Monday, June 1, 2015

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN XXX: Dog-Weary

I NEVER LIKED TO ORGANIZE anymore and involve a lot of people in any outdoors activity, except when it is the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp, an outreach event or an outdoors seminar which would increase the knowledge of people about outdoors safety. I do not want to put a strain on myself in managing a big group of people without any tangible benefit for them except the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. They could do that for themselves and they have the cash to do it anywhere.

Neither would I liked to bring a lot of people again into the Buhisan Watershed Area for the simple reason that it is a protected area. The Buhisan is the source of drinking water for Metro Cebu residents and I do not want to despoil their water source because I insist to do my dirt time at the streams and on the catchment basin. Nowadays, I just bring only a handful of people and I feel comfortable with that even if we are walking on the streams.


Today, October 12, 2014, I am organizing an activity for the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. My route would just be short and it will intrude into the seams of the Buhisan with a planned short lecture at Camp Damazo. I believe, some members of the Cebu Mountaineering Society would be joining us. I am worried because the number of people coming would not be appealing on my part and that they might also find our methods displeasing.

I am at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish waiting. One by one, they came. From Camp Red: Jhurds, Jerome, Nelson, Ernie, Glenn, Dominik and Justin. Jonathan, Justin’s father, tagged along. A rough cut, Mark, came with wife, Marisol. We are eleven. From CeMS: Boy T, Boy O, Mon and Aldrich. Apart from them, they have two lady guests from Bacolod – Jo and Ping. Six people are with CeMS and we are seventeen in all. Good God, too many!

I may have to accommodate the presence of people from CeMS since they are already here and that means I have to tone down a bit our dirt time. Aldrich, whom I had not seen for some time, is now based in Papua New Guinea. He had been with me during that great traverse hike in Bukidnon, from Lantapan to Impasud-ong, which scaled both Mount Dulangdulang and Mount Kitanglad, the country’s second and fourth highest peaks, in three days of 2008. He is on vacation together with Jo and Ping, who both are nurses working in Saudi Arabia.

Boy T, Boy O and Mon are quite familiar with Camp Red activities since they had joined us many times. Anyway, when all had arrived at the parish grounds, I gave all a briefing. It is about the special concerns of a watershed area which an individual may have to observe and respect. I state out the rules and I am very strict about this. I also apprised Aldrich, Jo and Ping about the way Camp Red people conduct their activities that might ran contrary to their belief of the Leave No Trace, granting that they are aware of it. All understood very well why we open-carry our knives. Good!

Having resolved the foregoing issues, I decide to lengthen the route and walk on high ground. We would tackle “Heartbreak Ridge” first before proceeding to Baksan. I would ensure that Aldrich and friends will be satisfied of the exertions for this activity and will have a memorable weekend. We start our hike at 07:30 right after procuring the ingredients for our meal which we will enjoy later at Camp Damazo. The weather at this early stage of morning is very mild and would greatly help the participants overcome this ridge, which had been notorious to many.


The ridge is now home to many dumps of garbage since the time informal settlers claimed the lower part. There is now a community where, before, there was just a plot of corn and a cairn. I see an empty bottle and I pick it up. Walking on, I see a lot of broken glass. I collect this and placed it inside empty foil-like junk food pouches. I cannot imagine a boy getting lacerated on the foot while flying a kite like I did in my early teens while pursuing a basketball on thick grass. Picking up broken glass and whole bottles is now my advocacy so our world would be a little safer.

Meanwhile, two of my guys bogged down in the middle with one raising the white flag. We have one guy less but sixteen people to look after is still a lot. Mon, Aldrich, Jo and Ping, whom I thought would suffer from the initial ascent, made it. I wait for the rest at the top where forest cover are a few meters away. It is now 09:30 and a lot of time are wasted where, at this hour, we would have been at Baksan. The sun exact its revenge after an hour of being covered by clouds. It will be very hot soon.

The shades afforded by forest cover have soothed the frayed nerves caused by that hike on heartbreak ridge. The air is cooler, the leaves are wet, the ground soft with a lot of bird activity. I see, on three different occasions, hunters with rifles. They are on the prowl today but I am worried of those that I have not seen yet because they would also never know our presence. I scan people’s clothes and bag. All Camp Red people wear clothes and carry bags with earth tones and they blend perfectly well. What I want is someone who would stand out. Aldrich’s backpack cover fits that. It is neon green!

We reach the Portal but we just pass by it. We proceed instead to a house where we used to fill up our water bottles. The minutes are ticking. Temperature slowly rising. We will feel the heat once we reach the road. We work our way among the small community of Baksan into the road. The school that had been burned in 1984 by the New People’s Army gets the attention of Jonathan. He used to ride a mountain bike on this very road and he always sees the skeleton of the school when the place was yet bare of trees. The road is now concrete and heat bounced off the surface adding to the discomfort of glare.

After an uphill walk on the road, we go down a path towards a shady clearing underneath a mango tree. Here, I briefed again the mixed group. Wooden sticks becomes relevant. It is now 10:15 and we still have a long way to go. We climb up a ridge and switch to another ridge. The grasses are tall and healthy. Birds are always absent inside a teak forest. Their wide leaves kill neighboring trees and the heat under their shades are oppressive. We walk past a saddle and into a low hill. This hill used to be Boy T’s nightmare and the name stuck. It became the name of the hill and it is now tabbed in my map as Boy T’s Hell. Mon provided me the altitude at 275 meters.

When we got past the hill, the route goes down steep into a stream. I saw my trailsign and we go down a path that had been first created during the PIBC 2013. The ground is soft but the vegetation had not claimed back the ground made bare by the passing of several feet. We reach the creek and I immediately immerse my meshed shawl with water and wipe it on my face and nape. The coolness of water from the stream brought some comfort. Everyone converge on the stream that I designate as Creek Alpha. I think this is the best time to drink coffee.

I retrieve my set of blackened pots, fill it with water from the stream. We use a butane stove to boil water quick. Those whose drinking water getting low availed of the portable filters provided by Jerome and Jhurds. You just sip from the running stream with the straw and it saves your water inside the bottle from being used. When coffee was available, everyone gets a serving. Although hot, it soothes out thirst and it peps up your strength and your sagging determination. I took a second steaming cup for good measure. We boiled the pork meat so it would not spoil. We leave Creek Alpha at 11:00 for Creek Bravo.


I hasten the pace but I warned the rest of the presence of rattan palms. Stones and tree roots are slippery and I begin to feel fatigue. I just ate three small bread as breakfast at Guadalupe many hours ago and now it is almost noon. My gut needs nourishment although the two cups of coffee I enjoyed at the stream had given me a brief respite. I reach Creek Bravo and rest for a while to wait on the rest then we go uphill. My pace is fast as I stepped on stones and tree roots intending not to leave my mark on the wet yet still scratchless ground. Once in a while, I look back to take note of the weak link.

It is 12:45 when I finally reach Camp Damazo. Oh God, I am tired. Despite it, I begin to collect the wooden staffs and make a tripod. I lashed the sticks with vine over a pile of tinder, kindling and twigs that the father-and-son tandem of Jonathan and Justin prepared for a fireplace. Quickly, I retrieved my blackened pots with its contents of boiled pork meat and disposed it under Ernie’s care and parted some of my foraged tinder to make fire-making easier. Jerome erected another tripod tied with paracord above another fireplace which Jonathan and Justin also gave life.

Dominik and Mark teased another fireplace to life for cooking pork barbecue. Everyone are exhausted by the ascent, by force of a pace imposed by me and by the tantrums of the gut. What better way to feel relaxed is to just sit still and recover your wind, then change into dry clothes. Most just go on with life, help in the cooking, collect firewood or talk about knives. Jhurds arrived with an armful of dry twigs while Nelson walked behind him with another armful of dry wood. Mon lent his butane stove to provide more option to the cooking. Jo and Ping engage in a conversation with Marisol when not taking photos. Mark and Aldrich collect all empty bottles and refilled it at a natural spring.

Jhurds set up his Silangan “stealth hammock” complete with an overhead taffeta shelter inside the forest. I lay on a stone underneath the hammock and try to sleep but mosquitoes hovering near your ears became unbearable and I transferred near the fire but away from direct heat. I splay a matted nylon sheet and pretend to sleep. A dog sat beside me but I ignored it. Aldrich joined me on the sheet. Later, snores from my neighbor woke me up. I gaze at the treetops and see a native pigeon attracted by the smell of our cooking. Something big moved beyond the tops. A serpent hawk. It floated in circles.

My vision is blurry yet I could still mark fine details if I had to and that means I have to strain my eyes hard. Blurry vision is a sign of fatigue. It is like someone placing fine sand in your eyes. I blink many times to adjust focus. As time goes by, my vision cleared, but it is not a good time to read something on paper. I am supposed to do a lecture here but my eyes are uncooperative. The discussion is about “Blend, Adapt and Improvise”. I am discussing this subject matter for Camp Red and is taken from my e-Book project titled ETHICAL BUSHCRAFT. Somehow, I have to postpone this. It is good to be sensitive.

By now, cooking is almost over and food will be served in a little while. Fresh banana leaves are frayed over the fire and it will soon host the food. The grilled pork are already sliced and are now placed over both cooked rice and milled corn. The salmon belly soup (Local: tinola, tuwa) elicit a lot of stares from all. Who would have thought that Northwest Pacific salmon could be cooked in soup, Filipino style! Give credit to the camp fixer, Maestro Ernie. After the mixed-vegetable soup and fried anchovies got cooked, our delayed lunch began at 14:00.


I pounced immediately on the salmon soup and slurp its life-sustaining taste. Bon appetit, mon amie! I was starving but I am feeling better now. Took another serving of the same soup mixed with milled corn and now my stomach felt something tangible inside. I took a third serving of the soup mixed with milled corn again. The rest picked on any viand they choose to eat and they all milled around the banana leaves on the ground. Everything was consumed except the banana leaves. When the meal is over, I collect my pots from “no man’s land” and I proceed to Creek Charlie to wash it there. Justin came along, then Nelson.

My wife kept complaining why my pots are dirty and why does she has to clean it all the time? I do not wish to bother her tonight when I go home. I line the three pots on the stream bed and place water in it to soften the food morsels adhering inside. When the food got removed, I throw the waste water far away from the stream. With sand, I rubbed the blackened surface until the sane appearance is almost restored. Justin and Nelson did, likewise, on theirs and we go back to Camp Damazo. Along the way, I showed both to a tree that looked like a giraffe. Justin took a photo for souvenir.

The rest are already packed and raring to go. We leave at 16:00 back to another point of the Baksan-Pamutan Road. I led, passing by the natural spring, crossing the upper part of Creek Bravo, climbing up a steep hillside for about 200 meters, going down and cross another stream, which is the upper part of Creek Alpha. From there it is easy rolling terrain and I reach the road at 16:40. The waiting for the rest almost took forever and so we decide to proceed to Lanipao instead. It is downhill walk now and quite easy.

A small store sells cold drinks at Lanipao. I had a bottle of Sparkle while the rest prefer Coke. It is already dark at 17:30 and we continue with our hike to Napo. At Napo, I let those who were with me proceed to Guadalupe on motorcycles. I wait for the rest and let them go ahead. Once it is dark, motorcycles are scarce at Napo. I walk the road instead, going to Guadalupe with Dom, Mark and Marisol. A motorcycle pass by and I ensure Mark and Marisol hop on to it. Likewise to Dom. I am the last to leave the road.


Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer


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