Saturday, March 16, 2019


AFTER A STINT AT BLUEWATER Maribago Beach Resort, in Lapulapu City, Cebu, last March 17, 2018, I set sail for my next assignment, which would be done at the Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort in Panglao Island, Bohol. Today is April 14, 2018 and it is the start of the election campaign period for barangay officials.

Travelling in that period is critical for someone who carry blades in the course of his work. In my case, as a survival instructor, I carry a lot. All are shorter than nine inches except for a Cold Steel Bushmaster which I am still undergoing field tests. I have with me a total of seven work blades and I checked it in along with my Mil-Tec bag as baggage.

I am with my assistants Jonathaniel Apurado of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild and the couple Jethro and Marianne Ocubillo of Bukal Outdoor Club; and they also have blades with them which would complement mine. They breeze in through security without a hitch and followed my course. We responsible blade owners always follow regulations.

After an hour of crossing Bohol Strait on a fastcraft, we arrive on the Port of Tagbilaran. A passenger van provided by Bluewater Resorts came to pick us up and whisk us away to Panglao Island. I have never been to Panglao, a very popular tourist destination of Bohol, where white-sand beaches and great resorts abound plus a bathable cave.

One of the best resorts in Panglao, an unmatched gem in itself, due to its being designated as a Green Resort by no less than the ASEAN Tourism Committee, is the Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort. It would be my very first time there and I am awed at the tidiness and orderliness of the resort and the design of the pool when I arrived.

Anyway, a two-level family loft is assigned to us as our accommodation for two days and two nights free. Tomorrow, April 15, is the day when we will demonstrate our skills showcase. We liked how the staff treated us and it is a nice feeling. We proceed to Aplaya Restaurant for our free breakfast and begin stuffing ourselves.

Stretching outside after the meal, we decide to inspect the place where the short bushcraft workshop would be held. The iconic seven dolphins that became a lore in Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, is shining under the glare of the noonday sun. We follow the stone-tiled footpath amidst rows of sprightly bamboos on each side.

On an empty lot is a playground reserved for children and a hotel personnel confirmed my hunch. I would be back in late afternoon, when it is cool enough and start to search for the items that I would need like green bamboo poles and dry wood for a fire. Then we head for our rooms. It is much cooler there. 

I almost slept the whole afternoon and was about to forget my task. The cooler temperature inside the loft and the soft bed had left me lazy. By sheer will power, I bravely left my comfort zone and go outside. I got the bamboo poles and cut it at the desired size with a small saw. I found lots of dry wood, a discarded PVC pipe and a 2-ft x 2-ft plain roof sheet.

Then it is time to prepare for dinner once again. After a cool shower, I join the rest at Aplaya and enjoy a free dinner, courtesy of Bluewater Resorts. Evening in the resort is so soothing and relaxed. I am tempted to walk on the beachfront but I am not prepared for another bath. The salty breeze added to the ambiance of the place.

I decide to walk back to the loft and check the things that I need for tomorrow while the rest take a stroll on the beach. There is an electric kettle and there is coffee and sugar. I enjoyed the night alone in my room before it gets populated by Jon and the couple who would be sleeping on the lower part.

The second day (April 15) opens up with a short walk to Aplaya Restaurant for another free breakfast. During Saturdays, the restaurant serves Barrio Fiesta, a galore of Filipino food favorites. We stuff ourselves full knowing that we will have a long day ahead of us. The day is warm and humid but we are excited.

We go back to the loft and retrieve our tools and gear and proceed to the children’s playground. My bamboos are ready and the firewood and I secured long benches from the resort's maintenance department. We laid all our things on one of the bench and place my folding seat behind, facing the participants.

I begin setting up the two different snares which I located a distance away from the main area. Then, with much time on our hands, I tie a hammock between two trees. Its presence is for nursing mothers who might be present. Jon, Jethro and Marianne gathered the firewood and stacked it. For insurance, we ready our first aid kits.

At 09:00 the participants arrived. Facilitating this activity here is Ms. Ivy Mae Palonpon, one of the few Bluewater Resorts staff who took my 3-day Basic Island Survival Course last May 2017 at Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort, Oslob, Cebu. Attending this activity are off-duty resort staff and two of them brought their kids.

Although this little workshop was designed for children, I could easily tweak the lecture to my advantage to make it very flexible. I have the best assistants with me right now and their presence are most welcome. But it is easier this time because I speak a common dialect with them: Cebuano.

I talk to them first the meaning of the word bushcraft and its relation to survival so all could understand the very nature of the discussion. Then I proceed to the many reasons why they should count themselves fortunate to attend in this rarely-offered session. The knowledge gained from their participation is a big advantage when dealing with calamities and disasters with which example is the 7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol in 2013.

