Tuesday, July 23, 2013
REALITY PROGRAMS MADE for cable TV are very interesting and educational and command such attention by viewers all around the globe, especially concerning primitive-living skills and survival. Bear Grylls is the name that usually crop up when my mountaineer-friends talk among themselves ever since I begin to attend again membership meetings with my old club after a long hiatus of eleven years.
That was in 2007 and, unfortunately, I do not have a cable TV connection. Even today. Anyways, the things that Grylls did, which I overheard from my friends, were quite familiar to me and I could do that as well with much finesse and sanity but, being a mountaineer then, I was wrench-locked to follow the principles of this foreign ideology called Leave No Trace.
As I slowly veer away from LNT, from insane mass climbs and from my former club, I begin to practice free-rein outdoorscraft like survival and wilderness skills. A recent Cebu visitor, Thomas “Tomahawk” Moore, have greatly influenced me on this when we met in September 2009. The joys of having a small campfire is a freedom that I love to cherish most as well as my freedom of unimpeded movement like solo hikes and cutting across virgin ground.
In January 2010, I established a club called Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. This is the only one of its kind in the country and I organized the annual Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp every June 12th as its main activity. Not only that, I begin to make videos of myself doing things I loved best and uploaded these to the Warrior Pilgrimage Channel in YouTube.
As the pleasures of my new-found interest guided me, names of other TV survivalists like Les Stroud, Ray Mears, Mykel Hawke, Cody Lundin, etc. begin to surface up. To be honest, I have never watched a single show of these survival shows and it was only in August 2012 when I finally saw what Grylls looked like and what he did in his show when a video was uploaded at Camp Red’s Facebook site by one of the members and it was about le Legion Etrangere.
When I teamed up with William Rhys-Davies in January 2013 to put up Snakehawk Wilderness Skills School, a small production outfit wanted to do a series of video shoots about tropical bushcraft and survival in the Philippines. The location of the first episode would be in Guintarcan Island, Santa Fe, Cebu and it would star, no less, by Rhys-Davies and myself. For this project, I was provided two videos of Ray Mears for study. It was the one shot at Costa Rica and another at Palawan.
On April 19, 2013, we left the mainland and cross the Bantayan Channel for Guintarcan. Our host is Mrs. Tita Rosos, who accommodated us all into her residence which became our base camp. The video crew consist of the producer/director/cameraman – Matt Everett; cameraman – Prem Ananda; two personal assistants; and a medic – Casey Ballard. Aside that, we hired Tady Rosos as our man Friday and the boat owned by Inday Dabalos
The videocam begin its shoot as the outriggered boat begins to set sail for the island. The weather is perfect giving us a very calm sea although the heat and humidity are at a high swing and would later take a toll on the exposed skins of the cameramen, the medic, Rhys-Davies and, mildly, on myself. The show, according to the producer would almost follow along the lines of Dual Survival of Cody Lundin and Joseph Teti but with a different twist. Guess what that would be?
The first segment for the first day is catching us swimming from boat to shore about 100 meters distant in our clothes. I am wearing a light-blue rayon T-shirt, a dark-blue Rohan long pants and a pair of beachcomber shoes. Rhys-Davies is in his Lowe shirt, a Silangan hike shorts and a pair of Salomon shoes. There were a lot of shots from different angles above the surface and underwater; two-way dialogues; and one-on-one talks to the camera.
Talking before a camera is nothing new to me especially if it is a self-shoot or done in jest with another. But with a professional-looking camera with a professional behind it, my self-confidence begins to waver. Feelings that I knew of during job interviews done long ago, suddenly came back at light speed. My eyes kept rolling to retrieve missing words, stopping me in mid-sentence, and, possibly, would make me look like a clown before a wide audience if not for retakes.
In the afternoon, the director need to do many retakes of our swimming prowess. We shifted scene afterwards and asked to make a debris shelter. While doing that, there are the usual dialogues between Rhys-Davies and me and then the one-on-one on camera. I was asked to forage for food, which I did, by plucking a ripe fruit of a pandanus tree. We ate the fruit explaining to the invisible audience of its taste and how it is eaten.
I split and cleaned both green and mature coconut palms with a William Rodgers spearpoint knife. The dry palm is hard but the blade make short work of this. While I was in the middle of driving the edge hard in the middle of the palm, the knife point nicked one of my fingers and blood spurted out. I have already expected getting cut by my new knife and it is the only way to create a bond between new owner and blade. I remedy the discomfort by making a poultice out of Indian mulberry leaf buds after stopping the bleeding by elevation and direct pressure.
The knife had been given to me by the CEO of a native delicacy company just recently in appreciation of my outdoors prowess and for friendship’s sake. He is not just a knife collector but work on his knives to their ultimate limits. The knife comes with a leather sheath with Kydex lining which he himself made and dyed; quite rare for a business executive.
I was really exhausted after doing several repeats of sequences of holding breathe under water for almost the whole day, swinging from coconut palms in the hope of detaching it from the upper trunk and trying to polish off my pidgin English that I collapsed onto my ground tarp splayed on hot concrete after supper unmindful of the heat it refused to surrender. I slept like a baby under the bare sky.
After breakfast of the second day (April 20), we went back to our shelter and, part of the script, I would again forage for water and food which I found up a coconut tree which need to be climbed. I ascended below the crown and twisted two fruits with my hand and let it fall, cut a hole and drank its sweet water, and split it open to scrape the white meat. All these are but natural for me while Rhys-Davies made himself helpful by teasing a fire to life with his firesteel.
In the afternoon, we walked up a hill to shoot a scene inside and outside of Cantingting Cave to look for food. After some dialogues and talking to an invisible audience, I foraged old coconut palms and fashion these into three flame torches which we will need to light our way inside the cave and, hopefully, catch our prey. The script goes that we need to catch bats to sustain our survival.
The light from the flame torches are inadequate and make it impossible to catch bats so I place the torches upside down so it would bellow thick smoke and agitate the bats from its stupor high up on the ceiling and waited for them to swarm out of the cave. I position myself outside the cave mouth with a three-foot stick like Barry Bonds while Rhys-Davies stayed inside to shout and scare the bats. The bats did start to fly into my position and I whack five of these senseless. We now have solid food for the day!
It is dusk when we returned to the beach where our shelter lay. The camera focused on my skinning of the bat and I explained to the absent audience why I need to remove a certain part of the animal so it won’t spoil the meat. On the other hand, Rhys-Davies tried his darndest best to ignite a fire with partly-moist coconut fibers which he used as tinder. After a considerable amount of sweat running down on his brows, the flame flickered and danced.
Rhys-Davies sharpened the points of two bamboo sticks and I pierced all the dressed bats unto it and cook it on open coals. I talked to the camera how I reacted when Rhys-Davies failed to produce fire and talked also of my plans for the rest of the day and of the following day. We leave the set and returned to base camp. There was a slight shower after dinner and everyone heaved a sigh of good relief that the extreme heat of the day will soon dissipate!
The third day – April 21 – found us swimming by the shore and skimming for food on its part-sandy part-rocky bottom. This island is abundant of shellfish of different varieties and, it is only a matter of time before we will fish it out of the sea ourselves. There were many sequences taken by underwater cameras and too few moments to recover our breathe. It was a never-ending battle to stay under despite the onset of tidal current.
To counter buoyancy, I held on to rocks and, in the process, detaching these. Beneath some of these rocks are juvenile giant clams (sp. Gigas Pacifica). Elated with these discovery, I plucked out four clams while Rhys-Davies was successful with one. Using my knife, I forced it all open and removed the flesh from the shells and skewer it with last night’s barbeque sticks and cooked it again on bare coals which Rhys-Davies expertly provided.
When we have finished lunch, the rest of the afternoon is dedicated to foraging bamboo poles, which are abundant on the island, so we could make and float a raft and make a run for the mainland. We found a grove of spiny bamboos. The problem with this kind of bamboo is that the base is protected by a screen of thorns. I explained to the camera how I would extract the poles using a bolo and a knife.
I created a corridor by slowly removing the lower branches where there are spines. When these tangle with each other, these create a screen and always snag on anything soft like fabrics and human skin. I got snagged on the base of my thumb and blood begin to ooze as I started to cut and remove these. Altogether, I cut three poles which is about twenty feet each and drag it each time it is caught on the branches of a mango tree.
Slowly, one by one, to and fro three times, we shoulder the bamboo poles from the interior to the shore. I measure the pole by their segments and cut it with the bolo. The knife cleared and cut the knobs and branches. We were able to make six eight-foot long poles as our main deck. We have also provided four poles as our cross bars eight feet long. On the beach are four abandoned 5-gallon plastic containers with caps and a considerable length of nylon rope which a fisherman abandoned.
Rhys-Davies did the lashings as he is well-adept at this while I assisted him in feeding the ropes or reaching a rope end at the most difficult corners with a finger. The containers were distributed along the four corners of the bamboo raft and would be the main buoyant component while the cross bars would hold it like a vise. I provided two coconut palms, stripped of leaves and carved, as our paddles. We tested the raft’s sea-worthiness and it floated well with me and Rhys-Davies on board.
The last scene would be rowing from shore to other shore thirty kilometers or so away crossing the Bantayan Channel. Could this be possible? Are we in our right minds? Perhaps or perhaps not. But with perfect weather, with a sail and lots of fortitude and luck, why not? We could even make it by morning. This was the crux of the show but the director intervened by towing us back to shore with a motor boat and Rhys-Davies capped it off by promising his imaginary audience that we would be back for the next episode.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer