Monday, May 26, 2014

POEM #10: OPeak

O Grandfather Mountain of the South,
how glad am I to sit again on your lap.
So many years have passed between us;
but you recognized me with a smile;
against the warm sun behind me.

The sweet smell of moist grass and earth
wafting thru my nose like a long-lost scent
of a forgotten love affair buried by time;
have made my meeting with you nostalgic
and condescendingly strong in spirit.

Standing above your crown, I am but a mite;
yet high enough to watch a Negros sunset.
Warm rays touched my face painting it red;
long shadows are cast creeping eastward.
It will be dark soon and I have to bivouac
on a piece of ground close to your heart.

I lay down and I hear you sigh and grumble.
What caused you grief, o dear Grandfather?
Rubbish”, you say, “rubbish and broken glass";
"and people – indifferent and not of your kind”.

The Old Man softly whispered into my ears
the myriad stars strum their silence in the night
ensuring my wakefulness into a blissful rest
until dawn came along with the cold wind
startling me awake to a thick mist.

Time to walk again from you, o Grandfather;
I may have to go down Badian way
and send your wishes to Grandmother;
with whom I shall later meet in Matutinao.

Friday, May 16, 2014

ALLIANCE MATTERS III: Basic Wilderness Survival Course 2013

I LEAVE HOME AT 2:15 AM. Three hours from now, I will be in Metro Manila, October 18, 2013. I have to honor a commitment with the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, Inc. and, that is, to conduct training about survival among its members. I have done so last year on a program borrowed from the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp. It was held then at the slopes of Mount Balagbag, Rizal.

This time, I have designed a training program for mountaineers. It is called the BASIC WILDERNESS SURVIVAL COURSE and it will run for three days. My Sandugo Khumbu 40 Liter backpack is heavy as I follow the line to check in at the airport. I had already separated my EDC Kit from the bag and, when my turn came, the bag weigh in at 13.9 kilos. I have a 15 kilogram limit and good thing that I had handcarried my EDC Kit (minus the sharp ones) else I would have shelled some extra peso.

The plane left as scheduled but it arrive a bit early. I inform Pastor Reynold Boringot that I am at Gate 4 of NAIA 3. I place my EDC back into my bag and waited. When we meet we transfer to an MRT station and I begin to worry if my bag would have to be searched thoroughly. I have known that a lot of commuters had been denied entry carrying knives during inspections at the MRT and confiscation if they insist so and I carry a lot of blades!

In my arsenal is an AJF Gahum knife, a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster, a William Rodgers, a Case XX folder, a Greenfield pocket knife, a tomahawk and a couple of small pointed metal files. A lady guard checked my bag as I opened it. She paused and put on rubber gloves and continue searching. I noticed something sticky when I remove some items so she could search thoroughly. But at the last second, she stopped and I gladly returned the items. I am quite confused about that sticky substance though and where it came from?

I follow a stream of commuters into the loading bays and when a train made itself available for loading, I chose a seat while it is still blissfully empty. Reynold did, likewise, and the MRT move on north for East Avenue were we disembark and walk towards the meeting place right across the Land Registration Authority. We take breakfast at a Jollibee outlet and I meet MCAP members, Aleks Ibo and RV Abiad. From there, we proceed to the second meeting place at Cogeo Market where Jay Z Jorge and Carla Tipon are waiting.

When we think that nobody had arrived after us, we proceed for Antipolo and then to the Nuestra Señora de Buenviaje Parish of Old Bosoboso. From there, we walk the route to the Spring of Life Adventure Camp. The resort is empty of people and had been left idle by the owners but it is still functional. I choose the highest ground where there is a kiosk. The structure has a space above it that could be used as a sleeping quarter while all around the campsite are verdant vegetation where a lot of bamboos grow.

Everybody opt to stay upstairs and set up their hammocks and a free-standing tent while I choose to set up my shelter outside. It is an Apexus taffeta sheet rigged with a flat rope as ridge and secured by bamboo stakes to stretch it wide. A discarded advertisement tarp becomes my ground sheet. There are officially five participants as of yet but it does not matter. The smaller the group, the more compact will the instructions be.

Jay Z handed me a package wrapped in cardboard. Dr. Arvin Sese, owner of Seseblades, had provided me, for free, of several knives for use on this occasion and to handcarry the rest to Cebu. Inside were a JEST bolo, a Hudson Bay knife, six Sinalung knives and two NCO knives. The bolo and the sinalung had the trademarked Igorot-inspired wooden sheaths. I know all the blades are made from the leaf-spring steel of a Willys Jeep. Aside mine, Jay Z was given a parang, a sinalung and an NCO knife by Doc Sese.

I start a small fire and show them how to process charclothe. After lunch, I begin the lectures. It is the Introduction. Once I have explained to all about the survival mindset and psychology, the hierarchy of needs, nutrition and hygiene, I proceed to the Survival Kit. The survival kit should include the first aid component, the replenishment pouch, the repair pack and the survival knife. Closing the day’s instructions is Knife Care and Safety. I talk about Batas Pambansa Bilang 6, knife etiquette, safety carriage, honing techniques and the Nessmuk system.

Ryan Dizon arrive in the middle of my discussion but I do a recap of the earlier chapters which he had missed and it goes all well. We prepare our dinner and it is a sumptuous meal under the bright light of a full moon. I noticed that Manila-based mountaineers prepare their meals exquisitely compared to those from Cebu. I get to taste good food which comes in three different courses which is rather rare in an outdoors setting.

When I thought that the rest of the day would turn out right, I was wrong. After I have prepared myself against mosquitoes, covering myself from head to toes and spraying myself with citronella, they came with their ubiquitous noise. Why, of all places, they prefer to hover near the ears? I tossed and turned on my search for sleep only to be struck by a much more sinister creature: fleas. I did not know that grass harbor fleas but, here they are, biting me everywhere.

I tried to ignore the flea bites and them mosquitoes but these are very insistent. The hours drag by slowly as I waited for daylight and when it did, I found the lower half of my ground sheet already out of the shelter due to my frequent movements. Sunrise arrive at the campsite and it is better without sleep than to go through another night and tormented. I talked about this predicament and the rest suffered too from flea bites even from the relative safety high on the kiosk.

Anyway, breakfast is superb including a camp-baked bread done by Ryan while another participant, Paul Malla, arrive. So that makes them seven in all. The second day of the training start thereafter and the chapter on Survival Tool Making is discussed. The proper way to make a digging stick is shown to all as well as making cordage from natural fibers. The rest of the time is allotted to making implements from a bamboo. It also taught the participants how to properly use a knife. The Seseblade knives were used to do this task and it performed well.

When all have made their bamboo spoons and drinking jugs, the chapter about Water comes next. I talked about the places where drinking water could be sourced and what methods are used to cure it before drinking. We take a break and prepare our meal for lunch. I show them how to cook rice and vegetable soup inside of a bamboo pole using my style – the Trailhawk system of cooking.

After another very filling meal, we proceed to the chapter about Shelters which consist of man-made and the natural. I also talked about campsite location, safety and how to utilize thermals during night. Next is the chapter on Foraging and Plant ID. This is about hunting food, collecting non-food items, traps/snares and edible plants. Showed them photos of toxic plants and taught them how to make simple traps from bamboos as well as making a snare. Later on, I engage them to a hike all around the property for plant ID and I found out that there is a gamecock farm adjacent to us and that is why there are a lot of fleas!

When it is dusk, we make coffee before preparing our dinner. Carla loved her coffee inside a bamboo jug. I cook rice again inside the bamboo pole and they love the sweet aroma when it is offered on the table. It was another sumptuous dinner. It is full moon and we while away the night on good conversations. Reynold offered his anti-insect lotion and I gladly smeared myself along the exposed skins and where skin and cloth edge meet. It has been 20 years now since I last used this cream and I discard, for this occasion, my disdain about anything chemical.

Morning’s promise came and I revel at having a good night’s sleep. The anti-insect did its magic and protected me from my tormentors. Today is the third and last day of this outdoors activity. Everyone combined all their efforts to prepare breakfast with few ingredients and a “tactical soup” was produced. It is a good breakfast and I salute all the participants for their ingenuity at cooking such tasteful meal.

