Sunday, March 27, 2016


WHEN WAS THE LAST time I rode a military truck? I had never forgotten the date and that was in 1988. Yeah, that was 27 years ago! That time, I was whisked from Metro Manila to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, along with many young men like me who felt it as personal adventure and as employment opportunity to join the enlisted ranks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Today, July 12, 2015, Lady Reminisce comes knocking in my memory as I sat on the spartan seat of an Army M35 truck. The ribs that support the tarpaulin covering at the back and the wooden seats and backrests are noisy as was the last time I had ridden these. The rattling sounds are very familiar but gone are the fears and anxieties which I have experienced on my last transit with the M35.

The smoke from the overhead muffler found its way at the back and stayed until breeze sweeps it away when the truck moved. I hear coughs from among my co-passengers and sighs of relief when the smoke cleared. When the truck braked for a stop all passengers would squeeze forward and would squeeze backward when brake is released. Good thing we were not standing else we would ape Tarzan.

I am not into personal adventures this time but am a part of an army of volunteers for the Medical Dental Civic Action Program of the 1901st Infantry Ready Reserve Brigade of the Philippine Army's Regional Civil Defense Group and the 5th Technical and Administrative Service Brigade of the AFP Central Command. The Municipality of Compostela would host this activity inside their DM Reynes Sports Center.

CPT JOSE MARI GOCHANGCO JAGS (Res) of the 5TAS BDE personally invited me and the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild to assist his unit for this mission. Camp Red's president, Jhurds Neo, made himself available and, I know, that he will be surrendering precious family time to be on this team. Likewise, father and son, Jonathaniel and Justin Apurado. Christopher Ngosiok take leave from his unit and joined us instead.

On the other hand, Army reservist Locel Navarro is participating in the mission but she is with the 1901IBRR while Rommel Mesias is attached with the contingent from the Ham Radio Cebu of Jet Manuel. Ham Radio Cebu would set up the radio communications network for this activity and, if possible, conduct a short orientation on radio operations.

Meanwhile, Camp Red's presence is anchored on the possibility of conducting survival skills for the masses who would avail of the free medical and other services offered jointly by these two distinguished units – the 5TAS and the 1901IBRR. I have foreseen and evaluated that prepping is more realistic and is in tune with the conditions that have occurred in the localities.

We all meet at 05:00 at the 7RCDG Headquarters in Camp Lapulapu, Cebu City where we were feted to a traditional military breakfast of rice gruel, hard-boiled eggs and roasted corn coffee. I enjoyed it minus the fast counts of one to ten that PNCOs with big sticks usually does to trainees. The trucks are coming and, one by one, volunteers struggle to climb up to the decks where the seats are.

We arrive in Compostela at 06:55 and settled inside the DM Reynes Sports Center. People come in trickles and, by 07:30, a Eucharistic Mass was celebrated by the AFP Central Command's military chaplain. After singing the Philippine National Anthem, an opening address iss given by the Hon. Josephine Abing, representing the mayor of Compostela, Hon. Joel Quiño.

Then the tables get populated by medicines, instruments, tools, papers, pens and people sat behind it while across them are people queuing. Camp Red and Ham Radio Cebu transfer to the stage area and we help each other set up an aerial antenna and a VHF base radio. Communications would be very vital since M35 trucks would be very busy ferrying folks from the hinterlands to the town center and back.

Many volunteers assisted the military reservists and these came from the municipality's own government and their resident doctors, specialists, nurses, pharmacists, health workers, dieticians and other occupations of note. Coming too are medical students from the Cebu Institute of Medicine. The gymnasium is full of people: the young, the sickly, the old and those who serve.

In all, there were 3,207 constituents of Compostela served. Here is the report on the number of people served by each component of the joint Medical Dental Civic Action Program by the 5TAS BDE, RCDG7, the 1901IBRR and a medical team from the Philippine Navy Reserve:

Derma - 66
Dental - 275
Medical - 946
Surgery - 41
oratory - 125
Optical - 433
iatric - 17
Haircut - 205
Matters - 21
Counselling - 35
Confession - 35
Counseling - 101
Massage - 53
Storytelling &
Parlor Games - 75
Feeding - 75
Sugar Testing - 725

Both Camp Red and Ham Radio Cebu sees no need to conduct orientations for the served constituents as their health-related issues are more in priority over trivial matters such as what we offer. We at Camp Red observed that we could never fit in activities such as these but we could adapt well and improvise how we would conduct our lectures in the future in a manner much more comfortable to people and to ourselves.

Document done LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

Monday, March 21, 2016


RAIN IS A FACT OF life. Rain is omnipresent. It appears then it is gone and might come back and be gone again and so on and so forth. Almost half of the year, maybe more, it rains for a whole day and sometimes for a full three days when weather is really that depressing. To be honest, we cannot do nothing about that except stay indoors and count sheep or watch DVD to your heart's content.

For those of us who do not conform to a conventional way of thinking, rain is something that we give respect to. Respect is not disdaining its presence but taking it as a chance to embrace it like a brother. If you do not respect it, you will get sick, feel cold or curse heaven. I would rather be wet on an outdoor sortie on a Sunday than staying under a roof and blame rain for a missed opportunity. I would rather have my body develop a stronger resistance to the elements by living within that context.

