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

4 comments:

Patrick said...

I hope to join in the next edition of this activity here in Manila.

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