Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE PATHFINDER

I HAVE PROMISED DR. SHAWN ESPINA that I would be back. I stayed overnight last February in their farm estate, Camp LOV, located in Tubod, Sibonga. That time, I was pampered well with rich but healthy food that was sourced from the bounties of their organic farming. They developed, grew, fed and prepared these things – plant and livestock – for soon they will be opening Camp LOV to visitors, in a setting of agricultural tourism and the healthy lifestyle fad.

They have designated camping grounds for tents and hammocks for those who would stay overnight, a meditation nook, a dedicated path to tour around the farm estate, which is halved into two by the presence of a farm road that connect Sibonga with Colawin, Argao. The farm is accessible by SUV or pickup trucks and by motorcycles. I took a motorcycle the last time but, today, April 7, 2017, I am inside a Toyota Hi-Lux double cab, driven by Markus Immer. Going with us is Jonathaniel Apurado.

Jon have walked with me during that great Thruhike of Cebu from Liloan Point, Santander to Bulalaque Point, Daanbantayan for 27 days last January 17, 2017. It was one of my greatest adventures and we held the outdoors community in awe and unbelief with the feat. Markus, on the other hand, lent his support to the Thruhike by leading the supply run on five different rendezvous points and even walked the last 40 kilometers or so with us. We three deserve tranquility in a peaceful place like Camp LOV.

We arrived at Camp LOV at around 11:00 and we three proceed to a couple of big mango trees, past the pigeon bean (Local name: kadyos) plot, to set up our hammocks. Coconut tree trunks provided us places to tie our hammocks and the overhead shelters. We choose the kind that has the tops leaning away from us. There were just few places which favored me and Jon. We gave the privilege of the best spot to Markus on a mango that has low branches. The day was bright and sunny but breeze came uninterrupted.

When we were done, we proceed to the lanai where Doc Shawn and wife, Doc Jacqueline, were lounging under a shaded pergola. It is a warm day but there is breeze that blew away the warmer air. A few minutes passed by and the most awaited Camp LOV moment of organic food got served 15 past twelve. A prayer of thanks to the Almighty for placing me on the right place on the right time. He has a task for me tomorrow and how He prepares His servants well before going out to battle.

After the meal, Doc Shawn talked to us about tomorrow’s activity. What we would do is find a route from the highway somewhere in Bagacay to Lindogon, where the Shrine of the Virgin Mary is located. It would be a pilgrimage route, since it would be faith-related. His son Mico would arrive soon and he would bring his quadcopter drone to support the exploration.

Even without the benefit of a map and compass, much less with a GPS, I found tomorrow’s exploration a walk in the park. I have done much harder and longer ones before. The 400-kilometer Cebu Highlands Trail is my crowning glory. It took me almost six years to complete it. But a pilgrimage route is different. It has more meaning. I would dedicate tomorrow for bigger things and as preparation for Cebu’s own Camino de Santiago which is now on its incipient stage.

After about two hours on the lanai, we three went back to the hammock area to enjoy coffee. It is 15:30 and it would be super nice to go horizontal after coffee time and enjoy a late siesta. The breeze is beginning to go cool and your tummy is full. It is like living the life on a ship. Did I not tell you that I once worked in one? Sail a few days, anchor at a bay for weeks. Meet beautiful island maidens and drink native wine. Markus could relate. He skips his own boat.

I awoke at 17:30 and mosquitoes began to torment me once I am out of my bug net. I do not worry about the suckers that fly during nighttime. What I worry are the ones that appear at this hour. They are bigger, hurts more when they stick their needles into you, and therefore annoying. I need to make a fire and smoke them out. The thicker the smoke, the better. Fire, or the smell of smoke, is a genetically-acquired memory that puts them on flight. Have smoke, will travel. 
 
We three go back to the lanai and another superb meal is laid before you. God is so kind! The Espina couple are such gracious hosts and they pamper you with their hospitality and tales. Mico is already here with wife and daughter. We conversed the hours away until such time when it was quite late to be comfortably awake, with the cool breeze nudging you, now and then, to make a quick bee line to the hammocks. The path back is now lit with kerosene lamps placed above bamboo poles stuck to the ground.

I opened my eyes when the first streaks of light caressed my eyelids on the second day, April 8. It is 05:30 and too early to rise. I listened to any rustlings from Markus and Jon but found them still. I would have loved to sleep again but we have a task to fulfill later. The Espina couple might have prepared breakfast early so we could start also early to the town center. When my zipper started to make its opening sound, the other two people did likewise. We return to the lanai and refresh ourselves with home-brewed coffee.

Glenn Pestaño would be here soon and he arrived as he promised he would. He came with his Yamaha DT motorcycle. Glenn would join with us later but, first, we need to have that breakfast. We left the farm at 08:30 in a convoy of one SUV and two pickups. Glenn rode with us. It seems we have more people who wanted to join with us once we reach the town center of Sibonga. They are Justin Apurado, Locel Navarro and Cleos Navarro.

The convoy arrive at 09:00 and, just a few minutes later, the newcomers joined us. We all proceed south to the village of Bagacay. Waiting at the Buko Beach Resort are Elfin Mendez, the owner of the resort, a representative of the municipal tourism office and a local scuba diver. Our presence here is part of the bigger picture in making the Municipality of Sibonga into a well-planned ecological, cultural, religious and agricultural destination of Cebu.

Buko Beach Resort is located on the northern part of the mouth of the Sta. Filomena River. The diver would scour the coastal waters and along the estuary of the river to determine the health of the seabed and coral reefs. More than a month ago, Dr. Espina initiated an exploration into the Sta. Filomena River. That time, Randy Salazar and his group of SUP and kayak enthusiasts, paddled upstream to probe its navigability, the health of mangroves and presence of aquatic life.

On our part, we would start here in Buko Beach Resort. This is a logical location to start. It has a wide parking space for vehicles should people think of going on pilgrimage – on foot of course – to the Shrine of the Virgin Mary. We would also be documenting vegetation. As we were about to launch that, a huge tree caught my attention. It bore nuts. I discovered that Sibonga hosts a still-living boat-fruited mangrove (Local name: dungon). This is a valuable find and it is worth that both Doc Shawn and Elfin know this.

We arrive at the Cebu South Road, cross the river on to the other side on a steel bridge, and cross the road and go down a short staircase into the upper bank of the river. We will be following the Sta. Filomena River upstream by its upper banks on the south side. There is an open well that supply people of fresh water, some bananas, a few houses and, beyond, wild vegetation. Three years ago, the river overflowed during Typhoon Ruby and washed away the old concrete bridge and Elfin’s prized vineyard.

What trail it may had is now overgrown by thick vegetation. Fortunately for me, somebody have walked here just a few minutes ago, perhaps a farmer. The broken leaves parted by feet are still fresh. We have glimpses of the aquamarine-colored river, indicating that it is deep. At bends, sand and rocks accumulate at where water current is not strong and carved steep banks at where it is most strongest. There is a natural bathing area where a very well-polished tree trunk tilted towards midstream. People used this to jump down the stream.

The path goes through shoulder-high vegetation and, over a high ground, I glimpsed the man whom I had been following invisibly for minutes. In a matter of a couple of minutes, I was on the same spot I saw the man. There is an abandoned field and there is a trail. That trail leads to another trail and another and this is where my skills began to work. Would I take the high ground? Or would I take the ones lining the edge of the stream? Or would I opt to take the middle which goes past a bent coconut tree?

When in doubt, you should do a short recon and you can determine where the gist of the trail goes. The trail I am taking took me to a farmed lot and twisted past an old ruin and then I meet carabaos and people. A party of teenagers are digging and plucking cassava rootcrops from the ground. I saw a path going down the streambank and into water and across the other side. This is not the one I am looking. I pursued the main trail.

The trail forked up ahead. There is only one to choose from. Which is which? I did a recon on one and I found the path well-beaten and populated but it is not the one I am looking for. I pushed on the other and it goes to higher ground and uphill where I could see the lay of things. Far away from us, I could see a road and behind us is the coastline. Everyone were exhausted by the stifling humidity near a stream and the whiff of fresh breeze on open country is most welcome.   

The trail took us on open ground dotted with coconut trees and it ended at the same road I saw many minutes ago. We are in Lindogon. Across us is a terminal for public-for-hire vehicles that park here after disgorging their passengers at the holy place where they wait when they would pick them up back to Cebu City. The road going to the shrine is moot and academic. There is no sense of continuing the route exploration.

The village of Lindogon is where the Shrine of the Virgin Mary is located. It is NOT located in Simala. Simala is just a village near the coastline where the road to the shrine is located and it is unfair for the people of Lindogon to be denied of that privilege of being known by that place where this popular shrine is located. The misconception is very alarming. What if donations and community projects given by generous pilgrims that should have been theirs would be given to those less deserving? Credit should be given where it is due.

A pickup driven by Doc Shawn came to pick us all up and we made it back to Buko Beach Resort. A lunch of roasted chicken, braised pork and rice are laid on one long table courtesy of the Espina couple. We stayed for two hours at the resort until the scuba diver finished his work and made it to dry ground. Then we proceed back to the town center so Markus could complement the farm food stock since our company are increasing in size. One of those is a case of pilsen to celebrate our quick exploration. It took us just an hour!

 
We arrive at Camp LOV at 17:30 and Justin, Locel and Cleos set up a lone tent to house the three of them while Glenn opted to sleep at the lanai when it is abandoned. I left the company of people for the inner peace of my hammock. I am tired and I need a private time for myself and the music files of my Lenovo A7000. I am awakened by Jon when dinner time is ready at 19:00.

The more people for company, the merrier. The pale pilsen supplied the lubrication where good conversation moved flawlessly to here and there. Then the lanai is slowly abandoned until only me and Glenn are left to finish off the last bottles. Then it was time to leave Glenn at 01:30 as I tread the lighted path for my own refuge. Too much beer gets you drowsy but, even without that, I could get it here in Camp LOV, where the breeze blow the whole day through.

People are all up and noisy on the third day, April 9. Justin and Locel are in the business of folding the tent inside its bag. Jon’s hammock is nowhere on its place. His bag is packed tight and ready. So is Markus. It seemed I am the only one still riding my dream ride. It is still 07:45. Why the rush? It is Sunday! Besides, they have not taken breakfast yet. I leave them to their wits and walk towards the lanai where all the action is.

Ah, just as I have expected, farm-brewed coffee! Relax! Enjoy the day. Glenn have packed his things to give space for the diners. Doc Shawn and Doc Jacq are already there, sorting out yesterday’s activity. The crowd arrive just in time when breakfast got served. Farm-prepared chocolate paired with sticky rice, plain rice and Valenciana rice, organic meat and sausage, salted eggs, bananas and mangoes. God is kind to me today.

After the meal, Doc Shawn toured the visitor all around the farm. I have noticed the Central American imports, the pittaya and the prickly pear, growing big quickly with all those sunshine and generous tropical rain. All the plants, native fowls and livestocks are healthy as was the last time I saw them. I see fruiting black mulberry shrubs lining a path towards the shed where the native pigs are bred.

We cross a dry stream and climb up a low hill. In the navel where upland marsh palms (saksak) abound, is a natural spring. Before that, I was wondering all the time how could such a place be called “Tubod” (English: water spring) when it is denuded of forest cover necessary to produce water from out of rocks and mountainsides? I was using my Westernized brain when I made this observation.

The original inhabitants knew what they were talking about and, thereafter, naming places according to terrain features and plants. They know where to look for water and staked homesteads. I am just amazed at how their knowledge about the land and my own are universal as if we came from the same mothers?


Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer

Thursday, January 11, 2018

ADVENTURE ENTREPRENEURS

ADVENTURE ENTREPRENEURS. Exalted description of vagabonds who are doing well.


I seem to know what it meant and I felt high, even though I know that I do not made the grade.

I am into adventure but entrepreneur I am not. I simply do not have the means.
  
Anyway, you do get that high feeling when you have people’s attention though.

It is not everyday that I get moments like this. Bright lights and all. Mic in hand and images of you on a white screen, flipping and changing in timed sequence.

I am before a paid crowd talking about bad breakfasts, cold mornings and irate people. It is about my recent Thruhike of Cebu that snared people’s imagination lately because it had not been done before. I did it in 27 days between January and February 2017 from Santander to Daanbantayan. Tip to tip. Shore to shore. 400 kilometers.

 
TECHTALKS Philippines, thru Ms. Tins Amper, invited me here at iiOFFICE Cebu today, April 5, 2017, to talk under a theme of Adventure Entrepreneurs + Social Media Clinic.

The place is a shared workspace for geeks and the not-so-geeks located at Don Pedro Cui Street, in Capitol Site, Cebu City. 

I am more like Greek to geeks. I am a sunburnt relic. We both speak a different language, in case you do not know that. They speak algorithm while I communicate in highland yells.

I am with glamour guy of trail biking, Gene Faelnar.

He has assets. I have liabilities. He is entrepreneur. I am vagabond.

He owns Cebu Mountain Biking Tours.

He speaks about his venture.  

The audience loved his presentation.

That appreciation extends to mine when I had my turn on the stage.

They should be.

 
I would not have been here without the support of my benefactor and good friend, Markus Immer. He brought with him cupcakes for everybody, baked by his wife Analyn.

Thank you very much!

Markus had a big role during the Thruhike. He kept us going with the supply runs he undertook. He even walked the final 40 kilometers to Bulalaque Point.

He had been into many adventures around the globe. Sailing. Diving. Hiking. Climbing, Cross-country skiing. You name it. And he is an entrepreneur himself.

 
Entrepreneur. A high sounding word.

That will take form, perhaps, when I get guideship calls for the Cebu Highlands Trail and, soon, the Camino de Santiago de Cebu.

Meanwhile, I am more into outdoors education. It had kept me rolling over rough ground for more than a year. It is my main bread and butter.

I teach tropical bushcraft, wilderness survival, land navigation, campsite management, knife safety, urban prepping and survival, plant identification, and good old outdoors common sense to kids and adults, outdoorsmen and responders, corporations and government.

I travel with the tools of my trade and my knowledge. A journeyman.

Maybe a few speaking engagements like this. I do not know.

Someday I may finish my books and that is all about this entrepreneur thing.

It is never easy to be a vagabond.

There is no fortune and riches in there.

You only have a life well-lived by a good dose of adventures.

A survivor.


  Promotional graphic by TechTalks Philippines

Monday, January 1, 2018

BUSHCRAFT WITH DOLPO KIDS IN BLUEWATER MARIBAGO

SURVIVAL, TO A CHILD’S EYE, IS A WORLD that is associated with home entertainment. This genre is the most popular staple in reality TV shows. It is remote and the audience does not really experience the austere conditions and hardships that the show would like to impart, never mind that it is scripted and in a controlled environment, complete with support crews, like a medical team and a safety staff.


But the real world of survival is not even that close as those shown on TV. There are no drama. No dialogues. There is only torment. Anger. Uncertainty. Silence amid the turmoil of the world and the inner you. Perhaps, tinkering with an acceptance of an unacceptable fate. Survivors go past those stage and they live. Some live but their souls got lost along the way.

On a lesser note, BUSHCRAFT, an old-world way of adapting into the wilderness to carve out a livelihood or a calling, is fast becoming a recreational outdoors activity. Although a close cousin to survival, the term is still alien to the majority of the population in the Philippines, much more so with the young generation. It uses more brains than brawn, and a tool which, in this case, is the knife.

Bushcraft and Survival are my expertise and I am usually called on to teach these things to individuals or by organizations. It is not unusual for me to find minors in my trainings. In fact, I encourage parents to expose their children to be out of doors all the time and make themselves more useful and productive, instead of being wired to electronic gadgets and the power cable. Would handling a knife be a part of that? A parent may ask. 

 
You know, it would be absurd to expose a child near a knife, much more so encourage them to touch it. You are right. No sane and responsible parent would allow their son or daughter tinker with any sharp-edged instrument and, in most homes, it is tucked away from their reach. But I have seen sheltered kids feeling lost or scared or outright careless when they happen to come into possession of a knife. It is scary indeed if they hurt themselves or their playmates.

Could we do something about that knife thing? No. I cannot teach bushcraft with plastic knives and a make-believe world. I love to train them the real thing. Develop their confidence and make them responsible adults someday; expose them to the joys of the real outdoors; stimulate their senses; and work their creativity juices to a high gear. They do not stare at a knife. They use it with their hands with adult supervision, of course.

There was a time when a knife was given as a gift. It was the happiest moment in a boy’s life, for, in his eyes, he is accepted as an adult. It happened because the giver knows the recipient is ripe enough how to use, keep and care of the knife. It is a rite of passage. It is not anymore. We live in a different world with changing values. The old ways are discarded for something politically correct, metrosexual and superficial

You simply cannot earn your first knife if your hands are soft and lazy. A child must be taught how to use the knife as a tool and he practices it on his spare time until such time his confidence would increase his level of skill. In much the same way, a child skilled in making a fire prepares himself or herself to the business of simple life skills of cooking and eating. The child becomes self-reliant and how self-reliance is now a rare commodity, is it not? 

 
In the backcountry, kids use bigger blades as if these were light and small and carve things from nature. They have developed great dexterity through constant use and they have formed their own values with these tools. I had been exposed myself to working with bigger blades when I was young because there is work to be done and, ironically, I grew up in a big city. Adults would guide me and encourage me as painful blisters marked my palms.

You might wonder why I and those mountain kids still have complete digits after using much more formidable blades, almost all of the time unsupervised by adults? The secret to that is education. I would not allow a minor, not even an adult, to touch a knife without being educated in knife safety. They cannot proceed on the next instructions without that. For this particular education, I have raised it into an art, as a necessity, to remove accidents. 

One day I was called by the staff of Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, located in Lapulapu City, Cebu, to introduce kids to a day of bushcraft and survival. These kids belonged to the Dolpo Kids Club and their age range are from 7 to 14. Fourteen girls and boys showed up on March 25, 2017, and all were accompanied by either parents or minders. I have worked before with kids in a corporate setting like the City Sports Club Cebu last November 2016 and I know how to proceed with my program.

Since I would be working with kids, I brought my protegees, the couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Both had taken the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in 2015 that I organize annually and are active bushcraft practitioners. Both are working full time in health lifestyle counselling under Herbalife. They are some of my best people and I am confident they could fulfill their tasks easily. 

 
I brought only a cache of small knives, purposely unsharpened, as a safety measure. They are a William Rodgers, a Fame Kitchener, a Condor Bushlore, a Mora Companion, a Knifemaker Camper, two Seseblade Sinalung, a Seseblade Matavia, a Victorinox SAK Ranger, a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster and a Browning linerlock. Since this is not an all-knife show, I pitched in my Fire Kit and my spools of cords for the different aspects of a bushcraft activity.

It was my first time to visit Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort and I was impressed by the staff, the service, the food and the neat paths to the beachfront. It is in a hidden cove among many resorts that line the Hilutungan Channel. What caught my attention is a huge strangling fig that seem to be the center that held together all what is aesthetic of this prestigious resort. I was amazed that it was preserved by management inspite that it is on prime space good for more expansion.

Kids, when they get bored, do not have a flexible attention span. You have to engage them where they are most interested. Making fire would be a good start. These kids do not have the opportunity to experience making a fire. They have adults to do that for them. It is much safe for a home that kids are kept away from safety matches, butane lighters, electric and LPG stoves. However, curiosity would kill the cat.

Kids, being kids, are bound to be tempted to touch these things that are off limits for them and that is when things go wrong. Teach them why is that and expose them how to make one. With a ferrocerium rod. They see these things on TV and probably got amazed why a mere spark from those produce fires? After a short but practical lecture on fire safety, the kids got their wish producing tiny meteor showers on soft downy material and small wood shavings.

 
After an hour of smoke and heat and slaked wonder, we observed an hour of noonbreak but, once it was over, the fire sessions continue on their own instance. I would rather have the course of their learning dictated by their own unhindered progress. When they reached a point that they have had enough, I turned their attention to MarK and Mirasol. Right then and there, they witnessed how a fire is made by rubbing two pieces of bamboo. It raised their astonishment a higher notch.

From there, I produced a short piece of bamboo pole, opened it with a knife and place it above the fire made by friction method. I poured water into the hole and then rice. They were amazed to see these novel sights. How in the world could people cook rice in bamboos? They know only that metal pots and earthenware do that function. I assured them that it is for real but we all would have to wait for the result.

While the waiting would have a big effect on their attention span, I showed them three bamboo poles, bound a cord on one end and spread the poles on the sandy ground. I placed a cheap laminated nylon sheet over it and it becomes an instant shelter. Their satisfaction rose higher now and I directed them to a row of hedge where Mark have set up a couple of different snares.

To entertain them, I imitated a monkey and a hen, activating the two crude machines as my hand got caught on each of the looped cords, eliciting laughter. Catching better their attention now, I proceed to the serious business of survival tool making. There are no short cuts to there as a knife would have to be used. That is where my knife safety session is introduced. Repeating where it is most crucial and visually showing how a knife should be held and the proper execution of knife functions. Safety first.

Grouping them according to age, they formed a circle sitting on the ground, hand them the materials and a knife each. They baton, chop, shave and whittle bamboos to their desired shapes. Mark and Mirasol helped me supervise their progress. The kids were having fun and their parents joined and helped their kids. They saw their kids developed confidence with handling and working with a knife as minutes wore on.

You do not learn these things inside a classroom nor appreciate it much from watching online videos and survival TV. The real stuff is better, right where the action is. It was a beautiful scene, child and parent working to produce their best hand-made spoons. The kids showed off their creations proudly and nobody got nicked by a knife. Education is the key. The day’s session ended after that and they get to taste the rice perfectly cooked in bamboo.

My appearance to teach Introduction to Bushcraft and Survival to the Dolpo Kids Club in Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort would not have been possible without the participation and cooperation of Bluewater Resorts, thru Mr. Erik Monsanto and his assistant, Ms. Fresha Endico; the recommendation of Mr. Gian Carlo of Adrenaline Romance; and the support of Mark and Mirasol Lepon of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.

Likewise, to my sponsors who provided me the wares to share my skills and knowledge and  in my adventures like AJF Knives of Liloan, Seseblades of Pangasinan, the Knifemaker of Mandaue City, Pacing’s House of Barbecue of Navotas City, Alan Poole of the United Kingdom, Markus Immer of Switzerland, Derek’s Classic Blade Exchange of Iloilo City, and Jerome Tibon of Lapulapu City. Thank you all.

The significance of the ancient strangling fig only tells me that Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort is a green resort. They saw the connection between the environment and their business better than the rest crowding every inch of coastal beaches in Lapulapu City. They do not have to modify the skyline and the land features and create a make-believe environment. They work around it and blend with the surroundings.

They have my greatest respect and I highly recommend Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort or any of their facilities to friends and strangers. It is good to know that we have a green resort in Mactan Island.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer