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.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

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