Sunday, January 1, 2017

BEBUT’S TRAIL XV: The Little Boss

THE GATE IS NOW OPEN FOR LITTLE JACOB to mountain adventures and into the world of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. He is the seven-year old son of Jhurds Neo, head shed of the Camp Red guild. Jacob has a “cult following” of his own of boys his age and above. His skill with the knife and with firecraft are “legendary” and would finally be tested on playgrounds which were denied skilfully by his father to him for sometime.

He is appropriately dressed for the outdoors today (September 12, 2016) and carries a sling bag which, I believe, contained his prized possessions: a knife, a ferro rod set and his jellied cottons. I am following him on the trail. He walked in swagger fashion at first but when he noticed that the ground is a bit slippery for his comfort, he walked cautiously and slowly this time. Hearing the word “snake”, he stopped and signaled me to go first. Smart fellow.

Behind him is his concerned dad, our Swiss friend and benefactor, Ernie the Fixer, Boy O, Jonathan and Señor Nyor. The greens are all in bloom and a good time to do a little Plant ID for the benefit of the Little Boss and our Swiss guest. I start with the most basic and most common of the lot like jackfruit, breadfruit, cottonfruit, star apple, sour sop, sweet potato, spinach vine, horseradish, taro, cassava, papaya and, of course, the bamboo.

Jhurds wanted to introduce Jacob to the almost-forgotten art of making pop guns from bamboo. Too much Internet for the kids today have eroded many of the ideas and the skills of much of the boyhood games and contraptions we learned long ago. We, the older generation, have adapted with technology well and became knowledgeable of the best of both worlds but the present generation do not. Jhurds has to open the gate wide this time for Jacob to explore the ancient world of his dad and that of his grandpop.

I wished I have started my kids when they were young like my late grandfather did for me. I was too engrossed with my government work then, benefiting me nothing but a life devoid of a soul, serving an ingrate master begetting me disappointments. Fortunately, I was able to recover my respect and my reputation after realizing the futility of remaining there and escaping at the right time to the folds of a new-found spirituality and private employment. I am not employed now and have too much time but, still, I wished I had time with my kids then.

We reach the homestead of Luceno Laborte in Sibalas, the navel of Baksan. After rehydrating, we settled down and begun the process of our dirt-time. My Swiss friend unpacked his toys: a Militec folding saw, a Cold Steel Bushman and a strangely camouflaged Swiss army-issue poncho. I instantly fell in love with the poncho but it petered out when he presented to me a Swiss Army emergency stove for testing. It consists of a hobo can, a bottle and a cup and it is all aluminum, except for the steel bail and a cork cap.

Ernie start his business of collecting the food ingredients into his airy kitchen while Nyor has just placed a bird’s nest above dry firewood to be given a baptism of meteor showers from his ferro rod. The sparks came streaming down but the tinder barely caught it. Our Swiss friend tried his own into the nest and, slowly, a tiny flame sprouted from a cotton-silk tree down. Meanwhile, Jacob found new friends and disappeared from view. Only his high-pitched voice could be heard that he is somewhere near. Boys.

Luceno arrived with a half liter of unadulterated coconut wine, still in its white state and sweetness. This cannot be? The hell with coffee. It is a great privilege to be offered coconut wine, of all places, in Cebu City, at its purest form yet. How often do you know of native wine produced in the city’s mountain communities being made available to other people. This liquid is worth its weight in gold if I were to analyze its rarity. Most of the coconut wine came from the far towns north, west and south, already questionable, and from Leyte, which is already aged.

Spurred on by this good fortune, I begun to dissect the Swiss emergency stove and document each part and the different possibilities of being tweaked to serve current conditions. This contraption can be used with solid fuel like twigs, dry organic material, sawdust, paper, cardboard or even charcoal. I boiled water in its cup component using heat from burned twigs. Or you could use it in combo with an alcohol burner like I did later with water in its bottle component. There is one problem though: How would you hold the bottle when it is hot? Even so, I can tweak that.

Now, where would Jacob be? I saw a glimpse of him trying to catch pace with a local boy and he has a slender bamboo with him. I thought I heard the unmistakable “pop” sound of an improvised bamboo pop gun. There goes another “pop” and another. They are in the midst of an ongoing battle, I think? Pop! Pop! Pop! A small balled paper landed inches away from me. I am almost grazed by their intense warfare, most likely, almost a casualty of friendly fire.

This Filipino childhood past time is made from a slender bamboo tube about 8 to 10 inches long. A bamboo stick, a half-inch shorter than the tube and which fits snugly inside the tube’s bore, is used to push projectiles out of the tube and is connected to another short tube, about 4 to 5 inches long, which acts as a handle for the rod. The projectile is wet paper balled to be force-fed into the tube by the rod. The water acts as a sealant. When another balled paper is pushed hard into the tube, air pressure increase and forces the paper on the other end to “fire”.

Jhurds seems ecstatic at the outcome of his experiment and relaxed slightly his watch over Jacob. Now he is talking with our Swiss guest and Boy O. Jonathan and Nyor are helping Ernie with the cooking and I bet it would be another feast fit for princes and dukes. Just a half hour from now we would indulge on that. Luceno brought marang (English: Johey oak) and avocados from his orchards. Our Swiss friend added some fruits he bought from the market like mangoes, lanzones, rambutan and mangosteens.

Jacob, probably tired of his little skirmishes, turned up with thirteen sets of bamboo pop guns. Three local boys foraged these bamboos and made all of these for him. I can imagine Jacob’s joy at owning that many in his armory. He may well start an arms trading business in the school where he is studying. Just in time for the meal that is now being served. Everybody, to include Luceno and wife and Jacob’s playmates partake of a local pasta called pancit, mixed vegetable soup, sliced cucumber in vinegar and milled corn.

Getting his energy back, Jacob goes back to play mode. This time he witnessed two boys doing a rap duel, fast-faced sing-song-talk in Tagalog which could easily twist and tangle my thick Visayan tongue in spasmodic delirium if I were to try it. I would not dare but it is a sight to behold to see these mountain-bred children performing something which I thought popular only in highly-urbanized areas, streets, TV shows and in the Internet. These children in the highlands have the best of both worlds too and they are adept to embrace pop culture and technology as if it is just a change of clothes.

Then I came to realize how Jacob would learn so much in the use of the knife when he sees his playmates using bigger work blades with such dexterity as if they were working with a small knife. On the other end, the boys would be amazed to see Jacob’s Condor Bushlore as they are not used to seeing smaller blades. Then their amazement would go double when Jacob would show them how to make fire from jellied cottons after a spark from the ferro rod. The masters of firecraft being taught new tricks by a novice and so thirteen bamboo pop guns were happily given.

It was dream time for Jacob and for his playmates. Dream time also for me for soon I will own that Swiss Army emergency stove. The kick from the native wine made today’s activity very worthwhile and unforgettable. When it is in the middle of the afternoon, we start packing our things. Jacob is reluctant to part with his playmates but he is tired and he has to go with his dad on the route we took in the morning. Me and the rest would go down direct to Guadalupe by way of Bebut’s Trail and the not-so-dreaded-anymore “Heartbreak Ridge”.

Document done LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

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