Wednesday, May 2, 2012
WE ARE ONLY FOUR people going to the Babag Mountain Range today, February 19, 2012. I will teach the three bushmen with me the rudiments of making a wooden spoon by hand and knife. The three guys are Silver Cue, Lawrence Lozada and Dominikus Sepe and all of us belong to Camp Red, your only Philippine bushcraft and survival guild south of Subic Bay.
Making a spoon from scratch is one of the skills highly valued by all bushcrafters found everywhere in the world. This writer espouses this craft thru the Grassroots Bushcraft Teaching Series which are all documented in this blog Warrior Pilgrimage.
So, after meeting at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and after providing ourselves the ingredients for our noon meal, we proceed to Napo by hired motorcycles. We start at the trailhead at 9:00 AM. The climate is hot and very humid; the trail still retained mud on some stretches borne out of two weeks of constant rain. The vegetation are healthy and green and the Sapangdaku River is full.
We arrive at Lower Kahugan Spring in twenty-six minutes something. The fastest I have timed myself going there is thirty-one minutes. This is good! The three guys behind me are so unrelenting and so full of vigor and speed. At the spring, I rehydrate myself and fill my water bottle.
After a brief interlude under the cool shade, we climb up an exposed route passing by a flower farm. Our destination is the Roble homestead which is found on a knoll where a big tamarind and a Java plum tree grow. I push myself hard trying to outdo the rest and found myself stopping often to recover my wits and my breath.
We reach the cool bamboo benches and claim our own separate niche underneath the shades. I boil water for coffee to pep me up while disemboweling my backpack of a present of bread for the kids Manwel, Juliet and Josel Roble. I pass the ingredients for our meal to Antonia Roble so I could concentrate on the outdoor lecture of “Spoon Carving 101”.
I choose the dried stump of a Mexican lilac tree and splinter it into firewood size with my tomahawk. I select the best three parts and pass it to Silver, Lawrence and Dominikus. It is hard and gnarled and I could not find a softer wood but they insist to work on these. The wood is reddish with a yellowish tinge and some dark streaks. I show to them my finished spoons as instructional aids or work models.
Silver have with him his locally-made trench knife replica and his genuine Mora knife; Dom his broken Camillus 1971 multi-knife set and his locally-made tracker knife replica; and Lawrence his Gerber multi-tool set. I supply them with broken glasses for scraping purposes and offer my tomahawk and Mantrack knife to work on the wood. Lawrence opt for the tomahawk.
From time to time, I look over their work, giving them hints of where and how to achieve better progress. Meanwhile, I test my newly-acquired Made in China stainless-steel pot on the side by cooking a half kilo of milled corn for our lunch. The water boil quickly because the skin is very thin while removing the lid is effortless even while it is hot.
Then it comes to a time that we have to cease for a while our session to avail of lunch. Dish is specially prepared and is made of taro leaf stalks, taro rootcrops, red beans and eggplant cooked in coconut-milk soup locally called “linabog”. This dish is my favorite and I help myself with several servings until I end up with a bloated tummy. Likewise Silver, Lawrence and Dom enjoyed very much this local food. Then comes the dessert: green coconuts. (Burp!)
The participants continue their work on their respective spoons while I refine further one of my early-made spoons. It had become some sort of a back scratcher in my home. I scrape the spoon head, thinning it further, and sanded it. I may have to apply varnish on to this one and make one friend happy who had been asking for such.
Anyway, Silver’s Mora cut away the wood easily. On the other hand, the tomahawk did good on Lawrence’s wood only that he make some misjudgments, unintentionally cutting away his wood (and sometimes chipping off small parts of wood) and the size of his spoon. Dom’s tracker knife is very cumbersome and left little to be desired.
Silver make good progress of his spoon maybe because he has an efficient knife. Dominikus, meanwhile, did his best with limited resources apart from the heavy tracker and a broken Camillus but created, nonetheless, his own “masterpiece”. Lawrence’s spoon becomes a midget after considerable exposure to flaws. All made their spoons for the first time.
Five hikers came in the middle of our meal and they were very entertained by the activity of spoon carving. They also eat their lunch with their bought food at the benches and helped themselves with them green coconuts. After a while, they leave for Babag Ridge giving us back our big spaces.
By 2:30 PM, we pack our things back into our backpacks and say goodbye to our hosts, the Roble family. We take another route in going down to Lower Kahugan Spring and proceed on without stopping. We were so obsessed with speed that we reach Napo at 3:03 PM. Jeez! Thirty-three minutes for a route that normally takes about forty-five minutes! Wow. Another record.
From Napo we were transferred to Guadalupe and further transferred to a new watering hole located at M. Velez Street – Red Hours. Over bottles of ice-cold bottles of Red Horse beer, we talk of the day’s activity. Spoon carving is not difficult to do. The moment you finish one, you are onto your second until you become well-versed with what you do and, by that time, you establish a good relationship with the blade.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3
Pictures courtesy of Silver Cue and Chingki Kinito