Saturday, February 22, 2014

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN XXIV: Day of the Feathered Ones

I WAKE UP AT SIX in the morning today, September 8, 2013, and, I think, I need to hike the backwoods again alone. I really needed that. I just have had a stressful week and another one looming tomorrow. Solo walks for me are now rare since the time Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild is now an outdoors fixture here in Cebu plus the fact that Snakehawk Wilderness School is beginning to steal away my weekend time.

This is not a planned trip. It is a spontaneous self-eviction from my comfort zone. More of like a rapid deployment exercise than an urge. I will re-visit Camp Damazo and see for myself what is on the other side of that strange trail that I have not had found the time to explore. Today will be the day and that three-year-old question will be unraveled later in the day. Perhaps. Crossed fingers and all.

Now is the time to remove some kinks of my emotions and to exercise that nagging knee. I hurriedly pack the things I need inside my Sandugo Khumbu bag after I took a bath and I am at the street before 6:45 AM. I commute twice from residence to Jones Avenue and thence to Guadalupe. The church is full and I believe that today is a special day for Catholics. I show respect to my faith by genuflecting before the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and uttering “Jesus, Mary, Joseph; I Love You, Save Souls” several times.

After I had a humble breakfast at a sidestreet eatery, I buy raw eggplants, gumbos, bell peppers, an onion and a clove of garlic at the same street for my lunch which I will cook later. I hire a motorcycle to bring me up the trailhead in Baksan. When I got dropped off, I re-fixed my shoelaces, adjusted my operator belt, wear a camouflage hat and sent a final text message to someone that I am hiking solo before turning off the cell phone. I tuck my William Rodgers and sheath inside the bag’s double waist strap – frontiersman style. At exactly 8:00 AM, I start the hike.

I am testing a prototype outdoor pants from Silangan Outdoor Equipment. Silangan is now experimenting the grounds of outdoor apparel production right after their tents became an instant hit among local mountaineers. This pair, colored gray, is currently undergoing a series of tests on the rugged outdoors, which I am good at, and on the streets. I have worn this to match assorted shirt designs and colors even with different polo barongs. It had its initial test during the Outlaw Bushcraft Gathering last week where it was worn three days and three nights straight.

I understand that it had rained regularly here for the past few months and the last time I was here was during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in June. The grass have grown long and wet; wild plants are flowering; a lot of bird activity everywhere; mushrooms opening up; the teak forests are healthy and you could tell patches of it at faraway hills with their blooming flowers distinguishable by its light green color. The forest is alive.

I saw something unusual beside a trail and I found a compact disc which has Guitar Rock 1968-1969 printed on it under a Time-Life label. I pick it up and keep it not because I am doing trail maintenance but because I believe that the CD contained the finest collections of songs in the best years of the big-band rock era. If I could only retrieve what’s inside after cleaning it, well, I could then have a gem of a collection. That is if it is not broken.

I pursue on my hike despite the long grass covering Lensa Trail. I may need a wooden staff to beat the grass ahead of me to shoo away whatever lurking beneath. It seems that the trail is cleared of debris and firewood and I have yet to find me a staff when, not ten feet ahead of me, a wild fowl flew suddenly in a trail of feathers when it have known of my presence. I pause for a while to study my situation and to observe the effect of its flight. True enough, a second one erupted ten seconds later from the same ground towards the route of the first.

Beside me is a straight branch of a teak tree and I chop it down immediately with my knife because I really needed it. I clear the leaves and sharpen its bottom and I now have me a walking stick that doubles as a weapon. It is good that, this early, only fowls make their presence felt on the trail and not a formidable creature like a Philippine cobra which, I believe, are still thriving in this locality.

I walk on slowly with the stick probing the ground where my eyes cannot see. There is a fork on the trail that is very deceptive and, I think, I am going the wrong way. I notice it after about three meters so I backtrack and found it. I have to pay attention to the slightest detail else it would be very frustrating, tiring and time-consuming when you get lost; and you would never know what dangers you may encounter in its remotest places when animal life is so active as it is now. Of course, poisonous snakes are always a threat but I worry more of stray bullets from a hunter’s rifle.

I go down a low ridge and up a hill which I loved to call as “Boy T’s Hell”. Three years ago, on this place, Boy Toledo almost fainted of exhaustion and thirst while in an exploration hike with me and Ernie Salomon. We were following a stream looking for a route and changed to higher ground when I saw a grove of bamboo. From there, I follow a trail east and come upon this hill but not after encountering several difficulties associated with jungles.

I am up on the peak and I inhale deep. The weather is good, very cloudy, but I do not discount rain. I am not worried getting wet, in fact, I welcome it. At least, in rain I could cover all the smells I carry or produce and it hides my presence. Nearby, a wild hen make its presence felt by announcing its territory. I smiled inwardly that they are getting bolder today or maybe their population are thriving.

I go down and follow a ridge and, somewhere there, would be the tree which I marked to lead me to a better way down the stream. I could hear the water rippling and so wonderful to the ears as I slowly watch everything in stride. I saw the tree and found another tree that would be the springboard to a narrow gully where the slope begins to go gentle. I notice that the twenty-five pairs of feet of last June’s PIBC have created a temporary path from tree to gully and I follow it easily.

I reach the stream (Creek Alpha) after one hour. I take time to savor the open space and the soothing rhythm of water running down briskly among rocky channels. The place have not been visited lately and traces of human feet are absent as seen on the moss that grew on the rocks. I study a small tributary closely as a possible continuation of the trail found on the other side of the bank where I came from. I see a hint but, that would be on another trip.

I follow the water downstream, careful not to disturb moss and leveling each deep indenture caused by my own careless steps on sand or by my weight. I always look back, very careful not to leave tracks else, I feel, I am not doing it right. I am very particular of this and I am proud and confident to walk where I please because I want to leave as little trace of my passing unless I leave prints for a purpose.

I found the other end of the trail beside a tree with an X and climb up a short slope where the main route is found. I pass by the old campsite of PIBC 2011 and it is slowly recovering its vegetation. I push on following the path which, I know, will lead me to the second stream. I reach that stream (Creek Bravo) at 9:15 AM. There are no signs of surface water but there is one invisible stream underneath me. This is the only place here where groves of water bamboo (Local name: butong) are found.

After this, my next destination is Camp Damazo and it would be a little hard. I will be hiking up a ridge and I will be passing a lot of rattan palms growing along the route. When I reached the ridge, I pause to recover my breath. I did not touch my water but I could have that luxury when I reach the campsite. Perhaps. But it is not a hot day and rehydration is not critical since I just walk on a very comfortable pace.

I walk on steady inclines and wary of them rattan leaves as it try to reach your shirt, bag and skin. I found one whole plant blocking the path but I found a short detour and reclaimed the trail. Along the trail are young coffee seedlings planted just recently. Well, that would create a coffee industry someday here and, perhaps, Malayan palm civets would sweeten the pot for that. Who knows?

On a small clearing I see remains of a fire, empty coffee sachets and feathers. I believe someone had caught a wild fowl, as I examined the feathers closely, and cooked some of its meat here. How did the hunter catch it? I see two young branches of a Mexican lilac tree (Local name: kakawate, madre de cacao) getting bent out of place supporting two banana leaves, now frayed and dry, as roofing of a crude shelter. Obviously, someone must have camped here and stayed beneath it waiting for his prey but where would the hunter have guessed the prey would be?

I looked around and above and I see a tall arbor tree stripped of its leaves by caterpillars. You could barely see the top as it is covered by lower leaves of other trees and common sense dictates that whatever was there at the top could also barely see the hunter below. It is plain obvious that the fowl had been foraging on caterpillars when shot by the hunter and the rest is history. Smart.

I take some feathers with me for my arrow projects and proceed on to Camp Damazo. The “gate posts” give me a hint that I am near. So, I am here again and it is like a homecoming. The fire ring beside the tall Moluccan ironwood tree (Local name: ipil) is still there as well as its “guardian”, the stingy stinging tree (Local name: alingatong). The place is a natural campsite since it has a wide clearing and made wider still during two occasions of the PIBC with a water source nearby.

