Sunday, November 24, 2013

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXIII: Wilderness Emergency Preparedness

OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN outdoor skills are very rare here in the Philippines, much more so in Cebu, as these are confined to alternative schools of learning, which are very expensive, and from the military, if you happen to be one. Free learning are even rarer. If you are a protege of a good teacher or a descendant of one then you are assured. If not, there is You Tube and other do-good websites. However, there are some individuals who share their time and knowledge without monetary considerations.

I teach a lot of people and I am not alone when it comes to sharing. We all know that the very respectable and very capable Dr. Ted Esguerra of the Philippine Everest Expedition Team had been making the rounds in Metro Manila and Luzon teaching emergency preparedness and wilderness first aid almost gratis and how everyone in Cebu would wish that Everest Doc would come down here and share his knowledge to us.

Much as we would like it, there is another one though that could do that part and he is a true-blue Cebuano; a native son of Mandaue carrying an illustrious surname that is connected with that city. He is no other than Shio Cortes. A trained paramedic with more than twenty years of experience. He honed his skills early when he was with the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF) and expanded it even more during his tenure with the Central Visayas Search and Rescue (CEVSAR).

He went as far as Guinsaugon, St. Bernard, Leyte with his team of paramedics and conducted countless rescue and retrieval operations elsewhere in the Visayas. Presently he is contracted by the United Nations for water search, rescue and retrieval work and trainings at the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have met him once during Camp Red’s EDC Parley in January after showing interest in what we do: Bushcraft and Survival.

Today, July 13, 2013, Shio will teach a free class on Wilderness Emergency Preparedness to fellow Cebuanos. Since it is an outdoors-oriented activity, I arranged it be held at the Roble homestead in Sapangdaku, Cebu City. It is a perfect venue since there is a good clearing with a number of bamboo benches under shady areas. Mango trees growing there could be utilized for ropeworks demo like single-rope technique.

All meet at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at 7:00 AM. When we think that we have a lot of interested participants, we move out for Napo on board three vehicles each driven by Xerxes Alcordo, Ramon Corro and Aljew Frasco. A total of twenty-seven people came aside from Mr. Cortes and this blogger. We walk trails, cross streams and climb steep ground until all arrive safely at the Roble homestead.

We choose a shady place underneath a mango tree with bamboo benches. All participants take their spots and make themselves comfortable as possible. After a short introduction and prayer, Mr. Cortes started the outdoors seminar through the discussion of personal safety, the proper skills, adequate knowledge, appropriate attitude and equipment reliability.

He remind everyone that the responder must utilize whatever material and supply on hand depending on common sense and practicing this at home will increase your preparation should you encounter one outdoors. Legally, a rescuer is always liable and should never take unnecessary risks or perform any medical procedures unless it is absolutely necessary.

He goes on to the next chapter which is the Primary Assessment and Survey. It is summarized as the 3 ABCs of Emergency where:

    A is Assess (scene assessment), Airway (ensure an open airway) and Alertness;
    B is Barriers (gloves and masks), Breathing (check breathing) and Bleeding; and
    C is CPR, Cervical Spine (immobilize) and Cover (maintain temperature).

This is followed by the Secondary Assessment and Survey and it may commence once the rescuer sees no immediate life-threatening problems beginning with a Head-to-Toe Examination to look for signs of swelling, deformities and pain. Then check SAMPLE which is an acronym for Signs and Symptoms; Allergies; Medications; Pre-Existing Medical History; Last Meal Eaten; and Events. Then assign a Team Leader for an effective Emergency Management.

Mr. Cortes went on to remind all that the feeling of being in the outdoors is a trend which is something new to venture and, therefore, a very dangerous idea. Some find a peer’s story and experience very compelling and lures them to try the outdoors in an instant without preparing themselves. Most outdoor accidents happen because of poor judgment. People often forget what nature can do to them and fail to anticipate how things can really go wrong out there in the wild. Obtaining proper training, however, ensure an individual’s success.

As part of preparation, you should have a survival kit with you. Some maintain an EDC Kit or a Bug-out Bag and it should fit to the individual’s requirement according to the kind of journey or the type of environment he or she intends to venture out. Adding a personal utility rope, a personal Prussik set, extra carabiners and a hasty utility strap would increase functionality and flexibility.

Since ropes will soon become part of your kit, it is best that you are knowledgeable about basic knots. These come in either as stopper knots (overhand, figure-of-8); loop knots (bowline, double figure-of-8); load knots (Prussik, timber hitch, munter hitch, Kleimheist); and splice knots (square, sheet bend). For emergency harnesses, you may have three options to choose: Hasty pelvic diaper, Hasty chest harness and the Swiss seat.

After lunchtime, the lecture proceed on to Self Rescue Skills. It is a very technical discussion that allows proper presence of mind in relation to the angle of the cliff and the load tension of the rope. Under such circumstances, self-belay techniques are confined to the Dulfersitz technique, which require a low to medium angle of not less than 45 degrees; the carabiner rappel; the munter hitch set up; and the rope wrap. Also, Prussik friction hitches are used in Single Rope Climbing or Rapid Haul.

The last part of the lecture is Patient Packaging. Everyone is reminded that the patient should be kept as comfortable as possible as he or she may be still in a state of shock and quite disoriented. The patient’s body temperature should be preserved and there should be few disturbance or movement on the affected part.

For that matter, there are, at least, three ways to carry a patient. First is the Buddy Rescue which could be done either in Man Under Technique or Utility Backpack Technique. Then there is the Hasty Harness Technique which are appropriate with either the Hasty Harness Belay Set Up (for lowering and raising) or the Hasty Harness Drag. Then last is the Improvised Litters and Stretchers. This could be done with apparel or equipment makeshifts, tarpaulins or ground sheets and with the Daisy-Chain Package.

In all the discussions, Mr. Cortes was able to explain to the participants about Wilderness Emergency Preparedness with such versatility and authority and have unselfishly used his experience and his equipment, particularly his supply of sanitized medical apparatus, for that matter. This blog, being one of the organizers, together with Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, appreciates very much for the time that Mr. Cortes had given to his fellow outdoorsmen and, for that, we are quite indebted.

Special thanks to Maria Iza Mahinay for becoming a willing “patient” and getting wrapped up and packaged. Another thank you each to Mr. Alcordo, Mr. Corro and Mr. Frasco for providing vehicles for this activity. Lastly, our thank yous to the Roble family for generously giving us the space to conduct our lectures, firewood for our cooking and the green coconuts which made the place a natural resting area of local and foreign backpackers.

This outdoors lesson has equipped the participants the needed knowledge to make all their outdoors activity a much safer endeavor. I may someday meet some of them along the trail and that would make me feel secure knowing they are around.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013


THE INTENSITY OF DISASTERS that have hit the Philippines had never been so alarmingly high and threatening. Unexpected heavy rains produced so much damage to property and agriculture and caused unnecessary loss of lives. Areas which had never before been inundated by these natural onslaughts are now part of the swath of destruction that had, in the past, affected our eastern seaboard only. Weather patterns are now very unpredictable, all because of this climate change.

Our usual response are reactive. We mobilize only during and after a disaster. For that matter, it is too late and too little. National emergency response teams and volunteer organizations are stretched to the limit offering what is available and where it is most accessible. There are only a few dedicated teams on stand-by and most of these are located only in Metro Manila and the rest of the country are left to fend for themselves. When that happens, the government are forced to spend more.

In order to preempt such daunting challenges, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs (J9), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) decided to formulate a program that will organize, train and integrate Disaster Risk and Reduction Management (DRRM) Companies into the AFP Reserve Force. One of its objectives is to put up 137 DRRM Companies in three years (2013-2016) in all fifteen regions nationwide.

It will be proactive and that will be its primary function since it will be an on-site unit which will spearhead Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation that will work closely with Local Government Units (LGU) and the local populace. When called upon during disasters and calamities, it will be a reliable First Responder Group. As such, these units will become the AFP’s force multipliers to assist the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and their respective LGUs in their DRRM Operations and Programs.

Last October 12, 2013, this blogger was invited by CPT JOSE GOCHANGCO, JAGS (Res) to attend a DRRM Bayanihan Forum which was hosted by the 5th Technical and Administrative Brigade - Visayas (Reserve), AFP Central Command at the Sacred Heart Center in Cebu City. I represent the mountain-outdoors sector and my club – Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Aside mine, other sectors were represented like the medical and legal professions, the Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), the Air Force rescue unit (505 SAR), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), volunteer rescue groups, the Army reservists (RCDU) and representatives of LGUs from the Western Visayas Region.

Guest of honor and speaker is MAJ GEN MARLOU SALAZAR AFP, DCS J9. He is the brains behind this program and he gave a presentation of how this will work out. He wanted Cebu to be the first in the Visayas and Mindanao to organize a DRRM Company and another Civil Medical Operations (CMO) Company as they just did recently in Metro Manila. I rose to the challenge by concurring with Jack Janson, the Training Director of the Central Visayas Search and Rescue Unit (CEVSAR), to organize a DRRM Company amongst ourselves.

Part of the package in organizing a DRRM/CMO Company is that each member will have the option to become an AFP Reservist – a citizen soldier – and a chance to be commissioned in the reserve force if ever he/she complies with certain requirements set by J9, AFP. A member can then avail of a series of cross-trainings like Health and Emergency Management (Dept. of Health), Water SAR (Navy/Coast Guard), Collapsed Building SAR (BFP), Air Deployment SAR (Air Force), Hazard Area Mapping (Dept. of Energy and Natural Resources), Mountain and Difficult Area Operations (Army) and the Incident Command System.

Although a DRRM/CMO Company source their own equipment and materials by themselves or through donors, the OCD and the LGU will provide travel and mittimus expenses to and fro the affected areas. These companies, by purpose, are purely voluntary and it will not be taken against an individual should he/she decide not to go on a deployment. By being “territorial”, deployment time will be swift and would not have to go a long bureaucratic process by which the old system works.

I have committed myself and Camp Red to form a company among other outdoors enthusiasts together with CEVSAR. Dominic Sepe and Eli Bryn Tambiga, also of Camp Red, attended this occasion and will be the first of the personnel, together with Jack of CEVSAR, to compose one of the many DRRM/CMO companies for Cebu. I am eyeing to hook up with the PCGA, the BFP and ham radio clubs. Before this forum had been conceptualized, I had already initiated the training/seminar of Camp Red and other outdoors groups about wilderness emergency preparedness, acute mountain sickness, ham radio operations, land navigation, primitive-living skills, stamina build-up, etc.

It is about time that we all work together to prepare for and mitigate risks concerning disasters before it is too late to act. The ugly presence of climate change is real and it had distorted greatly our weather patterns and the volume of rainfall. Nature’s wrath is an act of Providence and there is nothing we can do about it but we could adapt and improvise and make something out of that. We have to reformat our way of thinking and the programs presented during the DRRM Bayanihan Forum are solutions worthy of trying.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


WHEN A TOUR AGENCY took interest of what I do in the mountains here, I immediately refer them to William “Jungle Wil” Rhys-Davies, my partner at Snakehawk Wilderness Skills School. He is my marketing director and I am just the lowly mechanic. I just do the dirty stuff, the down-to-the-knee work; while he, does the finesse side of things. Go ask him if he still has business cards left.

Seriously, the Cebu Trip Tours wanted to expand their tours through Cebu’s backwoods and the idea of a peep into a survival activity by their clients would do well with their business. Jun Barretto, the owner, gave me a call one day and we met and he explained to me the details of what he has in his mind. I promised him I would look into it and I nudge Jungle Wil right away to arrange anything they want to know of what we could offer.

That done, we set July 6, 2013 as the date to test this backwoods tour in the Buhisan Watershed Area near where the dam is located. The Buhisan is the perfect place to do this as it is a thickly wooded area with beautiful trails shaded by a forest of mahogany trees. It is a day activity and, if we are lucky, we might find a rare bamboo thicket, harvest a pole and then cook rice and vegetable stew in it. That if we are lucky.

Through my recommendation which Jungle Wil liked and which Jun appreciated very much, he arranged that all his staff join and experience the “Discovery Tour” which I just designed in the back of my head. Anything could happen, give or take a few or all of the items on the itinerary but it does not matter to Jungle Wil and me as we are flexible enough to put aces on the table where there are none.

Truth to say, we have more than sixty years of outdoors experience between us and this experimental day tour is one of those times where our creativeness pops out like second nature. Although I have been to the Buhisan a lot of times, this is the tamer side which I do not visit often. Sure, there are trails but which one to take and I need to know who is with me so I could assess what measure of difficulty that I could force out of their sweat glands.

It is always second nature, my friend. So we got Jun and his wife, their nine staff – all ladies – and their lone driver. Jungle Wil also invited Paul Thomas, a native English speaker and instructor, to study the viability of teaching English to his clients in an outdoor setting. Last, but not the least, JR Serviano of Silangan Outdoor Equipment sent his representative to give a demo of their products.

Silangan Outdoor Equipment, by the way, is one of Snakehawk Wilderness’ valued partners. It is a wholly Filipino-owned company that manufactures high-quality but quite affordable tents, sleeping bags, rain jackets, fly sheets, hammocks and other outdoor accessories while giving employment to local sewers. Aside that, they are now into outdoor wear where a prototype hiking shorts is now under the crucible of tests by Jungle Wil.

Cebu Trip Tours provided one their own fleet of 10-seater vans from their office at the Persimmon at Mabolo to the Buhisan. We all arrive at 9:00 AM after a visit to the market in Labangon in between. I start the tour by giving the history of the Buhisan Dam and what were the kind of trees planted here to support the watershed.

Along the trail, I give the names of the most common trees growing here (mahogany, teak and arbor); the types of plant to evade (rattan and the stinging tree); and the invisible but very audible avian presence (kingfisher, bankiyod, tamsi and the wild fowl). Everyone is encouraged to take pictures of anything to foster their knowledge.

During rest stops, Jungle Wil would take over and talk about outdoors safety and wilderness emergency preparedness; the need to rehydrate regularly; proper clothing; the important tools and gears; and how to process information useful to an outdoors activity. On another setting, Jungle Wil digest the fine points of selecting a good campsite and choosing a good spot for a campfire.

I take them to a deep part of the forest where the trail vanish. Too few people visit this place since it is choked with spiny rattan vines. However, keen observation point me to a path which cannot be read by an untrained eye and I see a trace of where a hunter had stayed last night. A logical spot since across, divided by a stream, is a place where there is a wild rooster crowing.

We all returned to where we had started and it is already 11:00 AM. I retrieve all the food ingredients from the van and start preparing the meal. I cook milled corn and rice on separate pots and another pot for chicken sinigang. JR’s man help me with fetching the water and, later, the cooking of pork meat on glowing charcoal. Since Jungle Wil is busy with the group, I cooked his meal which is a stew of chopped carrots, radish and garlic; sliced tomatoes and cabbage leaves; and seasoned by onions and garlic in an Army canteen cup.

While I am doing my thing with the stoves and pots, Jungle Wil gets the group busy by engaging them in classic team building and group dynamic activities. I snatch a quick look when I can and it was fun. When everyone settled down, Jungle Wil demonstrated how to construct a simple shelter by installing a Silangan hammock between two trees underneath a fly sheet. Lunch is served at 1:30 PM and it was an excellent meal that gets two or three servings by some.

Sadly, a grove of bamboo on this side of the Buhisan is very rare. There are only a very few places where it grow here but those are on the wildest side which is a bit far. I was not able to give them a demo about how to cook something in a bamboo pot but I give them something to keep busy: Making fire by friction on two mature pieces of bamboo which I prepared and brought for this occasion.

It is hard work even when it smoked so thick yet the magic was not there. Even when the width of an inch-wide bamboo was reduced to a half-inch. Even when the face of one bamboo was littered with blackened troughs from left to right. Even when the tinder was showered with minute embers. Even when the main bamboo split apart to the sheer weight of the force it received.

It was fun and Jun and his staff at Cebu Trip Tours now have an idea how to make their backwoods tour a reality. I promised them more places to discover and put it to good use; more quality outdoor seminars; and a chance to bring clients where none had done before.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

MAN-SIZED HIKE IX: Sinsin to Guadalupe

I HAVE CROSSED CEBU on this route five times. Today, June 30, 2013, I aim for my sixth. This formidable stretch of rugged terrain saps my strength, tenderizes my foot soles, numbs my knees and exposes my being to a thousand and one worries in 12 hours of walk. Today is no different than the previous hikes here except that another Low Pressure Area is threatening this activity. I have seen worse and I am ready for any rain or heavy rain.

I could not say no to people who have been fascinated of my unusual activities, particularly this route, which is really Segment 1-A of my Cebu Highlands Trail Project. Yes, Pedro, this is requested by popular demand! I have counted nineteen people, aside me, “going” to this event in Facebook and 26 others who are “maybe” going. I really do not trust that application but, I have a gut feeling that there will be many compared from the last time. 

That last time was last March 24, 2013 and there were fourteen others going with me. That last time took the zest out of me for I surrendered to the demands of pain and graciously accepted the easy walk on the last stretch down to the Sapangdaku Spillway. I hate walking on roads but I ran out of options as I struggled with my painful feet soles in darkness. I begin to question my steely resolve but it is better that I keep that to myself at that time.

There is one lesson learned when I travel from Cebu City to Lutopan: The bus waste a lot of precious time from my itinerary by silly-dragging itself on the highway from the bus terminal to the corner of the Uling Road! Another lesson is also learned: Motorcycle operators taking you from Lutopan to the jump-off point in Camp 7 charge you than what others pay because you are not from their locality and they enjoy that all the time. Dickheads!

Today, I modified the itinerary. I will take a public jitney instead from Cebu City to Tabunok and, from there, ride another jitney for Camp 7. I not only shortened the time of travel but I have also ensured that those motorcycles-for-hire in Lutopan do not get a single centavo from my party - never again! - and I am now beginning to see the full truth of my schedules.

We leave from Citilink at 5:00 AM with most of the early risers to Tabunok to meet the earliest of the birds there: Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and Ramon Corro. These three are old guys and what I like about old guys is they stick to schedules with an hour to spare. We arrive at the old market after thirty minutes and meet the advance party. Everything seems to be alright except the vacuum felt in our tummy. We looked for breakfast and settled at Andok’s.

By now, Silver Cueva, Randell Savior, Patrick Henry Calzada, Antonette Bautista, Dominic Sepe, Maria Iza Mahinay and JB Albano joined our numbers. Aside from Boy T, Ernie and Ramon, those that waited at Citilink and commuted with me to Tabunok were Boy Olmedo, Neil Mabini, Nyor Pino, Jingaling Campomanes, Eli Bryn Tambiga, Jamiz Combista, Kulas Damaso, Mayo Leo Carillo and Bogs Belga. That is a lot of people – twenty – including me.

What have I done? Yes, this is a recreational activity but I got some reservations on the physical conditioning of some goers and I worry that the long line of twenty people will be stretched longer once the enthusiasm loses its sheen before we even reach the halfway point. By that time, it will be steep, hard and, sooner, dark.

We ride on a very roomy public utility jitney which was originally destined to leave at 1:00 PM. The PUJ leave its piece of road at 8:00 AM by virtue of our sizable number and a chance to return to its original place and time with which once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity the driver could not refuse. The PUJ looks like a bus and it looked like some kind of bus that ply the roads of the ‘80s. It maneuvered well the narrow stretches of the Manipis Road which it is famous for and reach the Sinsin Junction.

It did not rain despite the ominous presence of rain clouds and I am pleased to brief all the hikers on the jump-off site. We hit the route at exactly 8:45 AM, already delayed by thirty minutes which, I know, I could overcome easily and tweak my itinerary by test of speed that I could pursue once we reach Odlom and by a very favorable weather. I am very pleased indeed.

Once I reach the river bank, the water have not risen high nor it is of turbid brown. A smile crossed my face that the previous day’s rain have not moved the Bonbon River a bit. The water is cool once I set a dry shoe below the surface but it never gets past my knee even along troughs. Satisfied with what I wished for, I set on downstream, unmindful of two Air Force Huey birds hovering above us.

We reach the place where we used to do our noontime meals at 10:00 AM and I am just too early there or I am just too damn fast. Nevertheless, it is a good place stocked with piped spring water for cooking and washing and I decide we prepare a meal for lunch. Early lunch, I mean. Everyone then retrieve their stoves and cook pots and the food ingredients which we distributed for everybody.

Milled corn and rice were cooked along with chicken sinigang, pork adobao and raw cucumber which Ernie expertly prepared. When the pots are emptied and scrubbed and the stoves are folded back inside their cases, it is time to finish the business of crossing rivers again which the Bonbon will relinquish to the Mananga River downstream of us. It is 12:00 noon and I am ahead of schedule and I feel good.

It did not take that long when I reach Camp 4 at 1:30 PM where the trailhead to the Cabatbatan Trail is located and where the halfway point of our journey starts. Yes, this is the last half but this is also the most demanding stretch. The path to Cabatbatan is intimidating and unrelenting; a string of steps up a steep slope of the southernmost part of the Babag Mountain Range. It is best to remove water from your shoes and socks before assaulting.

As expected, the line stretched and the other half of my party arrived fifteen minutes later. At 2:00 PM, we start the assault. My feet soles which were immersed earlier in water for hours and stepped on too many pebbles and uneven ground along the river bed and banks begin to scream as it step on even the slightest protrusion of ground along that unforgiving stretch of upward walk.

My eyes blinked and my resolve is again tested but I dismissed all the uncomforts that begin to steal my attention. I control my pace to accommodate the untested ones and knowing full well that I also gave myself a good reprieve. The pain disappear when I do that but when I push myself hard, its as if I am in a grinding machine. Better go slow but I have an appointment to catch up and that is the 7:30 PM ETA at Guadalupe.

It is this stretch where the chaff is separated from the grain. The group is torn in half: The fittest eleven behind me and the weaker eight farther away! But, the good thing is, a small store is found at the end of this trail and this is the only place where you could reward yourself with a cold drink and replenish well-used electrolytes.

I reach the store in 45 minutes and the storefront becomes a beehive of activity. Softdrink bottles were quickly emptied and another set of just-opened ones are tilted bottoms up. I opt for a big bottle of cold pale pilsen and shared it with Randell, Kulas and Nyor. By now the stragglers arrive composed of five struggling hikers but under the watchful eyes of Eli Bryn, JB and Dominic. Even when it is beyond my attention, I have people at the tail to do the work for me. Thanks guys!

After rehydrating, it is time to move again and a lot of it concreted or pebbled road. Although I hated concrete, dirt roads threatened my feet soles now. I chose where I step and it is alright while there is still light. Downhill on an unpaved road will be torture to my feet so I go slow when I can and that put a lot of strain on my knees. Running is out of the question. I am not Superman anymore.

The road from Cabatbatan to Bocawe to the Pamutan Junction is winding, long and ascending. Each rise you see ahead will sink your heart and you could only hope that, after each rise, you will be rewarded with a comfortable plane which is almost nonexistent save for a few short stretches. After an hour-and-a-half of battle, we arrive at the junction at 4:40 PM. The earliest I came here in my five previous hikes is 5:30 PM during my third try.

When I think that I have rested enough, we decide not to wait for the second group of nine people. They are safe now and that they are on the road that we have passed by 90 minutes ago. We push on down the road to Baksan and, this time, it is unpaved and it will be dark soon which do not augur well for my feet. Mayo put on a torrid pace and forced all to speed up. Tears of pain begin to well up in my eyes as I struggle to keep up.

The good thing about today is we are too fast and too early for our appointed times of arrival at the different rest stops. When I reach Baksan, I stop to regroup what was left of my group of twenty. For purposes of cutting time and shortening the route, I included Bebut’s Trail. I used this trail on the third and fourth time of this route and it served its purpose well. Today is my first time to walk it with daylight to spare.

I lead and I do it slow and methodical-like. Pain on my soles have increased as the uneven terrain probed me underneath while putting tender foot after the other. Pride set aside my access to a LED torch even when the shadows start to swallow visibility. The monotony of walking in controlled pace at downhill turns numbed the ligaments along my knees. It increased its pain and pressure when I go down “Heartbreak Ridge”. In the faint light, the pain is snapped out from the brain yet the eyes never lie.

I reach the stone steps in the half-light and soon I will be in “friendly territory” and cold refreshments. I reach the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at 5:50 PM. I just shave an hour and 40 minutes from my original ETD and so are the ten people with me. Meanwhile, we wait for the nine at the Red Hours Convenience Store and so they came at 8:00 PM. They were true to the itinerary.

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Friday, November 1, 2013


WHEN YOU PROMISE SOMETHING, you better be good with what you said else you get annoying reminders! In my case, my grandson gives me that annoying and repetitive reminders and it becomes annoyingly sweet when you get a bear hug from him all the time.

I am busy most of the week except Sundays. But even that, the faraway hills always claim it, without a doubt, be it rain or heavy rain! On some rare occasions though, I am nailed right in my home. Like when I am utterly sick, just plain lazy or with an empty pocket.

I am at the end of my road for this week and I am broke. Maybe, it would be good to stay put just for this particular Sunday, September 29, 2013. I wake up at seven and try to clear my thoughts about the things I need to do today and I play an album of Crosby, Stills & Nash to give me that needed “push”.

Across the coffee table and lying prone on the sofa, little Gabriel had been watching me through the corner of one eye with another eye on the PSP. I very well know what he felt today and I feel that he is quite surprised by my unusual presence on a day that he knows I am not supposed to be around. He knows that because he glanced at the wall clock.

As I finished my light breakfast, I collect all my pieces of bamboo and my blades. I will polish again my bushcraft skills right here in my shrinking backyard. I had been planning this for so many times because my wife and the rest of my family does not know what I am doing on weekends.

Although I regularly post my activities in Facebook, my wife does not have an FB account. My two sons have but they focused all their updates on their online game conquests. My grandsons have accounts too but these are just dummy profiles put up by their mom since they are minors. All know that I have crazy stunts in Facebook but, like all people do: To actually see is to believe.

When Gabe sees me carrying all the bamboos and the sharp things outside to the backyard, his face lighted up and a smile flashed on his face. I place it all on a monobloc chair just outside the door and Carlo, my Belgian malinois mongrel, begins to push his cold snout through a gap of the impromptu steel gate, trying to reach me. I opened the small gate and Carlo’s tail wagged some more and he licked me as far as his tongue could reach.

Carrying all the things down the concrete steps, I stop on a pile of wood and steel bars underneath the water-apple tree and, from there, I go back the house to get the KODAK Easyshare M23 camera and the CIGNUS V85 portable VHF/UHF radio, Carlo trailing behind. The transceiver radio can tune in to FM stations and that would provide me music.

Quickly, I assess the small clearing and I instantly know where to start my fire and do my cooking. I have a green bamboo pole with two conjoined segments which I brought from Lilo-an a week ago and, from this same bamboo, I will demonstrate to all how to cook rice in it. I make short work opening the two segments of the bamboo under the scrutinizing eyes of my wife and Gabriel.

I used the Seseblade “sinalong” knife for this job. It is a small knife, about five inches in blade length, but it did the job well. It could take the pounding from a heavy stick and its blade dig deep into the bamboo’s surface. This is not the first torture test that I have done on a Seseblade though and I could see that the blades made by Dr. Arvin Sese are tough and durable.

Carlo, meanwhile, ran and jumped all around the spaces in between as he seemed to be in ecstasy at the prospect of seeing and feeling me so very close. I admit that I have not had so much time to bond with Carlo as what I did with my previous dogs and I get pestered by him and he is a very snotty customer. I ignored him as much as possible and keep him at arm’s length.

I start to gather whatever dry wood I could get as firewood. I chop blisters of wood from a half-dry mango trunk with my hatchet and collect it inside a plastic bag. When it got full, I turn my attention on dry branches. I struck a match to light a paper underneath a pile of dry kindling when one of the sparks caught a biodegradable plastic bag and this plastic burned quickly just by that. It is a good discovery though for me.

It is always a challenge to cook on a bamboo with very few resources like dry wood. You have to keep the flame going even with half-dried wood and that means constant blowing and inhaling thick smoke in the process. Good thing I have a small bamboo pole which I used recently as a dart gun and blow air through it many times directed at the embers. I was able to cook my rice using this technique.

My wife was not impressed at how I prepared my rice. She says this, she says that, and so on...blah...blah...blah...! I just smiled and I let her smell a grain of cooked rice. She still was not impressed and she goes on with what is on her mind. All the while, Gabriel had been reminding me with his bow and arrows. I keep his hopes high by promising him again after lunchtime.

I need to keep the fire going because my wife is preparing a 1.3-kilo milk fish (Local name: bangus) for grilling. She pass me a small iron grill and I place it over the embers before the fish gets its turn above it five minutes later. I watch over the coals and keeping an eye on Carlo, who had been busy with his antics trying to get my attention.

We finally got our lunch at 11:30 AM after I transferred the rice and the fish onto the table and after taking a bath. Jarod, Gabe’s elder brother, is so impressed about my bushcraft cooking and is smiling as he ate, enjoying this novelty. I hid my pleasure and gave him a wink.

After the meal, comes siesta. I know the boys will take their customary afternoon sleep and I accompany them upstairs toting two books to while away time and to tease my eyes to sleep. The books are not boring. In fact, I recommend it for reading. The Last Climb by Thomas Cosgrove is an exciting fiction novel in a Peruvian landscape while The Cliff Walk by Don Snyder is a true-to-life midlife crisis experience.

After finishing one chapter each, I felt sand rolling in my eyes and I reclined on the floor to embrace Lady Dreamtime. Gabe shook me awake and I did not know I slept for an hour. That freshens me up and I go outside again to our backyard and work on the bow and arrows as Carlo kept pestering me once I entered his realm.

I am able to make a short bow for Gabo with two short arrows and showed him how to hold and use it. He seems to enjoy it the moment he released his second arrow. The arrows are pointed and I remind him not to point it with a bow at anyone and at Carlo, much more so using it indoors. He seems to completely understand my instructions as he stowed the bow and the arrows in a safe place once he gets inside.

It was one quality day spent with family and my watchdog. Sometimes though, it is strange to be around home on a Sunday after a long habit of spending it outdoors. I do not mind it and I love it. Maybe, on some days, they will be with me in the mountains and valleys, simulating a SHTF scenario and living it. Then they would know what I am showing at Facebook.

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