Wednesday, January 16, 2013


IF YOU RUN WITH the stripe of tigers at Camp Red, you gotta go where no one yet dared go. Most often, bold and resolute guys stake that claim in the real world. When you are determined, somebody faint-hearted will tag you as a bad ass. Being “bad” is like a badge of honor and, the more self-righteous ones put us in that image, the more we exult in it.

Take the case of nocturnal hunting. Nobody is doing this among outdoor groups and only Camp Red has the capacity and the daring to indulge in this and that alone raise a lot of eyebrows among Leave No Trace advocates. We could do this anytime anywhere because we are not mountaineers and we are not beholden to any LNT whatever. You may call us “bad” for that for all you care.

Bad are the days of November 10 and 11, 2012 when this blogger again show people how to forage food in the night under his Grassroots Bushcraft Teaching Series. It is an overnight activity participated in by Randell Savior, Ernie Salomon, Dominikus Sepe, Fulbert Navarro, JB Albano, Aaron James Aragon, Boy Olmedo and Boy Toledo. Also coming along is the father-daughter tandem of Benjie and Raji Echavez; balikbayan John Sevilla; and first-timers Jamiz Combista and Raffy.

We start from Guadalupe at 3:00 PM and hike our way towards a hidden part of the Babag Mountain Range. The area is not the usual haunt of conventional campers for it is a wild place. I advise everyone to get hold of walking sticks for it will be steep going down to the campsite and it would be dark soon. We reach the place at 6:00 PM after a short night navigation over a very faint trail inside of a jungle.

After a brief assessment of the terrain in the dark, seven tents are set up while two hammocks claim the trees in between under makeshift awnings. Divided by a stream and across them, I cast a big Apexus tarpaulin shelter over my sleeping ground. The sheet is a gift of Pastor Reynold Boringot during the MCAP Bushcraft Camp at Mount Balagbag, Rodriguez, Rizal held last month.

Preparation of dinner comes next. Ernie start to prepare and cook pork meat in adobo style and cream of mushroom soup with eggs. He also prepared a side dish of raw cucumber and tomatoes mixed in spiced vinegar while JB and Randell take charge of the milled corn. Fulbert and Boy O, meanwhile help dig two water holes on the stream bed.

On the other hand, I borrow Dom’s locally-made Tom Brown tracker knife to use it for gathering of firewood which I will use later for our campfire. A campfire is the center of this bushcraft camp’s social life and it will come alive soon. Besides that, woodsmoke will discourage pesky insects such as ants and crickets and varmints like recluse spiders and scorpions. There are a lot of dead branches and debris along the stream and these soon will be fodder for our fire.

When dinner is done, I immediately start the fire and Fulbert help feed the flame until it grow into a robust one. I see a big spider on a tree trunk and everywhere among the dark corners; their eyes give off an eerie glow when torch lights cast upon them. But I’m not worried and I assure the rest that these insects will soon disappear once the fire start burning the half-dry wood and grass.

It is 8:00 PM when the first signs of river life start to appear and then we kickoff our stream hunt. Our focus would be the fresh-water crabs, locally known as “piyu”. These are very numerous here and not a threatened species and quite tasty if you know how to prepare these for cooking. By the way, the crabs are the easiest to cook but I prefer it cooked southern Cebu style.

Before we embark on this, I remind everyone that nocturnal hunting is a dangerous activity. The stream is where most predators converge and hunt. Since the new moon will be on the fourteenth, expect pythons and other snakes to be very active in the dark. Aside that, other foragers like palm civets and monitor lizards will also be on the prowl. The big lizards are known to use their tails like a whip and the civets attack humans when their pups are threatened.

The crabs bite with their claws and it is painful. You pin them down with your thumb or shoe to immobilize them and hold it from behind with thumb and two fingers and lift it quickly to your catch bin. Usually, crabs scurry and hide behind debris or below rocks and it is not easy to see into the water when silt is disturbed. You have to draw them out of the water and into dry land and push their back with a stick and snatch it quickly from behind and throw it in the bin.

It is easy to catch the fresh-water crabs and it is also very easy to master it. Some people use bait to lure them but I find it impractical. It is just natural for them to forage and go “naked” in the night. Along the stream there are also frogs. They leap into the water once they see us coming. These are the edible kind but preparing these as food are much complicated and we could do this in the next hunting episode.

After a half-hour, we are able to catch eleven individuals. JB, Jamiz and Doms tried their best and got bitten in the process. I also got bitten but it’s okay since it’s part of the activity or experience. I insist to have this cooked with coconut milk, with which grated meat I personally brought along. As we return to the camp, the rum and juice had already been mixed and ready for serving. Perfect!

Ernie starts to do his thing following my preference of cooking, of course. The wine glass take its course of action and the campfire yarns and storytelling begin to take shape. The campfire is located close to the river bank and the heat bounced off to us as we sit amongst rocks. The sky is dark with a few specks of stars seen through the heavy foliage. One long-necked bottle is down and another round starts to take place.

The stories are getting animated as the intestines begin to crave the milked crabs which emit a pleasant aroma. When these gets served, each gets a good piece for himself plus the soup which is nicely done. The left-over milled corn from the earlier meal gets wiped off clean to the bottom as the natural juices of the crabs and coconut milk work its way into the taste buds.

Another bottle gets opened and another until the clock strike 1:00 AM and we all agreed to call it a night. The rain start to fall slowly as we were already settled in our sleeping spaces. I wake up at 5:00 AM but the main camp is still asleep so I catch a few minutes of sleep until I hear activity on the other side. Ernie is boiling water for coffee while the others plod around to find a private place. I try to sleep but I shiver from the cold of early morning shower.

I join the others to sip a hot coffee and, maybe, find myself a private place too but, too late, Ernie is serving breakfast. Food is pork with mixed-vegetable soup and fried eggs. The rain at dawn have raised the stream by a few inches and the current is fast but clear. It is a wet morning and we may have to break camp under a slight shower. It is 8:30 AM.

I found out that everyone save for Dom, Randell, JB and me did not have a good night’s sleep. Rain water seeped into the other tents and shelters due to poor rainfly setting or their tents are placed where water pass. My Apexus tarp protected me even when I am half exposed while the Silangan REV 20 of both Dom and JB give another good performance. I have seen these REV 20s shielding their occupants dry and in sheer comfort during the bushcraft camps I organized here in Cebu and in Luzon.

In Mt. Balagbag, for example, the REV 20 of one participant outperformed all branded tents local and imported during two days and two nights of unfavorable weather. And to think, that this tent is made locally in Talisay City, Cebu by a small start-up company called Silangan Outdoor Equipment. This is a good outdoor product and this writer recommend it to all the outdoor minions who are out there toiling in the rugged landscapes.

Meanwhile, Ernie and Randell debated which way to go and I break the impasse to follow, instead, the original itinerary. So we climb ridges and peaks and work our way within the jungle trails, stopping to recover our breath or to rehydrate. This wild place is one of the last forested areas of the Babag Mountain Range and only Camp Red made this as home.

We reach the Lanipao Rainforest Resort at 11:00 AM and walk a few meters to a small store down the road. We ingratiate ourselves with either cold soda drinks or cold beer. I prefer the latter and so are Boy T, Ernie, Fulbert and Jamiz. It is raining hard and so we stay for an hour-and-a-half killing time over tales and jokes.

Once the rain stopped, we walk on and cross Sapangdaku Creek and reach Napo. From Napo, we walk once more on the road down to Guadalupe which we reach at 3:30 PM. It was a complete activity last night and Ernie, Boy T and I toast to its success at another watering hole along V. Rama Avenue.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer


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