You have to adjust your way of thinking by adapting to the way how nature works. Resisting is spending for medicine and hospital. Adapting is relishing what you do, especially outdoors, regardless of situations and events. I cannot explain how most, born in a tropical country besieged by strong typhoons year after year, cannot yet comprehend this situation and rather adapt to a cinematic way of life, free of cares and perfect weather.

Rains have come to be part of my world and I do not mince words at it like I used to do in my younger days. The older you get, you get to appreciate of things great and simple, even if it had caused you grief in the past. Rain plays a big part in all our life. It brings blessings or it may bring inundations. I would not want the latter but have to live with it. Yes, heavy rains have caused me misery in the past like staying awake waiting for flood to subside while your neighbors are blissfully asleep.

It had rained a few hours ago on this gloomy morning of July 5, 2015. Shio Cortes and Val Cruz III of the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Office will lend their time to teach Wilderness First Aid for my wards at Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. This is a rare opportunity to learn from people who know their business well and it would be unfair if I confine this activity to ourselves and so I invited people from the Visayan Trekkers Forum where Barry Paracuelles, Neil Mabini, Randy Alforque and Chad Bacolod thankfully accepted.

We start from Napo after a short motorcycle ride from Guadalupe. The ground is wet and parts of it are muddy. We will be on a short walk only to a place where I see a good potential to host future outdoor activities. The name of the place rhymes as Camp Xi. It is a small open plain found beside the Sapangdaku Creek but it is three meters above the stream. It is totally safe and high enough from a flood. A lone family make their living there farming adjacent hills and selling firewood. It has a water source.

We arrive there at 09:30 and immediately my wards set up a fireplace. Coffee breaks the humdrum of the uncomforts caused by partly-soaked socks. Holes on overused rubber soles seep inside like mine. My 5.11 Tactical shoes are starting to disintegrate and I am afraid I may have to acquire a new pair. It had served its purpose well. It had taken me from Mantalongon, Barili to Mantalongon, Dalaguete to Poblacion, Boljoon over the rugged spines of southern Cebu last February and May and a host of long training hikes in between.

In the center of a flat piece of ground, a black laminated plaited-nylon sheet is placed. Any time soon, the outdoor lectures will start. It did start at 10:40 after a short prayer by 10-year old Michaela Lim. I see two other minors and six college students who did volunteer work with Camp Red on a pre-school opening outreach. This is just amazing! All stood in a big circle, braving the rain that have started to fall.

On top of the plaited-nylon sheet is a black tactical-looking bag lent to us by Cpt. Jose Gochangco JAGS (Res) of the 5TAS Brigade of the AFP Central Command for this occasion. The bag contains all the wonders of emergency medical response. It is an emergency medical bug-out bag and everybody is toying with the idea of owning one even if it is a smaller version.

Shio starts the introduction about Wilderness First Aid. It touches on the whole context of WFA and then the overview of emergency response which are focused on Locate, Access, Stabilize and Transport or LAST. Then he distinguishes the difference between Search and Rescue as against Search and Recovery.

Val demonstrates how the Primary Assessment is performed starting from the sizing up and assessment of the scene of incident and the manner by which the victim is found. First thing to do when examining patient, if unconscious, is to feel the airway if patient is breathing and then check pulse. Where no breathing and pulse are felt, proceed to CPR or the cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Again check airway. There may be obstruction of foreign objects else, if patient is healthy but only choking, proceed to effect the Heimlich maneuver.

If patient is injured, proceed to the management of bleeding by (a) direct pressure, (b) through elevation and (c) by placing pressure points. The fourth – by tourniquet – should be applied as a LAST OPTION only! The rule of thumb would be that the affected part where tourniquet is placed should be released from pressure every fifteen (15) minutes and that tourniquet should be applied to not more than two (2) hours. Failing that, it causes suffocation and permanent damage of arteries of the appendage.

For this part, the participants are urged to join in and use triangular handkerchiefs, bandannas or any other type of thin clothing as cravat bandage to wrap imaginary wounds or to stabilize fancied dislocated joints among themselves. Then these same cravats are used to perform a tourniquet on each other. A more sophisticated tourniquet appeared that could be performed by even on himself. It is called the Combat Application Tourniquet.

Other injuries which cause patient difficulty in their mobility are the muscuskeletal injuries which are simple fractures and complex ones which can be remedied by providing splints to the affected part to prevent unnecessary movements. Immobilizing the affected part is very important also when patient is a victim of a venomous bite. The purpose really is to delay the suspected venom or poison to travel quickly to the brain through the veins and arteries. Treat each bite as venomous or, at the least, as carrying rabies.

While the lecture went on, Ernie Salomon took care of the cooking for our meantime meal. Jhurds Neo, Jonathan Apurado and Francelyn Quijano assisted him. Food served were grilled pork, mung bean soup, pork adobao and it is laid on banana leaves, along with rice, another grand mimic of the Philippine military's popular “boodle fight” fete. Lunch was dished out at 13:00, a trying hour of empty stomachs yet warm enough to stave off the cold.

Shio then takes over where Val had left and proceeds with the presentation of the Secondary Assessment on a patient. The rain had not abated and we see Christopher Ngosiok assume the role of the “patient”, lying on his back on the black laminated-nylon sheet in the center of the circle. An umbrella protects his face while the rest of his body is exposed to the uncomforts brought by rain. This is real-world training in a place and condition not to anybody's liking.

It is very important to focus patient assessment from head to toe. Examination should be very detailed and complete. Vital signs that need to be addressed are the respiratory organs, foreign objects inside muscle tissues and the coherence of mental awareness of patient. If patient is unconscious, information about his condition before the incident should be retrieved from the persons close to him or those with him, otherwise the patient would provide you his allergies, his medications, medical history, last food eaten or liquid intake and the events leading to the incident.

The black laminated-nylon sheet are then turned over to the participants to try the patient assessment among themselves. By now, rains have stopped and “patients” are now more willing. Fritz Bustamante and Fritz Jay Hortelano applied what they just learned on Randy Alforque as the “patient” coached by Shio and Val while, on the distaff side, Faith Gomez is scrutinized by both Locel Navarro and Abegail Villariza.

Last topic is patient transport and packaging. First to be discussed are the easiest and which are the most commonly practiced like the single and the two-man carries. Then the most complex carrying-and-packaging methods are demonstrated where you need ropes or cords, sturdy sheets and some common everyday items. Evident of these methods are the Daisy Chain Package and the Georgia Litter Rig.

One improvised litter setup is using the ball cap and the small backpack to prevent unnecessary head movement where the visor of the cap acts as an improvised neck brace and the backpack's waist strap are used to hold the forehead from swaying side to side aside that it acts as a cushion to the back of the head. Officially, the training ends at 15:30 as the skies begin to show signs of rain again.

For this life-saving activity, Camp Red is indebted to Shio Cortes and we presented to him our token of appreciation in the form of a classic Swiss Army Knife Camper, courtesy of the club president, Jhurds Neo. Likewise Val Cruz III will have his token given during the scheduled 1st Cebu Search and Rescue Summit this July 29 to 31. We were fortunate that they have pushed on with this event even under the threat of rain and heavy rain.

Camp Red and the rest of the participants have gained additional knowledge in wilderness emergency response where improvisation and adaptation would spell the difference on the survivability of a patient, granting that professional aid and hospitals would be several hours away. Since we are masters of expediency, Wilderness First Aid blended well with our summary of skills and we could not have appreciated it better except than being under the tantrums of rain.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


MY BODY IS NOT working at its best, yet I have given my word. Regardless, I have to honor a walk in the woods today, June 28, 2015. This is the first hike that I would take after two Sundays where I gave myself a break. I needed to be back to the mountains right after convening the fifth edition of the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp that was hosted by the Municipality of Lilo-an, Cebu.

I wake up at exactly 05:00 and begin the process of transferring the things that I had arranged so well inside the Lifeguard USA rucksack into the bigger Silangan Predator Z tactical bag. I start to sweat as I was doing this although the morning is cooler than I had expected because of the early rain. Having settled that after almost an hour, I switch to the bathroom.

It was a quick shower and, I noticed, I am still sweating. Nevertheless, I change to my outdoor apparels and off I go into the street. I arrive at Guadalupe and I am glad to see familiar faces. They are all from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild and four of them had just finished the PIBC. It is a good opportunity for the two of the four to see the environment reserved for bushcraft. The real world, I mean.

I also happen to see two new faces and three minors. My mind begins to calculate the risks of the route in relation to a child's view. It would be a long walk though but warmth would be out of the equation. I may have to slow my pace then and talk a lot of things that may catch interest to a child. It is a good idea to expose children more often in the woodlands instead of being wired to an electrical outlet.

The first route will be Bebut's Trail. We climb up a series of high steps to get there until we are onto a ridge that cant upwards towards Banawa Hills. This meant we have to pass by that dreadful “Heartbreak Ridge”, which is not dreadful at this moment since it is going to rain. I hear whispers of thunder from somewhere beyond the horizon and I see rain falling hard on Bohol Strait. It is very far but the southwest winds (Local name: habagat) is pushing it nearer to where I stood.

We walk past the power pylon and take a rest at the tunnel vent constructed by the Japanese during World War II. Those that visit here the first time wondered at the tunnel's presence and asked about its length. It is a piece of history and I hope that this abomination called Monterazzas de Cebu would not touch this place like those they recently done on the adjoining hills.

The steady climbing towards the crest of the hill gave in to the steady downhill into woodland which the first-timers have not thought of as existing. Everybody, especially the kids, are sweating hard. Along the way, I show different plants that are edible and those that are harmful and gave meaning of why they joined. The density of greens and the number of trees overwhelmed the young ones.

We stop by a small community to study the hosting of an outreach event. After ten minutes of talking with the locals, we proceed on to the road at Baksan. The road, which links the village of Sapangdaku to the villages of Pamutan, To-ong and Buhisan, is now concrete. We go up the road and somewhere up ahead we will bury into the forest again. The second route would be Lensa Trail.

The trail is good and a better improvement than the last time I was here, which was last March. That time, it was very warm and the vegetation had wilted but I did it twice. We follow a small stream, which turn out to be Creek Alpha. It now has running water and it leads to the old Camp Damazo, the site of the first PIBC. It starts to rain but not that strong. I guess the kids needs to rest and we stop to prepare our meal.

Rain had soaked dry wood and tinder. Finding dry ones under this condition is quite tricky but the guys know where to find dry ones. They learned that by joining the PIBC. Ernie Salomon, the veteran camp cook, takes charge of the cooking. He asks people help and, instantly, all lend their hands to assist him. A smoky fire begins to appear while the food ingredients are getting processed for cooking.

Another set of guys begin digging a waterhole. It is dug on the stream bed. The water go foggy but, in a little while, it will go clear. I line the insides with pebbles. We will use the water later on for washing. Meanwhile, boiled water is now ready for coffee. I get my cup and proceed on to enjoy my coffee. Coffee never tastes better to a man deprived of the urban comforts than in the outdoors. I wonder why coffee companies do not exploit outdoor conditions in their commercials? I am willing to model for them. Ha!

A tripod is raised and a pot is hanged over the fire. Rice. Conversations echo along the small stream as Ernie begins the preparations of making spring rolls. Cooking oil are extensively used to cook the rolls. Rain continues and people shield the cooking and the fire with banana leaves. Jhurds Neo, forage small stems of crawling bamboos (bokawe) and used these as skewers for sliced pork. I believe there will be pork barbecue. The sweet aroma of fatty oil teased my nostrils as it touched ember.

The light rain causes much difficulty on the cooking. A tarpaulin shelter is rigged to keep the young ones from the rain. By 14:00, lunch is now ready. Fried spring rolls and pork barbecue are doubly tasty when you eat it two hours after twelve noon. All partake of the meal evenly. The children eat silently as the light rain numbed the conversations to the background. It is typical jungle condition made bearable by a good hot meal.

Slowly, we clean up the place after packing all the gears that had been used. We left the water hole as it is. I pick up my water bottle half immersed in the stream. Water inside gets cooled and I drink some of it before stowing it back to my rucksack. We will take the rest of Lensa Trail and leave the old Camp Damazo. I lead them to this nice path that had not been seen by people outside of my sphere. But I doubt that.

A lot of people read this blog. They would love to be in my shoes. Who would not? I gave people inspiration by writing many articles where the readers felt as if they were the ones engaging on these activities themselves that I regularly wrote about. It wakes up the adventurers and the explorers in them that they have thought long ago that they are not capable of. I use my blog to compel people to visit the mountains, make children happy, initiate charity and incite locals to protect their environment.

However, as much as I would like people to engage in the trails and places that I always talked about, there are a few places that I wished they would not try to visit. One such place is the one I called as “the last wild place”. It has a name but I rather not mention it so people would not go in there and hurt themselves or despoil its environment, whichever. It does not mean that I do not trust your education and your morals. It is just not meant for recreation and I rather it stays that way.

We reach Creek Bravo and we rest. The boy and the two girls are affected by the rain and the humidity. The trail would be ascending after here. I will have to go slow and engage them in conversations to distract their feeling of discomforts. My conversations would always touch on the plants and the most common birdcalls. When we reach the top of a ridge, we rest. The kids are winded, tired and seemed to want this activity over quickly.

We follow the thickly-forested ridge to a hill and then another ridge to a much-wider hill. Camp Damazo at last! Of course, I did not tell the guests that it is. To those who started their love for bushcraft, like Jhurds and Dominik Sepe in 2012, it is always a sweet homecoming. Found this place in 2010, on the heels of a forced march to civilization after a day of exploration where I was to choose four trails running on four directions. I choose east...and here.

We rest here, sitting where it is inviting to our flesh. Someone brings out his alcohol stove and paired it with a pot of water. break! The magnet of interest has overtaken me and I make ready my stainless-steel cup. The rain had ceased but it invites live mosquitoes in its wake. One guy burns dry twigs and smoke begins to chase mosquitoes away. For a good thirty minutes, we just sat and talked and enjoyed our coffee.

Then it is time to move. The kids had recovered slightly but there is still a steep route that we need to climb at after crossing a small stream. It is not that hard anymore for the kids for others carried their things. All they do is to make sure that they do not slip. I did. My 5.11 Tactical shoes had already seen the start of its ending in a near future. I try to make do by timing my steps slowly on surfaces which I think are slippery.

We reach the road and the kids heave a sigh of relief. So it may be for others that I have not had the opportunity to observe. Well, the path across me is all downhill and so easy. Just make sure you do not get chased by dogs since there are settlements along the way. It is now 17:30 and Lanipao is just beyond.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

Friday, March 11, 2016


THE SUCCESS OF THE Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp, which had just ended yesterday, had left me in a stupor and quite tired but, by all means, I have to honor a commitment. Today, June 13, 2015, the Cebu chapter of the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, with support from the Visayan Trekkers Forum, would give another Basic Mountaineering Course for the new set of individuals who are lured to the wonders of the mountains.

This local version of the MCAP's BMC, is the brainchild of Barry Paracuelles, who saw it a need to educate people about outdoor ethics, the technical aspect of mountaineering and pure common sense. This would be the second time that Barry is organizing this. Last year it was held in Sibonga, Cebu and, this year, it will be located at the Boy Scout Camp in Kalunasan, Cebu City. Just like last year, I would be one of the resource persons.

I shrug off my lethargy and commute to the site. I had not awaken earlier as I had planned but I willed myself to be there. It is almost 11:00 when I arrive and the participants are busy drawing up their test itinerary on pieces of Manila paper with black markers. Barry had chosen the amphitheater area for the seminar and there is a stage where each of the three groups are instructed to explain to everybody.

