Monday, February 23, 2015
IT IS AN UNUSUALLY COOL morning of June 22, 2014. For several months now, Cebu had been experiencing a hot spell. Officially, this month is supposed to be the start of the rainy season but climate analysts are forecasting an El Niño weather pattern, which may last up to November. So, for now, it is not warm.
The ground is wet as I follow Bogs Belga and Mayo Leo Carillo. The Sapangdaku Creek is clear and flowing brought on by last night’s rain. Behind me are Justin Apurado, Jhurds Neo, Ernie Salomon and Jingaling Campomanes. This would be the first time for Justin to join an official Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild activity. He just attended the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp more than a week ago in Sibonga.
I am carrying a smaller backpack. It is an old-school canvass rucksack with a Lifeguard USA label. I open carry a Puffin Magnum knife ripoff dangling inside its handsome leather sheath. We walk non-stop until we reach Lower Kahugan Spring. The sun begins to show up so I don my desert camo sniper’s veil on the head with a black cord holding it from falling down – Arab man style. I am expecting a very warm morning.
After we had filled our water bottles, we proceed on. The Roble homestead is our destination. As always, by our desire to eat food fresh from the cooking fire, we will cook our meal there. Jhurds had promised to bring shrimps and salmon strips. We complemented it by procuring rice and pork belly bought from the roadside market in Guadalupe.
We take a short cut to the place and arrive at about 09:30. Some hikers are already there sitting on a bench underneath a mango tree but leaving the visitor shed vacant. We occupy the shed. Meanwhile, I forage three sticks and lash it with a cord so it could stand as a tripod from where our pots would be hanged. Fele Roble and son, Manwel, offered to share their dry firewood for us.
I split bigger firewood with my Puffin Magnum while I make small ones with my William Rodgers bushcraft knife. Bogs shaved a feather stick with his Mora to add to my retinue of tinder and kindling from my fire kit. Firewood is arranged while a dried Spanish moss burned underneath, the wood catching the flame and giving the impression that our meal is feasible.
Justin watch the fire while I prepare the bigger of my two pots for the rice. Once it is suspended above the fire, I talk with Jhurds about my project, Survival Day. It is a practical test of endurance and resourcefulness for members of Camp Red. Two members would be selected each weekend to undergo this overnight activity, which has an escape and evasion element.
The pair would be equipped between themselves with only one knife, a fire-making device of their own choice, a metal cup and a simple shelter, also of their own choice. They would have to source their own food and water while in the mountains and the setting up of a camp that would blend well with the surroundings. A third member would accompany them to document and observe. The third man will be their lifeline should things go wrong and the umpire should they cheat.
Three places in the Babag Mountain Range – the Buhisan Watershed, Tagaytay Ridge and Kalunasan Valley – will be the pilot places for the pairs to engage in their craft. A pair could only choose one place and they have the option to repeat it on the other two places if they so desire. The pairs would be graded according to their performance based on the documentations and the giving of recognitions or badges for their effort is well considered. Perhaps.
Everyone are mesmerized by this conversation that they abandoned their chores to involve themselves in the talk and at Survival Day itself. Everyone laud this project but safeguards would have to be set up once it starts. There has to be a medical team on standby along the route and radio communications have to be set up. Survival Day would start on July 5 and would end on December 31.
When that conversation was wrapped up, Mayo returned to his place and cook the pieces of pork belly on an iron grill and charcoal. Bogs set up three stones and give life to a fire in the middle of it and a large frying pan with oil is heated. Ernie prepared the ingredients while Jingaling helped in the slicing of vegetables. Jhurds unleashed his shrimps and salmon strips. He went on to clean the salmon of its scales.
And so it happens that Ernie is present, we gave him the ladle and a wide berth at his “office”. There are a few individuals who could dish out a number of good menu in an outdoor setting and old Ernie is one of those. Well, he start with the swamp radish and diced pork and saute it with soy sauce. Then he begins with the shrimp soup, adding pieces of eggplant, radish and iba (Sp. Averrhoa bilimbi), to achieve that tamarind-like taste which in local parlance is known as “sinigang”.
As if that is not enough, Ernie converted the salmon strips into a thick and spicy concoction. Jingaling prepared raw cucumber, tomatoes and onions in sweetened vinegar as our dessert. All the blades where used including Jingaling’s new Seseblades NCO knife. People are now beginning to feel hunger pangs even though we had blunted it for a while with hot coffee.
After lunch, we talk on more about Survival Day, about knives, ideas and the recent PIBC. It is the usual conversations which people at Camp Red are known to indulge in. Mayo is excited and decides to volunteer for Survival Day but he is not familiar with the places where it will be engaged in but he is curious about Tagaytay Ridge. I invited him instead to go with me to Tagaytay next week (June 29) to do a survey which he would. Good.
We left the Roble homestead at 15:00 back to Napo. It is a beautiful afternoon for a walk. I pass again the place where I saw some week ago of a flowering durian tree and a flowering marang tree (English: johey oak). Many people thought these trees do not grow and bear fruit here in Cebu. I do not think so. I always believed that what grows in Mindanao or, for that matter, in the tropics, grows also here. I just saw healthy fruits of both trees and I envy the person who planted these.
We reach Napo and then Guadalupe. We proceed immediately to our watering hole in M. Velez Street to talk about the just-finished activity and about Survival Day over a few munches of pizza and cold beer. Jhurds decides to partner with Mayo for Survival Day on July and I advised them to expect for my briefing after next week’s recon hike.
For myself, I am also excited since this activity had never been done by any outdoors group here in the Philippines and Camp Red would be a pioneering club that would indulge on this. Why is it different? First, this is done by only two people sharing a knife, a match, a simple shelter and a cup between themselves. Second, aside from sourcing their own water and food, they have to blend with their environment. And, last, they have to navigate on unfamiliar terrain under pressure by time.
If, later, both Mayo and Jhurds should find the activity too daunting for their own comfort, I could choose another pair or, possibly, try this myself – alone. I have a good reason for the latter possibility since this is my idea. Maybe they could follow my gist and wisen up.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer