Tuesday, October 22, 2013


SOMETIMES, YOU GOT TO get out of your comfort zone to know better your island. I am doing that today – June 23, 2013 – with some select members of Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild for an outdoors jaunt in Lilo-an. Going with me are Jhurds Neo, Glenn Pestaño, Dominikus Sepe, Fulbert Navarro and Nyor Pino. We meet at Mandaue City at 6:00 AM before proceeding Lilo-an by public transport.

Aljew Frasco, Marc Lim, Christopher Maru, Allan Aguipo and Warren Señido are our hosts today. We arrive at Titay’s Lilo-an Rosquillos & Delicacies Store twenty minutes later and Christopher guide us to a house across it. Welcoming us is a World War II relic cleverly placed as part of a lawn garden. Around it are coffee tables, chairs, a Baringtonia tree, a tree house and empty whiskey bottles set as a fountain.

While waiting, Christopher brewed us a special kind of coffee, the kind that is not served at Starbucks or Bo’s. What could that be? Well, you be my guest and make a guess? Ha ha! Aside those, bread baked on old-school stone oven are paired with that rare, but tasty coffee. I ate four of those bread and two servings of coffee, the last one drank straight without sugar and cream! That suffice my breakfast.

It rained and we make light of the moment with stories of the recent Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp that all – except Nyor – have participated. That event still stuck to the creases and ribs of everyone and it is great to mention it time and time again. When the rain stopped after an hour, I guess it is time to move among the hills.

We are eleven in all and Aljew drove a utility vehicle from his garage into a road which I have seen so many times before but did not have the opportunity to visit. This time, I will have that honor and the sights blur by from my seat. Lilo-an do have its secrets if you know your way around or know somebody who will take you to those places.

The road is winding and is slowly gaining in elevation. I see a river and I learn from Aljew that this is called Cotcot River and is the boundary between Lilo-an and Compostela. We pass by a place called Cabadiangan then Mulao. These two places shared area between the two towns and so there is a Cabadiangan and a Mulao of both Liloa-an and Compostela.

Cabadiangan, in Compostela side, is where most of the well-known Cebuanos and expatriates hid from the Japanese during World War II. One of those that used this as a hiding place is my grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side. My grandfather was the youngest son of Basque immigrant parents and, he feared, he might be mistaken as an American by the Japs just like his older brother so he made it as a hiding place. My own father was born there in 1943.

I did visit those places in Compostela in 1984 with friends. I didn’t get to see the features very well as we were travelling then in the night from one place to another on our way to Consolacion crossing over mountains and streams. I could not recollect anymore the landmarks as it was very dark. I could see in daytime that it is a wide flat valley in Compostela and becomes hilly in Lilo-an.

We reach the village of Mulao – Lilo-an side – and prepared ourselves for a downhill walk towards Cotcot River guided by a local named Epang. We reach a shady spot underneath an acacia tree where there is a thicket of spiny bamboos nearby. It is beside the river and rocks provide us places to sit on. It is a perfect area to prepare our meal during lunch, launch more conversations and to test our gears, especially knives.

I carry a rip-off of a Puffin Magnum knife which a benefactor provided me to test its weight, balance, sharpness and carriage. It comes with a brown leather sheath that could be worn ambidextrously, vertically or horizontal – scout carry. The blade is about six inches long, maybe more, but it could do the work of a bolo or any heavy blade and quite handy as it has a very long handle. Because of this, I did not bring my tomahawk for the first time.

Immediately, Aljew and me foraged green bamboo but the thick screen of thorns discouraged us both. We utilized dry poles lying on the ground and used it as a bridge to reach what we are after. Aljew, being lighter of weight, decide to climb the bridge and cut the green poles at the part where there are no thorns and managed to bring down one which I stripped of branches and divide two poles with two segments each.

Nyor proceed to make a fire by traditional means while I am busy opening up bamboos. Aljew and Marc boil water for coffee using a small alcohol burner on boulders beside the river. Jhurds, meanwhile, cut up chicken, pork and spices while Glenn starts talking about his scruples with an anonymous forum that Dom is embroiled also. Allan, Warren and Christopher listen to the tales and are as bewildered as I am.

Epang caught three river crabs by his bare hands and these are different crabs. These are bigger and have wider carapaces. I was totally engrossed in teaching Nyor and Dom how to cook milled corn and rice inside four segments that I missed foraging on the river. From time to time, I leave them to prepare dry bamboos for the firecraft session which I will start later in the day.

The bushcraft cooking took a longer time owing to the inexperience of both Nyor and Dom about cooking something inside bamboo poles and so I improvise by bringing it close to the open coals which Aljew and Marc started. Cooking of pork and chicken on sticks had already been started above the fire. This took time also since we make it sure that the flames would not touch the meat.

Meanwhile, Jhurds and Dom take charge of cooking some chicken and pork in oil. In between, I carve a dry bamboo and make a bow and an arrow minus the feather flight. Tested it at four meters from a target and it goes true. Tried again and again with good results. When we are quite satisfied of the results of our cooking, we eat a late lunch at 1:30 PM.

Epang, who left us a while ago, returned with a net which he strung out across the width of the river. Some youths who were taking a bath nearby, helped in scaring away fish towards the net and, instantly, four are caught. All are of three different kinds but one is a native of this river while the rest are introduced species. I forgot about the crabs caught by Epang and we had just finished lunch. That goes too with the caught fish.

Maybe, if we have time later we could cook it but I need to explore the river, especially upstream, where the big boulders enthrall me so much. I truly believe that my Basque grandfather, or possibly my own father at that, had taken bath on this same river 68 or so years ago. And I truly believe also that this is the same river I crossed some 19 years back.

Since I forgot to bring a pair of flip-flops, I decide to walk upstream with my own naked feet. Jhurds, Fulbert, Nyor and Dom came with me. I elect to take my chances walking and leaping among boulders and dry than fording the stream at its narrowest points and getting wet and, possibly, sliced by broken glass. The rock surface are hot and my soles could not stand the torture so I stop to cool down on grassy grounds.

Up ahead is a round rock called Malingin by the locals and I marvel at the sculpture done by nature. However, another attraction is waiting for me upstream. It took me some effort to reach the “Arko nga Bato” (English: Stone Ark), a huge rock snugly sitting on four points, looking as if it is a boat vomitted by the sea on a shore after a storm. How it got there, beats me.

Jhurds, Fulbert, Nyor and Dom are also exploring for stones. They found a square piece of shale and tested it with a blade which elicit a positive result. Since they are walking and crossing on the river itself, they are wet up to their knees. They decide to take a bath at the part where it is belly-deep and where the water run in turbulent currents like a jacuzzi. I join them when I thought that today is the Feast of Saint John.

We return to base when we have enough of the river and generous doses of boisterous laughs, loud enough to cause an avalanche of big rocks poised above the river. The going is not that demanding upon my feet as the sun start to slide on the horizon. The guys who were left behind have prepared their things inside their bags but they were expecting something out of our coming.

Sure enough, I retrieve pieces of dried bamboos and start cutting it down as friction tools. While I am at it, Fulbert takes time to teach Marc two basic knife-fighting techniques along the bank of Cotcot River. These are simple styles that could easily be remembered and perfected once you start on the groove.

I start the process of making fire with the bamboos but could only elicit smoke but never an ember. When I failed that for several times, Aljew and Fulbert take on the fight. It is a half hour of rubbing bamboo against one bamboo and the riverside camp reeked of burnt smell and wisps of smoke but, just like me, both failed to produce fire.

Nevertheless, we are just one step short and we could do that on another hot day, perhaps , but we have to leave as long shadows begin to appear on the hill sides. After cleaning our day camp, we pack our things and then return to the path where we came down some hours ago.

We reach the main village of Mulao after an exhausting uphill walk. We refresh ourselves with cold soda drinks before going back to the highway and the house which had provided us palm civet coffees early in the morning. Waiting for us is a Styrofoam box full of cold San Miguel Pale Pilsen with blocks of ice that have thawed and giving off cold vapor.

We take supper first with skewered chicken and fried shrimps which all help with several servings for themselves and then the cold beer are slowly getting decimated. Conversations and banter take off and come on from all angles as the juice of good camaraderie take its good course.

In the middle of it all, Aljew drag two boxes of his blade collections and the crowd begin its silent mode as the eyes begin to take their fill of the spectacle. Each hand seized every blade and sized the length, the texture, the balance and the edge and, I gotta say that all are superb blades which have no equal yet from our own. There are kukris, trackers, machetes, tantos, fighting knives, utility blades and some of the rarest folders I have ever seen.

The joyous company take on almost the whole night, the heavy rain preventing us from leaving early until it die down. We leave for Mandaue City at around 10:30 PM only to get snagged by floods and rain runoffs on the streets. We have to change PUJs when the one we rode first conked “midstream” and we have to wade to transfer to another amphibious-looking PUJ. I reach home carrying packs of rosquillos for the wifey and I see pouting lips curling into a smile.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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