I relish at this occasion and at the thought of being the one who found this site. I stayed for a while and reminisced of the people I brought here who learned, through me, about bushcraft and survival. I have a lot of converts but few are jewels. These special kind practiced what they learned and slowly made a name for themselves. PIBC is an annual affair for everyone who wanted to learn primitive-living techniques and wilderness survival skills and this is the place where they started.

I look all around and young coffee trees began to reclaim their designated spots due to constant rain and few human activities. I say goodbye to Camp Damazo at 10:00 AM and proceed on to the stream (Creek Charlie) that nourished a lot of people on the night of June 11, 2013. This stream is a free-flowing stream with a lot of boulders and very primeval. Too few people come here and it is populated by thousands of fresh-water crabs during nighttime.

Before I reach the stream, a black shama (Local name: siloy) gave off its very distinct melody. It is an endemic bird and very shy. It usually live and nest in groves of bamboo but its habitat had been slowly encroached by humans until it disappeared from the lowlands and had become rare. I have not seen an adult bird but probably have seen a fleeting glimpse of it while on flight. Ironically, it was not here in Cebu but in Bataan. Besides the black shama, I have also heard cuckoos, native pigeons and a wild rooster crowing.

I arrive at Creek Charlie and do a little investigation on the river bed, especially upstream. I am armed with a small ballpein hammer and a concrete nail and I hope to chip off chunks of a big slab of quartzite partly buried in sand. But I found one small slab instead mixed with other stones and break it into three pieces then wash it on the stream and let it dry. Satisfied with that, I climb up the bank and prepare my food ingredients for my meal.

While doing that, I treat myself to jazz music coming from my newly-acquired CIGNUS V85 Dual-Band Portable Radio set which could also get an FM signal. I set the channel at 89.9 kHz and it set my mood right. Like the Silangan outdoor pants, I am also testing my new radio. I am still learning how to manipulate all the buttons and I just prepare this radio unit just in case I will pass the Class D Amateur Radio Examination next week.

I start my mushroom-and-vegetables meal when I think the food is cool enough to eat. Fortunately for me, I am the only one who liked my cooking. The gumbos are a bit crunchy and I liked that. The milled corn is perfectly cooked but, if I could only have the luxury of time, I would have cooked all of these inside of bamboo poles and on a fire given off by firewood. Anyway, good music made my dining great.

I return to the creek to wash the pots on the small cascading water. As I was doing so, some brown butterflies are attracted to what I wore. Maybe the smell of laundry soap has got to do with that. What if these were hornets instead of butterflies? Anyway, I got startled by one butterfly on my shoulder when I saw it in the corner of my eye and thought the brown mass was a feral creature stalking behind me. Just an imagination.

When I got the stones, I start to pack my bag and retrace my path and looked for the branch of the trail that had been on my attention. It is 12:00 noon. As I go there, a strange tree grew in a dim part of the forest. I had not noticed it before. The trunk resembled the shape of a sitting giraffe complete with a long neck and two legs. I am tempted to go near it to take a picture but it is best to leave some things alone.

When I thought I have found the trail fork, I go further back, almost to where Camp Damazo is. Then I slowly walk again to the trail fork and follow the one that is most visible going up. I follow the path but it just disappeared when I reach a big upland marsh palm (Local name: saksak). I cannot go forward for it is choked by a lot of thorny vines and rattan palms. If that was not enough, the sky went dark. Rain is ominous.

So I backtrack, hoping I have miscalculated and taken the wrong path and go back to the creek. As I was walking, I see a shiny black bird, perching on a low branch inside the part where I also saw the “giraffe tree” before. It stared at me, unbelief written in its eyes, that I have come so uncomfortably close. Then it flew. Obviously, it was a black shama! It is my first time to see it face to face.

From the creek, I retrace the trail again and again until I have no recourse but to end this little exploration as the weather seem to be becoming uncooperative. It is getting dark and I do not have the appetite to go probing in half-light. I go back near Camp Damazo and take the exit route towards Baksan Road. I will be passing a natural spring and two small creeks and then a steep path. Then the sky parted and the sun returned.

While I am in the middle of that route, I stop to enjoy the spectacle of two birds of prey gliding above and among a copse of trees. Then, another one joined the two and I could not help it but be happy. These are graceful birds and so different in the way they fly. It is not everyday you see three eagles. You know what, today’s walk have blessed me with a lot of bird activity. It seemed that the forest had given me a big welcome.

Just when I am about to proceed, a fourth eagle appeared to join the three. All float in circles and dive in and out of the trees and everything is silent all around. I am blessed with this rare moment seeing all those four raptors. I believed I stayed for more than fifteen minutes just watching this rare activity. Then all stop when the biggest one fly high going west and the other three fly after the leader.

I reach the road and take a rest, enjoying the sight of sweat dripping to the ground. I take two swigs of water and rest some more, letting my body cool. Yonder is a path beside the road going down to Lanipao and it is now easy. Somewhere in that little community is a small store selling cold beer and I liked that idea very much.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Friday, February 14, 2014


DEATH VALLEY MAGAZINE, through their Death Valley Expeditionary Corps, came to Cebu recently to engage in a humanitarian mission to ease the plight of the communities caused by Tropical Cyclone Haiyan. Haiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, was the strongest storm that the world had ever experienced in its entire modern climatic history with wind strength of 215 KPH and above. It struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013 leaving a wide swath of destruction and death. The islands of Samar and Leyte bore the full brunt of the storm as well as Northern Cebu and on the rest of the Visayas.

DVM is an online magazine about professional adventurers and interesting people while the DV Expeditionary Corps is its humanitarian arm. It gets its crew from the very places where they go to execute their relief missions and expeditions just like they did at Guintarcan Island recently. Their Philippine contacts were from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, a Cebu-based club of outdoorsmen who are passionate about primitive-living skills and knives. They were Jing de Egurrola, Glenn Pestaño, Ernie Salomon, Dominic Sepe, Faith Gomez and Justine Ianne Abella with Jhurds Neo as base support.

James Price, founder of DVM, arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport in the early morning of November 22, 2013 and brought with him relief goods donated by the people and servicemen of the United States of America. Mr. Price decided to augment his cargo with locally-sourced goods like powdered milk, canned sardines and beans, biscuits, laundry soaps, candies, disposable lighters and bottled water.

On the morning of November 23, the DV Expeditionary Corps proceeded to Medellin in a convoy of two vehicles provided by Gerald Ortiz and the Don Bosco Technical High School Batch ‘94. A small motorboat ferried the crew and cargo over the Bantayan Channel into the small village of Langub in Guintarcan where the relief goods were distributed. A good number of affected households came to avail of the said items that Mr. Price personally distributed.

The DV Expeditionary Corps transferred to a seaside community of Dapdap and used the partly-damaged house of Tita Rosos as its base camp from where it reached out to the needs of the residents like the field treatment of the wound caused by burns on a youth that Mr. Price dressed and ocular assessment of the area. The crew returned to mainland Cebu on the following day, November 24, after that successful aid mission. Below are the collage of photos that document this activity of two days:

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Friday, February 7, 2014


I HAVE A HEAVY backpack today, August 30, 2013, and I see the trail that leads to the campsite in Lower Sayaw, Sibonga, Cebu quite daunting.  Although I am blessed with mild weather but it is humid caused by last night’s downpour.  It is quarter to nine in the morning and not the best time to start a hike.

I am with Faith and Justine.  Both have heavy backpacks as well and both are participants of the first-ever OUTLAW BUSHCRAFT GATHERING of which I, together with Wil Rhys-Davies, have organized under Snakehawk Wilderness School.  This activity is the brainchild of Wil.  It goes on for three days until September 1 and will be thoroughly different from the bushcraft camps that I myself convene every now and then.

I am sweating, breathing hard and my knees are uncannily so uncooperative today.  I stop so often to adjust to the pace of Faith and Justine who both are as much in a difficult bind than me.  It is a long way from Napo, Carcar from which we started our uphill walk and trees are a welcome refuge to shield us from the sun’s tormenting rays.

With my hand on an eco bag, I carry a big hard-bound children’s dictionary, vegetables and spices and a kilo of milled corn.  As we reach the middle part of the route, I volunteer to carry the two kilos of milled corn that Justine had been lugging so he could free his other hand which had been holding a tent set.  Wisps of moisture drop from the sky and cool me a bit but that’s all.  It is warm again when it is gone.

After ninety minutes of walking and getting winded of the effort, we reach the shoulder of the hill where the others are now waiting.  By now, the camp is only two hundred meters away but it is a far 200 since it is now 10:15 AM.  Nevertheless, I push on at a crawling pace and stopping short of our objective to avail of a shade offered by a mango tree growing on a hillside.

Beyond the bend, I see another mango tree and then another and then a tent.  Wil meet me and show me the rest of the campsite.  The designated camp is empty as all the shelters are erected at a small valley down on the other side of the hill but I need to give the book to the Ramos family first.  Then I go down and meet the rest of the guys like Glenn, Jhurds, Aljew, Christopher and Allan. 

Wil gave a welcome speech to everyone and talk about campsite selection and safety and personal hygiene.  As he was discussing, coffee is served and I drink a cup of it to pep me up after that tiring walk.  It is good to just be sitting under a cool shade but there is no breeze here.  Since it is almost noontime, everyone gets to work preparing to cook their meals. 

I need to secure water first for drinking and washing.  Coming with me to the water source are Jhurds, Justine and Faith.  When we have returned, they are now in the middle of their lunch.  We go back up the hill to prepare also our meals.  When we have eaten, the rest are gratefully taking their siesta.  It is cooler on the hill and I cannot understand why people camp at that small valley when I did not designate it as a campsite?

But I have an unfinished business and this will be the first activity:  Making a tripod seat for the men’s latrine.  I rally everyone to come up the hill with me where I stashed the wooden poles and retrieve it.  I will need it as the latrine seat.  Despite deprived of rest, I make an effort to do this task immediately.  

When we had brought the poles to the site, Wil and I proceed to lash a tripod together with cheap paracord.  When it was done, I chop a notch on two of the poles where a smaller pole will be lashed horizontally providing as the seat.  The tripod seat is then placed above the latrine hole which I have dug twelve days ago (CB 06: Digging Holes).   

Wil instructed the male participants to install a tarpaulin sheet all around the latrine in the same manner as that done earlier on the women’s latrine which was secured to six upright poles.  When we have finished the latrines, I go back up the hill and begin to set up my own shelter.  I need to set up my sleeping quarters before I could claim rest if ever there is one for daylight.

It is just a simple shelter with the longest bamboo pole of a tripod used as a ridge to connect to a jackfruit tree propping the tarpaulin whose four corners are secured by cords and wooden pegs.  A used advertisement tarp make up my shelter footprint.  The ultimate budget backpacker’s way.  Breeze will flow freely to cool the insides.

As I was setting up my shelter, those that had set up tents at the small valley transfer residence nearby Wil’s.  They opt to take advantage of shades under the mango trees and the uninterrupted breeze that their former campsite cannot provide.  Although the former site is a good place, it is not a safe area since it is a natural drainage and, aside that, it is hot and humid there.  

That is why I chose the upper ground as the designated campsite.  I could recognize a good campsite when I see one and Wil also could, based upon his wide experience.  Although there are coconut trees but these are planted in straight lines and you could set up your shelters in between and not underneath it.  You just watch out where you walk though.    

The rest of the afternoon are dedicated to conversations and socials.  Wil, by his many years at the outdoors, talked about his experiences as a traveller whether it be on a desert, a mountain, on snowed places or even on a city.  Conversations such as this are good staples in a campsite, especially in a bushcraft camp, although it is best beside a campfire with coffee or moonshine.            

When it is late afternoon, everyone prepared dinner for the first night.  Aljew, Allan and Christopher helped themselves to cook their own dinner while Jhurds and Glenn collaborated for their own.  Same with Justine and Faith.  Wil joined the group of Aljew while I make my own meal of mushrooms that I foraged.

The evening is allotted for Campfire Yarns and Storytelling.  Aljew provide the fire while a local moonshine – a coconut wine – appeared to coax the participants into a fluid state of telling tales.  Jhurds, Glenn and Wil took turns in doing that while the rest gets entertained.  This goes on until the last drop of the “jungle juice” had ran out its course.

On the second day (August 31), the Gathering is dedicated for primitive-living skills.  Bamboos – green and mature – are gathered from below the camp after breakfast and tools are made out of the green ones like drinking jugs, spoons, cooking vessels and weapons.  Wil showed how the Aeta cook their rice while I showed my own system of cooking anything in it.  Both are efficient though if you know how. 

The dry bamboos are used as firewood, bows and arrows and a blowgun.  Wil is the expert on bows and arrows and he made one for Faith to test on.  I made a blowgun from a tube of a sand bamboo with a bamboo dart.  Flight is made from the husk of a mature coconut and quite light.  I try it against a trunk of jackfruit tree 30 meters away but a crosswind blow it off course else it would have hit target.

From a short pole of a green water bamboo (Local name: butong), I cook rice.  From a green tube of a sand bamboo (Local name: bagakay), I experiment the cooking of rice in it.  I failed to cook it properly on the latter but I am wiser now and know how to do it next time.  We took our meal at 1:00 PM when the rice was cooked inside the bigger bamboo.  Then all take time to enjoy siesta. 

Next activity is a plant identification tour.  It is my specialty but, unfortunately, I cannot be with them since I will rendezvous with Fulbert and Dominic and the owners of Silangan Outdoor Equipment - JR and Rev Cheryl Servano at Candaguit, Sibonga.  Silangan Outdoors is one of the sponsors of the Gathering.  Wil and I endorse their products when we do outdoor seminars together or separately.

That activity proceed on in my absence but without the plant ID session.  When I do arrive back to camp, it is already 7:30 PM.  The Serviano couple set up their prototype tent nearby and join the participants in the middle of another Campfire Yarns and Storytelling greased by two gallons of coconut wine.  After my own dinner, I join the campfire crowd.

When the native wine is sucked dry, it was replaced by bottles of Tanduay Rum which made the conversations more animated and more amusing.  It run from knives to urban legends to witchcraft to ghosts.  Scary stories put a lid to the night activity and everyone silently crawled to their respective sleeping quarters including Dom whose legs became rubber that night.

On the third and final day (September 1), I woke up late to find the Servano couple already gone.  I had a good night’s sleep.  It was cool.  After coffee time, I need to take a walk to the main village of Sayao, which is located uphill.  A dirt road goes up there winding among farms set in long valleys and among hills.  Coming along is Jhurds and Fulbert.  I need to tour the house of the village chieftain.

I reach the top of the hill but a route goes down into a small water basin – Lake Sayao.  All around it are vegetation and a small shore for people to take a swim or to catch fish.  On the side is a waiting shed.  Across the shed is a limestone cave.  It is said to be deep but I have no appetite for caving right now as I do not have the proper tools.

Going further on, I see a big gate with an elephant fruit tree (Local name: catmon) and a rare black banana (Local name: malumbaga) on its approach.  The village headman – Dionisio Navasca – owns the property where we are right now.  He was born in Hawaii but returned here to manage his ancestral property.  He practiced sustainable living and, without his knowing, prepping.  He preserves the landscape and forbids the wanton cutting down of trees, slash-and-burn farming and hunting of wildlife and birds.

I toured the rest of his property and I see a small amphitheatre which is used as a cockfighting arena, stones broken from hills arranged as walls, a big Malay apple tree (Local name: macopa), a chapel that contains the remains of his ancestors and antique statues, a fishpond, farms of different vegetables, a blacksmith shop, fossils, a small hardwood forest, a ham radio station, a lookout deck, ancient millstones, a herd of goats, cows, swamp buffaloes and lots of free-range chicken.

I was surprised to see a huge Philippine ebony tree (Local name: kamagong) here.  I instantly recognized it when I walk above a catwalk following the footsteps of Jhurds and Fulbert.  Both are awed by it and it is their first time to see this tree, which both did not recognize when they pass beneath it.  I smell the leaves as I bury my head amongst it.  It is so nice to see one after a very very long time.

One of the things that is worth mentioning are the old stone grinders.  One is made for grinding corn and constructed of Mactan stone.  The other one is made of basalt rock, made in Negros, designed to grind rice.  These were brought by Dionisio’s great grandparents when they left Cebu for Hawaii in 1905 to work on the sugar cane fields there.  Dionisio brought it back home for good.  I touched the basalt stone and I embrace it close to my heart, tears welling on my eyes.         
When we returned to the campsite, I seek the items for giveaways given by our sponsors like the packs of Titay’s Lilo-an Rosquillos to the organizers and participants.  Two gift certificates from Vienna Kaffeehaus and another one from St. Mark Hotel are raffled off to two lucky persons which Faith got for a free dinner for two and Allan for a free overnight accommodation and breakfast.  

When it is done, I pick up my tomahawk and dagger to start the knife-throwing session.  The target is a coconut tree trunk.  Gosh, it is hard.  My hawk just bounced off it even though the throw caught it true several times.  Glenn join me and his hawk caught the trunk on its steely grip at last after several tries.  I throw the knife on different distances and on different force but my timing was off, clearly a result of a rusty skill that have seen better days in the past.

When I have had enough of that, I place my tomahawk and all my blades to start the Blade Porn.  Everyone followed the gist and laid down their blades.  Branded ones are laid side-by-side with locally-made blades, with folders and multi-tool sets baring their teeth.  The blade porn is a valued tradition in a bushcraft camp and I do that every now and then, especially during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp every June 12th. 

Afterwards, Glenn called everyone to gather around a sheet of laminated nylon to start the Blanket Trade.  He explains to all how it is done.  He placed a set of items which I matched with mine and it does not have to be that the items up for trading have the same value.  The individual’s preference is taken into consideration but if the initiator of the trading do not “take the bait”, the other would match it up by “sweetening the pot”.  In my case, Glenn took a liking to my offer and it is consummated.  Then the trade goes on.

Before breaking camp, Glenn offered to have his Benjamin air-powered rifle for testing and firing.  Impromptu targets are set infront of a cairn 30 meters away.  Fulbert, Justine and Faith fired away at targets from as big as an empty sardine can to as small as bottled-water caps.  Then we finally leave with all ten of us inside Aljew’s pickup for the big city.        

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Saturday, February 1, 2014


WHEN TYPHOON YOLANDA left the Visayas in devastation, the company where I worked in, authorized me to organize a relief mission, so I tasked two of my officemates to conduct a survey up north Cebu on November 11, 2013. Both told of the destruction that the typhoon laid waste on the habitations and vegetation and the heart-rending spectacle of people begging along the roads for food and water.

My company – Tactical Security Agency, Inc. - employ security guards assigned at several provincial hospitals located at Northern Cebu, Bantayan Island and the Camotes Islands, as well as in a dive resort (Sea Explorers) located at Malapascua Island. Aside that, a lot of our guards who are assigned in Metro Cebu came from these places and it is my task to determine which guard will be provided help.

I decide that we concentrate on the areas starting from the town of Sogod, then going up north, as the very places that will be prioritized for relief goods giving, to include the islands. Approved during the discussion were the procurement of roof sheets, nails, rice, canned goods, instant noodles, biscuits and the people that will comprise the team.

After allocating funds good for fifty households, the company’s relief mission moved forward. So, on November 15, exactly a week after Typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc, this blogger and Joe Patrick Uy proceeded to undertake this humanitarian mission. We start early at 7:00 AM from Mandaue City using a Toyota Hi-Ace.

Another team, manned by Archie Albaciete and Joseph Sicad, will go direct to Bantayan Island. They will utilize the smaller Suzuki Multicab and will also start from Mandaue City then cross Bantayan Channel from the Port of Hagnaya, San Remigio. They start earlier at 4:00 AM and will spend a night at the Bantayan District Hospital before returning the following day.

We will distribute the items in two batches and thirty people will get their chance of aid first. Each security guard is allocated six pieces of roof sheets, a kilo of mushroom nails, five kilos of rice and an assortment of canned goods, instant noodles and biscuits.

We will use the provincial hospitals as storage areas for easy access to neighboring towns and outlying areas. The Danao District Hospital in Danao City would be used as a depot for the towns of Poro, San Francisco, Pilar and Tudela, where the RL Maningo Memorial Hospital is located. These towns are located offshore on the Camotes group of islands. Four guards are allocated, among themselves, 24 roof sheets, nails and four food packs.

Next is the Juan Dosado Memorial Hospital in Sogod where it is used as a holding point for the relief items of guards working and/or residing in the towns of Sogod, Borbon and Tabogon. Four guards are allocated, among themselves, 24 roof sheets, nails and four food packs. By now, the great typhoon’s passing is getting discernible when we drove on the mountain road of Eme that pass by Borbon and Tabogon.

After that is the Severo Verallo Memorial Hospital in Bogo City. It will be used as the storage area of relief items for guards who are assigned and/or residing in Bogo City and the town of San Remigio. Eight guards are allocated, among themselves, 48 roof sheets, nails and eight food packs. The Israeli Defense Force took over operation of the hospital and it is off limits to vehicles. Nevertheless, we were allowed to deliver our cargo.

Travelling further north, damage is greater. A lot of people are on the road waiting for passing vehicles for dole outs while their homes are devastated beyond repair. A lot of trees are uprooted while coconuts broke in half or got toppled. What is interesting is that the direction of the wind that brought down the majority of all trees came from the west, which the old folks call in vernacular as “badlong” - the wind that breaks all winds.

The Daanbantayan District Hospital in Daanbantayan is the last stop. It is used as the storage hub of relief items for guards assigned and/or residing on the towns of Medellin and Daanbantayan and the islands of Malapascua and Guintarcan. Eight guards are allocated, among themselves, 48 roof sheets, nails and eight food packs.

The Toyota Hi-Ace I rode encountered engine trouble at Bogo City and then another time at Medellin. It overheated because of faulty water circulation. We remedy it by resting the engine to cool it down and refilled the radiator. The last trouble occurred in the early evening when we were cruising back to Cebu City passing by Lugo in Borbon. It refused to start again and we have to wait for rescue which arrived at nine. The vehicle was towed back to its garage which we reached at 2:00 AM of the following day.

Meanwhile, the other team in Bantayan will use the Bantayan District Hospital as a base for distribution of relief items for guards assigned and/or residing at the towns of Santa Fe, Bantayan and Madridejos. Six guards are allocated, among themselves, 36 roof sheets, nails and six food packs.

That sums up the first trip to the north where Tactical Security was able to provide 180 corrugated roof sheets for thirty guards along with 150 kilos of rice, 30 kilos of mushroom nails and an assortment of canned goods, instant noodles and biscuits. The team members provided their own meals as a form of solidarity with the typhoon victims.

The second trip for the second batch of twenty households was undertaken on November 25, 2013 or seventeen days after Typhoon Yolanda hit Cebu and ten days after the first mission. The same system of storage areas are utilized. This blogger and Joe Patrick Uy will proceed north once again and deliver another humanitarian mission.

At Danao City, six roof sheets, nails and a food pack is allocated to one guard residing at San Francisco; at Sogod, six roof sheets, nails and a food pack is allocated to one guard residing at Tabogon; at Bogo City, 30 roof sheets, nails and five food packs are allocated to five guards residing at Bogo City and San Remigio; and at Daanbantayan, 54 roof sheets, nails and nine food packs are allocated to nine guards residing at Medellin, Daanbantayan and Guintarcan Island.

The team of Archie Albaciete and Joseph Sicad left for Bantayan Island on November 26 to deliver 24 roof sheets, nails and four foods pack for four guards residing at the towns of Bantayan and Santa Fe. They were attached to a bigger relief mission undertaken by the officers and staff of Allure Hotel and Suites.

The second trip for the last batch had provided 120 corrugated roof sheets, 100 kilos of rice, 20 kilos of mushroom nails and an assortment of canned goods, instant noodles and biscuits for twenty security guards. Aside that, we provided five food packs for our security guards who are residents of Tacloban City, Ormoc City and Carigara in Leyte and in Guiuan, Samar.

During the travels we took, we made many families happy. Not because of the relief packs but because this company took pains to recognize the importance of their breadwinners in our policies. We take care of our people and that’s what counts. Our security guards are our frontliners and we never abandon them when SHTF comes like earthquakes and super typhoons so we give back. They are our jewels. It is for this reason that Tactical Security is on top of its game in a very competitive industry.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer