Saturday, March 25, 2017


THERE IS AN OVERCAST SKY. The ground is muddy. For some people it is not a good day to hike. Sometimes even a sign of rain is reason enough to abort an activity. I know of one club whose members does that all the time and to think that they have been climbing mountains for a long time. They still find it hard to fit in and understand that they were in a wrong hobby. I think theirs is more of a social club than as a real outdoors club.

I never would want to be like that. It is unmanly and it smacked of arrogance. For that reason, I organized the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild of some years back to steal the thunder away from some of these outdoor clubs. The guys took on the mold of what an ideal outdoorsman should be. They have no qualms of what the weather says and they rather spend all their time in our local mountains honing their skills instead of going out on expensive outdoor sorties.

Today – November 20, 2016 – is just an ordinary day. If the weather is somber, we matched that with our clothes. We preferred neutral earth tones because we do not like to stand out and looked like gadflies. We are serious outdoorsmen and do not come to the mountains just because everybody is doing it. We have our own playground and we stay long to gladden the spirits of our local hosts as we keep them company. We would rather be part of the landscape instead of as strangers.

Eight-year old Zachary accompanied his father. He too wore black t-shirt and khaki cargo pants and carried openly a knife like everyone, that including the ladies. Some of the guys came from the Boy Scout and have advanced through their ranks but, after graduating high school, all what they learned were wasted away by inactivity and absence of opportunity. The Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild gave them that chance to practice their skills and learn a lot more.

We just left Napo and Lower Kahugan Spring and are now walking a semi-wild trail along the Upper Sapangdaku Creek. Thick growth and felled trees had claimed part of the trail and we are backtracking to where we saw a branch of a trail that ascend to a low ridge. We pass by a few houses and gets to ascend some more until we cross a small tributary and then the Sapangdaku where everything becomes familiar.

The path goes up after passing by a copse of stinging trees (Local name: alingatong). Zach is tired and is now carried above the shoulders of his dad. Bona is not feeling well and she gives her best. Aljew never leaves her side, coaxing and taunting her. After 15 minutes, we arrive at the Bonghanoy Homestead. Automatically, the guys foraged the driest firewood possible for a good fire for coffee and for another small feast.

I get to meet my male turkey for the first time after several months. I had him transferred here for good. I brought him first to the Roble Homestead in January 2015 together with a female but bad fortune had hounded him. Unsuccessful breeding of his brood on three different occasions and the demise of the female led me to decide to transfer him to where he would be happy. A widowed female was waiting for him here.

Ernie appraised the ingredients before him. There is a kilo of raw pork liver, cereal wrappers, green pepper, yellow and ordinary rice, cucumber, a kilo of chicken meat, some green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and spices. He has Mirasol and Jonathaniel to assist him and my unceasing mockery to distract him. Aljew started a small fire in his collapsible metal fire box while mine coughed in smoky whimpers inside a Swiss Army emergency burner.

Knives appeared and are then used for all kinds of work: slicing meat, chopping firewood, opening green coconuts or carving an impromptu spatula. Each knife says about the owner. These guys do not carry just one even though you only see one hanging by a belt. Wait when he opens his bag and you would likely see that he has at least two more, even a half dozen, sometimes. Why that many? Like it or not, it is a source of pride for them.

Bieber, a local boy, came with a bunch of green coconuts. Soon it will be the object of our dessert. Right now, we are just waiting for Ernie and company to finish what they have started infront of their fire. To make good of the minutes, the guys talk about their blades and of the coming outreach event in early December. Such activity demands good planning and preparation with which Jhurds had been doing the legwork. I listen sipping my warm coffee and shared some of my seed collections to Bieber’s father.

Lunch is called and everybody made for the beeline to where the food was served in semi-boodlefight fashion. There is the chicken sinigang (tamarind-based soup), pork-liver adobao (cooked in oil with thick sauce), sliced cucumber and tomatoes in vinegar, yellow gourmet rice, ordinary rice and dynamite lumpia (fried green pepper rolls). The guys are up to the challenge of this small feast but I carefully stashed portions to Bieber’s family fearing of another wipeout.

Then the coconuts got cracked. Sweet coco water are just perfect to stymy the parched throats caused by this humidity. The soft meat is just as sweet and nourishing. What part uncarved are left to the mercy of the dogs, which happily carried it to their pups. Bloated, we spend a little time to settle our bellies. Bona is okay. She snatched a nap on a hammock. Zach is refreshed and have developed confidence despite getting cut with his knife, a natural bonding which makes you a better person.

Aljew, quite satisfied of the meal, especially the pork-liver adobao, decides to part his knife that he is carrying and using today to Ernie. It is a custom-made knife which Aljew himself made and tempered to his standard. He called this knife as the “Kusina”, a local adaptation of the Spanish cocina, or kitchen. Ernie, thus, would be the sixth bushman to be a recipient of Aljew’s work. Welcome to the AJF Knife club, Ernie!

We say goodbye to the Bonghanoy Family and climb a hill which is part of a ridge called Tagaytay and where a trail called Manggapares is found above its back. It is now in the middle of the afternoon and it would be lonely there. In all my years walking this trail, I seldom see people here, mostly in the morning. The afternoon belonged to us and the Manggapares Trail is ours for the walking. Zach, surprisingly, refused to be assisted by his dad. The kid has spunk!

We walk past the abandoned backhoe, the hulking equipment now a part of the landscape. We ogle at its components, good material to produce us enough blades from a bladesmith but it belonged to another man who, by this time, probably have not located his property yet. It is best to be an honest outdoorsman. Under my guidance, the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild would breed such men and women.

Overhead, above the fourth tower, is a lone Brahminy kite riding the thermals in circles. So late in the day to hunt for food but who am I to judge its wild instinct. Lately, I come to interpret the sight of raptors as harbingers of bad fortune unlike in the old days where its appearance would be gladly appreciated. I am a renewed Catholic for the past 15 years and the old magic do not work anymore to my advantage after the priest have cast out all the juju I acquired through the years. My trust, protection and hopes are to my God alone.

We descend on the third tower but I made it sure that I would not miss the correct trail after walking past the second tower as was the last time. I saw the path that confused me but it was a good error for we found a good trail to Lanipao. Somebody from behind egged me to try it one more time but today is not the day. I would rather be at Napo and early than tackling a trail that I am reluctant to walk this day. Remember the raptor.

Along the way, I plucked six wild-growing pomelo fruit to bring home. The Lifeguard USA rucksack becomes heavy again but I do not mind. It is now all downhill and we are on the verge of ending our dayhike soon. After the last tower, there would be a flower farm and then the first of the houses that carved a living community in this part. We arrive at Napo late in the afternoon and everybody were basking in their moments of unabated perspiration, glad of the exercise. From here, going to Guadalupe is not anymore complicated.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

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