After lunch, Barry continued with his discussion. He provided a sound system for the microphone; and a laptop and a projector for visual learning. After about 30 minutes, I am next. My topic would be about the Survival Kit; Water; and Cold Weather Survival. These were the same topics that I had talked about last year and I am excited to impart my knowledge to this new batch of participants.

The Survival Kit is a very important piece of personal equipment that may be useful with its owner and to those who are with him/her. Although the absence of it is not life-threatening but its presence will somewhat give you some peace of mind. The kit does not necessarily be contained in a single container and, in fact, consists of several sub-kits like the First Aid Kit, Replenishment Pouch, the Repair Kit and the Survival Knife.

The kit is nothing but a replication of your regular equipment but quite small so it could fit inside a small container. There is the extra LED light and some extra batteries; an extra whistle; an extra lighter or an extra set of matchsticks; an extra paracord; an extra knife; an extra of everything. Remember this – redundancy is security; and it is not difficult to assemble this. Then you place in an emergency power bank to give life to your mobile phone, a camera, a GPS or gadgets.

The First Aid Kit is the most important component of your survival kit. It should contain medicine for ordinary ailments, betadine solution, isopropyl alcohol, cotton balls, gauze bandage and surgical tapes. I used my IFAK as a demonstration tool for it contains, aside from the mentioned items above, a host of other things which could be very useful during emergencies like a tourniquet, a triangular clothe, an emergency blanket, rubber gloves, trauma shears and a generous roll of surgical tape.

The Replenishment Pouch contains your extra cache of nourishment that you may need when you ran out of regular food which you had budgeted for a trip. It may be high-nutrition food or an MRE pack with a sprinkling of coffee, chocolate and powdered juice or milk. During emergencies, when your itinerary extends to a day or two, this particular sub-kit would come in very handy.

The Repair Kit may not be important but it is a good option if you have one. Its most important attribute is that you can do repairs on the field. A packaging tape with you could do almost all things like patching up a torn tent, saving a sole from separating from the shoe, covering a wound bandage and wrapping a splint. A needle-and-thread set, an epoxy tube and some safety pins would make you appreciate this sub-kit.

The Survival Knife, if you wish to incorporate it as one of your equipment, does not have to be expensive or with a complicated design. It does not have to be very heavy but it should be sturdy enough to handle rugged work. A locally-made knife of about five to six inches in blade length is enough since these kind of knives are very efficient in a tropical setting. Make sure that your knife is encased inside a sturdy sheath like hard plastic, PVC, wood or thick leather.

If you insist to buy imported brands, choose the Mora knives of Sweden. These are efficient and easier to maintain and I have seen it personally how it performed for I own one myself. Another imported knife that you should consider is the Swiss Army Knife, preferably the ones with new design because the blade is longer and choose also which has a folding saw. The saw design of the SAKs are superior in performance compared to other multi-tool brands.

After this, I proceed on to the topic of Water. Water, as we know it, are often taken for granted in the tropics yet it is a source of conflict in other places. We have an abundance of it even during drought. This topic teaches the participants the wisdom of constant rehydration and constant refill of water bottles when an opportunity presents. It also teaches them where to find the safest water and, when its potability is suspect, how to process these.

My last talk is Cold Weather Survival. These are the physical mechanisms that slowly wick away body heat and, without our knowing, would leave us colder than we were and would lead to hypothermia or shock. In highly-elevated areas, this is deadly. These are Respiration, Conduction, Convection, Evaporation and Radiation. Thankfully, there are methods to counter these like insulation, layering, covering up of vulnerable areas and constant awareness of physical exertions to keep respiration and perspiration under control.

Barry takes over from where I left and pursues his discussion about the types of backpacks and tents and loading techniques. Neil Mabini of VTF proceeds to discuss his which touches about Knots and Knot-tying. Later, he rigs a single rope on a high branch of a tree and demonstrates Single Rope Technique with the use of prussik knots. A few bold participants decides to go up and down a 7.5 mm rope.

I decide to pitch my Silangan hammock between two mahogany trunks when it begins to rain. Rain is a rare occurrence nowadays due to the onset of a mild El Niño weather. Rain are supposed to be felt at this time of year in great abundance. Nevertheless, I am able to rig my Apexus fly sheet over my hammock and tied its ends from wooden pegs which I sourced from a low branch of an arbor tree before the rain came.

Although the Boy Scout Camp is abundant of trees, you would not see a low-hanging branch because it is harvested by outsiders for firewood. The arbor tree's branch is not really that low and I have to jump high to reach its nearest part. It was done through quick thinking instigated by a backdrop of a few minutes of daylight left and by the possibility of oncoming rain.

After the day, dinner is prepared by all. Next comes the socials. Lively talks and jokes spurred on by Chad Bacolod made the company I am with very alive supplied by almost endless rounds of strong drinks which, altogether, raise the crescendo of laughter. It is near midnight when I burrow into my cocoon for the night. The night is cool and I feel nostalgia.

Some forty years ago, I came here for an overnight camp as part of a contingent of boy scouts from the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos (now USJ-R). It was at these same grounds that I helped pitch a tent assigned to me and two others. The tent was made of Army canvass. We set it up in A-type fashion. Draft would pass thru between canvass edge and ground and I remember waking up with part of my head protruding from this gap. It is just pleasant to reminisce this.

I wake up the next day, June 14, at almost 09:00. Oh God, I am tired. I have been tired already by three days of teaching bushcraft to another set of people in Lilo-an, Cebu and now another two days for the BMC. One participant, Fritz Jay Hortelano, attended both outdoor seminars and, I can say, he is now a complete and responsible outdoorsman. His knowledge gained from both camps would sit him well among peers.

Neil, together with the other participants are on the other side of the camp for an abseil session. Those who stayed prepare the meals. When the rest arrived, brunch is served. I take two refills. Then the BMC certificates are distributed to the participants. In appreciation, they gift Barry, Neil and me a brand new Nalgene bottle each. After the photo sessions, the seminar concludes.

The BMC will be offered free for as long as there are dedicated people like Barry, Neil and Chad. Taking this seminar would make a big difference on the individual and on the environment where he/she will choose to visit. The more responsible people visiting the mountains, the more vibrant will the mountaineering community be.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


I AM THRILLED OF this year's Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp which will happen in a few hours today, June 10, 2015, at Lilo-an, Cebu. It would be the first time that it would be held there and I had thoroughly prepared the campsite through several visits, the latest of which was just three days ago. I made it sure that the separate latrines for both men and women would be done as well as liaisons with the municipal authorities.

My Silangan Predator Z backpack is full and so is another smaller Lifeguard USA rucksack. Not only that, a plastic bag is full of PIBC t-shirts. I have with me 43 pieces for the participants and for the camp staff. The guys from Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild would be giving me full support and they are excited that some member-applicants would join their ranks.

Jhurds Neo, concurrent club president and PIBC product of 2012, had worked hard alongside me for this to be a success. Slowly, he had shown leadership skills which Camp Red needed after I had passed the baton many months ago. He is the designated Camp Ramrod and he will administer and manage the campsite and he will designate people to do the tasks of night watch, gathering of water and firewood, camp safety and hygiene.

I designate JCenter Mall in Mandaue City as the assembly area and we all wait for the transport, provided free by the Municipality of Lilo-an, which arrived at 08:30, due to heavy traffic. There are 19 participants who came, out of the original 25 who registered, and they are accompanied by all the camp staff. We arrive at Lilo-an at 09:00 but the organizers sees it fit to procure food for the first and second day.

The PIBC is a three-day camp-out seminar which teaches people about primitive-living techniques and wilderness survival skills. It also is a venue for camaraderie and friendship as well as renewal of love for country and flag. This is the fifth edition of the PIBC and it is located beside the Cotcot River, which can be accessed from the remote village of Mulao. I believe the day at the camp would be humid and very warm.

We arrive at Mulao at 10:30 and we proceed immediately to the campsite after a short briefing. Four members of Camp Red composed of Fulbert Navarro (2012), Marc Lim (2013), Justin Apurado (2014) and Nelson Orozco (2014) had left earlier as advance party to install safety ropes along a difficult part of the route and to finish the privacy coverings for the two latrines. The ground showed that it had rained last night and raised the stream by a few centimeters.

We reach the campsite and everyone pitch tents and all sort of shelters on the selected area. There are mango trees to rig hammocks but majority prefer to sleep on the ground, which included me. A fire immediately comes to life to start the preparation of the noontime meal, as well as to savor warm coffee, which is very welcome for those whose throats are parched.

The camp staff are able to take their late lunch at 14:30 and it further delayed the start of the PIBC. The original schedule was at 11:00 and there would be four topics. Nevertheless, the discussions would have to start the soonest time possible, which is at 15:00, and I begin the topic about Introduction to Tropical Bushcraft. I need to make it short as possible so I could start on the next one.

This chapter tackles more on the history and origin of bushcraft. What are the likely places where this is done and what are the ideal numbers of a bushcraft activity. Aside that, this discussion disperses the notion that bushcraft is survival. Although bushcraft is associated with survival yet the activity itself is really separate from survival. While survival is immediate, bushcraft is the preparation for survival.

Ethical Bushcraft is one of the new chapters that I had included in this year's PIBC, for the simple reason that many people are now beginning to practice bushcraft. These people might adopt wrong practices learned by watching too much survival TV and searching the Internet and would not sit well with private land owners and park administrators. Besides, that Western brand of bushcraft might not please mainstream outdoorsmen and would create instead friction between us and them.

Bushcraft could be destructive if not done properly or if you have no deep knowledge about it. Bushcraft could only be learned from a teacher, if you are an urbanite, or by your long exposure in the woods. Ethical Bushcraft teaches you everything in the proper perspective, from choosing a trail to choosing your companions. In between, you are taught the rules of Blend, Adapt and Improvise which would be your guidelines in your conduct.

After this chapter, Knife Care and Safety comes next. Aljew Frasco (2013), knifemaking hobbyist and Camp Red's vice president, will do the discussions. This topic gives you more knowledge about knives and guides you in the proper care and handling of a knife. Another of Camp Red, Fulbert Navarro, assists Aljew in discussing about the only known knife in the land – Batas Pambansa Bilang 6.

The last chapter of the first day is Survival Tool Making. By the time I finished this, it is almost dusk. The long bamboo poles which I prepared for this occasion remains untouched. It would have been used to exercise each participant's dexterity with a knife as well as applying the proper cutting techniques learned during the discussions. Anyway, I promised them that they would have that chance for tomorrow.

Day One ended at 17:30 and all participants prepare their evening meals individually or by group. For the camp staff, Nelson Orozco did the cooking for us. Ernie Salomon (2011), the official Camp Fixer, had not yet arrived and this task passed on to the shoulders of Nelson. Large pots are in short supply and we have to improvise the cooking. After the meals, the campfire is populated by staff and novices alike. Laughter competed with the rush of the stream in the night aided by strong liquid moderately taken in small amounts.

The campfire is fed by an abundance of dry bamboo, split and broken in small manageable sizes. The fire keeps on burning, long after taps time; long after the rowdy tales told by rowdy individuals had sought the comforts of their shelters. It is looked after and fed by a set of Nightwatchers, who relieved each other each hour until 05:00. I am part of this duty where I am the last to take the watch.

Day Two will see the campfire revert into a fireplace. Water will be boiled for coffee and, sooner, breakfast. After that, there will be none. Not after the participants will be successful in their hunt for food on the Cotcot River tonight. Meanwhile, the chapter on Simple Knots, Lashes and Braids will be the focus of Dominik Sepe of PIBC 2012. This would have been discussed yesterday but lack of time forced me to postpone this today, June 11.

This chapter is long and the novices would have to participate after the demo by Doms so they could understand better this craft. This chapter is a big improvement from the previous ones as it tackles more on the simplest knots, with integration of lashes and braids. This is more of a bushcraft ropework and shies away from the technical ones done by mainstream activities.

Another new topic included for PIBC 2015 is Practical Wilderness Treatments. Eli Bryn Tambiga (2012) will do the discussions. He is a volunteer for the Philippine National Red Cross and Camp Red's elected secretary. Aside this, he is the designated Camp Hawkeye – photographer in your layman's term. He comes in prepared and happily hands out free triangular clothes with Camp Red logo.

This chapter touches on open wounds where we are most vulnerable like palms, upper and lower arms and upper and lower legs; closed-wound fractures on knees and elbows; sprained ankles; and the ways to immobilize these injured parts. Part of the discussion are the most common medical emergencies where we are most likely to encounter on individuals like hypothermia, heat strokes and hypoglycemia and the ways on how to treat these patients.

After a 10-minute break, the PIBC continues on with the topic about Shelters. Finding a suitable place for a shelter, like a campsite, is a skill and there are places where it is not rational to set up shelters for the sake of security and safety. Shelters are either man-made or natural. Man-made are either synthetic materials or sourced from nature. Natural shelters are either caves, overhangs or among debris. If you know where to catch warm air rising, you would likely experience a comfortable night in a camp.

The hours drag by to early afternoon and the chapter about Firecraft comes. Everybody becomes attentive for this is the topic where most can relate what bushcraft is. I give them the idea about the four elements of a fire where, the absence of one element, would make it impossible to start one. Then I discussed about tinder, kindling and firewood and how to source it and from where. Tinder could be manufactured like the charclothe.

Then comes the three methods of making a fire which is by solar-intensity magnification, by friction and by pressurized air. We concentrate on the first and the second since these are very practical and very easy, provided you have the right tinder to pair it with. The wonders of the charclothe mesmerized the participants as the tiny sparks from a steel on flint produces embers which became a flame when transferred to a tinder bundle.

Aljew demonstrates the bow-drill method and discusses it in step-by-step method, whereby smoke, then ember, appear; then smoke thickens and then a flame burst. Four participants were able to make fire using this method. On the other hand, two participants helped each other to rub bamboo on bamboo and, after a considerable struggle, are able to produce flame.

Satisfied with the results in fire-making, I proceed on to the next, which is Foraging and Plant Identification. Foraging is required when you are in search of food or of other things that would work in your sustenance for survival. Plants make up some of it and an individual should know which are edible or not and which are toxic. I emphasized more on the dangerous plants through a compilation of pictures.

Last chapter is Outdoor Cooking but not limited to the different ways in preserving meat, vegetables, fruits and fish. Situations where cooking are done vary from campsite to trail to extreme circumstances and fireplaces might be open, semi-closed or underground. I decide to integrate the practical exercise in tool making from the two poles of bamboo which were supposed to be cut up yesterday.

Six groups of three participants each are tasked to each choose three segments (or culms) from the bamboo poles for this workout to test their dexterity in the use of a knife in carving out spoons, a drinking jug and a cooking vessel. They would have to employ the “Trailhawk System” of opening up a bamboo as a cooking pot which I demonstrate. Afterward, they are instructed to cook rice by “buyok” method, which is to boil water first.

When a group had finished their cooking, they would start their Nocturnal Hunting on the stream. They equipped themselves with LED lights, catch bins and pointed sticks. One group was able to make a catch net. For two hours of the night, Cotcot River becomes a hotbed of busy people trying to catch fish, shrimps and crabs. Most returned empty-handed but, nevertheless, they are entitled to a good meal, with or without a catch.

Joining us is Ernie Salomon and Mayo Leo Carrillo (2012) and they brought more ammo – brandy and food – to augment our diminishing supply. The second night then is as vicious as was the first with yarns and laughter echoing in the night. I did not last midnight and I found myself surrendering to the comforts of a crude but cool bedding. I turned in and I miss the company of rowdy storytellers.

I wake up the next day, June 12, to the smell of coffee. This is Day Three. Time to distribute the PIBC t-shirts to the novices and the camp staff. I also include small Camp Red stickers. Glad to see smiles on everyone and this is not yet the surprise we prepared for them. Ernie begins to make his presence felt on the fireplace and brunch is called. In a little while, the Philippine flag will be raised.

The flag, originally came into my possession during Freedom Climb 2010, had been used in PIBC during 2011, 2013 and 2014. Today, it bathed again in the warm sunshine and danced with the breeze. I would not want it done in any other way but raise it up in a camp like our forefathers did during resistance against the Spanish, the Americans and the Japanese. That way, patriotism is raised to a higher level.

Everyone assembles on a clearing and begins to sing the Philippine National Anthem – the Lupang Hinirang, to the gist of a novice's hands. After that, everybody recites the Oath of Allegiance – the Panatang Makabayan. Everybody shook hands and greeted each other Happy Independence Day and photo socials erupt. Then the Blade Porn gets its turn. Arrayed on two coconut planks, the blades gets their “15 minutes of fame”.

We break camp and leave at 10:00, going by way another route towards the hanging bridge that linked the village of Mulao of Liloan to another village of the same name belonging to the municipality of Compostela. After an hour of walking we reach the place where the bus, used as our transport of two days ago, would pick us up. It came at the appointed time of 13:00 and we occupy all the open spaces inside.

We reach Barroful's Seaside Resort to enjoy the cool breeze that was wanting in our very humid camp. The guys stretched their aching muscles or be just still on a proper chair. The bottles of half-full Jagermeister and Jack Daniels are buttressed by four more full bottles of Matador brandy and its mix of lime juice. It is going to be a long day and there is excitement as the giveaways are displayed on the table.

These are 19 survival-paracord bracelets and two Zebra 12cm stainless-steel pots provided by Mayo Leo Carrillo; three emergency disposable stoves by Eli Bryn Tambiga; a Julio Herretz machete and a Seseblade sinalung by Jhurds Neo; two LED lights and a Silangan dry-fit tshirt by Aaron and Ann Jillian Binoya; another sinalung from me; and three woodlore knives and three utility knives courtesy of The Knifemaker of Mandaue City, Cebu.

The nineteen participants are Christopher Ngosiok, Locel Navarro, Angel Luz Villaganas, couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon, Nelson Tan, Fritz Jay Hortelano, Leomel Pino, Fritz Bustamante, Niño Paul Beriales, Anthony Yalong, Bim Sauco, Rommel Mesias, Jonathaniel Apurado, Rubi Valdez, Carlo Magno Rejuso, Diocyl Hinay, Lord Benjamin Belga Jr. and Richie Quijano. All are fortunate to bring home something aside from the certificate of participation for the 3-day Basic Course on Tropical Bushcraft and Survival.

Not only that, the Blanket Trading, presided by Glenn Pestaño (2011), would increase each participant's knowledge about this activity and, likewise, would add or exchange what they had with one or several ones that they wished to acquire through a healthy barter of goods done the old way. I watch from the sidelines and I am glad that the PIBC have now reached this level through the five years it existed and is now an institution in itself.

I greatly appreciate that my efforts to teach woodcraft had been recognized by the present leadership of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, led by Jhurds and Aljew Frasco, by giving me a Certificate of Appreciation with a token of a wooden trophy with a mother-of-pearl Native American and a miniature-but-working pipe tomahawk. Ditto with Ernie Salomon, who received the same certificate and a small O-Light LED light for providing fit-for-a-king meals through the years to everyone.

A special prize, provided for by Pardy Bugtai of PABU Knives, are a genuine Cold Steel Pendelton bushcraft knife and another genuine Tom Brown Tracker knife. The Pendleton would be up-for-grabs to the participants and Anthony Yalong of Manila had snared it after a coin toss. Jhurds, on the other hand, got the Tracker fair and square after three down-the-wire tries with three other camp staff.

The PIBC had equipped the participants, previous and present, skills which improved their outdoor skills and, not only that, they now have the edge when things go wrong. They would be natural leaders in a community of survivors should disasters overwhelm places where they reside or visit. Learning of bushcraft skills in a proper avenue are rare here in the Philippines but the PIBC addressed that and the PIBC ensures that you do not give an arm and a leg to participate in it. It is available to all and is not exclusive. Since it is non-commercial, it is done once a year and participation is limited.

I have given the thought that I will relinquish the convening of the PIBC to the guild of Camp Red. I believe they are now capable of handling the PIBC for I have seen how their skills and their capabilities improved over the years. I have nurtured skillful men who can stand proudly on their own and the next year's PIBC – the sixth edition – would be their “crossing of the Tiber”. I am proud of my Camp Red.

I believe also that it is time for me to expand my horizon and teach bushcraft and survival in other places as a journeyman. I have reached a threshold where these rare skills would now be used as a source of income. I have come to the point of leaving the corporate world and come out into the real world of pursuing livelihood this way. I have made a mark on the local outdoors scene where none had been before and I have more things to do.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer