Tuesday, December 8, 2015


THE ROBLE FAMILY WILL get a real surprise today, April 19, 2015. Their house, which had been battered by strong typhoons Yolanda and Ruby and brought to a death kneel by Seniang, is now standing up again at its old site. What it lacked are concrete foundations and the roof. There was a wave of concern and sadness among local outdoorsmen that a fund-raising campaign had made its way in different sites of Facebook which resulted to the construction of a new house.

Wood that had been sourced locally became the frame of the house. We saw it stood at its former place when we had visited it last March 29, 2015. The wooden posts were still suspended over holes which were prepared for the pouring of concrete as foundations, which cement sacks had not yet arrived then. We had carried a few pieces of coconut lumber, some used plyboard, a pair of light GI beams and some sheets of plaited bamboo on February 15, 2015 at their place.

Jhurds Neo, elected president of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, is the workhorse behind this project. He facilitated and exerted great effort that the Roble family will get a new home. His persistence brought hope to the Roble family and made possible for the procurement of badly-needed housing materials and getting it sent to the place either on his own or with help from the bushmen of Camp Red. That help came in droves though.

After meeting at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, we motor to Napo, where eight sheets of corrugated GI roof are waiting, courtesy of Jhurds’ industry. We tied each sheet into a tight roll and carry it with one hand to the Roble homestead. It is light and could be transferred from one hand to the other easily. You have to watch and worry your neck though because one edge is exposed. We carried it safely with gloves to prevent injury.

We reach Lower Kahugan Spring and I see locals installing a portable water pump to suck water from two big PVC barrels whose water were taken from the Sapangdaku Creek and mixed with chemical. These chemical-laced water are sprayed on mango trees to induce more flowers and to kill insects. I noticed that empty packs of chemicals were irresponsibly thrown on the stream. I remind the pump tender guy about the need to transfer the empty packs to dry ground so it will not pollute the stream.

When nothing happened, I take matters into my own hands, literally, and personally transferred the empty packs to dry land from the creek. I remind them also to take care of the natural spring near them as it is the only water source around here that is relied by inhabitants as it had been many times in the past. I am very particular about the potability of water around here because people living here had not yet been properly educated about hygiene.

Anyway, we resume our journey. Determined to get there at the Roble family’s abode are Jhurds, Ernie Salomon, Jerome Tibon, Eli Tambiga with friend Abigail, Justin Abella, Faith Gomez, Dominik Sepe, Mayo Leo Carrillo, Jingaling Campomanes, Bogs Belga, Mark and Mirasol Lepon, Justin Apurado, Rommel Mesias, Nelson Tan and Richie Quijano. It is very warm. The rolled roof sheets, at first very light, had weighed like lead as the terrain becomes ascending.

Our arrival surprised the Roble family as they do not have an inkling of our coming. Fele and Tonia are all smiles. The cement had been delivered a few days ago and it had been poured into the base of posts and the rest made into hollow blocks. The roof sheets would make possible the habitation of their new house, perhaps, but the prospect of it is now a possibility. One by one, I removed the cords that tied the sheets and lay it flat over the other on the floor of the new house.

I am happy to see that the female turkey I brought here is laying eight eggs inside a makeshift shelter where it is now nesting. The male is quite healthy standing guard outside, tail feathers spread out. It had recovered well from its injury. Meanwhile, the bushmen fanned out to forage firewood for soon we will get another taste of heaven. The pots are readied and the food ingredients laid on a table.

Coffee is the first commodity that is prized by everyone and, after the water barely boiled, sachets of it are dropped into cups. As always, coffee outdoors is perfect. The ladies begins to decimate the vegetables and meat in neat lines with their Mora knives. Of course, this is under the direction of Ernie who, I believe, will take matters into his hand all the business of cooking.

Wood smoke is sweet to my senses and I just love it. The guys have learned to love it as well as it is an ever-present thing in bushcraft. Firewood are split by big blades or by smaller ones with a stick as baton. Manual labor is a challenge in tropic heat yet mild enough under the shades of mango and Java plum trees. The guys thrive on it, sweat dripping on their foreheads and arms and remedied by a wipe from a sweat-soaked shirt.

When not at the tasks at hand, they are busy comparing notes about blades and gears. They are serious but, most often, a hearty laugh breaks the dreariness. Three guys laid their Mora on the table and the rest present their own, starting a for-Scandinavians-only knife porn, which include a Hüntafors and a Bahco. Jhurds gave me his surplus US military canvass duffel bag which I appreciate so well.

Rommel starts to kindle a fire using a water bottle and all eyes and taunts are on him when the cloudy skies tease him. Mark did likewise with a small magnifying lens of his small Swiss Army compass, eliciting the same taunts. The Roble kids are busy with their hunt of green coconuts which are abundant in their abode. Ernie gets the ladle and gets busy with the cooking.

Finally, lunch is served. Everyone circled around the table as Rommel lead the prayer. Food on hand are a bowl full of mountain-cooked chopsuey, grilled chicken wings and pork, and a side dish of raw cucumber in vinegar. Rice completes the menu and, silently, the guys picked their food with spoons, forks or chopsticks. Some made a refill while a couple made a third run.

After the meal, the guys relaxed a bit but there are announcements to be made. Dominik updates the group of our project – the Who Put the “N” in Nature IV – which will be divided into two parts. The first would be the collection drive of school supplies and the second would be the outreach proper. The Roble homestead is the ideal place of this outreach as it had been for three previous occasions starting 2012.

The place where the collection would be will be decided by its availability. Previously, we held it at a restobar in Lahug and, hopefully, would still be but we have not reserved our event yet and there is a chance that we will not be accommodated. Dom have other places in mind and, the good thing is, three of the four musical bands he approached have confirmed its participation. I believe there would be many children this year than last year.

Then it is my turn. This is about the overtures that a Singaporean TV production company had proffered to Camp Red. They are interested to come to Cebu to do a Photo Face-Off episode here with our own bushmen providing the backdrop and subject. A reality show, it demands that we do our stuff oblivious of their presence after taking them to a very secluded place, which we have lots of.

Everyone is excited at these prospects whichever it may be. Inspired and emboldened by those, the full force of the blade porn is unleashed. Fele helped us accomplish that by providing a log and a plank to set the blades upright. These bushmen, even the women, carry multiple blades for just a day activity. One by one, the blades are exposed into the open where it is pierced into wood.

Hatchets, machetes, woodlores, folders, Scandinavians, local and imported brands, begins to decorate the wood. Some crazy guys even placed their paracord bracelets to add to these lunacy which only bushmen understood. The blade porn is the exclamation point of our day on the mountains. The activity that places a seal to all our activities. Slowly, we clear the logs of blades and bade goodbye to the Roble family. The family are hopeful that they will, someday, live again in a real house.

I pass by the place where a man was seen mixing the chemicals in the morning. I see that my sound counsel to dispose properly his wastes had been ignored. Empty plastic bottles and empty plastic packaging are left on the stream. I cannot stomach imagining an innocent child who would use the same bottle as container for his drinking water. The empty plastic packaging had been covered and hidden underneath weeds. Downstream of me are river crabs turning red, cooked by the strong chemicals. My anger begins to boil.

I collected all the toxic materials and placed it inside two plastic bags and I brought it to Napo. I advise all to proceed directly to Guadalupe while I would have to settle this first at the village hall of Sapangdaku. Jhurds accompany me to report this violation against the environment. The auxiliary police heard my complaint and recorded it in their log book. I want this incident be brought to the attention of their village council.

I do not care if small businesses might be affected by my intervention. They had been doing that for a long time and it is time that they know their practices are wrong. They had given a bad name to the place and to the famous mangoes of Guadalupe that Guimaras had overtaken us in quality. Customers are also now beginning to be more concerned of where their money spent go and they prefer goods or products that gives them a clean conscience.

I have always been a staunch advocate for the environment and, sometimes, taking it to the extreme. Facebook and other social networking sites are helpful tools but people misused it and that makes them, most often, very irritating and defeats their purpose. On the other hand, actual confrontations are natural and, most likely, you will be exposed to threat or harm and, in rare instances, losing a job.

I did my part today in protecting the environment by informing and involving authorities. It is a small gesture but it creates real and hard awareness on the part of the village council and for those who may read this article. But it is harder on my part since I will be creating future antagonists as much as you would have done by just sitting and tinkering with a keyboard. But I am satisfied with this, the same as you would have also by just reading this.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

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