Friday, December 26, 2014


THE VAUNTED TROPICAL SUMMER heat bear upon me and the rest on the early morning of April 27, 2014.  Everyone is exhausted when we reach the Lower Kahugan Spring, the blade handles on our sides loudly proclaiming our association with the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.  Ours is a different stripe whose passion ran from blades to real-world skills to outdoors culinary.

These individuals are now beginning to shape and form the core of Camp Red.  They are here because I will be talking about Water in the middle of summer.  The gems are present like Jhurds Neo, Glenn Pestaño, Aljew Frasco, Dominic Sepe and Christopher Maru.  The roughcuts lope along like Bogs Belga, Jerome Tibon, Nelson Orozco and Xerxes Alcordo.  A lady guest of Xerxes cut in with the party.

The ground is packed hard.  The spring had not diminished its flow.  As always, shades from trees are our brothers.  Not all wore hats, including me.  I drape my head instead with a camouflaged mesh shawl.  It is really very warm!  Everybody is sweating profusely, breathing hard from the hike on a terrain that had been second home to most of us.  Someday, when SHTF comes, these mountain ranges and valleys will be our redoubt.

We resume our hike, this time on ascending ground.  We will converge later on at the Roble homestead where we will prepare our lunch and our lecture about Water.  I take the lead, my pace deliberately slow, eyes out on the last man behind me and on the path ahead of me.  Scanning every detail and homing on anything unusual are now second nature to me.  Grandpa had taught me well and I had been an earnest listener.

Four of the guys had been missing as time goes by: Glenn, Jerome, Nelson and Dominic.  I know they are out there somewhere, struggling against the heat and the steep ground.  I know Dom will shepherd all to safety.  I have trust on the guy.  He will soon be a certified badass.  A real and no-nonsense badge-carrying member of Camp Red.

I reach the place at 10:15 and three hikers are resting in the hut.  The Roble homestead is a natural resting and watering area for it is the halfway place between Napo and Babag Ridge.  A lot of weekend hikers pass by here during their physical preparation for the big climbs outside Cebu and to keep themselves fit like Boy Toledo and Ramon Corro who came in with Dom and company.

Once all have been accounted for, we immediately work our blades to good use like splitting firewood and cutting green limbs for the cooking tripods.  Some of us, slice the meat and the vegetables while one takes care of the coffee.  Coffee, even on a hot day, tastes heavenly to an individual deprived of rest and water.  Fele and Manwel Roble provide us green coconuts and ripe star apple fruits.

Such are the usual things we do that dumbfounded the three hikers.  They had seen all the pictures of our activities in our Facebook site but had not seen it close and actual.  Now, they have the privilege to gaze at our blades, observe at how we cook our food and see all the nasty characters in the flesh.  On this occasion, I lend my slingshot to one of the hikers to rough it out in the real world. 

Two tripods are used to cook the two pots of rice, fry eggplant and steam the fern tops.  The guys also use four pieces of discarded green coconuts as a platform to hold the iron grill where a fry pan will be placed.  They notched the coconuts to make the grill stable.  What craftiness!  That is why I shift to bushcraft and teach it to others so you could use your head and think and do something wonderful with less that mainstream outdoor activities cannot match.

I used to be a recreational climber in the days when only a few dared touch the clouds.  It is an interest reserved only for the bourgeoisie which I never was.  I would need precious cash to buy expensive gears for that and more precious cash – and time – to spend on travel to get to the base camps.  Most often, the trailhead can be reached by transport and you only have to climb a few meters to reach the peak.  It is so disgusting when some people make a big thing out of it.

When friends begin to seek the pleasures of climbing mountains outside of the Philippines simply because they had ran out of peaks here, I realized that these people were not thinking and I was with the wrong crowd.  Thinking makes the difference between a human being and an animal.  I choose to be human and bushcraft is all about thinking, adapting and improvising.

People asked why do we cook when we are just on a day activity?  Outdoor culinary skills cannot be sharpened when you rely so much on pre-cooked food, packed lunch, canned goods, MREs and on everything that hinge on comfort, convenience and laziness.  A person who does not think and who does nothing cannot survive in a harsh world of isolation and loneliness.  Cooking is essential in that environment as it will lift up your morale.

Camp Red prepares for these things and encourages individualism.  We believe that a person can be “an island on his own” contrary to the general idea that “no man is an island”.  A good man could sustain himself and not wait for others to feed him so he could live.  Strong individuals make good homesteaders where living off the grid is almost impossible to accomplish.

We eat our lunch at exactly 12:00 noon.  After an hour, I start the lecture about Water.  The tropics, although abundant in water, is very humid.  By this condition, it forces an individual to demand more water.  Dehydration, or the loss of water thereof, is a natural process of a human body and, to counter that, we need to rehydrate regularly since we surrender measured amounts of body moisture due to atmospheric exposure or to physical activity.    

Not all water you will source in the wilderness are safe for drinking and there are processes by which you could remove harmful ingredients and bacteria through proper sanitation.  Foremost of these is boiling.  As soon as water reaches boiling temperature, it becomes safe to drink.  Purification through use of chlorine, purifying tablets or iodine drops could also neutralize harmful bacterias but you need to steep it for 30 minutes before drinking.

In the absence of fire, heating through prolonged exposure to sunlight will do but will not give assurance of safe water.  Using of plastic bottles for this process is harmful as its chemical composition disintegrates and will contaminate your water.  Filtration is another process by which you could remove some harmful elements from your water but does not give a good assurance of completely eradicating all.  

Finally, the process called desalination is the safest of all since it will remove anything heavier than air during evaporation and condensation and, this includes, chemicals.  Combining all these processes will give assurance of safe water but, however, will only be viable if you have a number of people to do the different tasks. 

While water could be had anywhere in the tropics there are only a few places by which you could source it.  It could be from springs, seeps, water holes, streams, ponds, from plants and from the atmosphere.  Water holes, streams and ponds need to be sanitized before using.  Likewise, those that came from the atmosphere should be considered closely since it is exposed to air pollution and may contain high acidity.

In between, the guys asked a few questions or give additional inputs that make the discussion noteworthy.  When I had finished the lecture, the knife porn begins to take shape as the first few blades that pierce a log unloaded a flood of more sharp things.  First are the fixed blades.  All are lined up from the “big brothers” to the “woodlores” to the rat-tailed Scandinavians.  Last, but not the least, are the classic folders.

We leave at 15:00 down that very amusing “Padidit Trail” towards Sapangdaku Creek and proceed back to Napo.  All are satisfied of the chance to exercise limbs, practice their skills with the knife, eat good food and earn another valuable input from the short lecture.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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