Monday, September 22, 2014
SINCE THE TIME I shifted to Bushcraft and Survival, I now know where I am going. This is no accident for me but it had been motivated by one popular TV show whose producers made one fine dude into a buffoon. That show had made nonsense of what bushcraft is really all about. I know that, for I had been taught primitive-living skills by my late grandfather, who exposed me to woodlore at a young age.
In the Philippines, bushcraft or primitive-living skills or wilderness survival or off-the-grid living is still practiced by a good percentage of the populace, even more so, when you travel to the far countrysides. Shades of it are even carried by migrants into the big cities but that is just all about it. Nobody is interested anymore because it is low technology and inconsequential. This present generation thinks that the search engines and their tablets could provide them of what they want.
This direction I am talking about is imparting my knowledge to people and, at the same time, converting contemporary yuppies into weekend bushmen. My philosophy of enjoying the outdoors is not conventional and does not follow how the mainstream work but I place it in a proper perspective so it could be understood better by those who may practice it. It is an activity that uses a lot of common sense and a good dose of hard labor, although it is disdained by many conventional types because of its nonconformist methods.
I would like to emphasize that there is more of the outdoors than just being conventional or mainstream. I have seen the difference because I had been there. I cannot comprehend long ago why my hands were tied when I am supposed to enjoy “ultimate freedom”? It is not a very good idea going on camping with someone watching behind your back constricting your movements along the rigid lines of a foreign ideology called Leave No Trace.
Be advised also that there is a limit to enjoying a bushcraft activity which is really different from what you see on TV. You do not just cut green branches without considering the type of species. You do not just make fire without a purpose and without also considering the impact it gives to the camp ground. You do not just show off your blades on popular mountain sites without offending the sensibilities of certain people. Our own concept of the outdoors does not necessarily gets appreciated by the mainstream crowd.
People are now more aware of their environment because they choose to help and preserve Mother Earth in a good state in whatever way they can and that is good. Their adherence to LNT made them better hikers or mountain climbers, I suppose, and educates other people who visit the mountains for recreation. Ethical backpackers are incensed of people and activities that despoil the environment and are now more forceful in their approach. Rightly so, for a lot of reasons like garbage to fire rings to mass climbs to crowded campsites to commercialism.
I am practicing Philippine-style bushcraft and I make it sure that its impact on the environment is negligible if you compare it with how Westerners does theirs. I shun popular campsites and I would rather be with as few people as possible so we could enjoy bushcraft better. I encourage my adherents to practice light backpacking and to absorb the principles of “adapt, blend and improvise”. Campfires are mandatory on preparation of meals but, do not worry, we keep it small.
Conventional hikers always love to camp on high places and when they see fire rings on their beloved campsites, they would attribute that to bushcrafters even though it runs contrary to how and where we choose our fireplaces. We prefer hidden nooks, inconspicuous places that are too remote and wild, even to an adventurous urbanite but, sometimes, we use our old haunts which are now frequented by people. We equate our activities akin to those of indigenous people and we imitate their ways of moving about in a forest.
We learn plant ID by heart and that distinguishes us from firewood and charcoal gatherers who cut trees wholesale. We prefer cutting green limbs from introduced or invasive species, if we do not find any left behind by locals, when we need it for general bushcraft work. Firewood and kindling we get from dead branches which do not touch the ground and save someone the trouble of being hit by a falling one. We forage and use wild edible plants on our cooking; natural fibers for cordage; and natural tinder for our fire kit.
What we cannot leave behind, we burn. Any organic refuse, goes back to the land. As much as possible, only opened cans and empty bottles goes back to civilization to be sold in junk shops. Bringing in of garbage back to the cities are unnecessary since it would only use more fuel needed to transport these to dump sites, add more man hours and help hasten the filling up of landfill projects. Smoke from small garbage we burned in an hour of a weekend are peanuts compared to everyday poison unleashed by coal-fired power plants and vehicle fumes.
The importance of knives in bushcraft and survival are supreme and its presence in all our activities are mandatory. If you cannot stomach the sight of it, then keep your distance else learn from us. We have no other purpose for the knife except as a tool and, without that, tasks would be downright difficult to accomplish. Nowhere else is an outdoors hobby would you get to learn a myriad of skills except here in bushcraft and, as always, the knife is very relevant.
Where does one learn bushcraft here? If you search the Internet, this word is confined to countries that are mostly found on the temperate zones. In the Philippines, your search will take you to Cebu, the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp and me. Yes, I teach bushcraft only during the PIBC, which is always held on June 10 to 12. The Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines also requests me to teach their members wilderness survival each year. Apart from that, I instruct people indoors about urban survival techniques.
To keep and maintain the skills of local bushcrafters sharp all the time, I established an organization for this purpose: the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. It is the only one of its kind in the Philippines and is based in Cebu. Camp Red members are always out there on the field every weekend, hiking mountain trails, exploring, foraging, learning outdoors culinary, firecraft and a lot of real-world skills. You can distinguish them by their preference to carry openly their knives.
Bushcraft, for me, is the ultimate experience. You are the sole master of your own fate and you will know the mountains and its valleys and rivers more than anyone else. You just stay in a few places while everyone else are preoccupied of their time and destinations, totally missing out the finer details of a journey which would have given one lasting impressions, wonderful discoveries and irreplaceable wisdom. I have achieved total and unimpeded freedom doing all these and no foreign ideology, modern technology or expensive gears had altered or prevented that.
Bushcraft shall remain outside of the mainstream and so would the men and women who had embraced it. It will never ever replicate activities of conventional outdoor interests nor would it intrude on their realm but it can be integrated into theirs, with a few adjustments to their individual’s mindsets. I have come to the conclusion that Philippine-style bushcraft will stay for good and it will develop people into self-reliant individuals who may become leaders of a community of survivors should there be a SHTF situation.
The introduction of bushcraft as one of the activities in the Philippine outdoors scene should be welcomed, even from those whom have thought that the outdoors is their monopoly. Although we do not abide by the principles of LNT, we understood the spirit by what it was meant for and we have our own set of values when in the outdoors. We appreciate nature very much and we, like the rest, are never in a good mood when our mountains are abused. It is our playground as much you had considered it as your own.
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