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.
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