Friday, June 20, 2014


BEFORE I BECAME ENGROSSED in both writing and blogging, I was a no-good kid riding on the seams of notoriety associated with the wild side of youth life. Yes, I ran with the badasses of my time but I ran a bit slow and that kept me out of real trouble. Although I was kept by my elders to study in a Catholic high school to iron out my seeming abhorrence of authorities, it had only made me a half-ergot and half-human and I got kicked out, just the same, by the friars.

What made me stand out from the rest of my ilk is that I have a wise grandfather to check on me. Nah, he didn’t carry a big stick but he kept a lot of books – good ones that would certainly make the wish list of any library of that day. He taught me to read ALOUD. He says he is half-blind and I believed him until I discovered one day that he could see fully behind those dark glasses. The ruse served its purpose well for I begin to develop a love for the books!

When he passed away years ago, his touch remained so. His main preoccupation – writing – begins to manifest in me in a seemingly slow process of self-discovery that alternated with elation and dejection. After I took a two-plus-decades-long personal pilgrimage of toils and adventures brought on by different occupations and diversions, I wrote my first article for an unheard of blog in March 2006. It was an experiment that was received well by some people and that encouraged me to approach writing as a hobby.

I have my own writing style though. This style is a mere reflection of the hundreds of thousands, nay, millions, of words, sentences, paragraphs and quotes that I have digested through the years reading books, novels, magazines, newspapers, documents, even chocolate and candy wrappers. The old man had taught me to read books like a scholar would, introduced me to woodcraft and encased in me the charm of the old world.

When I took a side glance at writing, I do it not for monetary reasons but as my own method of releasing stress and create a memory bank. My writing converted an abstract me into concrete through this blog, WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE. This blog is dedicated solely for my outdoors pursuits, which had taken a lot of my weekend time, and gave me the chance to introduce myself and Philippine bushcraft to the World Wide Web. For that matter, writing is absolute in all my activities.

Without a doubt then, I am a REAL outdoors blogger. A real badass outdoors blogger. I live what I write. I walk the talk. So do a few other bloggers who wrote with what they did outdoors. Our kind command readership following for the interesting articles we wrote (in which we were sometimes exposed to dangers) and, for that, we are anchors of opinions that would shape the very actions of other people. We write to entertain, to educate, to share, to push away the boundaries of silence and ignorance.

I choose not to be silent for I am no stone. Everybody can be everywhere and the outdoors is not the monopoly anymore of a few people, including me, but not everyone could write with passion after every activity. More than a thousand blogs are regularly updated in the Internet every week for the benefit of mankind. It is a diverse cornucopia of ideas and information and blogs dedicated for the outdoors are part of this. Warrior Pilgrimage is part of this. This blogger is part of this. 
What really is the beef behind this article? When you put forth an article, people read. You get comments or you get not. It depends and a lot loved being Mr. Anonymous. You get a pat at the back, some not and some are spams. Those that do not agree make the article worthy of readership traffic. An argument would spark somewhere down the ladder of opinions and, sometimes, in the heat of the exchange, unsavory words and sarcastic phrases take shape. The delete button would have been useful but, in my case, I let it be.

I visit other people’s blog too to read articles and that includes all the reactions. When someone posts an article about his solo climbing activity, there was a deluge of comments. One particular comment, with complete arrogance hidden behind anonymity, caught my ire. Mr. Anonymous says to the blog owner that he is just “another wanna-be blogger wanting to be a mountaineer”. I would have defended the blog owner with sharp replies but when you are an ethical blogger you should hold your punches.

I praised the blogger for his bold post about solo climbing. I am also a soloist. I had hiked mountains alone many times. I would prefer being myself than with other people and I had written countless articles about my solo treks and, so far, none had challenged me on that aspect. The Leave No Trace is very explicit about the dangers of hiking alone among mountains but when you declare your adherence to LNT and do something contrary, you become a rich target of Mr. Anonymous and they are legion.

As for me, I had never ever been a fan of LNT because I love more my freedom of unimpeded movement and I do not care if you agree or not. I am an unconventional outdoorsman that find joy in the methods and things done the old way. Even as I love solo walks in the wilds, I would not encourage it to anybody. I do not want to give an impression that it is alright. A lot of would-be soloists had encountered muggings, getting robbed, caught in snares, swept by floods, got injured or fell to their deaths because they do not know the real world.

I am sorry for shooting down your expectations but soloing is not for everybody. You need to have experience, skills, agility, endurance, strength, wit and cunning and a lot of common sense. A big knife would be a big help on the trail. Not inside your bag but carried openly to manifest your true worth as a real badass. No timid steps are accepted in the big outdoors but solid footings declaring your right to be there. Haste and overconfidence would lead to carelessness and your own demise. A knowledge of modern or traditional navigation is a must going in tandem with wilderness safety and bushcraft.

The elation to accomplish your trip by your own self without companions to bolster your confidence is unquenchable. Daring yourself and coming out to do the same thing is like an aphrodisiac. Believe me, it is an elixir for troubled thoughts and sagging spirits. Apart from that, you do not just walk in without considering your own safety. If you do not know how to blend in with your surroundings and without good knowledge of trailcraft, you better give up that idea of solo walks. Leave that to fools like me.

This fool writes and belong to a line of warrior-poets who you thought vanished many years ago. Fools like me are not born everyday. Of course, not all outdoorsmen could write or blog and not all writers or bloggers could become outdoorsmen. Writing, they say, are for the desk-bound and for the faint-hearted. Then where does that place me, huh? What you do not know is that when all outdoorsmen start to write then you will have a safer world to live in or, for that matter, a safer mountain to climb at.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

COMPLEAT BUSHCRAFT X: Knives and Hardwood

A KNIFE IN THE HANDS of a working man, will become an extension of his hand. By his proper handling and dexterity on a piece of wood, it diminishes the common perception that it is a weapon. The aggressive appearance wears out and, what has been considered as an instrument of physical harm, metamorphoses and mellows into a useful tool.

The knife is a tool, first and foremost. If used irresponsibly, it will cause harm just like fire. Prehistoric man invented the knife for the purpose of surviving and to convert complicated work into very simple chores. Later, the knife took on different shapes and length and had been used as an instrument of early warfare and aggression. Since then, the knife had not shelved the gruesome image of its past.

Carrying of knives are now regulated to protect people even to the extent of limiting its length and the taking away of the tactical look of its edge. Visit the ports of entry and the malls and I am sure your blades do not get past the sentry - almost. The knife then gets relegated to certain workplaces, inside homes and the wide outdoors. These are the last frontiers by which knives are carried openly.

I am an advocate of the carrying of a knife outdoors and I carry not one or two but three or more. Not for self-defense please but for carrying out tests and for using certain knives for certain tasks. Today, November 3, 2013, I carry my tomahawk, my William Rodgers, my Victorinox SAK Trailmaster, my Case XX folding knife, my Puffin Magnum rip-off and four Seseblade Sinalung. Quite an array, isn’t it?

Perhaps you might squirm why I carry so much excess baggage with which items and functions are redundant. You know what, redundancy is security ensured. But, primarily, I am on a bushcraft lecture today and that is to teach people how to make a wooden spoon. Carving a spoon from wood is one of the methods by which you train yourself how to use the knife as a tool. It is one of the many ways to create a bond between knife and user.

I provide the tools in case people do not bring one but I doubt it. I know, for sure, that Glenn Pestaño carry a lot blades. He is a true-blue member of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Others like Chad Bacolod, Johnas Obina, Bogs Belga and Xerxes Alcordo might not be the least of them who carry knives. I am also sure that they have aces inside their respective bags.

After meeting all of them inside the Cebu South Bus Terminal, Cebu City, we leave for Ocaña, Carcar at 7:00 AM. We start our hike at 8:50 AM to the campsite located at Lower Sayao, Sibonga after securing the ingredients for our noontime meal. It is not the best time to walk the road at that hour but I cannot do something about it. It is a fact of life and I believe I have the stamina to overcome the extreme heat.

Glenn carried his bug-out bag and it is very heavy. He should know that BOBs can kill. He did not last halfway and he passed that burden to a passing motorcycle of whose driver he knows very well. Chad, Xerxes and Johnas lagged behind trying to adapt to the situation and continued walking without complaint while hugging to shades offered along the route.

It is 10:30 AM when we arrive at the campsite. I have no water in my bottle since the time I left the bus terminal and, yes, I am very thirsty but not dying. Endurance and self-discipline kept me going without water. The others have also used up their supply of water during the hike owing to heat and the rigors of walking an ascending terrain. I assure them we will get water but we need to rest first and cool down our body.

We leave our things and down we go to a small valley and up into a small hill and down again into another hidden valley where there is a small ricefield. Nearby is a clear-water spring where there is a lone woman washing clothes. The spring provides irrigation to the rice paddies and it will fill up our water bottles soon. Once done, we go back to our campsite to prepare our meal and to rejoin Bogs who stayed behind to prepare a fire.

Bogs finished the coffee and it returned our sanity. Picking up three long sticks from the ground, I lashed a cord and made a tripod which I will use to hang a pot to cook rice. I place the contraption above the fire and adjusted the rope holding the pot so heat could cook the rice efficiently. Then the blades gets its chance to break away from their hiding places.

On a tarpaulin, the blade porn starts rolling and I join them. Cameras flashed as everyone try to make something out of these rare moment. The blade porn is a valued tradition among bushcrafters and it is a feast for the eyes as well as the chance to keep camaraderie close. There it is, an event that is worth mentioning at coffee table conversations.

Suddenly, by twist of fate, the participants of this spoon carving session will get the chance to test all the knives on display. Glenn provided a local hardwood variety for all to shape by chopping, whittling, cutting, scraping and by gouging. Folding saws and multi-tool sets gets its test on the hardwood as well. I brought pieces of broken glass and this is a very efficient alternative to a crooked knife, which is rare in these parts.

I am the cook and I am busy slicing potatoes, carrots, sponge gourds, squash, eggplants, gumbos, bell peppers, string beans, onions, spring onion bulbs, green peppers and tomatoes and crushing garlic. I fry the garlic, onions, green pepper and tomatoes in oil, before I mix the rest on a frying pan over a fire fed by firewood. Adding water, I stirred the ingredients until it boiled before adding two teaspoons of salt. Then I sprinkle fresh spring onions and Malabar nightshades and let it settle.

I have achieved a good taste by just these without using monosodium glutamate or its derivatives disguised as “magic mixes”. What made this very engrossing is that it was done outdoors without the assurance of a comfortable environment and supplies usually found in kitchens. Truly, outdoor cooking is an art where taste could be achieved by the right frame of mind instead of relying on artificial flavors.

By 1:30 PM, we start our lunch, although late but never too late. Everyone take several refills for their plates. Water is abundant but it gets used up until a few ounces are left. After the meal, I return to the water source to fetch water for drinking and washing. The boys continued what they started. By now, the general outline of their spoons begins to take shape.

All the blades had been used and tested, in one way or another, and the carvers had clearly understood the differences and characteristics of each blade and, somehow, one or two blades found itself as mainstays on their ongoing tasks. While all concentrate on their work, exchange of ideas and observations work freely amongst themselves and that is the essence why bushcraft is so different from the rest of the outdoor interests.

Bushcraft includes hiking and climbing mountains just like conventional outdoors activity, but the learning of skills is its greatest attribute and wholly encouraged, where ideas are tested and used each time. Real knives are carried, not cutie knives for closet queens, and we promote open carrying while outdoors nor wince at the prospect of exposing the knife to extreme use.

Warm food just off the fire are always eaten and there is always a campfire everytime the activity goes overnight. We do not abide the principles of LNT but we know what is that for and we know what we do. We accept criticisms from all conventional outdoors people but we are so different from them by a wide league that it is not worth the time to think about and talk sense into it.

We leave Lower Sayao at 3:30 PM, walking down to Ocaña on the same route we took in the morning. At the highway, we found it difficult to catch a bus for there are a lot of people wanting to go back to the city at the same time after spending a long weekend vacation. I failed to consider the effect of All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

We improvise instead and ride different tricycles from one town to another. It may be not the most efficient form of mass transport yet the tricycle brought us nearer to the city by “town hopping”. I reach home at 7:30 PM and I am quite satisfied of my recent activity. I am hungry but the memory of the noontime meal last long in my innards.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014


MAKING A DIFFERENCE.  This is the theme of this year’s Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp.  For the past three years (2011, 2012, 2013), the PIBC had been held at Camp Damazo in Cebu City.  This year, it will be, for the first time, hosted at Lower Sayao, Sibonga, Cebu.  Sibonga is found 56 kilometers south of Cebu City while the campsite can be reached through Ocaña, Carcar or via Candaguit, Sibonga.      

When you are with this camp of three days, you are already making a difference of yourself.  You will be taught basic tropical survival and primitive-living skills.  You will be with unconventional outdoorsmen and you will know them.  You will refresh your love of country and know who you would defend against.  You will be fed with nothing except real-world skills that will make a difference between obscurity and surviving.

The Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp changes your perception of how you would enjoy the outdoors.  You will get to appreciate nature better and you will attain great satisfaction for every little thing you do while outdoors.  The PIBC molds you into independent individuals with strong self-reliance skills that can be harnessed anytime from a backyard picnic to disaster areas.

