Sunday, November 25, 2012


IT HAD BEEN a long time.  

Yes, I think it is almost a decade since I last brought my wife to a movie house.
What was that film we last watched?

Oh, Alexander the Great.


I remembered it starred Collin Farrell as Prince Alexander of Macedonia.

I remembered too that we watched it at the Elizabeth Mall.

By God, that was in 2003!

How come watching movies become so rare for me now?

Well, economics play a role.

As of late, it is uneconomical for me to spend money for old-fashioned conventional entertainment like cinema houses offer.

I simply lost my zest to watch films on the big screen as my budget is stretched to the limit running a household.

Also, film piracy has to do with that.

You could watch your favorite stars on dirt-cheap DVDs in the comforts of your home instead of commuting yourself to the malls where the modern cinemas are.

It’s much cheaper to buy pirated films than lining yourself for a seat inside a movie house.

And you could watch the DVD films over and over and over…

Without cuts.

No sweat.

Besides that, in this age of WIFIs, you could download moving pictures or watch it on your palms or on your laps.

But last night (August 23, 2012), I finally got to seat myself inside the cinema.

 With my wife, of course.

The flick is Bourne Legacy.

Good movie.

Compliments of our sponsor although I get to shell out one peso.

How come I pay just a peso when it is expensive to watch a movie?

It’s complicated.

Ask me why?

It is a movie pass good for one person that is validated which elicited from me a peso. 

I am given a ticket for that which I press into an optical reader and the turnstile opened up for my wife.

The other is an e-Card.

I just place it inside a slot, it bounces back to my hand and the turnstile opened up for me.


That’s how they run things in SM City Cebu.

I really miss the big screens and the “sensurround” sound system. 

Last night was a nostalgic night for me.

There were fewer than twenty people watching inside.
Good for me.

Bad for business.

Friday, November 16, 2012

CAMP RED ISLAND III: The Finest Weather

THE DATES AUGUST 18-21, 2012 shows a good promise of a long weekend which offers a very healthy possibility of an out-of-town trip. The 18th and the 19th is a Saturday and a Sunday while the 20th and the 21st are, respectively a legal holiday and a special holiday.

It is on these dates that I make another trip to the northern island of Cebu known in the map as Guintarcan. I have been there on two separate occasions, the first on October 2010 and the last on February 2011 with eighteen visitors from Denmark.

With me again are Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and Boy Olmedo. Going for the first time are Benjie Echavez and Glenn Abapo. We all meet at the North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City at 12:00 midnight of August 18 and take a 1:30 AM CERES bus trip bound for Daanbantayan, 136 kilometers north.

I have no anxieties about the trip, the weather and the sea’s temper for, I know, that when a storm exits the archipelago, it leaves a climatic condition that augurs well for perfect travel. Besides that, when it rains in Manila it is sunny in Cebu and vice versa. This observation is not scientific but common sense borne out of living in the Visayas and long experience of island travel.

Yes, typhoon “Helen” may have battered land, sea and wind up there in Luzon but, here, the Bantayan Channel is plain and flat as if it is concrete. A breeze blows in from the east stirring the tarpaulin of a small motor boat moored along the pier. The habagat1 winds are absent sucked up mercilessly by the storm up north.

After securing our food provisions good for ten meals, we leave the Cebu mainland at 2:15 PM on board the small boat together with forty other passengers and an assortment of cargoes. I sit near the prow to give way to women and children who availed of the most shaded part.

The boat arrive at the beach of the fishing village of Dapdap and we all stream out to the safety of Boy T’s mother-in-law’s house which is located just fifteen meters from the shoreline. Mrs. Tita Rosos is healthy as ever as was the last time I saw her over a year ago and she is quite happy to see visitors and she welcomed us all into her house.

Her grandson, Taddy, automatically becomes our man Friday and into his shoulders were the tasks of arranging everything starting from securing our sleeping quarters to sourcing fresh sea bounties to contacting the local villagers for our needs. I notice him breaking up a gnarled wood for firewood with difficulty but I insist that I do that task so as to free him for other chores.

We do nothing on the first day except to rest, plan, talk and prepare our dinner. I do my part by providing firewood for the earthen hearth while Ernie, Boy T and Taddy cook the meals. To entertain the rest, I retrieve outdoor magazines I brought for this occasion.

Power generation in Guintarcan starts only at 6:00 PM each night and ends at every 12:00 midnight. For six hours of the first night and for the rest of the days, meals and social time settled adequately with hours to spare. We opt to sleep outdoors instead for want of a cool breeze.

The second day goes on as scheduled. Right after breakfast, we all walk towards the hidden lagoons of La-aw which is five kilometers away. We pass by small farms, deep wells and the highest point of the island at 62 meters. People speak in a smattering of mixed Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray dialects. I notice a few locals of Polynesian descent judging by their facial features, bone structure and hair.

We fail to bathe at the La-aw Cove as a wood-and-bamboo gate had been constructed and locked by the land owner to discourage treasure hunters and grave diggers. We transfer instead into a fishing village in Hagdan where there are steps hacked out of the coral stone cliffs leading to the beach.

The place is a beehive of activities where villagers were busy gathering and drying seaweeds. It is a small strip of plain protected everywhere by cliffs. Access are through the stone steps and from the sea. I could have counted a hundred small boats beached on dry land and some were kept a foot off the sand by stilts. Amongst these are small houses.

We stay at the white sandy beach and bathed in its crystal clear waters. I scheduled this activity to take advantage of the 1.77 meter-high tide at 11:59 AM and by 2:00 PM, after consuming our own-cooked lunch of pancit and two long necks of light rum, we say our goodbye. Along with our departure are two kilos of grouper (local: lapulapu) which we paid for just 260 pesos.

We sweat on the island road on the middle of a hot afternoon devoid of breeze and reach our abode in Dapdap an hour later. We prepare the grouper into two dishes: soup and fried. As was yesterday, we waited for the power to go on before we start dinner. It was an excellent meal and another two bottles of rum gets decapitated. I sleep outdoors and it rained hard later so I worm inside Glenn’s free-standing but empty tent and keep myself dry.

The third day gets another good dose of sunshine. This will be devoted to the tour of the island through its circumferential road. I have never been to beyond La-aw in the north and the lighthouse of the south. I need to see what’s on the other side of Guintarcan. The big villages of Bitoo-on and Langub is on that other side.

We retrace our route to La-aw but we take the road left once we reach the main village of Hagdan. The road goes down to the other shoreline and follow the bend of the beach where it is shaded and cool. The island’s public cemetery and the first public school is located along this stretch.

The school’s recreational ground is covered with Bermuda grass and its access to the beach is unimpeded. Amazing! I found the only barber shop of the island in Bito-on and I believe that this is the first settlement of Guintarcan. Probably Bito-on is named after a tree whose scientific name is barringtonia Asiatica.

We reach the village of Langub at 11:00 AM and we pass by a wide beachfront. This could probably be the southern tip of Guintarcan as the waves smash itself among rocky bulwarks. We rounded a bend and I could now see the lighthouse located on top of a hill. I follow a trail and climb the hill. Although terribly hot at this hour, I persisted. A puppy is the only living thing inside the fenced property.

After going down the hill, I climb another part of the hill and bring them to the mouth of Cantingting Cave with the help of three island youths. Glenn goes inside the cave while I wait for the bats to stream out but only two were startled and the rest of the bats prefer to stay indoors, probably getting tipped of my coming.

I have hunted bats here during my first visit. I was able to bring down four bats and cooked it adobo-style. What made my hunt interesting is that I just used a three-foot stick in a very primitive yet simple way. Most people would have used nets and other contraptions but I hunt just a few and for my own consumption.

We go back and reach Dapdap with me empty-handed. I estimate, we could have walked eight kilometers, more or less. Lunch is served at 1:00 PM. The viand is chicken soup. I take a dip in the sea to cool my body down after the meal. The sea’s coolness is so refreshing and I stay for an hour doing nothing but standing in the water with only my head sticking out.

All were tired and all take a nap as the rest of the afternoon pass uneventfully until supper came. I sleep early outdoors while everyone were talking and discussing our departure for tomorrow. I wake up in the middle of the night shivering. Since I am using tarpaulin as my sleep mat, I folded the other half over me and it keep me warm for the rest of the night.

The fourth and last day opens up for us with the hot rays of the sun melting away their fears of another storm coming which was announced yesterday on AM radio and caused some to talk of shortening the trip by a day which I vehemently opposed. I came here because of my commitment to Glenn and Benjie and I decide when to go.

I silence all their fears and my planned activity for this day will proceed without delay. The visit to an underground lagoon in Pasil is the last activity. It is beneath the house of an elderly couple who are devout Adventists and we have to go down first a narrow shaft to reach the cave.

The water inside the cavern have not risen yet since it is low tide and we take a short tour of the narrow passages. We were smeared with mud, our knees and elbows scrape the bottom as we crawl and stoop. I keep reminding everyone to watch their head for them hanging stalactites. After washing ourselves of the mud, we gladly leave the grotto for the high ground and for lunch.

Meal serve are thirty pieces of fresh wing-horned shells boiled in sea water with a saucer of spiced vinegar to dip the meat into for added taste. After lunch, we all pack our gears for our departure at 1:00 PM for the mainland. We all say our goodbyes to Mrs. Rosos. A small motor boat arrive to pick us up and bring us back to the Daanbantayan pier.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
1Southwest monsoon.

Friday, November 9, 2012


THERE COMES A TIME when the heart seeks its sweet spot in a very imperfect world. It finds its solitude and happiness where lines and edges are obscured by a heartbeat semblance of independence that have had itself been restrained by the time values of modern living. Time flies fast but the self seeks the unconventional and the roads less paced.

This heart seeks the life of old. The excitement of a chase during a hunt might very well describe this feeling. It could also be the sensory discovery of new places, faces, scents, sounds and warmth that a little boy experiences on his deviation from the routine. We know that the sense of adventure are beginning to wane nowadays and much of it are literature (and hype) as the world becomes too small for our kind.

Haphazard travels atop buses and cargo trucks early in my youth, running away from home, translates my idea of adventure which progress later by sailing into remote islands and strange harbors as a tug crew. Sweating among the lower ranges of the Sierra Madre as a grunt provided me the peep hole of what am I to assume in my weekend pursuits later. I take that chance when the Cebu Mountaineering Society (CeMS) planned a trip to Mount Pangasugan in 1992.

We failed to attain our objective, yet we rejoiced. We survived the jungles of Pangasugan and we lived to climb another day. We had overcame the difficulties and I was thrust into the middle of the club’s euphoria and became part of it. That was a very beautiful time worth remembering. Beautiful friendships blossomed thereafter and drinking sessions mattered well into the early mornings months and months after that.

I got myself attached to the circle of Bebut Estillore, Patrick Young, Tony Cabigon, Dennis Legaspi, Lilibeth Initan, Ann Gonzales, Rosebelle Daculan, Atong Genato, Ben Lao, Alex Manlawe and Nanding Mercado. The elders at that time like the late Joe Avellanosa, Dr. Abraham Manlawe and Judge Menmen Paredes pampered me and I blossomed into one of the most able and experienced climbers of CeMS.

Many mountains, many campsite stories, many trails and many came and went and laid low. My time with CeMS had become rare after Mount Apo in 1994 as I embark to put more time on my career. This lasted more than a decade with few interruptions made possible by Joe, Judge and Doc that saw me traversing the Malindang Range in 1998 and 2004 and the Cuernos de Negros Range in 2001. When the warrior’s pilgrimage ended in 2007 I found myself back with CeMS.

The year 2008 found me holding the reins for CeMS and I was swept in a number of activities like the fabrication and installation of steel environmental signage at Mt. Manunggal in March; the specialized mountaineering seminar at Olango Island in May; and the epic traverse of Mt. Dulangdulang and Mt. Kitanglad in three days of June which I led. The last activity had been successful in the sense that I am with two other veterans of Mt. Pangasugan and we nipped in the bud when things start to go awry.

My time among the high ridges and trails had been numbered after I based my performance of that traverse climb with outdated gears and heavy loads. Although light backpacking had become a vogue among the present CeMS members, I was not about to give up my hardy Habagat Venado II – a hardware that typified the old-school kind that tracked the mountain trails of the ‘80s up to the mid ‘90s. Change is good but not at that time. I abhorred the new gears in the market for its unmanly appearance, complex design and for its atrocious price tags.

One of the last things that I would not dare let go is my freedom of unimpeded movement. To go anywhere I chose to and to do anything I chose to do. To walk my own trail and set up my own camp of my own choosing and own time without being dictated to and that includes making a campfire. In the early days, these had been possible but, when I made a comeback, there were now a lot of rules, obviously, influenced by this Leave No Trace.

Almost all local outdoor clubs abide – to the letter - the principles of LNT, an ideology formulated by environmentalists of the dominant Western culture that throws a monkey wrench on individual freedom. The spirit behind LNT is good and should be taught but imposing these as a rule is counter-productive. My freedom of unimpeded movement and plain common sense takes precedence over useless practices and I have to improvise to enjoy the outdoors better.

I yearned for that freedom and it has to be earned even to the point of distancing yourself from some relations that you have known so well for sometime. This is not easy but last July 29, 2012, I finally tendered my resignation with the Cebu Mountaineering Society thru my close friend and mentor, Doc Abe. I believe that CeMS could move much better without me and relieve them of certain questions caused by my inactive status for a long time.

The values and history of my association with CeMS are embedded well in my heart as well as the treasured memories and friendships that I have nurtured through the years. I have only the kindest words for CeMS and I have written several articles of their activities in my websites. My separation from CeMS will never ever hinder me to share the trails and campsites with them anytime and I will still support their programs and activities should they find me relevant.

I have walked my own path and made it different from all the rest and so the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild is hatched but I preferred that the loose and relaxed atmosphere that CeMS had enjoyed in its early days be relished by my present stripe of tigers. Emphasis will be more of adaptation and not depend on gears; the full enjoyment of the freedom of unimpeded movement and discretion are guaranteed; and to never tailor-fit itself with this LNT.

The chase is on and the juice of excitement flashed from the eyes of the hunter as it is gaining ground on the prey. Running against the wind, the path is jagged and steep but I am almost onto that place where few mortals go. When you are there, expect sheep to snarl like a wolf at you...

...then go for the jugular!

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Thursday, November 1, 2012

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN XVI: Trailsigns & Stalking

READING A TRAIL SIGN is one of the skills that a plain outdoorsman should recognize and develop. Comprehension and common sense are the only tools by which to successfully interpret a sign left behind either by an animal or by a human. Likewise, stalking is another ability that is perfected by a hunter but can be used almost effectively by a common drifter in his search for food.

These two compliment each other and so, this blogger organized another free outdoor activity which discuss about Basic Trailsigns and Stalking on August 26, 2012. This is a series of teach-ins under the Grassroots Bushcraft Teaching Series of the Warrior Pilgrimage Blog. Attending are Silver Cueva, Jhurds Neo, Dominikus Sepe, Eli Bryn Tambiga and Edwina Marie Intud. Also around are Ernie Salomon, Nyor Pino, Anthony Espinosa and the father-and-daughter team of Benjie and Jerii Echavez.

As usual, everything has its beginning at the parking area of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish where we assemble, take breakfast and buy food provisions for our lunch, which we will later prepare inside the wilderness of the Babag Mountain Range. We follow Bebut’s Trail and we leave at 8:45 AM. We climb Heartbreak Ridge very late already and I fear that the sun and the heat will torment us.

I intentionally slowed my pace so Benjie and Jerii will not be stressed and get fatigued so early in our hike. I just need to get all out of this stretch and go straight into the cool refuge of the tree cover which is about five hundred meters up the trail. I notice the blades of grasses still retain moisture and dew at this late hour where, I know, the sun would have scorched the leaves dry and cause disappointment to a lot of hikers. The sun did come out but, surprisingly, it is a degree cooler.

We reach the Portal and my original itinerary will have to be altered because I found it too demanding for the new attendees. So, we will go instead to Kilat Spring to cook our food there and, at the same time, do my lecture. I notice four fully-grown and one juvenile mahogany trees were brazenly cut by cockroaches with chainsaws. Hidden from my view but very audible is the hum of chainsaw. Oh God, I hate that sound!

I document the stumps with my Samsung camera and proceed to Kilat Spring with a heavy heart. There is a path through there and it is called Kilat Trail. It is a wild trail that I discovered in September 2010 while contemplating of exploring another part of the Buhisan. Few locals go there and the trail then teem with a thousand butterflies, some snakes and lizards and a Malayan palm civet.

Today, it is now used by cockroaches with chainsaws and they leave trail signs like tree stumps, felled trees, cut branches and dried leaves. I have counted NINETEEN stumps of mahogany trees and TWO stumps of teak trees. They trample everywhere and alter the trail that leave me and my party getting lost. I walk in circles and use a compass to no avail until I have to use the high ground to analyze better the location of the natural spring.

How could people cut trees so easily inside of a protected area? How could people that were supposed to protect these trees are not around to enforce environmental laws? The Buhisan is the last one wild place of Metro Cebu that is wide and is thick enough to shelter wildlife and endemic plants and it is already threatened by the near location of an upscale housing project known as the Monterazzas de Cebu. Now, cockroaches with chainsaws pierce this piece of wilderness with a lot of trees cut down and getting away with it.

I hear a kukuk1 calling and I answer it with a poor – nay, throaty - imitation of its birdcall. Then I thought I hear a monkey screaming somewhere deep in the jungle. I dismiss it yet Anthony heard it also and he told me that he and some friends once released seven Philippine macaques into the Buhisan a few years ago. Wow, I didn’t know that and that answered my curiosity of hearing a mammal-like cry in a different part of Buhisan last May.

I expect sunbathing reptiles along the trail but they are not there anymore. Too many people, I mean cockroaches, might have disturbed their habitat with all those sounds they make or they may have been hunted down for food by these same folks during their illegal logging operations. Small clearings made by these cockroaches have disoriented me no end and contributed to my boiling agitation.

I reach the high ground and walk towards a faraway mango tree that marked the trail to Kilat so we could take rest under its shady branches. I am stressed but I insist that I will go to the natural spring to fetch water for our cooking for everyone have used up their water reserves during the search for the true trail to Kilat. Silver, Dom and Eli volunteer to go down with me. The hard part will be bringing all that water up.

When everyone got settled with plenty of drinking water, I start the informal lecture. I start with trail signs and “trailsigns” over a cup of coffee. I let them recall of what unusual items they have seen along the trails that we have passed. All agreed that it was caused by humans. Of course, it could not be denied that humans alter and disturb the trails like those resulting from cutting of trees and those telltale signs of plastic waste strewn all along the length of the route.

There are, however, small things that you see which are ordinary and do not demand your keen attention while there are those invisible to the sight which only the trained eye could only notice. Everything you see, smell, feel, taste and hear that is not in its natural state should be analyzed and studied. It could be a disturbed pebble, a bent grass, an offensive smell, a dent in the ground, a coarse texture on a smooth rock, a cotton fiber caught by a thorn, etc. All these things tell a story.

Animals leave their signs unintentionally and by instinct. Usual places where animals leave their signs are at water sources when foraging for food and on boulders and trunks to mark their territory. Humans leave signs unintentionally and by purpose. The aim of leaving a sign is to mark a trail for directions and to leave a clue such as that made by signatures. Signatures tell something genuine or just ego-releasing graffiti.

Trailsigns can be made from simple items like stones or sticks or hash marks on trunks. The latter is considered by others as graffiti and cruelty to trees. Hack marks could also be left on rocks, especially on limestone, to aid local travellers at night and outdoor ethics are out of the question. Just the same, all these processes tell a story.

On the other hand, there are certain procedures for stalking either an animal or a human being in the wilderness. The most basic rule is to never let yourself get skylined. You have to use cover and land contours to your advantage. Camouflage is essential here and, where there is none, stick to the shadows or keep yourself as small as possible from observation.

Another important technique is to use the wind as your ally. The wind drowns out your movement sounds and blow away your odor, provided you are facing the wind. If you’re in the other direction, your stalking is no good and useless for surely the wind will carry sound and smell to your prey. The rain also aids your stalking for it covers the sounds you make and neutralizes any man-smell you emit.

Stalking also demands certain rules when observing a prey. Avoid standing. Stalked animals and people instinctively use their field of vision at a level where big predators like humans are most likely to be seen. Watch your prey instead with chin very close to the ground to prevent yourself getting silhouetted. Avoid exposing straight-line patterns and man-made items. Cover these or leave it behind.

Follow movements with peripheral vision. In much the same way, do not get caught by the peripheral vision of your prey. Lessen your movements by approaching cautiously. When prey turns head at your direction, do not move jerkily as if to hide from detection. Freeze and move in slow motion. Imitate the dance of the chameleon and the measured crawl of a cat. Jerky moves catch attention and make lots of noise.

Lastly, do not fight nature. Let nature do the work for you. Consider all the natural elements as your ally and brother. If prey follows a certain pattern, use common sense to get to the place first before your prey does. That way, you make yourself unexpected as the prey is preoccupied with its backtrail.

By the time I finish my short instructions, Ernie snuff out the flame of the last stove that simmered the last pot of milled corn. Ernie has a certain flair when preparing and cooking food in the outdoors which make him valuable. Such skills are hard to master in an outdoors setting with few resources like my proclivity to exclude MSG in all my activities.

Ernie, by his own power and creativity, is able to cook mixed-vegetable soup and pork adobao with a side dish of raw cucumber-and-tomato-in-vinegar in masterful fashion. All take several digs at the delicious food and are quite refreshed after that. Their morale and their strength soon returned to replace the wrinkles on their faces.

We wrap up the session by going down to Kilat Spring. The going is easy and all are now in a relaxed mood compared to the agitated tense they have felt in the morning. From the spring box, the trail is now easy to follow and we reach the Portal in no time. We did not rest and we pursue Bebut’s Trail back to Guadalupe where we arrive at 3:45 PM. Everyone transfer to the Red Hours Convenience Store for the Camp Red ritual of post-activity discussions over ice-cold beer and Glenn Pestaño is already there to enjoy the company.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

1Philippine coucal. Sp. Centropus viridis.