Thursday, January 8, 2015

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXXVII: Men of Hard Stock

ALTHOUGH THE OUTREACH will be next week, Jhurds Neo and Dominic Sepe found it imperative that the donated school supplies which were collected during the Who Put the “N” in Nature III Concert-for-a-Cause last Friday at the Handuraw Events Cafe be immediately transferred to Kahugan. I go with the flow of the two and I am here at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church today – May 18, 2014 - because of that.

There would be a lot of notebooks, writing pads, pencils, crayons and other items and I will have to maximize my presence and usefulness by bringing a big bag for this purpose. For the first time, I will use an olive-green duffel bag that used to be the property of the South Korean military which a cousin had given me many months ago. No, my cousin is not Korean and he neither looked like one.


Jhurds, on the other hand, will also be using a vintage rucksack that was issued to the Swiss military and once belonged to his uncle who was drafted in the early ‘70s. It has a 50 liter room space. He showed me the spacious insides and it had already been claimed by two 1.5 liter plastic bottles of iced Coke. How does he plan to place some notebooks in there?

Anyway, aside from Jhurds, Dominic and I, those who also come are Aljew Frasco, Christopher Maru, Eli Bryn Tambiga, Jerome Tibon, Bogs Belga and Tope Laugo. This had not been an announced activity but the idea of this worked its way through cellphone messages. This is strictly a Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild activity. Although the donated items are many and may be heavy, but it is not daunting. We have many good reasons why it is not despite this oppressive heat.

We leave at 08:00 and, thankfully, Aljew had brought his Toyota pickup and it saves us money to pay for motorcycles. The pickup found parking space in Arcos and we only have to hike a few meters to Napo. My duffel bag is heavy, fully loaded with children’s books, notebooks and writing pads. As usual, I have my dirty cook pots, my EDC kit, my blades, extra shirt, a water bottle and a Silangan “stealth hammock” which I used as a cushion between pot and my lower back bones. Aside that, I add a kilo of pork meat into my cargo.


From Napo, I readjust the tilt of the duffel bag from time to time so I could maintain balance and prevent chafing on one of my shoulders. The uneven terrain causes the bag to shift many times and I also have to adjust this the same number of times. When I reach a mango tree, I stop to rest. It is good to just stop for a while and listen to your body talking in its very peculiar manner. After 10 minutes, I move on.

I reach Lower Kahugan Spring and drink a lot of water. I am deprived of that since my water bottle is empty and placed inside the duffel bag. Oh, it is a blessing to just remove it from my back. I am beginning to experience a little pain on the flesh of my shoulder blades. It is because, while it is heavy, there are no cushion pads on the shoulder straps. It will be painful once the terrain begins to go steep and I am now facing an ascending trail with dread which I will soon walk.

This first person monologue also applies to the rest. While I may be explaining my predicament, the others have had also their own difficulties. Even with smaller backpacks and lesser cargoes, they are also in a struggle with the heat and their hands are holding plastic bags of school supplies. These are men of hard stock and they manifest their presence on this day by doing something good here instead of being somewhere else. They are not mainstream and does not want to be.


These are men whom I could rely on any SHTF situation anytime. They do not blink and give alibis at the last minute. They are very austere in their gears and the lack of it does not cause a problem for them since what they do not have they make. They carry knives openly, hanging proudly at their sides, which showed their true worth as gentlemen of the outdoors. These are not carried for anything else except as an extension of their working hands in union with their thinking minds.

Enough said! I walk Kahugan Trail with a liter of water added as weight. I concentrate on my breathing in cadence with my steps. I close all perceptions of discomfort and focus on how I could deliver my precious cargo to the Roble homestead. The Roble family will again host the outreach on May 25, 2014 and, for the time being, we will use their home as a storage space for these school supplies. I know there will be more donations of this kind when we will do the event reprise at The Outpost on Friday.

Slowly, I ascend. The bag straps digging into my shoulders. The load conspicuously present all the time. Behind me is Bogs, the rest are beyond my vision. The warmth of the day is relentless but I have a camouflaged veil protecting my face and my nape. I looked like a queer Arab though with my improvised headgear. I yearn a drink but it is in the duffel bag and I do not have the patience to unhook the straps from my shoulders and putting it back after a mere sip.


Good thing the route pass by a lot of old mango trees. Shady spots keep your head high, especially when there is a cool breeze. Every so often I rest under these spots. If a cloud passes overhead, I take that opportunity and walk a good distance until the sun take back what little joy I had. Regardless, I push on, passing by an even steeper path, rocky and uneven, but with a lot of handholds. I could already see the great tamarind tree and the house neath it from half a kilometer away.

Finally, at 10:30, the heavy duffel bag is off me. It now sits on a rough-hewn wooden bench, its precious cargo are being unloaded. I take a much-deserved drink and I begin to scrutinize a Mora Companion knife that Jerome had given me hours ago. I never had a Mora before and I appreciate Jerome’s generosity. It is genuinely Made in Sweden. As with all Scandinavian knives, it is rat-tailed, the tang buried by a rubber handle. The blade is made of carbon steel while the sheath is PVC with a clip to hook on a belt.

I snatch the pork meat I carried and sliced it with the Morakniv according to the menu: Squarish for the pork adobao and slender for the mung bean soup. It is effortless, of course, with the great reputation these Swedish knives have for its edge. Deboning the meat is seamless as well. Trust that to the dexterity of the hands. Meanwhile, Bogs offer me a sachet of gourmet chocolate drink and I would not pass this chance while the place is still blissfully empty. When the rest arrive, it will be pandemonium!


My waiting for the rest of the stripes took quite a while. They had not anticipated the heavier load they carried on a warm sunny day. Jhurds is winded but ever smiling. Jerome feel something bad in his stomach. Aljew is speechless but unbothered. Christopher gave a sigh but shrugged off the predicament. Doms is scowling as sweat drip on his face. Eli, unbothered, just keeps his silence. Tope, on the other hand, prays for blessing on a board exam he is going to take.

Like sudden rain that fall on land, the Roble homestead gets flooded with the sound of chopping wood. The famous blades of Camp Red gets unleashed by their masters. Even with that, you feel safe as all use their knives responsibly. All know their knowledge of knife etiquette learned during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp.

Tripods are immediately set up when the first flickers of fire showed among the matting of tinder and kindling. Firewood are collected and split by large blades or by smaller ones with help from wood batons like Aljew did with his KaBar fighting knife. You do not do that to a vintage blade but Camp Red uses their blades on all kinds of work unlike some people who treat it like some sort of Barbie dolls. All the food ingredients are unloaded, as well as all the school supplies.

Dominik, Eli and Tope gets busy doing an inventory of the donated notebooks, pencils, crayons and other items. Christopher, Jerome and Jhurds help among themselves the slicing of onions and vegetables. Garlic are crushed while the fern tops are washed. The pot of rice is suspended over the fire while another pot of mung beans is boiled. Preparing a meal with the stripes of Camp Red are done the old way.


When all the food are cooked and ready for serving, all fall to order and behaved like gentlemen. The food, oh yes, the food, it tastes good. The mung bean soup is the first to get decimated, then the pork adobao. It is not everyday that you get to hike the mountains, do something good, test your prized knife, drink coffee under the sun, talk of bushcraft trends, sweat as you work with your hands and eat good food.

Then the conversations rises to a high crescendo when the blade porn is unleashed. We leave at 16:00, retracing our route that we took hours ago. We arrive at Guadalupe and go on our separate ways. But the best thing we did was the launching of the precious cargo for the children which we will be distributing next Sunday.


Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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