Sunday, February 1, 2015
THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE Bushcraft Camp is fast approaching. Nine days to be exact. Today, June 1, 2014, I decide to visit the campsite at Lower Sayao, Sibonga, Cebu to secure the firewood that I had prepared the last time I came here. I also aim to work on the latrines for both genders, see the condition of the water source and to elicit updates from the property owner.
The good thing is that I am not alone unlike last year in Camp Damazo. This time the alumni of PIBC 2011, 2012 and 2013, like Glenn Pestaño, Jhurds Neo, Mayo Leo Carillo, Aljew Frasco and Christopher Maru are coming with me. All are main bulwarks of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Also coming to help are the rough cuts – Justin Ianne Abella, Faith Gomez and Nelson Orozco.
We all meet first (except for Jhurds and Glenn) at the Cebu South Bus Terminal in Cebu City before proceeding to the south by 07:00 on board Aljew’s red Toyota pick-up. We pass by Talisay City to pick up Jhurds so he would know his tasks during the PIBC since he is the camp ramrod. In layman’s term, that is “camp administrator” for you.
We stop first at Ocaña, Carcar to buy rice, coffee and spices. We did not buy meat or vegetables since Glenn had promised to provide pork to grill there for a very belated birthday celebration. We continue on and take a right turn at Candaguit, Sibonga. The road is good until it gets past Mangyan. This road is also under our scrutiny as the PIBC participants and staff will be ferried by a small bus during the first and last day.
The pickup did not stop at the usual place where the road is still considered gentle. There is a very rough road that had been recently worked on and flattened but it is so steep and the lime soil on top is soft. The rear wheels dig for a hold and we have to go down and push the pickup so it could move forward. After a very hard effort, it go past the soft stretches and into the campsite itself. The pickup looked out of place.
We visit Rufino Ramos and his family and give his kids sets of school supplies which we had kept for them. Aside that, Jhurds also give food from last night’s fiesta held at his wife’s place. Rufino owns the property where the PIBC would be held. The campsite grounds are broken up by a plow and is now ready for planting of corn but Rufino decide to postpone it after the PIBC instead. A copse of mangoes provide shade and branches to hold hammocks and tarp sheets.
I leave the rest so I could fetch water. Coming along are Nelson and Jhurds. Water is very vital in any undertaking, especially for an outdoor activity. I check on the flow of the natural spring and it had not been affected by this extremely warm summer. The small rice paddies are dry yet the small stream is flowing. This stream would be the site of the nocturnal hunting on the second night of the PIBC. We go back when we had our water.
While everyone are foraging firewood, I go down the hill and looked for the trunks I cut last March 30. The trunks I chose then were the introduced species like mahogany, white leadtree (Local name: ipil-ipil) and Indian mulberry (bangkoro) and all are now very dry since I kept all these above the ground. I cut the branches from the trunks so I could stow these and keep it from rain.
As I am doing all these, I search for a good place to set up the latrines. I see some young trees that had been felled down recently by firewood gatherers and I look for some straight poles that I could use as digging sticks. I found two lying on the ground and I immediately sharpen their ends. I go back and bring three branches that I also picked up off the ground for our cooking tripod.
Mayo had already set up his “old-world” hammock and his old tarp sheet while Jhurds lashed his taffeta sheet to the mango tree. I also brought my newly-acquired Silangan “stealth” hammock so I could test its flexibility of use. When the tripod is set, a black pot containing water is hanged over a roaring fire that Aljew gave life to. Soon we will have coffee and what a good day to have one!
The tripod are lashed with dried fiber from banana trunks. This same fiber is used to hang the pot filled with water (and later with rice) above a fire. While waiting for coffee, Nelson and Christopher refresh their knowledge about making palm balls where rice is kept and cooked (pusò). When they had remembered, they share this knowledge to the rest.
I test making fire out of a hand drill. Spindle is a dry driftwood, thick and not straight, while the fireboard is gmelina. Punks – fine sawdust – begins to appear; signs of smoke suspect; the tip of the spindle is hot, but no fire. Only sweat on my brows. Glenn, meanwhile, is busy with his Benjamin CO2 rifle, plinking a target at forty meters. Justine and Faith fire rounds too from the same rifle.
Aljew try another hand drill made of China berry (Local: bagalnga) wood. Spindle is long and slender and straight; turning it back and forth is intense until one palm popped. Aljew gave up. Tried again with the China berry pair. Smoke appeared but the intensity is lessening. I lose the battle. It was a good try and both me and Aljew gain more wisdom on how it would be done next time.
When we had coffee, we all go down the hill to work on the latrines. We work first for the males. Ninety percent of the campers would be male and we dig a hole four feet long, six inches wide and eight inches deep. That should be enough, for now. We may make another on the event itself should we find it inadequate.
Now, we transfer to another location and dig a hole for the ladies. It is a smaller hole but we may have to secure it with a laminated nylon sheet to preserve their (and the men’s too) privacy. We may attach the sheets later during the PIBC. All the guys take turns in digging the two holes with the digging sticks; clearing the dirt with coconut shells and trowels made from bamboos. Hand gloves were provided to protect the hands from injury.
It is almost 12:00 when we return to the main camp and we begin to rekindle the flame, cook the rice and drink more coffee. When the flames turned to embers, the pork is placed above an iron grill, the hunger in us begins to manifest as the smoke wafted thru the air. Sticky fingers break off some small portions of the cooked ones to nibble and stave off the urge.
When the meal gets served on banana leaves, all get serious. The knees do not mind kissing dirt as the hands grab fistfuls of rice and pieces of grilled pork and transfer it into impromptu plates like pot covers and empty Tupperware. It is a well-deserved lunch for a bunch of guys who loved to stay close to the earth. It was a very satisfying meal.
Rufino arrive with two gallons of coconut wine (tuba). Fine timing! We slowly drink the native concoction, using it to spice up our conversations. As always, the blades are the main topic. Camp Red activities encourage you to carry and use your knife whenever and wherever it is needed. More outdoor clubs, especially in Luzon, begins to see the importance of real knives in their activities.
It was not like that until I taught people how and why in subsequent PIBCs and they begin to see the light. Now, Camp Red is composed of the best knife connoisseurs in Cebu, perhaps in the Philippines, which is unprecedented, because they do not keep these inside boxes like old collectors do, but they use it like any ordinary tool. Their prized knives are exposed to all the wear and tear associated with the demands of the outdoors.
As the afternoon wears on, we begin to pack our things and get ready with the business of going home. The red pick-up is filled full of people and, one by one, we set off on home territory.
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