30-Dec-2003 -- This is my third degree confluence find, N11 E125, the only one on land in the historic island of Leyte, Philippines. About 60 years ago, General Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise to the Filipino people and returned to the Philippines on the beaches of Palo, Leyte, just about 30 kilometers north of the confluence.
Few days back, Santah and I took off from Manila the day after Christmas for Calbayog City to celebrate an important event on December 28th, her 60th birthday, the day she became a senior citizen. Also, we arranged the simultaneous blessing of our vacation house built along the beach of Matobato, her birthplace and hometown. We planned the possible visits of three degree-confluences during this trip. We made the first attempt on the 26th of December for N12 E124 located in the Barangay of Hinipaan, near Basud, Camarines Norte. The old topographical map I got from NAMRIA showed the confluence about 200 meters away from a small road but when we got there we found out that the old logging road no longer existed. We did not plan to walk 4.5 kilometers and miss the ferryboat schedule from Matnog, Sorsogon to Allen, Samar. See separate story of the attempt. N12 E124 has to wait for another time.
On December 30th, 2003 we decided to hit the road for the 185-kilometer journey from Calbayog City, Samar to Dulag, Leyte to visit N11 E125, a full degree to the east of Raul’s sole confluence find, 11°N 124°E in Cebu. Traveling with us were Santah’s brother in law, Dado and his two daughters, Diana, 18 and Ella, 3 who took the opportunity to visit their godmother in Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte. We left at 4:20 AM and expect to be back in Calbayog early evening of the same day. We planned for the worse that we may have to hike 4.5 kilometers as described by a previous confluence visitor who made an attempt to the same point.
We reached the town of San Jose where the confluence is about 4.5 kilometers to the west of the coastal road. We decided to proceed to Dulag and turn right towards the town of Julita, where the town of Gitabla can be reached by concrete road. From experience, we know that the nearest reference town used by the Confluence website is existent so it was always a good starting point. However, when we reached Julita, my GPS programmed to “goto” N11 E125 points to the right side of the road and residents insisted that I still have to proceed up to reach Gitabla. This is where the adventure begins. First, I completely trusted my GPS but the roads were not always cooperative so we decided to backtrack and choose a branching road in the same direction as the GPS pointer and after getting assurance from the residents that the road is about 5 kilometers long we decided to take the chance. After traveling about a kilometer into this feeder road, we saw the floodwaters surging from the rice fields across the road and the children playing signaled with their hands that the water was waist-deep. We decided to reverse back and look for a parallel road. Rain had been hard for two weeks in Leyte and just only a week ago, the biggest news in the country was the big landslide in Liloan, Leyte, about 100 kilometers south killing about 200 residents. At Julita town near its waiting shed, we took this feeder road to the right towards the Barangay of Hindang but after a half kilometer of travel, the road curved in the wrong direction so we decided to park the car and chose to walk the remaining 2.5 kilometers. The rain had been intermittent and the trail was muddy until we reached the graveled part where we saw an empty “habal-habal”, a converted motorcycle with extended seats at the back of the driver that allows three more passengers. “Habal” is a Visayan word for intercourse so the appearance of four people sitting in a row gives its unique name now used all over the country to describe the vehicle. We traveled to within 600 meters of the confluence when the trail ended and we started the hike. The good news was that it was flat all the way and the bad news was that it was mostly flooded rice fields and soft, narrow and muddy dikes to walk on. Knee-deep mud was entirely new experience for my new rubber shoes. Santah removed her often-stuck rubber slippers and walked barefoot, the more efficient way to walk on slippery dikes. In between these rice field blocks were the irrigation mini-rivers that we had to cross and it was not easy to walk on a single pole bamboo bridge. Well, they put a vertical pole for you to hold and to semi-pole vault across the two-meter span but for city people like us who are used to ceramic-tiled paths, it cannot be described as a walk in the park. I discovered today that farmers are capable of basic engineering works with the barest minimum of cost and effort.
N11 E125 happened to be very near the confluence of rice dikes too, a small bushy and grassy island of some sort with coconut trees and bamboo shoots but the exact spot is 0.4 seconds to the south from where we stood but it falls exactly at the pond about breast deep. Also, the coconut trees nearby were interfering with the GPS signals so at the spot where we did the reading; only three satellites were linked and gave us a low accuracy of 17 meters. But adding this to the 0.4 seconds off mark, our overall accuracy is about 30 meters. This is still good but what matter is that we saw and we knew where the exact spot is. The confluence is in Barangay Bulod of Dulag Town. It felt good when a confluence mission is accomplished.
The trek back is also a story to tell. We backtracked the 600 meters thru the dikes and upon reaching the dirt road, we were too tired to walk back. We rode again the “habal-habal” motorcycle and the 7-kilometer roundabout trip back to the parked car was a good demonstration what this Kawasaki motorcycle can do. It has enough power to carry 4 passengers (maximum is 7 according to the driver), cruise thru rocky roads; muddy and narrow trails, climb foot-high humps whenever we crossed buried drain pipes and even crossed the two-foot deep flash-flooded road. We had to step down and walked through the flood and rode the motorcycle again beyond the flooded road. There is one rule for the “habal-habal” passengers to remember by heart; if you felt the bike is in precarious situation and about to fall, never jump off nor put your foot on the road to help brace it because you are not helping the driver when you shift the center of gravity in the process. He is in full control in spite of what we think. Who needs 4-wheel drive in Leyte? See more photos of the confluence visit here.
This is not one easy visit for my brand new senior citizen wife Santah but she got more drive and energy than me.