Monday, June 22, 2015
SEGMENT 1-A OF MY Cebu Highlands Trail Project is the most used route I take whenever I engage people to a cross-country day hike. This route is also used as a requirement for membership into the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. This route then satisfies the adventure adrenaline of most, as a selection hike for a chosen few and torture for someone who had been on this six times.
Today, October 26, 2014, would be my seventh. I do not like to do this all the time for the simple reason that my ancient body could not keep up to the demands of what the brain imposes. Just walking and crossing the Bonbon-Mananga River System twenty-one times for 2-3 hours is enough to feel the pounding of my water-soaked feet to stones that I stepped on and to sand grits lodged inside shoes and socks. The heavier you are, the more pronounced this foreign objects on your feet. I weigh like a pygmy rhinoceros.
But I have to do this. I am a different breed and I possessed a warrior’s grit and spirit. I want to leave a legacy. I want to mold warriors from this pampered generation and then teach them how to deal with pain. Pain is a nuisance but it is a a fact of life. Pain creates character and fortitude. Without it you will always be walking meat. The stretch of this route, which used to start at Lutopan, Toledo City, is mind-boggling to achieve in twelve hours but it is just a state of the mind.
Today’s activity is delayed by “Filipino time” and further delayed by people who still needs to be baby-seated all the time. We leave the assembly area at Citilink, Cebu City at almost seven. We took a public jitney to Tabunok, Talisay City and then procure ingredients for our noontime meal at its public market. Long ago, we used to take a bus bound for Lutopan and you have to be early because the bus took an eternity to reach its destination.
Today we will ride motorcycles for hire. It is not safe but it cuts away travel time. The Manipis Road is still undergoing facelifts caused by recent landslides. There are no steel railings on a lot of stretches and you can feel your soul beginning to break away from your physical body as you cast your eyes downward into the distant river below. Stretches of unpaved road, muddy and wet, causes tire wheels to skid and run on snaky patterns! Shucks.
Jhurds Neo and Nyor Pino, veterans of this route, are the first to go; then the father-and-son tandem of Jonathan and Justin Apurado; then husband-and-wife, Mark and Marisol Lepon; and me, as last man. While the motorcycle I rode took a refill at a gas station, I saw Jingaling Campomanes, in a quandary of looking for missing people, asking locals about us. I cut away her worries by calling her and offered her space on the small 100cc motorcycle. Our entourage now feels like a scene from a popular TV adventure race.
When me and Jingaling arrived at the Sinsin junction of the road, nobody was there. How could Jhurds and Nyor miss this place? I looked, I asked locals and I sent text messages of the missing six. Meanwhile, minutes tick by, further aggravating the itinerary. It is 08:00 and we have a schedule to catch. Fortunately, Jhurds, on the prodding of the driver, called me. We meet them halfway between Sinsin Junction and Odlom. It is 08:25 and I have to brief them so there would be no mistakes this time.
The road from Odlom cant downwards to Buot-Taup, an upland village of Cebu City which is located nearby Bonbon River. My plan does not enter the village center but it takes a detour to a trail going down onto a small tributary which we follow downstream into the bigger Bonbon. I remind everyone to get used to having wet shoes and socks because there are no other ways to get to the other side. Some did not get my message right and tried to be Indiana Jones. Their futility leads to water just the same and a sprained ankle on one.
Streambeds, which you see as flat, hide quarry holes, which you may notice only when you are on its edge. I do not want people walking where they choose and inflict injuries through carelessness and ignorance. I remind them again to walk single file and follow me. When excitement and adrenaline controls your mind, you tend to overlook the finer details of the surroundings. You tend to reject common sense. I remind Nyor to stay at the tail and keep the ears glued to the slightest deviations of the river’s rhythm.
Meanwhile, I grudgingly welcome the walking on water. Personally, I really do not like to thread on streams and I was taught to travel smartly so I could keep my feet dry. Walking on streams exposes you to a lot of dangers. Flashfloods are your main concern. Then your soles soften, exposing you to pain underneath. Stones, whether exposed or underneath, are slippery and you lose balance. But this is the best training ground to increase your outdoors awareness. I am serious when on rivers because I have seen its power many times.
By 10:30, we got past the place where I previously stop to prepare a meal. I think our pace is just too slow. Too many stops along the way to accommodate a limping member caused us precious long minutes. It had been fair weather when we start and I see dark clouds from the east. It does not matter for it only bring rain. What I worry are rainclouds from the west or north. Slight drops of water begins to appear and everyone is worried. I am not but I am quite worried of Jhurds. I need to stop to make coffee on a sandbar.
The water boiled just as Jhurds and Nyor arrived. There is a slight drizzle yet coffee time goes on. Jhurds needed that. Very much. Sitting on a rock made me better. The change in weather cooled the oven-hot streambed. We resume our journey. The slight rain caused water from the Manipis Road to cascade into the river system by way of storm ditches. The water is brown. It joins the Bonbon making it brown but, as time goes by, the great quantity of clear water won over the effuse.
We pass by the fork of the river system where the Bonbon River becomes the Mananga River. The stream becomes wider and becomes dangerous. Additional tributaries increases water volume like the Maraot Creek, where water current come strong, by virtue of its location from a much higher elevation. I evade the place where the Maraot joins the Mananga. Bad memories. With that, the trailhead to Cabatbatan would not be far. It is almost twelve noon and I have to change route: from the river bed to drier ground.
We rest underneath a mango tree at Camp 4, Talisay City. This is the halfway point of our journey. Long ago there used to be a big acacia tree here which gives a better place to rest. It is now gone, cut into pieces for no apparent reason except to cash in on charcoal. We stayed and boiled water for coffee. We needed this. Some of us do not have the luxury of breakfast. Me, I bought two binangkal (English: ball pudding) at Tabunok. I ate the first and would have eaten the second when a Bajau girl appeared asking for alms.
Yes, the coffee would be a big help because Cabatbatan Trail is an unforgiving trail. How many of my party suffered cramps here in the past. I remind all not to keep up with the strong pacers. The weak should walk at their own whims. I tasked Mark to count the number of concrete footpaths. I am leading the pack and I am relentless here. I seldom stop but I have to look back once in a while. I really am concerned of Jhurds, of Nyor, of Jingaling and of Mark.
I met a lone hiker in the middle of this route. He is clad in a trail-running outfit but he is wearing thong sandals. He also has an alpine cane. It is the second time I see such kind here. He came from Pamutan, he says. I told him I came from Sinsin Ridge and will exit to where he came from. But I am challenged by his footwear. It is not threaded and the man is slight of build even though he is tall. He would leave almost no trace on the trail and that is where my excitement is focused. I will look for it and study if I found it.
It is slightly raining again. It would certainly disturb his fresh tracks which would be indiscernible. Beyond a lone tamarind tree, I saw his sandal print. The right foot made a slight indent near the grass. He was travelling light and I did not see another print until I pass by a muddy stretch. Obviously, he is oriented to walking along the middle of the path and he has no knowledge whatsoever of trailcraft. As I was doing that, his alpine pole left a series of perfect holes on the ground.
I reach Maraot Creek and take a rest. Justin and Jonathan arrive not long after. I just bought a Cherry Mobile U2 mobile phone. The manual says it is waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and encased in a floatable material. I tossed the phone on the stream. It hit bottom then it floated to the surface and was carried by the current. I took pictures of this wonderful gadget which had been so true to its packaging. The gear test were witnessed by father and son.
Jingaling and Marisol came after five minutes. Nyor, Mark and Justine after eight minutes. Mark counted 1,860 steps. Very good and thank you. Jhurds seem to be okay but he felt his ankle beginning to swell. It distracts his walking and he favored only one foot. Well, Jhurds, this is not your finest moment. You got to walk, pain or without pain. I cannot babysit you at this stretch of the game. We cross the stream and proceed to Cabatbatan. Yonder is the only store that sell cold drinks between Sinsin Junction and Pamutan Junction – a distance of roughly 15-16 kilometers.
We pass by small plots cleared for farming, a homestead and, on a clear glimpse below, clearwater pools of the Maraot Creek good for swimming and bathing. Small tributaries and ravines are alive with water where before were not. The beautiful banilad tree is still standing but it is threatened by clearing. A part of the trunk is being scraped, maybe used for home medicinal remedies. With my AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife, I freed several young soursop trees (Local: tsiko karabaw) of strangling vines. We reach a headrock of a waterfall and we rest.
A path leads to the store above and we believed we would have those cold refreshments soon. At 14:50 we occupy the benches. I pulled out my blackened pots, rice, storm sandals and a dry T-shirt. Wearing something dry, especially, freeing my feet from its wet stranglehold, improves my well-being. Justin takes care of lighting the fires on a “dirty kitchen” offered for free use to us, to include the stocks of firewood. Jhurds provided a kilo of salmon belly. Soon we will have a hot meal of salmon soup (Local: tinola, towa) and rice.
We eat our meal at around 16:00 and it was very satisfying. A hot meal is essential for a body deprived of heat and energy. I had always been espousing cooking over pre-cooked meals. Even though it eats time but a meal is the most important activity of a human being in a day. In the old days and even today, a man has to hunt or find his meal the hard way before he could eat and there are days when the stomach goes on empty. The opportunity to eat a meal then is a blessing unlike today where it is relegated as a consumer product.
We left Cabatbatan at 16:30 and follow the winding road up to Bocawe. Dusk overtook us. Sinsin Ridge and the rivers that we had passed by hours ago are deluged with spectacular scenes of a sunset and a thunderstorm. Darkness had obliterated the vision of never-ending road rises and that bodes well with our psyche. One of my knees do not take kindly to the walking on concrete pavement, much more so, my feet soles. The roads are abandoned and people here sleep early. It is still 18:00 when we pass Bocawe.
In my group are Justin, Jonathan, Jingaling and Marisol. Unseen from us and far away behind are Nyor, Mark and the limping Jhurds. When the big city lights are in view, the morale of the rest begins to liven up. Smile begins to cross their faces yet they do not know that it is still a long way to go. Jhurds pass us by astride a motorcycle with an even bigger smile. He is finally “rescued” by a willing driver. His safety is my main concern and it is as if a big needle had been removed from my back!
We reach Pamutan Junction at 18:45 and we wait for Nyor and Mark. Meanwhile, Jingaling has to leave. Husband called. She goes when a motorcycle passes by. When Nyor and Mark arrived, we six walk the road down to Baksan and then to the Sapangdaku Spillway. I had to shelve the direct route to Guadalupe offered by Bebut’s Trail as it is quite late and our passing might disturb communities. We will go the long way using the road.
We arrive at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at 20:10. I personally congratulated each for their steadfastness and for braving the pain, the fatigue and a hundred other concerns. We immediately proceed to Napolitano Pizzeria to cool down and to end the activity with discussions over cold glasses of beer. Although we were not able to reduce our ETA nor beat the deadline of 20:00, it is okey because all have enjoyed the walk and there was no untoward incident.
But I have another plan for the future. I have seen a possible route to cut travel time and, maybe, I would utilize bread and coffee as our meals next time.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
Sunday, June 14, 2015
THE MOUNTAINS ARE SHROUDED with fogs as wisps of lower clouds are hovering over its valleys. On the place where I stood, on the concrete parking area of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, is wet. Today, October 19, 2014, is another Sunday where we at Camp Red Bushcraft and Suvival Guild gets to enjoy our dirt time. It is a time for me to discuss to people about Blend, Adapt and Improvise, which is really part of my e-Book project, ETHICAL BUSHCRAFT.
I believed it had rained hard in the early morning but I had not felt it in my home at MJ Cuenco Avenue for it was dry. Rain had been felt most here in Guadalupe. Much more so at the Babag Mountain Range. Ernie Salomon, Nelson Orozco, Boy Olmedo, Jonathan Apurado, Justin Apurado, Marisol Lepon and Mark Lepon begins to appear by ones and by twos at the assembly place. When we had secured the food ingredients, we leave at 07:30.
The motorcycle-for-hire drivers converging at the back of the church are beginning to be an annoying lot. I see many new faces and they begin to exact higher fares from us. They probably had assumed that we are new to the place and that we do not know the standard fare that locals pay. I do not trust these new faces nor would I place my life in their hands as a passenger. I think they need a good night’s sleep. We rode instead whom we know.
By the time we cross the foot bridge of Napo, the Sapangdaku Creek is robust and clear. I never saw her so sparkling and so alive. Her swirling currents are music to my ears. It is good to listen to her watery melodies. Meanwhile, the trail is wet and very muddy. I am leading. I study the path and choose which way to walk on. I do not want to inconvenience locals with our passing on a route that they had been using for commerce and for their day-to-day chores. I want to leave it as it is.
I shun the trail, once in a while, and pass by alternate routes when I think it is so idiotic to walk there. I do not subscribe to that insipid notion of walking single file on a trail even if it is muddy. I liked to think a lot when I am walking. I am no zombie. I absorb the essence of the place and becomes one with it. It is like entering into your own house and notice things disturbed by another. It is like enjoying the comfort afforded only by a home.
I am always at home among the mountains. My visits here are not superficial nor urged by peers or to be seen in Facebook. Although I post my photos in that social networking site, but it is always five months too late. All Sundays of the month are almost spent in the outdoors to the consternation of the wife. My kids do not mind. They would rather see a healthy dad that do not watch over their backs all the time than one who loved to boss around on a couch.
There is a slight powdery shower but it will be gone for long and then return again. My pace is fast and I leave full shoe prints on the surface. I cannot do about it for now. It will deteriorate when the soil will melt before rain or another pair of shoes will walk over it. To be honest, I cannot identify my own shoe print. I walk back a few steps to take a picture of it to remind me that it is mine.
We reach Lower Kahugan Spring and we take a rest. I fill up my empty water bottle. I take my first sip of water. Two old locals entertained us with their tales. It is good to know them and to be treated as a local. Appreciate it very much. The sky turned dark. I heard a low growl of thunder. Perhaps, another promise of rain. Then, without warning, the sky cleared. Sunlight.
The Kahugan Trail is wet. It is gradually ascending. I look back. The rest are up to the test. No one is lagging behind. We pass by a father and son clearing a path of vegetation. That path goes down to the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls. The splashes of water dropping from a height made a loud noise. Three waterfalls make the narrow valley shudder with resonance. The chapel is now near and soon we will get our rest. At 08:45, we got that.
Dark clouds appear again with low rumbles of thunder. The powdery light rain fell from the sky, cooling down the earth. Slowly, with great care, we go down a brook and into a small mountain community. Few people are around. We follow the trail down into a forest and then to the Upper Sapangdaku Creek. The route goes up into a ridge which I thought would never end. It did end on the last house owned by Vicente Bonghanoy.
He is around and we are quite glad we could take a rest and prepare our meal here. First things first, coffee. Oh coffee, where art thou? I retrieve a pot while Ernie and Jonathan produce alcohol burners and cups to boil water pronto. The rest take a seat to take a good breather. It is good to just sit still and scrutinize the texture of your blade. The knife is the lifeblood that stirs Camp Red people to go outdoors.
Tough men that I knew of in my younger years carry knives. Local men, women and children alike, as they had been and as now, carry bolos. They are not confined to just here but everywhere in the country. Blades are extensionS of the hands to be used as a tool. Without such instruments, tasks would be downright difficult to accomplish with just teeth and fingernails. Bushcraft is a lawful activity. It uses knives just like farmers, veterinarians, butchers, foresters and hunters do. Do not ask me next time why I carry blades.
When coffee is ready, I take two cups. Old men deserve a lot of coffee. It helps to keep in stride with younger legs. It is the best companion of free-spirited men. Nelson, Justin and Mark forage dry, but rare, firewood. Ernie, Jonathan and Boy are in the kitchen preparing the ingredients for our meal. There is water piped from a spring some distance away where Vicente went to fix the line. The blades begins to appear. It slices meat and vegetables; split bamboos; chops firewood; or simply as star attraction of a story.
Such men of Camp Red are like that. They are proud of their blades. To them it is an emblem of their being non-conformist. A badge to segregate real men from sheep or walking meat. Our ladies too. They open carry knives just like their men do. Bushcraft is where you see and test yourself in a real world. We do not go against the environment, like most people do with their expensive gears, but be one with it with less and yet find comfort in it.
By 11:30, the meal is served. Pork sinigang (a tamarind-based soup), swamp radish salad, fried anchovies, chicken flakes with sliced carrots, and raw cucumber in vinegar are the viands. A kilo of milled corn replaces rice as our staple. We start lunch right after the prayer for meals. Hot food just off the fire are wonderful to eat. Camp Red do not teach their people to rely on pre-cooked meals, canned goods and MREs or cooking with MSG and other artificial flavourings. We dine with real food and it is always a feast.
When everyone had settled, I start the lecture. The pioneers of outdoors recreation had coined the ageless outdoor creed of “Leave nothing but footprints...” when too many people begun to discover the outdoors. Reckless enjoyment of the outdoors led to degradation of campsites and streams, which also led to injuries and fatalities. It is just difficult to manage and contain people visiting the outdoors and the natural parks.
Later, the Leave No Trace was adopted by park managers to make people understand better the impact of man on a fragile environment. It is a set of guiding principles which were designed for temperate areas, mountain environments and deserts. The tropics has a different environment but it is better, just as well, if local mountaineers, backpackers, hikers and cavers learn and understand LNT because they tend to visit the mountains in large numbers which is just too much an impact for different ecologies to recover.
Bushcraft activities do not visit high places like mainstream outdoorsmen do but would prefer places below the treeline. Bushcraft people in other countries find LNT very impractical, cumbersome and quite amusing. Here in Cebu, LNT is just a reference in hindsight but we have a set of values so different from that which we had started to adopt. It is the simple principle of Blend, Adapt and Improvise.
Before knowing this bushcraft principle, it is best that our mindsets, which had been conditioned through many years of Western-style education and thought processes learned in university classrooms and corporate environments, be adjusted back to our roots. Back to the days when life was simple with the feet so close to the earth. Back to the days when the cooking fire was fire from firewood. Back to the days when earth and heaven and you were one.
Under the principle of BLEND, is a set of guideposts to teach you how not to stand out of your environment. It starts from the clothes you wear and the gears you have, the odor you carry, shiny objects to hide, enjoying the silence, choosing trails and places to walk for your own safety and security. Blend is just an antithesis to being gregarious, colorful and unknowing. It is taking a step ahead from an unexpected threat which usually come against soft targets like visiting hikers.
ADAPT is the principle by which you take Blend to a higher level. It simply is bringing yourself to be one with the surroundings and to minimize your presence. It describes how to choose a campsite and your shelter, using the wind and the light to your advantage, choosing the best firewood and the size of your fire and to use natural camouflaging against observation and discovery. Security and safety are taken into great consideration here.
The last is IMPROVISE. Since bushcraft is a cerebral activity, this principle teaches you to think, assess and make use of nature to your advantage. It may be studying a trail, ensuring other sources of water, making tools from nature and from things which few thought could be possible, using nature to work for you, carrying it light, and learn stealth. This last principle is for the serious outdoorsmen who takes good care of their back trail.
I know that Blend, Adapt and Improvise place a lot of people off-tangent because it simply goes against the grain of conventional thinking that influences how people should enjoy the outdoors, as in a Western model, and to the way how you choose your clothes and gears, which actually are outcomes of a capitalist market. Blend, Adapt and Improvise creates a level field for everybody regardless of your economic status and makes your outdoors pursuits less complicated.
When I had finished with my discussion, a quick blade porn followed. We give thanks to Vicente for his generosity with regards to the use of his place, of his water and of his stock of firewood that were made to cook our food. We left him our unused sachets of coffee and whatever food ingredients that were not used during cooking. We foraged half-dry wood and place it underneath the crawl space of his house as our replacement for the burnt-out firewood which he says as unnecessary.
But there is one thing that had been bothering me for the past many months. It is the place were he sourced his water. To recall, I had been dying to look for a water source near to that hidden meadow I discovered more than a year ago so it could possibly host a future Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp. He revealed it to me and point me to a hidden route. As if that is not enough, he also revealed to me a route that would take us direct to Napo once we climb up Tagaytay Ridge.
We leave at 13:00 and start for the water source first. It is on the west of us, following the horizontal contour until we reach a pillar of two old hardwood trees, the name of which I cannot determine since the leaves are located 60 feet above us. I cannot believe that such huge trees had survived the onslaught of homesteading, farm clearings and a small charcoal industry. This marks the path to a small mountain brook. I smiled at what I saw.
I cross the small stream and walk to an elevated ground. I see a petrol barrel converted into a water tank. It is full of water, filled by a natural spring channeled by a bamboo trough. The drips are slow and I hope the volume would not change if there is heavy rain or drought. I leave the water source but my mind goes back to the brook. If I could follow it upstream, perhaps, I would find its source, but that would be on another exploration, don’t you think?
We all go back to the main trail and begins to negotiate the route towards the ridge. Above it is Manggapares Trail. The part of the trail had been widened into a dirt road during the start of construction of the steel power pylons in 2012 which connect first from Bocawe. This road had reverted back as a trail as vegetation began to claim back what was theirs. We go down the ridge passing by the fifth, fourth, third and second towers in succession.
This hidden trail that I had been eyeing to explore for a long time is the same trail that Vicente had revealed to me just an hour ago. I let everyone know that we are now in exploration mode so they could prepare themselves of the unexpected. This was like the Manggapares Trail I saw over a year ago when it was not subjected yet to a tree-cutting frenzy. It is so beautiful and so serene. It exudes a mystery all its own.
But this is really part of Manggapares Trail, I now realized, for it tiptoed on the same back of this ridge called Tagaytay. It connects from Babag Ridge, 700 meters or so high, down to the river crossing of Napo, about 180 meters above sea level. This WAS the trail that an earlier generation of hikers walked and climbed on the way to Mount Babag. This is an old trail that I have even passed once in the early ‘90s while I was with my former club.
There are no branch of trail but I found one going left but that would be on another time, perhaps. I found a low knoll on the right that looked like a good covered campsite. It is wide with a faint trail that has lost its luster due to non-use. I walk on the main path which suddenly dip at a steep angle. Walking is now controlled, one step at a time, until I see a farm. I see black PVC pipes and water. They must have water source somewhere near.
We pass by abandoned houses but their doors and windows are open. I see a woman doing laundry but her back is facing us, a group of old folks talking did not notice us and then I step on familiar ground. On my right is the bridge of Napo. I just explored the last half of Manggapares Trail and I am tempted to keep this route to myself and for Camp Red.
But, no, this should be shared. This is perfect training ground for our local fitness buffs gearing to snare honors in national and international competitions. The trail runners would be happy to try this route. As for me, I just keep on exploring, opening up many secrets, and entrenching the whole mountain range as a redoubt when SHTF comes.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
Monday, June 8, 2015
THE WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE BLOG happily announces the opening of the fifth Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp. The PIBC is a yearly outdoors seminar, scheduled every June 10, 11 and 12, and it teach novices about primitive-living techniques and wilderness survival skills. It is also a patriotic event where every individual give allegiance to flag and country as well as a venue to foster camaraderie and friendship among outdoorsmen.
The 2015 edition of the PIBC will be hosted by the Municipality of Lilo-an, Province of Cebu. Lilo-an is 17 kilometers north of Cebu City. The municipal government will provide free transportation for the organizers and participants from the assembly area at JCenter Mall in Mandaue City to the trailhead on the hilly village of Mulao. The PIBC is a partnership between this blog and the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.
The campsite will be located along Cotcot River and is wide enough to accommodate about 20 tents plus several individual hammock-and-tarp shelters. It is not on a fragile environment but a place frequented by people because of the proximity of mango trees, bamboos and grass for grazing. Across the stream, on Compostela side, is a free-flowing natural spring. The river provides catfish, shrimp, eel, tilapia and crabs for locals and will be the live laboratory for Nocturnal Hunting.
This year’s theme is COURAGE AND MIND SKILLS. Bushcraft is all about a thinking mind that produces many skills. Without it, you will find it hard to adapt and blend in a wilderness setting. Bushcraft is a cerebral activity disguised as an outdoor activity. Because of the mind, an individual gains headway into places least travelled. The mind nurtures confidence and boldness into a single individual. Early explorers used bushcraft in the face of the unknown.
For the first time, the topic about Ethical Bushcraft will be included. This is compiled into one discussion and taken from the few chapters of my e-Book project of the same title. Ethical Bushcraft teaches and guides the participants the proper norms in a bushcraft activity. It embraces respect and protection of the environment – the bushcraft way, and it rejects wrong notions and practices learned from TV and new media.
A new chapter is also included – Practical Wilderness Treatments. This will be taught by Eli Bryn Tambiga (2012) of Camp Red, who happens to be a volunteer of the Philippine National Red Cross. The chapter on basic knots would be upgraded into Simple Knots, Lashes and Braids which Dominik Sepe (2012) will demonstrate, also of Camp Red. Another from Camp Red, Aljew Frasco (2013), will talk about Knife Care and Safety.
The rest of the topics like Introduction to Bushcraft, Survival Tool Making, Shelters, Foraging and Plant ID, Firecraft, and Outdoor Cooking are retained. These will be backed by peripheral activities like Campfire Yarns and Storytelling, Nocturnal Hunting, the Blade Porn, Blanket Trading, the singing of the National Anthem, the oath of allegiance to Flag and Country, and the post-PIBC party.
So far, twenty-five participants have signified their intention in joining PIBC 2015. Majority of those who will attend are based in the Metro Cebu area while two will come from Luzon. This would be the first time that a father-and-son tandem will join the PIBC. The passing of knowledge is the reason why the PIBC is established and we see it fit to hand out a special consideration to minors by giving them free admission.
Coming back to assume as Camp Ramrod (the camp administrator) is Jhurds Neo (2012); Eli Bryn Tambiga (2012) will also take on the functions of Camp Hawkeye (the photographer) and Medic; and Ernie Salomon (2011) as Camp Fixer (the cook). Lending hands are Lilo-an boys who are themselves products of PIBC 2013, namely: Christopher Maru, Allan Aguipo and Warren Señido.
The PIBC started in 2011, in a place called Camp Damazo, in a hidden part of the Babag Mountain Range, Cebu City. There were fourteen people then who found themselves in an unconventional camping activity. In 2012, sixteen participants came and, in 2013, there were eighteen. In 2014, the PIBC transferred to Sibonga, Cebu, and eight participants learned the rudiments of tropical bushcraft with a special chapter on Prepping and Homesteading.
Bushcraft is not a popular outdoors activity here and many people misunderstood it as survival. Bushcraft is not really survival in the purest sense of the word but it actually is in that stage where survival have yet to happen. It is that stage where you are in preparation, or in the process of learning the things, for your survival. A bushcraft camp is an outdoors live-in seminar where knowledge and skills are imparted to the participants.
For now, Cebu is the only place in the Philippines where bushcraft is taught but, this blogger believes that it shall be replicated in other places soon. Hopefully, PIBC products from Luzon will take that direction soon. PIBC is non-commercial. Registration is only pegged at P800.00, inclusive of a PIBC T-shirt, certificate, limited transportation, real camping experience and a grand meal on the last day. So, while in Lilo-an, make waves.
PIBC Header design by Leomel Pino
PIBC Tee Logo by Arcz Kilat from the original design by Raymund Panganiban
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Monday, June 1, 2015
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.
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