Thursday, February 23, 2017


THEY SAY THAT WHEN YOU ARE IN ROME, you should wear what Romans wear. For that matter, you should walk like an Egyptian when you are in the Nile. To preclude any animosity between mainstream outdoor events and bushcraft, it is best that the latter dress or walk like the former when you are in their realm. I am like a chameleon. I could adapt and blend and walk with the Egyptians of the outdoors. It is still bushcraft to me!

Do not be misled by my analogy and do not interpret it word for word to suit your personal world. Just hang loose and get the feel of it. Anyway, I am in a different scene and I am with a different company. I am used to a cerebral activity but now I am zombie. It is a rainy morning of November 5, 2016 and I am with three other guys on a planned dayhike of Mount Manunggal. It is not a big deal. I have done that twice but today’s weather is a bit of a challenge.

Inviting me is Ramon Corro, the proponent of this activity and we will spend a night afterward at Cantipla. At this time of year, it will really be cold and the rains that had been falling since Wednesday is an inherent part of the activity. Going along also are Boy Olmedo and Roger Padriga. Racing to JY Square made me forgot my purse and the three of them pooled money for our food to cover up my missing part. Thank you guys and God knows what you did to a beggar.

Ramon is driving his Toyota Hilux pickup converted into a touring tenthouse. I have seen his rig exactly last year during an antenna-making workshop in Linao, Talisay City and just last April in Bakhawan Beach Home. His is glamorous camping and I am amorous of that if I have wonga. I did my best to fit in into this activity, so I brought my Silangan Rev 20 tent as well as my resurrected Korean-made sleeping bag that a cousin had given me years ago.

We arrive at Cantipla but the camp is much farther and there is a grassy backroad which only 4X4s could maneuver. It is a stress-free housewife’s paradise. Flowers great and small and ornamental curiosities are planted in such colorful splendor that it can instead leave you stressful, at least, on the part where you drive through a low “underpass” of Samson hair vines hanging on trellis above a ground where an invisible stream ran under you. You can even see the river plunge on a small gorge below.

The road goes in onto another property where there is a small meadow at the end. Ramon parked his Toyota here and we start to prepare for our dayhike. I moved my Nalgene bottle, my Petzl eLite head lamp and my Suuntu A-30 compass into a sling bag. I have in my pockets my Cherry Mobile U2 phone, my Canon IXUS camera and my new Victorinox Ranger Swiss Army knife. Breaking my rule on how an Egyptian walked, I slipped my sheathed William Rodgers knife into my belt in frontiersman carry. I do not care.

We retraced our route on foot and saw the “underpass” closer. The owner practically built this road over a cascade and rested all his trust to man’s engineering prowess to overcome a powerful force like a stream. It sent shivers down my spine as I walked over this part of the road where the roots of the vines touched down the ground. The low ceiling was placed on purpose. You have to creep through else the vibrations of a speeding SUV undermine the foundations where the culverts are built.

The paved road goes down to the main village of Tabunan. It is good to walk here now because the clime is mild and there is an overcast sky though you have to watch on some slippery part where moss are thick. We would be walking on this same road in the afternoon and it would be all uphill. It is winding and I do not have breakfast. I foraged for something to eat as I walked and found a lone ripe rambutan.

After 90 minutes of walking, we stop at the village to buy something to eat from a store. Bread paired with cans of sardines and corned beef. I use the can opener tool of my Ranger to open the canned goods and how I wished when would the Egyptians appreciate the knife? I have eaten two pieces of bread and now the storekeeper is working in his kitchen to prepare us something for lunch which we would consume at Mt. Manunggal later.

We cross a foot bridge over a swollen river that made our first trail of choice inconceivable to walk. We proceed on our second option which is longer and is the one favored by hikers. The path is muddy and slippery and difficult to walk on. I just cannot imagine how we would fare when going downhill on this same route. We meet locals in rubber boots going down nimbly even with heavy loads above their heads or on their shoulders.

Going up the trail would have been more difficult if we were carrying a full load. The lighter weight made it easier to move though and where foot hold is secure we move about consistently and rest at a place where there is a chapel. Rain came while we were already in the middle of the mountain. There were fogs but it never blocked visibility from as far as 50 meters. It is cold but I am moving. The rest have their rain jackets.

Ramon is our lead guy while I took the rear. Roger is in a quandary. His eyeglasses fogged and he makes mistakes. Everybody is Egyptian except me. I do not own an alpine cane and I do not want one. I would rather have a wooden staff and I would have that during descent only. The trail is steep and we were afforded the view of the river valley and the verdant mountains across draped in fog.

All people appreciate scenery and most people are so ecstatic about it that they would go to such extent talking their hearts out like a child. To me it is nothing. It does not change anything except your mood. That is why I carry a camera. You ask that to a local of how they feel of what you just have seen? It is nothing and it cannot change their situation of living. What they are concerned of is when would they have that next meal?

Rain is pouring harder as we climbed more elevation. Fogs are thicker but not that thick. I do not feel cold even though wind chill struck at times. The trail is not that steep anymore and the scenery departed. We are now among the shoulders of Mt. Manunggal. We arrive on a dirt road and follow it to an abandoned concrete edifice that used to be a rest house of a local politician. Hikers were already there under the protection of the roof, otherwise, the structure is devoid of walls.

They are a mixed group with females accounting the most number. They are having lunch on their packed meals. We too will consume our prepared meal here. What was warm is now cold but it is nourishment just the same and I would need it badly to stave off the cold staying in a high place in stormy weather. After a few minutes, the hikers went back the road to where they first came from – the Transcentral Highway. It is not good to stay here long in this weather.

We left a few minutes later, going down the trail that we just have climbed in the morning. I could not imagine myself slipping in the presence of Egyptians so I foraged a wooden staff from a green branch of a madre de cacao (English: Mexican lilac) shrub. It is crooked but it functions better than those short aluminum poles that everyone loved to carry even if it is out of place.

Boy and me changed places and I see Roger having a difficult time slipping often. Even Boy and Ramon saw their butts kissing the ground once. I slipped once but I was able to use a tree to stop my careening by bumping it with my shoulder and so saved my butt getting muddy. Nobody can be a “last man standing” on this kind of trail in this kind of weather, with or without walking aids. It is a long way but we arrived at the footbridge sooner than expected.

We stop for warm coffee in Tabunan and a full 15-minute rest. Then we begin the arduous task of walking that paved road up to Cantipla. It is now 15:00 and it would be three to four hours to reach it from the bottom. It is still raining and it helped to our cause as it gave us a clear mindset. Most people abhor walking under the rain even if they were already wet. Me, I just love to walk in its protective mantle.

We arrive at a place where another dirt road joins the paved one at 17:30 and everyone stopped to gather their lights before proceeding on. We were fast for old guys. Ramon led us to a copse of pine trees and where there was no trail at all. He was making time by cutting on across grass and he knows this place very well since this is his playground. At exactly 18:00, we were on our campsite but rain had not stopped its chase on us.

The ground is squishy and mud mixed in with carabao grass. Ramon opened his Toyota and, at least, we can have a brief respite from the elements. The vehicle becomes an instant refuge with a kitchen to boot. Roger volunteered to cook our dinner on two butane burners that Ramon had stashed inside the numerous compartments at the back of the pickup. Rice, meat, vegetables and spice are now up for the test in Roger’s hands.

Boy and I helped in setting up a large white canopy sheet that became our center of camp socials later on. I looked around for a suitable site for a tent and both me and Boy found one where it is most appreciated: at the lawn of Ramon’s sister. It is off limits! I will have to look elsewhere. It is dark and that would make the quest even dimmer. I changed into a dry t-shirt, removing my hiking pants but retained the elastic undershorts. Now I feel warm.

There is warm chicken soup and warm rice to make us warmer. Dinner comes and it goes quickly when you are hungry and cold. A bluetooth-powered small boombox blared its ‘70s themes and what more to toast its remembrance is a bottle of a fine Spanish rioja wine and a sangria to blunt the edges of the former. The bottles have ran out of its course and I still do not have a good ground to pitch my tent. Roger had with his Rev 20 and I helped him set it up.

Boy opt to sleep on the reclining front seat inside the pickup while Ramon is high on his cabin on top of the roof and there is only one space left on the Toyota that is available for me. It is on a wooden deck reserved for placing things that do not fit inside the passenger cab. Ramon had it designed so a part of that could recline at certain angles which a person could rest comfortably. Brought my sleeping bag there instead and I will make it a home.

It is open on all sides but I could roll down the leatherette side covers. The open rear hatch door I could do nothing about except dry my feet and keep it confined in the sleeping bag later. It is cold. For want of a wool hat, I used a plastic bag instead over my head. Then I make sure my body heat would not be carried away every breathing action by placing an extra t-shirt in between nostrils and cold air.

I woke up the next day. I did not feel problems during the night and I slept well. My hair is wet. Moisture coming from my head condensed upon contact with cold surface from outside like a tent. I just wished there is sunrise. Time to pack my things into a Mil-Tec backpack that I am testing for the benefit of a friend. We will have to cook breakfast before moving out.

As was last night, my knife is on service for the kitchen. But this time Roger used my William Rodgers knife to stir boiling rice and, quickly, I gave him the proper tool – my wooden crooked spoon – to do that. I retrieve my knife and wiped it of rice grits and grease before returning it in its sheath and into the bag. It is fun to be an Egyptian.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

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