Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXIV: A Rough Cut

I AM PREPARING FOR my trip to Luzon in less than two weeks.  Going into the mountains of my playground alone is quite appropriate for me yet I cannot say no to anyone who would want to come along.  A lot of people text me and I text others too.  I can assure everyone that when they do come they will get quality time.  It is not the place or the privilege of my company but it is the totality of the journey.

I am going to Kahugan today, October 5, 2013.  I missed the place and the good folks who live there.  The last time I was there was on May 26, 2013 during an outreach of the Who Put the “N” in Nature II.  That time, we made a lot of people happy when we distributed school supplies to the children of Kahugan and Napo, two mountain communities in Sapangdaku, Cebu City.


I choose Jerome Tibon to accompany me today.  He informed me that he is a regular reader of the Warrior Pilgrimage Blog and would love to learn bushcraft and survival from me.  Wow, another rough diamond!  He told me he was a former amateur baseball player and a long-time Australian resident.  He now works here in one of the BPOs at the Cebu IT Park.  

Going along also is Jhurds Neo of Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.  He needs to exercise more often and I invited him to come along too to liven up our hike.  He just came from Manila for a medical check-up and I believe that a cardio-vascular activity would do him good.  

Meanwhile, another of our guys at Camp Red, Dominic Sepe, is guiding people from Redtrekkers, also today, to hike the trails of Kan-irag and then summit the peak of Mount Sibugay (750 MASL).  It was Dominic who informed me of Jhurds’ condition where I immediately pushed for his inclusion into today’s sortie.

I am the last to arrive at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and I assume the task of procuring the ingredients for our noontime meal.  Camp Red does not like to eat pre-cooked meals and packed lunch and we prefer our food eaten just off the fire.  Corporate package of “instant everything” dulls your attitude and your culinary skills.  I am sure you will agree with that.

By the way, I just want to slowly introduce Jerome to our own brand of bushcraft culture and our inclination towards the open carrying of knives during all our activities in the woodlands and to develop his stamina as well.  As I have said before, we are not mainstream and we do not subscribe to what other groups do and we do not give a heck if you do not agree with what we do.  


Camp Red is very different from the rest and we follow our own outdoors philosophy.  You just have to live with what we do although we may share the same trail on some places.  We are not here just for recreation and exercise.  We come because we want to learn woodlore and to polish off our skills aside from eating good food even under stark conditions that we prepared personally. 

We leave Guadalupe at 8:00 AM on board motorcycles for Napo.  Once there, we stretch tight muscles.  Jhurds and I belted on our knives before embarking on the hike.  The Sapangdaku River is full today.  A structure is being built spanning one bank with another:  A concrete foot bridge.  The sky is sometimes cloudy, sometimes not.  Tree cover is impressive and we do not feel the morning heat yet.

Along the trail, I show Jhurds and Jerome of fish berries (Local name: lagtang).  These berries are dried and then crushed by pestle and mortar and then mixed with krill in a bucket of water.  From this mixture, it is scattered on the sea where fish are lured by it.  When it is swallowed, it paralyze fish for a while and float to the surface where they are easy picking.  Although considered as poison, it does not kill the fish.

Adjacent to it are rambutan, lanzones and Johey oak (Local name: marang) trees.  These trees “do not grow in Cebu” as some people would like us to believe but I do not agree with that.  Anything can grow here and I know that ripe fruits were recently harvested from those trees.  I know also that there is a fully-grown durian tree somewhere nearby.  Conventional hikers do not know and see these little things because they are so preoccupied of time.


Anyway, I walk a pace that is very slow.  From time to time, Jerome will take a rest as local folks pass by us offering their best smiles.  I greet people whom I meet on the trail all the time and give space to them before reclaiming the trail back when they pass by and then people say that I do not follow LNT?  I don’t think so.  I can understand it very well except those that which I considered impractical.

We reach Lower Kahugan Spring and I fill my empty bottle.  A lot of sections of the Kahugan Trail are now concrete.  Motorcycles are now used to transport people and produce from farm to market and vice versa.  The trails were inaccessible to these motorcycles until a year ago and, although it gave me a frown, it is blessing for the local folks.  For that, I may as well share their joys.

While we are at rest under a sandalwood tree (Sp. Sandoticum koetjapi), some hikers came.  We shared the place with them and the place becomes alive with their conversations.  They are all stupefied by the knives on our sides.  Jhurds and I ignored them for there is nothing to explain to these people.  They are just visitors and, probably, would never come back here.

I let Jhurds and Jerome know that I have not yet eaten breakfast.  This is the crucial part because the trail will be ascending, parts of it exposed to the sun.  Besides that, I will be monitoring Jerome, who is now harassed by muscle cramps on his lower legs.  I study the options and take Kahugan Trail which is longer but very friendly.  I chose my resting places wisely and take advantage of the terrain.


After a painstaking advance, we reach the Roble homestead at 10:00 AM.  Manwel and his cousins are playing basketball on a makeshift goal and court.  The visitors’ hut had expanded while old benches had been repaired and replaced with new bamboo seats and back rests.  Fele is worried about an injured male goat.  I retrieve the bag of bread I bought for Manwel, Juliet and Josel.    

Automatically, Jhurds set up three stones and pile firewood between it.  Then he start a fire and cook rice while I set up my camp stove and boil water for coffee.  When I have finished coffee, I proceed on to preparing our mixed-vegetable soup at the earthen hearth.  Since we don’t use MSG (Local name: vetsin), I fry garlic, onions, meat and green pepper, in that order, in oil before I add the rest of the mixed vegetables into the fry pan.  Then I pour coconut milk.  Cabbage, Malabar nightshade, jute and basil leaves are mixed to the soup. 

Another set of hikers arrive and rested on one of the empty benches and watched our cooking.  While we dine on good food, they are content with their cold packed lunch.  What a pathetic way to enjoy the outdoors!  “Instant everything” is miserable and I wonder how these people lived with it for so long?  Anyway, Fele provided us with green coconuts and ripe bananas for dessert.  

After the meal, conversation just flowed naturally from knives to herbs to places to baseball to ham radios and so on.  I test my CIGNUS V85 Dual-Band Portable Radio on a pre-selected frequency.  The signal is good but scratchy at times.  I just passed the Class C Amateur Radio Operator examinations and I am in the process of getting a license for myself and my radio.  I am planning to organize an amateur radio station dedicated for all outdoorsmen.

Today, I did not bring my tomahawk and I feel sorry for Jerome because he wanted to feel it on his hands.  I brought instead a spin-off of the Puffin Magnum knife, my William Rodgers bushcraft knife, my Victorinox SAK Trailmaster and a Case XX folding knife, which I recently got from a trade.  Also in my possession is a vintage World War II era Imperial boot knife with which knife I was commissioned by the owner to restore this to its former grandeur.   

I am a knife collector but never an obsessed one.  I collect good knives not because I want to gain from it or getting prestige of owning these but because I am bred by people who understood knives.  If you will just erase the misconception that a knife is a weapon, you will begin to understand the utility of purpose for which mankind have been so grateful for by its invention. 


Dark clouds begin to appear at the ridges of Mount Babag and there is a heavy downpour at 1:30 PM but our conversations went on.  I begin to wonder at the reactions of the two separate groups of hikers when rain overtakes them on a steep terrain.  That is the question Jerome posed to Jhurds which the latter shrugged as a no-brainer.  Bushcraft paradigm is you either adapt or you suffer.

When 4:00 PM came, we leave the Roble homestead for Napo.  The rain had stopped but the trails are slippery.  Jhurds walk the point while I take the tail with Jerome in between us.  Fogs enveloped us.  After an hour, we reached Napo.  Darkness comes early at this time of year.  We wait for motorcycles to take us back to Guadalupe and we got it after we walk for the main road.

When we all arrive at Guadalupe, the group of Dominic had already settled at EZ Mart, a convenience store located 800 meters away.  With him are Ernie Salomon, Ramon Corro, Boy Toledo and Sam Lim.  Jhurds and I join them while Jerome needs to get home early to tend his baby girl.  Today is Sam’s birthday and the beer flowed freely with pizzas to boot.  


Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer


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