Monday, October 25, 2010


IT'S JUST A cloudy early morning and I'm going today, July 14, 2010, for Dumaguete City which is crossable by a body of water. I have been worrying about the news of last night's about a typhoon Signal Number 3 (“Basyang”) hitting landfall in Luzon. So I dress up and hope for the best as I carried my backpack outside the street and hie a taxi bound for the South Bus Terminal.

I sit myself inside an unairconditioned Sunrays Bus nearest to the left window so I could analyze the weather better. The bus left the terminal at around five, half empty, and I wonder if it could arrive on the second boat trip to Negros Island which is scheduled at nine and I know they will be picking up and disembarking passengers along the way that would surely delay my schedule.

By the time the bus got to Argao, the sun rose gloriously and it is still 6:47 AM. Hmm...the bus made good mileage in lesser time than what I have expected it would. That is unexpectedly good. At least, I am hopeful I could make it at nine. I enjoyed well the ride listening to the tune of the bus' FM station playing mellow rock and new wave songs of the Eighties.

I am overcome with nostalgia passing by a highway that is very familiar to me in my youth and the '80s songs came just in time for a well-deserved company. Over at Obong in Dalaguete I looked for an old place. Instantly, a whiff of familiar smell came my way for just a split second as my eyes gazed at a worn-out house beside the highway. I could not describe the pleasant odor but it is strikingly familiar and it marked the spot near where I stayed and slept for six sets of weekends. Wow! Memories are good!

At 138 kilometers from Cebu City, Liloan Port in Santander is one of the major gateway to Negros. It is in the southernmost tip and it is nearest to the next island on the narrowest part of Tañon Strait. There are two types of seacraft that will cross the strait every day at every half-hour here: fastcrafts operated by Cuadro Alas Navigation Lines and wooden pumpboats operated by Candida Miparanum.

I took the latter because I want to savor fresh seafood cooked in my favorite hole-in-the wall eatery upon its wharf. I found it closed and I looked for another outside the private wharf and found just what I wanted – fresh dangguit soup and baked fresh eggplant. I order two servings of rice and a softdrink and paid just sixty-five pesos. Very cheap!

The water is very tame today and the craft reached safely at the Port of Sibulan. I took a public utility midget (a.k.a. multicab) for Dumaguete City but, at least, I am sitting in the front seat and somewhat comfortable. I disembark at Perdices Street and walk through Legaspi Street and went inside the Pag-IBIG office to transact official business. While waiting for the processing, I decide to leave and come back later.

I went to visit Robinson's Place instead to buy something and opt to spend my little precious time here in this city by visiting the 18th century-built St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral – the seat of the Diocese of Dumaguete. I took photos of the baroque facade and the interior ambiance which I will feature later in my personal blog. From the cathedral, I walk an easy stride to the Rizal Plaza then to the seafront North Boulevard before going back to Pag-IBIG.

I left at eleven for the PhilHealth office in Daro Highway to deliver a package and transact another business. This took not long and good enough to take lunch at the nearby Connie's Grill House. This small restaurant offer beef, pork and chicken meat cooked in different styles. Something unusual caught my eye - beef paklay – and I ordered that to go along with pinakbet, two servings of rice and a softdrink.

It's the first time that I get to eat beef paklay and it's very tasty. The thinly-sliced innards and lung components are soft to the tongue and gums and chewing is never a problem. Yeah, I love it. I wished we have like this in Cebu. What we have is the mandunggada but it is a different concoction. On the other hand, the pinakbet is cooked just enough leaving a crispy sensation. The ingredients are evenly spaced with no one dominating the rest like most restaurants do.

When I went to PhilHealth, I passed by a while ago a market fair locally know as a tabo. It is very near from PhilHealth and I walk in that direction and hope to see items which I love to take home. The open place is half-occupied. The first thing I see are fresh fern tops and I noted it intending to come back after my tour of the rest of the tables. I found chopped taro hearts and buy two robust plastic full of that. On the way out, I bring with me five sets of 50 fern tops each. Just paid all for forty pesos. What a treat!

Time to go back to Cebu now. I wrapped the leafy tops with my extra shirt to retain its freshness and stowed it deep in my bag along with the taro hearts. Rode a road midget again in the half-empty back and I reach Sibulan. I registered with the fastcraft and it left at two in the afternoon. From the boat I went immediately to a waiting Ceres Liner airconditioned bus and seated nearest the window. Glad to be away from the hot weather.

I adjusted the swiveling air vents overhead that flow cool air into my direction. Moments later the bus left Liloan Port into the national highway bound for Cebu City. The bus received more than it could sit as it leave Argao and still the airconditioner is cold as ever. People complain yet the pleas fell on deaf ears. I retrieve another extra shirt and drape it over my head as the vents could not be closed by hand adjustment. What made matters worse is we have to endure more of the freezer-like bus because of rain and the slowing down of traffic.

The bus reach the terminal at 6:30 PM and God how I am glad to be away from the freezebox. Hehe, my wifey should be surprised by the treats I brought her. The taro hearts and fern tops are both her favorites and I'm sure she would cook the fern first. She steam the tops and add vinegar, tomato, ginger, garlic and onions. Voila! It is superbly done and so crispy. Mwah! I love the sound munching it.

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Friday, October 15, 2010


ERNIE SALOMON HAD been urging me for several weeks to go back and explore further the Buhisan Watershed Area which we did the first time on May 2, 2010. I saw his explorer spirit peak up once I led him down into the faint trails amidst dense jungle. It was a worthwhile activity for Camp Red that would surely perk any individual's interest.

This time, I will not be exploring more. I have seen enough. But, I will surprise Ernie a thing about bushcraft and survival.

On May 30, 2010, after buying provisions in Guadalupe, we climb the low hill above it. This trail is the one called Bebut's Trail which I have explored in early January. Along it are two small houses where there are children living that I identified as another target of my own private outreach program.

The first of the two small houses seemed to be vacant of their occupants. I know there are three children living here along with their 60-something father. Nevertheless, I leave a plastic bag of bread worth twenty-five pesos and hang it beyond the reach of their free-reining dog. The children would be happy to see this and I am happy with this thought.

The second house, 400 meters further up the hill, would be that of Ricky Flores and his family. Ricky is recovering from flu and he look pale. I leave his share of the bread I bought and I quickly wipe a teardrop from the corner of my one eye as the children divided their bread happily. Ricky's hut, by the way, is adjacent to a war-era tunnel and he would be happy to guide you inside the labyrinth that extend to about a kilometer in length.

Time to move on to the Portal – a crossroad of seven trails. But before that, I look for a healthy clump of bamboos. I found one and leave the trail. Ernie followed after me with a quizzical look. I retrieved my hatchet from my bag and started cutting a bamboo pole. I explained to Ernie that I am going to cook our milled corn inside the bamboo and an approving smile is written all over his face.

The pole fell and Ernie happily drag that to safety. I choose the best two segments and cut it away from the rest. It is more than a meter long and weigh about six kilos. I borrowed Ernie's orange nylon rope which, I know, he bring all the time and make a sling so I could carry the bamboo easily over difficult terrain.

I climb up the trail and take a very welcome rest once we reach the Portal. The bamboo is quite heavy and thick. As we rest, I give Ernie some important inputs of what steps to follow when cooking in bamboo especially with the size of the fire to use. I am tempted to boil water for coffee. Maybe later.

The downhill route into Buhisan would have made easier my carrying of the bamboo but it got snagged by the thick vegetation and so it made me exert some more effort to unhook the bamboo from strangling vines and twigs. Along this route are two stretches where I practically have to use both hands and knees to navigate among low canopies.

We reach the creek bed and I disdain walking on bare low ground. However, this route is almost flat ground and no branches and leaves to snatch away my bamboo. I have to compromise and walk for some distance until I decide to stop at a shady sweet spot for it is past twelve noon. But, first, I need to have that coffee.

Along the way, I picked up wood for my fire. With my survival knife, I mark the bamboo where I will make my hole. I baton my hatchet on both ends of one segment and leave the other unscathe. I explained to Ernie why and he understood. That's what I like about Ernie. He is a well-trained “soldier”.

I let Ernie do the splitting of the bamboo along the part where the ends are cut with the use of his M16 bayonet while I split wood for firewood with my 'hawk. The part gave up easily and Ernie remove that from the rest creating a long rectangular hole. The detached part will be the lid for the bamboo pot.

I scraped away the dangling fibers from the lid while Ernie improvise a handle for the lid by chopping a bit of the skin creating a mere fingerhold. Good ol' Ernie. I cleaned out the pulps from inside the cavity of the bamboo with a wooden spoon after which I looked for more firewood as Ernie arranged the place where we do the cooking.

I arrived with several dry branches and started splitting wood while Ernie started the fire going. We let the firewood burn through to its ends until we were able to gather enough ember and heat to penetrate the thick bamboo but safe enough for the fire not to eat away at its bottom. Ernie carefully lay down the bamboo upon two evenly-matched stones.

I poured the water an inch below the hole's rim and replaced the lid. We waited for it to boil and, while doing so, I took videos to document this activity. Ernie, while watching the fire, started preparing the pork meat by slicing it in cubes. Then the spices too. Using my camping stove we cook the meat, adobo fashion.

Faint steam start to rise from the hole between chamber and lid. Ernie poured the milled corn into the chamber and stirred evenly before replacing back the lid. After twenty minutes, Ernie stirred again the milled corn and it is almost firm and we feed more wood for the fire. Waited again for about five minutes and Ernie pour just a bit of water for added moisture and stirred again and leave it to simmer.

It is already 2:30 PM when we decide to take our lunch. Ernie transferred all the contents from the bamboo into my stainless-steel pot and we serve our lunch from thereon. Hmm, the milled corn exude a sweet-smelling aroma as it absorbed the odor from the bamboo during cooking. It made the corn more tasty. This is good. Boy Toledo should have come.

Late afternoon is fast approaching and we don't have time to take a rest today. We followed the route that we took last May 2 and found more trees being chopped down. Some trees are hacked and left to teether under the mercy of the elements. I couldn't understand why DENR1 and MCWD2 never lifted a finger to stop all these harassments in a supposed-to-be protected area. I leave it to the readers of this blog article to help me send this message to these government agencies.

I promised Ernie a cold bottle of orange soda once we reach Punta Princesa while we were walking the old route of the man-made forest of Buhisan. From there we walk the asphalt-and-concrete road down into Punta Princesa and downed one bottle each. We transferred to Guadalupe and Boy T joined us during an after-activity discussion and showed him the pictures and videos of our bushcraft cooking which elicit envy from him.

There's always a next time, Boy T.

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1Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The sole government agency tasked to enforce environmental laws. The Buhisan Watershed Area is covered by the Cebu Landscape Protection Act of 2008 and so under their jurisdiction.
2Metropolitan Cebu Water District. A quasi-government body established to distribute water to the whole of Metro Cebu and some parts of Cebu Province. MCWD operates a dam in Buhisan.

Friday, October 8, 2010


IT IS SO HOT today. A perfect Sunday for training. Camp Red takes the trail of Napo to the Babag Mountain Range. Coming along is Dr. Abe Manlawe who is preparing himself for the Mount Apo climb with the Cebu Mountaineering Society come June. It is May 23, 2010.

I am the trail master for today. Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon will assist me and we will have two low-frequency handheld radios for this occasion. New guys Niño Dizon, Brady Betonio, Daveson Uy, Ian Betonio, Marco Albeza and Marlon Ponce will be physically tempered under the brunt of the sun.

Going also with us is Johnson Luym of Jungle Wild Adventures and Paul Ceniza of Ridge Outdoor Shop. Both will assess the quality of the trail and they will be in for a surprise later.

I lead the pack as we walk on the road from Guadalupe to Napo. Ian and Marco are behind me singing along with their iPods. After the half-way mark both were still alright and we were a couple of a hundred meters ahead of the rest of the party. I hasten the pace and both stopped singing especially along the vicinity of Sitio Arcos which is steep.

We arrive at Napo after forty minutes of walking and waited for the rest. Last to arrive were Niño, Marlon, Brady and Daveson. Everybody rehydrated themselves, except me. I will drink water once I will arrive in the last river crossing where there is a natural spring.

We were now following the trail after crossing the Sapangdaku River. Dr. Manlawe is carrying a heavy training load and exchange conversations with Johnson. Boy T and I run downhill when we could and swarms of sweat gush forth in endless rivulets from my body especially after a 45-second sprint down to the natural spring area.

Boy T, who was ahead of me, is already lying down on a big granite stone on the river while I gasp for air to stabilize myself from the extreme exertion. Getting my drinking bottle, I fill it up, drink and refill it. One by one, the rest arrive and enjoy this very shady spot which is a natural resting area for the locals.

It's time to move again after a 20-minute rest for the knoll where there is an ancient tamarind tree that host the home of the Roble family. The place is the last natural rest area before embarking the last stretch of the trail to Babag Ridge. You could rehydrate there with water from green coconuts provided you notify them early. Quite possible and here is the number: 09335164999.

By the way, a steep trail lead to there and I towed the rest of the party for a well-deserved rest. Immediately, everyone helped themselves to drink young coconut water and eat its soft white meat. Meanwhile, Boy T and Ernie became instant chefs and cook food provisions we bought from Guadalupe like pork meat, dried fish and milled corn.

As we were busy, Dr. Manlawe opt to cut short his training after receiving a call from a patient and retraced his path back to Guadalupe. I bring a rope for this climb and teach the newbies the four most important knots for bushcraft and survival: slip knot, square knot, figure-of-8 knot and the bowline knot.

Lunch time came at exactly one in the afternoon and the food served were pork in sinigang soup, dried fish cooked in tomato sauce and pork adobao while cooked milled corn remain as Camp Red's main staple. Others dished in their canned food to supplement the meals.

After an hour of siesta, time to move again. I divided the group into two: the strong climbers and the weak ones. Ian and Marco will come along with Ernie, Johnson, Paul and me going by way of the difficult Ernie's Trail while Boy T will lead the rest through the Babag East Ridge Pass.

The downhill part of Ernie's Trail down to the creek is not affected by the extreme summer heat. Right after crossing the dry creek, the vegetation is brown and sparse. Many trees wilted and their leaves go brown. A parcel of farm gnawed itself into the route and erasing a part of it, leaving me to look for the rest of the trail.

By the time we assault the main crux of the trail, the soil is very loose. Brutal! That's how Johnson describe it. Balance is of prime importance here and you have to use both your hands. 4 by 4! Paul added his to Johnson's remark. Inwardly, Ernie and I are elated at the guest's comments. Ian and Marco did themselves well. My compliments.

The two groups arrive at the ridge by just a few minutes of each other. We follow the Babag Ridge Road until we stop at a store to rehydrate. Boy T ordered two big bottles of cold San Miguel Beer to get optimum minerals and electrolytes lost to the exertions. I am very tired. Not from the climb but from the scene of cut trees.

Niño, Daveson, Brady and Marlon decide to part early with the rest of the party following the road to Upper Busay to attend to some important commitment. It is already almost four when we, the rest of the party, went down to Kalunasan via the No-Santol-Tree Trail. We ran and walk intending to reach Guadalupe before dark. We arrive at 5:30 PM and finish our after-activity rituals with four big bottles of Red Horse Extra Strong Beer at “Camp Red”.

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Friday, October 1, 2010


CARVING A WOODEN SPOON is valued highly in bushcraft and survival. In temperate zones where there is a winter season, extreme cold can be brutal and metal would adhere to bare skin and it is rather painful to remove that from your hand unless you have an elastic skin. A lot of Filipino soldiers learned this lesson the hard way when they were assigned in the frigid winters of the Korean peninsula during the 1950-53 Korean War.

In the tropics, a wooden spoon is also very important. Let's say you are stranded in the jungle and you lost all your belongings except your safety matches and your Swiss knife. You can cook, yes, but you can't rely on any stick to stir your food much less your hand to eat your food with. Eating directly from the hand may expose you to tropical diseases and you don't want to take those chances, would you?

Most likely you have to make a spoon. Tool making is an art and carving a spoon from wood is a skill that every bushcrafter worth his salt should learn and know. For starters, select any soft wood as your material for a spoon. Any sturdy cutting tool would do. In some photos, I am using a throwing 'hawk. I am into wood carving for sometime and using a knife or a hatchet is so natural for me that I couldn't care less which one I use. For beginners, a knife is best.

Always observe safety precaution. Wear a pair of gloves and place a piece of thick clothe or leather to cover your legs for protection. As you can see, I am wearing without any protection in the photos and do not imitate these. One thing to remember though: you have to develop a bond with the blade and become skilled in its use but that is another chapter – long and painful.

Cut the best part and then slice the wood according to the style of the spoon you have blueprinted in your head. If you are doing this in the comforts of your home, draw a pattern on a piece of paper and follow the specs. Chop the sides where you would want your handle to be carved from and retain the part where you will make your spoon head. Then whittle it down until it is thin enough to start scraping the wood.

Whittle and scrape. Whittle and scrape. Whittle and scrape. It is like that else you will commit an error in judgment that may cause your spoon with a flaw. Unlike paper and pencil you cannot undo what you have erred in doing when carving a wood. If you're really very good you could, however, improvise on the flaw and make it look natural. Misjudgments happen. Otherwise, be patient. Whittle and scrape. Check the lines and curves always. Whittle and scrape.

The most difficult part to make would be the spoon head. It is the part where it would hold soup. A spoon that could not hold soup is not a spoon but a back scratcher. A good back scratcher though. Pierce the head with the point of your knife and lever. Repeat it many times. You gouge out whatever excess wood until you have created a concave – a depression. Scrape away the excess wood and deepen the depression. Scrape, scrape, scrape.

You will now have a rough spoon. Most people finish their spoon with a curved knife. A spoon knife. But we don't have that. Improvise. A broken piece of bottle is a good alternative. Use it to scrape away the rough edges not too hard as it may chip away. Scrape away and arrive at a finished look. Feel the grain of the wood for any bulges and concentrate your glass on that part until all surfaces are even. Rub it with fine sand or sand pebble if you are outdoors else use a fine sandpaper.

Most people like their spoon in their natural state but if you would want your spoon to last for years, coat it with varnish. You will now have a spoon to boast of. Make another one and another until you will become versed with the process. A process that come in handy later when you are in a real-life survival situation.

Happy eating.

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