Monday, February 6, 2017


IT CAME UNEXPECTEDLY! An ugly-looking wall of water coming from upstream rushed and approached our spot in Cotcot River. There was no time to do except extract ourselves immediately from there and run to the nearest high ground. It happened on the night of October 29, 2016 in Mulao, Lilo-an, Cebu. We just have had our supper and we were enjoying relaxing time on our favorite place on the river which we called as the “Jacuzzi”.

The river was already swollen when we came there and was colored brown. Even then it was safe to take a bath. Aljew Frasco and Bona Canga were in the river up to their torso while I, Jhurds Neo, Mark Lepon, Richie Quijano and our local friend named Epang were sitting on the boulders enjoying the night with good conversations fueled by Primero Brandy. My Cherry Mobile U2 phone powered a small booster speaker with bluetooth to liven up the company.

Early in the day, there was a fiesta celebration in the village of Mulao. The former village head invited us to lunch. We did have a good meal and left Mulao for our old camp beside the banks of the Cotcot River. This camp hosted two episodes of the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in 2015 and just last June. Besides that, we used to do day activities there many times and I did not saw the river at its fiercest appearance yet.

The “Jacuzzi” is the favorite spot of guys from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild and it is a “gossip forum” of sort and is usually the place where “malevolent tales” make its way in Facebook. The “Jacuzzi” is like a tub with swirling currents in it that could accommodate five people on the water and double that along its periphery which are the boulders. It is a natural place for outdoor socials and relaxations.

We arrived at the campsite at 16:00 and immediately set up our shelters. Mark and Richie tied their hammocks with canopies under a mango tree. Jhurds set up his simple shelter of a single laminated nylon sheet with a tripod. Aljew did likewise with Bona. Because it had been raining for the whole three days in Cebu City, I decided to bring my red Silangan Rev 20 tent. Epang has his crude shelter of buri palm leaves which we passed by a few minutes ago.

It rained but we deserved another meal, which was dinner, and we cooked it under difficult conditions. A small tarpaulin sheet covered our cooking area which doubled as our dining area later. Despite the rain we were able to forage dry firewood and made a fire from which we cooked our food. I taught these guys the skills and the mindset and the resilience in different PIBCs. I am with the best of them. The “precious jewels”.

The rain fell on our heads and shoulders and we were all wet. It is annoying and cold but we need to have that meal first before changing into dry clothes. Actually we can do something about that by retreating into our shelters and never come out but we are not spoiled brats. We act and behaved as grown-up men ought to be and you could not hear anyone cursing the heaven, the rain and the day. In fact, we made light of it with frequent jokes.

Me and Jhurds fetched water to a natural spring two hundred meters downstream. We would have to cross the river and be on the other side. I walked on bare feet on pebbly ground and on boulders, the water up to our crotches. A tail, which I thought as a snake, turned out to be that of a catfish as it slithered over grassy ground from roiling river to another part that is calm. It was getting dark and we navigated back and forth by the meager lights of our phones.

After dinner, we decide to visit the “Jacuzzi”. We have four unopened bottles of Primero. The rain stopped and what a coincidence! Everything was silent except our voices and laughter and the incessant noise of the now-swift river. I never trust streams and I know its tantrums, so I sat facing upstream. I was holding my stainless-steel cup with the boom box and an opened bottle of brandy beside me. “Ocean Deep” was the song playing on bluetooth.

There was a different sound mixing with the river’s existing noise and it was like a rushing sound of a wall of rain coming to you at a fast pace. I stiffened in my seat and my senses peaked. Epang looked backwards and stood on the boulder. Both Epang and I shouted above the din. Automatically, I picked up bottle and speaker and moved a few steps to the river bank. Mark and Richie did likewise and we created a corridor for Aljew, Bona, Epang and Jhurds to pass unhindered.

Bona slipped but Jhurds and Aljew helped her recover. Already, the rising water swirled around them but they made it to where I stood and we ran quickly to safety. The river overflowed from its seams and ran over the bouldery beach lining it. I still have my cup with brandy still in it but Jhurds’ pair of flip-flops and Mark’s cup got lost during the rush. We talked it over since the only opened bottle still had a half-full and there was no rain.

We opened another bottle and after it was empty, we decided to rest. Everything on me was wet and that includes the shoes and socks. I went into the dry womb of my tent naked and changed into dry clothes inside. The river is at its worst and I just hope it would not overflow the riverbank and flood the campsite. If that would happen, I would abandon what things I could not bring in one scoop. The rushing sound of its current sent shivers on everyone except me. I slept!

At dawn, I heard voices. It was Jhurds calling me that the river had risen. I tried to compare today’s sound to that of last night. Almost the same except that it had rained in the middle of the night until this hour. It would rise with that amount of rainfall. Cotcot River is part of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape. Its watershed is located upstream in the villages of Paril and Lusaran, Cebu City and in Cabasiangan and Ginatilan, Balamban.

When I do rise from my tent, the place where Jhurds and Aljew camped were already abandoned while Mark and Richie had just finished packing their bags. In the clear daylight, the river is a sight to behold. It is like a roaring beast whose power is endless. Returning into my chilly wet pants, t-shirt, socks and shoes, I begun to decamp. In the early morning cold, devoid of even a slurp of hot coffee, I surrendered to the will of the weather without complaint.

The river had claimed the part where Jhurds and Aljew camped last night. Both have not had a good night’s sleep and that includes Bona. Both Richie and Mark may have had a sleepless night also considering they were nearer to them. Epang, may not have also considering that we were all his guests. I slept because I was in the best place. It was warm inside the tent and this was the bestselling tent of Silangan Outdoor Equipment that had taken the outdoor community by storm five years ago. This was my second time to use this.

Anyway, we retraced the path that we made yesterday, now up a hill and under the pouring rain. We came upon a cleared field and it was utterly foolish to walk on there for the ground gave way to our weight and so slippery. We reached Mulao nevertheless and Jhurds, Aljew and Bona made the most of time to reclaim the sleep that was denied them last night by being there earlier. Food from yesterday’s fiesta are served and it is good to eat a hot meal.

Last night was really a close call. We were able to come out of it because me and Epang have considerable knowledge of how streams behaved. He lives here all his life and visits the river to forage food and to fish. I have grown up, played and lived beside a creek in all my life. We treat it with respect.

Document done LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

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