Thursday, January 23, 2014


THE OUTLAW BUSHCRAFT GATHERING is fast approaching and there are many things to do with so little time and, for that, I am quite worried because I am part of the organizing. This gathering is really a convention of a small group of unconventional outdoorsmen who will show and demonstrate their crafts with each other and before other individuals who are beginning to be fascinated with what really bushcraft and survival is all about?  

I am on an urgent mode and I will go to Sibonga today, August 18, 2013, to do these things in a blur and one of these is digging two latrine holes for the participants of The Gathering.  A hole is easy to make with pick and shovel or with an iron rod but I have to walk the talk and, that is, to do that task with a digging stick.  Yes, I will do that in the most traditional way possible using wood.  

As you can see, I have taught people how to make digging sticks during the three years that I convened the annual Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp and I will prove why a wooden stick could do that task equally well as opposed to the conventional notion of using modern tools.  A stout stick will then have to be secured on the area and it will mean that I will have to chop a live tree.  What will make it harder is that one of my hands is hurting.   

I hurt it yesterday after a pistol jammed several times due to oversized brass shells on a number of ammunition and I have to extract it in the safest and most professional way possible.  This happened at a firing range somewhere in Metro Cebu while assisting in the Basic Gun Safety and Firearms Proficiency Training of ten security personnel from Sky Rise 1 and Sky Rise 2.

My hand is swelling between thumb and forefinger and I need something to remedy this quickly.  Of course, I drank lots of water that day to keep me hydrated and get the blood circulating.  My problem then that day is how to protect the part of the hand from getting disturbed when I carry on the work of digging holes today?  That answer had already been a part of the solution from the start: Cotton gloves.  

Yes, of course, I was already mulling the thought of buying a pair of hand gloves before I touched a gun that day.  It just clicked through right away and I immediately bought two pairs after I saw the swelling and while there was still light that day before hardware stores close shop.  That done, I made myself ready for the undertaking of today. 

I wake up early to the designated area at Guadalupe and I see Ernie Salomon already ahead of me.  Later, Ramon Corro arrive on his blue Ford Ranger.  Ramon will be using the truck to get us to the campsite of the scheduled Gathering, which would be held soon on the last week of August.  We leave at 6:45 AM for Natalio Bacalso Avenue then head south.

At Pardo, we pick up Wil Rhys-Davies, my business partner at Snakehawk Wilderness School and the other organizer of The Gathering.  After him, we pass by Glenn Pestaño who had been waiting at Bulacao with his equipment.  Glenn is also part of the organizing and he is instrumental in doing the negotiations with the owner of the property where The Gathering will be, the tourism department of the Municipality of Sibonga, the village of Sayaw and the local police.

When we reach Candaguit in Sibonga, we negotiate the road to Mangyan thence to Sayaw.  It is uphill and some short stretches of it are steep.  We pass by a small waterfall just beside a road and the source to it just after a bend of the road.  Amidst that, a small farm of terraced rice plots get irrigated by the natural spring.

We arrive at Lower Sayaw at 9:30 AM and we proceed on foot to the house of Rufino Ramos.  Rufino is the owner of the lot for The Gathering and I have met him a couple of times in April and last July.  Today, he is nowhere but his wife is there as well as the rest of his family.  I come bearing books for the children and how they are glad to have books to keep and read in their home!  I promised them I will bring some more.

We boil water for coffee and, after that, I tour Ramon and Ernie to the camp site.  It is on top of a low hill with mango, jackfruit and coconut trees on to one side where it is part of a meadow and a steep sloping brushland off the other.  In between are several rock cairns arranged for future use.  We go down the hill and survey the place below where there is a dry brook.

Wil and I survey this place for a possible place to erect our latrines.  I found a spot for the males where there are guava bushes of shoulder height and another spot across a dry watercourse behind a grove of spiny bamboo for the females.  That taken, I looked for a stout pole among a sparse forest of mixed vegetation.  

Well, there may be a lot of straight live poles good enough for the taking but I will choose wisely.  I need a healthy one and it better be an exotic kind.  No need to ruin the growth of young trees just because I need one or two poles.  Sometimes you had to have a certain level of common sense to distinguish what needs to use and what not and that is where plant identification becomes a factor.  Without that, you either are just another wood gatherer or an LNT lunatic.

By the way, I will be leading a discovery hike in and around The Gathering on the second day and I will be discussing Plant ID while on the move.  We return to the house and prepare our noon meal.  Glenn had been on an errand to find Rufino and to look for two free-rein chicken and had not yet returned.

When the promised chicken had not materialized as of 11:00 AM, Ernie and Ramon, together with Rufino’s wife, sourced canned meat and eggs from a small store in the locality.  In a while both returned and Ernie prepare the ingredients which we had bought from a roadside market a couple of hours ago in Ocaña, Carcar plus the canned meat and eggs.

When the food is about to be served, Glenn arrive with two gallons of fresh coconut wine still in its bubbly splendor!  Just about time and the wine is so sweet when I tasted it.  The food are mixed-vegetable soup, meatloaf in eggs, raw cucumber and milled corn.  The weather is great and cloudy and we eat to our heart’s delight.

When the last of the food were consumed, everyone gets to drink the native wine except Ernie.  He says he have had bad memories of it.  Wil enjoyed the strong liquid and gets high with his tales.  I suggest to all that we return to the site where the latrine holes will be dug.  I carry my locally-made Puffin Magnum knife in a belt sheath and my William Rodgers bushcraft knife, also inside its sheath, and stuck to the same belt.      

Without much further ado, I chop a thick pole from a white leadtree (Local name: ipil-ipil, biyatelis) using my Puffin Magnum knife.  Like it or not, this is an invasive species and it grows fast to the detriment of indigenous plants.  It had adapted well with our terrain and clime and it has its good uses as well.  For the locals, it is just another fodder for their cooking fire so no bleeding hearts there you LNT metrosexuals.

It is an erect pole whose straightness was caused by its proximity with tall trees. Likewise, its primary branch is straight as well.  With that I could make three poles and tie it all together at one end and it will stand erect to provide a stable tripod for those who would want to use the latrine after you have lashed a horizontal “seat” right across it.  But, first things first, I need the bottom part of a pole as my digging stick.

When the upper trunk fell, I drag it from the streambed into the upper bank.  It is heavy but my grip is good and my hands are well protected by my gloves.  I cut off the foliage and then proceed to divide the pole at three parts with the bottom part getting my approval as my crude tool.  I then chop off the bottom end slantingly along two faces making it look like a giant flathead screwdriver. 

The weight of the pole is heavy as it is 6 feet and 4 inches high and 2.5 to 3 inches thick.  With that, I have a digging stick that could do more work than a pointed iron rod or a combination of pick and shovel.  It pierces the earth deep and breaks it out with very good leverage, the flat chisel tip doing the work of a shovel.  

Ramon offered to test his made-in-China folding-shovel-and-spike combo to clean the hole of soil after digging it with the pole but it broke in two pieces instead.  Ernie did the cleaning of the hole and I provide him with a coconut shell after that and it did the job well that the iron shovel failed to do.  The hole is eight inches deep, six inches wide and three feet long.

After I finished the “men’s room”, I proceed to the other side and start the earth-breaking work for the “ladies' room”.  We discussed about the contrasting ergonomics that a lady would prefer should they use an outdoors latrine and it would be quite awkward and too “violent” to force them to try one that men can only adopt in our very shameful fashion.  

So it came to be that I found an abandoned millstone with a hole in the center.  The millstone would then become the “seat” provided that I enlarge the hole and gouge a trough on the surface from hole to outer rim with a pointed iron rod.  Quite perfect indeed and the latrine hole is of the same dimension as that of the previous one.  All it needs now are four poles as posts and a sheet of cheap tarpaulin to hide the ladies.

For all these efforts of cutting poles with a knife, dragging and carrying the poles over one shoulder on a steep trail and using one heavy pole to break up the ground, I begin to feel young again as all my bone joints, muscles and ligaments are put to good use.  It is better than exercising inside a gym doing the monotonous regimen, inhaling the same stale air over and over again, even inhaling the not-so-nice elements that comes with it.  

Here, at the outdoors, the air is always fresh with a good dose of sunshine and heat to make you sweat a lot.  Then you get to use a lot of logic and observation skills while working with your hands.  You will feel freedom as you have never felt before and a lot of self-gratification comes forth from the things you do which you thought you do not have the time, the strength and the skill.

Primitive-living skills, especially those practiced by the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, are not for the faint-hearted.  It is labor intensive, making good use of the muscles and bones for strength and power as well as the brains for wit and cunning like the ones I  just did.  Adding to that, is the pride and confidence to use that skill and our tools, especially the blades, to everyone’s advantage after a good dose of improvisation and adaptation.

If you want to call yourself a man and a woman with a streak of strong independence, be at The Gathering, at the PIBC or with Camp Red and learn bushcraft and survival from the masters.  If you want to increase your chances of survival in a SHTF situation, you have come to the right place.  Be that and be all you can be.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014


ON SEPTEMBER 28, THE PROHIBITION on firearms will again start. This is necessitated by the coming elections on October 28, 2013 of village officials on the whole of the Philippines. This blogger was contracted to teach a BASIC GUN SAFETY AND FIREARMS PROFICIENCY TRAINING to all security guards assigned with Sky Rise 1 and Sky Rise 2. Both buildings employ a total of 35 male and female guards and are located at the Asiatown IT Park, Cebu City.

I have done this live-fire training exercises before to some guards of Tactical Security Agency, Inc., especially to those assigned at Cebu Grand Hotel, Oro China Jewelry, KIA Motors and Autowelt BMW Cebu; as well as that agency’s security officers and office staff. I will not be doing the teaching anymore though but I have passed this aspect to SPO1 Fredilson Codilla, a very able firing range instructor and a police officer of good refute.

I have the last half of August to schedule this in three batches and I view it as too precarious considering that other people will likely troop to firing ranges at the last hour or, possibly, ongoing tournaments are still on schedule on some of the popular ones. That is where the knowledge of SPO1 Codilla about certain firing ranges come in handy since he is utilized by most tournament organizers as a range officer.

Buoyed up by a vacant schedule for two weeks on a firing range that have been temporarily closed for repairs, we both set the schedule for the first batch at August 17. Eight male and two female security guards try their hands on the different firearms used like revolvers, pistols and a shotgun. Each individual are allocated 25 rounds for caliber .38 and and another set for 9x19mm and two rounds each for 12-gauge. Safety goggles and ear muffs are provided as well as IPSC cardboard targets.

SPO1 Codilla taught the participants the basics of gun safety, stance, balance, holding, sighting, breathing, squeezing and certain techniques to make movement transitions easy and effortless. Firing range sponsor, Aljew Frasco, later came to give important inputs to the participants. After that, a firing demo were performed by Mr. Frasco, SPO1 Codilla, this blogger and the agency’s recruitment and training officer, Joe Patrick Uy.

The second batch is scheduled on August 23 and were participated by seven male and three female security guards. All were exposed to the same lectures that SPO1 Codilla had on the first batch and all had learned and improved their gun know-how. The last batch of twelve male and three female security guards capped off the program on August 26.

On the whole, SG Alfredo Siarot Jr garnered the highest score of 98.80, SG Mark Anthony Malabosa followed second at 84.64 while LG Femaeline Inoc took third and the highest score for the female side at 75.72. The collage of images shows the activities of August 17, 23 and 26 and the whole program itself:

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Saturday, January 11, 2014


TROPICAL CYCLONE HAIYAN is touted to be the strongest storm ever in the annals of Earth’s modern climatic history. It will churn winds at a velocity of 215 KPH with gusts of more than 250 KPH. It will traverse a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean before targetting the central islands of the Philippines then proceeding on to Vietnam. Once it enters the Philippine area of responsibility on November 8, 2013, it becomes Typhoon Yolanda.

I have survived countless typhoons and weather disturbances on land and on sea and Typhoon Yolanda will be the strongest so far that I will experience. In my mind is Typhoon Ruping which visited unexpectedly on November 13, 1990 at 205 KPH. From sunny weather, during that time, Cebu was gripped in howling madness in just a few hours, causing untold destruction and suffering.

Here in the Philippines, typhoons are rated from ONE to FOUR. At Signal No. 1, a typhoon will spin winds of 30 KPH and above. At Signal No. 2, over 80 KPH winds are expected to howl. Signal No. 3 bring winds of 120 KPH and above as roof sheets are blasted away from houses. A Signal No. 4 is the ultimate typhoon that raises winds of 180 KPH and beyond. When it arrives, it will not bring a lot of rain but the ferocity of its wind will level houses and uproot trees.

Because Typhoon Yolanda is approaching, I will try to reconstruct the events when Typhoon Ruping visited Cebu on that fateful day and the obstacles faced weeks after, especially in the city where I lived. My house is located beside a creek and across mine is a public school with Gabaldon-type1 buildings with a warehouse shielding me from the south. I was not at the house when Ruping struck for I was training in Lahug as a police recruit.

The training center then was located near a small airport which is now converted as the Cebu IT Park. It was an open field then and very exposed. I remembered it was a very hot afternoon. We were cleaning the marching grounds with our hands and the day ended uneventfully. During supper, it came. Everyone ate their meals hurriedly and discipline vanished quickly as each man left the dining table on his own instead of as one unit as was practiced.

We all went to the barracks for safety and to weather the strong tempest. Rain pushed by gusts of wind entered through the rafters, near the doors and windows and, once these gave way, all those near it transferred to the drier side. My cot was located in the middle and so I was safe and dry. Everyone tried to sleep it away but the winds rocked the roof and the wooden building. All felt threatened by the intensity of the winds and all transferred to the mess hall.

By 1:00 AM, Typhoon Ruping uprooted the very posts supporting the roof of the barracks and lifted it whole from the ground and then it crashed on the bunks splintering the wooden roof beams and the cots emptying the damaged barracks of whatever occupants. We stayed at the sturdy buildings which still have roofs on it and waited for daylight. Nobody dared to venture outside and I thought of my wife and my 10-month old son in my old house.

In the morning the storm still raged. Peeping from the windows, I could see roof sheets flying in spirals as tree branches, already deprived of leaves, danced in the air, got broken, while those that not, got twisted grotesquely. Despite that, we were dry and able to eat meals. Presence of authority in camp seemed to vanish after lunch and I gambled to jump over the fence and decide to travel on foot to my residence, three kilometers away, at 2:00 PM.

It was raining hard and visibility is not that good. I need to be very careful with those falling debris and toppling trees but I also had to keep an eye of my trainors who are known to patrol the camp vicinities. I had to be cautious and hope the rain will shield me. The streets were almost deserted except for a few intrepid people clearing debris yet, amidst them, were falling branches, toppled electric posts and those flying roof sheets that came from nowhere.

I ran by way of Camp Lapulapu into Torralba Street then turning left to Salinas Drive where it led down to San Jose de la Montaña Street and then Mabolo. From there, I follow MJ Cuenco Avenue and straight into my home. The Lahug Creek was swollen but, seeing from the sides, it had overflown some hours ago and my house, especially the lower part, was still inundated with flood water.

I saw my wife sweeping away the muddy water and how I am glad that she was alright and I hugged her. My son was asleep upstairs and tears of joy stream into my cheek seeing him unaffected and warm inside his crib. I went down and cleaned the lower floor while my wife prepared supper. When my task was done, it was almost darkness. I hugged my son when he awoke and we all ate dinner under the candlelight.

She said my father brought her a lot of canned goods, rice and candles two days ago and she find it funny why father have to go the trouble of bringing these items since it is very sunny and very assuring. She had not experienced a terrible storm before since she is from Zamboanga del Sur. She later knew that father have known better and had monitored their situation in my absence. I would have felt the same about father too.

I wished I could stay long. Everything is black outside. Once my son slept, I kissed them both and left for the training camp. It was painful to leave them alone yet I have to fulfill my commitment as a provider for my family. It was 10:00 PM. In darkness, I walk very slow. Lights coming from people with flashlights illuminated briefly the streets giving me some ideas where I would walk. It was cold in the dark as the rains had not abated.

I slip back in camp undetected. I noticed a makeshift barracks was hurriedly built and
candlelight shone from inside. When I went in, another police trainee met me at the entrance but he was on the cold floor doing the “snake crawl”, a physical punishment wherein you have to crawl from Point A to Point B several times on your stomach, wriggling forward without using hands which are clasped from behind.

It was too late as the most hated training staff came into view and caught me when a troop count was ongoing. Right then and there, I was ordered to join the one on the floor but the other guy was dismissed outright and I got the full brunt of the punishment. I have no misgivings. The punishment was worth it. I have accomplished my personal mission and came satisfied with the thought that my family was safe. For two hours, I was cleaning the whole danged floor with my belly.

In the morning there were no morning exercises and it was now sunny. We spend the whole day cleaning the center of debris and mud while some of us were called to do repair work on the houses of the training staff. This particular day was the start of the day where all our meals were served with pork running for a whole month. It was kind of a luxury for the first few days though but when it becomes routine, all wished to subsist on even the lowliest of dried fish.

On the the third night after Ruping had left, I escaped after supper and returned to the center before the bed count had started. I had now developed the strategy based on the routine of how the staff ran the training. Two nights after that, I escaped again, and then more. I never made a run on a Sunday or a Saturday because, I knew, the staff would make a surprise head count from out of nowhere!

The following week, we recruits were used during relief operations, helped in cleaning the city streets, donating blood, etc. Then we hit the road again after a hiatus of fifteen days. We welcomed the road runs and it helped release all the stress we had of being cooped up in a place without news of our loved ones and a time to shed off those fats which we got by eating pork three meals a day!

In all that time, several relief operations were conducted by volunteer groups, foreign humanitarian missions and non-government organizations in Cebu. A United States Navy carrier group was even sent here to help in the rehabilitation effort. Power lines were re-strung and waterworks were slowly connected. For a whole month, Cebu was enveloped in darkness but flickers of light slowly claimed its place. Open wells became the source of water for a lot of communities.

One headline that gets worldwide interest was the loss of zinc anodes attached to a US Navy warcraft overshadowing the damage that the Mandaue-Mactan Bridge got from a cargo ship during the blowout. It turned out that it was stolen by adventurous locals and got sold in a junk shop. How these locals got past layers of sea patrols and high-tech detection gadgets bespeaks of the Cebuanos ingenuity to overcome obstacles and difficulties.

Normalcy returned to the streets of Cebu before Christmas and it was the extreme difficulties experienced right after Typhoon Ruping that Cebuanos shelved off their petty differences and worked together for the common good. Although all faced hunger, thirst, cold, heat and uncertainty, there were no lootings. Peace and order did not break down. Neighbors helped each other out. The dead were not left behind on the streets to rot and the injured taken cared of.

I was just amazed at how fast Cebu was able to recover. The governor then was Lito Osmeña and the mayor of the capital city was Tommy Osmeña. Both are first cousins and both worked hard to make Cebu the best place in the country to invest in. Both did not relied help from the national government. Instead, Cebuanos here and abroad rallied to help their fellow Cebuanos. After that, Cebu boomed!

After a year, Typhoon Uring pummeled Ormoc City in Leyte but their fellow Cebuanos did not turn their backs on them. The Cebu Provincial Government and the Cebu City Government were the first to rescue the people of Ormoc from starvation and disease. Malacañan Palace did not know what to do and our people took charge.

As Typhoon Yolanda hit Samar, I braced for its effect. I still lived on the same place but I am at home now unlike the last time. I had already accepted the fate of my roof but I have prepared the contingencies that would ensure my family’s survival. I stocked food, water, candles and batteries; charged full the cellphones, my radio and LED torches. I made sure that all family members are home. We just had a scare from that 7.2 earthquake three weeks ago and all now know what to do.

As the winds whipped the trees and houses, I noticed that the winds just skimmed high above the city’s airspace. Rain was just light and did not cause flood. The creek beside my house turned brown but it refused to go crazy. I leave house and proceed to the office where I worked astride a motorcycle quite confident that this weather is just a temporary nuisance. I brought my survival and first-aid kits with me along with my knives and a two-way radio to monitor the situation.

In just a matter of a few hours, Yolanda hit its third and fourth landfall in Northern Cebu and Bantayan Island. The glass door of the office rattled as the wind increased its ferocity. Meanwhile, my wife becomes worried about the wind strength and messaged me on the cellphone to immediately come home. I did not budge and kept on observing the wind velocity. Her second text implored me to stay at the office as it is dangerous to travel.

I did go home at 2:00 PM. I passed by the church in Mabolo and one of the ancient acacia trees fell towards its courtyard. When I arrived my neighborhood seemed normal except that there are few venturesome individuals. The foot bridge beside my house is full of people. A huge strangling-fig tree growing beside my neighbor’s house fell towards a public school, blocking the creek. Some people are chopping away the limbs but it is hard work and too few hours for the day.

Thankfully, the new house resisted another calamity and all the roofs are intact. We did not have electric power though as the line was cut when that huge tree fell. We do have ample supply of water and candlesticks. Candles lighted our first night until the fourth night. Dark nights made staying at the living room a must and conversations glowed giving my home the warmth it needed. The children played checkers or chess instead of PSPs and TV.

All that time, I am ignorant of the chaos in Tacloban City and the situations on the rest of the Visayas where Yolanda passed until power was restored in my home. Then I promised to myself that I will do my best of what can I do to the people of whose homes were ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda. Cebuanos are a people dedicated to their faith and, with that, of their veneration of the Señor Santo Niño.

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1Single storey wooden buildings that were constructed in the 1920s up to the advent of World War II. It is a type of architecture that was adopted in all public school buildings.

Monday, January 6, 2014


I HAVE GOOD MEMORIES of my first bushcraft activity in Lilo-an, a progressive town located 22 kilometers north of Cebu City, last June 23, 2013. We were doing things that all outdoor groups refused to do: break all protocol. That time, we slashed live bamboos, collect firewood and made a lot of fires. We literally smoked a bank of the Cotcot River.

Today, August 11, 2013, I go back to Liloan but it is a different thing. I promised Aljew Frasco and company that I will teach them map reading. Although it is supposed to be a stormy day, there is a good window of nice weather with lots of sunshine. I arrive early at the meeting place in Mandaue City and then, one by one, Glenn Pestaño, Dominic Sepe and Bogs Belga came.

We all ride a north-bound PUJ and drop by at Titay’s Lilo-an Rosquillos and Delicacies Store. Christopher Maru meet us and we follow him to a house located on the other side of the street where we enjoy breakfast of home-made bread and strong coffee. Allan Aguipo and Warren Señido are already there and familiarity breeds good conversation and easy banter.

Taking the cue of my previous visit, I drink this special coffee straight without sugar and cream. Then a generous refill after that and it made my day bright. When Aljew came, we all hop into the Toyota Lite-Ace while he drove it off from garage to their family farm. Once we settled down, I prepare the maps and pamphlets.

Map reading is a very technical subject and I have to start slow and proceed about the basics of the map. I begin by informing the listeners that there are several types of map and I give an example for each kind until I mentioned the last: the topographic map. This map is the most used in land navigation and is quite easy to use with a lot of information printed in great detail.

After I talked about the map, I proceed concerning the compass. It is good that they will know the different kinds of compass, of which some examples I showed, and it is also good to know the most important components of a compass so they could distinguish the advantages of one compass from the other.

It is very essential that all know that there are certain limitations by which a compass work and this could easily be influenced by a strong electromagnetic field or even by proximity to metal. I stipulate though that they should favor the one which has a baseplate, for it is accurate and very easy to use and has a lot of usage like the magnifying glass and the ruler and, for some certain types, the signalling mirror.

After that, I jump to the cardinal directions – North, East, West and South – and the secondary directions found in between plus their equivalence in degrees. While I was in the middle of it, strong gusts of wind arrive along with rain. I need to stop the lectures as rainwater threatened to spoil my maps, especially those that are printed with ink jet printers.

We waited for the rain to stop and when it did, the momentum of learning upon the participants waned. Indoor lectures which are quite technical tend to be boring and you need to have a good grasp of the pace of the instructions or snap that spell with icebreakers which the rain had provided. As I am not under pressure to finish this at midday, I let all proceed to their own individual plans. It is best to avoid information overload.

Christopher drove the Lite-Ace and gone down to the market while Aljew demonstrate his new fire kit which is an old-school version of stone and steel with charclothe. Glenn, opened up his pouches and EDC items appear and he mentions each and how he acquired it. Dom is still in the clouds about his tracker knife project. Allan gets another dose of funny remarks for his seldom-used Coldsteel Machete.

While these are going on, I get to enjoy the scenery of the small farm and I wonder where I could conduct a practical map reading exercise later. I would need a high ground for that else I could make it easy by going to the highway. I will have to ask Aljew later about a good vantage point since he knows Lilo-an well.

Christopher arrived and he is now clutching three plastic bags. Aljew instantly arrange for himself a tepee of firewood and test his crude fire-making set on the charclothe and a smoke soon appear after blowing a minute ember to life! Allan takes over and fan the small fire to a roaring one.

Meanwhile, Christopher prepare spiced chicken in the kitchen of the farmhouse. He chopped the meat in small bite sizes and all the other ingredients. I, on the other hand, wanted to introduce the group to the mushrooms I foraged last month in Sibonga by frying it with oil along with some spices.

Everyone did as he pleased. Healthy ideas and helpful comments are exchanged. Tall tales take shape and it snap away the seriousness by which everyone are indulged in. The hour crawled to eleven and Allan place the iron grill over the glowing firewood. The pork meat are ready for roasting while Christopher are into the last process of his spicy chicken.

Aljew demonstrated his mastery of the bowdrill and, indeed, he was able to produce punks that glowed hot as wood is rubbed against wood. His persistence and eagerness to experiment on different wood combinations, as his busy time permit, brought forth success. Dom tried his hand on the bowdrill and learned something despite failing to produce a fire.

I tried Aljew’s firesteel set and I am quite amazed at its efficacy on a charclothe. Just when I thought it produced no ember, thin smoke emit and, when charclothe is pressed against charcoal with aid of air blown from the mouth, an ember progresses into a large one whereby I transfer charcoal into a nest of dry tinder and a small flame erupted to life!

At 1:00 PM, lunch is called. Everyone served himself of the spicy chicken and the grilled pork. My mushroom dish is slowly decimated until empty. Christopher made an excellent job on the chicken and I could not help myself saying yes to several refills. I am filled to the brim and this day had become so encouraging as the day wears on.

I get to hold of the original Tom Brown Tracker Knife and this is the same knife that had been used to great effect in the movie The Hunted. It is heavy for its size and unwieldy; not much for delicate work and lacking the qualities where brute force is needed even when that what was designed for. It is just not up to its looks and its reputation. I do not like the grip of the handle and the overall design. It is just scrap metal. Its fighting capability cannot be done to great effect as was shown in the movie. So much for hype!

I rally everyone outside to continue the morning’s lecture. I discuss about sighting a bearing, finding an azimuth and converting same to a back azimuth. When I am done, I let every participant get hold of their compasses and start practicing how to use the compass. I give them three objects to sight and instruct them to read their azimuths as well as the back azimuths.

Satisfied with that, I give them a navigation exercise to test them how well they absorb the lectures. When all have complied with it, we shift to higher ground. We reach the hill above us - the ones near a water reservoir - and start to teach them how to zoom on in their location. I will ask from them two targets to sight on and get their back azimuths for the first method.

The present location is not that high as only Bagacay Point and Silot Bay are the only conspicuous landmarks and the two places are quite near each other and inadequate to get an accurate location of yourself. However, a reading from any of the two will finish the afternoon as the very location where we are is already conducive to give a reading from a modified resection method! I keep mum about it and the dorks went on with their business and they gave me finally their final coordinates.

I laugh at their persistence and they have proven that they learned something today. Well, it is almost late now and, I think, we will have another session such as this the soonest time possible. Land navigation is one of the skills that all members of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild should possess. Someday, all these skills and the things we do will keep us ahead of the rest when the muck hits the fan.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014


UNKNOWN TO ALL of you, I had been suffering from a deformed toe nail for a year now and it limits my movements, especially when I use my right foot. You see, when pressure is applied, the overgrown nail pushes against flesh and causes so much pain. Running along trails are out of my retinue now and downhill walks are carefully measured. I am also cautious that no foot would step on mine.

This toenail remained uncut because it had warped and curled on its right edge. As if that is not enough, body fluid, water and sweat mixed in with detritus and hardened between nail and flesh as it formed another layer of hard material making the toenail extremely thick. I have bought a special nail cutter and another to trim it but the jaws are not that wide to accommodate the unusually-thick nail.

This started right after leading a climb in June 2008 up Mount Dulangdulang in Bukidnon and continuing on to Mount Kitanglad the next day. The nails on both big toes suffered from four days of jungle rot and blackened. It was very painful when it dried up. I even thought that the nails would be gone for good and was preparing myself to accept living without nails on my big toes.

By some miracle borne out of my unusual genes, the toes stayed and some of the black color faded. Not only that, it begins to grow normally although it had not adhered fully to the flesh beneath it. Because of those tiny airspace, semen fluid, water and sweat coagulate and congeal in small amounts which succeeding nail cutters efficiently removed.

The left toe had recovered slightly and had not given me any trouble anymore unlike the right toe which looked like the big toe nails of my late grandfather. When he lived, he used to trim the nails with a razor blade. He preferred the Gillette brand. But I do not have the dexterity to use a razor and I am afraid it would cut me instead.

I was contemplating of clinically removing that problematic toenail for good but I had a change of mind. I remembered reading Sir Ranulph Fiennes in his autobiography, “Mad Bad and Dangerous”. He mentioned in the book that he suffered from frostbite during his Antarctic sojourn and got rid of his two fingers later when it was becoming so bothersome and have caused extreme pain by cutting it off with a hand saw.

I followed his gist and put this to effect on the toenail on the night of November 4, 2013. Armed with a saw blade for metal, I slowly cut the annoying nail at the part two centimeters below the contour of the big toe. I work the saw blade back and forth in short cycles to lessen pain but it brought minimal respite. I get a satisfaction when that part was removed and then I move on to cut the rightmost part at an angle.

This is more difficult because the saw end would bump on the side of the toe. I persevered, doing this in very short see-saw movements until it is almost sawed off. A small part still held the rest so I wrench and pull it off from the toe. Ouch! All this had been witnessed by grandson, Gabriel. He took the pictures of this brutish operation.

When I thought I now have the desired length of the nail and felt comfortable about it, I finished the left side of the nail with my newly-acquired Mörser nailcutter. I carefully cut off the sharp edges with the cutter and it looked normal again. I rubbed some nail file to smoothen the edges.

My right foot feels light and the ugliness brought by that overgrown nail is now gone. I now feel confident to move around where, before, I was hampered. I would do this again, if ever, the toenail would grow back.  At least, for now, it is behaving.

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