Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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
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
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:
- PIBC MMXI taught the participants that bushcraft and survival can complement well with backpacking and mountain climbing.
- 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.
- A peripheral outdoor activity was held during this date and PIBC MMXI demonstrated that this will be the best alternative in the future.
- 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.
- 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
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