Sunday, October 6, 2013


I CAME EARLY TODAY to send off the advance party for Camp Damazo. It is around 6:00 AM, June 10, 2013 and, six hours from now, the third Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp will commence. I am at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish waiting for the advance guard.

One by one, they came: Jhurds Neo, Fulbert Navarro, Glenn Pestaño, Ernie Salomon and Boy Olmedo. All are products of PIBC 2011 and PIBC 2012 and they volunteered as camp staff and lecturers. Their bags are heavy and will be heavier still when the meat, the rice, the milled corn, the butane cans and other food ingredients will be added. All are members of Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild except Boy who is with CEMS.

All leave at 9:00 AM when the first trickle of the earliest participants arrive. Marc Josef Lim of the group from Liloan came early and is formally introduced to the group. Mayo Leo Carillo (PIBC 2012), passed by for work to drop a load of ten (10) whistle-paracord bracelets as a parting gift for the new participants on the last day - June 12.

The rest of the participants came and they are Ric Caliolio (Filipino Survivalists) and Ariel Cercado (Adamson University Mountaineers) - both from Metro Manila; Yuri Postrero (COAT); Chad Bacolod and Johnas Obina (ECO/MCAP); Jamiz Combista (Bisdak Survivalist); Aljew Frasco, Warren Señido, Allan Aguipo and Christopher Maru - all of Liloan; Anthony Espinosa and Aaron Binoya (OH); Jack Janson of the Bureau of Fire Protection; and Camp Red applicants Patrick Henry Calzada and Antonette Bautista.

Eli Bryn Tambiga (2012) and JB Albano (2012) – both registered nurses - will be my assistants when we will do the discovery hike from the trailhead to the campsite. Conar Ortiz (2012) also went along. As planned, a bus from Barangay Guadalupe arrive to shuttle us to the jump-off area at Baksan and we leave at exactly 12:00 noon. It was a slow ride but, nevertheless, we reached our destination.

This blogger start the on-site briefing and introduced JB and Eli Bryn to the sixteen participants. Eli Bryn shall walk the rear with his camera and JB will control the pace in the middle while I will guide the party. I assure all that my pace will be controlled and slow and I advise everyone to stretch muscles first before taking the trail after me to prevent injuries.

The trailhead is located at Baksan and the teak trees are healthy and blooming after many days of rain. It is supposed to be a rainy day as forecast by a government meteorological agency. The report stated that a Low Pressure Area will enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility today with a low of 23ºC and a high of 29ºC but the sky is sunny with passing clouds to give us perfect weather.

The ground is wet but it is not slippery especially when we proceed to the first stream after negotiating a steep slope. Those that are not sure of their footing provided themselves with wooden staff which are abundant along the trail. The stream is full and robust although water have risen high last night as seen from the traces of mud and silt along river banks.

Ahead would be the old campsite. Although a good site, it could not accommodate anymore the increasing number of people joining the PIBC. We pass by it and follow Lensa Trail to the next stream. We all take a brief rest here. I prepared three water holes if ever our water needs from our water source near camp is inadequate.

Above the stream, I cut a single pole of a water bamboo (Local: butong) with my 3-5/8” long William Rodgers spear-point knife and cut it some more and divide it to two poles with three segments each. Two people volunteered to carry one pole each so I can carry a slender bamboo pole which I stashed last May 5 for use as my shelter ridge on the first and second day and as a flag pole on the third.

From the same stream we climb up towards a ridge and, from there, it was easy ascent. The long line of people were not bothered by the rattan palms growing along the trail to the campsite. Along the way, I point to the party the designated latrines and the “gate” of Camp Damazo. These are two stout trunks – still standing - of what used to be living trees growing alongside each other and would serve as posts if there indeed was a gate.

Upon the portal of Camp Damazo, I welcomed all the sixteen participants to pass through and choose their own sleeping quarters. The allocation of tent space would have been the job of Randell Savior, he being the Camp Ramrod, but he could not make it in time but will attend his duties once he arrive in late afternoon. I have foreseen this, so I instructed the advance party to set aside the choice spots for the participants, which they did, including the smoke screens to ward off mosquitoes and other insects.

Just when I found my own sleeping spot, rain fell but not heavy although the rest have already set up theirs. Most of the small fires prepared by Glenn and Fulbert were snuffed out except one where it would become the center of camp life. It actually sit on the old campfire site underneath a Moluccan ironwood tree (Local name: ipil) and is a perfect spot to gather people around it. Nearby is a stinging tree (Local name: alingatong) which everyone evade with dread.

I set up my simple shelter when the rain stopped. It is almost on the same spot as last year and employing the same system and material. A cheap tarpaulin is tied at the four ends with a cord to the ground, the ridge is a slender bamboo (instead of a rope) that I carried up from the stream. I use a recycled tarpaulin banner as my ground sheet and nothing else. My Apexus fly sheet will instead be used for the campsite galley.

