Saturday, September 21, 2013

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXII: Ninety-Seven at the Outreach

ALMOST EVERYONE ARE HERE. The proceeds of the Who Put the “N” in Nature II Concert-for-a-Cause held last May 19, 2013 at the Handuraw Events Cafe and those that were solicited from donors who requested not to be named are going to be distributed today – MAY 26, 2013. Aside that, there will be free meals to the recipients

Ninety-seven strong came to bring goodwill to children of school age to the delight of their parents at Kahugan, Sapangdaku, Cebu City. It is a Sunday and the heavens blessed us a very perfect weather. Father Providence must have smiled above and the trails and mountains radiate in a mysterious ambiance that make our footfalls light despite extra-heavy loads from our normal day packs.

This selfless endeavour projects a good statement that the alternative outdoors community here in Cebu is united and throbbing vibrantly, especially when centered for a good cause. There is a long list of names and they leave their imprints on their good deeds in a community on the foothills of the Babag Mountain Range which, incidentally, is their playground.

Below are the collage of images of the children of Kahugan and the 97 at The Outreach:

And, finally, these are the names of the 97 who are shaking heaven in a jolly mood:

Jingaling                           Silver
Erin Elarcosa                     Mabelle
Totoy                                Darean
Chad                                 Luckyboy
Maria Iza Mahinay            Bebot Decina
Nicole Jesson Bacolod    Jackelyn Pino
Jhay Gabriel Bacolod      Shem Ancajas
Mary Grace Bacolod        Ignatius del Castillo
Anne Caca                       Armando Catingan Jr.
Maricor Bunal                  Nyor Pino
Aldrin Montealto             Tisoy Dael
Bat-bat                             Pew-pew
Moi-moi                            Ric
Rey Anthony Narciso      Glenn Ong
Roy Sec                            Harold Cabague
Jenelyn Saludar               Karen Rae Arnoco
Kyjean Tomboc               Jeane Louise Mainit
Marj Savior                      Shildy Savior
Bonny Ann Gicale          Ruel Parena
Cherry Cutaran               Maphy Maquilang
Rancy Malabo                Glenn Tubilla
Charlie Singuit                Marie Denise Cristobal
Joice Maide Lirazan        Rena Nuneza
Mynil Gila                        Pocholo Duragos
Dale Cyrell Sartagoda    Jah Zreal
Wendell Pastor               Edward Pilario
Jei Servano                     Neil Jarina
Sien Alfanta                    Michael John Vasquez
Ronel Hayag                  Jean Pono
Diahna Montilla             Charm Sumagalang
Iris Ceniza                       Harold Hayo
Meriam Angana             Mark Darren Papellero
Jeannete Escalante       Anthony Espinosa
Barry Paraculles             Joefrey Erguiza
Maria Luisa Mata           Althea Alfeche
Marlene Mae Mamhot   April Joy Erames
Jean Carla Acharon      Channen Grace Sarmiento
Patrick Calzado              Antonette Bautista
Elizabeth Caliste            John Rivera
John Jason Abella        Christian Paul Bojos
Jhurds Neo                   Dianne Signe
Boy Olmedo                  Ernie Salomon
Boy Toledo                    Ramon Corro
Randell Savior               Jing de Egurrola
James Bungcasan         Melissa Narbuada
Dominikus Sepe            Chris Comendador
Fulbert Navarro            Tonton Perpetua
Jean del Mar                 Aaron Binoya
JB "Badburner" Albano

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

WARRIOR REVIEW: SE Wristband Compass

A FRIEND RECENTLY ASKED me to go over and test a merchandise that he received of late from his trading activities. This is a button compass that used to be popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s as an accessory for diver’s watches, notably a SEIKO Diver.

The main body is made of plastic in black color which hold the bezel and a floating dial that would rotate when the compass is moved clockwise or counterclockwise and this act as the magnetic needle. The dial is also in black which is housed inside a transparent plastic filled with liquid.

The cardinal direction symbols like N, E, S and W which are located on the rotating dial are painted in luminous green as well as the direction arrow located above the N. All other features are painted white to include those found on the bezel. I test the compass in the dark and it glowed. After about three hours it lost its luminosity.

The bezel could be rotated by hand and you would hear a click each time you move it left or right. The bezel is notched to accommodate easy manipulation by thumb and forefinger. By the way, each click is equivalent to 10-degrees according to its packaging literature. However, I could not determine the accuracy of this information.

At the back is a narrow slot which has a flexible cover that could accommodate most wristwatch strap sizes not more than 1/8-inch thick and not beyond 3/4-inch wide. It could be easily slipped on the strap but I doubt if it could hold itself fast when it is accidentally snagged.

A small triangle jutting two millimeters on the housing beside the bezel act as the orienteering arrow. Smart design for a directional instrument whose function is limited due to its size. General direction-wise, it could hold its own when placed side-by-side with a standard compass but is accuracy is suspect when I used it for some serious navigation exercises.

This wrist-bound compass is made in China for use in the United States of America. A health-hazard warning is attached at the back of the package pursuant to California Health and Safety Code.

According to its label, the compass is great for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, outdoor activities, travel, etc. Without a doubt, it could be done but I believe it could not approximate the performance of standard-sized compasses.

It is just too small and lacked the handling capability that bigger compasses possess. It is just too small to project its details to one who is visually-impaired under dim-light conditions. It is just too small to be noticed in your presence and would likely get misplaced.

Its lightness is its only advantage. Although, it accomplishes the function of locating the cardinal directions but beyond that I would rather trust a compass with base plates. This button compass would never replace a standard-sized compass but this is a great backup compass if in case you broke or lose the main one.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013


ONCE AGAIN, I FIND myself hiking alone. Moments like these are now few and I love to take advantage of that when it comes knocking. Solo walks along mountain trails is a good therapy for someone who has a stressful day job and a hangover of last night’s waltz with bottles. It is my way of removing the kinks, just a bit short of reformatting myself whole.

I don’t feel boredom because, instead of concentrating all my thoughts in a running conversation with another, my mind focuses on reading the lay of the land – the finer details – which always escape the attention of a conventional hiker. Besides that, silence is beautiful.

I am a lefty and what does not work with the mainstream is quite perfect for me. Just a plain maverick but not eccentric and mad. Rallying myself to come up with this idea right after the heels of a few hours of sleep, is quite daunting. And annoying too if you could stand to leave the alarm screaming every ten minutes.

I finally surrendered the bed at 8:00 AM of May 19, 2013 for the business of more human functions. On the table lay a bowl of braised pork which my wife left for me and I help myself to two servings. After a good filling, I take shower, snatch the backpack and the helmet and work my way to a back street where my motorcycle is parked and proceed to Guadalupe.

Last night I have good company with friends and acquaintances at the Handuraw Events Cafe and it was cool. This morning’s heat is different and it is reality but I am ready for it. The fever that had came to strangle me two Sundays ago have passed away. I come for revenge and the rain of previous days have softened summer. This is some good weather.

I park the motorcycle at Guadalupe. I buy fresh taro sprouts, gumbos and eggplants from the roadside market beside the Catholic church which I will prepare later as my noontime meal. I also procure a half kilo of milled corn and two packets of instant coffee. I am confident with my health, with my camp stove and my liter of water to see me through the day.

The third Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp, which I am organizing, is fast approaching and I need to assess the campsite but I only have two hours before 12:00 noon. I fast-track myself to the trailhead by hopping on a motorcycle-for-hire and skirted away “heartbreak ridge”. Good riddance!

Down I go into the now-verdant surroundings where, two weeks ago, was an almost virtual wasteland. The teak forest have sprouted its leaves, the ground is moist, more birds now sing, underbrush and grasses have reclaimed their spots and the sun is not that tormenting anymore. What a wonderful day to behold and sight the distant hills as living greens took over of what used to be dull brown.

I pick up a still wet piece of branch that had recently been cut and abandoned by a wood gatherer and work on it with my William Rodgers bushcraft knife. I need this piece of wood as my staff, especially when I do the downhill stretches. My knees are not what it used to be and, besides, I could use the staff as a weapon. Just in case.

As I top off on “Boy T’s Hell”, I am rewarded with an exhilarating view. However, I do not come to make a poem out of beautiful views but, rather, I come to find a much better route to a stream where the old Camp Damazo is located. Two earlier routes I established are quite difficult for unprepared individuals and so I need to establish another much friendly one.

I am not pressured and I take time to study a piece of terrain. I walk from here to there and there to there and back, sniffing the air, tilting the head to catch the faintest of sound, crouching to seek other angles of view, studying shadows. I hear running water from below, catch a scent of smoke and then I see a good slope. It is not easy but, at least, it is much near to a narrow gully and, from there, more gentle inclines.

I espy a trail but I might be wrong. I walk further on and I am on a very beautiful trail beside a stream. I follow it north and south and it is a mere fifty meters long, the rest of it are claimed by the stream. Locals, it seem, use the stream as a route. I see a familiar rock face where water run in angles and I am not far from the old campsite, which is located downstream. The stream is not dry anymore unlike last May 5.

A familiar X on a tree trunk point me the right path and I pass the former camp from above. Lensa Trail is very peaceful and blooming with green leaves and I see some upland marsh palms along the route as well as many Indian rhododendron shrubs. The route curved bringing me from one stream into another where groves of water bamboo are found.

I need mature bamboos for the bushcraft camp in June and there are many strewn above a short cliff abandoned by firewood gatherers. I climb it up and select dry ones. I work on it with my knife in tandem with the folding saw of my Victorinox SAK. With that effort, I collected three poles and bound it with green vines that I foraged beside the stream.

I prop my staff on a forked branch as my hands would now be concentrating on the carrying of the three bound poles on my shoulder. I leave the stream and climb up an ascending ridge. The trail is good except where rattan palms abound. My shirt and my skin gets snagged passing on one and I take a detour when a whole of another block my path.

I reach a hill with rocks all around. It could serve its purpose as a latrine but it is too far from the new site of Camp Damazo. I may have to find another one uphill and I found it as I move on. This one is wide and about twenty meters from the “gate” of the campsite with a lot of “private rocky options”.

The campsite is now very wide; thanks to our last year’s occupancy and a failed tree planting activity months after that. It used to be thick with underbrush and with a lot of debris. I gurgle and swallow a little liquid and another. I need rest and I have to make coffee. I get my camp stove and my isobutane tank from my backpack and install it. With a stainless steel cup, I pour water and prepare to boil. Then I turn on my MP3 and play Tubular Bells III by Mike Oldfield.

The stove did not work so I turn hard the can but it got separated instead and impossible to use now. While staring at the unboiled cup of water, I notice black ants begin to appear and mosquitoes begin to swarm. Ah, a human body emits carbon dioxide and these insects are attracted by it. Got to move out of here quick.

I stand up and get my packet of coffee, opened it and pour the contents into the lukewarm water and stir it a hundred times until it is dissolved. I enjoy my funny-looking coffee to the tune of Tubular Bells and walk in circles with mosquitoes trailing me. Lunch is out of the question and I get a glimpse of survival by continuing on with my hike without lunch. Very good stove!

I may have to forego of the meal and my body could afford that. No big deal. I am used to it. It’s just a temporary inconvenience and I could not help it but reward myself in new “discoveries” when my body adjust to the situation. When I see a crossroad of four trails, I am tempted to explore the western route. Not today. I am not prepared. Maybe August.

I pass by a natural spring and water trickle slow. This will be the source of drinking water during the PIBC. It is cleaned of debris and a wooden trough channel water above the ground. I do not need the water as I still have a half full in my Nalgene. I am not in a hurry. The amount of sweat are less and rehydration is not that crucial.

I cross a stream and up into a very steep path. This time I am sweating but I don’t think I need water. I could have that luxury later in the day. I climb and I reach a level ground and pause to catch my breath. I just love the silence. I passed and counted three hornet’s nests. I have plans to get their honey just like the Aetas did during my recent visit to their village in Bataan for a week.

I reach a rise and I could hear motorcycles passing. I am now closing in to a road. As I reach it, I pause again to inhale deep. I only need to cross this road and all my exertions would come to a slow gear. Across me is a meandering downhill trail to Lanipao. No need to touch my bottle. Maybe later. The battle now is easy.

As I touch my foot on the concrete parking area of the Lanipao Springs Rainforest Resort, I retrieve my bottle and say “Hi” to the owner. Two small swallows are all I need. After that, I make a brief conversation with the owner. I need to reserve a cottage for my party on June 12 and, that done, I resume to a store down the road. I also need to reserve cold refreshments.

After reaching Napo from Lanipao, I swig on my last ounces of water and ride a motorcycle-for-hire back to Guadalupe. I get on my own motorcycle and proceed to EZ Mart to meet Ernie Salomon. I need him to fix my stove and to have a small chat with cold bottles of beer to cheer up the conversations. I have done my mission and Camp Damazo is ready for PIBC MMXIII.

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Monday, September 2, 2013


ONLY A FEW SOUTHEAST ASIANS climb Mount Everest and fewer still who climb it twice. That honor belong to a Malaysian mountaineer. He is no other than Ravichandran Tharumalingam. His first ascent was done in 2006 at the North Face from the Buddhist Kingdom of Free Tibet and the second was in 2007 from the Kingdom of Nepal via the South Face.

Aside that, he is busy training for the completion of climbing all the fourteen highest peaks in the world that stood at 8,000 meters and above; as well as aiming to finish the Seven Summits very soon by climbing all the highest peak of each of the seven continents. Despite a handicap of missing fingers lost to frostbite, he is set to climb Everest for the third time in 2014 without the aid of oxygen.

During his preparation for the big climbs, he came to the Philippines for some serious training by climbing with members of the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines (MCAP) at Mount Pulag via the Akiki Trail in Benguet and at Mount Batulao in Batangas. He travelled down the Visayas and climbed with the Negros Mountaineering Club (NMC) at Mount Canlaon in Negros Occidental.

When not climbing, he is generous enough to speak about Acute Mountain Sickness based on his experiences at alpine altitudes which he did before MCAP in Metro Manila and the NMC in Bacolod City. As his schedule will take him down to Cebu, he is also set to talk about AMS which the MCAP Secretariat had arranged except for the venue.

Since this blogger is a member of MCAP, I staged this event under the endorsement and sponsorship of Snakehawk Wilderness School which kept the tab for the rental of the function room of St. Mark Hotel, located at Queens Road, Redemptorist Plaza, Cebu City. The date was set for August 5, 2013 at 6:00 PM where thirty-eight people came.

Ravichandran’s patron, Habagat Outdoor Equipment, came in full force to support their veteran climber by giving away free items after the seminar. Backpacks under the Habagat brand, especially their Venado II and Sigbin models, were essential gears used by Ravichandran’s solo expeditions in the Himalayas.

Silangan Outdoor Equipment big boss, JR Serviano, also came to study the possibility of testing his renowned Rev 20, Amiel 5 and Eis 8 tents in alpine conditions during Ravichandran’s next big climbs. Silangan is a valued partner and sponsor of Snakehawk which, after this event, is set to stage the first ever Outlaw Bushcraft Gathering in Asia on August 30, 31 and September 1, 2013 at Sibonga, Cebu.

A million thanks then to the other owner of Snakehawk, William Rhys-Davies, who did the legwork of staging this successful presentation by an Everest climber here in St. Mark Hotel which come so rarely in Cebu and to Randy Su of Habagat, for his all-out support of this event.

Worth mentioning are MCAP Cebu members Maria Iza Mahinay, Darean Heyrosa, Chad, Bacolod and Johnas Obina; and Dominic Sepe of Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild – all for working behind the scenes. Special thanks is given also to Ramon Corro of First Gen Energy Solutions for his useful laptop; to Ronald Ramiso for providing technical expertise; and the coffee boys of St. Mark Hotel for the bottomless refills.

Below are the collage of photos from the seminar on Acute Mountain Sickness:

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