Tuesday, July 9, 2013
HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT all my bushcraft and survival sorties are confined to the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City? You know, I cannot afford to spend a lot of money to travel to faraway places just to be freeze-caught on camera jumping. I am very comfortable to practice my survival and primitive-living skills here because I am familiar with the people and the terrain. Adjacent to that is I to get to know this whole mountain range better which few had done in this present time. By the time the “saucer” hits the fan, you know where to find me.
If you are not convinced by that, I may expand, as well, my familiarity of the other mountain ranges and upland areas of the whole island of Cebu. Ever since I started with my Cebu Highlands Trail Project in February 2011, I begin to see better my island that have been denied to most Cebuanos. It is not done on wheels but by sheer test of will on foot and by traditional navigation. No GPS. No maps. Just the sun and the shadows. I saw places where only an airborne observer could see and I can perceive it better up close in small segments by walking.
One of those places that merit my attention is at Lower Sayaw, Sibonga. From the highway in Ocaña, Carcar, you may follow an ascending road and it gets you to Tambol Peak. It is a sparsely populated area where it is converted as a training ground for PNP Scouts. There may be farms but there are pockets of wild vegetation that clung on to rocky terrain where breaking it into farm lots is close to impossible. There are streams and natural springs and lots of fruit-bearing trees, coconuts and bamboo groves.
This is the playground of Glenn Pestaño, a member of Camp Red Bushcraft & Survival Guild, and he invited me and others to check on the place. On April 14, 2013, I went there together with fellow bushmen Jhurds Neo and Fulbert Navarro. We left the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 6:00 AM and Glenn was already at the corner of the road in Ocaña waiting for our arrival. He carried a tomahawk as if he is in his living room. We get to ride a tricycle for a short distance and drop by at a store where a trail cross a dried-up creek into another dirt road.
The weather is perfect but hot and humid. A local, Rufing Zamora, joined us and he was carrying a half sack of rice on his head. I carried a Sandugo Khumbu 40L backpack with one kilo of pork, two kilos of milled corn, Nalgene bottle, two pots, a stove, fuel can, 15 feet webbing, fire kit, first aid kit, LED torch, two shirts and my own tomahawk. At 9:00 AM, we were still in the middle of it: hiking up a road and resting under the shade of an ancient tamarind tree. Along the way, I met another local, Rudy Edos, carrying two gallons of fresh coconut wine, still in its bubbly splendor.
We reach base camp at 9:40 AM and I am glad that there were ample shade. I took off my Rivers 3514M boots and go on barefoot on Bermuda grass. I drank a full glass of the native wine in lieu of water to quench my thirst and it really is fresh and sweet! Glenn had arranged this “jungle juice” for our disposal and I thank the heavens for making this day fruitful at its earliest stage. Aside that, Glenn also procured two free-rein chicken which were stewed and served as breakfast to us steaming hot by Rufing and his family.
After the meal, I put on back my shoes to prepare for a little sightseeing. Rufing introduced me to the plants that were grown all around his house and all these has a purpose. I picked up my Kodak EasyShare M23 camera, ballpen and paper and document each plant and its uses. Amidst all that, Jhurds climbed a Spanish plum tree (Local: sineguelas) to munch the fruits while Fulbert plucked pomegranates (Local: granada). After another shot of the “juice”, we proceed to the field.
I came across three different kinds of bamboo: kagingkingon (spiny bamboo), butong (water bamboo) and bagakay (sand bamboo). We stopped at a grove of sand bamboo beside a dried-up brook to test my new plaything: a William Rodgers bushcraft knife. This lovely knife was given to me last April 11, 2013 by the CEO of a local delicacy company1 after he read Warrior Pilgrimage and found that we have certain hobbies in common: bushcraft and knives. Along with it is a handsome leather sheath dyed black, made by his own hands, with Kydex liner.
Bagakay do not grow thick unlike most bamboos. The poles are thin, the thickest like those of your thumb, but do not be deceived by the appearance. The texture of the bamboo’s skin is rough, like fine sandpaper. The poles are used as spears by early Filipinos during warfare and, as sharpened stakes, were used during hunt of wild game. Later these bagakay stakes were used during guerrilla warfare against the Americans and the Japanese and, later, adopted by the Vietnamese against the French, the Americans and the Chinese.
A mature pole – brown and dry – is hard to chop; especially when you are chopping it incorrectly. The William Rodgers knife made short work of it by cutting it at an angle. It helped that the blade is thick else a thinner one will be deflected by the dry bamboo’s hard surface. The thick blade drove the edge deep into its surface by its weight. It also helped that the knife edge is concave grounded and bit fast when driven. I scrutinized the knife edge after that and it is still sharp as was the last time I ran a finger lightly along it.
Rudy extracted four live bagakay shoots (with roots) from the grove which Jhurds and I plan to transfer to pots when we get home separately. Fulbert and Glenn, meanwhile, keep busy making blowguns from dry pieces of sand bamboo and both succeeded as bamboo darts punched a banana trunk from across them one after the other.
We transferred to a place where there is a natural spring. We climbed up a hillock and down into a small valley where a small rice field is located. The field is irrigated by the natural spring which gushed forth from underneath a rock and I drank the water. It is cool and of good quality. Glenn tested an emergency water container which he received recently from a fellow bushcrafter from Romania.
It is made of transparent and flexible PVC and is good for eight liters; with an extended spout which could be rolled and secured by a rubber band sealer to prevent spillage. It has a carrying handle. The name is Jollytank and is made in Italy by Plastibag. I voluntarily carried it in full capacity back to base camp over rough terrain to test its balance, comfort of carriage and durability. I begin to like this emergency water storage and I wished Glenn has another of this stuff.
When we reach our camp, I went to a grove of spiny bamboos and choose a single pole among them. It is protected by a screen of thorns but I hacked a corridor between them with my William Rodgers knife so I could reach the pole. With my own tomahawk, I cut the pole with angled strokes yet it refused to fall down when branches of a mango tree caught it. I dragged the pole as far as I could bring it and it crashed to the ground. I select the best two segments and separate it from the rest. This piece will be my cooking pot.
Rudy foraged some firewood among grounds between coconut trees and carried a lot of dried palm fronds complete with its woody base (Local: palwa) and clothe-like material (Local: guinit). I baton holes on the bamboo for each segment while Fulbert made a fire nest for his firesteel sparks. I searched for two stones of same sizes and place it as anchors for my bamboo pot. Hurriedly, I chopped the dry palm fronds into manageable pieces. It is hard work but I finished six of these and is now fodder for our fire.
With some dexterity I was able to pour water on the opened bamboo from the spout of the shaky Jollytank. I will simultaneously cook rice on one chamber and milled corn on another and this would be the first time I will do this. Fulbert, on the other hand, skewered pieces of pork with a piece of a sharpened bamboo stick for an impromptu barbeque. This is compleat bushcraft at its best, an activity reserved for men who can adapt easily to a situation.
Jhurds, meanwhile, lay on a hammock, quite intoxicated by the coconut wine. I finished the rest of the pork by frying it on a small pan over a conventional camping stove. A generous amount of green pepper is mixed with onions and garlic in oil, vinegar and soy sauce. While the cooking begin to simmer, Fulbert, Jhurds and Glenn kept themselves busy hitting small targets with a slingshot. The plink of marble missiles on a sardine can and a suspended tin plate elicit me happy memories.
When all the cooking was done, Fulbert cut two banana leaves and fray it over fire to remove parasites. It is then laid over the ground where the bamboo pot is placed over it, as well as the pork adobo and the pork barbeque. A bowl of native chicken soup, a leftover of our breakfast, served as our crème de soupe. It is a hungry sappers’ delight, a better presentation of a “boodle fight” in a real location that smiling picture-happy politicians would not dare tread.
After all had their fill, the slingshot firing practice continued but I have other things to do like the cleaning of my cooking pots and the stowing of my scattered things back into my backpack. Besides that, I have a half-gallon more of coconut wine to finish. We waited for 4:00 PM before we said goodbye to our hosts. We follow the same route back to Ocaña where, a real survivor of a sea tragedy is waiting for me for a talk.
I met Vincent Kanapi and scribbled all the important details of his story. It was worth telling and, I believe, his story should be heard. This blog will give space to tales of pure survival and acknowledge people like Vincent. Again, I say goodbye and proceed on to the highway where we all catch a bus back to the big city.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
1Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos & Delicacy, Inc.