Saturday, March 1, 2014
SURVIVAL-THEMED SHOWS on TV are now the most watched programs anywhere in the world and it opened the eyes of the viewer of the different scenarios when society or even a single individual is threatened by events or by forces caused by nature or by humans. It also shows primitive-living techniques, woodlore and culture of native peoples which had never been seen before on the boob tube.
Survival TV produced illustrious names like Les Stroud, Ray Mears, Bear Grylls, Mykel Hawke, Cody Lundin, Dave Canterbury and others and have spurred reality-TV shows like the highly-rated Survivor®. As if that is not enough, there are many survival videos produced professionally that are uploaded on YouTube, Vimeo and other dedicated sites which command a good following.
Matthew Everett, an independent film maker and a product of Bridgewater College in England, decided to organize his own production outfit in Southeast Asia where he was able to produce and direct indie short documentaries about Philippine culture. When not filming, he goes back home each winter to work in a power plant to raise the money he needs for his film projects.
Taking it a step further, he began mulling of a survival-cultural-adventure made-for-TV series. When Everett met Wil Rhys-Davies and Jing de Egurrola of Snakehawk Wilderness School, he felt he is catching on to that dream and named this project as “Native Instinct”. He explains that it is a bit like a survival show but it demonstrates cultural differences between the lead casts with some humour in it.
In fact, he had already made two test shoots at Guintarcan Island in Cebu and in an Aeta village of Bataan. This reality TV show aims to educate its viewers on survival techniques along with Philippine culture in an exciting and fun way. It will follow Rhys-Davies and De Egurrola, both wilderness instructors, as they travel through the islands, dealing with different survival situations and learning new skills.
What makes it different from the rest of the survival TV genre is that both Rhys-Davies and De Egurrola have good chemistry since both are good friends for years. Both enjoy poking fun at each other, on and off the camera, and it is this playful banter that will set it apart from the rest.
Rhys-Davies is raised on the periphery of the rugged Brecon Beacon Mountains in Wales and have wandered considerably the local woodlands of his childhood, it just seems natural that, one day, he would be an outdoorsman and wilderness traveler. He spent ten years with the British Armed Forces serving in a variety of environments, at home and abroad.
A trained mountain leader, wilderness medic, Outward Bound instructor and avid wilderness traveler; has travelled and worked in a multitude of environments in many countries, such as deserts, jungles, high mountain ranges; and in all seasons as a backpacking guide, climbing instructor, desert survival technical consultant, mountain biker, adventure-cycle tourer, and canyoneer.
He has worked with various clientele, from gang members, wealthy clients, drug and alcohol rehabilitation patients, and individuals who seek his knowledge. He is especially fond of the Aeta people of Zambales, the Philippines, whom he describes as amazingly friendly and one of the best jungle people he has met.
He is always passionate to see young people challenge themselves through outdoor activities. He is currently working on a multi-discipline adventure trip for 2014. Currently residing in the Philippines, he works with Snakehawk Wilderness School and consults with Silangan Outdoor Products.
The other cast is a Filipino and is a native of Cebu. He is a former SWAT operative and police investigator and had been taught woodcraft by his grandfather as a child. He used to be a recreational climber and free-lance mountain guide before shifting to bushcraft and survival and teaches these to aspiring woodsmen during weekends as well as urban survival techniques for corporate functionaries.
He uses the jungles and woodlands of the Babag Mountain Range as his playground and as location of the annual Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp of which he is the convenor and main instructor. Apart from that, he organized and founded the first and only bushcraft and survival guild in the Philippines called Camp Red.
He is now working for the completion of the Cebu Highlands Trail in 2015, a project patterned after the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail of the United States and is also engrossed in outreach projects that benefit the children of the mountains and of the environment. He is married for 24 years now and a father to two adult sons.
He is presently managing a top-rate private security agency in Cebu and is the partner of Rhys-Davies at Snakehawk Wilderness School. He is a product endorser of Silangan Outdoor Equipment, Bamboo Military Shoes, Seseblades and AJF Knives. He tests gears and equipment which are then given review on his blog. He maintains a free-platform blog named Warrior Pilgrimage. (Click on this address: www.pinoyapache.blogspot.com)
Native Instinct is programmed to be filmed as a TV series but lack of funds hampered its shooting and is presently campaigning in Indiegogo.com to raise £2,000 to propel it into finishing the first six episodes, which would include a re-shoot of the island escapade and the Aeta cultural immersion. The money would be spent for travel, equipment and production expenses.
Prospective investors will be able to choose their perks according to the various donation packages indicated at its Indiegogo.com project page. As you read this, the Native Instinct production staff are asking you to please help this show by supporting for the completion of this in the form of donating any amount at its Indiegogo.com page.
Below are some video clips of Native Instinct under the “Jungle Survival with the Aetas” episode. It is like Dual Survival® of Cody Lundin and Joe Teti but with a different twist. What would that be? It is for you to distinguish! Please enjoy - - -
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Saturday, February 22, 2014
I WAKE UP AT SIX in the morning today, September 8, 2013, and, I think, I need to hike the backwoods again alone. I really needed that. I just have had a stressful week and another one looming tomorrow. Solo walks for me are now rare since the time Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild is now an outdoors fixture here in Cebu plus the fact that Snakehawk Wilderness School is beginning to steal away my weekend time.
This is not a planned trip. It is a spontaneous self-eviction from my comfort zone. More of like a rapid deployment exercise than an urge. I will re-visit Camp Damazo and see for myself what is on the other side of that strange trail that I have not had found the time to explore. Today will be the day and that three-year-old question will be unraveled later in the day. Perhaps. Crossed fingers and all.
Now is the time to remove some kinks of my emotions and to exercise that nagging knee. I hurriedly pack the things I need inside my Sandugo Khumbu bag after I took a bath and I am at the street before 6:45 AM. I commute twice from residence to Jones Avenue and thence to Guadalupe. The church is full and I believe that today is a special day for Catholics. I show respect to my faith by genuflecting before the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and uttering “Jesus, Mary, Joseph; I Love You, Save Souls” several times.
After I had a humble breakfast at a sidestreet eatery, I buy raw eggplants, gumbos, bell peppers, an onion and a clove of garlic at the same street for my lunch which I will cook later. I hire a motorcycle to bring me up the trailhead in Baksan. When I got dropped off, I re-fixed my shoelaces, adjusted my operator belt, wear a camouflage hat and sent a final text message to someone that I am hiking solo before turning off the cell phone. I tuck my William Rodgers and sheath inside the bag’s double waist strap – frontiersman style. At exactly 8:00 AM, I start the hike.
I am testing a prototype outdoor pants from Silangan Outdoor Equipment. Silangan is now experimenting the grounds of outdoor apparel production right after their tents became an instant hit among local mountaineers. This pair, colored gray, is currently undergoing a series of tests on the rugged outdoors, which I am good at, and on the streets. I have worn this to match assorted shirt designs and colors even with different polo barongs. It had its initial test during the Outlaw Bushcraft Gathering last week where it was worn three days and three nights straight.
I understand that it had rained regularly here for the past few months and the last time I was here was during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in June. The grass have grown long and wet; wild plants are flowering; a lot of bird activity everywhere; mushrooms opening up; the teak forests are healthy and you could tell patches of it at faraway hills with their blooming flowers distinguishable by its light green color. The forest is alive.
I saw something unusual beside a trail and I found a compact disc which has Guitar Rock 1968-1969 printed on it under a Time-Life label. I pick it up and keep it not because I am doing trail maintenance but because I believe that the CD contained the finest collections of songs in the best years of the big-band rock era. If I could only retrieve what’s inside after cleaning it, well, I could then have a gem of a collection. That is if it is not broken.
I pursue on my hike despite the long grass covering Lensa Trail. I may need a wooden staff to beat the grass ahead of me to shoo away whatever lurking beneath. It seems that the trail is cleared of debris and firewood and I have yet to find me a staff when, not ten feet ahead of me, a wild fowl flew suddenly in a trail of feathers when it have known of my presence. I pause for a while to study my situation and to observe the effect of its flight. True enough, a second one erupted ten seconds later from the same ground towards the route of the first.
Beside me is a straight branch of a teak tree and I chop it down immediately with my knife because I really needed it. I clear the leaves and sharpen its bottom and I now have me a walking stick that doubles as a weapon. It is good that, this early, only fowls make their presence felt on the trail and not a formidable creature like a Philippine cobra which, I believe, are still thriving in this locality.
I walk on slowly with the stick probing the ground where my eyes cannot see. There is a fork on the trail that is very deceptive and, I think, I am going the wrong way. I notice it after about three meters so I backtrack and found it. I have to pay attention to the slightest detail else it would be very frustrating, tiring and time-consuming when you get lost; and you would never know what dangers you may encounter in its remotest places when animal life is so active as it is now. Of course, poisonous snakes are always a threat but I worry more of stray bullets from a hunter’s rifle.
I go down a low ridge and up a hill which I loved to call as “Boy T’s Hell”. Three years ago, on this place, Boy Toledo almost fainted of exhaustion and thirst while in an exploration hike with me and Ernie Salomon. We were following a stream looking for a route and changed to higher ground when I saw a grove of bamboo. From there, I follow a trail east and come upon this hill but not after encountering several difficulties associated with jungles.
I am up on the peak and I inhale deep. The weather is good, very cloudy, but I do not discount rain. I am not worried getting wet, in fact, I welcome it. At least, in rain I could cover all the smells I carry or produce and it hides my presence. Nearby, a wild hen make its presence felt by announcing its territory. I smiled inwardly that they are getting bolder today or maybe their population are thriving.
I go down and follow a ridge and, somewhere there, would be the tree which I marked to lead me to a better way down the stream. I could hear the water rippling and so wonderful to the ears as I slowly watch everything in stride. I saw the tree and found another tree that would be the springboard to a narrow gully where the slope begins to go gentle. I notice that the twenty-five pairs of feet of last June’s PIBC have created a temporary path from tree to gully and I follow it easily.
I reach the stream (Creek Alpha) after one hour. I take time to savor the open space and the soothing rhythm of water running down briskly among rocky channels. The place have not been visited lately and traces of human feet are absent as seen on the moss that grew on the rocks. I study a small tributary closely as a possible continuation of the trail found on the other side of the bank where I came from. I see a hint but, that would be on another trip.
I follow the water downstream, careful not to disturb moss and leveling each deep indenture caused by my own careless steps on sand or by my weight. I always look back, very careful not to leave tracks else, I feel, I am not doing it right. I am very particular of this and I am proud and confident to walk where I please because I want to leave as little trace of my passing unless I leave prints for a purpose.
I found the other end of the trail beside a tree with an X and climb up a short slope where the main route is found. I pass by the old campsite of PIBC 2011 and it is slowly recovering its vegetation. I push on following the path which, I know, will lead me to the second stream. I reach that stream (Creek Bravo) at 9:15 AM. There are no signs of surface water but there is one invisible stream underneath me. This is the only place here where groves of water bamboo (Local name: butong) are found.
After this, my next destination is Camp Damazo and it would be a little hard. I will be hiking up a ridge and I will be passing a lot of rattan palms growing along the route. When I reached the ridge, I pause to recover my breath. I did not touch my water but I could have that luxury when I reach the campsite. Perhaps. But it is not a hot day and rehydration is not critical since I just walk on a very comfortable pace.
I walk on steady inclines and wary of them rattan leaves as it try to reach your shirt, bag and skin. I found one whole plant blocking the path but I found a short detour and reclaimed the trail. Along the trail are young coffee seedlings planted just recently. Well, that would create a coffee industry someday here and, perhaps, Malayan palm civets would sweeten the pot for that. Who knows?
On a small clearing I see remains of a fire, empty coffee sachets and feathers. I believe someone had caught a wild fowl, as I examined the feathers closely, and cooked some of its meat here. How did the hunter catch it? I see two young branches of a Mexican lilac tree (Local name: kakawate, madre de cacao) getting bent out of place supporting two banana leaves, now frayed and dry, as roofing of a crude shelter. Obviously, someone must have camped here and stayed beneath it waiting for his prey but where would the hunter have guessed the prey would be?
I looked around and above and I see a tall arbor tree stripped of its leaves by caterpillars. You could barely see the top as it is covered by lower leaves of other trees and common sense dictates that whatever was there at the top could also barely see the hunter below. It is plain obvious that the fowl had been foraging on caterpillars when shot by the hunter and the rest is history. Smart.
I take some feathers with me for my arrow projects and proceed on to Camp Damazo. The “gate posts” give me a hint that I am near. So, I am here again and it is like a homecoming. The fire ring beside the tall Moluccan ironwood tree (Local name: ipil) is still there as well as its “guardian”, the stingy stinging tree (Local name: alingatong). The place is a natural campsite since it has a wide clearing and made wider still during two occasions of the PIBC with a water source nearby.
I relish at this occasion and at the thought of being the one who found this site. I stayed for a while and reminisced of the people I brought here who learned, through me, about bushcraft and survival. I have a lot of converts but few are jewels. These special kind practiced what they learned and slowly made a name for themselves. PIBC is an annual affair for everyone who wanted to learn primitive-living techniques and wilderness survival skills and this is the place where they started.
I look all around and young coffee trees began to reclaim their designated spots due to constant rain and few human activities. I say goodbye to Camp Damazo at 10:00 AM and proceed on to the stream (Creek Charlie) that nourished a lot of people on the night of June 11, 2013. This stream is a free-flowing stream with a lot of boulders and very primeval. Too few people come here and it is populated by thousands of fresh-water crabs during nighttime.
Before I reach the stream, a black shama (Local name: siloy) gave off its very distinct melody. It is an endemic bird and very shy. It usually live and nest in groves of bamboo but its habitat had been slowly encroached by humans until it disappeared from the lowlands and had become rare. I have not seen an adult bird but probably have seen a fleeting glimpse of it while on flight. Ironically, it was not here in Cebu but in Bataan. Besides the black shama, I have also heard cuckoos, native pigeons and a wild rooster crowing.
I arrive at Creek Charlie and do a little investigation on the river bed, especially upstream. I am armed with a small ballpein hammer and a concrete nail and I hope to chip off chunks of a big slab of quartzite partly buried in sand. But I found one small slab instead mixed with other stones and break it into three pieces then wash it on the stream and let it dry. Satisfied with that, I climb up the bank and prepare my food ingredients for my meal.
While doing that, I treat myself to jazz music coming from my newly-acquired CIGNUS V85 Dual-Band Portable Radio set which could also get an FM signal. I set the channel at 89.9 kHz and it set my mood right. Like the Silangan outdoor pants, I am also testing my new radio. I am still learning how to manipulate all the buttons and I just prepare this radio unit just in case I will pass the Class D Amateur Radio Examination next week.
I start my mushroom-and-vegetables meal when I think the food is cool enough to eat. Fortunately for me, I am the only one who liked my cooking. The gumbos are a bit crunchy and I liked that. The milled corn is perfectly cooked but, if I could only have the luxury of time, I would have cooked all of these inside of bamboo poles and on a fire given off by firewood. Anyway, good music made my dining great.
I return to the creek to wash the pots on the small cascading water. As I was doing so, some brown butterflies are attracted to what I wore. Maybe the smell of laundry soap has got to do with that. What if these were hornets instead of butterflies? Anyway, I got startled by one butterfly on my shoulder when I saw it in the corner of my eye and thought the brown mass was a feral creature stalking behind me. Just an imagination.
When I got the stones, I start to pack my bag and retrace my path and looked for the branch of the trail that had been on my attention. It is 12:00 noon. As I go there, a strange tree grew in a dim part of the forest. I had not noticed it before. The trunk resembled the shape of a sitting giraffe complete with a long neck and two legs. I am tempted to go near it to take a picture but it is best to leave some things alone.
When I thought I have found the trail fork, I go further back, almost to where Camp Damazo is. Then I slowly walk again to the trail fork and follow the one that is most visible going up. I follow the path but it just disappeared when I reach a big upland marsh palm (Local name: saksak). I cannot go forward for it is choked by a lot of thorny vines and rattan palms. If that was not enough, the sky went dark. Rain is ominous.
So I backtrack, hoping I have miscalculated and taken the wrong path and go back to the creek. As I was walking, I see a shiny black bird, perching on a low branch inside the part where I also saw the “giraffe tree” before. It stared at me, unbelief written in its eyes, that I have come so uncomfortably close. Then it flew. Obviously, it was a black shama! It is my first time to see it face to face.
From the creek, I retrace the trail again and again until I have no recourse but to end this little exploration as the weather seem to be becoming uncooperative. It is getting dark and I do not have the appetite to go probing in half-light. I go back near Camp Damazo and take the exit route towards Baksan Road. I will be passing a natural spring and two small creeks and then a steep path. Then the sky parted and the sun returned.
While I am in the middle of that route, I stop to enjoy the spectacle of two birds of prey gliding above and among a copse of trees. Then, another one joined the two and I could not help it but be happy. These are graceful birds and so different in the way they fly. It is not everyday you see three eagles. You know what, today’s walk have blessed me with a lot of bird activity. It seemed that the forest had given me a big welcome.
Just when I am about to proceed, a fourth eagle appeared to join the three. All float in circles and dive in and out of the trees and everything is silent all around. I am blessed with this rare moment seeing all those four raptors. I believed I stayed for more than fifteen minutes just watching this rare activity. Then all stop when the biggest one fly high going west and the other three fly after the leader.
I reach the road and take a rest, enjoying the sight of sweat dripping to the ground. I take two swigs of water and rest some more, letting my body cool. Yonder is a path beside the road going down to Lanipao and it is now easy. Somewhere in that little community is a small store selling cold beer and I liked that idea very much.
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Friday, February 14, 2014
DEATH VALLEY MAGAZINE, through their Death Valley Expeditionary Corps, came to Cebu recently to engage in a humanitarian mission to ease the plight of the communities caused by Tropical Cyclone Haiyan. Haiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, was the strongest storm that the world had ever experienced in its entire modern climatic history with wind strength of 215 KPH and above. It struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013 leaving a wide swath of destruction and death. The islands of Samar and Leyte bore the full brunt of the storm as well as Northern Cebu and on the rest of the Visayas.
DVM is an online magazine about professional adventurers and interesting people while the DV Expeditionary Corps is its humanitarian arm. It gets its crew from the very places where they go to execute their relief missions and expeditions just like they did at Guintarcan Island recently. Their Philippine contacts were from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, a Cebu-based club of outdoorsmen who are passionate about primitive-living skills and knives. They were Jing de Egurrola, Glenn Pestaño, Ernie Salomon, Dominic Sepe, Faith Gomez and Justine Ianne Abella with Jhurds Neo as base support.
James Price, founder of DVM, arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport in the early morning of November 22, 2013 and brought with him relief goods donated by the people and servicemen of the United States of America. Mr. Price decided to augment his cargo with locally-sourced goods like powdered milk, canned sardines and beans, biscuits, laundry soaps, candies, disposable lighters and bottled water.
On the morning of November 23, the DV Expeditionary Corps proceeded to Medellin in a convoy of two vehicles provided by Gerald Ortiz and the Don Bosco Technical High School Batch ‘94. A small motorboat ferried the crew and cargo over the Bantayan Channel into the small village of Langub in Guintarcan where the relief goods were distributed. A good number of affected households came to avail of the said items that Mr. Price personally distributed.
The DV Expeditionary Corps transferred to a seaside community of Dapdap and used the partly-damaged house of Tita Rosos as its base camp from where it reached out to the needs of the residents like the field treatment of the wound caused by burns on a youth that Mr. Price dressed and ocular assessment of the area. The crew returned to mainland Cebu on the following day, November 24, after that successful aid mission. Below are the collage of photos that document this activity of two days:
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