Tuesday, July 23, 2013

PINOYAPACHE AS AN "ISLAND CASTAWAY"

REALITY PROGRAMS MADE for cable TV are very interesting and educational and command such attention by viewers all around the globe, especially concerning primitive-living skills and survival. Bear Grylls is the name that usually crop up when my mountaineer-friends talk among themselves ever since I begin to attend again membership meetings with my old club after a long hiatus of eleven years.

That was in 2007 and, unfortunately, I do not have a cable TV connection. Even today. Anyways, the things that Grylls did, which I overheard from my friends, were quite familiar to me and I could do that as well with much finesse and sanity but, being a mountaineer then, I was wrench-locked to follow the principles of this foreign ideology called Leave No Trace.

As I slowly veer away from LNT, from insane mass climbs and from my former club, I begin to practice free-rein outdoorscraft like survival and wilderness skills. A recent Cebu visitor, Thomas “Tomahawk” Moore, have greatly influenced me on this when we met in September 2009. The joys of having a small campfire is a freedom that I love to cherish most as well as my freedom of unimpeded movement like solo hikes and cutting across virgin ground.


In January 2010, I established a club called Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. This is the only one of its kind in the country and I organized the annual Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp every June 12th as its main activity. Not only that, I begin to make videos of myself doing things I loved best and uploaded these to the Warrior Pilgrimage Channel in YouTube.

As the pleasures of my new-found interest guided me, names of other TV survivalists like Les Stroud, Ray Mears, Mykel Hawke, Cody Lundin, etc. begin to surface up. To be honest, I have never watched a single show of these survival shows and it was only in August 2012 when I finally saw what Grylls looked like and what he did in his show when a video was uploaded at Camp Red’s Facebook site by one of the members and it was about le Legion Etrangere.

When I teamed up with William Rhys-Davies in January 2013 to put up Snakehawk Wilderness Skills School, a small production outfit wanted to do a series of video shoots about tropical bushcraft and survival in the Philippines. The location of the first episode would be in Guintarcan Island, Santa Fe, Cebu and it would star, no less, by Rhys-Davies and myself. For this project, I was provided two videos of Ray Mears for study. It was the one shot at Costa Rica and another at Palawan.


On April 19, 2013, we left the mainland and cross the Bantayan Channel for Guintarcan. Our host is Mrs. Tita Rosos, who accommodated us all into her residence which became our base camp. The video crew consist of the producer/director/cameraman – Matt Everett; cameraman – Prem Ananda; two personal assistants; and a medic – Casey Ballard. Aside that, we hired Tady Rosos as our man Friday and the boat owned by Inday Dabalos

The videocam begin its shoot as the outriggered boat begins to set sail for the island. The weather is perfect giving us a very calm sea although the heat and humidity are at a high swing and would later take a toll on the exposed skins of the cameramen, the medic, Rhys-Davies and, mildly, on myself. The show, according to the producer would almost follow along the lines of Dual Survival of Cody Lundin and Joseph Teti but with a different twist. Guess what that would be?

The first segment for the first day is catching us swimming from boat to shore about 100 meters distant in our clothes. I am wearing a light-blue rayon T-shirt, a dark-blue Rohan long pants and a pair of beachcomber shoes. Rhys-Davies is in his Lowe shirt, a Silangan hike shorts and a pair of Salomon shoes. There were a lot of shots from different angles above the surface and underwater; two-way dialogues; and one-on-one talks to the camera.

Talking before a camera is nothing new to me especially if it is a self-shoot or done in jest with another. But with a professional-looking camera with a professional behind it, my self-confidence begins to waver. Feelings that I knew of during job interviews done long ago, suddenly came back at light speed. My eyes kept rolling to retrieve missing words, stopping me in mid-sentence, and, possibly, would make me look like a clown before a wide audience if not for retakes.

In the afternoon, the director need to do many retakes of our swimming prowess. We shifted scene afterwards and asked to make a debris shelter. While doing that, there are the usual dialogues between Rhys-Davies and me and then the one-on-one on camera. I was asked to forage for food, which I did, by plucking a ripe fruit of a pandanus tree. We ate the fruit explaining to the invisible audience of its taste and how it is eaten.


I split and cleaned both green and mature coconut palms with a William Rodgers spearpoint knife. The dry palm is hard but the blade make short work of this. While I was in the middle of driving the edge hard in the middle of the palm, the knife point nicked one of my fingers and blood spurted out. I have already expected getting cut by my new knife and it is the only way to create a bond between new owner and blade. I remedy the discomfort by making a poultice out of Indian mulberry leaf buds after stopping the bleeding by elevation and direct pressure.

The knife had been given to me by the CEO of a native delicacy company just recently in appreciation of my outdoors prowess and for friendship’s sake. He is not just a knife collector but work on his knives to their ultimate limits. The knife comes with a leather sheath with Kydex lining which he himself made and dyed; quite rare for a business executive.

I was really exhausted after doing several repeats of sequences of holding breathe under water for almost the whole day, swinging from coconut palms in the hope of detaching it from the upper trunk and trying to polish off my pidgin English that I collapsed onto my ground tarp splayed on hot concrete after supper unmindful of the heat it refused to surrender. I slept like a baby under the bare sky.

After breakfast of the second day (April 20), we went back to our shelter and, part of the script, I would again forage for water and food which I found up a coconut tree which need to be climbed. I ascended below the crown and twisted two fruits with my hand and let it fall, cut a hole and drank its sweet water, and split it open to scrape the white meat. All these are but natural for me while Rhys-Davies made himself helpful by teasing a fire to life with his firesteel.



In the afternoon, we walked up a hill to shoot a scene inside and outside of Cantingting Cave to look for food. After some dialogues and talking to an invisible audience, I foraged old coconut palms and fashion these into three flame torches which we will need to light our way inside the cave and, hopefully, catch our prey. The script goes that we need to catch bats to sustain our survival.

The light from the flame torches are inadequate and make it impossible to catch bats so I place the torches upside down so it would bellow thick smoke and agitate the bats from its stupor high up on the ceiling and waited for them to swarm out of the cave. I position myself outside the cave mouth with a three-foot stick like Barry Bonds while Rhys-Davies stayed inside to shout and scare the bats. The bats did start to fly into my position and I whack five of these senseless. We now have solid food for the day!

It is dusk when we returned to the beach where our shelter lay. The camera focused on my skinning of the bat and I explained to the absent audience why I need to remove a certain part of the animal so it won’t spoil the meat. On the other hand, Rhys-Davies tried his darndest best to ignite a fire with partly-moist coconut fibers which he used as tinder. After a considerable amount of sweat running down on his brows, the flame flickered and danced.

Rhys-Davies sharpened the points of two bamboo sticks and I pierced all the dressed bats unto it and cook it on open coals. I talked to the camera how I reacted when Rhys-Davies failed to produce fire and talked also of my plans for the rest of the day and of the following day. We leave the set and returned to base camp. There was a slight shower after dinner and everyone heaved a sigh of good relief that the extreme heat of the day will soon dissipate!

The third day – April 21 – found us swimming by the shore and skimming for food on its part-sandy part-rocky bottom. This island is abundant of shellfish of different varieties and, it is only a matter of time before we will fish it out of the sea ourselves. There were many sequences taken by underwater cameras and too few moments to recover our breathe. It was a never-ending battle to stay under despite the onset of tidal current.

To counter buoyancy, I held on to rocks and, in the process, detaching these. Beneath some of these rocks are juvenile giant clams (sp. Gigas Pacifica). Elated with these discovery, I plucked out four clams while Rhys-Davies was successful with one. Using my knife, I forced it all open and removed the flesh from the shells and skewer it with last night’s barbeque sticks and cooked it again on bare coals which Rhys-Davies expertly provided.

When we have finished lunch, the rest of the afternoon is dedicated to foraging bamboo poles, which are abundant on the island, so we could make and float a raft and make a run for the mainland. We found a grove of spiny bamboos. The problem with this kind of bamboo is that the base is protected by a screen of thorns. I explained to the camera how I would extract the poles using a bolo and a knife.

I created a corridor by slowly removing the lower branches where there are spines. When these tangle with each other, these create a screen and always snag on anything soft like fabrics and human skin. I got snagged on the base of my thumb and blood begin to ooze as I started to cut and remove these. Altogether, I cut three poles which is about twenty feet each and drag it each time it is caught on the branches of a mango tree.

Slowly, one by one, to and fro three times, we shoulder the bamboo poles from the interior to the shore. I measure the pole by their segments and cut it with the bolo. The knife cleared and cut the knobs and branches. We were able to make six eight-foot long poles as our main deck. We have also provided four poles as our cross bars eight feet long. On the beach are four abandoned 5-gallon plastic containers with caps and a considerable length of nylon rope which a fisherman abandoned.


Rhys-Davies did the lashings as he is well-adept at this while I assisted him in feeding the ropes or reaching a rope end at the most difficult corners with a finger. The containers were distributed along the four corners of the bamboo raft and would be the main buoyant component while the cross bars would hold it like a vise. I provided two coconut palms, stripped of leaves and carved, as our paddles. We tested the raft’s sea-worthiness and it floated well with me and Rhys-Davies on board.

The last scene would be rowing from shore to other shore thirty kilometers or so away crossing the Bantayan Channel. Could this be possible? Are we in our right minds? Perhaps or perhaps not. But with perfect weather, with a sail and lots of fortitude and luck, why not? We could even make it by morning. This was the crux of the show but the director intervened by towing us back to shore with a motor boat and Rhys-Davies capped it off by promising his imaginary audience that we would be back for the next episode.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Monday, July 15, 2013

PURE SURVIVAL CHRONICLES: Vincent Canape and the Princess of the Orient

IN THE COURSE OF my life’s journey, I have met many people who were survivors of different mishaps and catastrophes and they lived to tell their experiences, circumstances and predicaments. While others I came across to, are witnesses of, or have been recipient of tales from these survivors, it still are stories worth telling. I am an eager listener and I always remember the stories very well and added these pieces of information into my “library of self-preservation”. This blog is, in itself, a repository of pure survival tales.

On one occasion when I looked for a material as basis of a survival documentary video where I have a significant role, I travelled to Ocaña, Carcar City, Cebu on April 14, 2013 to meet a real survivor in person. Right after I came down from a bushcraft sortie in Lower Sayaw, Sibonga in the late afternoon, I met Vincent Canape sitting under a shed beside the road. Immediately, I introduced myself to him and we made conversation. Here is his account:

On September 18, 1998, I was a crew of the ill-fated M/V Princess of the Orient. The passenger ship is owned by the now-defunct Sulpicio Lines, Inc. I was assigned in the Engine Department and detailed as Assistant Machinist. That night, I was off-duty and slept in my cabin when I was awoken by the unusual shift of the boat’s angle. I went out and I saw passengers and other crew in panic. I immediately went to the bridge, where most of the crew were, to await of instructions from the boat captain.

I understood that we were now in the vicinity of Fortune Island yet it was still open sea. We sailed right into the path of a storm Signal Number 1 codenamed ‘Vicki’ by PAGASA. We were not denied by the Philippine Coast Guard to sail through despite the inclement weather so my captain decide to leave Manila for Cebu instead. There I was along the gunwale of the boat’s starboard side passing life vests to the passengers. By now, the boat was already listing at an alarming angle. The ship was battered by huge waves as the storm picked up more strength and now people were panicking and put their fate into the rough seas and jumped from the unstable boat...

The M/V Princess of the Orient is a steel-hulled passenger ship acquired by Sulpicio Lines, Inc. from Japan in 1993. It was built in 1974 and was formerly known as M/V Sunflower II. It had a length of 195 meters, a width of 24 meters and weigh 13,734 tons. It could accommodate 3,900 passengers at one time along its first, second, and third levels. Besides passengers, the ship could take in container and wheeled cargoes into its hold. It is a roll-on roll-off type of ship. On that date, there were only 388 passengers with a complement of 102 crews.


It is a big ship by Philippine standards and very sea-worthy. I have ridden this once on one of my trips to Manila but it was during fair weather. What I remembered ships flying the flag of Sulpicio Lines is that these are very spacious and you could navigate easily among the aisles between sleeping cots and along corridors. All the ships have exteriors painted white while the interiors are green. I could picture quite well how Vincent reacted and went about his way within the ship. Vincent further narrated:

Although the ship was in considerable trouble, it had not stopped engine and it still gave off illumination. I see a highly-agitated mass of people on the dark waters struggling to float themselves despite the huge waves that swamped upon them. Those who did not have life vests with them hanged on to flotsam and floating people. Amid the roaring wind, the swoosh of huge waves, the hum of a slowly-dying engine and the repeated splash of the ship’s propeller, I could hear people shouting to other people. A lot of them were calling their loved ones trying to find them among the pandemonium while others where snarling at others for space in the convoluted jostling for survival.

When I could not tolerate anymore of my well-being on the outbalanced ship, I took chance by jumping into the water. As I was doing so, a piece of glass hit my left forearm, just below the elbow, but nothing serious. What I am worried of, is my bleeding as it might be smelled by sharks. I struggled to free myself from the tangle of outstretched arms that tend to grab you from all angles. From my level, I could see my captain and Judge German Lee still on the listing ship in the process of distributing life jackets to the passengers and, then, in one huge splash, the ship keeled down on its side. It was the last time I saw them...

The late German Lee was one of the most upright people I have met and so very humble despite his respected position in the judiciary and business circles. He was part of a breed of old-school gentlemen that I have thought vanished years ago. While he was still alive, he was the Executive Judge of all regional trial courts in Central Visayas; a co-author of the standard textbook in Philippine colleges and secondary schools – The Philippine Constitution Explained; and owned hotels in Cebu City. He could have saved himself but, like the ship captain, he would rather go down with the ship and give others a chance to get on with their lives. At the very last moment, he was at his best form; a shining example of a public servant.

I saw the ship take in water but it did not capsized bottoms up. Instead it changed position and the ship stood above water with the prow rising. I could do nothing now to help others and I steered away from the mass of screaming and desperate people. There were now no more lights and I hang on to myself just to survive the cold stormy night. I remembered my SOLAS training and I decide to preserve my body heat by not moving so much. I prayed and called aloud all the saints in heaven. Just then, a weeping boy, separated from his parents, floated near me and I grabbed the boy close to my body. I comforted the boy to stay calm and assured him that we will survive this ordeal.

Sustained by the added heat of the boy’s body, I survived the cold night until it was daylight. The typhoon had not abated but I could see better my situation. I was hungry and tired but I was now motivated to stay alive especially now that I was responsible for the boy’s survival as well. Floating bloated bodies passed by us and I recognized a pretty woman whom I just knew on this trip. She was supposed to celebrate their town fiesta in Danao City but, as fate would have it, she became one of the victims of this sea tragedy. I felt guilty that I am alive and I cried...

I asked Vincent if ever the training he received during SOLAS helped him during the time when the ship caught trouble and after the time when he jumped ship to steer his own fate on a stormy sea? “Yes”, he says. In case you would want to know, SOLAS is short for Safety Of Life At Sea. It is a compulsory course for anyone wishing to board and work on a ship and is taught at maritime institutes under the mandate of the International Maritime Organization’s Standard of Training Certification and Watchkeeping ratified in 1978 which the Philippine Coast Guard is enforcing. It is divided into four different parts: Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention; Survival Craft Handling; Personal Survival at Sea; and First Aid. This writer took SOLAS in 1986.


The boy did survive and was reunited with his parents. By twist of providence, the boy is his neighbor! He was seven years old when he was shipwrecked and today he is either 21 or 22. Filipinos, through close family relationships and sentimental considerations, whether they worked or lived in other places here or abroad, would likely come home during town fiestas instead of during Christmas or other occasions except when paying final respects to a passing family member. The woman was one of them and would have found her homecoming memorable if she had survived. In all, 150 passengers died.

After eighteen hours of surviving seasickness, hunger, thirst, drowsiness, mixed emotions and mild hypothermia, rescue arrived. A Philippine Navy gunboat came in the late afternoon and plucked me and the boy from our watery stranglehold. I passed out due to exhaustion but consoled by, the fact, that I am in safe hands. I woke up in the hospital but I could not ease out of my trauma. I was shocked and dazed by the string of events and, sometimes, I would just suddenly wake up in the middle of my sleep and shook for several minutes, my mind could not still accept the tragedy that befell on my ship, my crewmates and the passengers, especially the children, the old people and that pretty woman.

I returned to sailing with Sulpicio Lines again and I would have been on my second tragedy that had befallen on the M/V Princess of the Stars in 2008 but, by quirk of fate, I was denied to board it. I have not forgotten the faces and some of them were my friends.

I have also ridden the M/V Princess of the Stars before it capsized near Sibuyan Island in June 2008. It also were sailing under the mercy of another tropical storm when it ran into a reef and take in water so swift that the ship keeled over to its hull leaving the majority of passengers and crew a few moment to save themselves.

After fourteen years, Vincent could not partly go over that tragic incident. It is now part and parcel of his soul, of his whole life; and memories sometimes can come in from the dark corners of loneliness and wake up well-rested issues of our lives. His eyes show the ghosts that still haunt him in his dreams. Vincent have decided to give up the job that had been his bread and butter and settled in the safe comforts of solid ground right after that second near-miss of his life.



Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

COMPLEAT BUSHCRAFT

HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT all my bushcraft and survival sorties are confined to the Babag Mountain Range in Cebu City? You know, I cannot afford to spend a lot of money to travel to faraway places just to be freeze-caught on camera jumping. I am very comfortable to practice my survival and primitive-living skills here because I am familiar with the people and the terrain. Adjacent to that is I to get to know this whole mountain range better which few had done in this present time. By the time the “saucer” hits the fan, you know where to find me.

If you are not convinced by that, I may expand, as well, my familiarity of the other mountain ranges and upland areas of the whole island of Cebu. Ever since I started with my Cebu Highlands Trail Project in February 2011, I begin to see better my island that have been denied to most Cebuanos. It is not done on wheels but by sheer test of will on foot and by traditional navigation. No GPS. No maps. Just the sun and the shadows. I saw places where only an airborne observer could see and I can perceive it better up close in small segments by walking.


One of those places that merit my attention is at Lower Sayaw, Sibonga. From the highway in Ocaña, Carcar, you may follow an ascending road and it gets you to Tambol Peak. It is a sparsely populated area where it is converted as a training ground for PNP Scouts. There may be farms but there are pockets of wild vegetation that clung on to rocky terrain where breaking it into farm lots is close to impossible. There are streams and natural springs and lots of fruit-bearing trees, coconuts and bamboo groves.

This is the playground of Glenn Pestaño, a member of Camp Red Bushcraft & Survival Guild, and he invited me and others to check on the place. On April 14, 2013, I went there together with fellow bushmen Jhurds Neo and Fulbert Navarro. We left the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 6:00 AM and Glenn was already at the corner of the road in Ocaña waiting for our arrival. He carried a tomahawk as if he is in his living room. We get to ride a tricycle for a short distance and drop by at a store where a trail cross a dried-up creek into another dirt road.

The weather is perfect but hot and humid. A local, Rufing Zamora, joined us and he was carrying a half sack of rice on his head. I carried a Sandugo Khumbu 40L backpack with one kilo of pork, two kilos of milled corn, Nalgene bottle, two pots, a stove, fuel can, 15 feet webbing, fire kit, first aid kit, LED torch, two shirts and my own tomahawk. At 9:00 AM, we were still in the middle of it: hiking up a road and resting under the shade of an ancient tamarind tree. Along the way, I met another local, Rudy Edos, carrying two gallons of fresh coconut wine, still in its bubbly splendor.


We reach base camp at 9:40 AM and I am glad that there were ample shade. I took off my Rivers 3514M boots and go on barefoot on Bermuda grass. I drank a full glass of the native wine in lieu of water to quench my thirst and it really is fresh and sweet! Glenn had arranged this “jungle juice” for our disposal and I thank the heavens for making this day fruitful at its earliest stage. Aside that, Glenn also procured two free-rein chicken which were stewed and served as breakfast to us steaming hot by Rufing and his family.

After the meal, I put on back my shoes to prepare for a little sightseeing. Rufing introduced me to the plants that were grown all around his house and all these has a purpose. I picked up my Kodak EasyShare M23 camera, ballpen and paper and document each plant and its uses. Amidst all that, Jhurds climbed a Spanish plum tree (Local: sineguelas) to munch the fruits while Fulbert plucked pomegranates (Local: granada). After another shot of the “juice”, we proceed to the field.

I came across three different kinds of bamboo: kagingkingon (spiny bamboo), butong (water bamboo) and bagakay (sand bamboo). We stopped at a grove of sand bamboo beside a dried-up brook to test my new plaything: a William Rodgers bushcraft knife. This lovely knife was given to me last April 11, 2013 by the CEO of a local delicacy company1 after he read Warrior Pilgrimage and found that we have certain hobbies in common: bushcraft and knives. Along with it is a handsome leather sheath dyed black, made by his own hands, with Kydex liner.


Bagakay do not grow thick unlike most bamboos. The poles are thin, the thickest like those of your thumb, but do not be deceived by the appearance. The texture of the bamboo’s skin is rough, like fine sandpaper. The poles are used as spears by early Filipinos during warfare and, as sharpened stakes, were used during hunt of wild game. Later these bagakay stakes were used during guerrilla warfare against the Americans and the Japanese and, later, adopted by the Vietnamese against the French, the Americans and the Chinese.

A mature pole – brown and dry – is hard to chop; especially when you are chopping it incorrectly. The William Rodgers knife made short work of it by cutting it at an angle. It helped that the blade is thick else a thinner one will be deflected by the dry bamboo’s hard surface. The thick blade drove the edge deep into its surface by its weight. It also helped that the knife edge is concave grounded and bit fast when driven. I scrutinized the knife edge after that and it is still sharp as was the last time I ran a finger lightly along it.

Rudy extracted four live bagakay shoots (with roots) from the grove which Jhurds and I plan to transfer to pots when we get home separately. Fulbert and Glenn, meanwhile, keep busy making blowguns from dry pieces of sand bamboo and both succeeded as bamboo darts punched a banana trunk from across them one after the other.

We transferred to a place where there is a natural spring. We climbed up a hillock and down into a small valley where a small rice field is located. The field is irrigated by the natural spring which gushed forth from underneath a rock and I drank the water. It is cool and of good quality. Glenn tested an emergency water container which he received recently from a fellow bushcrafter from Romania.


It is made of transparent and flexible PVC and is good for eight liters; with an extended spout which could be rolled and secured by a rubber band sealer to prevent spillage. It has a carrying handle. The name is Jollytank and is made in Italy by Plastibag. I voluntarily carried it in full capacity back to base camp over rough terrain to test its balance, comfort of carriage and durability. I begin to like this emergency water storage and I wished Glenn has another of this stuff.

When we reach our camp, I went to a grove of spiny bamboos and choose a single pole among them. It is protected by a screen of thorns but I hacked a corridor between them with my William Rodgers knife so I could reach the pole. With my own tomahawk, I cut the pole with angled strokes yet it refused to fall down when branches of a mango tree caught it. I dragged the pole as far as I could bring it and it crashed to the ground. I select the best two segments and separate it from the rest. This piece will be my cooking pot.

Rudy foraged some firewood among grounds between coconut trees and carried a lot of dried palm fronds complete with its woody base (Local: palwa) and clothe-like material (Local: guinit). I baton holes on the bamboo for each segment while Fulbert made a fire nest for his firesteel sparks. I searched for two stones of same sizes and place it as anchors for my bamboo pot. Hurriedly, I chopped the dry palm fronds into manageable pieces. It is hard work but I finished six of these and is now fodder for our fire.

With some dexterity I was able to pour water on the opened bamboo from the spout of the shaky Jollytank. I will simultaneously cook rice on one chamber and milled corn on another and this would be the first time I will do this. Fulbert, on the other hand, skewered pieces of pork with a piece of a sharpened bamboo stick for an impromptu barbeque. This is compleat bushcraft at its best, an activity reserved for men who can adapt easily to a situation.


Jhurds, meanwhile, lay on a hammock, quite intoxicated by the coconut wine. I finished the rest of the pork by frying it on a small pan over a conventional camping stove. A generous amount of green pepper is mixed with onions and garlic in oil, vinegar and soy sauce. While the cooking begin to simmer, Fulbert, Jhurds and Glenn kept themselves busy hitting small targets with a slingshot. The plink of marble missiles on a sardine can and a suspended tin plate elicit me happy memories.

When all the cooking was done, Fulbert cut two banana leaves and fray it over fire to remove parasites. It is then laid over the ground where the bamboo pot is placed over it, as well as the pork adobo and the pork barbeque. A bowl of native chicken soup, a leftover of our breakfast, served as our crème de soupe. It is a hungry sappers’ delight, a better presentation of a “boodle fight” in a real location that smiling picture-happy politicians would not dare tread.

After all had their fill, the slingshot firing practice continued but I have other things to do like the cleaning of my cooking pots and the stowing of my scattered things back into my backpack. Besides that, I have a half-gallon more of coconut wine to finish. We waited for 4:00 PM before we said goodbye to our hosts. We follow the same route back to Ocaña where, a real survivor of a sea tragedy is waiting for me for a talk.


I met Vincent Kanapi and scribbled all the important details of his story. It was worth telling and, I believe, his story should be heard. This blog will give space to tales of pure survival and acknowledge people like Vincent. Again, I say goodbye and proceed on to the highway where we all catch a bus back to the big city.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
1Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos & Delicacy, Inc.

Monday, July 1, 2013

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXI: Bamboos & Nessmuk Trios

AS BUSHCRAFT AND SURVIVAL is slowly getting established in the Philippines, many people are now seriously interested in learning primitive skills and too few to teach it in a realistic hands-on manner. Wilderness skills are not a monopoly anymore for tribal peoples as a lot of people are extracting volumes of information in the Internet and on television programs while some enrolled themselves in expensive curricula to learn these skills.

This writer sees the need to impart and guide aspiring bushcraft camp instructors in the most correct manner as possible (by which they also teach others) through my series of teaching modules. Primitive-living techniques are universal skills which does not limit itself to geography or of an era. It moves through time and improves its process with the advent of new ideas and a good dose of life’s experiences.

My kind of training for bushcraft camp instructors is a by-product of the collective skills and ideas I have acquired through the years from my early beginnings as a boy learning woodcraft from my late grandfather, from the Boy Scout movement, from a very brief stint in the military, from tales of real survivors, from witnesses of survival incidents, from informative books and from experiential education – all these during the decades when there was no Internet yet.

Survival skills are taken for granted today replaced by our preference of things and processes that entail great convenience and less effort. Sadly, improvisation and adaptation which are learned from grassy backyards and unstructured outdoor plays are not given premium anymore by this present generation and result to over-reliance on technology and the electrical outlet. For that matter, instructions for the Bushcraft Camp Instructors Training Course should be done outdoors, through hard work and where time is not that important.



So last April 7, 2013, this blogger started training selected members of Camp Red Bushcraft & Survival Guild for the first module of this course titled BAMBOO AS A SURVIVAL TOOL at the foothills of the Babag Mountain Range, here in Cebu City. Included are knife safety and the Nessmuk trio. The participants are Glenn Pestaño, Jhurds Neo, Dominic Sepe, Fulbert Navarro and JB Albano. This training is free courtesy of Warrior Pilgrimage©.

The Philippines is fortunate to have vast stands of bamboo groves everywhere and most of these grow along streams and gullies and where water is abundant. Here in Cebu, different species of bamboos grow wild and poles can be harvested in any time of the year. I start the training by introducing the different names and distinguishing features of the different kinds of bamboo.



We retrieved one pole from the most common bamboo which we locally called as kagingkingon because it is protected by a screen of thorns at its base. I showed them the method of retrieving a pole over the thorns and the techniques in cutting a bamboo from the base. I cut the the part above the thorns after it fell and ended saving eighteen segments which would be divided among the participants. I also brought a dry pole lying on the ground for firecraft later in the day.

From our pole, with the correct manner of cutting angles and by baton, the participants were able to make their own jugs, spoons, chopsticks, plates and cooking pots. All brought their own version of the Nessmuk trio: the big knife for brute force like slashing and chopping; the medium knife for medium work like whittling and skinning; and the small knife for delicate jobs like scraping and carving. My version of the big knife is my tomahawk and Glenn has his own as well.



All tried their jugs by drinking coffee with it. Next activity is teaching them to cook anything on a bamboo pot over an earthen hearth. Two pots each were reserved for cooking milled corn and mixed vegetable soup and a single pot for rice while, nearby, pork meat is grilled on open coal. While waiting, the participants killed time by aiming a slingshot at a small target and throwing a tomahawk at a tree trunk until meal is served at 1:30 PM. Later, young coconuts are readied for dessert.

After lunch, the lecture concentrated on making fire by friction with two pieces of dry bamboo. But first, the essential elements have to be discussed like the fire triangle and showing them how to manufacture tinder and the poke stick; the carving of the trough and the shaping of the edge; and how to rub it against each other. Fulbert was able to work a small ember to life by blowing it alive and the flame flickered well in the hot afternoon. The irony of it is he is a firefighter.


Last activity are the bamboo traps and snares. Traps made from bamboo are quite effective and is designed to immobilize snakes, monitor lizards and fishes and could be settled on land and under water. Another trap with a different hole location is intended for monkeys. Snares work on the principle of spring and trigger mechanisms but they are all made of bamboo. JB gave a demo of a snare using a pressure trigger system.

The lecture ended early and we leave for Napo at 4:00 PM, retracing our route. Ultimately, we arrive at Guadalupe at 5:15 PM and proceed to EZ Mart for our post-activity discussions and socials where Wil Rhys-Davies of Snakehawk Wilderness Skills School and Boy Toledo of the Cebu Mountaineering Society joined us. The participants did a good showing and, I think, they are ready for the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp come June 10, 11 and 12, 2013 although they may have to finish the other four modules later to be certified as a BC Instructor.

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