At 9:00 AM, I begin the chapter on Firecraft. This is all about the fire triangle, selection and collection of tinder and firewood, friction tools and methods, and safety. I gave a demonstration of the bow-drill method and the bamboo-saw method then the participants tried their hands on the primitive contraptions. It is a good hour of producing smoke, embers and sweat. The charclothe made two days ago is used and the participants learned of its efficiency, especially when paired with a ferro rod.

Next comes Cold Weather Survival and this is a chapter which I have borrowed from GreyOne of Bushcraft USA which he titled as Heat Loss: Cause and Prevention. There are five physical mechanisms that steal away body heat and it is enumerated as follows: (1) Respiration; (2) Conduction; (3) Convection; (4) Evaporation; and (5) Radiation of which the author provided solutions.

Last is the chapter about Traditional Navigation. It gives importance on terrain and shadow analysis, obstacles and passages, night travel, trail signs and signalling. Before I ended the seminar, I make them know the important significance of the following phrases:

When it goes wrong, it will always go wrong.

Chance favors the prepared mind.

Before we pack our things back to our respective backpacks, I gave them a surprise. These are product giveaways courtesy of Silangan Outdoor Equipment, which I am a proud endorser. These were coin purses, side pouches and dry bags. Also raffled off are paracord bracelets made by Guns Pestaño; a ferro rod set and a t-shirt by Warrior Pilgrimage.

We break camp and leave our campsite of three days at 12:00 noon and walk down to where the cars are parked near the church. Before parting, we all take lunch at a small roadside eatery where swamp buffalo meat is a menu. Jay Z and Carla offered to bring me to NAIA 3 for my departure at 10:35 PM back to Cebu. Since it is still early, we spend time at the Mall of Asia and ended it with a dinner.

By 8:00 PM, I am at the NAIA 3 and work my way past the x-ray guard with all my blades, including the package I carried. Although I get questioned why I carried so much, they let me go after I introduced myself as a survival instructor and they were just being strict since the elections forbid carrying of firearms and some items which can be used as a weapon. Just about right and I agree but I am on a lawful calling myself and the travelling with it is part and parcel of a survival instructor.

The plane touch down safely at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 11:40 PM and it is good to be back home. It was a very rewarding experience for me to be at the Spring of Life Adventure Camp to teach survival techniques to mountaineers and to get to know them closely. I am most gracious to Dr. Arvin Sese for providing me blades, quite unexpected and at no cost at all, for use during the outdoors seminar. A big thank you and more power to Seseblades!

Many thanks to couple JR and Cheryl Serviano of Silangan Outdoor Equipment, for the giveaways. I believe your products are worth endorsing and people in Metro Manila are beginning to take an interest. A thank you to Mr. Aljew Frasco, for the prototype AJF Gahum Heavy Duty Knife he designed for my use. To Pastor Reynold, who read verses from the bible before starting each day’s activity and for leading the grace before and after meals, thank you.

To Jay Z and Carla, for offering me the front seat of their car, for the delicious meals they prepared or paid for and for accommodating to carry the package of Seseblades, a big thank you. To all the participants, remember what you learned and polish it some more by learning from the other masters. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


HANDURAW PIZZA & EVENTS CAFE, together with the ENTHUSIASTS OF CEBU OUTDOORS and the SIGMA ALPHA EPSILON Fraternity and Sorority, presents the third sequel of WHO PUT THE “N” IN NATURE Concert-for-a-Cause on May 16, 2014 at 8:00 PM.

This is a free event that will benefit the schoolchildren living in the highlands of Cebu City and all you need to do to show support is to come and bring either a notebook, a pencil, a writing pad, a pencil sharpener, a box of crayon, a brown envelope or, better still, all of the above.

Playing to entertain the crowd again are DEANERY, SUNDAY SUNDAY, TIGER PUSSY and HAPPY DAYS. Joining this year is another local band, THE SPIRALS. Emceeing for the third time is the ever dependable mike jock, JB “The Badburner” Albano.

Supporting this event are USC COED-SESO, Silangan Outdoor Equipment, Titay’s Lilo-an Rosquillos & Native Delicacies, Death Valley Magazine, RAK Apparels, Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, Trans Montis Mountaineers, Base Camp Recreations, RECON-MACE7, Ewiters, Tribu Wafu Wafa, Sugbo Outdoors Club, South Side Project Adventure, Redtrekkers, Camp Red Bushcraft & Survival Guild and the Warrior Pilgrimage Blog. 

WHO PUT THE “N” IN NATURE started in 2012 when Dominic Sepe of Camp Red and Jerome Tan of the Redtrekkers brainstormed this event into the consciousness of the Cebuano outdoors community to raise awareness on the basic educational needs of the children of the highlands of Cebu City. These places are home to the communities that dot the Babag Mountain Range, a favorite playing ground of local outdoors groups and freedom-loving individuals.

That was on June 1, 2012. It was a resounding success since those who patronized that event, came to donate notebooks, pencils, writing pads, erasers, envelopes, used textbooks, etc. which were distributed the following month. Because of that, a sequel was being hatched by the new set of organizers led by the local chapter of MCAP on May 17, 2013 which up the ante on the number of donated school material and distributed quickly in a short period of time.

The original set-up have not been altered. It is open to all. Witness the bands play. Enjoy the ‘60s ambiance of Handuraw, their pizza, the cold beer, the good company and the stage presence of the Badburner. Come with a big heart and make a child happy with your donation. It matters much to the recipients and it would release a great burden for their parents. Make this a successful event.

Share for the sake of the children of the highlands.

May 23, 2014.
Same time.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


AFTER LEADING A SERIES of small humanitarian missions which my company had recently engaged me in at Bohol (after the earthquake) and at Northern Cebu (after Typhoon Yolanda), I was tapped again to lead another one. This time it will target the island of Guintarcan. I had been on a similar mission to this same island – twice – with the US-based Death Valley Expeditionary Corps last November but this will be bigger. Under me are nine people who will share the burden with me.

My company had been requested by a local foundation to provide personnel and security to accompany and to compose the manpower by which this relief action would pursue. The relief goods and all the funding for the logistics, travel and victuals were provided for by an organization from Copenhagen, Denmark which were channeled to this foundation. Off for distribution are 3,800 liters of drinking water, 3,800 kilos of rice, canned goods and six sets of “wine to water” filter system.

We started loading the relief items from the depot to two trucks in the late afternoon of December 20, 2013. By 2:00 AM of the following day (December 21), we left Mandaue City for Daanbantayan, northern Cebu. We arrive at 5:30 AM and proceeded to the municipal wharf to eat pre-cooked breakfast and to await the coming of the contacted boats. Only two came instead of three and I find it inadequate and time consuming should I utilize these same boats for another run.

I used my connections with some residents of Guintarcan Island and I am able to secure another two boats to haul the rest of the cargoes. All the boats were loaded to its full capacity and each boat were accompanied by, at least, two of my members. The boats are destined for the village of Bitoon from where all the goods will be distributed to all island residents, which also includes the neighboring villages of Hagdan and Langub.

We had already developed a system to distribute the items and my previous experience of humanitarian trips in Langub had given our relief work some degree of smoothness. I had solved half of the difficulties pertaining to the organizing and the distribution and the rest is up to the village chiefs. The island residents converge in the village square of Bitoon as they learned of our coming and my companions are awed by their helpfulness and their honesty when we need hands to unload the goods from boat to shore to village square.

First to be provided the relief goods were the inhabitants of Bitoon, who formed lines according to their respective neighborhoods with four tables used as the receiving area. Coupons were distributed and each coupon-holder will receive two liters of bottled water, two kilos of rice and two canned sardines. After them, came the turn of Langub residents and then last are those coming from Hagdan. The items were evenly distributed and I see a lot of smiling faces.

We eat our lunch, provided for by the village council of Bitoon in appreciation of our purpose, whenever one or two of us are momentarily free during the relief-goods giving. When all this are finished, one of my members, Allan Nadela, explained to the three present village chiefs and their respective councils about how the water filter system work. A filter is attached to an outlet pipe from a 10-gallon pail and soiled water is poured into it where clear water gushed forth from the filter spout.

Allan drank from this water to demonstrate to all that it is clean and very safe to drink. Two filter systems each are then donated to the villages of Bitoon, Langub and Hagdan, whereby it will be used as communal drinking-water source. Guintarcan Island do not have surface fresh water and they source their drinking water from the mainland and from rain. Some households own water tanks to store rainwater but Typhoon Yolanda had destroyed all houses here and catching a good volume of rain is now difficult.

We leave Bitoon at 2:30 PM and proceed to Langub by a motorboat to pick up dried fish to bring home and a hot meal of a big fresh rabbit-fish provided for by Judith Illustrisimo. We arrive at Daanbantayan at 4:30 PM and proceed to take our places on the two trucks which we parked at the wharf in the morning. We arrive at the office at AS Fortuna Street at 8:30 PM after a thankful supper in a popular but very cheap diner at AC Cortes Avenue.

Just like all relief operations undertaken in Tacloban City and in Samar, a political clan tried to take credit that the distributed goods are coming from out of their good nature. A septuagenarian form Bitoon approached me and asked me about this which I denied outright. A big tarpaulin is attached at the stage to where we are using as a distribution point with the big bold letters saying that it is FUNDED BY THE FILIPINO DANISH COMMUNITY.

What a shame!

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

Thursday, May 1, 2014


THE NAPO TO BABAG series of tales had always been full of human interests which cannot be perceived without the help of the Internet.  This blog unravels the other side of Cebu which only the stoutest hearts could achieve by virtue of its moderately difficult accessibility and deliver it on the comforts of your desk, on your laps or on your palm or whatever.

This blog takes on different situations, circumstances, weather, purpose and people and no two tales are alike even though these are linked by the same situations, circumstances, weather, purpose and people.  Trust that to the expertise of this blogger who has an eye to see any difference and he is always on a lively activity by any standard of which he chooses to accomplish.

However, this particular day today, October 13, 2013, is not one of those times where it is lively.  For one, I am suffering an unusual headache and I do not have a very good appetite.  How and why in heaven’s name did I have to go on a strenuous activity when a good day’s rest would have been fitting for my disposition?  The answer my dear is this:  Honoring a commitment.

Honor.  Commitment.  These words are now lacking in the vocabulary of today’s generation.  Even those of my generation who had now adopted modernity and convenience and comfort had forgotten these.  They had become addicted of their gadgets and becomes complacent.  Old school values are still the best.  That’s what set you apart from the rest.  

I arrive early at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and I see Sam Lim walking behind me.  Ernie Salomon came next, then Boy Olmedo and, last, Boy Toledo.  Sam leave early for Napo because he has guests whom he invited for this hike and he will be waiting for us there.  Boy T, Ernie and Boy O goes to the roadside market to secure the ingredients for our noontime meal and take full breakfasts while I opt to eat just two cinnamon bread.

When we have finished on our personal tasks, we hop on motorcycles bound for Napo.  We arrive and Sam is already there with his guests.  Two female and a male joined our company and, from the looks of it, it appears that they do not know what to expect although, all averred that, both girls are from this locality and the man is from a mountainous region in Mindanao. 

The concrete foot bridge spanning two banks of the Sapangdaku Creek is now finished but I opt to cross the stream on the traditional path instead of the bridge which means that we have to take a circuitous route.  All followed me without complaint because if it is physical exercise they want today they will get it the hard way.

The guests are so noisy talking among themselves and do not exercise trail courtesy.  Not all people and modern hikers know Leave No Trace.  For all of us who are bred with the old school of thought, trail courtesy is second nature.  We learn it years before LNT came to stupefy the mountaineering community here.     

I am leading the hike and, each time I stop to gaze at something or take pictures of plants, these guests would never stop but go on their way as if they know their way around.  I begin to dislike how they show wrong manners and, the fact, that they are wearing the wrong footwear and carry no backpacks.  Not even a water bottle!

I swear at myself for honoring a commitment.  Next time I won’t be in this same company like this.  I do not like to use my time to show people of places that they do not appreciate.  I do not like to guide people who only want to climb mountains to add to their personal achievements.  I do not anymore to be in company of outdoorsmen that tend to lean more on a corporate-like nature doing nothing but walk, talk and feeling good.

I ignore the guests and when I reach Lower Kahugan Spring, I refill my bottle to the chagrin of the guests who, by now, are utterly thirsty by their failure to bring bottles.  They have underestimated the rigors of hiking on mountainous terrain and, of course, they have to wait until the slow drips filled my Nalgene full.  Serves them right!  

I let all know that I want to walk the Kahugan Trail and they could choose amongst themselves which trail they would want to hike and then we will all meet at the Roble homestead. They follow me yet, when they arrive at a fork on the trail, they opt to take a short cut.  I do not mind walking alone.  In fact, I love it.  Loving it more without those guests.           

The good thing about hiking alone is that you find peace and you do not worry anything about your companions.  You concentrate all thoughts on yourself and you get solutions to perplexing problems.  I ascend slowly because, although Kahugan Trail is the longest, it is the easiest.  You do not overexert and that removes heart burnout which is good considering my physical condition today.  It also has the best views and is the most covered.

When I arrive at the Roble homestead, Boy T is already sitting on a bench, quite winded.  One of the girls arrive and sat on the farthest bench.  I thought I am just walking on a slow pace but, hey, I arrive almost at the same time as their fastest walker (Boy T), who was not carrying a backpack halfway, on a route that the rest chose that was supposed to be a short cut.  (Boy T requested Fele Roble to carry his Conquer bag when we met him on the trail.)

Anyway, I unload my backpack of the kilo of rice and bread for the Roble family.  My bag was really heavy with items intended as a training weight in my preparation for an activity in Antipolo, Rizal on October 18 to 20.  I will conduct a survival seminar for mountaineers belonging to the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines there.  One of the items I carry is the AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife, which is still in the process of several tests.

I am happy to see Fele and Tonia and their boys, Manwel and Josel.  Juliet is tending their goods at the roadside market back in Guadalupe.  Fele opened green coconuts for all except mine.  I like to open mine with my AJF Gahum.  After drinking the coconut water, I bear the knife on the empty coconut and it is split in one stroke.  

Manwel tried my knife on another empty coconut and he is amazed at the easy way it does on that comparing the effort with which he had on their own sharp bolo.  He noticed the weight and the thickness.  Boy O just loved the shape of the handle and how he wished he could buy a similar knife.  After the coconuts, coffee is served.  

Ernie gets busy with his slicing knife as he prepared our lunch.  We prefer to eat our meals hot.  I insist it should be the way it should be as had been done long ago and I believe culinary skills for the outdoors should be taught and practiced all the time.  If you depend too much on pre-cooked food then you are one of those corporate do-nothings.

Boy T takes care of the milled corn and teaching the male guest how to cook it while Ernie does a superb work on three dishes: pork adobao, pork with beans and pineapple and mixed vegetable soup.  The viand were all cooked by firewood.  I opt to eat the third dish without second servings as I am not really in my best condition.  I do not know but I feel pain from the nape down and I have a giddy headache.

After some fruitless conversations which I am not interested anyway (I took a nap), we go back down to the Sapangdaku Creek and Napo.  Since there were no more motorcycles to take, we hike up to the main road and caught some empty seats.  By now, everyone is safe and we decide to end the activity uneventfully.  

Except for the knife test and my chat with the Roble family, there was no tangible event to make this activity worthy of mention but I still documented this and gave it space for this blog to drive a point:  When you have changed paradigm and discard another, it is hard to go back.  Yes, I have outgrown my relevance to an outdoor activity that do nothing but talk and feel good.


(Postscript:  On October 15, 2013, or exactly two days after that hike, Cebu and Bohol are rocked by a 7.2 earthquake.  It shook for 32 seconds and several aftershocks are felt.  I believed my body manifested what animals felt before an earthquake.  Instead of restlessness, I felt unexplained weariness, pain at the back and a great headache.) 

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer