Friday, October 26, 2012


BATS ARE VENTUROUS creatures, don’t you think? They get loose in the night coming from some place that I don’t know where and fly in a circular-like pattern and emits a shrill sound every now and then. They love to fly in circles around a manzanita tree and a water-apple tree found near my house.

Of course, they forage for food and do this while in flight which are quite acrobatic if you could see it in slow motion. Both the National Geographic and the Discovery channels have documented bats and other creatures quite well which is very educational as well as very entertaining.

Sometimes, they intrude into places where humans inhabit. I have noticed one small bat who had made a safe refuge of my house when it is in a feeding mode. It had used the unfinished ceiling of the second level of my house – just below the roof – for sometime since, maybe in 2003. The bat enters the open spaces between roof and upper wall and dines.

I have no qualms whatsoever of wildlife making my abode a sort of a halfway house. I welcome all creatures, I even compel some, as long as they don’t threaten members of my household else they would be evicted. Varmints are not welcome though and them feet-less scaly ones.

That particular bat I mentioned is a regular visitor. It brings in different fruits – according to the season – and some leaves and dines under the roof of my house. The bat leave behind small seeds and the juices that dries and hardens on the marine plywood floor where it stains the wood.

My wife have been complaining about the bat and shoos it away when she notices it coming or hanging but the winged creature is unperturbed. It returns to its favorite spot at the third steel purlin near the stairwell. She is occupied at chasing the bat out or placing old newspapers at the place where these droppings presumably fall.

The bat when startled just leaves the house unnoticed or it may fly about at the upper floor and, sometimes, flying down into the stairwell and into the living room, dining room and kitchen found downstairs. My grandsons, Jarod and Gabriel shrieks and runs when the bat goes on its evasion flight down the house and they won’t go upstairs either when they notice the bat hanging under the roof.

Lately, my wife had become more forceful and more noisy about the bat. It had to do with the floor stains occurring at another part of the house. She have had enough of my being very kind to the bat which I treat like an unrestrained pet. I begin to wonder why the bat had to eat on two different places and I also find it annoying to step on droppings everywhere.

The answer to that question came on the night of July 25, 2012 when my youngest son, Cherokee, called me upstairs while I was watching TV. Before me, are two bats playing catch against each other while in flight. It’s the first time I saw two bats inside the house as uninvited guests. Later on, the bats settled on the new place above where those mysterious droppings are found.

Not only that, the newer bat seems to have an addiction to a fruit which has a bigger seed, the name of which I have not had the time to identify. It announces its presence by the sound of the seed dropping on the wooden floor. Yes, I heard the drop of the seed before Cherokee called my attention.

I believe the recent visitor is a male and I also believe that I have been harboring a female bat for some time now and I feel happy about my bat finding a mate. She is not lonely anymore and, pretty soon, she will have her offspring with which idea would not be quite compatible to my wife. I would love to have my house bat-free (who wouldn’t) but it works against my untamed spirit.

Anyway, I enjoy this spectacle of two bats playing at close quarters. They seem to be happy and disregard our presence by going on their business of hanging upside down. I can’t do nothing against bats inside my house but I can take advantage of this occurrence by writing about it. It is one event that I could agree with those animal people belonging to PETA1 and PAWS2.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3

1People with Ethical Treatment to Animals.
2Philippine Animal Welfare Society.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


HAVING GIVEN MY commitment to Edwin Gatia and the just-established Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, Inc. (MCAP), I am off to Metro Manila for a one-day sneak visit on July 8, 2012 – a Sunday. I will be meeting the core members of MCAP for the first time and then sign my name on the documents as an incorporator for our application with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-stock non-profit organization.

On that same meeting, I will discuss the merits of bushcraft and survival training for the MCAP members as a possible requisite for full membership. Edwin, the interim President, have requested me to do that honor being Director for Programs and Operations. The gathering will be at McDonald’s, located at the corner of Bonifacio Avenue and Baranca Drive, Mandaluyong City at 1:00 PM.

The night before that, I curtailed the excitement of my expected meeting with and discussing my specialty to the mountaineers of Luzon on their home turf by going to the Outpost in Lahug for a ska gig with Dominikus Sepe, Rans Cabigas, Mark Estrella and Roger Siasar. Going home quite tipsy at 12:00 midnight have drained that fervor and I may have to perhaps deal with a hang-over in the early hours of morning.

I do wake up at 3:00 AM and go on the process of preparing myself for travel. I just carry an Ortlieb 5-liter dry bag and wear the PIBC MMXII t-shirt, an Alburqani fleece-lined waterproof jacket (since it is raining in Manila on the news), a Mammut SDT hiking pants, a Stayuplate skull cap, black socks and a pair of compound-rubber sandals. My flight to Manila is 5:55 AM.

In darkness, I travel from home to my office in Mandaue City on a Honda Wave and park the motorcycle there. From Mandaue, I take a taxi for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapulapu City. I checked in and walk through three layers of security before I wait for the announcement of the Cebu Pacific Airways flight.

The plane promptly left Cebu for Manila and it arrive there at 7:05 AM. Jay Z Jorge and his lovely fiancee, Carla, meet me at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal III and we travel from Parañaque City to Malate, Manila to take breakfast at the Aristocrat Restaurant. There, Jay Z and Carla treat me to a sumptuous meal of arroz caldo, boneless chicken, Valenciana rice and coffee.

The hot soup of the arroz caldo tempered away my hang-over and warmed my stomach and the rest of my being. I sweat as I finish the first course; remove my jacket and retrieve my face towel to wipe some tell-tale feeling of perspiration. The second course is chicken so tender which I slice in slivers and daub in Java sauce for better taste. Grated papaya gives accent to the meal.

Coffee with milk finish my breakfast and we tarry for a long conversation just enough to waste an hour. Jay Z gifted me a book titled Mga Tanaga Ng Buhay1. It is authored by Jay Z’s aunt who is a professor of Filipino Studies – Winifreda Jorge-Legaspi. It is Tagalog poem in haiku form which were composed by Prof. Legaspi when she was still in her sick bed recuperating from a successful operation. I compose poem myself and the book will be an addition in my book shelf.

We transfer to Robinson Pioneer along EDSA at 10:00 AM. Since there is still a lot of time before my meeting, we visit the store of Conquer Outdoor Equipment located on the second level. Later, we transfer to the National Book Store looking for a fire-steel set when Raymund Panganiban arrive to meet us. It is good to see Raymund again after the Cebu Highlands Trail Project Segment II2 cross-country hike last March 22 to 25.

Raymund leave us after a half-hour for office duty while Jay Z, Carla and I return to the car parked at the basement and we all go to McDonald’s at 11:00 AM. We talk a lot of things while waiting for the 1:00 PM meeting over French fries and orange juice. I see Vicky Evarretta, the MCAP Corporate Secretary, arrive minutes before the time.

Later, the rest of the core members of the MCAP arrive and I get to meet and greet them in person. I see these guys in Facebook and now, this time, I get to shake their hands in the flesh. It’s good to be with ma’am Vicky, Reynold Boringot, Boyet Cristobal, Ephraim Alcaide Jr., Dino Sarmiento, Julius Roman, Iñigo Sarmiento, George Cordovilla, Sheralyn Asor, Max Lucentales III, Pepeton Cabauatan, Steven Dayandan, Kris Shiela Mingi, Lynda Remanes, John Paul Martires, Andrew Tarnate, Gene Jesu Arceno, Jhef Brondo and Hershey Acevedo.

Awesome! MCAP is established just this year purposely by Edwin to become an umbrella organization for all individual mountaineers in the Philippines. The core members are very humble but it is a very lively bunch nevertheless and, by the way their animated discussions are going, it would become a responsible governing body in the future. I could see their numbers increasing each day and each month for the years to come.

Ma’am Vicky express a motherly image and what coincidence for MCAP because “mothers”, according to my Native American brothers, “are makers of nations” and THAT is very true. In the middle of the meeting, ma’am Vicky is appointed, hands down, as Vice President of MCAP. Likewise, Dino got the Director for Membership Relations while Steven, a biologist, snared the Director for Environment Concerns.

Since I have a flight schedule at 5:50 PM, I have to leave early. I am pleased by the MCAP stalwarts for requesting me to stay for a few minutes, stopping their discussions, and take a quick opportunity of a group picture with them. It seems I am in seventh heaven with this gesture and I couldn’t believe it. Some of these guys created a name for themselves in their mountaineering pursuits but, here they are, according me “rock star” status. Wow! I am humbled.

Jay Z and Carla waft me away from McDonald’s and we cruised over a very open EDSA devoid of the usual traffic that had made this stretch of arterial highway a legend. We arrive at NAIA 3 at 4:00 PM after a brief gridlock at the Airport Road and I say my sincerest thanks to them. A great couple. Jay Z is a product of the PIBC MMXII3 and he will be an ambassador of Camp Red4 and bushcraft and survival for Luzon.

The Cebu Pacific Airways plane is delayed and I leave Luzon at 6:10 PM for Cebu. It is another superb landing at the MCIAA by their pilots. I take a taxi to my office where the Honda Wave is parked and sprint my way home. I am tired and I am dazed by the turn of events that occurred in one day and I am shell-shocked. I close my eyes and I say a little prayer then my spirit lie still. When I open my eyes, it is morning! 

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3
Photos courtesy of Jay Z Jorge and Maximus Tercerus

1Short Poems of Life.
2The Cebu Highlands Trail Project is an exploration activity that would create a trail along the middle spine of Cebu from south tip to north tip or reverse. Segment II starts from Lutopan, Toledo City; then pass over Pinamungahan, San Fernando, Carcar City and ended at Mantayupan Falls, Barili.
3Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp 2012.
4The first non-commercial bushcraft & survival guild in the Philippines.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


LATE IN COMING TO a famous place that have been frequented by friends in the past doesn’t mean that I can’t have that monopoly of enjoyment that they have experienced then. In fact, I don’t need enjoyment because my going to a place is not for pleasure but of work. Besides, I know where to look for enjoyment in the course of my work.

Work means that I don’t need to spend a single cent because my company have taken cared of that. The job just entails the retrieval of a package and bring it back to the office in Cebu. The focus of this work is no other than going to Siargao Island. When you talk of that place, white powdery beaches come to mind. Then Cloud 9.

Siargao is an “island in the Pacific” in the closest term of the word. About a hundred kilometers off the coast of Surigao del Norte, it is part and parcel of that province and can be reached by motorized banca1 and roll-on-roll-off vessels. The island is dotted by beach resorts that host pristine white sands and clear blue-green waters best for bathing, snorkeling, diving and deep-sea fishing.

It is composed of the municipalities of Dapa, General Luna, Pilar, San Benito, San Isidro, Burgos, Del Carmen and Santa Monica. A ninth town – Socorro - is found on an adjacent island of Bucas Grande. While Dapa is the port of entry, Gen. Luna is the star of the island for it is there where the big international surfing events are held every May and September. Those tourneys are called Cloud 9.

How to get there and when are the two biggest questions hanging in my mind ever since I ditched the offer of Dedon Island Resort last March for a free two-week working stay. And so, I decide to make the trip on the night of June 13, 2012 bound for the Port of Nasipit on board the MV Princess of the Earth. I like these old ships formerly owned by Sulpicio Lines for these have wide spaces and gives me more room to move around – especially the cots.

The boat will have to stop first though for four hours at the Port of Cagayan de Oro the morning after on June 14. From there, the boat will berth at 2:00 PM in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte. Why do I have to go to Nasipit when steaming directly to Surigao City would be much simpler and more direct? Good question. The answer to that is I cannot retrieve the package without processing first for a permit which can only be done in Butuan City.

Nasipit is no more than a ghost of its own past when the timber business ruled the course of the port in its heyday. I have passed by here in 1995 when I went the other way around going to Cebu from Davao and it is almost the same save for a new terminal building. Need to process those papers before the sun goes down and I need to go to Butuan pronto.

It is still 4:00 PM but the office is empty when I arrive save for an old lady who doesn’t have a clue of the location of its occupants. I may have to do it first thing in the morning and I may have to look first for a place to sleep and then shop for some things that I may need like soap, shampoo, razor, bottled water and toothpaste. I found one at the Emerald Villa Hotel and Restaurant.

Just like Nasipit, Butuan City is a remnant of the timber business but it refused to slow down. It throbs and pulsates and growing to become another mega-city of Mindanao. I did not have the opportunity to step upon its pavements in 1995 while I have the chance then but, this time, I make it sure that I would and so I tour the side streets and ended up joining local parishioners in a Holy Mass inside the St. Joseph’s Cathedral at 6:00 PM.

Standard dialect used in business and on street conversations is Cebuano but I could hear smatterings, here and there, of Boholano, Higaonon and Sinurigao. Everyone could alternate any dialect as they wish just to keep up a steady exchange of understanding and rapport. Anyway, I take time to update my Facebook account inside of a local Internet cafe well into midnight.

The room I checked in is located upstairs at the end of the hallway and the window is facing Villanueva Street. It has an airconditioner unit and cable TV with own toilet and bath. A uniformed security personnel stands guard on the entrance giving you sense of security. All these for Php600 a day. Quite cheap and safe and I would recommend this hotel to my readers if ever you visit Butuan City or its environs.

The morning of June 15 found me glued to cable TV watching Gary Cooper in High Noon. Although prepared to check out of the hotel early, it was not to be. I leave at 8:00 AM instead and I found myself inside yesterday’s office an hour later. The good thing is everyone possess cooler heads and my permit is processed faster than I have expected with free coffee to boot!

My next stop would be Surigao City and I had never been there. Unfortunately, the “roro” boat will leave at 12:30 noon from Surigao Wharf to the Port of Dapa and I cannot be there fast enough short of a rocket to take me there. Going to Siargao today is out of the question but I may have to go to Surigao and find me a cheap hotel there – later. The Bachelor bus made the 199-kilometer trip effortlessly over half-finished highways, several towns whose names I could not recall and a good glimpse of Mainit Lake.

Okay, I make a little tour of the side streets of the city taking pictures there and smelling something new here, just enough to satisfy my quench of sightseeing as a first-time visitor. As I sensed that dusk is ready to envelope the city, I do found a cheap hotel good for Php500. Although I have an airconditioned room with own toilet and bath, it left a lot to be desired especially the TV set which picks up signal on only one channel.

Getting up early at 5:30 AM on June 16, I checked out and directly went to the port terminal only to find that it is closed. Getting directions from a security guard who speaks Sinurigao, I transferred to a boulevard by the sea where a lot of motorized banca are moored. I chose the biggest one – MV LQP-1, paid my ticket and take my place on a vacant seat when a crew announced that all trips to Siargao have been cancelled by the Coast Guard.

I could not have chosen the best time to travel to Siargao Island except during the oncoming path of Typhoon Butchoy into the country. Instantly, the launch was disgorged of its passengers into the streets, including I. So, that means, I have to stay another night in Surigao City but I don’t want to return to that cheap hotel I slept in last night. It’s a virtual firetrap. I need to take breakfast first before deciding where to stay.

I make another little tour and found a small but presentable restaurant called Bethlehem beside the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish and take my meal there. At that moment, I entertained the idea of spending the rest of the day inside the MV LQP-1 instead since it is empty anyway and I don’t have to spend for a hotel. Smart thinking. So the 120-seater launch became my home for the day and I kill time reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods after securing a return trip ticket to Cebu scheduled for June 19.

Finally, on June 17 (which is a Sunday), the boat leave for Siargao Island at exactly 6:00 AM. The weather is fine although stray gusts of wind left behind by Butchoy are still present but not of an intensity as yesterday’s. The boat pass far away from the old nickel-mining island of Nonoc before turning southeastward to another recently-mined island of Hinatuan. From afar, the island had been strip-mined with the ores transferred by barges to a big cargo ship anchored far away.

It is high tide and the boat steered into a narrow channel bounded by mangroves then, after that, more open sea. Across are bodies of land that seem to look like these are connected to each other until the boat moved at a different angle where different islands now begin to shape. Fishing villages are now more pronounced as we approach nearer one island.

The launch turned one more time starboard side and clusters of concrete structures could be seen from five kilometers away and closing until a wharf hosting several boats is now very visible and, much closer now, people scurrying about. The launch blow its horn thrice and then the wooden retractable bridge is pushed above the prow linking to concrete pavement and people streamed out.

I am now at the Port of Dapa and it is almost 10:00 AM. I walk the main avenue and look for something to fill an empty tummy which I found at the town’s terminal. I hired a motorcycle to take me to Dedon Island Resort where the package is found. The resort manager gave me the item but I need to stay for two days in Siargao since I still have lots of time before my departure to Cebu.

I am referred to Engr. Ali Taganahan and stay at his rented house located in Gen. Luna for free. He and his wife work at the resort. I am shown my room by Ali and promptly leave my Habagat Viajero while retaining my Samsung ST500 camera with me to do a little sightseeing on this small island town.

I hit the beach and it is now low tide. A lot of paddle-powered banca are secured to either their steel anchors or to some coconut trees. I take pictures of the beach activity: an old man teaching his grandson about nets; a hog snoozing under the shade of a coconut tree; a girl digging seashells; two women hooking baits on a thousand lines; running child on a boardwalk.

The small beachside public market contain fresh bounties from the sea which are up for sale. Beyond it is the municipal hall, the police station, a cultural center, a greenhouse and the town park where a tree house is built atop a flame tree. Below the tree are three girls enjoying natural play. In lieu of fire hydrants, hand-pumped artesian wells are located on every street corner. Generally, the locals speak Sinurigao and could understand Cebuano, Tagalog and English. People are very gentle and live life at a slow pace.

I return to the Taganahan’s place but something caught my attention. Displayed at a small store is coconut wine for sale frothing at the top in its orange-colored splendor! Paid Php70 for a gallon and bring it to my temporary home. There, I shared the native wine with Ali and Julius, his wife’s cousin, over food of grilled squid, sliced for easy picking.

Getting tipsy as the last glasses of wine are consumed, I change to a swimming attire and walk to the beach. It is 3:30 PM and it is now high tide. Surface-floating sea grass leaves drift aligned and standing indicating that there is another bad weather coming. The water is warm but a thousand jellyfish swimming helter-skelter everywhere restrict my swimming to mere dips, done guerrilla fashion, when I find small water space free of these for a few seconds.

After a half-hour, I return to take a shower then change into something comfortable and sleep early with wet hair and all. In the early morning of June 18, I sweep the backyard of dried leaves and return to the beachside market to buy fish. Some of the fish (blue marlin), I process in coconut vinegar and spices to be consumed raw; while half of the other fish (rabbit fish), I cook it with soup. These became my meal for noon and evening.

The rest of the day I finish reading the book and do some more sightseeing and picture-taking. The thousand jellyfish are still there and I begin to look for that tiga2 tree which grow in abundance in Siargao. The tiga wood is prized by the locals for its hardness and beautiful sheen and as a good substitute of the Philippine ironwood when the latter was classified as protected.

On the early morning of June 19, I bade farewell to my hosts and the town of General Luna. The motorcycle driver take me to Dapa and I take breakfast while waiting for MV LQP-1 to leave for the mainland at 10:30 AM. The port terminal have a functional x-ray machine with very strict security procedures and I could not comprehend why the whole mainland of Mindanao is protected from the people coming from Siargao Island. It should have been the other way around.

Siargao hosts international surfing events and the influx of foreign participants, spectators and visitors is great and it should be protected of threats coming from the mainland like political thugs and their goons, spoiled rich brats, criminal syndicates, terrorists and the like. You could enter the Port of Dapa at will by riding in a motorized banca from the streets without the hassles of being subjected to security checks.

After paying Php250 for my boat fare, I sit at the lee side away from the wind. Since it is low tide, the motor launch take another route that goes around the other side of Hinatuan Island. This part of the island is not mined but traces of environmental damage could be seen from the boat. The sea is calm and flat until the boat enters an open sea.

I have heard people say that the most dangerous sea in the country are found on the Surigao Strait. That becomes true when I personally see the sea dotted with whirlpools as tidal currents clash and swirl among each other during low tide. A fellow passenger speaking in Sinurigao, explained to me where the currents pass and where it would merge while the craft shudder and shake from under. I could still relate what my grandmother’s brother told to me about this strait long ago when the boat he was in capsized.

Midway along the strait, another craft overtake my boat and it rocked and yawed during the passing of its wake. My boat reach the coastal road at 1:00 PM. My departure for Cebu would be at 7:00 PM and I could see the MV Filipinas Dapitan being loaded with cargoes. After a full meal of tender buffalo skin, I spend the rest of my afternoon inside an Internet cafe.

By 5:00 PM, I am already queuing past a security check inside the port terminal and walk a hundred meters into the Cebu-bound boat. Owned by Cokaliong Shipping Lines, the MV Filipinas Dapitan is the opposite of what I rode in six days ago. This boat has very narrow alleys and short cots as what I have experienced with their other boats plying other routes. Besides that, my cot is located near the engine-room door. That means, I got all the noise and the heat from the engine.

I am sweating and I have to move around the ship to find a cool place. The boat is full of passengers who have to shout at each other to be able to understand what they are talking about and it is like you are inside a big marketplace. I couldn’t sleep because the ship is like a hot tub and I have to wait at 12:00 midnight when the passengers settled down into their respective cots. It is at this hour that I steal a vacant cot on a different level of the boat that lets in a little cool breeze.

I wake up when the first streaks of light begun to break the dark sky. The boat pass by Punta Engaño then make a starboard turn to the direction of the first bridge linking Mactan Island with mainland Cebu. After passing by the second bridge, it travel the whole length of Cebu Harbor and heave anchor near the Aduana where an old Customs building is still standing.

It’s good to be in home territory again, smelling the familiar odor inherently of Cebu and hearing my own dialect in its pure state. I opt to walk the distance to my home passing by ML Quezon Boulevard, V. Sotto Street, GL Lavilles Street and CJ Cuizon Street so I could embrace better my hometown. A little while, a door opened wide and a smiling wife give me a tight hug.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3

1A wooden craft with outriggers.
2Sp. Tristania decorticata. Brush box.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LIV: Bushcraft Cooking Workshop

THERE IS AN ONGOING climate disturbance inside the Philippine area of responsibility and I am unperturbed. I never am and never had been. So this day – July 29, 2012 – and those other sunny days, I treat it just the same. I do not want the weather a hindrance on all my outdoor pursuits and I consider that Camp Red be an all-weather all-terrain group as well and I want it prepared before any unforeseen tragedies – man-made or not.

As usual, we assemble at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Early birds Mr. Bogs and Jon Ducay (aka Krabby Krabs) are already there when I arrive at 6:30 AM. Later, Glenn Abapo, Nyor Pino, Ernie Salomon and Dominikus Sepe came one after the other. We take our usual breakfast and share a small amount for our food provisions which we intend to cook at the Roble homestead.

By the way, today I will teach the rest how to make and use the ordinary bamboo as a cooking vessel. This is another Grassroots Bushcraft Teaching Series which will touch on bushcraft cooking. Aside from them bamboos, I might experiment later with banana leaves and coconuts as a “pot”, the weather willing.

We start from Guadalupe an hour behind schedule and decide to walk the road going to Napo instead of riding on motorcycles-for-hire which we have now become accustomed to. We reach the trailhead at 8:45 AM but the weather is cool and windy. Overhead are dark clouds racing with the wind and droplets of rain fall on us as we walk on the trail leading to the Lower Kahugan Spring.

We reach the spring after thirty-two minutes; too fast for the average 45 minutes we did in the past. I am not surprised. I have with me younger sets of legs and I am a fast pacer myself. A little while, Edwina Intud and Eli Bryn Tambiga arrive and they must have a set of winged feet each considering that both attended a road run event which I passed by some two hours ago. Both showed commendable spirit and persistence.

I fill my empty Nalgene and drink half a liter. I am quite worried about dehydration since I have not had a drink of water by the time I woke up until now. I also slept late at 2:30 AM because there was a party at my office last night and I drank lots and lots of hard alcoholic drink. I am light-headed when I start to walk the steep trail to the Roble homestead and I make it sure that Edwina knows my condition since she is a nurse connected with the Philippine National Red Cross.

We all arrive at the Roble family’s abode at around fifteen after ten. All were exhausted and steaming from the exertion of climbing up a steep knoll found above the Sapangdaku River. We were partially drenched from sweat and from a slight shower that overtook us along the Kahugan Trail. At the back of my mind, I am quite worried because the dark sky is threatening this event with deluge and the wind is like an enraged tiger from its cage.

Immediately, I set to work hurriedly on the bamboos by cutting it up from the rest of the pole with my tomahawk. Everybody watched as I open up holes on one bamboo with two whole segments with Nyor’s steel-handled hatchet batoned by a piece of heavy branch and on another bamboo with same two segments by the same axe. As I am doing that, I explain to the participants the techniques in cutting up a lid for your pot from nature.

After working on the bamboos, I begin to scrounge and forage firewood. The rest of the guys help me with it and we were able to compile a good pile enough to cook four pots. The strong gusts are a bit of a challenge with me but I am undaunted. I have enough tinder – natural and synthetic; three matches; a lighter; and a firesteel set. I am confident that nature will work for me.

I will use the natural contour of the terrain and I found a big hole that was used as a water catchment basin by Fele Roble sometime ago. It is now empty and dry and I will do my cooking there. I pile the small branches first along with pieces of pine wood and place sawdust and a kapok tinder underneath and, with a fire steel, the tinder caught the sparks and a flame erupted but it could not produce enough heat and got snuffed out by the strong gusts of wind.

I use PLAN B: matchsticks and paper. Two tries by the match to transfer flame to a piece of paper failed but on the third try the paper receive it and I place it underneath my wood where sawdust and pine wood sustain this fire until it engulfed the bigger pieces of wood and a hearth is born. Hurriedly, I prop two old bamboos to anchor the two green bamboos above my fire and place stakes beside my “pots” so it won’t roll over.

I pour water into the two empty but opened bamboo chambers and stoke more firewood to hasten the water to boil. Once it boiled, I pour a half kilo of milled corn on one bamboo and another half kilo of rice into the other. This is my first time to cook rice into bamboo and I employ my own technique which is quite different than those used by the Aeta and other aboriginal peoples of Southeast Asia.

Two months from now, I will go to Manila to convene a bushcraft camp among members of the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines. Unfortunately, milled corn is not the staple diet of people from Luzon. It is rice and I am experimenting today how to do this in a bamboo in the most practical and easiest way which I am doing now.

The wind tormented my fire and this would make my cooking of milled corn and rice finish longer and then I have to cook mixed-vegetable soup in these same bamboos after that and I have not had that luxury of time. I request Ernie to start his own fire and he could borrow instead a conventional pot from Fele for this purpose. Ernie encountered the same problem about the gusts.

I finished my cooking at 12:30 noon and I quickly filled an empty chamber of one bamboo with water to start another cooking with milled corn while there is still fire and there are more wood to burn. Meanwhile Ernie started now to cook the second viand: pork adobo. By the time my wristwatch point to 1:15 PM, our late lunch ensued. Afterward, Fele and Manwel provided us green coconuts as dessert.

Since we are already delayed by an hour, I opt not to enjoy siesta and experimented instead by cooking on an empty coconut. The earthen hearth has still heat when I touch the ashes and it may harbor a hidden ember or two so I collect three even-sized stones and prop up my coconut pot over the ashes and place kindling in between. The gusts of wind made my work easy as it put a flame to life.

I pour water on the coconut’s hole and place more wood to keep the fire going. I used up my last cache of wood as the coconut’s husk is too thick as it is green and Ernie help me with it by gathering more firewood from his left-over cooking. I use a papaya leaf stalk to blow the fire alive every now and then as the wood is not of good quality and some are half wet. The papaya stalk is tubular and you could use it as a blowgun or as an improvised snorkel.

By now, Ernie joined me inside the hole as we take turns in keeping the flame alive with teary eyes caused by thick white smoke. When I notice a slight hint of steam coming out of the hole, I channel rice grains into it with the use of a bird-of-paradise leaf and I stir the rice with its stalk. I plug the hole with the leaf and wait.

Getting fed up by thick smoke making my eyes watery, I suck the water from inside the coconut chamber so to lessen its level and to cook the rice quicker and I get a bit of a success there leaving the finishing touches to Ernie. I stretch myself over an unfinished bench and tried my best to rest my eyes and sleep for a while.

Every now and then, the wind rattle a piece of a roof sheet of the Roble house and I am getting worried if it comes loose and fly at me. I never had that sleep. I listen to the stories of the rest of they guys while feigning sleep then Ernie jumped out from the hole and said something unintelligible. I found the reason: the fire burned through the coconut’s bottom and spill the rice gruel into the earth.

Ha...ha...good try! Ernie stoked too much fire and the gruel is wasted. Anyway, that’s the part of experiments; of trial and error. Hopefully, next time will be a success. I am sure of that. I examine the tree nursery that I have created in January. It is poorly maintained and the seedlings died. I brought several avocado seeds given by Gerard Ysmael. It is the sweet variety and I give it to Fele to replace the dead seedlings.

It is 4:30 PM and we leave the Roble family for Napo. We walk downhill at a fast pace, never entertaining the idea of stops and rests. We arrive at Napo at around 5:00 PM and waited for the motorcycles to bring us back to Guadalupe.

Once in Guadalupe, we transfer to the Red Hours Convenience Store and talk of the day’s activity and of the next planned events. The bushcraft cooking workshop proved successful in a limited way as the weather proved tormenting to our cooking fires. One more thing, I am now confident to teach bushcraft cooking anywhere in the Philippines and in any conditions.

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