Thursday, June 16, 2011
ONCE UPON A TIME in Banilad, Cebu City in September 2009, I meet two foreigners inside the Gustavian Restaurant. Both were very amiable and they look like veterans of sleeping more than a thousand nights under the stars. One is an American who goes by the name of Thomas Moore and the other is Welsh, William Rhys-Davies. Both are old-school outdoorsmen in the purest sense of the word.
Over swigs of beer, we were talking about Cochise's stronghold in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. Tom has a famous blog, I suppose, and it is titled Tomahawks Adventure and Travel. The “Pathfinder” and “Tomahawk” are his handles in the 'net. On the other hand, Wil is into adventure tours and outdoor-sport education and he prefers to be known as “Jungle Wil” and has a nasty former nom de guerre - “Cochiserattlesnake”. Ouch!
Without farther much ado, they have read my personal blog and arranged for this meeting in the Tap Room of the Gustav. They were interested into spending some time in our local mountains and we set a schedule after that but, Super-Typhoon Ondoy came and washed away our day. It was the only time I saw Tom in person before he embarked on his never-ending adventures in the States and elsewhere which are well-documented. Wil, he stayed long enough and climbed with me to Mount Babag in early October 2009 before going up to southern China.
These two middle-aged guys love what they're doing and that gave me some hope and a ton of inspiration. They are bushcrafters and they ache to practice their survival skills in the tropics. I live in the tropics and why can't I be like them? Too bad, I spend too much time on a hobby that teaches you nothing but gain high elevations and acquire expensive gears! These two guys convinced me right then and there to shift to bushcraft and survival and it is so familiar. Skills I neglected for so many years. Oh, Jesus, I hope I am not late.
I commenced by convincing my backpacking buddies Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon and they were able to grasp the full meaning of this new hobby only after three trips into a trail I discovered, explored and designed for this kind of activity. It is a path less travelled and quite unknown to the backpacking community of Cebu. After that, they dictated to me of the most desirable name for a group to anchor behind local bushcrafting and so, Camp Red was born on January 24, 2010 complete with their idea of the group emblem.
The idea of bushcraft and survival is of a different level compared with other outdoor hobbies like backpacking and/or mountain climbing which are very popular here in the Philippines. The latter are quite bitchy about the environment and are more of sophistication and style whereas bushcraft and survival is more of knowledge, improvisation and plain common sense. However, bushcraft and survival is not very gung-ho about Leave No Trace. Bushcraft people find this very impractical, cumbersome and quite amusing.
Anyway, Tom and I exchange comments in between our blogs and in our Facebook accounts from time to time; while Wil come to Cebu every often and engage backbreaking bush hikes with the younger ones and down bottles of beer with the rest of the Camp Red circle. Ultimately, Camp Red became an identity of its own chosen craft and hobby; a trailblazer for bushcraft and survival here in Cebu and the rest of the Philippines south of Subic Bay. Thanks, in part, to Tom and Wil.
Tom travelled all over the states on a shoestring budget and it is so common for him to stand by a roadside and hitch rides to his chosen destination or do “dumpster diving” in the desert. He tried to hike his way to the tip of South America but his gears were stolen in transit. He loves Mexican food and drink gallons of coffee. Last heard of him, he was in Thailand; but, lately, he is now back in the States. He would have crossed over to Cebu from the Malay Peninsula, North Borneo and Mindanao when he ran out of greenbacks and decide to try his chance for a TV show in Discovery Channel.
Wil, meanwhile, does a dribble between Hong Kong and Cebu. Wil is a teacher and he uses his wide outdoor experience to teach people about wilderness first aid, camp management, trail preservation, ropesmanship, rock climbing, etc. He used to be part-owner of a Sri Lankan resto in Hong Kong and then with Jungle Wild Adventure Tours but now he concentrates his work on Bushcraft Asia(.com). Wil loves to sit at a sari-sari1 store and greets everyone as if they are long-lost relatives.
By the way, Tom and Wil added some more of their survival skills from our very own Aeta brothers in the jungles of Pampanga. They spent a rainy week in the Pastolan Aeta village of Tata Kasoy and they have endeared themselves to the natives and their culture and have spent time, effort and blog space to put up funds for the Pastolan Aetas. Wil also have shown support for Camp Red by bringing in people to learn bushcraft and survival in Cebu.
Camp Red is not only a bushcraft and survival guild but it is a social group dedicated to preserving the environment through sustained photo documentation and reporting of illegal logging; and a proponent of practical tree planting activities. It is also a hub for budget backpackers and is an adventure partner to Green*Point/Circle of Friends, EWIT Mountaineers, Tribu Dumagsa, Cebu Mountaineering Society, Tribu Lapukon and Zubu Eco-Tourism Society. Camp Red is the fruit of my aspirations without being wrenched inutile by worthless rules.
After a year, Camp Red have stoked the fires of interest over many individuals but Camp Red is not keen about quantity unlike most outdoor clubs. To be honest, bushcraft and survival anchor its philosophy on a single person's common sense that would aid on that individual's (or a group's) survival. Camp Red's activities are tailored for a single individual instead of as a group. So, don't be surprised if I walk the trails on my own and never ever label it as extreme. That is bushcraft and survival and you don't need a group to practice it. Camp Red is just a means for these kind of skills and like-minded individuals.
There were many many skills I gained in the course of my life's journey; I used what is relevant in practical situations and took the rest for granted. Never have I known that the majority of these crafts which have lain idle would be worth a dozen-fold in bushcraft and survival. I have finally found what's really in my heart and I enjoyed all the things I do outdoors. This is also a worthwhile attempt to teach people how to use their wits while in the wild outdoors.
Oh, before I go, don't be fooled by those popular survival videos aired on cable TV. They are all scripted and are money-making productions. I have not watched one segment; the Tomahawk disdained it; and Jungle Wil doesn't care a bit. The best way to learn bushcraft and survival is to be by yourself in the bush. You are your own teacher.
“Chance favors the prepared mind”.
Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
1Local small convenience stores.