From Western Visayas To Eastern Visayas In Two Weekend Run

According to history one of the earliest places the Spanish colonizers settled in the Philippines was the island of Panay in the Visayas in 1566 when Juan Miguel De Legaspi arrived and settled in Oton, Iloilo. In my earlier years of joining run events I ran twice in Boracay Island, which is part of the province of Aklan. Aklan is one of the 4 provinces in Panay Island along with Antique, Capiz, Iloilo and with the inclusion of Guimaras, which is a separate island together form the Western Visayas Provinces under Region VI. This year I visited Antique to participate at the event, 3rd Antique Marathon held November 13, 2016.  The 3rd Antique Marathon and happening the following week, the 1st 50k Antique Ultramarathon was organized by Manuel Magbanua, Jr., a native of Sibalom, Antique, a runner himself who took upon himself and friends of promoting running in the province.


Run event however, is not new in Antique.  In fact, last September 25, 2016 Bald Runner held the 4th Antique 100 and 50-Mile Ultra Marathon Race. The event had 14 participants for the 100 miles category and 2 for the 50 miles category. Their starting area was located in San Jose de Buenavista with their finish area at Caticlan where Boracay is just a ferry away. For the 3rd Antique Marathon there were only 14 of us participants in the 42k. Most of the participants were from outside of Antique and only about 4 local participants with one of which actually hailed from Cavite but for 6 months had been residing in Sibalom due to work. Aside from the marathon there were two other categories in the Antique Marathon: the 21k category where 28 runners participated while in the 10k category 11 joined.


During my stay in Antique I was billeted at Adelaine Traveler’s Inn located in San Jose De Buenavista, the capital of Antique, which is 9 kilometers away from Sibalom, the starting area of the 3rd Antique Marathon. San Jose is 2 hours away from Iloilo City or 5 hours away from Kalibo, Aklan for those who opted to book their arrival via Kalibo Airport.  Just as what I experienced in Cagayan De Oro, Iloilo International Airport is located farther away from the main city.  In Iloilo’s case about 19 kilometers.  To get to the city a shuttle van such as those of Susie ferries people for a fare of P50.00 to SM Mall Transport Terminal while P70.00 from SM to the airport. Jeepney heading for Oton would then take you to the Molo Transport Terminal where you can take shuttle vans to San Jose for P100.00.


On the way to San Jose via Iloilo-Antique Road you would be cruising along with the sight of Iloilo Strait at your left side most of the way. 30-45 minutes away from Iloilo City, the UNESCO inscribed, Baroque Romanesque architectural styled Miag-ao Church or Santo Tomas De Villanueva could easily be seen along the road. Built in 1793 Miag-ao Church which doubled as defensive fortress against Muslim raiders also boast of its ornately decorated bas-relief façade that featured St. Christopher dressed in local and traditional clothing carrying the Child Jesus on his back while holding on a coconut tree depicting the tree of life. About 15 kilometers from Miag-ao Church just before finally hitting Antique lies the lesser heralded San Joaquin Church built in 1869. Its façade featured a military themed bas-relief depicting the Spanish victory over the Morrocan forces in Battle of Tetuan.  The coast temporarily gave way to forest and mountain views upon hitting zigzagging uphill climbing PC Barracks Road. Once the sight of the sea returns you are already in Antique plying the Tobias-Fournier-Anini-y Road heading towards San Jose de Buenavista which lies about 13 kilometers away.


After we were launched from the Starting area at 3:20 a.m. in front of the Plaza of Sibalom, the race route led us along the Hamtic-Bia-an-Egana-Sibalom Road heading for the town of Hamtic. Just as in my previous run I was again hampered by attack of acid reflux, which caused my chest to tighten. I shuffled from running to walking and back at the beginning of my run. Casting further shame on my performance being the last runner, an ambulance shadowed me for a while until I picked up speed as my condition improved. At around 4th kilometer of the race I saw one of the Manila based runner and a dragon boat paddler, Jeremy who seemed to have loss some steam and was also reduced to alternating run and walk. I soon over took him. I expected a couple more runners might be just a couple of hundred meters ahead of me.  I was not actually worried being left behind because I was thinking that many of the runners who pulled away early would probably burnout later in the race. I thought so because when I saw earlier who were running in the 42k I thought a few of the participants were probably new in the sport.  After hitting Tobias-Fournier-Anini-y Road via R. Javier Street, I was at the Town of Hamtic. Hamtic, which lies roughly 10 kilometers from the Starting Area was the place were 10 Bornean Datus who were escaping repression of the Sri Visayan Empire in the 13th Century settled after purchasing land from the indigenous Ati Chieftain Marikudo. The festival of Ati-Atihan celebrated in Kalibo Aklan was an event commemorating the peaceful turnover of land to the Sultan of Borneo who purchased land from the local Ati community in the 13th Century.


San Jose de Buenavista was some 7.4 kilometers away from Hamtic. As we were entering San Jose’s town proper just after Gaisano Grand Mall, Jeremy soon took the lead from me but he took a wrong turn on the way to the Aid Station in front of the Provincial Capitol Building he quickly gave up his lead.  From here we headed off to the National Road and run into a junction in which the left side leads to Bantayan Road passing by my hotel accommodation.  A marshal was waving at me along the right side of the junction or PC Barracks Road and as soon as I approached him me instructed me to take the right turn to the narrow Salazar Street and then left to Cerdaña Street and right turn again to a road leading to Barangay Inabasan, Hamtic. The route was almost like plying the National Road I took in Catanduanes where there were rice fields on both side of the road and the sun peering menacingly.  Somewhere at the 23rd kilometer another Manila based runner Mark who is Jeremy’s co-paddler gave up his lead. We were soon passing by the previous 2nd Aid Station and heading back to Sibalom. As we hit the 27th kilometers we were instructed to turn left toward Barangay Catungan. This was the dreaded “dirt wall” portion of the race which was a 5 kilometers off road passing through rice fields and would terribly enjoy the full beating of the sun since this portion had lesser shade to take cover from. At the end of the dirt road awaits an Aid Station. The marshal there told me that 10 kilometers separates me from reaching the finish line.  I don’t know if the marshal had made a mistake in telling me about the 10 kilometers distance or that I just did not noticed the passing of distance as I ran for when a motorcycle riding marshal passed me by a bit later he told me that there are only 5 kilometers left to go and after taking the U-turn at the bridge leading to Belison the Finish Line was only 4 kilometers. At that moment I could already see the bridge and was probably 1 kilometer before I reach it.  It was already a little pass 9:30 a.m. time was winding down fast with the 7-hour cut-off time at 10:20 am. When I finally got to the bridge it kind of reminded me of the Sacobia Bridge in Mabalacat, Pampanga which I crossed in the event, Clark Animo Run earlier this year. Aside from the bridge being long and run above a wide silted out river, the time I crossed the bridge was about similar. Right at the middle of the bridge another 42k runner Rough Rap was on his way back from the U-turn. He had already ran the Antique Marathon 3 times already. On my way back from the U-turn the two Manila runners behind me were also crossing the bridge and were in close pursuit. The last 4 kilometers was not actually a simple walk in the park for me as I was already terribly depleted by the heat of the sun but I still managed to eked out a trickle of stamina to finish the race with a time of about 6 hours and 20 minutes ranking 12th from the 14 reported participants. The organizer actually posted a race result that was not accurate which placed me as the 5th finisher when the rank should probably belongs to the much stronger runner Joni another Manila based runner whose root was from Tibiao, Antique.


After landing in Western Visayas the previous week I soon found myself hugging Eastern Visayas as I stepped off the Tarmac of Daniel Romualdez Airport of Tacloban City. It has been more than 15 years since I was in TaclobanCity and therefore I am quite sure my familiarity with the place had been wiped out clean by the storm surged of time just as Tacloban City had underwent when Typhoon Haiyan or locally known as Yolanda ravaged the province in November 8, 2013.   I found myself again in Tacloban City to participate in the event, Tacloban City To Basey, Samar 50k Ultramarathon (TC2BS) held on November 20, 2016.  Tacloban City is the capital of Leyte, which together with Samar and Biliran forms the Administrative Region, Eastern Visayas designated as Region VIII.   From the airport I travelled on a tricycle heading off to Tacloban City. The fare for the trip was P150.00 for the 9 kilometers journey while it would be twice that amount if airport taxi was the choice of transportation. Actually outside the airport Public Utility Vehicle plying Tacloban City to San Jose could be had at a fraction of the fare mentioned above.


During the duration of event I was billeted at a hotel along Zamora Street near downtown, which was a walking distance to the Santo Niño Parish Church of Liberation located at Real Street corner Zamora Street.  The front of the church was to serve as the Starting Area whose gun start was schedule at 4:00 a.m. the following day. The church should not be mistaken for the Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum also found along Real Street. The latter is a two-storey building that the former First Lady Imelda Marcos built to pay homage to the Holy Child while the former, a church which houses the image of the Holy Child the patron saint of Leyte known as El Capitan. The image was originally lost at the sea on its way to Manila in 1889 and 6 months after was recovered by a fisherman from Semirara Island.


There were originally 127 listed participants but in the race result only 125 ran and finished the race before the 10 hours cut-off. 2 foreigners – one from the USA and the other from Switzerland – had seen action. Among those who were familiar with me who participated came from Manila were Alberto, Arniel, and the couple Jojo and Tally whom I met in the event, 3rd Antique Marathon. After the gun start was given at 4:28 a.m. participant took the length of Real Street south bound heading for Palo, Leyte where Gen. Douglas McArthur landed before liberating the Philippines from the Japanese forces in 1945. As usual I started slow that even Alberto left me far behind. The route had the San Pedro Bay at the left side. It was therefore not surprising to think that when the Storm Surge brought about by Typhoon Haiyan hit the Region most of Tacloban City, Palo and Basey, Samar took the brunt causing so much devastation and death since these places lies along the coastline like beachcombers.  The first Aid Station was at the 7 km in front of the Bureau of Internal Revenue Building and just 2 kilometers away was the McArthur Landing Statue where the runners got photographed by Griv.  When I arrived at the monument it was still quite dark.  I noticed Griv was not using camera flash and since the photographs were not posted online unlike the other photographs taken from other portion of the race, I assumed the photographs taken from McArthur Landing Statue probably did not turned out properly.  From the monument the runners followed a road that was not identified by Google Map until we hit Tacloban-Baybay Road. At the left portion of the road I caught sight of the Palo Cathedral or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration built by Jesuit in 1596.  The Church, I read was apparently damaged by Typhoon Haiyan.  However, I don’t know if the current look was a result of the repair done because of the damage for I felt it was a bit over done for an old church who prior to Haiyan was requesting funding assistance for restoration works from my former employment at the National Commission for Culture and the Art (NCCA) through the Subcommission of Cultural Heritage (SCH).


At the 13th kilometers we turned right and run all the way until we were back at the area near the BIR building. Along the way I met the 63 year old Zenik Chavez who also ran in the event, 1st Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon (ICUM) under the 110 kilometers category. From this road, runners took right to the Pan-Philippine Highway heading towards Tacloban City, which was a long flat road. From afar I caught glance of another runner donning an orange jersey. I was hoping to further improve my ranking by trying to catch up with the runner and overtake him but he was just simply too far away. Soon I saw several other runners ahead running the right shoulder of the road.  Their paces had dipped low that I was able to pass by some of them. Runners turned right on a busier but narrower National Road leading to Samar. The road was undergoing road widening and the diggings added to the challenge of the race route. Along the way I managed to overtake several more runners.  After a long run on a combination of rolling and flat road I got to a portion where there was a fork on the road.  The road turning right was the way to San Juanico Bridge while the other road heading for Babatngon where I thought the Yolanda Shrine was. Since there were no race marshals to instruct me on which road to take I went instead to the road that I thought would take me to the Yolanda Shrine. I thought in the race route map runners had to go first to the Yolanda Shrine before heading for the San Juanico Bridge. It was a good thing that a tricycle driver told me that the other runners turned right. I run back and took the proper route. When I saw there were other runners about to reach the junction I motioned to them to take the right road.  Later just to satisfy my curiosity regarding why I thought I was originally right on taking the road to Babatngon I went back to the race map and saw that what indeed runners where suppose to go along Babatngon heading for San Juanico Golf Course and Resort.  San Juanico Bridge was the 34th kilometer of the race and the length of the bridge is about 2.5 kilometers. From the bridge we pass by a statue that turned out to be the Yolanda Shrine mentioned as part of our race route. We run 2 kilometer following the road right of the statue and turned back to head back to the Yolanda Shrine where runners were directed to take the left road which leads to Basey, Samar which lies 11 kilometers from the rotunda. I think either the additional 4 kilometers we took before heading for Basey was to make up for the original plan to have runner take Babatngon since upon also checking the race route map there was nothing there indicating the U-turn after the Rotunda where the Yolanda Shrine stood. I already visited once Basey when I was still with the NCCA before. Almost another lifetime ago I went to Basey, Samar because the NCCA-Committee on Monuments and Sites had allocated P150,000.00 to have a team to inspect St. Michael The Archangel Church a 17th century church build by the Jesuits with limestone and adobe materials. The church which acted as watchtower against marauding Moro raiders during the Spanish Colonial time sits on a hill that looked out over the Golden River and San Juanico Strait. Other structures also visited included Buscada Cemetery Chapel, Tribunal, a Baluarte ruins and Suhotan Cave which lies 30-45 minutes boat ride along Basey River.  Another thing that made Basey, Samar quite renown was for its mat weaving which I was told was being done inside a cave. I finally made it to the Finish Line inside the St. Michael the Archangel Church at 12:10 pm with a time of 8:14:18 and ranked 98 out of 125 participants however, I had to rush getting back to Tacloban City which lies 30 kilometers from Basey for I had already exceeded my stay at the hotel and my scheduled flight back to Manila at around 5:45 pm. So even after the actual race I was still in flight mode and only got to relax when I was finally settled at the airport lounge trying to look back what had transpired over the weekend and contemplating whether the mileage I got would be enough to sustain me on my next run the following week which will feature 117 kilometer distance.