Friday, October 21, 2016

MAN-SIZED HIKE XX: Cambubho to Caurasan

THE SMOKY HAZE OF INDONESIA’S forest fires in October 2015 had denied my Exploration Team the completion of Segment IV of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT which is from Mount Manunggal, Balamban to Caurasan, Carmen. The haze had proved to be a tough obstacle in our quest and it had sapped away our strength, our stamina and our determination to achieve our goal, due to extreme heat, but we had already walked as far as Cambubho, in Danao City and used up our remaining strength instead to find refuge in Danasan.

That time, I promised to walk the remaining stretch of Segment IV on another day. By that feat alone, my Team had already accomplished 59 percent or a total of 212+ kilometers of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT and I scheduled this unfinished stretch of Segment IV for 2016. We will now be passing the dreaded mountain ranges of Cebu's Midnorth Area and this would be one of the hardest stretch of the eight segments allotted to the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT.

The CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT is a personal undertaking that have had its beginnings from my passion of hiking and camping among mountains. I realized that the island of Cebu can be walked along its most rugged spine from north to south or reverse. It only takes a steely determination and navigational savvy to achieve this to offset what I lacked in funds and sponsors. Later on, people began to appreciate how this project will benefit Cebu and its people. Patterned after the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail of the USA, it will be an attraction soon for foreign and local tourists when completed.

The Exploration Team that I organized is not at its peak for this remaining stretch of Segment IV and I have only Jonathaniel Apurado to accompany me. We will be on a wide stretch of country where, many years ago – and still is – considered too dangerous for mainstream outdoor activities. We do not have the benefit of a guide nor of a local who may well act as liaison. This would be exploration at its best, travelling by traditional means, aided only by a compass and by printed versions of small maps from a website.

I am pressuring myself to end the exploration phase of this ambitious project in 2016 and make the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL available to the public by 2017. I have done this almost singlehandedly and I am determined to finish this to the end even if I am left with rags to wear. What you do not know is that I will leave a legacy of dots in a box – a template – so others who will follow after me would refine the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL as a first-class long trail that would attract international backpackers and encourage local ones to enjoy their own mountains.

Today, January 29, 2016, is the day where Segment IV will be completed. I and Jonathan had prepared well our stamina, including the basic items that the Team need. This Team, to include reserves Justin Apurado and Jovahn Ybañez, is better prepared and organized than the previous ones I had led so there would be no more waste of time. The sacrifices and preparations during our training had worked so well during Segment III and Segment V where the Team had shaved a day each from its original schedules.

I will lead again my Team into places where many mainstream outdoors people have not been into before. There is more to Cebu and adventure can be most enjoyed here horizontally instead of vertical ascents. This is a three-day hike that will start from Cambubho, Danao City and, hopefully, would end, at last, at Caurasan, Carmen. I will follow a hypothetical route that will surely pass into places between Danao City and Carmen and, probably, might stray into Asturias or Tuburan.

Failing to set up my alarm for 04:30, I was roused from my sleep by Jonathaniel who called me up at 05:00. By 06:30 I am at the highway fronting the North Atrium, in Mandaue City. Jonathaniel and I board a public utility jitney for Danao City where we arrive at 07:20 to take breakfast near the terminal. From there, we hire two motorcycles to take us up to the village of Cambubho, the same place where we terminated Segment IV on October 24, 2015.

As in every organized explorations, there is the Base Support Team. It will monitor our progress and will give weather updates to us and then informs the outdoors community in Facebook. We will miss the services of Chad Bacolod, a fine communicator from Ham Radio Cebu, who is temporarily based in Iloilo City. Another crew, Jhurds Neo, of the Camp Red and Bushcraft and Survival Guild, will be alternate on communications and would be mobilized when in emergencies.

We are proudly wearing the team uniform jerseys provided for by Silangan with the name of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT emblazoned on the front. Silangan Outdoor Equipment is my official outfitter since I endorse their products through my Warrior Pilgrimage Blog and in fora where the outdoors community interact. I am wearing their Greyman Hiking Pants and are bringing also their blue-colored side pouch and their second generation hammock. Likewise, I will be using a new pair of Hi-Tec Lima hike shoes that the Lavilles Family of Australia had provided me.

Aside that, the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT is officially sanctioned by the Cebu Provincial Government as a legitimate outdoor activity that would help them identify places where adventure tourism would be developed on the once-remote mountain areas of the island. This, after my meeting with the Honorable Grecilda Sanchez, board member representing the Third District, and Ms. Mary Grace Paulino, the provincial tourism officer.

The following are the narrative of events in chronological order that tell the whole picture of SEGMENT IV-B, CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT:

DAY 1 – January 29, 2016

  • Leave North Atrium, Mandaue City at 06:30 by jitney bound for Danao City.
  • Arrive at the Danao City Terminal at 07:20.
  • Leave Danao City proper for the village of Cambubho at 07:40 after breakfast.
  • Arrive at Cambubho National High School at 08:35.
  • Start of first day hike. Leave school premises at 08:45 for the village of Bayabas, Danao City by paved road. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Sunny but cool.
  • Retrace route back to Cambubho and proceed on to the village of Lawaan, Danao City. Change of original plan.
  • Arrive at a road corner which led to the villages of Santican and Pili, both of Danao City, at 09:50.
  • Arrive at a crossroad of one going to Santican and another for Pili at 10:00. Choose the one going to Pili instead. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Stop at 11:45 for noon break at the village of Pili. Boiled water for coffee and seaweed soup.
  • Resume hike at 13:00 and retrace route back to the trailhead going to Mount Mago. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Arrive at the concrete marker of Mt. Mago at 15:00 and stop to rest and rehydrate.
  • Resume walk at 15:10 for the village of Bangkito, Tuburan. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Arrive at the village center of Bangkito at 16:30. Make courtesy call to village officials and ask permission to spend night at their multi-purpose building.
  • Dinner at 19:10. Food were rice, seaweed soup and grilled mixture of sliced chorizo Bilbao, potatoes, carrots, vegetable pears and onions. Weather: Cool. Taps at 20:30.

DAY 2 – January 30, 2016

  • Wake-up at 06:00. Coffee then breakfast. Food are rice and mung bean soup. Breakfast at 07:00.
  • Start of second day hike. Leave Bangkito at 08:45 for the market of Taguini. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Stop by community of Anahawan at 10:00 to rest and rehydrate.
  • Resume hike at 10:15. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny and very warm.
  • Cross boundary into the village of Caurasan. Arrive at the community of Taguini at 11:50 to rest and rehydrate. Stop for noon break at the market square.
  • Resume hike at 13:00 for the village of Caurasan. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Sunny and very warm.
  • Arrive at the village of Caurasan at 14:10 and do a courtesy call to a village official.
  • Leave Caurasan for Carmen at 14:30 by motorcycles.
  • Arrive Carmen at 15:15.
  • Leave Carmen for Cebu City at 15:45 by public utility jitney.
  • Arrive Cebu City at 16:30.

The Team officially have logged 17.52 kilometers of walking from Point A to Point B, basing upon the auto computation of Wikiloc, a web-based application which can either be manipulated by uploading GPS waypoints or by manual tracing of the route by a mouse but, I believed, we had logged more than that. We have, for a few times, been forced to backtrack when we believed that we were going the wrong way. We have scaled Mount Mago and unintentionally strayed into Bangkito, Tuburan on the first day and reached Caurasan on the second.

We each carried an average of 14+ kilos although we are observing light backpacking. Food and our sleeping equipment had used up much of our cargo space. The places where we pass by are still abundant of water but, despite that, there is a need to carry at least two liters of water. Along the route are many clear mountain streams which the locals still use for domestic purposes. Even if we were hampered by difficult terrain, we were able to shave off a day from its original three days.

We carried our knives openly as against the common notion that most outdoors club do on their members not to carry one. I have a custom-made AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife hanging by my side while Jonathan carried a smaller Seseblade Nessmuk knife. Aside from that, I have also the William Rodgers bushcraft knife, a Buck Classic 112 folder and a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster with me inside my bag. These may be extra weight but these are very essential. I also carried my fire kit, my survival kit and a Cignus V85 VHF radio.

On the other hand, folks see our presence on all of the places we passed as very unusual. They have not encountered or have seen hikers, outdoorsmen and urbanites with backpacks before and they viewed us with constant suspicion until you break the ice by giving them a genuine smile and a greeting. Ultimately a conversation begins, explaining your purpose, and would make them see a bit but they cannot comprehend of why we walk when riding motorcycles are more convenient.

The completion of Segment IV is but one step closer to my objective. The next routes would be very hard as the other already-finished segments nor would it ensure favorable conditions. Definitely, the next segments will not be a walk in the park and would demand more navigation savvy from the Exploration Team, which that responsibility rests squarely on me, as had been tested by this Segment IV-B. The CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT from hereon goes on a high swing of difficulty but the Team accepts that challenge by adapting to what it demands.

I have learned so much from the different segment hikes with different teams. This present Team is so flexible and very much prepared for the physical challenges at hand that it had given me great assurance that we can deliver the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT true to its schedule. Me and my Team had explored, walked and achieved 62.5 percent of the Project or a total of 229.41 kilometers and I am quite elated about this. The next 37.5 percent would be very demanding also but I and the rest of the Team are undaunted.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.4 Writer

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


THE ROCK.  THE LEGENDARY island fortress.  The last bastion of freedom and hope against the forces of tyranny in the Far East at the onset of World War II.  It had succumbed courageously to the military will and might of the Japanese Imperial Army on that unforgettable date of May 6, 1942.  It had withstood countless rainstorms of artillery and aerial bombs after the brave defenders of Bataan wilted a month before.  

I am sure countless praises were heaped on and a lot of books published about Corregidor Island which were worth a read of a lifetime and would lay wayside my own shoreline views.  I am not even worthy to write its sacred history even if I count one of my uncles as a survivor himself of the siege of Bataan and its much cruel events thereafter like the Death March and that dreaded Camp O’Donnell.

I write only what I saw firsthand when Corregidor is now a memorial shrine and I as a tourist.  I only knew this island fortress in history books, magazines, newspapers, documentary films and TV news features but never have I set foot on its hallowed shores.  I just passed by it many times, and many miles away, as I travelled by boat from Cebu to Manila and back and wished when would I have that opportunity?

The Rock is not just a bucket list of mine but should be of every patriotic Filipino, American and citizens of Allied nations as well, who were fighting then a war against world domination which were espoused by Hitler and the Axis Bloc.  The Rock symbolizes unity of purpose against tyranny and, now that the distant drums of war are now beaten again repeatedly by the People’s Republic of China, it is time for Filipinos to rekindle that patriotic flame.  

China is a greedy nation.  It is suffering from social inertia and would rather use their resources to project military might like what it is doing now with all these ADIZ and 9-Dash Lines to cower and appease their burgeoning and, sometimes, restive population.  Unfortunately, for weaker nations like the Philippines, China could impose their will gobbling up shoals and rocks as theirs and turn it into artificial islands from which they construct military bases and airstrips.  

These are like daggers at striking distance to our major cities and population centers.  We could almost do nothing except entrust our claim before the arbitration tribunal of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.  Meantime, we helplessly watch Chinese poachers destroy corals and catch marine species and fishes within our exclusive economic zone while consoled in that beached relic called the BRP Sierra Madre stick a middle finger at them.

It is a sad event of our times.  China is acting like it is the Nazis of our times.  What was once our ally would now become our enemy and, of Japan, what was once our enemy is now our ally.  As they say: There are no permanent friends but permanent interests.  It is sad indeed but I could forgive Japan easily for what they did then, for they were and, still are, an honorable people.  China is not and had never been.

I stand by what I said.  Their ideology is dangerous and they used capitalism to get good leverage to develop their economy and their military.  It is a known fact that China used these privileges to steal industrial secrets and military technology.  Western nations and corporations are partly to blame for creating this monster and they should divest and transfer their factories elsewhere.  China cannot be trusted because they have no honor.

