Wednesday, November 25, 2015
PHILIPPINE HISTORY BOOKS gave a hazy account of the circumstances leading to the death of Andres Bonifacio. He died not from the wounds by the very people he was fighting against but by his own people. History is written by those who benefit from the system fostered by economics, politics or by conflict or by a combination of all. But, do you really know who Andres Bonifacio was before his death?
Bonifacio came from a poor family and, like most Filipinos of that time, has no formal education. The Spanish colonizers deemed it right not to educate the natives for their own good so as to ensure their control of the economy by keeping the most desirable lands for themselves and to assure their places and privileges in society. Bonifacio learned to read and write in his own home, safe enough to be spied upon by anybody.
His industry and good common sense brought him to decent positions in an international trading house where no pure-blood Filipino had been. He taught himself bookkeeping which appeased his masters and learned foreign languages, aside from Chinese and Spanish, which gave him a rare privilege to hobnob foreign traders, businessmen, guests and dignitaries. He could understand and converse a little French and, probably too, of a little English.
He was known to keep many books, to include French and English titles, and from among these, he may have read of the French Revolution, the taking of the Bastille, of George Washington and the American Revolution. For low-caste Filipinos, access to books are hard to come by and, if ever they are fortunate enough to possess one, it would be indecipherable by virtue of their illiteracy. Possession of books not approved by authorities at that time subject one to severe punishment, public humiliation, dispossession or death.
Bonifacio was just an ordinary man yet he has leadership skills excellent enough to lead men of even greater standing than he, organize an effective resistance against the oppressors through many successes in armed engagements and gained a lot of adherents for the Katipunan because of his willingness to lead his men on the frontlines. He was a man of action and emphasized that by tearing down his personal document which gave him access to travel to his place of work and to exercise his occupation.
His renown and accomplishments have parallel similarity to that of Scotland's greatest hero – William Wallace. They both were of the common class, fought with a blade and went down in history succumbing to the intrigues, ambitions and betrayals perpetrated by the upper class of the very people that each championed. Bonifacio, together with his brothers, were murdered and his wife raped and history was written by those who benefited from this dark chapter.
On November 28, 29 and 30, 2015, the Warrior Pilgrimage Blog and the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild honors his memory as a true hero of the people by holding the first-ever BONIFACIO DAY SPECIAL BUSHCRAFT CAMP. It would be held at Camp Damazo, somewhere among the hidden jungles of the Babag Mountain Range, Cebu City. It is a three-day wilderness skills training akin to the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp.
This writer convenes this special bushcraft camp for the benefit of those that failed to participate the recent PIBC MMXV and that the long weekend which culminate to the commemoration of Bonifacio Day may well be a good excuse. For the first time, seven minors would be participating. It is a great privilege to impart real-world skills to young people considering that most of them are wired to the electric outlet resulting to that phenomenon called nature-deficit disorder. They would join twelve others.
First day would start with a long Discovery Hike from the assembly area in Guadalupe to Camp Damazo passing by grasslands, forests and jungle streams. Upon setting up of camp, lectures will immediately start. Introduction to Bushcraft, Ethical Bushcraft and Knife Care and Safety would take much of the day until dusk falls where a campfire would be lit up. Aljew Frasco (2013) and Mark Lepon (2015) will assist me during the instructions.
Second day shall be devoted for Survival Tool-Making, Shelter, Plant ID and Foraging, Firecraft and Outdoor Cooking. All, including the camp staff, shall experience the angst of a person in a survival situation by fasting and all shall take feast on the results of their Nocturnal Hunting. Campfire Yarns and Storytelling shall commence to enhance more camaraderie.
Third day will be an occasion for the observance of Bonifacio Day thru the singing of the national anthem and followed by pledging of allegiance to flag and country. Then the bushcraft tradition of the pageantry of the knives becomes the center of attraction called the Blade Porn and photo sessions follow. Official Camp Hawkeye will be Eli Bryn Tambiga (2012). Together with Christopher Ngosiok (2015), he will also attend to the chores as Camp Medic.
Clearing of camp follows and all proceed to the Lanipao Rainforest Resort for relaxing in its spring-fed swimming pools and to enjoy refreshments and that deserved lunch prepared by our Camp Fixer – Ernie Salomon (2011). Giving of Certificates of Training and the raffling of freebies to all participants shall be carried out by our Camp Ramrod – Jhurds Neo (2012) - during the socials.
The Knifemaker of Mandaue City and Seseblades of Pampanga supports this initiative by providing their blade products for use and for free giveaways. Paracord Manila will also give away their products. Paracord bracelets made by the different PIBC alumni will also be given away aside from the items prepared for by Jhurds Neo, the President of Camp Red.
An event T-shirt will be part of the minimal P800 registration fee paid by each participant aside from the certificate, transportation, real camping experience, a meal and the use of the amenities of the Lanipao Rainforest Resort. Finishing the Bonifacio Day Special Bushcraft Camp gives you the option to join Camp Red. You can either improve yourself further through self-practice or through participation of activities hosted by Camp Red. This bushcraft camp will open many possibilities for you that you have thought had not existed.
Andres Bonifacio did not die in vain. He united the different ethnic groups and gave a sense of a nation for all native inhabitants to aspire for and govern for themselves. His dreams of a Free Philippine Republic gave hope to all who have been subjected to the yoke of a harsh and cruel master. His dreams never died. It lived on. Dreams Never End.
Andres Bonifacio art from the Concerned Artists of the Philippines
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Saturday, November 14, 2015
I AM NOW FOCUSING MY sights on my unfinished Cebu Highlands Trail Project. Recently, I completed Segment III on February 19-21, 2015 after a hiatus of one-and-a-half-years which were spent on other activities. Next in line would be Segment IV and Segment V. Segment IV is the hardest of all and I had scheduled it in October 2015. Segment V is easier and I decide to explore it first and, that means, I have to move it backward from early 2016 to May 2015 instead.
Just like I had done before Segment III, I will prepare the Exploration Team through endurance training and long hikes. For this purpose, I will retrace the route I had taken to complete Segment I last October 26-27, 2013, which is from Mount Manunggal, Balamban to Guadalupe, Cebu City. I have tried this again alone on a “penitence hike” during the 2014 Lent, which saw me floundering on the trail caused by my self-imposed fasting, on a time of the warmest days of that year.
I failed to finish one-half of that pilgrimage but I have gained my soul back from the quagmire of sins. This rugged route, coupled with the hottest weather, is a test of endurance and may make or break an iron will. I have nothing to prove now but my companions of this different training-and-penitence hike would soon find out. They are Jonathan and Justin Apurado – father and son – and both are members of the Exploration Team.
We start from Citilink Terminal, Cebu City at 14:00 of Holy Thursday – April 2, 2015. The van-for-hire drop us at the road corner leading to Mt. Manunggal at exactly 15:30 and we walk the length to seek our campsite. We found favor on an unfinished concrete structure instead on the traditional camping ground for the posts are convenient for our hammocks to tie on. Our overhead sheets, we would convert instead into wind breakers for there are no walls.
As soon as we have secured our places, I prowl down the mountainside to forage dry firewood. The recent activity of March 17th, the Death Anniversary of President Ramon Magsaysay, have caused scarcity of wood on the upper slopes. I found a few though that had been left by people at the lower reaches and carry it up. Justin and Jonathan give life to a flame by a flint strike on flammable tinder from pine trees.
It is a beautiful landscape at dusk. The red glow of a setting sun cooled as it touched the horizon behind the Negros mountains across Tañon Strait while a full moon rose over Camotes Sea. Presence of pine trees softened the strong aroma produced by the warmth of an afternoon sun on the soil and on weeds. Two fireplaces, two AJF Folding Trivets and two pots, one containing milled corn while the other water for coffee, are set up.
The coffee was good but we need to eat dinner quick before the fog begins to carpet us with its cold embrace. By now, strong breeze begins to claim every nook and cranny of the abandoned concrete edifice that we claimed as our camp. Jonathan and Justin were able to cook spicy beef noodle soup, dried fish, chorizo Bilbao and milled corn. We eat silently after a prayer. There is an abundance of water near the Pres. Magsaysay monument and obtaining it is never a problem.
The evening begins to get cold as gusts of wind slowly whittle away our body heat. Jonathan shared to me his brandy in a flask and I happily take two shots. I prepare my rosary to begin praying five decades of the Mystery of the Light. Tomorrow would be very warm and we would be following a long route marked by many ascents and downhills. So an early rest would suffice. After the night prayer, I immediately turn in to my waiting hammock and so are father and son.
The windbreakers we prop alongside our hammocks are inadequate. Winds increase chill factor and I have to abandon my place after an hour and transfer to a room which, thankfully, is the only finished part of the structure as it has walls, shuttered windows and a functioning door. I untied my tarp sheet from the posts and lay it on the cold cement as my ground sheet. Next is the hammock and I place it atop my ground sheet and wiggle inside it. The coldness of the floor is numbing.
I force myself to be comfortable and grab that sleep. After 10 minutes, Jonathan and Justin followed my lead. They too had found the chill factor brought by the wind too offensive for their liking. We all lay on the cold floor on the flimsiest of material to cushion our bodies against. During the night, the winds unleashed its strength as roofs made violent sounds. It was a long night and I was denied sleep even as I tried many times to ignore the discomforts. It gratifies me to know though that I had dreamed at the moment when somebody rose from his frigid bed.
My eyes are heavy as I force myself from sleep. The early morning light had not yet achieved intensity but I find it annoyingly bright. Maybe my lack of sleep had to do with that. Meanwhile, I need to answer the call of nature and I go down a trail to look for a good place. I see familiar shapes of “wiper” leaves in my dreamy stupor. After that, I go back and coffee is ready. Warm coffee in the morning puts you back to reality but I need to dry clean my hands first before a fire before handling my cup.
We eat a breakfast of quail eggs, spicy noodles, rice and dried fish at 07:30. The next meal would be dinner and we will fast in between considering that it is Good Friday. We quickly wash our pots and utensils and put everything in our backpacks. My Silangan Predator Z bag weighs about twelve kilos. Its weight would be felt during ascents and during the last hours of the day. We secured more water before going. I open carry my AJF Gahum knife. Same with Justin with his local kukri while Jonathan opt to open carry his Nikon camera.
The trail goes downhill and uphill into a forest and down again into grassy areas, crossing many dry brooks, treading on rocks, evading thorns from bamboos, rattan and wild yams. The condition of the path are much better than the last time for this route had been used during the death anniversary of Pres. Magsaysay and by mountaineers training for a big climb outside Cebu. I pass by the place where I was spooked by a big python last time and I throw wary glances at the grasses.
We pass by hilly farms of tomatoes, bitter gourds and green pepper and walk under trellis until we reach a big abandoned house. This is a landmark of sort for its blue color stand out against the green of the hills and it marks the halfway point to Inalad. The morning is really very warm with the sun scorching our heads. I covered myself with a military shawl but it only favored my cheeks, ears, forehead, eyelids, nape and part of my nose. My body is very hot and I need to sit and rest under the shade for a good ten minutes to settle it.
By 10:20, we proceed down a long ridge to dried rice paddies and arrive on the bank of Bangbang River. We rest again for ten minutes, at least. I immerse my shawl in the stream and press it over my head. Trickles of liquid cool my head, part of my face and down on to my neck. We cross the river without getting our feet wet for the water had receded in the mild El Niño. From the river, it is now all ascent. We follow a path beside a small stream and then follow it until we reach the saddle of Inalad at 11:40.
We are behind schedule but reaching the place before 12:00 satisfies my requirement. The climb to Inalad near noon had heated my body so much and no amount of water could simmer it down. Although there are cold drinks available but it would defeat the reverence of Good Friday. It would also put to doubt my integrity and of the activity which was labeled as a “penitence hike”. We will fast but we will only subsist, at the most, on bread and water when it is needed.
I begin to feel rashes on the anus as I take a sit on the concrete pavement. A man’s brief cannot make rashes like that and I remembered the leaf that I use as the culprit. It has unusually thick membranes and the leaf stalks are reddish. Worse, my eyes begins to be irritating. I feel pain when I close it and when I open it back and I am in dire need of a nap! The only way to rid of this pain is to keep the eyes open and moving the pupils from side to side. (Sigh!)
This journey is very testing indeed to me as I am deprived of a good night’s sleep causing me swollen eyes and then that troublesome fat ass of mine. Well, I am used to discomforts and I do not take these as alibis to cut short a wonderful journey of the soul. That will not sit well with Jonathan or Justin. They had prepared for this and I am obligated to give them the satisfaction they deserve. This is a rare hike and nobody had done something like this. This is extreme.
By 13:00, we cross the Transcentral Highway and take an unpaved road to Tongkay, an upland village of Toledo City, which is nestled in a valley. My eyes at first react to glare and strong light but, as I walk further on, the irritation lessened. I covered half of my face with the shawl but remove it when I pass by people to greet. We reach the village center and go inside a public elementary school where we rest for a while to rehydrate.
We cross a stream and my final test for the day starts. It is an ascent to a campsite on the slope of Mount Tongkay. The heat in the middle of the afternoon is overbearing and almost take a toll on my resolve. Nevertheless, I conceal it from my companions but, I take time to recover my breathe once in a while. The trail is a never-ending crawl of steep and mildly-steep terrain.
I see a mature Johey oak tree (Local name: marang) looming tall down a slope and I finally solved the mystery of a fruit peeling that I saw while walking here last year. I believed it is not introduced since this mountain is very isolated. From what I heard of stories, Mt. Tongkay used to be abundant of Philippine macaques (unggoy) until being hunted out by people. The survival of a marang tree attests to the once-rich diversity of this mountain.
Once I reach a point where my former campsite can be seen, I am disappointed to see that the trees had been cleared. What used to be the only level place where there is thick vegetation offering protection from the heat, cold winds and from observation is now a graveyard of dead trees. I see the culprit: a lone farmer. He passed by us while we were resting. He is carrying a freshly-cut tree trunk. That campsite is usually warm when evening falls because it catches warm air rising from the lower valleys.
Nevertheless, I do not possess a single-dimensioned mind. I have another ace from up my sleeve, another alternative campsite, but it is farther up a slope, on a ridge. We have a lot of daylight hours left as it is still 14:00. I am already spent out but I gathered my last ounces of strength to get there. We pass by a newly-cleared slope that was converted into a farm. The route was supposed to pass by here but it is gone. I followed the furrows until I am on grassy vegetation again.
We reach the almost-bald ridge at 15:30 but we lacked water. I could have that later. We rest for about 10 minutes before I choose Justin to accompany me to fetch water. We bring all our empty bottles while Jonathan would make a fire to prepare coffee. Justin and I proceed to Mount Etwi, which can be reached by following a string of narrow ridges, and go down to a community. The natural spring is dry but a local told us of another source, about 300 meters down a slope. It is just a hole on the ground with slow driblets of water.
It took Justin 30 minutes to fill up five liters of water on empty bottles. The afternoon light is dying and we retrace our route to our campsite. Jonathan had already finished with the coffee and I welcome it very very much. Oh, I thought I am going to quit back at the lower slopes an hour ago due to heat and lack of nutrition. Surprisingly, my eyes feel better now. The sun is losing its intensity as it is approaching dusk and I have hot coffee to enjoy. Nobody beats coffee in the outdoors!
This ridge we are going to camp is actually a short saddle between Mt. Tongkay and a false peak. There are trees on the eastern side and that is where we will all hitch our hammocks and our overhead shelters. We tie on our hammocks among tree trunks. Then we revive the fire and start cooking our food in darkness. I provide lighting with my LuminAid solar-powered emergency inflatable lantern. I am hungry and I will rest early tonight. Our dinner are noodles, chorizo Bilbao and milled corn which we had at 20:00.
I change my brief into cycling shorts to give me peace of mind on my simmering battle with the rashes on my anus. It is windy on the ridge and it cannot catch warm air from the lower valleys like a camp in the middle of a mountain slope do. Although our hammocks are in the treeline, strong breeze ruffle the tarp sheets. Time and time again I wake up to the sound of the wind on my shelter and I have to adjust my body inside the netted hammock as it keeps on sliding down. A bad fix.
I wake up at 05:30 and take an early morning leak. Dew adhere on the grass leaves but the ground is dry except on the ground where it is higher than our camp. We were just below the fog line. If it would have, we would have felt cold and moisture. Jonathan and Justin rouse from their sleep and begins to arrange the wood to start the fire. The day starts with coffee and then breakfast of noodle soup, Chorizo bilbao, quail eggs and milled corn.
Campsites on ridges and peaks expose you to severe warmth even in early mornings. We hurriedly break camp and leave at 08:15 for the direction of Mara-ag. We pass by the peak of Mt. Tongkay and I show Jonathan and Justin of a deep hole on the peak itself. This is not a sinkhole because the mountain is not made of limestone. It is solid rock and it might be man-made.
I have heard stories that the mines of Atlas Mining Corp. (now Carmen Copper) located in Lutopan, Toledo City have reached underneath Cebu City and as far as Argao in the south. This could be a mine vent. After that, we go down and follow the narrow ridge to Mt. Etwi, where we sidestep it, and arrive at Mara-ag Ridge at 09:00. I indulge myself with powdered juice drink on a small store. An exit at Cantipla, Cebu City would be appropriate and we just have to follow the road we are on north.
I ask Jonathan and Justin if they want to end this day at Cantipla or would they want to cross the Bonbon Valley and the Babag Mountain Range into Guadalupe, Cebu City? Both choose the longer option and I have but to satisfy their explorer spirit. We ask from a local of the shortest route to Bonbon where I do not have to follow this road to Sudlon and I was given direction to a dirt road which goes to Morga.
We reach a corner and I grudgingly follow this road but, once I saw a well-beaten trail, I change options. I follow the trail instead into hilly farms and solitary houses. I believe I have found an old route because it is well-used despite the presence now of farm-to-market roads and modern transportation. I am onto something better and I see wild vegetation where I thought had vanished in our mountains. The sun is very tormenting but we are on a shady route.
I come upon a fork on the trail where I have to choose one. Both are well-beaten and both are going down separate long ridges. I opt for the rightmost and it brought me to a rare patch of forest. We stop in the middle of the jungle and answered the call of nature. I found my rashes getting to be irritated more with sweat running on it. In my complete bliss, I fail to notice the prickly flowers of a local grass called madyong. I removed the spiny little balls one by one from my bike shorts and Silangan Greyman hike pants.
The path now begins to disappear – almost - and I suspect I missed the main path. I follow this scant path to a small mountain brook which still has running water. We cross it and climb up a slope into a grassy meadow and into a farm. I see the path I missed and I reclaim and follow it to a shady location where there is a house and a water source. A good place to rest from the sun and to replenish our water supply.
Places like these are a long way off from schools and I wonder how the children manage to study? I pity them that I leave a small pack of Titay’s Liloa-an Rosquillos – a small token for me but is a rare luxury for them. I am rewarded with smiles and that is enough for me. Someday I may start another outreach here. Kindness begets kindness. Residents could not understand why urban-bred people like us would rather walk when we could afford to ride. That is where they shared their knowledge of places and it comes handy.
We go down another long ridge with a route cutting through several small mountain brooks, going up a hill with farms and a few houses until we stop on another house with a water source and a small bamboo bench underneath an ancient soursop tree (siko karabaw). We take time out by boiling water for coffee on Jonathan’s Trangia stove. It is extremely hot and the slight shade is a comfort. This forced fasting had sapped me of energy. Since it is 12:30, we decide to cook our last instant noodle as our meal.
The family had been so kind to offer us their lawn space and their company. Their patriarch had been so conversant that I leave my sachets of coffee and powdered juice, rosquillos and 20 individual packs of dried squid as gratitude. Just like the previous homestead, their knowledge of their own place is so valuable. We go down the last ridge and, 20 minutes later, we are on a stream. I do not know yet the name but this will have a name soon.
The stream had lessened due to the onset of hot weather and the pools and estuarine plants contain thick algae. Plant chemicals are very rampant here since it is carried during rains from farms located on the higher slopes. It is my first time to walk here and there is a path on the riverside that crossed among boulders. We pass by another smaller stream where the confluence is choked with huge chunks of boulders. Nature’s work is still ongoing here and I would not be in these places when there is a strong rain.
We come upon a smoky place where a local couple are dozing under the shade. They are making charcoal. Downstream is a high waterfall and there is no way to go beyond except by following a path up the bank where the smoke is most intense. We climb it and there is a long trail that pass by an island in a stream and ending at a private resort in a place called Morga. So the stream is called Morga Creek.
I follow three boys going home from the resort and we come upon a flood plain where the community of Biasong is located. I have heard of this place many times and it is my first time here. They are preparing for their fiesta tomorrow. We rest at a small store and douse our thirst with cold soda drinks and a big bottle of cold beer. We tried to negotiate a motorcycle ride but the drivers are all busy betting on cockfights.
We choose to walk to Bonbon by following Morga Creek downstream, then switching to a trail that goes over a hill, then down a road to the village hall. I make sure that Jonathan and Justin go first on a motorcycle before I ride mine to JY Square. I arrive at 16:00 and I was hoodwinked by the driver to pay 80 pesos for a ride that would have cost 40 pesos. Karma has its own sweet time. On the other hand, I have found a new route for Segment 1B of the Cebu Highlands Trail and that is more important.
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Monday, November 9, 2015
I HAD BEEN CONCENTRATING most of my time on my unfinished projects starting this very year that my participation in activities with the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild are getting fewer. Since the time that this very original outdoors group which I established in January 2010 had chosen formally their officers, I believe my time to nurture it is approaching its obsolescence.
I have full trust on the next rung of leadership and the quality of its current flock of membership whom, I believe, are ready to fill in the vacuum in my absence. A little guidance and a few appearances are all I need to keep Camp Red true to what it was established for - as the only outdoors club in the Philippines specializing in primitive-living techniques and wilderness survival.
After two successive Sundays which I spent for myself alone in search of my Indian-style camp, I get to join the jolly bushmen of Camp Red again. Although, I was not able to meet them at Guadalupe, I was able to overtake a few of them at Lower Kahugan Spring. The early morning of March 29, 2015 on the trail of Napo is very cool since it was enveloped in a rare shower of more than an hour ago. The ground is wet, the Sapangdaku Creek is clear and the plants had retained their green vivacity.
Their conversations echo from afar as I gained on them. Eight of their members were resting under a cottonfruit tree (Local name: santol) and they were surprised to see me. It is good to see familiar smiling people, I mean, bushmen, whom I can rely anytime should things in world events go freaky. I smile back and shake the hand of each of them before I turn to the natural spring to fill my empty bottle.
You can instantly identify a bushman member of Camp Red by the way they choose the color of their outdoor apparel – earth toned, and the omnipresent blade hanging by their sides or worn with a shoulder band. Their bags are either the classic rucksack or the recent evolution of tactical backpacks. Of course, they dress almost like me but, I admit, a lot of them push me a bit a ways back to a very far second.
The blades make or unmake a true bushman. The less mainstream or the rarest classic, the better is the standing of an individual. Locally-made blades are the preferred choice and it is a known fact that three or four in a group would carry as much as six types of knives with one or two owning a hatchet. All what they possess are subjected to the business of bushcraft. It does not matter if it is a Kabar or a Fallkniven, all are considered as tools, no more, no less.
Some individuals acquire handsome blades as they learned the ropes of bushcraft but they choose wisely. Mora knives are so common that it is likened to as a duplicate of a second or third component of a Nessmuk triumvirate and all blades are stained in patina. Those popular knives endorsed by TV celebrities are not in their radar and are stared with contempt or ignored completely.
Anyway, I had eyed a woody vine for a long time that had been indiscriminately cut by a local just some months ago. The local chose a short part of its trunk and leave the rest precariously hanging from the branch of the cottonfruit tree. It is now dry so I decide to cut the part that can still be reached. It is a hard woody vine and my sharp Puffin Magnum knock off is just as equal to it. I will need the more than three feet of the vine trunk as my future tomahawk handle. It was difficult but I snared the wood.
I follow the short line of bushmen as they ascend Kahugan Trail and then switch to another route that would lead to the Roble homestead. I meet the couple Fele and Tonia Roble filling big PEP bottles with water from a PVC pipe channeled from Upper Kahugan Spring. We help them carry the full bottles to their home. It is good to be back to this place which we at Camp Red consider our second home.
The rest of the Camp Red party are already here and had started the fires roaring for coffee. I shake their hands one by one and am happy to see them enjoying another day on the dirt. The Roble homestead comes alive when these bushmen converging here and it looks like that there will be a feast. Smoke from firewood fill the air and wood are constantly chopped, the sound echo into the surroundings. Then there is a joust of fighting cocks and passing hikers are puzzled at the sight, thinking that there is indeed a fiesta.
I lend my Seseblades NCO Knife and a local blade made in Tobaco, Albay called the ginunting for testing. Both were given to me when I visited Luzon in 2013 during the time I taught wilderness survival to mountaineers belonging to the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines. The former was given as a present by Dr. Arvin Sese and was misplaced until my wife found it a few weeks ago. The latter a gift by Pastor Reynold Boringot. I bring it sometimes in my outdoor trips.
Aside that, I open carried the Puffin Magnum and use it to chop firewood when I joined the rest. I also have a Mora Companion, a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster and a Buck 112 folder. A recent part of my inventory, a Leatherman Juice S2 multi-tool set, gets its first trip to the local outdoors. It is a gift by Glen Domingo of the Cebu Mountaineering Society, who is now a US resident, sent through post office along with a Petzl E+Lite, a Suuntu A-30 compass, a Trangia burner set, a Light My Fire and a medical kit.
I see new faces and I am glad that they had given time for this day. Jerome Tibon brought his nephew while Mark Lepon brought an office mate. On the other hand, Richie Quijano is bringing his wife and son. Camp Red engages in an activity which is family-friendly and is not hard on the physical limitations of a child or on an untried novice nor forcing people to be in a race with time. We take it slow and use more of our brains. We are not speed demons but we think more and work with our hands more.
I believe there would be some good cooking as Ernie Salomon is around. He is the most senior member of Camp Red, when you talk about age, and is the master in preparing feasts fit for kings. He will be ably assisted by several rough cuts who are likely be in the best position to learn. The cooking fire would not come from canned fuel but by real fire in its wild and primeval form. Since it is summer, we do not have problems with dry firewood and tinder.
Jhurds had brought with him salmon belly and Ernie just knows what do with that. He did it the last time in tinola (soup with horseradish leaves) but, this time, however, he will cook it as sisig (type of cooking where meat is fried by its own oil on a hot plate). Pork meat are cooked in estofado (thick soup in carrots and anise), mixed in a chopsuey dish and by naked embers. Okra are steamed above rice while sliced raw cucumber and tomatoes are mixed which now become part of our side dish.
Ernie had done wonders with our meal helped by the ladies and by most of the guys. It really was a meal fit for a king and I am inclined to label Ernie as a “king maker” because of that. Anyway, when all have recovered from that gastric wonderland, a log was dragged into the center and another pageantry of the blade commence. Fixed blades, hatchets and folding knives are pierced into it. Catapults too join the fray.
When the paparazzis have tired out of their capture of images from the most unimaginable angles on hand, another activity spire out from these restless bushmen. This time it is about fire-making skills using bamboo. Two teams pit each other making smoke and ember and perspiration. One team succeeded but the other made up for it by working wonders with a full PEP bottle of water on charclothe.
After getting entertained, it is now time to pack our things and retrace our route to Napo. Soon we will be in Guadalupe and then to the Red Hours Convenience Store where cold bottles of beer wait to be sucked out of its existence. The pace is slow. The glow of the sun is losing its intensity as the shadows grow long. It was a good day spent with these bushmen. The people of the blades. My people.
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Sunday, November 1, 2015
I HAVE TO FIND MY INDIAN-style camp today, March 22, 2015, which I failed to locate seven days ago. I would use the same route as was the last time but, this time, I will cross Creek Charlie and walk that steep trail that I have noticed many months ago. This time also, I have to be early so I could cover more ground and not compromise my health by eating a late lunch.
After procuring the food ingredients for my meal at Guadalupe, I proceed to the trailhead at Baksan. I go down to the reclining mango tree and prepare the Chipaway Cutlery fighting bowie knife that I aim to carry openly for today. I also brought an Albay-made native blade (Local name: ginunting) with its wooden sheath as a back-up tool should I need it for hard chopping work.
A Mora Companion knife is safely slipped inside the pivot place of the right shoulder strap of my backpack while a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster is inside the bag’s front pocket. I get ready my Canon IXUS 145 camera and my Cherry Mobile U2 phone, then I sent off text messages to Jhurds and Ernie about my solo hike. The sky is partly cloudy but it is warm. I place my meshed shawl on my neck should I use it to cover my head if I am exposed to the sun. Once again, I pick up a short stick which I could use as a tool or a weapon.
It is 08:00 when I begin my walk. I found the new route that I had chosen and explored last week very favorable compared to the old route of interconnecting ridges. My water bottle is full compared to the last time and it gave me confidence. It is getting warm as clouds begins to disperse. The teak forest does not help me a bit as it is now almost bald of leaves. The path led to a dry stream called Creek Alpha.
I stop where another dry stream join and see drops of liquid on a stone. It is sticky. It comes from a high part of a live tree. I put a finger on my tongue and it is sweet. Another overflowing honeycomb but there is no hive. This is a different colony of stingless bee (kiyot). I found one last week near Camp Damazo and I am quite surprised that nobody had harvested these.
I see a path beside the dry stream and I might as well explore this since I have the luxury of time. This path goes on a small saddle to another foothill. My right foot snagged on a root and I dive forward landing on the right side of my body. Fortunately for me, the trail is full of dry mahogany leaves and it cushioned my fall. I stood up and continue. I notice my right small finger acting queerly.
I cross a dry gully and walk among tall mahogany trees whose foliage are now enveloped by leaves of crawling bamboos (bokawe). I find this place remote with a small clearing to set up a tepee but I see a debris shelter used by a hunter and, coupled by lack of a water source, I decide that this is not the place I am looking for. This is the first of the many places I am exploring and I have a full day to find that perfect place.
I go back to Creek Alpha and walk downstream. I pass by the slow seeps occurring on the dry stream and studied it for some time and quite convinced that the source is not near here. It could be from the other side of the mountain. I walk on and visit my old campsite which I yielded to the holding of the first Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in 2011. People had spent a night here recently. They had a dry camp. Were they had dug a hole, they could have water.
They had used big chunks of wood for their campfire. I never taught people Western-style camping. I always taught the conscientious use of forest resources, including firewood. I do not like bonfires because it is unnecessary. I see the flattened vegetation caused by tents – which is okay - and I see a tree trunk chopped so a rope of a hammock would not slide down – not a good idea.
I leave the camp and Creek Alpha for the next destination – Camp Damazo. The dead teak leaves which had carpeted the trail last week had disintegrated, caused by several pairs of hiking shoes passing by here. I am walking comfortably now without those “popcorn” sounds. After the teak comes dry mahogany leaves. The leaves had either frayed or crumbled and I do not feel like “floating” today.
I arrive at another dry streambed called Creek Bravo. It would be good to explore the part of the creek up ahead. I notice small spurts of running water and pools of clear ones when I walked a considerable distance. I had also observed a smaller branch of a creek contain much water than the bigger one. Nevertheless, I explored the farthest reach of Creek Bravo until I could get no further. Besides that, I have no appetite to use a stream, even how dry, as a route.
Creek Bravo would have been an ideal location for a campsite since it could provide me adequate water but its banks are just too steep. I go back to where I came from and start exploring the small stream that joined Creek Bravo. Somebody had cooked something here and that somebody had dug two water holes. Aside that, this somebody had placed a zingiber leaf underneath a rock and water flowed on it like a trough. It is just less than a day old.
I walk on upstream over several clear pools of water and I discover (and assume) that this small unnamed stream is the source of those slow seeps occurring at Creek Alpha! The streambed is easy to walk although it steep gently and I begin to like it here. I could go on walking up to its source which I believe could just be up ahead. I look for level areas along its banks but all are steep.
I see something unnatural. In the middle of a dry part of the creek is a clump of feathers. That somebody had caught a live wild fowl and dressed it here. There is no sign of blood, so the fowl must had been caught with a snare or it could be brought here. What caught me by surprise is the fowl was very fat judging by the texture of its feathers. I collect nine feathers and carefully stow it.
I go back to the bigger stream and decide to prepare my lunch. It is now 10:20 and, besides that, I had not taken anything solid since the time I woke up. I will make my fire over the ones that I have found somebody cooking. I collect dry firewood. I have no problem with dry wood since it is totally very warm for the past four weeks. I choose twigs and small branches and break it into short pieces.
I brought with me my AJF Folding Trivet, place a pot above it and I start to boil water. I need to enjoy coffee first before I start my cooking. Milled corn came next and then I start to slice pork meat, onions, garlic and green pepper with my Morakniv over my extra-thin PVC chopping board. When the milled corn got cooked, I place the second pot with oil over the fire.
I scatter crushed garlic first until it begins to go brown then I drop sliced onions. Next comes the chopped green pepper. Finally, the meat. I stir it all briskly, reduce the flame, and return the lid. After about five minutes, I stir it again before I pour soy sauce. Feed the fire with more wood and start to relax. After another 10 minutes, I take a peek at my pork. It looks perfectly cooked and it smells spicy. Now, I am hungry.
At exactly 12:00, I eat lunch. In silence, I enjoyed the meal. It is very spicy without any artificial flavourings. It is cooked with the right frame of my mind. I eat all the pork adobao but I am not able to eat the rest of the milled corn. I leave the rest instead on top of a big stone which is exposed to the sun. The oil from the adobao, I pour over the milled corn. It would make a nice meal to this forest’s wildlife.
I start packing my things and continue on at 13:00, going up to Camp Damazo. The honey I discovered last week is still oozing in slow motion from its perch to the ground and nobody had disturbed it as well as the Asiatic bitter yam (kobong) that I dug also last week. Eventually, I reach Camp Damazo but I walk past it towards Creek Charlie. Plants always attract me and I take it seriously by taking pictures of that which I need to learn or to teach people.
I have always seen this strangely-shaped tree which looked like either a giraffe or a brontosaurus but have not dared to come close and shoot it. Was it fear of the unknown or is it just that I would not want people know of its existence? Both. I may be a modern savage but I believe in the spirit world that I always give it a sense of respect. Today, I felt something that this whole forest had accepted me so I go near the tree and take pictures.
Having done that, I go down the stream and study the banks for any human or animal activity. I found none so I watch the water cascade down slowly on rocks coming from upstream. I see a long pole of bamboo arching down to the other bank which I have not noticed in my previous visits. A smile crossed my face in the discovery of another rare bamboo grove. The forest is slowly revealing its secrets to me and I take it as a sign that the search for my camp would not take long.
Across me is a trail which I had noticed for sometime but lacked the time to explore it. I am not in a hurry. Perhaps, it would be wise if I lay down first on a rock big enough to fit me and close my eyes to rest for a while. The stream is very humid, the early afternoon sun drains me of my strength. I would summon my energy back first and, when I am ready, I would continue my search for that elusive camp which I plan to make as a sweat lodge. Just a little while.
By 14:00, I am up and begin engaging the path that lead up to a steep mountain. This is a seldom-used trail and I use my tracking skills to follow the scant path which goes up a ground which has a steep gully that is 20 feet deep. The path crosses to a part where it is not deep enough and continue on precipitously to the other side. It is a dangerous choice of a trail but I soon sense that there is no better way to cross over the other side except through here although walking here sends you shivers.
I climb up and the trail vanishes before a conglomeration of naturally-felled trees and debris caused by recent typhoons. I veer left over easier slopes and face another sheer slope. I catch a glimpse of level ground, which is quite rare in a place where I am now. I scan the place all around. Trees are everywhere but not on the place where I stood at a radius of five meters! A rare pocket of open ground in a forest and the only piece of level ground on a rugged mountain slope.
The forest had been kind in giving me this place as a gift for my future sweat lodge. Somehow, I cannot explain how it had known my heart, my mind and my purpose. The place is a place of power. It faces east where the sun rises. Across me is a distant mountain and, behind it, is a small mountain range. With so much dead wood near here, I could make either a teepee or a hogan. I am quite happy at this discovery.
I make more explorations and I discovered two more bamboo groves, one of which had not shown signs of human activity. There are a lot of bamboo poles that I could use in the construction of a shelter. There are also a lot of wild edible plants that I could cook but I could introduce vegetables and fruiting trees here in the future. The place is awesome but very remote and quite hidden.
After I had finished my business here, I returned to the path I took. Before leaving, I left a mark on a tree and a trailsign on another tree. It is necessary since what looks familiar today would look strange in a different season. I go down Creek Charlie then up towards Camp Damazo but veer left instead to the exit route. I reach the road but cross over to a trail that leads to Lanipao.
I will be back for sure. I believe it would be after the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp or later.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer