Monday, December 9, 2013


I HAVE BEEN LOOKING for a place that has a good carrying capacity which could not create environmental concerns in the event Snakehawk Wilderness School starts to accept extended activities on a regular basis. Although the Buhisan Watershed Area and among its fringes is a very perfect site, I could not help it when my activities use up forest resources like bamboos (which is very rare there) and would defeat my own preservation effort.

You see, my partner – William “Jungle Wil” Rhys-Davies – is working full-time to get Snakehawk forward. I have never seen him so dead serious so I suggest a place down south to get Snakehawk over the horizon. I have been to Lower Sayaw, Sibonga last April to scout the area for its resources and to assess its carrying capacity should Snakehawk pushes to host a great number of clients. It was during the time when we were negotiating with a maritime school to equip their students the necessary survival lessons.

Jungle Wil need to visit the place ASAP and I arranged Glenn Pestaño to accompany us there. This is the favourite haunt of Glenn and he knows the locals there very well and so, on July 21, 2013, we meet at the front of the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish in Pardo, Cebu City to board a bus bound for Carcar. In less than 90 minutes, we were dropped at Ocaña, where there is a road going to Napo. From there, we ford a stream and follow a dirt road going uphill.

In less than an hour, we reach the house of our host: Rufing Ramos. We unpack our things to change into dry clothes since we were sweating quite a lot from the uphill walk. Last night it was raining very hard in the city and it stopped at dawn. When I woke up that early morning, it was still raining but I ignored the weather as I am an amphibian. By the time we start the hike, the sun shone.

I tour Jungle Wil around the house of the Ramos family and showed him the different fruit trees and herbal plants grown by Rufing. Then we move to an open meadow on a hill and showed him the campsite which could accommodate more than twenty tents. We follow a path down into a very small valley where there is a dry small brook and show him three different types of bamboo growing.

Further up another hill is another path which goes down to a natural spring that feeds an irrigation canal for a small rice field. The waterway would be perfect for nocturnal hunting as it might be teeming with rice frogs, fresh-water crabs and, possibly, shrimps during night. Along the way is a perfect trail to teach people plant identification and a sort of a “discovery hike”.

We return and I see Rufing setting up two snares with a pressure-trigger mechanism nearby his house. This kind of snare is designed for fowls and birds and he funnel his intended prey by blocking all the spaces in between except through the snares. Hopefully, what would be caught by the snares would be lunch and he did not even bother to place bait.

As we were talking and having coffee, an unmistakable cry of a fowl came from where the snares are located and we proceed immediately to investigate. Indeed, a rooster was caught with one foot raised up high by the cord attached to a branch that served as a spring mecahnism and we have now food. Rufing’s wife dispatched the chicken in the kitchen along with the two kilos of rice which we brought.

Sure enough, we have our lunch at 1:00 PM. The chicken was not tender but it is tasty as it was free-rein. I keep going back to the pots for refills of rice and soup. I see Jungle Wil enjoying very well the food with his old canteen cup. While resting after the meal, Glenn arrive with a gallon of frothing jungle juice. It is not sweet but it is fresh nonetheless.

I go down to another steep valley where groves of spiny bamboos grow. I need to retrieve a short dry pole, a remnant of the ones I cut last April, for use as a trap. This pole would be utilized as demo for a scheduled activity. I return to the house to work on it when Rufing notice fungus growing on the rim and on the insides. I am always wary of mushrooms and fungus because I have limited memories of it but Rufing assured me that it is edible and tasty.

Rufing showed me to a place where a lot of it can be found. It grows on decaying and burnt wood and, indeed, there are a lot of it growing. I ask Rufing what name do they used for the fungus and he said that they call it as “kwakdok” and it sounds funny because it rhymes with “quack doc”. Anyway, we harvested a lot of it and I get to fill a half-full inside a plastic bag. Rufing even taught me how to prepare it before cooking.

Well, after that useful time of foraging, we both go back to the house and proceed to work on the bamboo pole and help finish the coconut wine. When it is about 4:00 PM, we decide to go down back to where we came from in the morning. We got into a snag with a group of old villagers wanting to know more of us and our purpose. Here, we get to drink hard liquor as a matter of respect and concoct alibis so we could leave.

When we thought we are free of them, we again are delayed by another group of drunken, but younger, people on the farther stretch of the road. Here, we have to use all our cunning to get rid of them because, it seemed the glasses of strong drinks are plenty and it is getting dark. When we had finally been freed of “social impediments”, it was already dark by the time we reach the highway.

We leave Carcar at 7:00 PM and reach the big city at 8:15 PM, thanks, in part, to a flying public utility jitney disguising as a bus! I did get home in one piece but I was subjected to bouts of fear on the highway.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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