishing, hunting, tracking, terrain- and weather-reading, navigation, flora and fauna identification, etc. in outdoor endeavors. Bushmen are unique because they are adept in using austere and readily available natural resources in the most creative, lifesaving ways. These skills are now almost lost with the convenience offered by advanced and readily available outdoor gear technology.

Sir Jing and Camp Red members are truly a unique, tough breed of outdoorsmen.

Cebu Highlands Trail

Godspeed, Sir Jing and Team

We are honored to support Sir Jing and his team in this noble project. After this thru-hike and after it is officially recognized by the province, the CHT will be the first of its kind in the Visayas and a beloved treasure of Cebu.

For sure, Team Sweetie will be attempting to realize another lifelong dream this year. That is, to hike hundreds of kilometers along the CHT so we can pay tribute to Mother Nature, our ancestral roots, and our Cebuano culture.

Cebu Highlands Trail

For more information about the first thru-hike of the Cebu Highlands Trail, please click the logo below. You can also check out the CHT Facebook Page.

Cebu Highlands Trail: The First Long-Distance Hiking Trail in the Visayas
All outdoor photos courtesy of Sir Jing Lavilles de Egurolla.

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