Friday, May 24, 2013


THE USE OF THE MAP and compass is a skill that should be learned by individuals who visit the outdoors often and, these days, it do not come cheap. This blogger, through his Grassroots Bushcraft Teaching Series, realised the dream of every aspiring outdoorsmen to learn this skill by offering a Basic Map Reading class for FREE last February 17, 2013.

The first part of this lecture is done indoors. Sixteen people came equipped with their own compass, protractor, clipboard and pencil. This blogger supplied the lecture handouts and the test maps. The venue is a room of an abandoned building inside the former Department of Agriculture compound in M. Velez Street, Capitol Site, Cebu City.

Those who participated were Glenn Pestaño, Randell Savior, Marjorie Savior, Ernie Salomon, Silver Cueva, Dominic Sepe, JB Albano, Fulbert Navarro and Rajii Echavez of Camp Red Bushcraft & Survival Guild; Barry Paracuelles, Chad Bacolod and Darean Heyrosa of the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines; Don Singson and Kulas Damaso of Outdoorman’s Hub; Boy Toledo of the Cebu Mountaineering Society; and freelancers Antonette Bautista and Patrick Henry Calzada.

The indoor instructions start at 8:00 AM. Points of discussion are the basics of map and compass; how to use the scale bar; interpreting contour lines; identifying land features; locating a bearing; understanding declinations; orienting the map and compass; grid lines and grid coordinates; and triangulation techniques. This is a very technical lecture and you have to repeat every point of discussion so all could absorb it well.

In between, Remy Ababa of Honolulu, Hawaii arrived and brought free refreshments for us and distributed, of his own free will and goodness of heart, free trauma kits, side-plate pockets, 5.11 belts, a Mountainsmith bag, two big Maglites, Duracell batteries, Omega locking carabiners, aluminum clipboards, ball pens, 300 meters paracord, an ammo vest, a camouflaged backpack and a 1.5 liter [yellow tail] Shiraz.

Meanwhile, Wil Rhys-Davies came and lent his expertise in land navigation by teaching the participants simple compass exercises. The lecture momentarily go outdoors for this occasion and everyone try to understand their compass, their bearing and their location in relation to the magnetic north. The participants added certain knowledge from this and all went back indoors for the recap. Indoors lecture officially end at 11:00 AM.

By 1:00 PM, four groups of three persons each are released for the outdoor practicals at Banawa Hills. This blogger accompanied the participants and instructed them to sight and get bearings of the dome of the Cebu Provincial Capitol and the water tower of the South Road Properties so all could ascertain their location and mark a dot on the map where they assume they are standing on.

Those who learned fast sighted another set of bearings. One group concentrated their gaze and orienting arrow to the Marco Polo Hotel and the Waterfront Hotel and Casino and confirmed their earlier assumption of location whereby they proceed to their next destination up the hill. All are instructed to produce hereon two locations using the resection method, one location for a modified resection and another by dead reckoning.

Critique and review is done at the Red Hours Convenience Store. This blogger and Wil wait of their coming. There would be five locations that I will analyze from each group. By 5:00 PM, all arrive in one piece and continue plotting their course at the vacant tables and submit their test maps for checking. Later, Mayo Leo Carillo, a previous participant arrive and join in the post-activity discussion and donated his Silva compass to this blogger.

It was another successful event and have added a very important skill for the participants. Not only that, they go home toting giveaways courtesy of Remy and get to know of Wil and the engine behind this blog.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LIX: Reunion With an Old Trail

I NEED TO KEEP FIT before I will embark Segment III of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project come May. There is a new route within the Babag Mountain Range which I have discovered last January and would be adequate to fulfill as a training ground and I may have to do some exploring to reach a ridge which was denied to me that time.

So, on March 17, 2013, I went to Guadalupe Church to wait for Ernie Salomon and a couple of guys for this but only Ernie is present and, later, Mr. Bogs. Eli Bryn Tambiga appeared with five others. They were supposed to climb Mount Babag but Eli Bryn thinks he could bring satisfaction to his group by joining us.

After securing our food provisions, we leave for Napo at 8:10 AM. We cross Sapangdaku Creek and walk the trail towards the trailhead for this new route. Last time, I descend from Bocawe but, this time, I will do the reverse under the heat of summer. This trail goes up to Tagaytay which is a long ridge. A beautiful trail is found on its back but, sadly, a dirt road has been opened to accommodate heavy equipment for a series of power pylons under construction.

I do not know the physical condition of Eli Bryn’s guests, especially the three women, but I am consoled, by the fact, that all are registered nurses volunteering with the local chapter of the Philippine National Red Cross. My main concern is drinking water for the group and there is no water source here except at the place of Julio Caburnay three kilometers away with which place we will prepare, cook and eat our lunch.

I go slow when one of the nurses almost fainted. I need to use available shades in between as resting places. The length of stay would depend on the distance between shaded areas. The ridge is not populated and there are no houses but there are mango, jackfruit, soursop, pomelo, tamarind and lime trees. A lot of these bear ripe fruit but we only take lime and a couple of pomelo.

The sun deliver its brunt along the bare places where the dirt road start. A bulldozer is parked precariously along the edge of a big hole. Although it provide a little shade, I advise my people to stay away from it else ground underneath it had lost its integrity and might collapse due to weight. Rays of the sun bounced off the dirt road and the rests are longer.

We found an open shed for the absent construction workers and I decide we make coffee to pep up our sagging spirit. The cool bamboo flooring is a welcome respite and I come to know better the rest of the party. Two of them are recent participants of an international offroad triathlon in Liloan and that is why they have been unaffected. Nearby is Liboron Trail that I used last time but I remove that idea as it is quite dangerous for inexperienced hikers.

After the coffee break we need to overcome the last rise instead and see what is on the other side. We reach it in about five minutes and Eli Bryn take a reading from his altimeter at 600 meters. The dirt road wind its way down and join the Bocawe-Cabatbatan Road but following it meant that I have to say goodbye to an exploration. Across me is a high peak and looks formidable in the middle of the day. I heave a sigh of good relief in finding no trail going up. Good riddance!

I found a path at the right and it goes down, maybe, to that dangerous trail which does not endear well to me at this time. I may have to find another route that would go around this peak so I follow the edge of a small gully and I found a rarely used trail which is now covered with grass. It goes around the hill and out into a wide meadow. The path disappears but I can understand now the gist of the path’s direction as it goes straight into a barbed-wire fence.

I squeeze into and in between the loose strands of the fence and I am on the other side. Meanwhile, the others wait until I give them a signal to come over. The other side of the fence is thickly wooded with dense underbrush. My senses peak up to watch out for snakes and toxic plants. This is is what I loved most – to read signs among thick bushes and recover long-lost trails. I wind among vegetation and intentionally step on the trunk of a small stinging tree to keep it out of the way.

The ghost trail goes down into another meadow and another low hill stare across me. I saw a small saddle on the right and I walk towards it for I know saddles are natural passes. When I’m done, I see the part of Liboron Trail where it is not yet dangerous to tread and go the other way towards Julio’s place which we reach at 12:00 noon. Everyone needs a full drink of water, some shade, hot food and a good rest.

I softly retire after I have prepared and cooked milled corn. Ernie take over and dispatch all food ingredients under his multi-tool knife. Others help in the slicing of spices and vegetables as I just listen to their conversations not far away with closed eyes and unknowingly invite an unwelcome company of pesky black ants that make my nap a come-and-go affair.

A spoon is rapped on a cup signalling that food is cooked and ready for the taking. I glance at my watch and it is 1:45 PM so I look for my stainless steel cup and wooden spoon. Food cooked are chicken sinigang, garbanzo beans and “shrimp paste special”. Ernie prepared a dessert of raw cucumber and tomato. I prefer just chicken soup with two refills before adding milled corn for my third refill and some slices of cucumber.

Feeling rejuvenated, I need to leave for Babag Ridge in the quickest time possible as we have a few daylight hours left. Julio’s nephew give me directions to reach the ridge by an ascending trail. We leave at 2:30 PM and the heat of the day is not felt here as cool breeze from the sea are abundant at the higher level. I reach the edge of this trail and it connect to another, much older, trail on the top of the ridge itself. The altimeter said that we are now at 700 meters.

But there is something familiar with this trail. I try to reorient my memory with this trail and I begin to realize that this is the same trail that I used as a training ground in 1993 and 1994. I would start solo then from Buhisan with a fully weighted Habagat Venado II and walk the whole day toward Upper Busay. Later, I did trail running here. This is the same trail that I had been looking for a long time when I returned hiking in 2008 after I have stopped climbing mountains in the late ‘90s.

It is like a homecoming. A reunion. The trail have now become wild as was the last time I saw it. Vegetation have claimed the spaces and I have never seen rattan palm trunks as thick as a man’s arm growing here. Back then it was wider, wide enough for a mountain bike to pass but this is better this way. I would rather have shoe prints leaving mark on this ground than the rut of wheels.

I follow the trail to Mt. Babag and I see the familiar view on the other side of the mountain range that you don’t normally see approaching from Napo. I have a good vantage point of the wide Bonbon River Valley from here and, across, are Sinsin Ridge and the Central Cebu Mountain Range. Rising north of Bonbon are the twin peaks of Mount Pung-ol and Mount Sibugay, the latter being erroneously referred to as either “Sirao Peak” or “Mount Kang-irag”.

Too many fences along this ridge have disoriented me no end and leave me fatigued in mind and body, especially when finding a route. Because of these fences some parts of the original trail have vanished or were diverted and becomes unfamiliar to me. This is aggravated by, the fact, that there are no water sources here. We reach the shoulder of Mt. Babag at 4:00 PM and make no time for rest as our urge for water plunge us to reach the Upper Kahugan Spring.

When I reach the watering spot, the piping system had been dislodged and the spring water from the ground is exposed to foreign matter and so I skip it hoping to obtain drinking water at the Roble homestead instead. I meet six climbers along the East Ridge Pass and they are going to Babag Ridge until I reach the house at 4:45 PM. I wait for the others to come but it would be a while because the trail is bleached hot by the sun and the soil is loose making descent quite a trouble.

When all have arrived, we said goodbye to the Roble family and leave at 5:30 PM for Napo by way of Kahugan Trail. Nightfall overtake me at Lower Kahugan Spring and one of the female nurses is having trouble walking so I lend her my LED torch to aid her. I follow her until I reach Napo at almost 7:00 PM. I wait for the others and dispatch them all back to Guadalupe before I leave myself.

It was a perfect day of toiling and training to make myself fit. It was originally a solo affair but I decide to include all comers. All are safe, did not suffer injuries and are satisfied of being at places in a series of “firsts”. Lastly, I have finally found my old trail which I thought had been converted into another road. It still exists and is untamed. Now I know the mountain range much better now.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

LET THE SHOW BEGIN: Who Put the "N" in Nature II (Books + Music + Trees)

HANDURAW EVENTS CAFE, together with CAMP RED BUSHCRAFT & SURVIVAL GUILD and the MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS ALLIANCE OF THE PHILIPPINES-Cebu Chapter, presents the second sequel of WHO PUT THE “N” IN NATURE Concert-for-a-Cause on May 18, 2013 at 8:00 PM. 

This is a free event that will benefit the schoolchildren living in the highlands of Cebu City and all you need to do to show support is to come and bring either a notebook, a pencil, a writing pad, a pencil sharpener, a box of crayon, a ruler, a brown envelope or, better still, all of the above.

Playing to entertain the crowd again is DEANERY, an all-Cebuano New Wave band who just released their first video album - “Monthlong Sundays”.   Also sharing the stage are local rock bands SUNDAY SUNDAY, THE MOCK, TIGER PUSSY and HAPPY DAYS.  Emcee again for the night is the ever-popular JB “The Badburner” Albano, whose “I am not running for mayor” byline caught the fancy of last year’s crowd.

Supporting this event are SILANGAN Outdoor Equipment, SNAKEHAWK Wilderness Skills School, RAK Apparels, WHACKY Ventures, PRIMARY Mountaineers, Visayan Trekkers Forum, Outdoorsman’s Hub, Tribu DUMAGSA Mountaineers, SUGBO Outdoor Club, EWITERS Mountaineers, Tribu WAFU WAFA, Enthusiast of Cebu Outdoors, KUYAMAW, HAPPY FEET Mountaineers, REDTREKKERS, Organization of Single Mountaineers, BAGTAK Mountaineers and the WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE Blog.

The idea about WHO PUT THE “N” IN NATURE is really the brainchild of Dominic Sepe of Camp Red and Jerome Tan of the Redtrekkers.  Both are avid David Morrisey fans and both decide to organize a concert-for-a-cause last year and borrowed the song title of that singer - “Who Put the ‘M’ in Manchester” - modified it, and made it the name of their event.

That was on June 1, 2012 and that outcome resulted to the collection of a good volume of school supplies from those who patronized the show and which got distributed in Sitio Kahugan, Barangay Sapangdaku, Cebu City on July 15, 2012.  Last year’s success goaded the present organizers to make this an annual event instead.

The original set-up have not been altered.  The door is open to all.  Witness and hear the bands play.  Enjoy the late ‘60s to early ‘70s ambiance of Handuraw, their pizza, the cold beer, the company and the stage presence of the Badburner. 

Come with a big heart and make a child happy with your donation.  It matters much to the recipients and it would release a great burden for their parents on their children’s education.  Make this a successful event with your presence.  Nurture the good virtue of charity.


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Wednesday, May 1, 2013


WHEN YOU DO BUSHCRAFT, one of the skills that you would need to use and practice is hunting.  There are many ways how to supply yourself food or furs from wild animals but trapping is the most efficient and is the easiest.  All you have to do is carry a survival knife and, perhaps, some cords or wires, although when you are proficient you could manufacture cords from nature.

Compared to hunting an animal with a rifle, trapping ensures that you have enough meat to eat where a bullet hole will, otherwise, waste some of it away and it also ensures you the best part of a fur caught unscathed where a weapon would, altogether, damage it.  Besides that, a rifle sound will scare away game and would give away your presence.

Catching prey with traps and snares does away of staying inert in a place for a long time so you could get your chance.  You just set up a good number of these and leave and then return the next day.  But setting up traps and snares are not done randomly.  It is like playing chess.  You have to lure prey where they are most likely populate or where they most likely pass by.

Traps are simple contraptions that take form borne out from natural terrain or done by taking advantage of the habits and instincts of wild creatures.  The single most important element here is luring.  You must lure your prey to get into your trap and it must appear convincing else it is just another form of “civil works” gone to waste. 

Food and water are the most important reasons why creatures are likely to be lured into and they have their own ways of getting these and, in the process, they leave traces of their presence.  Another strong impulse to lure your prey out of their comfort zones is thru mating.  Otherwise, if your prey are not into these conditions you lure them to flight into a predetermined location.

Trapping devices could stand on its own but they work better with snares.  Snares are more complex and these contraptions use a mechanism that is initiated by the prey.  It has a trigger system that employ a spring mechanism that is drawn taut to achieve effect when released.  A loop made from either a cord or a thin wire and bait are attached to the trigger and completes this simple, but made from nature, machine.

This blogger teaches people about bushcraft and survival through his Grassroots Bushcraft Teaching Series for members of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild and other interested individuals.  Ten people availed of this free event on March 10, 2013.  This outdoors lecture is taught at the Babag Mountain Range and, this time, this blogger will talk about how to identify a trap zone on rivers, how to employ traps and how to make a simple snare.

As always, the journey to the range start from the grounds of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  Tailing behind this blogger are Jhurds Neo, Silver Cueva, Dominikus Sepe, Ernie Salomon, Nyor Pino, Benjie Echavez, Kulas Damaso, Antonette Bautista and Patrick Calzada.  From Napo, we follow the route towards Lower Kahugan Spring and rest for a while and replenish water bottles.

Along the way, I show the participants of the possible areas of the creek where traps could be constructed and used.  Catching fish by trapping is very easy and river creatures are most easy to lure even when you do not place bait.  As I have said before, traps make good use of the natural elements where, on a river, the flow of current will lure the fish there to look for food.

A classic example of a river trap is to make use of a row of boulders and divert some water from the main current into a deep cul-de-sac or dead end.  Such trap is very efficient and would be converted as a cage once a number of fish are trapped and it would be your source of food.  To sustain your existence in a survival situation, twenty or more of these placed along the length of a creek is adequate.

Where streams are narrow and natural traps are scarce, a piece of bamboo pole three feet long is enough.  One end is opened and the other end closed but a small hole is bored through it so water current would flow through the bamboo and remove buoyancy.  You place a weight at the closed end and some bait and it becomes a hidden sanctuary of a river creature.  Twenty or more of these placed along the length of the stream would ensure you food a day provided it is not washed by a rain-fed current.

After a half-hour of lecture, we proceed on to higher ground.  We reach the Roble homestead at 10:45 AM and prepare our noontime meal.  Food are taro sprouts mixed with red beans, sliced eggplants and gumbos and fried in oil; milled corn; rice; pork adobao; and canned tuna.  Fele Roble provided us green coconuts for dessert.

After the meal, the lecture proceed on to making a basic snare.  The mango tree and, later, a Mexican lilac branch, provided the spring device.  The trigger device is made from a guava branch while the cords are discarded shoe laces.  A dead branch half-buried on the ground is used as the “Guinea pig” which was caught when the trigger is released. 

Equipped with the knowledge of this very basic mechanism, all one have to do is improvise and include other devices and components or extend its reach.  The bigger your prey, the thicker your spring device will be.  For the lack of a spring device, you may substitute it with a deadfall.  The weight of a stone or a tree trunk strung up high is sufficient to that task.

Lastly, I advise all to never leave a man smell on all their undertakings.  Cover and camouflage all surfaces touched by hands and remove all human refuse indicating your presence.  The activity end at 3:30 PM and we retrace our route back to Napo and then Guadalupe.  We proceed to the Red Hours Convenience Store for our traditional post-activity discussions and socials.

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