Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I RARELY HIKE ON a weekday for I have a day job, unless, of course, if a guest requests me. I have done that on a few occasions and today, August 4, 2015, is one of those days. I would never say no on a good offer and never says no as well if it interests me at all even without getting paid for services rendered. I do part-time wilderness guiding – not mountain guiding.

However, neither of those conditions have forced me to be absent from my workstation today. It is for a different reason and I considered it as urgent. Relatives from Guam whom I have not known or seen in person since existing in this world came to visit their Cebu connection. My family put on their best foot forward and accommodated our visiting relatives.

With me is my second cousin, Neil, and his eldest daughter, Cami – my niece. They carried the same surname as I have and it is a good moment to establish good bonding time. I would never say no to them and never would say no to occasions such as this. Not even Super Typhoon Hanna, which just entered the Philippines, because I have committed this day for a hike in the woods.

We used my brother's red Suzuki Scrum to transport us to Guadalupe so I could buy food ingredients for our meal later on and then going to the trailhead in Baksan. The ground is wet since it rained early dawn precipitated by the coming of the storm. Surely, there would be a lot of slippery spots. Times like these make me very careful, not for myself but for those coming with me. The tempo of the walk is deliberate and slow.

When in that pace, I could see everything and I could talk a lot to my guests. I always talk about the plants because those are the very first things you will always notice and then the insects and animals. Next would be the names of places and the woodlores. Keeping guests entertained and informed is what distinguishes true outdoorsmen from another set of “outdoorsmen”.

The stream is clear and swiftly weaves among its chosen channels where it had carved for many years. The sky is cloudy with wefts of sunlight escaping from among its most porous parts. There is an ominous silence save for the cicadas (Local name: gangis). Old folks say that when these are noisy, expect no rain to fall. I half-believe that but, just the same, it is entertaining to the ears of guests if you tell these half-beliefs to them. Now that is woodlore.

Underneath the tall canopies of trees, the jungle is very dim. I follow the trail as we ascend the stream bank. We would be walking now on higher ground. The path is not ascending but it follow the contours of a mountain and Neil begins to ask how do I keep myself from straying. I do not in my turf. I mark a few trailsigns though where there are crossroads. I point to one and he understands.

The richness of the vegetation enlivens father and daughter as I name each plant which have uses and each plant which they would have to give a wide berth. Rattan is one and a stinging nettle (daw-daw) another one. Both grow low to people's height and touching each would cause you either cuts or skin irritations. Pace is controlled. I picked up a straight stick on the ground and passed it to Cami as a walking staff. I can see she walks better with it.

We go down another stream and we rest here. However, I have to do something. I have to climb a high bank where groves of water bamboo grow. I have to find a dry piece of bamboo pole. There were a lot of discarded poles left by forest gatherers a year ago which I kept off the ground hoping it would be useful someday. I found one and carry it down. I would use this later for an impromptu firecraft session.

We now ascend a trail to the ridge. I show them another plant that is harmful to a touch if you go careless and this is the Asiatic bitter yam (kobong). The path is lined with rattan but my eyes also scanned what is above us. Dead branches are also my concern. You would not know when it would fall down, would we? I take time with my pace so as not to overwork Cami and Neil.

I arrive at Camp Damazo and inform both father and daughter that we will stay here for a while. I need to boil water for coffee but I have to leave them so I would get water from a natural spring which would not be far. There would be mosquitoes and ants when they sense our presence. It would go away when you have a fire but we have no fire yet. I have an alternative though so I pluck leaves from a common floss plant (hagonoy) and teach how it is used.

I rigged my Silangan hammock – the ones with a mosquito net – should mosquitoes becomes unruly. I laid a laminated nylon sheet on the ground for Cami and Neil to sit on and got all the pots and bottles out. I prepare a tripod of sticks that I will later use in cooking our meal. It is 09:15 and we are early. The cicadas are noisy as ever. I left them bringing along two empty water bottles and my empty Zebra pot.

I go back to the camp and produce a Trangia alcohol stove and start heating another pot after I transfer contents from the Zebra. Then I get my fire kit. It is just an assortment of “garbage” that ordinary people stepped over or walked past without any idea what it is and are its uses. When you are into bushcraft, these things matter.

I show Cami how to work out a spark from a ferro rod. She tried once, again and again and it did not spark. She tried it forcefully and small sparks came. I show how it is properly done then Cami worked it like magic. Now time to choose firewood. I tell here that the best firewood are not picked up from the ground but those that are above the ground and these are small. I told her a story about fire made by a Native American and the ones by a white American and she chuckled.

The process of obtaining dry twigs and small branches begins and then converting it into pieces which are very easy for a nascent flame to feed on. Neil produce some tinder by scraping knife on a mature bamboo surface and form it into a loose ball where Cami directed the sparks of the ferro. Meanwhile, the water boiled above the Trangia and I mix instant coffee on a metal cup for Neil and Cami to savor on. I pour mine on a metal dish and enjoyed coffee that way.

Showed my best tinders for Neil and Cami to ogle upon: a tuft of kapok, shrivelled Spanish moss, coconut husk fibers and hair-like sugar-palm fibers. For me, they are my time-tested tinders that could catch sparks. And then there is the charclothe. Stored it all dry to through many layers of plastic aside from the green Triton dry bag.

I left Cami to practice with the ferro rod while Neil coached her. I prepare the rice inside the Zebra, for any moment we will start the cooking. A smile crossed Cami's face as she worked an ember on a charclothe and blow it on a nest of mixed tinder. There goes a thick smoke and a small flame. Quickly, it is placed underneath a teepee of twigs. The Zebra with the rice is now hanged from the tripod with a special hook.

I could now start slicing the pork meat, onions, garlic and those long green peppers. I show them the trees around Camp Damazo while waiting for the rice to get thoroughly cooked. I have trust on the Zebra as it is really an efficient pot. Neil looked up at a huge tree and asked for its name. Moluccan ironwood (ipil). Beside it is a small tree but you better keep a wary eye on it because it is the stinging tree (alingatong). It is harmless since the foliage are now a bit high.

I replace the Zebra with the already cooked rice with a battered pot with cooking oil in it. The fire is fed with more wood as the tell-tale pops of the cooking oil approaching boiling point is heard. I pour the sliced garlic, then all the sliced onions. Stirred it until onion gets soft. Two-thirds of the sliced green pepper are mixed to the aromatic concoction. A few minutes after, the sliced meat are dropped and stirred. Then I add soy sauce.

Neil and I talked about knives and he brought along the ones I have given him – a prized ginunting from Albay and a small Seseblades sinalung. He collects knives and he preferred Philippine traditional blades. He is with the US Air Force and travels with his unit anywhere. On the other hand, Cami is an accomplished sport dancer. She had snared top honors in international dance competitions in Barcelona, Rome and Las Vegas.

I go back to my cooking and poked the meat texture. A few more minutes and it should be done. Now the meat is tender, I pour the last of the green pepper as garnish and drop a few black pepper powder into it and left it to the fire for a full minute. The pork adobao is now ready for eating along with the rice and we eat in silence which is broken, time and time again, by conversations. I make a pair of bamboo chopsticks each for father and daughter while I settle for a fork when I notice I failed to bring a spoon.

The pots were literally cleaned off of their contents. It was a good meal considering we have limited comfort and too few hours to get a good opportunity of cooking from a very threatening sky. The slightly-spicy pork adobao was appreciated very much by Neil and Cami. It was cooked with the right frame of the mind. I place water on the pots, cups, metal dishes and, for a purpose, leave it be for a while.

From a piece of mature bamboo that I foraged earlier, I split it into two parts. I will show Cami how to make fire by rubbing two pieces of bamboo together. Although air is humid and misty and the bamboo is partly wet, I will try to show to Cami how this works. The most important thing is teaching Cami the process of making the bamboo into a fire tool. First, make a notch on one piece then scrape its hard skin back and forth for tinder.

The other piece would be the “saw”. I smoothed one edge so it would fit on the notch of the other. Place the tinder bundle on the inside of the notched piece and keep it in place with a thin bamboo strip. Either you place the notched piece on the ground where it gets rubbed by the other or you place edged piece below the notched piece where it gets rubbed. Showed her how it is done. After several drops of sweat rolled from my forehead, I got smoke. Then thick smoke. And that is all. No fire. I am exhausted. Skin of one finger brushed against ground. Pain!

It was a nice try despite drops of sweat and dew over the primitive fire tool and Cami is delighted at the sight of the real thing which she probably had seen many times in the Internet. She tried the native contraption but one bamboo piece broke in two. I would have made another piece and try it one more time but the sky says no. Drops of light rain are beginning to fall over the forest canopies. I pack the things into my Lifeguard USA rucksack and take the exit route.

The rain is for real now and no half-beliefs about cicadas could stop it. It made the ground more dangerous but, as always, I take charge of the pace. The route climb up a steep stretch and I have to wait for father and daughter to catch up and let them take rest. We have a luxury of time. Cloudy skies made the lighting dim as if to give impression that it is late and would have made another impression on the brain to dictate the body to release adrenaline so we would increase our pace.

We reach the road at 14:15 but across us is a trail to Lanipao and it is all downhill and easy. This time the rain fell at a greater intensity. The trail became a small stream and I have to check always my back trail for telltale signs of rushing water which are most probable in mountainous areas especially if there is an occurrence of a landslide. We trod on the side of the path instead where there are grasses.

We stop for a while at a place where there are midget coconut trees. Neil needs a coconut palm. He is onto something. I choose a healthy frond. Neil split the palm into two and counted something like fourteen midribs each piece. We carried the leaves to Lanipao then to Napo. The rain had not abated and the Sapangdaku Creek had risen a little and can still be forded by using a technique which I learned and developed on my own.

We walk on the asphalt road to where the Suzuki Scrum would rendezvous us. It arrived at the right time on the road corner leading to Baksan but we are now going to Guadalupe this time. We are all wet to the skin but it does not matter. The Suzuki proceed to Mandaue City to drop both Neil and Cami at their hotel. Neil talked of giving me a surprise with the coconut fronds when we meet again in a few days. Cami is elated at the chance to hike in my hidden jungle which she captured all with her camera.

It was a good time to know my relatives from Guam and them about me. Even more than what they knew me doing all these things in Facebook. I am what I am and I am proud to be a relative.

Document done LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

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