Over where my head is located – which is north – I pierced three sticks eight inches to each other on the ground and tied two more sticks horizontally on these. From these two sticks, I tied broad palm leaves with thin vines to prevent draft from getting in. My shelter will shield me from rain but not from mosquitoes. The campsite location is on higher ground but it is shielded by a thick forest and would protect us from strong winds.

Randell arrived and is in a quandary of where to place his hammock and tarp as the places where vegetation is cleared are now used up. Nevertheless, he improvised by tying his hammock underneath another. Ernie cooked a good supper of a steaming local pasta with soup for the hungry people on the campsite which now total twenty-five!

Around the campfire, a 750ml bottle of Tanduay Rum slipped in silently and make its presence felt when a glass made its round on the half circle of outdoorsmen braving the few drops of rain that got tangled by leaves overhead. A yarn ensued when the strong liquid touched the lips of Fulbert. The night rang out with unending echoes of laughter goaded by rum, drank straight without ice or chaser.

Unfortunately, Glenn could not join this jolly commotion as he is tent-bound by flashes of hypertension which JB and Eli Bryn are quick to administer normal medications. Johnas too needed some care as his back lay on a spiny caterpillar causing skin to inflame and swell. A cream of Caladryl was applied to soothe the inflammation.

When the bottle that supplied this ruckus ran out its course, the night claimed its silence. It is about 10:00 PM when I gaze at my shelter and an inviting space bade me in. There will be a night watch and two people will do the honors of watching over the campfire and the campsite every hour. I will have my watch at 4:00 AM and so an early rest seem fitting.

I slip on my bonnet and my long-sleeved Umbro shirt when I hear the unmistakable hum of mosquitoes. I keep my Rohan pants and shoes on to protect me from them and from cold. As assurance against them mosquitoes, I spray myself with citronella. The smoke from the fire is too far away to be of much efficacy in protecting me. Then I cover myself with my sniper meshclothe.

My consciousness would have dipped to the sleepy realm when an army of these danged mosquitoes blast their danged humming upon my ears. Besides that, they crawled and pricked all over my clothes and everything were strip of skin is bared. It practically ignored my shield of citronella and made my night a horror. I tossed and rolled in my cramped space and I gave up at around 3:00 AM and joined the watch of Eli Bryn and Conar. However, a cup of coffee soothed my nerves and kept me awake beyond my watch hours.

Light came on the second day, June 11. I visit the camp galley and Ernie is up doing his thing with the stoves, the pans and the fire. I thought I heard a rooster crowing nearby and that is strange. I decide to follow the sound and it goes into an unexplored trail which I will reserve for a future activity. I come nearer and I notice that not only I hear a rooster crow but I also hear a coo-coo of a hen.

The sound becomes mechanical-like without the unmistakable flapping of wings which a rooster would execute before crowing. I stop in my tracks and I remembered that pythons imitate sounds of their prey. Fully-grown pythons are intelligent reptiles and they are active since new moon was observed last June 8. The unfamiliar track I followed becomes forked. The upper one, I believe, will link to a road and the lower one, I also believe, to a stream.

Breakfast served were pork adobo and mung bean soup. After this, the lecture will start. I opened the PIBC proper and pass on to Fulbert and Conar, assisted by Jack, the lectures about the chapter on Basic Knot Tying. This took on the whole morning as it also touched on abseiling a slope using an improvised harness and the much more technical single-rope technique using prussic knots.

Lunch was supposed to be served after that but I explained to all participants that, to feel about the hunger pangs of survival, all will have to fast until dusk after which I lectured them the chapter about Introduction to Bushcraft and Survival. It is a long chapter where I have to explain the psychology of survival; the survivor’s relation to his environment and his own sense of morality when in that situation; the difference of bushcraft as against survival; and the possible repercussions when surviving a disaster.

After that, I touched on the chapter about Basic Survival Tool-Making and showed them the simple but useful tools that you could manufacture from nature. To give myself a break, Glenn came next with his chapter about Everyday Carry or EDC. EDC is so important to one who is into bushcraft and survival that, without it, is like a cowboy without his hat and Glenn is the best person to explain this since his arsenal of EDC items are very impressive and the envy of everyone.

When Glenn finished his, I proceed on to the next chapter about Basic Knife Care and Safety. I tackled on the only law governing the carrying of knives in this country and its amended version so everyone will understand their rights and their responsibility; how to travel with it safely – with a sheath or without; proper knife ethics; sharpening methods; and how to give your best smile when passing through police checkpoints and security screens.

Following on is the chapter of Basic Foraging. This is one of the most important part of bushcraft and survival for this is the means by which you could sustain your existence. It teaches you to collect some items that will be useful for you and it instructs you when and where to hunt food. This chapter will complement all the other chapters because, without this, your tools and your fires will not materialize.

Basic Firecraft is the most popular chapter since this is where true survival is based upon. But I destroyed that notion that anything is possible with friction tools and firesteel when you could not even start a fire with a matchstick. I emphasize more on the kinds of tinder and the proper preparation of combustible material. I demonstrated the most efficient forms of friction tools: the bamboo saw and the bow drill.

The last chapter closed on Basic Outdoor Cooking where the bamboo I foraged from the stream becomes the cooking pot. I taught the participants the technique in creating one and the proper cutting angles. Rice was cooked afterward when Johnas and Ariel tried my technique in opening bamboos.

Gladly, the lecture ended early at around 3:30 PM and a lot of daylight hours left for personal conveniences. Obviously, they were all hungry and tormented by uncomfortable sleep, inconvenienced of spartan living conditions and made to stay awake for the lectures. They have had enough of the day and of yesterday’s hike and I signalled to Ernie to serve the very late lunch at 4:00 PM. Food prepared are braised pork and dried fish cooked in oil.

After the meal, everyone re-adjusted their respective fly sheets, ground sheets and hammocks to improve their rest later on. Marc carve a spoon and a fork with a piece of green bamboo while Johnas constructed a bamboo amplifier which he copied from Facebook. Dominic Sepe arrived together with my guests, Maria Iza Mahinay and Bernard Bodiao of MCAP. Both climbers just came from a Mount Canlaon climb and both decide to stay at Camp Damazo.

In a few hours, a nocturnal hunting activity will proceed and it would be a good idea if I do a recon on the stream which I have not seen before. When 7:00 PM came, I called everyone’s attention and divide it into two groups. Randell will lead one group to hunt for tree snails (Local: taklong, takdong or korakol) around the campsite while I will lead another to hunt for fresh-water crabs (Local: piyu) at a stream.

When I arrive, the river is teeming with crabs. With LED torches it is easy picking provided you know how to grab it from the water. Much as I would have liked a good hunt, I advised my group to take just enough for dinner and leave the smaller ones alone before we go back to camp. The fruits of our hunt will be our dinner which Ernie will prepare on his own special way.

It was served in the middle of a circle by a campfire on banana leaves. The snails were boiled first, shell and entrails separated from the meat, before being fried; while the crabs were boiled, sauteed and then cooked in coconut milk. I help them find their food in the dark with my LED torch and there was a great “boodle fight”. Such were the satisfaction felt by everyone knowing that they have tasted the fruits of their labor.

The campfire yarns and storytelling started after the meal and this night’s affair is much lively and more animated than last night’s as three 750ml bottles of Tanduay and a half liter of Royal Crown Whisky supplied the fuel. My sleepiness have gone for a while but I know it will come back to me when this din will have died down. I do claim my sleep at 2:00 AM when the campfire circle became silent and abandoned. This time, I sleep beside the fire, the smoke protecting me, at last, from those pesky mosquitoes.

I wake up on the early morning of June 12, the last day of the PIBC. While Ernie is doing his thing, I start the blade porn which is a valued tradition in bushcraft. Branded knives lay side-by-side with native blades, tomahawks and spin-offs. Multi-tool sets claim their spaces by baring all their teeth while a number of SAK folders lay subdued with only one function sticking out. An odd item – an improvised blowgun – joined the pageantry.

Then comes breakfast: Eggs – sunny side up – plus last night’s braised pork. When all have recovered their appetite, the Philippine Independence Day rites start with invocation by Fulbert. The singing of the National Anthem (Lupang Hinirang) follow through the beat of the hand of Maria Iza while the Oath of Allegiance (Panatang Makabayan) is recited by Glenn and repeated by all, line by line.

Breaking of camp ensue at 9:30 AM and all make a long beeline to another discovery hike towards Baksan Road led by Fulbert while Randell, JB and Dominic stay behind to dispose trash that have not been carried along. At 10:00 AM, we all hike down the direction of Lanipao Rainforest Resort where we will stay for the rest of the day for relaxation and to cleanse ourselves in its spring-fed pools.

Noontime came and chicken sinigang soup is served. Afterward, the distribution of the PIBC certificates are carried on and, later, freebies of stickers, courtesy of Camp Red and Warrior Pilgrimage, are given. Then Mayo’s whistle-paracord bracelets are drawn to lucky recipients as well as ferro rods, paracord bracelets and an empty Altoid can courtesy of Glenn.

We leave Lanipao for Napo at 4:00 PM and the bus that took us to the Baksan trailhead two days ago returned to pick us up as agreed. We were all ferried and dropped at Camp Red’s favorite watering hole, the Red Hours Convenience Store, and swapped stories and goodies until it is time to go. It was another PIBC worthy of telling and re-telling for next year and the succeeding years after it.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
Some photos courtesy of Eli Bryn Tambiga and Anthony Espinosa

1 comment:

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