Tuesday, December 27, 2011

POEM #6: Going to Mount Babag



Napo is where I start for the true
      path to Mount Babag.
Some say it should be from Busay.
I doubt at the latter and I shrink
      at the thought.
I don't like walking on paved roads.

Anyone who walks at a trail
      finds meaning and
      good exercise.
Listen to the watery laughter
      of Sapangdaku river.
Birds flutter by, here and there;
Smile as a ripe mango sways by
      as you reach for the sky.

An old spring refreshes you
      in Lower Kahugan.
Walk another level and bathe
      at the hidden falls
      of Busay Lut-od.
Green coconuts tastes sweet
      lying idle on a bamboo bench
      beneath a Java plum tree.
Freedom pervades in the air.

Take your pick to Babag Ridge:
      the difficult East Ridge Pass?
      or the easy Babag Ridge Road?
Once you are on the ridgeline
      gawk at the sprawling city
      and the scattered islands.
Meanwhile, pitch your tent and
      spend a night at Manwel's Peak.

Monday, December 19, 2011

THE TIGER WEAKENS BUT THE EAGLE SOARETH

2011 WAS ANOTHER BANNER YEAR for Tactical Security and Detective Agency, Inc. It had maintained its momentum despite some minor setbacks borne out of financial difficulties experienced by some of its clients. It is the year of the rabbit and it favored the eagle. The eagle is our logo and it is two-headed like the mythical Roman deity Janus.

The year 2011 saw Tactical Security more than double its guard strength when the new owners acquired it in January 2008 as it snared juicy contracts from all comers: through connections, by word of mouth or through the Internet. Tactical Security do not maintain a paid subscription though but has a free Multiply account and a Facebook page that is under construction.

So, it boils down to performance, branding and credibility of its existence that people and businesses take notice of. Do you want to know the secret? You know what? Tactical Security takes care of its people – ITS FRONTLINERS – the security guards. We do not do a Houdini upon our payroll nor do we exact unethical and systematic deceptions upon our guards. It is the stronghold of inept and third-rate security agencies. 
 

Tactical Security believes in karma and it owed its existence to the Creator and Beginner of Life. It had ridden the back of a tiger for a long time but it had seen a crossroads wherein the tiger will be weakened and it is a time for Tactical Security to soar higher. It had soared high beyond its wildest dreams and it is intoxicating but we maintain a level head, our history rooted to the ground.


We could not deny that our individual security guards and many detachments are our showcase to the market and we deem it proper that we bestow recognition upon them. It is a tradition that Tactical Security have practiced for three years running: the awarding of Best Detachments; the Best Head Guards and Shifts-in-Charge; and Special Awards for deserving security guards who, in their tour of duty, perform exemplary service.


The day is December 8, 2011 and Tactical Security is up all ears to commend the following detachments and individuals:

CATEGORY A (28+ Guards)

Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center

CATEGORY B (20-27 Guards)

Cebu International Convention Center

CATEGORY C (13-19 Guards)

Province of Cebu comprising of:
Museo Sugbu
DA Compound
Provincial Engineering Office
Fuente Osmeña Property

CATEGORY D (8-12 Guards)

Province of Cebu - Balili Beach Property

BEST HEAD GUARD

HG Rogelio Rojas, Balili Beach Property
HG Joseph Varga, Sugbu-Gawad Kalinga Village
HG Servillano Angcay Jr, Cebu Provincial Capitol
HG Paulino Lacandula, Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu
HG Noel Villacarlos, Museo Sugbu

BEST SHIFT-IN-CHARGE

SIC Luke Carniga III, Cebu International Convention Center
SIC Ruel Manlosa, Cebu South Bus Terminal
SIC Rene Anduyan, Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu
SIC Eugene Cinto, Cebu International Convention Center
SIC Ranilo Renedo, Banilad Town Center

SPECIAL AWARDS

SG Samuel Carreon Jr, Cebu Country Club
SG Luke Carniga III, Cebu International Convention Center
SG Marlon Villaganas, ThreeSixty Pharmacy-Legaspi/Colon Branch
SG Lloyd Bernard Ricaplaza, Cebu South Bus Terminal
SG Ruel Manlosa, Cebu South Bus Terminal
SG Julius Abapo, Tactical Security Headquarters
SG James Barazon, Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center
SG Rogelio Lanoy, Gateway Motors (Cebu), Inc.-KIA Talisay

Each element of every detachment and each individual awardee receive prizes for their achievements. Aside that, every guard not mentioned above and detailed in each post spread out in every breadth and reach of Tactical Security receive a small token. Not only that, Tactical Security remembered their fallen comrades and we go out of our way to personally carry gifts to their surviving families north and south of Cebu.

I wonder if other security agencies would do the Tactical way? I know of just a few and Tactical Security appreciate their efforts to treat their frontliners in the same way we do and even more. For our undertakings (and those agencies that care of their security guards), we reap. I hope the rest of the security industry do the same.


As of this writing, the Province of Cebu have reduced 111 guards as part of their austerity measures. Likewise, one of our oldest clients, Total Bulk Corp., decide to end our services due to economic constraints. Our consolation comes from winning the public bidding for the 79-guard strength of the The Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and retention of the Pag-IBIG Fund after a heated contest and gained for us ten more seats.

In the different fields, PRI Solutions, Inc., have taken trust with our brand of service despite minor setbacks and offers of sub-sea level prices from competitors, as we continue to supply security for each branch opened. Amidst those, other big detachments from the private sectors have cemented and renewed contracts with Tactical Security, as well as yanking out new contracts in our way.

To enhance our service, Tactical Security have contracted independent contractors to teach our people how to properly operate radios which the National Telecommunications Commission handled (complete with license and permits); how to detect and apprehend criminals which the Theft and Robbery Section of the Cebu City Police Office taught; and how to become a responsible gun user which Warrior Pilgrimage have shown in the different firing ranges.

At the end of the day, all the above factors conspire to draw out the good results that you would have desired in your endeavour. We pursued excellence and worked hard for it and it is there pouring. It is a given in every management objective and strategy but we have not realized it coming ten-fold. 
 

You know? Without faith in God, it goes out for naught. Be sensible and make the best of your guards by giving them more than what they deserve. Do not make milking cows of them at their expense and exact undue abuse at them in return of their subservience. Treat your frontliners as your own family. It is the best way and the ONLY way.


Document done in Libre Office 3

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

ONE HAPPY DAY IN DECEMBER

WHEN DECEMBER COMES, a festive feeling hangs in the air. For us Christians, it ushers in the remembrance of the birth of the child Jesus which we celebrate every December 25th of each year. When December comes here in Cebu City, we love to remember also the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the eighth and partake of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the twelfth.


When December do come in my place where there is a little chapel by the banks of the Lahug Creek, I and the rest of my small neighborhood prepare something for the coming of the feast of our patron – Saint Lucia. It falls every December 13 and my neighborhood had been observing her day since 1979. So you may know, St. Lucia is patron saint for the blind. Let me tell you a short story:


It is such a special day for me and my family for St. Lucia had been one of the blessed ones that had been petitioned by the mother of my late grandfather – for healing - when he was stricken with German measles as a child that caused him blindness. That was in 1901 when the Americans came to colonize the Philippine archipelago and the native population have no means to protect themselves from the introduced exotic diseases.


Now, back to the present. As is the custom of every Filipino borne out of gratitude and remembrance for the Creator, I decide to prepare food for my guests and of my youngest son's guests. As you see, my son – Cherokee – will celebrate his birthday on December 14 and I resolved to have his birthday celebration be held in advance instead to coincide with the feast of St. Lucia. 
 

My wife, Vilma, did all the cooking of calderetta (tomato-based goat soup), paklay (goat innards), humba (braised pork), fried chicken drumsticks, macaroni salad, spaghetti and rice with some help from daughter, Lovella. My neighbors, Berting and Agnie, meanwhile, did the slaughtering of a live goat right on my backyard in the morning as my grandchild, Gabriel, earnestly watched nearby from a swinging hammock. 
 

My neighbors were preparing some parlor games at the chapel as I was leaving for work at 8:00 AM. When I got back at 6:30 PM, a holy mass done at the chapel is about to end and the priest was now announcing for the baptismal rites of new Christians and is asking for the parents and godparents to come forward. My heart leaped with joy when I heard this and stayed a while to watch the ritual.

When I got home, daughter Laila is already there with husband Chokie and son Kurt and niece Roann. Grandson Jarod is playing a game on my laptop with Gabe beside him. Cherokee arrived shortly with two classmates and they just came from a retreat seminar at the Holy Family Retreat House in Nivel Hills. My sister, Aileen, came alone from work and waited for daughters Denise Gael and Via.

My eldest son, Charlemagne, got home together with girlfriend Christy and presented Cherokee with a cake. My mother Marietta arrived together with Denise Gael and Via; sister Genevieve with daughter Alyanna; sister-in-law Beth with sons Kevin and King Ivan; and all came from Lahug.

After dinner, the talks flowed among the ladies as they watched Amaya on prime time TV while the young 'uns tinker with their gadgets. For me and Chokie, aside from busy shooting pictures, we shared a bottle of local brandy mixed with soda energy drink and ice. 
 

The procession passed by my house and my mother is quite elated to see her former neighbors again. Then the fireworks lit the night sky as me, King Ivan and Gabe stood on a small bridge to watch the spectacle. When the guests leave, I spend the rest of the day with Vilma and Gringo in a lively talk. Lovella, Gabe and Jarod are all upstairs while Cherokee decide to join his neighbors in a disco near the chapel.


Document done in Libre Office 3

Monday, December 5, 2011

MAN-SIZED HIKE SERIES: Lutopan to Guadalupe III

THIS IS THE THIRD TIME that I will be leading men from Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City. This is a cross-country activity over the widest part of Cebu and it will be 36-40 kilometers long and following mainly the Mananga River of over, probably, twelve hours of hiking.

This is the route that I have discovered on February 20, 2011 and which I repeated with six others on April 23. This day in August 25 is different from the first and second episode. First, because it comes at a time when there is a tropical cyclone – Typhoon Ramon – entering the Philippine area of responsibility.

And secondly, this is the initial event for the newly-refurbished Camp Red1 and the young bloods will be attempting for the first time this man-sized hike with me. Four of the guys have not been on to this kind of activity before and that is a situation that I will give consideration to.

Aside me, guest Jerry Pescadero of ALPS-M have certain experience to approximate mine while the rest are still newbies when you are talking about a long-range day hike. Glenn Pestaño, Raymund Panganiban and Jhurds Neo carry extra weight while Jon Ducay is slight of build but he carries a heavy camera.

I am looking out for the well-being of my party at a time when weather and clime are its worst. My experience and aptitude will be tested once again and, just like before with my other activities, I will tow the party to safety and exhilaration. I have seen this thing before but this is different. I will be the ones who will be excited at this prospect at the end of the trail.

Yes, did I mention a trail? Hopefully, I will name this route soon. What name? That will be the privilege of the discoverer. But, first things first.

I arrive at the assembly area at 4:00 AM. I am a proponent of the “new” Filipino time and I need to be at the place an hour ahead. One by one, the participants arrive until we decide to board a bus for Lutopan at 6:30 AM.

What bad luck! This is the same bus that I have ridden twice before on this trip! The kung fu movie on the small screen and the 20 KPH drag are its trademark. Besides that, it keeps on picking up passengers along the way until people are found on the roofs for lack of standing space inside. Fortunately for me, I chose the front seat and I was not inconvenienced.

We arrive at the Lutopan Public Market at 8:00 AM and we immediately find something to eat for breakfast. After that, we pool money to buy food provisions for lunch. It is a long way and we are already behind schedule so we decide to hire motorcycles-for-hire to close the gap.

We arrive at Camp 7, a mountain village of Minglanilla, and walk our way to Sinsin, a mountain village of Cebu City, via this tree-lined stretch of the Manipis Road. It is very peaceful and the boys are quite excited about the prospect of cutting across the wide breadth of Cebu island.

When we arrive at Sinsin, I brief them about the route and the weather situation. I did not raise their hopes but give them a realistic alternative in case the Mananga River becomes a life-threatening beast. I designated the different escape routes and evacuation areas and everybody agreed to follow my decisions, come what may.

Our next destination would be Buot-Taup, another out-of-the-way village of Cebu City that is found by the banks of the Bonbon and the Mananga. We follow the unpaved road and several runners on training pass by us as we take a right turn on another (but very rough) road that goes down and down.

The road surface is blistered by the recent rains. Deep furrows were dug by water and several stones were unearthed and caused ordinary walking a very exciting activity instead. I don't mind these but I thought about those runners. What if they run here? I'm tempted to run but the better of me objected. I don't want the guys behind me to feel “abandoned”.

Even so, Jerry followed me like a shadow and I have to slow down a couple of times to give the other guys time to catch up. Up ahead is a small stream that pass under the road. There is a switchback trail there that goes all the way to the Mananga River. Jerry and I waited for the others here and it is 10:15 AM.

Walking now in single file, we reach the river and it is not swollen nor it is in brown color. Fine, but I wouldn't trust appearances. Rivers are very deceptive. At any instant, water will surge at you from out of nowhere even on a hot day! I have seen it happen many times.

We walk downstream, crossing several fords. My senses, however, are attuned to the slightest change of sound or current or water level of the river and I keep looking back trying to assure myself that it is alright. The weather is very cloudy but without no trace of rain and quite breezy. A perfect weather!

Then I sense something wrong about the riverscape. Wide craters are found everywhere hiding those sinister shovels and big sand strainers within. Quarrying of sand, gravel and stones are very blatant here and nobody is enforcing environmental laws. A group of three men even have the gall to prop up a 20-foot mountain of sand in the middle of the riverbed!

But the biggest harm to the environment comes from the riverbank-clearing operations of these cockroaches. They are not contented anymore quarrying on the riverbed and have concentrated their illegal work on the banks and hillsides, dislocating and uprooting a number of fully-grown trees and coconuts. Not only that, the river becomes hazardous to human travel because of potential landslides.

This is a problem that needs to be solved fast by the government. The increase in population have taken its toll on the river. Aside from quarrying, human waste and household sewage threatened the life-giving attribute of the Mananga. Then there is the local candle-nut industry whose residues are thrown on the river and it stinks.

We reach a place where there is a water source at 11:15 AM and opt to rest there and do cooking. I'm glad that my companions are all mangeurs de lard and that simplify my menu: pork adobo. It is alright as long as I don't use MSG and those “ginisa mix” on my food. For flavoring, I would rely more on soy sauce and cane vinegar and enhance the taste with green pepper. Aside that, I also cook milled corn on an almost-empty butane tank.

After a very brief siesta, we move once again for our destination. It is 1:00 PM and we have not reached yet the halfway point. Up ahead is Camp 4, a village which is part of Talisay City. I need to reach there before three so I hasten our pace disregarding the scenery for speed. I arrive at 2:20 PM.

At a jumble of large stones underneath an acacia tree, I prepared myself for a change of terrain and scenery by wringing my new Rivers hike boots and my pair of wet socks of water. This place is the halfway point and it stands on the southern edge of the Babag Mountain Range. From hereon, we will be treading on home ground – Cebu City.

But we need to negotiate Cabatbatan Trail so that's why I am ridding myself of excess weight like water on my shoes and socks. It's also the best time to examine each and everyone's feet condition, especially Glenn. He is not wearing a proper pair of shoes for heavy-duty walking and I know our feet have suffered much getting wet walking on the Mananga and inviting lots of sand and tiny pebbles inside.

Exhausted yet excited, the guys seem to get well with and among themselves. Despite having an average weight of 85 kilos, they paced faster than the previous two groups that I have had the honor to lead here. Cabatbatan Trail will change all that as the route start from river level and just climb and climb steeply for about five hundred meters until you reach a ridge.

I lead the climb while Jerry, Jon, Raymund, Jhurds and Glenn follow me in that order. Your rhythm will change complexion here and so will your skin tone. Breathing is very important here and it should be done in consonance with your footsteps so you will maintain your bearing and focus.

This trail is very unkind to burly guys as well as to those that have evaded exercise for so long. By purpose, I make a slow stride to accommodate even contestants for The Biggest Loser2 and constantly keep my eye on those that are lagging far behind. I am kind today and I make several stops so everyone could recover their breath.

I need not worry about Raymund, Jhurds and Glenn and the rest of the team for, at the end of this trail, there is a store that sell the only cold drinks between Sinsin and a small community in Bocawe five kilometers ahead. Just the mere mention of it will raise everyone's hope and they will hasten their pace. You will see!

After crossing the last of the Bocawe Creek, I lead them to the store but it is closed. Everyone were dismayed. I just need to raise their hopes a little bit further to offset their thirst and their fatigue especially now that the path we will be following keeps on ascending and ascending although it is a road. Half of it are unpaved and half are concreted but this is home ground and somewhere over every rise lay a little assurance.

When everyone douse their thirst in Bocawe, it is already 4:30 PM. We need to tackle the last rise before taking another rest at Pamutan where there is a lone police outpost. We arrive at the road junction and, this time, we will walk the rest of the distance downhill. It starts to get dark and everyone retrieve their head lamps.

I also retrieve my small old-school flashlight which I lash to a head band made of cord but I prefer my natural night vision for my navigation. When we arrive at Baksan, we abandon the road and use the trail to cut distance between here and Guadalupe. I find no difficulty finding my way around among trails and I look back at the rest of the pack and they're quite excited with their lights bobbing in the dark.

Along the trail, a black object cross my path. Locals use black PVC pipes to divert water from natural springs into their homes but I doubt that the black straight thing is a water pipe. It's just too thick. I switch on my light and I discover a good-sized python travelling in slow-motion unmindful of my close presence. I call Glenn to share with what I just found and leave them all behind.

From my forward position, I could hear agitated voices from behind me and some hurried footsteps. Hahaha. Encountering wildlife at close range is ordinary with bushcraft and survival. It's either the creature escape or it becomes part of your diet. At this time, I am not interested and the snake is free to go.

After a half-hour among the forest trail, the ridge becomes clear and my eyes feasted on the sparkle and glimmer of the metropolitan lights at a different angle. This is my first time to see this spectacle at this point of view and it is beautiful. I needn't need of my flashlight anymore as the city lights reflect on the thick clouds overhead illuminating the path in an eery red tinge.

We finally arrive at Guadalupe at 6:30 PM. The boys were spent out with the long hike and, one by one, they disappear until only Jhurds and me were left to talk about the just-concluded event. These are good guys and some of them will be the new nucleus of Camp Red. I have finally found the right people and the possibilities hereon are endless.

Document done in Libre Office 3
1An Cebu-based outdoor group which specializes in bushcraft & survival.
2A reality-TV show about a weight-reducing contest.

Friday, December 2, 2011

KERYGMA CONFERENCE 2011: Glory 2 Glory

AFTER WAITING FOR a year, the Kerygma Conference (or KCON 2011) had finally arrived again in Cebu. Coming back is Bro. Bo Sanchez and the rest of the Kerygma Preachers. They, and all the rest of the technical staffs from Shepherd's Voice, shall converge in one house that is the Waterfront International Hotel on November 26, 2011.

This year's theme is GLORY TO GLORY. The Light of Jesus Servant Community of Cebu had been moving heaven and earth for this and mobilized all their members to accommodate this special event which happens just once a year besides propping up and serving the Kerygma Feast which is held every month at the Sacred Heart Center.

Celebrating the Holy Mass again is Fr. John Iaccono. During his homily he touched on the preservation of life and spoke out against the proponents of the Reproductive Health Bill as anti-life. I agree with Fr. John.

For the third straight year, I am invited again to attend and serve in KCON as a volunteer. For the years 2009 and 2010, I have been tasked to secure KCON. But, this time, my task is more complex as it is broad. Eight people are under my bidding and supervision. Four at the venue and four following the itinerary of Bro. Bo.

Coming back also to serve and part of my team are Marco Albeza of Camp Red and Eugene Abarquez of Pundok Habagat. Joining them are Camp Red's Laertes Ocampo and Glenn Pestaño. I get my team of volunteers from the outdoors people. However, there are other concerns which need to be addressed and I contracted four guards from Tactical Security & Detective Agency, Inc.

Together with Bro. Boy Dy, I and my four subalterns fetched Bro. Bo from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 3:30 PM of November 25 and tailed behind him going to Park Mall for a meet-up with the KCON Marketing Team. After that, we proceed to SM City and then to Ayala Mall where a dinner was served at Cafe Laguna. The day ended at the Waterfront.

KCON formally started at 9:30 AM and ended at 6:00 PM. Bro. Bo took two sessions for the book signing before leaving Cebu for Manila. I did not have a camera this time unlike last year where I am able to document the whole KCON, but, fortunately, my sister-in-law Beth took many shots of me behind Bro. Bo during a book-signing session. I believe it is a blessing to serve in KCON and to shake hands with Bro. Bo.

See you again on the next KCON.


Document done in Libre Office 3
Photos courtesy of Beth de Egurrola

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WILDERNESS HEALTH, HYGIENE & SAFETY IN THE FIELD

GO WILD ADVENTURES, through William Rhys-Davies, recently made their presence felt here in Cebu by introducing the Wilderness Health, Hygiene and Safety in the Field to local participants on August 23, 24 and 25, 2011 at Mount Manunggal, Balamban, Cebu. This writer assisted Mr. Rhys-Davies with the preparation, organization and other administrative tasks to make this event successful.

This outdoors course is offered here for the first time and concentrates mainly about personal and campsite safety and hygiene and exposed the participants to the realities of the “big-picture awareness”. The participants were ferried from JY Square, Cebu City to Mt. Manunggal via the Transcentral Highway and the Cambagocboc-Sunog Road courtesy of Mr. Barry Downes.

Fine weather greeted the party on the first day. Mr. Rhys-Davies taught campsite selection and safety; knife safety; and cooking fire management. He further discussed about the option of choosing the right kind of gears and materials for the right season and climate. Tents were set up by each of the participants on the helipad area except Mr. Rhys-Davies and I, who both preferred to sleep outdoors shielded by tarpaulins overhead.

Dinner served were an assortment of canned goods, milled corn and mung bean soup but without monosodium glutamate which is forbidden by Mr. Rhys-Davies and this writer as an ingredient. Mr. Rhys-Davies slept on a bamboo bench while I favored the ground near the Pres. Ramon Magsaysay monument and covered it with dry palm leaves as a cushion so I could elevate a few inches if, in case, it rains and the ground becomes a puddle.

On the second day, the participants were taught how to analyze terrain for travel and how to place “Fred in the red shade” of a compass after breakfast and there was a friendly competition amongst the participants on who gets the perfect spot during the drills. It rained after that and the instructions transferred to the house of Mr. Leopoldo Bonghanoy, which is just located nearby.

Mr. Rhys-Davies continued the lecture which now touched about personal and food hygiene. I complemented the lecture by teaching everyone how to cook canned goods without using cooking oil. After lunch break, Mr. Bonghanoy's daughter showed to all how to process raw abaca fibers into cordage and twirl it into a rope with the use of a simple machine. Everyone tried their best to twirl the fibers and attain some discernible success!

After the rains have stopped in the late afternoon, I gathered a bamboo pole from a small stream and demonstrated to everyone of how to cook milled corn inside of a bamboo. It would have been a success were it not for strong gusts of wind that blew away my cooking fire every now and then and turning my milled corn half-cooked so I decide to cook another batch of milled corn inside of a Vietnam-era mess kit on conventional camp stove for dinner plus different menus.

Everyone retired early as the cold crept into everyone's layer of clothing and the fogs made it more miserable bringing slight drizzle. I worm into my sleeping bag partly exposed from the elements. By early dawn, heavy drops of water sprinkled my face and I'm forced to move into the innermost recesses of my shelter. For more than an hour, I sat and waited out the dawn shower to stop before reclaiming sleep for the rest of the night.

The third day brought forth sunshine and heat dissipating last night's dew and moisture. Mr. Rhys-Davies started the activity very early in the morning and begun giving instructions on first-aid responder duty and lightning-strike drills. More drills were set-up along the stream and along a road even as I prepared a meal of milled corn and cabbage soup on all the three bamboo segments.

The activity ended after lunch with a ceremonial toss of brandy by Mr. Rhys-Davies, this writer, Glenn Pestaño, Silver Cue, Lawrence Lozada and Raymund Panganiban. As scheduled, Mr. Downes arrived with his Suzuki Scrum to transport us back to JY Square.

Document done in Libre Office 3

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PINOYAPACHE GOES AGAIN TO THE TWIN CITIES OF ZAMBO NORTE

I AM A PASSENGER OF M/V Georich tonight, May 30, 2011, travelling to the cities of Dipolog and Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte. The boat is quite small by today's standards and, I think, it's my first time to ride this relic. I have an errand to make and I have to retrieve a package inside Dakak Beach Resort and then bring it back to Cebu.

Oh, the boat cabin is full and I have to make do with a cot on a higher level leaving me no space to place my bag. Besides that, the alleys are blocked with bags and personal cargoes; my feet protrude beyond the cot I'm sleeping on; and the fluorescent light is just a few feet away from my face.

Well, what do you know, M/V Georich is such a small passenger boat. I have to reposition myself and move away from the light. The bag I have to hang on the boat's ceiling with a carabiner. However, the cabin is cool for it is airconditioned. I sleep before the boat depart and wake up at 4:00 AM, the following day. The cabin crowd is silent and, probably, we're still far away. I continue sleeping.

At 7:00 AM, I step on the Port of Pulauan, Dapitan City; after retrieving my deposited blades from the ship's first mate. I need to go to Sicayab, Dipolog City, to secure transport papers for my package. It is a police camp located on a beach and I'm rather too early to transact business so I have to make a little exploration outside and look for something to fill my empty tummy somewhere along the highway.

I found one tended by one elderly woman and feasted on chicken curry, a dish of local pasta and two servings of rice. I just paid all these for 25 pesos. Cheap! Now, back to the seaside camp, I make my intentions clear and I am instructed by a policeman to pay the fees to a government bank in Dipolog City and then come back to the camp in the afternoon and present the receipt as proof of payment.

I have been here in Dipolog a couple of times: the first one in September 2005 and the last time in June 2009. I retrace the location of the restaurant where I eat breakfast with cousin Patrick and aunt Lourdes during my first trip and found it. It is located right across the public market and the food are cooked well. Besides that, a respectful sentry stand guard at the entrance giving you a bit of security.

After taking my lunch, I walk across the market and look for certain food ingredients which I plan to bring to Cebu. I need not look far for it is very common here. I am talking about the “tabon-tabon” (sp. Atuna racemosa) and the “biasong” (sp. Hystrix macroptera). These two when mixed with raw fish makes the latter taste heavenly. Trust my wife. She knows. I buy five pairs.

Just one more thing. I have to look for a cheap place to stay! Not far from the city center and not too close. I found one along Bonifacio Street and it's only 500 pesos; with toilet and bath, cable TV and with an airconditioner. It is of walking distance to the public market yet quite invisible from there. Perfect. I rest for an hour before I make ready to go back to Sicayab to continue my processing.

I am given the run around and told to come back in the morning. Oh, well, that's how bureaucracy works here in far-out places. I go back to Dipolog instead and take a tour of its urban landmarks like the city hall, the monuments and its Catholic church – the Holy Rosary Cathedral. I bring the camera and fired at will.

I return to my room when it becomes already too hot and decide to watch cable TV instead. The travel have strung me out and I sleep, only to find that it is already 7:00 PM when I wake up. Need to look for another out-of-the-way restaurant that might offer local delicacies. Sadly, almost all the shops and stores are already closed and I have to make do with a corner eatery but, still, it is cheap!

In the morning of June 2, I return to Sicayab full of optimism but I got out with opposite feelings. It had not been processed yet. Why not go to Dakak Beach Resort instead? The most difficult process might be the easiest, who knows? I rely so much on getting my way around the camp but found it a bastion of age-old habits that refused to change despite computerization. I have to improvise and race myself to Dapitan City.

I have bad memories of that pebbled road to Dakak. The motorcycle I rode on took a spill there in 2009 that left me with bloody arms and the driver in much worse condition. However, today, it is fully concreted but it is never cheap to travel there on a hired motorcycle. I don't care. As long as my package is with me and damn that transport papers.

After waiting almost an hour, I have now the package in my possession. I need to go back to my room in Dipolog fast and gather my things for departure. For the third time, I miss the chance to take a good tour of this city and take pictures of its most famous landmark – the Jose Rizal National Park. Someday, I will with wife and kids for a whole week. Book me!

I leave Dipolog City and pass by Sicayab just for the heck of it. Expecting the worst, it turn out better this time and I get hold of the transport papers. It is 2:00 PM and my expected departure for Cebu would be 7:00 PM. I decide to go early to Pulauan Port and wait for the departure time.

Good thing that I went early there for I discovered that the 7:00 PM schedule had been cancelled and another boat from a competitor would, instead, leave at 4:00 PM for Dumaguete before steaming on for Cebu. What good timing! I take the beeline to buy my ticket for, I discovered, the returning boat is a bigger one. Ah, good. That means it has much wider alleys and wider cots.

I am at a section near the stern and I found it so damn hot! The windows are wide and open but I can't feel no air or breeze coming in even when it is moving. I willed my eyes to sleep only to be awakened by a crew asking for my boat ticket. Damn! It is really hot and most of the passengers decide to loiter at the port and starboard sides gasping for cool air.

The nearest airconditioned place is the galley but it is full of shrieking people trying to outdo each other on a videoke machine. I while my time at the portside gunwale but I found it disturbing that candy wrappers thrown by passengers from the higher level of the boat find its way and dropping near me. I don't want to get caught by something wet and sticky and I immediately leave the open area. Maybe my cot is a little cooler now?

The hot iron tub arrive at the Port of Dumaguete at 11:00 PM and disgorged itself some of its passengers and cargoes. That left many cots vacant and I chose the middlemost for it is cooler. I slept for an hour, maybe, enjoying a slight change in temperature when another crew shook me awake and asked for my boat ticket. Not again? This boat is insanely designed and full of insane crews. Worse, I am made to vacate this commandeered bed space!

I waited for dawn, half-awake and sweating on the hot leatherette cot, listening to the built-in MP3 of my cellphone. I may have slept, after all, for I discovered the horizon harboring now a paler shade of darkness. A tell-tale sign of light, bluish and dark crimson, streaked out from a flat dark blob. I look at the starboard side and see a dark mass of land five leagues away. It is Cebu, alright, but, still quite far to the harbor.

Meantime, the heat have not dissipated despite dawn's caress. I wished this hot iron tub could travel faster so I could free myself from its dank stranglehold. I spend the rest of dawn outside of the sleeping cabin facing a slight headwind, which is consolation enough. Yonder is the familiar skyline of Dalaguete; the bright power plants of Naga; the seaward point pf land of Talisay City; the racing lights at the SRP; before the slow boat enter the Mactan Channel ready to flush me and the rest into the asphalt jungles of this queen city of the south.


Document done in Libre Office 3

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE BUSHCRAFT CAMP

THIS IS THE FIRST time that had been done in the Philippine Islands. Camp Red, your only Philippine bushcraft and survival guild south of Subic Bay; and Warrior Pilgrimage, a personal blog dedicated for bushcraft and survival; recently introduced the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp or PIBC MMXI to fourteen newcomers.

The activity was held at an undisclosed site designated as “Camp Damazo”; found deep in the bosom of the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City on June 11 and 12, 2011. The party were led by this writer starting from Guadalupe by way of Bebut's Trail on the early morning of the first day after a short prayer of protection and good journey.

After claiming the campsite at midday, the participants chose their spot where to set up their tents and then the preparation for the noontime meal started. Camp Red prefer their meals eaten fresh from the cooking fires and it had been their trademark ever since. A water hole was dug for this purpose from a sandy bank of a free-flowing stream to supply the event's water requirements like washing, cooking and drinking.

In the afternoon, this writer introduced the participants to bushcraft and survival; what is its relation to the environment; and how it affects the individual's psychology. Field manuals and similar handouts were distributed by this writer to everyone to satisfy the demands of their curiosity. In addition, this writer stressed the vital importance of knives or bladed weapons as a part of every bushman's equipment.

Following up is a lecture about the basics of outdoor cooking by a Camp Red member-participant wherein the activity dragged on to preparing the next meal – dinner. During the cooking, this writer demonstrated the participants how to forage food along the stream after dark. All in all, five good-sized fresh-water crabs were added for supper.

A small campfire beside the stream was started and a joyous camaraderie ensued among the participants. “Camp Damazo” have never witnessed such an unusual gathering at this time and date before. There never were lights or sounds of laughter introduced before in this hidden nook and that makes this activity a source of adrenaline.

The following day, June 12, the national flag was raised on a staff secured by cords made from inner bark of trees. Newcomer Nikki Ledesma led the group to the singing of the Philippine National Anthem. Later, another newcomer, Glenn Pestaño – the one who demoed yesterday of how an everyday carry or EDC should look like – led the Oath of Allegiance to the republic.

After that, this writer discussed about the basics of survival-tool making and how to use such skill to ensure your survival. The ability to create something like cordage, digging sticks and cooking utensils from nothing is greatly emphasized by this writer to the participants and highlighted by cooking milled corn inside of a bamboo pole.

The activity ended after lunch and this writer again guided the party to a long river trek that pass over many hidden waterfalls, thick jungle, difficult terrain and back to Guadalupe. The following are the sets of collage that describe this very novel activity:



OBSERVATIONS:

  1. PIBC MMXI taught the participants that bushcraft and survival can complement well with backpacking and mountain climbing.
  2. Bushcraft and survival is an interest or hobby worth trying. Foreigners love to learn survival techniques in the tropics. We live in the tropics yet we rather spend expensive gears and equipment geared for an outdoor activity that is done in high altitude.
  3. A peripheral outdoor activity was held during this date and PIBC MMXI demonstrated that this will be the best alternative in the future.
  4. We are used to following an event tailored for Westerners and we disregard the crafts that our ancestors taught us. All of us have the potential to practice traditional crafts but, somehow, we are ignorant that it exists even if it runs in our veins. It is stored in our subconscious and all we have to do is remember.
  5. Camp Red and Warrior Pilgrimage have espoused the practice of these skills and it is our obligation to transfer these skills to those who would want to learn these.



Document done in Libre Office 3

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WARRIOR REVIEW: PinoyApache's Tomahawk

MY LITTLE AXE, which I fondly called as my tomahawk, have been with me since the year 1999. It is one of the items that I have collected or acquired during my “warrior pilgrimage” years. It is very light and it is forged of highly-carbonized steel.

I presumed, it may have been made from a leaf-spring of a European or American-made automobile suspension system of long ago and the “eye” have been arched gracefully whereby the blunt edge kissed the main head at the middle section and securely welded giving it the shape of a teardrop which is good enough to fit a well-sized wooden shaft - about 1.2” x 0.75” thick.

The cutting edge is sharp and very narrow. “Lantip” as we Visayans called it, I have seen it cut through the diameter of an old-school six-inch nail, accidentally dismembering the top from the rest in a cataclysm of one bright spark as fine steel clashed against fine steel! Such power held in my hands is something worth respecting and possessing.

I remember the axe when it was yet in the hands of the original owner. It was just treated as an ordinary tool and used mainly in chopping wood for the earthen hearth then laid on the ground or thrown aside when not used. I noticed the teardrop-shaped “eye” and I immediately concluded that this simple axe is different from the axes that I have seen or held before.

On the spot, I offered to buy the axe for two hundred pesos plus another axe as replacement to save the man the trouble of looking for one. For the woodcutter, it is just like a great bargain which gave him advantage and saved him from wangling a better price. For me, it is like I just found a rare pearl.

Immediately, I set to work on the first wooden shaft. The wood is an exotic kind which I find hard to identify, but I carved it with my own hands. The shaft I designed is not straight, but is gracefully curved imitating the style of early Filipino weapons art. What made it more different is that the axehead is secured in an American Indian fashion.

The shaft is seventeen inches long. The axehead could not hurtle itself out from the top of the shaft and could not slid down the handle for a chord is tightly wound around the foreshaft reinforcing the latter from breakage. Two hawk feathers are tied at one end of the chord to aid its flight when thrown.

The shaft protruded three-fourths of an inch above the axehead and is much thicker than the rest and that already ensured my axehead that it will not dismember itself from the shaft like most axes do when under the pressure of hard use and so is safe to use. I don't either need small iron spikes that are inserted above the shaft so wood and steel would clasp in an unstable Western-style fusion.

The good thing with this axe is that its “eye” is wide as it is long. Meaning, the wooden shaft that held the steel head is thick enough and could withstand the pressures of the strength that drove it or the weight of both hand and steel head that strike wood. Even so, the first shaft broke during a day of cutting felled trees and debris after a typhoon later of that year. It was not a good wood.

I then began to experiment on different types of wood after that and I made carvings on the shaft for aesthetic feel and for secure gripping. Woods used were guava, star apple (sp. Chrysophillium cainito), golden mahogany (sp. Shorea laevis or yakal) and rosewood (narra). All did not stood the hard work I used during the chopping and splitting of wood and during the time when the tomahawk is set free to whirl its way into space and find true target.

The pleasure of steering my tomahawk and make a blood-curdling thud on a wooden target is very exhilarating. It had become my past time then and it came to a point where I experimented on different shaft designs and on different distances. I found a design that enabled the axehead to embed deeply on its target when thrown and another design that could withstand the rigors of hard work.

The shafts are both made from a yellow mahogany wood (sp. Vitex parviflora or tugas). The first design came from a wooden relic. A survivor of a great conflagration in 1989. A wood that had been acquired by my late grandfather forty years earlier of that disaster. It is carved with Zuni patterns and tapered off at the end. The word “Cherokee” is etched on the wood and is named after a great and noble people of the “trail of tears” with which my second son is proudly named after.

The second design is very familiar. I bring it all the time during my bushcrafting sorties on the mountains. It is short – about 11 inches – and curves in one stroke giving me optimum leverage to cut into whatever I chop. The part of the shaft that held the head is angled abruptly from the rest to project an “upright” position and optimize its cutting power. It is also carved with Zuni patterns with an American Indian and headdress to graphically symbolize my woodworking trademark under the name “Cherokee”.

The American Indian image from my tomahawk shafts and on anything that touched wood would become a symbol of remembrance for one noble race that have been obliterated almost into extinction by the perverted values of a different culture that turn a lustful eye upon its land and its resources. I am part of that kind and I harbor solidarity with my brothers across the watery divide.

From that image was born the first bushcraft and survival guild in the Philippine Islands south of Subic Bay – Camp Red! Traditional crafts have been taught by this writer to his brother Filipinos and many have embraced this skill which, after all, are really embedded in the subconscious of every indigenous people, mixed blood or not, and all it does need is just a little “fire” to inflame it.

So, back to my tomahawk, I kept and cared for it like a baby. I sharpen it all the time and apply a thin coat of oil or marrow to keep out rust. I refused to have my tomahawk lay and touch ground. When I finish my work, I embed and kept it erect on wood. When not used, I separate steel and shaft and kept the former in a special case.

Sadly, during the height of my enthusiasm for the throwing 'hawk, there were no ideas yet of what is a YouTube. All my activities with my tomahawk (and those flying blades-mosquito coil stands-machetes-crowbars-heavy axes-Gillette blades-pseudo police badges-and every pointed/sharp objects) were unrecorded.

Not until one day in 2010 did I muster the time to record myself, with the help of Manwel Roble, at the foothills of the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City throwing my dearly beloved tomahawk and showed to everyone in the Internet that what I write here is really true. I don't know yet of anyone here doing this thing in a “live” video but I welcome their camaraderie if ever one shows up. I waited for this long.


Sad to say, this skill is not for everyone. You have to find your “vision quest” and, once done, you will have the “book of life” at your disposal. It is a path less travelled and very narrow and without the comforts and pleasures that sedentary living could provide.

I have journeyed far, high and wide across the archipelago and I found my true path. My tomahawk is one of the things that I have come to understand as something akin to being a companion. As one esteemed bushman have commented to me in Facebook: it is a bond that is hard to break.

Document done in Libre Office 3 Writer