Sunday, February 21, 2016

COMPLEAT BUSHCRAFT XXII: Hanging on for Dear Life

THE BUSHCRAFT COMMUNITY OF Cebu will hold its centerpiece event on June 10, 2015, called the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp, at the Municipality of Lilo-an, 17 kilometers north of Cebu City. Today is June 7, and this is the only time to prepare the PIBC campsite. That means, I have to muster the “workforce” to install the latrines reserved for the males and for the females.

The gang will meet at the 7Eleven Convenience Store, across the Cebu South Bus Terminal early in the morning. They had been to different PIBCs and all belong to the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Already there are Jerome Tibon (2014), Nelson Orozco (2014) and Johnas Obinas (2013). Arriving next are Jhurds Neo (2012), Mayo Leo Carrillo (2012) and Justin Apurado (2014).

We proceed in a convoy with Jerome's KIA leading the way, followed by the Suzuki Mini Van driven by Jhurds and Johnas astride his Skygo 250cc motorcycle. We arrive at a gated residence in Lilo-an and another of Camp Red, Christopher Maru (2013), meet us outside. He is with his cousin, Jonjon. We all transfer to a bigger Toyota pick-up customized into a passenger van when Aljew Frasco (2013) and Bonna Canga become available. Along the way we secure food ingredients for our meal and steel digging tools.

I would have wanted to make digging tools out of tree poles but the ground where the latrines will be demand sturdy tools. I brought a laminated nylon sheet intended for privacy of the latrine users if it would be finished. We leave for the village of Mulao and arrive there at 09:30 and, immediately, most of the guys open carry their knives by their sides. Their blades says so much about them.

We walked down the hill to Cotcot River. The day is very warm. It would be very humid once we would reach the stream. The water have receded due to the onset of a very warm El Niño. We reach a lone acacia where there is a grassy campsite and a large grove of spiny bamboos (Local: kagingkingon). I may need mature bamboo poles for the latrines. The bamboos are a sturdy lot, demanding more effort to cut into comfortable lengths despite our very sharp blades.

We are able to secure four poles of equal lengths and bound it two apiece. Carrying it is not difficult since it is very light. For good measure, we bring four unused coconut planks which were recently cut. All are considered reject and useless but these are heavy since it is still partly wet. Those who will carry it produce work gloves to prevent getting hurt by the sharp grits. These would be useful as seats during the PIBC lectures.

The way would not be even ground. We will walk, hop and balance over granite rocks. Fortunately, the rock surfaces are bleached dry by the long absence of rain removing the instance of slips. Still, we walk carefully and slowly. My feet soles are getting pounded by the angled slopes of rocks and boulders. This river is a local tourist attraction for it hosts two unusually-shaped rocks called “Malingin” and “Arko nga Bato”.

Getting to the first rock and then the second are quite tricky but going past it is very challenging. Like I said, it is not even ground. It is difficult with a backpack and much more complex when carrying something. I carried the heavier of the two steel digging tools. I could use it as a walking aid in very inconvenient situations but I would not trust it on angled rock surfaces. Never.

We pass by a narrow ledge and we help each other out by passing the heavy and awkward things we carried, including the backpacks, for safer passage. There is no cause to hurry really. Epang, the local guide whom the village chose to accompany us arrive late and he pointed to a steep slope of rock which I saw him walk the last time I was here just two weeks ago. Although very formidable to traverse, spots on the rock indicate where the feet would walk. I would follow that lead.

I took the chance. I follow the scant trail into a very narrow ledge where there is a wide crack. Dried leaves conceal stagnant water underneath and I stepped my right shoe on it. I never trust granite even if it is dry. I felt the wet sole slightly go unstable on the sloping rock. I hope the hot surface would dissipate soon the moisture clinging to my soles. My right hand probed for a hold while the right foot found a good spot.

I transfer the digging tool on a vertical crack so I could free my left hand. All my weight are on the right foot as my left foot have nothing to step on. I probed for a handhold with my left on the very smooth rock but found none. As I am doing this, my right shoe begins to slip very slowly. I begin to rattle. I know that, if I fall, I would land on the deepest part of the river, which is water but, I would strike my head or my body first on a protrusion of solid rock above the pool. I have to think quick!

I pushed away the tool leaning on the rock so I could have more options with the left hand yet I found none. I stretched my left foot to its farthest reach, the right foot begins to slip a little more as my weight shifted. I pulled back, ground my right foot forward to recover what little space it lost and I repeat, stretching out my left foot onto the crack where the steel tool is lying. With a grunt, my left foot touched the tool yet I know that stepping on that would bring me and the steel rod racing down the chasm.

With my right shoe now losing its rubbery grip on the smoothed rock, I strained to maneuver awkwardly the tip of the left shoe between steel and rock and, with my last ounce of my strength draining, I let go of my loudest grunt, hooked my left foot on the crack while my left hand found a hold just enough to raise my right foot from its scary spot. The shift of weight transferred to the other foot and the debris underneath begun to move. I placed my right toe underneath the left heel to stop going down and moved the left foot to a tiny ledge just below me and I stopped slipping.

I retrieve the steel bar and sit down silently to rest on that tiny ledge. I could not believe what I had just escaped from. All the strength had drained out of me and I am sweating and huffing. Epang, with a heavy coconut plank on one of his shoulders, deftly crossed the stretch where I had, a few seconds ago, hanged on for dear life. Yes, those few seconds ago, I was focused only on myself. It was like floating inside a bubble and you are not aware of people around you. It was either me and the rock or the fall.

Shaking my head, I see Justin backtrack from the route that I had taken. I almost lost it and I cannot explain why I was able to overcome that hopeless situation. I recovered my wits but my knees are shaking. My footing are unstable at first when I go down the stream but, as time passes by, it regained its confidence of treading the uneven path. Would I want to do it again? Never! Was it bravado that led me there or was it something else? Both.

That burst of adrenaline had left me winded and thirsty. Fortunately, the natural spring is just nearby now and I could fill my empty water bottle. It is also shady there, giving me protection from the heat that probed from above your crown and from the ones that reflect on water and smooth rock. Everyone was speechless during my try at Spiderman at a late age. Literally, they lost their use of the vocal chords or maybe I am deaf. And dumb.

I cross the stream and I am at the campsite. It is now 11:15 and we may have to make fire for coffee first and then for our meal. I retrieved my cache of firewood and all we need now is a strike from a steel and fine tinder. Two fires roared in a humid midday. A trivet is placed above one where the water is boiled and an iron grill with four stone anchors over the other where rice is cooked. Apparently, my water bottle is emptied for both and I have to cross the stream back to the water source.

I go back to the camp with two filled bottles and a very dry bamboo pole for more firewood. Bamboos are excellent for cooking and very heat efficient. I forage that from a far distance under a stifling sun then break that bamboo by hands and a knee. It is as if I have not been in a difficult situation a while ago but I have to move since, if you do not, no one will. I cannot afford to rest even though I needed it very much.

Bushcraft is about using the head. You do not wait for somebody to tell you what to do and what not. You feel and you decide and you use your head. If you just sit and watch and wait for people to shove you your grub, then you are in a wrong crowd. What would you do if you failed to secure onions and garlic for your pork? Darn it, you cook it without those. Lacking that would not kill you. You use the right frame of your mind!

Fortunately, Jerome, Nelson and Christopher helped in the preparation of the firewood and the cooking fire. Boiling water for coffee is the first order. I crave for it and my sanity slowly returned when the cup was empty. I want another one and I got what I wanted. Two cups of coffee each dirt-time had become a ritual for me. I cannot think of less. I deserve this especially after that harrowing out-of-body experience.

Meal cooked by Christopher is an excellent but spicy pork estofado. So spicy that no angel would dare taste. Despite that, it was licked clean by the hungry company which meant we have to drink more water. Much better for it is a very humid day. The Cotcot River made it more humid. The shades would have been a good refuge to take a siesta but we have a big task to accomplish. The latrines! We would have that rest after this. We need to dig two holes first.

From the place we walk uphill to about 30 meters. I had already found a good spot for the latrines of both sexes on an earlier trip (CB 21: A Dance with Pain). The digging irons would be appropriate for the type of ground that I have chosen. We dig first the spot for the males. It is on a small clearing with a bit of level ground. A hole is immediately dug and, after a few minutes, it take shape as 6 inches wide, 8 inches deep and three feet long. But there is more room for another hole and we commence on the second beside the first.

As the second hole was dug, I cut branches from a felled tree that was left behind by a wood gatherer. I would need these as posts for the men's latrine. After sharpening one end of each post, we drive these into the ground with the help of the handle bar of one digging iron which was wide enough to act as a sledgehammer. I use old bamboos as horizontal beams to lash and hold the posts together.

Done with the males, I proceed to the spot where the females would be located. It is on a lower ground, near a big boulder with bushes all around except for the approach. We only need one hole here and, fortunately, the ground is softer. We finished it in record time then I drive the posts into the ground. Lashed bamboo horizontal beams all around to make it ready in a few days. By that time, the latrines would be wrapped with sheets of laminated nylon.

Satisfied with our work, we begin packing up our things, glad that we will not be carrying heavy items except the two digging irons. The boulders have lost their heat and it is fine to walk on them now. The shadows are long and the eyes begin to taunt the brain. Pretty soon, it would release adrenaline. I have to keep the brain in check by slowing my pace. As I slowed, so does the people behind me.

I pass by the place where I almost fell and I feel a wave of chill in my spine as I look at the spot where I am supposed to land: right on that finger of rock. Leaving behind Arko'ng Bato and Malingin, we reach place where there is a big acacia tree. Everyone take rest except me. The trail to Mulao is going up and I have to walk it up without stopping with one of the irons gripped by my hand.

I reach the top and it amazes me that I still had a lot of adrenaline left. It is now almost dusk as I wait for the rest. Once they got over here and finished their cold soda drinks, we leave Mulao for the lowlands. Epang took care of the digging irons and said thanks to him. My worries are now over. The campsite is now ready for the PIBC MMXV.

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Monday, February 15, 2016


I ENTERED THE WORLD of amateur radio because it is a necessity. The transceiver radio, in its simplest form, is a vital piece of signal equipment that can improve communications of two individuals who are not visible to each other. That is the only purpose why I am into this. I am not the hobbyist type. I do not have the means to upgrade an equipment to seek that plateau of contentment and pleasure. I will only upgrade if it is really necessary.

I have always been interested in the use of radios. Owning one might be easy but you are subject to the laws of the land. In the Philippines, we have the outdated Republic Act 3846. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) enforces this law and implements its rules and regulations in the use, trade, transit and licensing of all equipment which transmit radio waves and assigns frequencies for amateur, commercial and civic use.

To legalize your ownership and use of radios, you must have a license. For civic and commercial categories, you only have to attend a half-day seminar at any NTC regional offices, provided you are working in a company where it has an existing commercial radio station license and owning licensed radios where a Restricted Land Mobile Operator Permit (RLMOP) is issued to you. It will be valid in one to five years, depending, and can be renewed.

For amateurs, you would have to take an examination before you earn an Amateur Radio Station License (ARSL). Entry level would be the Class D License. After considerable experience and know-how, aspiring the Class A License would be the pinnacle of the ladder of advancement. If you pass the Class D License, the NTC will assign an official callsign for you which will be yours for life. When you have a Class A License later on, you will have many privileges, including the use of another callsign.

After passing the Class C examinations in September 2013, I was provided a callsign by the NTC - DW7EUV. The ARSL is good for one year and is renewable for as long as you are able to pay the fees. I am allowed to use high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) radios at 100 watts peak power. To use my license, I legally purchased a Cignus V85 Portable Radio, keen on joining an amateur radio club to practice my radio communication skills and, if possible, to volunteer time as an emergency communicator.

When a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Bohol a month after, all cellular signals went out but radio communications were active. When Typhoon Haiyan overwhelmed Eastern Visayas and parts of Northern Cebu in November, power and cellular signals went missing. I turn to my radio to reach and communicate with people. I carried my only radio during humanitarian aid missions in Bohol and in Guintarcan Island.

At the start of 2015, I finally joined HAM RADIO CEBU, INC. as a pioneer member. We had our initial meeting where a provisional set of officers where chosen, led by Jet Manuel (DU7MHZ) and Charlie Saceda (DW7FBI), to steer our organization to the next phase, which is to be accredited with the Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA) as a member club and then recognized by the NTC as a Club Station.

We have no problems to meet the number of licensed members set by PARA and by NTC as I have been encouraging my people at the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild to obtain license for Class C and Class D to populate Ham Radio Cebu. Radio communications is very important in my outdoor activities and we do not go out to the mountains without it. It is used in emergencies and for experimentation.

Experimentation cover many fields. I concentrate on the places where radio contact is believed to be difficult. Mountains and rugged terrain are places which all communicators considered as obstacles. Nobody do tests there. I am highly-mobile and can go to these places as exemplified by my current explorations and discovery of routes for the Cebu Highlands Trail Project. This exploration activity traverses the highlands of Cebu from southernmost tip to the northernmost tip.

In my sojourns, I found existing locations and coverage of radio repeaters very wanting. If ever there is one, radio courtesy and ethics would be working at its finest. To meet the demands of these very difficult places, I may have to upgrade my present equipment. Upgrading for a purpose not because I want people to know that I have branded radios. I know there are many cheap radios flooding the market but I prefer better than that. Made in China radios are not in my shopping list.

The amateur is a patriot” and I can never forget that during my orientation to amateur radio operations. Because I am a patriot, I will not buy Made in China radios anymore, nor do I endorse these. I will not condone either my fellow Hams selling these radios online or personally. By that declaration, I may offend fellow Hams but that is not my fault. I stand by my principles and by my choices as asked of each of us as a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines.

Yes, I do not want my money to be spent for the manufacture of weapons and ammunition that would be used someday against me and my countrymen nor do I want to part my money to be spent in the construction of artificial islands in territories claimed by our country. My money will not be wasted on sub-standard items that add more radio pollution. One more thing, many of these things transmit electronic signals that will be used by Chinese spy agencies. It is indeed shameful to sell these China-branded radios to Filipinos.

I would be very careful with that since price can be very tempting at times, especially when you are in the quest of your upgrade. Net calls conducted regularly by my radio club can be very challenging when working with an inferior equipment which I am presently using. A net call is a sort of attendance check through the airwaves. That means I must secure an external antenna and, if I have enough funds, acquire a good VHF base radio. The radio will come later. Antenna first because it is much cheaper.

It is just fortunate that Ham Radio Cebu hosted an antenna-making workshop last November 8, 2015. I took advantage of this by attending this activity so I could pursue my upgrade. I now have all the materials and the most important – knowledge - to make a 2-stack collinear antenna for amateur use. It is not that easy but it is a different thing when you will make your own antenna. I can feel the adrenaline rising as I looked forward to the day when I will commence on this project.

I am also in the planning stage to acquire an HF radio soon. HF radios are very expensive but I heard that pioneer Cebuano hobbyists have assembled theirs from scratch. It is legal and it can be licensed according to Engr. Jesus Laureano of NTC Region 7. I may have to go that route once I have a lot of time for myself. I will just have to search hard a circuit diagram for that. If ever I will reach this stage, I can then proudly call myself a Ham – a real amateur radio hobbyist.

- - - - - - - - -

HAM RADIO CEBU Inc. is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-stock non-profit corporation in the Philippines in the field of amateur radio on February 14, 2015. It is affiliated with the PARA and is operating legally as a radio club and repeater station by the NTC. It has its official address at PECOJON, Escario Street, Capitol Site, Cebu City. Its club station callsign is DX7CBU operating at 144.960 Mhz (-600 Khz).

Despite being new, Ham Radio Cebu already has 48 licensed members and still counting. It is the envy of other radio clubs – civic and amateur. We encourage and support our members to acquire an amateur license or upgrade to the next level. We conduct orientations and pre-examination reviews to our members, applicants and those that request these, notably civic radio clubs, schools, the Boy Scout, the Girl Scout, ROTC units, the LDRRMOs and church organizations.

Our advocacy is to propagate the hobby of amateur radio through experimentation and long-range communication expeditions, assist in civic activities and rescue-humanitarian operations by providing communication support, educate the public about amateur radio through constant outreach educational activities, encourage the legal use of radios by helping owners acquire licenses, and be a partner of the government and the NTC through education and awareness.

The following are Ham Radio Cebu's modest achievements and activities in only its first year of existence:

  • Event Communications for the Order of Discalced Agustinians. Tabor Hills, Talamban, Cebu City. April 2-4, 2015.
  • 22nd International Grand Eyeball QSO and 83rd PARA Hamvention. Belmonte Farm, Naga City, Camarines Sur. April 10-11, 2015.
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations and Element II Review for New Members and Applicants. Cebu Provincial Capitol, Cebu City. April 24, 2015.
  • New Class C Passers: Rommel Mesias (DW7EYH), Justin Abella (DW7EYX) and Justin Apurado (DW7EZL).
  • New Class D Passers: Faith Gomez (DY7EYY), Nami Fajardo (DY7EZF), Jonathan Apurado (DY7EZH), Kenny Ray Gacasan (DY7EYS) and Rin Estrada (DY7EYU).
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations, Situation Report and Net Call for Barangay Workers and Island Stations. Guiuan, Samar. May 11-15, 2015.
  • Coastal Clean-Up Drive by Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. Medellin, Cebu. June 21, 2015.
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations for Teachers and Students. Barrio Luz National High School, Cebu City. July 11, 2015.
  • Medical Dental Civic Action Program by 5th TAS Brigade and 1901st Infantry Brigade (Reserve). Compostela, Cebu. July 12, 2015.
  • Coastal Clean-Up Drive and HF/SSB/VHF Propagation by Municipality of Cordova. Hilutungan Island, Cordova, Cebu. July 18-19, 2015.
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations for REACT Philippines and the AFP Community Relations Service. Camp Lapulapu, Cebu City. July 26, 2015.
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations for Emergency Responders and VHF/UHF/HF Propagation for the Organizers of the 1st Cebu Provincial Search and Rescue Summit. BSP Camp, Cebu City. July 29-31, 2015.
  • Event Communications for Cobra Ironman 70.3. Lapulapu City-Cebu City-Talisay City. August 1-2, 2015.
  • Kahayag Forum by Brothers of Saint John. Sacred Heart Center, Cebu City. August 21, 2015.
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations for Barangay Workers and Emergency Responders. Liloan, Cebu. August 27, 2015.
  • New Class C Passer: Jose Gochangco (DW7EZI).
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations for ROTC Cadets. St. Alphonsus College, Lapulapu City. September 19, 2015.
  • Element II, III and IV Review for New Members and Applicants. Handuraw Events Cafe, Cebu City. September 21, 2015.
  • Element II, III and IV Review for DRRMO Members. Liloan, Cebu. October 2, 2015.
  • Antenna Making Workshop and SSB Propagation for Members. Talisay City, Cebu. November 8, 2015.
  • Orientation to Amateur Radio Operations for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. University of Cebu, Cebu City. November 14, 2015.
  • Element II, III and IV Review for Applicants. i1 Building, Cebu IT Park, Cebu City. November 14, 2015.
  • Practical VHF Radio Operations for Girl Scouts. University of Cebu, Cebu City. November 28, 2015.
  • New Class D Passers: Honey Alquizola, Malaya Bolito, Ham Bugtai, Mike Cabras, Nathan Chu, Joy Quito and Eli Bryn Tambiga.
  • New Class C Passers: Tristan Bonghanoy, Eric Guillermo, Nonoi Ibañez, Ariel Lim (DW7FAL), Locel Navarro, Jerome Tibon and Angel Villaganas.
  • New Class B Passers: Charlie Saceda (DV7FBI) and Arman Abaquita.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LCVII: For the Love of Serving and Giving

I DO NOT KNOW WHAT to feel today, May 24, 2015. Yes, I am tired from yesterday’s activity in Lilo-an, Cebu but I have to be here in Guadalupe, Cebu City. My bones are cranky, my muscles are aching, my eyes are throbbing, my brain is floating but my spirit is on fire. I can feel it swelling and my heart knows it. What am I talking about?

I am talking about the outreach phase of the Who Put the “N” in Nature IV. WPNN4 was a free benefit gig held at the HeadquarterZ Restobar in F. Cabahug Street, Cebu City last May 15, 2015 where spectators, guests and visitors donated cash or notebooks, writing pads, pencils, ballpens and other educational supplies intended for the children of Cebu City's highlands. WPNN4 got more than what it had wanted, thanks to the overwhelming response of fellow outdoorsmen and well-meaning individuals.

I come early and, little by little, volunteers came. There are still many things to carry on to the place where we will do our outreach, even though most of it had been brought there last Sunday (May 17) and by an advance party which set out yesterday afternoon. Although I did not carry a bigger bag just like last week, I carry it almost full with most of my cargo consisting of eighteen juice drink retort pouches and a sprinkling of food ingredients for the feast which we will prepare for the children and ourselves.

The rest are so inspired! Jhurds Neo, the ring leader of this impressive activity and the new president of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, is a tough workhorse. He made it sure that not a single item be left behind, starting from the transporting to the preparation and, later, the distribution of our gifts. For the meals – the cooking and the eating.

As promised, specially-made school bags provided by Zue Fashion will be distributed to all the kids today and, I believed, yesterday's advance party led by Jerome Tibon had taken cared of the transporting of this bulk. Basically, most of the things we carry today are the food ingredients and the juice drinks. Carrying it are a bit of a problem, especially the meat, since when it loses its coolness it begins to go stale. We may have to hurry up.

Fortunately, volunteer Ariel Muntuerto volunteered to carry the bulk of the food and the juice inside a big Deuter bag which he carried empty for this purpose. He is a fine example of a guy who is well prepared and knows what to do without being requested to. Off we go to the Roble Homestead, a long line of optimistic romantics who banded together to make this world better by providing the tools of education for the children living on the highlands.

Below are a series of photo collage that describe the outreach program of the Who Put the “N” in Nature IV -

This writer, representing the organizers of the WPNN 4, wishes to give a BIG THANK YOU to our sponsors and supporters, our different groups of volunteers, the HeadquarterZ Restobar and the bands, the Roble Family, the residents of Barangay Sapangdaku, and everyone whom I failed to mention. You know in your heart that you are what I mean. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Monday, February 1, 2016


THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE Bushcraft Camp is fast approaching and I have to determine the ownership of the lot where the campsite will be. This is a bigger PIBC since there are many participants. Good thing that Aljew Frasco is available for today, May 23, 2015, to help me on this. Good thing also that Jhurds Neo and Dominik Sepe will be coming along also for this trip.

Earlier, Jhurds, who was with Dom, came with his Suzuki Scrum Van and whisked me from a street corner where I waited and we proceed to Lilo-an, Cebu where Aljew will be waiting. They both came on time and I believe we will cover a lot of ground. The campsite had already been chosen on my previous visit last April 11 with Jhurds and today we will do a courtesy call on the village chairman of Mulao.

The campsite is found beside the Cotcot River and can be accessed from the village of Mulao. Going to Mulao from the town center of Lilo-an is a bit of complicated since, according to someone whom Aljew had talked with, it is lined with low hanging branches of mango trees that a bus cannot pass. Mangoes are considered treasure chests here and cutting even one twig would elicit you a subpoena for malicious mischief.

We arrive at Lilo-an at 08:00 and into a gated residence the van parked. Big Mao, a fat Chow Chow dog sniffed us closely and released a single bark. Aljew served us brewed coffee and filled bread from Titay’s Bakery as he prepares himself to go with us. After a lengthy conversation, we proceed at around 9:30 for Mulao. We load up inside a KIA Picanto driven by Aljew.

We go past Cabadiangan and approach the spillway where the road begins to go steep. This is where mango branches sag so low but we found not a single branch hampering the passage of even the biggest bus. The Municipality of Lilo-an will offer us use of one their buses and I suspect that information about the mangoes could have been made by the bus driver himself. Either he does not have the gall to drive by that place or he is somewhere else.

Anyway, we proceed on and pass by an ongoing road concreting project. This is a narrow road where only one vehicle could pass in order to reach the village of Mulao. It is made narrower still when one-half of the lane is closed, nevertheless, the smaller Picanto maneuvered through between the curb and the row of stones placed as barriers to the concreting work.

We reach the village and immediately we walk a short distance to seek audience with the village chairman. We stated our purpose and our intent to stay for three days on a campsite which is on private land. The chairman assured us that he will be the ones to ask permission on our behalf and we could not be more than happy with this unexpected event. It is now almost noon and we have to make a 30-minute walk to the campsite where we will cook our meal.

The Cotcot River still has running water although it has leveled low. The swimming area near the acacia tree is now on mid-thigh level now and the bare boulders reflect heat from the noontime sun into our bodies and placed so much glare upon our eyes. The hot surface of the boulders are felt in my feet soles and more of it by my bare hands. Age and bulk caused me cumbersome and embarrassing moments hopping and balancing among smoothed rocks but it was really something else.

Fungus growing under the toenail of my right big toe had caused so much pain and limited my movements. The toenail had thickened and grown long, warping inward where it pierced flesh on the upper reaches of the nail. I had remedied it long ago by cutting the nail with a steel saw when it grew long. Then I applied Vicks Vaporub over the nail for several nights and the fungus disappeared. Lately, it returned with a vengeance.

I have to take it easy so toenail would not bump the insides of my shoe, especially during forced jumps, or when the rest of the toes pressure against it as when I lodge foot in rock crevices. Watery eyes betray the pain I hid with a red-and-white krama and it added to the misery of the eyes straining against the oppressive glare. I begin to feel the tell-tale sign of irritated eyes which hounded me during my lenten hike last April.

Epang, a local whom the village chairman had requested to accompany us, arrived together with his nephew. Together we fix the natural spring by placing a new bamboo trough. The mature bamboo was hard but it gave in to the sharp edge of the AJF Puygo knife that I had borrowed from Jhurds. But I liked better the performance of my AJF Gahum, which I did not brought along. I open carry a smaller knife instead – a deer-antler-handled Fame knife from Sheffield, England given to me by Alan Poole.

We reach the campsite. It is really wide upon second inspection. Although near the edge of the river, it is about three meters high from the level of the river bed and I see no signs of debris brought by an overflowing water. The ankle-high shrubs have wilted before the onslaught of warm days brought by a mild El Niño weather and it effectively became great cushion for ground sheets. Sleeping on the ground then becomes much comfortable with it, I suppose.

Immediately, as it is now 13:40, we prepare our meal. From my vintage-looking Lifeguard USA rucksack, I retrieve cook pots, pork meat and the AJF Folding Trivet. Jhurds and Epang forage firewood while Aljew starts a fire with twigs by the unfolded trivet. Dom starts slicing onions, garlic, green pepper, potatoes and meat with a Humvarnet. I filled my bigger pot with rice and water and Aljew took care of that on the fire.

When the rice got cooked, Dom take his turn with the fireplace. We do not have cooking oil but I got soy sauce and he improvised. We got braised pork with potatoes as viand and we eat our very late lunch at 15:00 together with Epang and his nephew. After the meal, I revive the fire and dispose all man-made garbage by burning. Organic garbage are spread over the vegetation. Fire burned down until it dies. I left my pots unwashed and proceed to stow it back to my rucksack with plastic.

We go back from where we had came and that means downstream. That also meant that I have to pass again the narrow ledge where I have to kiss the rock wall and, once again, to a difficult obstacle. Despite my qualms, it was easier if done in reverse but the pain on one foot remains. Biting the bullet, that is. We give thanks to Epang and nephew and go on our way back to the highway. We passed by the same road where there is a constructed stretch and, thank God, the road concreting had just been finished!

We pass by first at Barrufol Resort, to examine the place. This is where the participants will cool down after three days in a humid camp. It hosts a swimming pool, several cottages, a bar and beachfront. Satisfied with our inspection, we end our day with a post-activity discussion over cold beer. And when you are at Aljew’s, the blades are the main topic.

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