Today’s PIBC shall be limited to a maximum of twelve participants since learning in an outdoors setting is conducive for a limited number of people only.  The first day (June 10) will be about Introduction to Bushcraft and Survival, Knife Care and Safety, Survival Tool-Making, and Knot-Tying.  In the evening will be a traditional bushcraft camp socials which is the Campfire Yarns and Storytelling.  A real fire will be lit and it will be the center of camp life. 

The second day (June 11) will be focused on Shelters, Firecraft, Foraging and Plant Identification, Prepping, and Outdoor Cooking.  The new chapter on Prepping shall be demonstrated at Upper Sayao during the plant ID and prepper lab tour.  During nighttime, there will be Nocturnal Hunting and, later, another much wilder Campfire Yarns and Storytelling.  For a whole day, the participants will be exposed to hunger as a simulation on the realities of survival. 

The third day (June 12) will concentrate on Philippine Independence Day with patriotic programs scheduled for the morning like singing of the National Anthem and the Oath of Allegiance to flag and country.  Another bushcraft tradition – the Blade Porn – will follow, then the photo socials and last, will be Blanket Trading.  The certificates and free giveaways will then be distributed at an undisclosed location where the after-event party will be held.

The participants are advised to bring their own food good for three meals where each shall prepare and cook their own lunch and dinner on the first day; and the only meal of the day – which is dinner – shall be on the second day after a day-long fast.  The only meal for the third day shall be prepared by the PIBC staff for the participants.  They are encouraged to bring any knife.  They may bring tents but tarp sheets and laminated nylon sheets could enhance better the appreciation on the principles of “adapt, blend and improvise”.     

The Warrior Pilgrimage Blog and the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are the only official organizers of PIBC MMXIV.  For the fourth time, this blogger will be the main instructor.  Camp Ramrod chores will be shared by both Jhurds Neo (2012) and Dominic Sepe (2012).  Camp Fixer is Ernie Salomon (2011) while the Camp Hawkeye is Eli Bryn Tambiga (2012).  Segment Instructors will be Fulbert Navarro (2012) for Knot-Tying and Aljew Frasco (2013) for Knife Care and Safety.

Assembly area will be at the 7Eleven Convenience Store, infront of the Cebu South Bus Terminal, at 5:00 AM of June 10.  Participants and PIBC staff will be shuttled by bus, provided free by the Municipality of Lilo-an, to the trailhead.  The bus will return to pick us up at 12:00 noon of June 12 back to Cebu City to party then get to know the alumni of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 class. 

Finishing the PIBC gives you the option to join Camp Red and on any of their scheduled activities.  All in all, the PIBC have produced 47 would-be bushcrafters and a few have distinguished or improved themselves through self-practice and through participation of activities hosted by Camp Red.  This PIBC MMXIV will open many possibilities for you that you have not had thought existed. 

Make a difference, be with the few.  Your registration of P800 would go a long way forever.  Survival skills will beat all those expensive gears anytime and it does not deteriorate, gets lost or needs replacement.  Make a call or text to me at +639333225005 or at +639172035101.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXVI: Knife Tests and Cold Weather Discussions

I HAVE PROMISED TO discuss Cold Weather Survival to my adherents in Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild but, unfortunately, the proper timing to do so was off. I have come upon cold weather during my several mountain climbing sorties in the past, even gaining resistance to it for a time, but it waned when my visits to high-altitude places became few and far between.

I have used my only struggle against hypothermia in 1988 as a yardstick of the limitations of my body and, beyond mine, I could not discuss it properly to my fellow outdoorsmen except unscientific advice based upon my experiences. I could do so little to teach about cold weather resistance (beyond what I had perceived) as I was totally ignorant of the mechanisms why heat is being taken away from the body without our knowing.

When I chanced upon an article of GreyOne in Bushcraft USA Magazine titled Heat Loss: Cause and Prevention, I begin to understand better this aspect. It is simply disorienting how the body could lose heat in less than an hour when in the colder regions like highly-elevated places where exposure to wind chill is great. I had discussed this subject for the first time when I taught a survival seminar to mountaineers last week in Antipolo, Rizal.

Today, October 27, 2013, I now have the time to introduce it to bushcrafters. Although these people are smart enough to evade exposed places, all could not help it when caught walking on ridges in the foulest of weathers or getting wet for several days. Nevertheless, I have to discuss this to inform and prepare them about cold weather, its causes and how it can be prevented. Some of those that came had spent some time in cold temperate zones and, maybe, they could relate about this too.

On the parking lot fronting the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the pure breeds of Camp Red came and waited for my arrival. They are Jhurds Neo, Glenn Pestaño, Aljew Frasco, Dominic Sepe, Christopher Maru and Nyor Pino. We have guests too like Joe Bisaya and Xerxes Alcordo. After breakfast and, after procuring the ingredients for our meal, we proceed to Napo. When we hit the trail for Lower Kahugan Spring, some of us carried openly our survival knives on our belts.

We deem it right to carry blades openly and there are no reservations about it. We are on a lawful activity and we know our rights when it comes to that. If you think seeing knives that close would shrink your skin, then keep your distance and we do not care what are your opinions about us. If you think we are badass, then, so be it. It is not everyday we are called that and you may enjoy that without fear of payback.

So, after rehydrating, we tackle the easy Kahugan Trail for the Roble homestead. We arrive there at 10:10 AM and all crowd in to the visitor’s shed while I choose one of the empty benches for myself. Instantly, Glenn and Dom separately boil water for coffee. Christopher help Aljew source firewood from Fele Roble while Jhurds get ready his meat and rice.

During that flurry of activities, Aljew tested his new creation – a shorter version of the AJF Gahum – by chopping a well-seasoned but dry trunk of a Mexican lilac tree (Local name: kakawate, madre de cacao or lubas). This kind of wood is prized by firewood gatherers for it is gnarled and gave off efficient heat when it is used to cook food. The knife cut the trunk in half while I test my AJF Gahum on another trunk. Aljew seems to enjoy the feel of my knife and started splitting wood with it.

On the other hand, I tested Glenn’s prized Chipaway Cutlery Bowie knife on another trunk and it was able to cut it in half but the effort caused a flaw on the knife’s edge near the well. It is a big clip-point knife with an American bison bone handle but it is rather light for chopping big pieces of wood. I help it put on more weight by wearing my Guess stainless-steel band wristwatch to achieve more cutting power.

When we think we got all the firewood we need, we start making a fire. Aljew used a ferro rod to strike a spark where it is caught by his own-manufactured candlewax-on-cotton tinder and progressed into a fire by feeding it with pinewood shavings and dry twigs. Jhurds cooked rice atop a trio of stone anchors while I cooked milled corn on a suspended pot hung from a tripod made by Aljew.

Aljew, a gentleman from a good family of Lilo-an, never ceases to amaze me with his enthusiasm about primitive-living skills. He makes quality knives and leather sheaths; devise his own fire tinder; introduce his ideas and techniques; and even volunteer to prowl and forage among the bushes for wood or cordage. In the short span that I have known him, he accomplished a lot more than what I had expected. He is one of those rare jewels I am talking about when I got interviewed by a University of the Philippines student.

Anyway, Dom and Nyor help in the slicing of eggplants, gumbos and bell peppers while Jhurds produce coconut milk from grated coconuts I bought at Guadalupe. When I think the milled corn is almost cooked, I transfer most of the burning firewood into another set of stone trio to cook the mixed vegetable soup. After sauteing the vegetables and strips of pork, I pour the coconut milk and then stir. No MSG is used; just the right frame of mind.

When the rice got cooked, Christopher grill pork meat over metal bars as Nyor fried eggplants assisted by Dom. When all the cooking had been finished, lunch is served. It is always a feast when bushcrafters eat. I discouraged the eating of canned food, pre-cooked meals and packed lunch. It does not make you a human being but a parasite of modern convenience. I prefer that people polish off their culinary skills outside the comforts of a kitchen.

Dessert came next and it is in the form of green coconuts provided for by Fele. I also prefer that all should know how to open their coconuts with their own knives before indulging on it. A knife is not an object to be kept in your home, immaculate and shiny, or used as an item for bragging. It should be used like any other tool and pushed to the limit of its design and material composition – like I did with Glenn’s knife - but with reverence.

When the conversations have stilled a bit, I called on everyone to fill the spaces on the empty benches and start my discussion about cold weather. 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. For each problem, author GreyOne provided solutions which are very helpful.

At around 3:30 PM, we finish the day’s activity and go down the valley. Glenn is a revelation today. He showed all that he knows how to run and he ran for all he cared. Aljew chased him on the trail. Then me. And then the rest followed, like a war party of Osages. It is good to run again and I hold the knife in its sheath by my side from swinging. Everybody’s panting and sweat flowed, making everybody feel better.

We reach Napo and hiked about 250 meters up the road to reach the parked vehicle brought by Aljew in the morning. We left for Guadalupe but, unfortunately, a liquor ban is imposed because of tomorrow’s election. We transferred instead to Lilo-an, the very base of Aljew and Christopher, and celebrated another round of quality activity that is very unconventional where only Camp Red could accomplish.

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