Monday, January 6, 2014

COMPLEAT BUSHCRAFT V: The Farm

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.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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