Wednesday, July 9, 2014


AFTER A WHOLE MONTH of running relief supplies to the north of Cebu and elsewhere for the communities stricken by the recent onslaught of a super typhoon, the guys deserve a break. Jhurds Neo and Fulbert Navarro need to release some cooped-up stress and the outdoors is the perfect venue for that. As I have done so after relief efforts (the last time walking the trail from Basak, Badian to Mantalongon, Dalaguete solo) I can understand their predicament.

Today, December 8, 2013, I will tow both back to our favorite playing ground at the Babag Mountain Range. Aside them, I will introduce Jerome Tibon, Christopher Laugo and, hold your breath, Laertes Ocampo, to the culture and lifestyle of Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Laertes is a regular hanger at the Facebook site of Camp Red but just only a few have seen him personally as he had not joined any outdoor sorties of Camp Red – until today.

Jerome had gone on an earlier trip with me on this same place last October 6, 2013 and he is a long-time Australian resident before returning back to Cebu to work in one of the business process outsourcing companies. Christopher, or Toper, is from Ormoc City, one of the very places which Typhoon Yolanda wrought havoc in Leyte. He is in Cebu because he has to do a review for a licensure examination as a mechanical engineer.

Running parallel to our dayhike is the group of Boy Toledo, Ramon Corro, Boy Olmedo and Ernie Salomon – all old men – who will utilize the same place that we will camp at. Although we meet two of them at the parking area of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, I decide that my group at Camp Red leave early and, hopefully, they will come later. We had already stocked ourselves of food ingredients that we will prepare and cook at the Roble family homestead.

Once we reach Napo, Jhurds take the point while I sweep the rear. The Napo Trail is partially wet while the Sapangdaku Creek is full, brisk and clear. It is a beautiful warm day but our pace is slow. I like being at the tail end for there is no pressure and no worries to keep up with the fastest walker. The only worry I will have is watching over the injured, who will surely lag behind and needs to be accompanied. Everyone carried small backpacks while I got the heaviest. Jhurds, Fulbert and I open carry our knives by our sides.

Jerome suffered cramps on his right lower leg but a little trick would ease the pain for a while until the cramps recur and the process is repeated. Once we reach the Lower Kahugan Spring, we top off our bottles and enjoy the cool shades. It is a good place to take rest and cool off for a while before engaging the Kahugan Trail. This route goes to a small community then to Babag Ridge and it ascends gradually.

We follow this route that pass above four hidden waterfalls before breaking off to a branch of a trail leading to the Robles. Some parts are exposed to the sun while the rest are shady. The super typhoon had not left its mark here except altering a few parts of the trail with small landslides and breaking the top halves of bamboos in some isolated areas. A few trees fell but only stumps are left now as the rest of the tree are now converted to charcoal.

We reach the Roble homestead and I instantly boil water for coffee. The Roble couple are present but the children are absent. They might had been part of a train of young boys carrying mangoes on baskets hanging by their foreheads with trumplines which we had met along the trail a while ago. The little house made of bamboo and wood is still standing. The huge tamarind tree tower over it and is unaffected by the recent tempest together with the Java plum tree, the mango trees and them bamboos.

Well, the dine shed and the benches are empty and everyone enjoyed the cool assurance brought on by the shades of trees and the whispers of breeze. When coffee had been served, we immediately prepare the ingredients for our lunch. I forage three slender branches for a tripod which the pot will be suspended from. We will utilize the earthen hearth we set up some three months ago and we will cook our food with firewood.

As we were doing this, a group of four hikers came to sit on the farthest benches. The Roble homestead is a favorite stopover for those going to Babag Ridge with the family offering green coconuts for just a few donations to support their children’s education. These hikers are on the way to Babag Ridge and would probably exit to Lower Busay. It is a route favored by conventional backpackers and “corporate mountaineers”.

I still could not comprehend though why they prefer that route when going back to where they came from – which is Napo – or going down to Kalunasan would have been more challenging, promising, practical and economical. Anyway, they silently observe our activities with our knives doing the cutting, slicing, chopping and the center of our conversations. Jhurds, Laertes and Toper proceed to slice vegetables, meat and spice. Fulbert give life to a fire hanging on to half-dry wood as I meticulously suspend the pot with the rice above the tottering flame.

Another group of five hikers came and joined the first group had occupied. Then comes Boy T, Boy O, Ernie and Ramon and they join my group in the shed. They are old-school and they also prepare their food like we at Camp Red do. Conversations gather up from the hilarious to the serious. All shared their sentiments on one individual, all had talked freely of their experiences with relief works in Leyte, Samar and North Cebu and all are expectant of Christmas United II on December 15, 2013.

As we were in the middle of our cooking, another group of four hikers arrive but the earlier ones had already left a few minutes ago and there are ample spaces among the benches. It is really pathetic to see these people going out with just canned goods and pre-cooked meals to subsist on. While we were about to enjoy a feast, these people eat cold rations! This age of “instant everything”, PSPs, tablets and smartphones wreck havoc on old values. They cannot even bring a “closet knife” to open their canned goods. Very pathetic indeed!

I used my AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife, in tandem with my tomahawk, to chop firewood from a seasoned trunk of a Mexican lilac wood. My Victorinox SAK Trailmaster and my small Case XX folder were alternately used to cut and slice vegetables. This same Trailmaster was lent to that group who failed to bring a can opener! Fulbert brandished his Kalahi kukri to open green coconuts and to split dry wood for tinder. Jhurds use his Seseblades NCO knife to slice pork while Laertes has his own-made knives to help him in his cooking.

Food served when lunch do come for our mixed group of bushmen and old men are fried mixed-vegetables, fern tops, horseradish soup, fried pork, grilled pork, raw cucumber, fried taro shoots, bitter gourd with krill and rice. We would have brought milled corn but, mysteriously, stocks of milled corn disappeared from the market at Guadalupe. There is, I guess, a shortage of milled corn when the price of rice shot high in the aftermath of the typhoon since milled corn is affordable. This is a portent of things to come which we at Camp Red had foreseen.

Each group now are to his own circle when the meal was finished. The old men stayed in the shed talking among themselves with shots of Tanduay 5 Years Old Rum to coax life onto their conversations. They like to call their activities as “boozecraft” in a funny reference to bushcraft, which we at Camp Red are notorious of. On the other hand, we occupy the empty benches with conversations centering on knives, guns, Typhoon Yolanda, relief missions, water filters and Christmas United II.

We are the last to leave the place. When 3:00 PM came, we pack our things and go down the trail for Napo. Our packs are lighter and our pace are now swift. All are sweating thoroughly in the late afternoon sky. Along the trail are folks going the other way towards their homes from a whole day of selling their produce and a chance to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mother of God. It is another good day to expose the “rough cuts” into the culture of Camp Red and, eventually, make them an “island of their own” someday.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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