Thursday, June 23, 2016

COMPLEAT BUSHCRAFT XXIII: Flashes of Steel and a Fire Piston

AFTER A ROWDY DIRT time at the Babag Mountain Range last September 20, 2015, the Expedition Philippines camaraderie transfer to the Municipality of Lilo-an, which is north of Cebu City, today, October 4, 2015. The place will be by the banks of the Cotcot River, the same place where the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp was held last June, and on almost the same place where I trained the municipal government’s emergency responders in the art of bushcraft in August.

There will be more of the dear Col. Thomas Moore and, of course, more dirt time. Unfortunately, Wil Davies and Ernie Salomon could not come but they will be with us in spirit.  Also, this time, there will be less than the last time, which is okay since it can now be easily managed. It had rained very hard early in the morning and, for sure, the trails will be muddy and the river swollen.

I believe blades will be thrown, not on the river, but on makeshift target boards. First, we must have to go to the campsite and that is all we did by meeting up together near the San Miguel Brewery in Mandaue City and then taking a public utility midget to Lilo-an.  Inside the tiny multicab are Tom, me, Jhurds, Glenn, Eli, Jonathan, Justin, Faith, Bogs, Richie and Dominik. Aljew and Bona join us as we transfer to the hilly village of Mulao.

From the school, we utilize the services of a helpful local, Epang, who led us down to the campsite.  There are spots on the trail where it is soft and there are stretches where it is uncomfortably steep.  All made it, including the bulkier guys. Folding trivets are set and the fires roared to life. Dirty pots gets balanced over the fires and the first order of the day is coffee!

Firewood are split and blades get to work with the hands.  Even the ladies are into it with Faith shaving a bamboo featherstick with her Seseblade NCO. Dominik tried to make up for the absence of Ernie by cooking pork adobao without the usual cooking oil but oil seeped instead from its fat on a heated dry pot.  That was the easy part.  Now, how do you make your pork adobao palatable if you happen to have forgotten an important ingredient like garlic?

Tom and Glenn are in a serious talk.  Could it be that Glenn is scheming of another mismatched trade or the other way around?  But I eavesdrop on them and they were talking about this unpopular guy on Dual Survival. It so happened that I was not the only one who has a discrete listening post. Jhurds and the rest joined in the conversation and it navigated from Dual Survival to Dude You’re Screwed to Snake Blocker to food when it is unacceptable for a tummy to go on empty forever.

The sky is dour but we were optimistic that it would not rain even as the stream is swollen and brown.  We did have that lunch of pork adobao sans garlic but it is as if it had it or thought to be with it. Anyway, it is sumptuous beyond our expectations. It is laid on green banana leaves with two chunks of rice formed by the very shape of the pots that held it during cooking and the appetite is coaxed further by a generous serving of raw sea urchin meat, still warm from its origins in the waters off Mactan Island.

The meal had ended the way it should be: a wipeout!  Me and Bogs goes to the edge of the stream and wash all the blackened pots with fine sand and water for the lack of soap.  It is a time-tested method which had been practiced long before when laundry soap and Scotchbrites became available. Anyway, the water from the stream is light brown and I may have to re-wash mine with tap water once I reach home.

I got back in time to see Jhurds pass on to Glenn a fire piston.  Wow! A fire piston! Glenn pushed hard the plunger once with his palm and everybody waited with baited breath to see the result.  The plunger is removed and on its tip is a glowing ember of what used to be tinder.  I never saw an actual fire piston much less of how it worked.  It is a very useful gadget for bushcraft which every bushman should have to add to his preoccupation of redundancies of fire tools.

It is said that the fire piston has its origins from the tribal peoples in the Philippines and was copied by the Westerners to make quick fire just a short time before the safety match was invented.  I doubt that.  If ever that would be true, we would have made another festival of the fire piston just like a thousand other festivals ranging from masks to witches. An opened bottle of Matador brandy retrieved from its special earthly cask becomes the stimulus of more conversations.

People wanted to let fly their blades and have requested for this dirt-time. Knife throwing is a skill that I learned so many years ago and which I used later with considerable proficiency during my warrior pilgrimage years, with which the last days of it waned some twelve years ago. I had not practiced it anymore and this skill is rusting.  My throws are not that crisp anymore nor it is consistent.

Since it is a “black art”, more likely, the other side of me would not be comfortable with an audience. Mine is an older method which is difficult to master. I will try but I cannot assure of a perfect throw.  As always, I would miss. Like three of my throws. I let Glenn do the honors of demonstrating the throwing of a knife.  The technique he is using is the more popular one which is very easy to do and can be seen in many video tutorials.

The thud of the blunt point of the pommel is disconcerting to the ears as well as to the eyes at first but people adjust their reflex and their distance to the target board made of a piece of an abandoned coconut trunk. Slowly the result becomes better as the flash of steel flies through air and a more agreeable thud elicits a smile from Glenn, Eli, Bogs, Justin and Dom. The afternoon is punctuated by either affirmative shouts of a true and loud jeers of a fail.

When everyone got tired of punching the target board with slit holes, we begin packing our things. Rain is imminent! I am the last to leave the camp to see to it that there are no more glowing embers nor garbage left behind. I put on my knife belt and stared hard at the target board for the last time.  Why not throw my big AJF Gahum? Aljew would not mind if it finds the target true. TSAAK!

The spin was perfect this time without anybody watching.  The thud of a true throw is ominous in the silence and every head craned back to see the heavy blade embedded on the target board.  I could see the biggest smile on Aljew’s face for he gifted the AJF Gahum tailored-fit for me and throwing it was not on his mind when he made that on his forge.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer

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