Honor is gained not given.  Corregidor has lots and lots of it by the sacrifices of its defenders and the enemies they were defending against, more than the whole land mass of China could put up, to include what are beneath it down to the smoldering earth’s core where they should belong.  Our venerable island is akin to what the Americans’ hold dearly as the Alamo and it would be an honor indeed to make a pilgrimage on either. 

My wildest of dreams could not have been more realistic as is now when fate made this long-time wish more true and sympathetic to my sense of value.  I set sail from the Manila  Harbor Baywalk on the early morning of January 26, 2016.  Coming with me is Jay Z Jorge, who have been so generous to make possible my stay in Metro Manila as seamless and as enjoyable as possible.

I came to Luzon a few days ago to train 34 individuals in wilderness survival at Antipolo City and, Jay Z along with wife Carla, had been my hosts in my stay in their humble home in Navotas.  Without the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Jorge, my coming to The Rock would not have been feasible.  Like a child, I bask at this chance which was denied me when I was a Boy Scout in 1975, where I could not join my school in a National Jamboree.

The first thing I did when I touched down on the shores of Corregidor is to grab a fingerful of sand and let it sift down to where it belonged.  A dramatic gesture of belongingness to the land, is it not?  Actually, it is as old as time itself passed through the ages to give thanks and appreciation to the Great Spirit.  Across me is the former village of San Jose.  I inhaled the air deeply, absorbing the aroma and essence of this legendary island.

I sat on the tour bus as it begins to churn uphill in what they called as Middleside.  We pass by a baseball field where, according to our tour guide, the great Babe Ruth once played here and was struck out by a Filipino pitcher.  It is one of the urban legends of Corregidor and still is subject to debates with which fact is quite sticky to prove owing to the scarcity of credible eyewitnesses.  However, it is entertaining to know just that.

We reach and stop at the Middleside Barracks for enlisted personnel of the US Army’s Coast Artillery and the Philippine Scouts.  The building is huge but crumbling, without walls, pockmarked by bullet holes, stairways starkly prominent from outside view and, at some, on the verge of collapse.  It is off limits since the integrity of the structure is now weak and would implode anytime if activated by slight tremors.

Next stop would be Battery Way which hosts a battery of four 12-inch 1890 vintage mortars and an ordnance bunker.  These were the last big guns that still fired against the Japanese on that fateful date of May 6th.  Shrapnels had punctured tempered steel and reinforced concrete alike indicating that the enemy had concentrated thousands of tons of bomb without directly hitting any of the guns and the bunker.

Bronze plaques told the stories of Major William Massello Jr., who fired his mortar lying down wounded on a stretcher for 11 straight hours, and Staff Sergeant Walter Kwiecinski, the famous last sergeant of the last big gun still firing defiantly and recorded its last round hitting a Japanese landing craft.  Both survived and became POWs and, during the last stretch of the war, both were shipped to Japan in “hell ships” and were liberated by American forces there in 1945.

Going on further uphill, we stop by at Battery Hearn.  It is a long-range coast artillery that could fire on any direction.  It supported the defense of Bataan and have been exchanging artillery fire against the enemy firing from Cavite.  It was useless during the assault of Corregidor and was disabled by its crew to prevent it from being used by the Japanese.

We reach Topside and see the famous Mile-Long Barracks.  It is near the parade ground where all military pomp and pageantry were held long ago.  The buses are parked near the Pacific War Memorial but my eyes wanted to survey the tail-end of The Rock.  Corregidor looks like a stingray from above and I am seeing this part which is not covered by tours. 

The spot I am standing on used to be a runway that could have accommodated light planes and it goes all the way to the ends of the parade ground.  I walk back to the buses and pass by a wrought-iron sculpture called the Flame of Eternal Peace.  I walk on and pass by etched marble columns that state the different phases of the Pacific War Theater.  Overhead, a flight of seven Brahminy kites greeted me. 

I now enter the museum and it is full of quality war memorabilia and history.  I am awed at the intensity of nations and men waging a war against each other which brought this peace I am enjoying now.  I could not comprehend how my uncle could have survived the folly of World War II, with which war he could not even understand himself but which have tore into his emotions and his health later on in his civilian life.

I left with a heavy heart and embraced the warmth of the sun mellowed by an unwavering cool breeze.  I walk past the historic flagpole which used to be a mast of a Spanish flagship sunk by the Americans during the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898.  I am now at the old Spanish lighthouse where there are steps to a viewing deck which gives a whole panorama of the island, Manila Bay and the coasts of Bataan and Cavite.

The bus blew its horn as we are going on the last trip for the morning.  We reach Battery Geary and we made a stop.  Battery Geary is unlike Battery Way and Battery Hearn.  Here the war was vicious.  One round made a direct hit on one of the guns and threw it away from its mooring where it lodged on the entrance of a bunker.  Another gun was thrown asunder to a far distance landing on a beach. 

We proceed to the Corregidor Hotel to eat lunch, which is inclusive of what you pay for the tour services.  After the meal, we continue on with the tour by going Bottomside.  The bus cruise along a coastal road where crude Japanese tunnels are very conspicuous.  At the end of the road, we reach a spot dedicated as a Japanese War Shrine.  It is also a cemetery where various headstones and monuments indicate valor and sacrifice of their soldiers and foes alike.

Such an honorable race whose participation in the last war were fueled by the burning ambitions of their leaders.  Their samurai spirit were harnessed in the wrong way and so have caused losses and grief among their victims and their own surviving kins.  A battery of coastal artillery protected this location facing Carballo Island and may have exchanged artillery fire with an American battery there.

We go round the island and reach the entrance to the famous Malinta Tunnel.  It is dark but it is lighted.  At a signal, the womb turns dark again and flashes of light and thunder imitating explosions overhead shook the tunnel and it passed by many phases of tunnel life starting from Christmas celebration of 1941 to the announcement of the surrender of Corregidor to the Japanese occupation and, lastly, to the time of Liberation.

Corregidor Island is well maintained.  A second-growth forest have occupied spaces where the original ones had thrived before when uprooted by a maelstrom of fire and steel.  The sight of seven raptors at Topside is a testament to a healthy environment of the island.  I thought I caught a glimpse of a Philippine macaque and a monitor lizard and I believed these had accepted living close to human activities without fear. 

By mid-afternoon, we go back to the boat to return to the Baywalk Area.  Unnavigable waves dashed our early departure and the captain has to make an unplanned detour to Mariveles, Bataan which took an hour of waiting as the tour operator mustered its resources hiring several shuttle buses to transfer us back to the big city at no cost to us.  It also worked hard seeking approval of the Coast Guard, the Port Authority and the Export Zone Authority so our boat could dock in a private wharf.

Jay Z and I reach Navotas exhausted but I am rich with the experience.  I gained insight into this famous rock and what was life there before, during and after the war.  I love history especially of tales extolling bravery and nobility.  I never expected to set foot on The Rock but fate had been kind to me this time.  Thank you Jay Z and Carla for realizing this lifelong wish.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.1 Writer

Saturday, October 1, 2016

THE TRAILHAWK JOURNEYS: Antipolo Wilderness Survival Class

I AM ON BOARD an Air Asia airplane that had already been delayed by two hours for Manila.  The flurry of announcements and non-announcements about the prohibition of the carrying of guns and deadly weapons during travel in an election period have left me fang-less.  It is strange to travel without my blades considering that I need these in the course of my work.  I am now a full-time survival instructor and I am coming over to teach people wilderness survival.  For that matter, my bag even if it is the bigger Habagat Viajero is strangely light.

The Climbers League for Ideal Mountaineering and Balanced Environmental Responsiveness (CLIMBER) had contracted me to have 34 of their graduates of previous outdoor trainings take the BASIC WILDERNESS SURVIVAL COURSE for two days.  CLIMBER is a non-stock non-profit organization registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission that is dedicated primarily for outdoors education with the 7 Principles of the Leave No Trace as its bedrock.  Contrary to common perception, it is not a mountaineering club.

It is composed of responsible outdoorsmen whose skills and experience are varied and wide and pooled these together to create the best Basic Mountaineering Course syllabus in this country which, as of this writing, is now on its twelfth class.  They have some of the best instructors which are the best in their fields like Reggie Pablo (high-altitude mountaineering), Lester Susi (land navigation), Billy Morales (ropesmanship) and master educator Erick Suliguin (LNT).  CLIMBER is ably lead by Bong Magana, Jay Z Jorge and Sidney Orendain.

The plane touched down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Tarmac 4 on the evening of January 22, 2016 and I was whisked by Sidney and companion to the Mall of Asia’s Bayfront area where I was treated to an al fresco dinner and cold beer.  In a little while, Jay Z and wife Carla fetch me from there and we proceed to their home in Navotas which, perchance has it, becomes my home away from home.  I am not tired from the travel but overly excited for tomorrow’s activity.

In the early morning of January 23, Jay Z, Carla and I travel from Navotas to Antipolo City in their old but very reliable Toyota.  I learned that most of the participants for my training are already at the Spring of Life Adventure Camp.  This is the same place that I have taught members of the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines (MCAP) in October 2013 where both Jay Z and Carla attended.  Basically, this is the same course that I am teaching today except that I have added a single new chapter.

Setting up of shelters are ongoing and I choose my spot to secure my rust-colored Tingguian Tribe Sierra hammock underneath a silvery white Apexus canopy between two trunks.  The weather is perfect and I do not expect rain today although it would be cooler than usual at this latitude which is four degrees north above my dearly warm Cebu.  Over my shoulders, I expect the swarm of mites that originate from a nearby stag farm which have tormented me the last time but it never came. 

After the opening ceremonies, I got my chance to be introduced to the 34 individuals sitting inside the main hall facing me which I locked in memory with selfie shots.  Speaking about myself would have to be minimized because, from this moment onward, there will be eleven chapters which would need to be discussed within a span of two days.  I feel the pressure but I am used to it and I would have to improvise later on if it fits to be so.  All are excited at the prospect of learning survival and bushcraft.

While I would love to teach bushcraft, it might go against the grain of each individual’s belief in and interpretation of Leave No Trace.  LNT, to the most cerebral amongst us, is but a guide and an idea by which self is bound to live by, whereas, to those who cannot see beyond the true spirit by which LNT was established, it is used as a rule instead and imposed upon on other individuals.  That said, I rather not antagonize the latter by taking the middle ground teaching Basic Wilderness Survival Course to the mountaineering community.

Survival is different from bushcraft.  It is immediate and would bend rules and morality in the pursuit of life – of surviving.  That is a hard reality which all survivors must live with while in the course of their dire consequences and the thereafter.  On the other hand, the mountains consists of harsh environments, steep inclines, high elevations and unpredictable weather patterns.  It is remote yet people visit these places to chase passions and desires.  Accidents are most likely to happen there in a flash.

Chapter 1 is Introduction to Survival.  While nobody has that ultimate technique and answer to survive accidents and calamities, a prepared mind would, at least, be blest by chance.  Surviving the initial impact is one half of it while ensuring your survival until help comes in is the other half of that.  In between, the mind controls everything from the way you think and even to the release of adrenaline.  Your brain is a supercomputer but, unfortunately, it could only process one thought at a time.  

When in a survival situation, your brain works double time and, in the process, use up huge amounts of body heat, water and oxygene and inadvertently releases adrenaline for no apparent reason just like you would experience when getting lost or just plain hiking in darkness.  It is best that you stop and sit still like a rock, close eyes and breathe deeply, gather all your senses and rehydrate.  You would need water and it is your first priority to keep your blood flowing so your brain would work properly.

In the hierarchy of needs and of nutrition in a survival situation, water is tops on both.  Why?  Because we are in the tropics and the body is surrendering perspiration due to humidity and by your exertions.  Along with that, goes our body heat also which you do not know.  To sit still would minimize these wastage and keep these confined by setting up a shelter – if you still have one, or make one from scratch.  This is the second need.  The third would be food then warmth.  Last is security which would complement well with the rest.

Our body has four hypothetical tanks that needs to be replenished during survival.  First is constant rehydration that would offset dehydration.  Second is food that would give you nutrients, carbohydrates and proteins.  Third - sugar converted by enzymes for your adrenaline rush. Fourth is fat, hardest to find in the tropics yet are wrapped as tissues in our body.  Then, lastly, make sure your body is supplied with adequate oxygene.  Keep those air passages free of obstacles.  Might as well practice personal hygiene during survival.  It helps to have both a healthy body and a healthy mind.

Chapter 2 is about the Survival Kit.  It is better that survival kits are made from scratch than bought commercially because a survival kit’s size and its components depends upon the type of the activity you are in to and the kind of environment you are going on to.  Your personal touch on a vital equipment is very important to you should it be needed.  Its components are the medical kit, the replenishment pouch, the repair kit and the survival knife.  It could all be integrated in one container and should be waterproofed.

I came without my knives because I am beholden to CLIMBER to come here without a snag and make their event successful.  If I had insisted to, it could go either ways.  Anyway, Dr. Arvin Sese of Seseblade had provided me the free use (and its ownership later on) of a Seseblade Nessmuk.  Aside that, Jay Z brought his Seseblade Tabak which I also have the good liberty of using later on.  The participants will have their hands full with eighteen Seseblade knives available for sale like the Mountaineer, the NCO, the Pinahig and the popular Sinalung only after I have discussed Chapter 3, Knife Care and Safety.

The knife is a tool and should not be used to what it was not designed for like digging latrine holes and as pry bars.  It is a vital piece of equipment that should be properly handled and cared for because it is your link to your surviving.  Carrying and using it demands good knife etiquette which you can only learn in this type of trainings.  Besides that, there is a knife law that forbids the display and concealed carrying in public places unless you are in a lawful activity, which we are right now.  A knife should be in a sturdy sheath when travelling - for safety - and should be unsheathed when at home to keep it from rust.

I jump to Chapter 5, which is about Water.  The first chapter had mentioned the importance of water during survival.  Water could be sourced from natural springs, water seeps, man-made water holes, flowing streams, the atmosphere and from plants.  It could be cleansed by boiling, by chlorine tablets, betadine drops, exposure to heat, through filtration and by desalination.  It is wise to cache water in your survival camp or travel early and take advantage of shady places and breeze if you happen to have less.

We take a lunch break 30 minutes before 12:00.  Everybody proceed to their tents and group campsites to prepare their food.  I see fire being made to work up embers on charcoal.  There will be meat grilled above it soon.  While it had not started yet, I secretly place a small can filled with cuts of denim on the fire.  I will make charclothe for tomorrow’s fire-making activity.  I believe my meal is taken cared of by the organizers and I will be joining them.  After lunch, I foraged used bamboos for a class activity and other materials for my next lessons. 

By early afternoon, all assembled back at the main hall.  I need to jump further to Chapter 7 and discuss Foraging and Plant Identification.  During survival, you would need to gather food and non-food items.  Food could be meat and proteins which would only be sourced from animals and insects.  Catching animals would be very tricky and you would have to make use of traps and snares.  Food can also be sourced from edible plants.  It is fundamental that you know these because it is everywhere.  It is also important that you know the harmful ones.  Showed them photos of stingy, thorny and poisonous plants.

We go back to Chapter 4.  This is Survival Tool Making and, after this, they can use their knives.  Tool making is essential in survival or even when not in that situation.  I showed them the most basic of tools like the digging stick, cordage from a banana trunk, traps and snares from bamboo, and the batoning stick, which they would need when cutting up bamboos for their cooking pots and for their spoons and drinking jugs.  I assign 5-6 participants each to six groups for the conjoined pots employing each the Trailhawk System of cooking. 

The cooling temperature of a late afternoon coupled with rest have soothed the nerves caused by pressures to which I exposed myself teaching, talking and making my mind work a notch higher than was expected to deliver the lessons coherently and consistently.  The chance to take a bath made half of this outdoors seminar a history.  Now I am joining the organizers in their long table for a fine supper of medium rare liver, mung bean soup and a huge tuna jaw.  Cold beer flowed thereafter and it becomes a long night.  By 01:30, I checked into my inviting hammock. 

The second and final day – January 24 – started with Chapter 6.  This is about Shelters.  Before setting up one, it must be noted that you are in the safest of places.  It should not be near streams, dead trees, trails, water sources and underneath a forest of pines, cedars, pulpwood, eucalyptus and rubber trees.  You should take advantage too of early evening thermals.  Then the lecture proceed to Chapter 10, which is Traditional Navigation.  It uses the natural terrain, shadows and the sky fixtures for travel; avoiding obstacles and exposed areas; and knowing signs on trails made by animals and by humans.

After a short break, we go to Chapter 9 and discuss about Cold Weather Survival.  Since mountaineering is about high elevations, exposure to the elements is expected.  There are five physical mechanisms that steal away body heat and the things that we should do to keep us constantly warm.  The morning’s last discussion is Chapter 11 – Outdoors Safety.  This is the new chapter that I added and it is but excerpts from my yet unpublished book, ETHICAL BUSHCRAFT.

After a lunch break of two hours, I begin the last one – Chapter 8 – that discusses on the most exciting aspect of the training course, Firecraft.  You cannot make a fire if one or all elements are not present, namely: fuel, heat and air.  Lately, they added a fourth element – chemical reaction.  Fire-making is 80% common sense, 10% skill and 10% perspiration.  We are talking about the friction methods.  Your fire can start if you can acquire and identify the right tinder, if you are in a dry place, and if you have the patience.

Aside from friction, there is the conventional or modern method which are matchsticks, lighters, ferro rods and the flint and steel.  Then there is solar magnification which can be done with any lens, reading glasses, water and even ice.   Then you have pressurized air, exemplified by the fire piston.  Since I do not have the luxury of time, I limit my demonstrations to the flint and steel, which I paired with charclothe, and the ferro rod.  I showed them how to make charclothe and how to make a tinder bundle, popularly known as the “bird’s nest”.  

Then I demoed how the bow drill method is made and spun.  Unfortunately, I could only make thick smoke as sawdust embers refused to light up my tinder.  I let others try the bowdrill, the ferro rod, and the flint and steel.  All my charclothe are exhausted to an afternoon of smoke and flames.  A participant, Khai Fredeluces, does the bamboo-saw method.  Just like my bowdrill, only burnt smoke emitted.  The humid conditions might have something to do with that.

Anyway, that sums up the two days allotted by CLIMBER for the 34 participants of the BASIC WILDERNESS SURVIVAL COURSE.  Before closing the activity, Melo Sanchez of Tingguian Tribe Outdoor Equipment gave out some freebies.  Likewise, I have a surprise for all with dry-fit jerseys, dry bags, cellphone pouches and coin purses courtesy of my outfitter – Silangan Outdoor Equipment; and stickers of the Warrior Pilgrimage Blog and of Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. 

I leave Metro Manila on January 27 for Cebu on another Air Asia flight that had been delayed also, this time, for more than two hours.  I unpacked my bag once I reached home and surprised to find a Seseblade Nessmuk inside.  I completely forgot about it.  I never knew I have it all the time starting from the campsite to Navotas to NAIA and to home and I could not hide my delight with what all those noise created by COMELEC.  Well, it is mine anyway and I will have it for keeps.  Thank you Doc Arvin.

Thank you to Bong and the rest of the CLIMBER community for bringing me back to Luzon; to Melo of Tingguian Tribe for the Sierra hammock; to the Servano couple of Silangan Outdoor Equipment, who always supported me in all my outdoor endeavours; to Mr. Victor Francisco, for the treat of fine dining at the five-star Crowne Plaza Hotel; and to the couple Jay Z and Carla, for hosting me in their home and for sponsoring my tour of Corregidor Island.  Your kindness are all very much appreciated.  God bless you all.

Done in LibreOffice 5.1 Writer