If you are a native of Bohol, you would know your way around making a fire and the cooking that follow. But what if a typhoon of a magnitude like Haiyan (Yolanda) hit your place and you found yourself unprepared and all your cooking utensils swept away? That also goes with your matchsticks and lighters and everything dear to you.

Preparation is the key here and I have to teach the Boholanos another way to make a fire. But first, they would have to stock vital tools and grab it the first chance before they escape to safety. I show them how a Go Bag would look like and what are its contents. Then I emphasize why redundancies of certain items are the best practice.

Making a fire with matchsticks and lighters is easy in under favorable conditions. When tinder and kindling are wet and you are stressed, hungry and thirsty, you would surely waste matchsticks and gas; the same commodities that would be hard to find in an environment where people feel the same as you.

Elementary Firecraft simply teaches you to identify, collect and process better tinder and kindling than the ones you are familiar with. It also teaches you how to pair these primary fuel with a ferrocerium rod. The ferro rod, for as long as your tinder are dry, provide sparks in your whole lifetime and are impervious to water.

The novelty of making a fire by ferro rod increased the interest of the participants. All are taught how to properly scratch it and how to place it in relation to the combustible material. Even the dependents, as young as 5 years old, are able to produce sparks and then flame and it fattens the heart when they ask for more.  
My next topic is Knife Safety. It is not taught in classrooms but it is learned through experience which takes many years or maybe half of your lifetime. In their case now, what they learned are supplemented by this topic. Even more. Situations which they did not expect to happen are discussed and they prided themselves of learning so many in less than an hour. Which I know they would remember well in their hearts thereafter.

Rightly so, for I would not let people touch a knife in any of my class or workshop without undergoing this. Rightly so, for they would be using a knife for Survival Tool Making, a practical exercise on knife dexterity. But, first things first, I show them how to make an improvised bamboo cooking vessel, in my Trailhawk System style. Part of that is cooking rice in a different way.

Using sparks from a ferro rod, I produce a flame on a tinder and transferred this flame to more tinder and then kindling and, finally, to bigger fuel like firewood. I am attempting of cooking rice on bamboo. While the flame makes its work, with the constant watch of Jethro and Jon, I proceed to carve a spoon from bamboo.

Getting the hint, they would be making their own spoons but, we need to take noonbreak first. The participants go on their way to take theirs in a place they know while we four return to Aplaya to eat another free Barrio Fiesta meal. With just a few minutes of rest we go back to the lecture area.

A mother and her little daughter slept in the hammock and that helped. We wait for the rest of the participants until they are all here. I ask them if they could still remember how I carved a spoon. When I had affirmative answers I let them choose any knife they wished. The blades I have are for educational aids and I do not use it for any other purpose.

I leave them to the comforts of their own world but with constant supervision. The small boy join the spoon carving session and I guide his every stroke until a spoon is formed. It is so nice to see the face of the boy light up with a big smile as he proudly showed his spoon to his father. The adults also did good and finished theirs in much faster time than what it thought they would.

We almost forgot the rice that was cooked in bamboo. I do not worry about it. The rice is now ready for serving. The two snares I set up are now ready for demonstration. One is a pressure-trigger snare while the other is a tube snare and both are very efficient. The former does not need bait and could catch a foot no bigger than goat. The latter is good for snakes, lizards and monkeys.   

We finish before 15:00 and that gave us a lot of time to tidy up the place, collect our gear and proceed back to our accommodation hoping to steal a nap. We celebrated the day with a few cold bottles of beer on the poolside cafe. Just sitting there and be away from the heat is a blessing.

The cool airconditioned room and the soft bed upstairs beckoned me. Immediately, I fell in the spell of Lady Dreamtime. The bathroom could wait and I forgot everything until Jon woke me up. By that time it was already 18:30 and they are preparing for another dinner back to Aplaya. The bed would not let me go.

When I woke up a few minutes later, everyone had gone away. I hurriedly took a bath and proceed to the restaurant. It was still open but they reserved food for me, just in case. They know how to pick my favorites. There were still guests and we stay longer on our table. Jethro and Marianne decide to take a stroll on the beach for a swim. Romantic moments for them and we leave them to their privacy.

I take advantage of free WiFi and begin updating my Facebook with photos from Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort. Jon opts to return to the loft to find entertainment on TV. I stayed long enough at Aplaya until such time that the place is almost deserted. I look over the beach and found the couple sitting on separate divans.

Tomorrow, we would check out early after our last free breakfast and proceed to Tagbilaran City. Our boat tickets back to Cebu are already taken cared of. Meanwhile, I need to prepare for our departure and I followed Jon’s footsteps to the loft. Need to remove the clutter into my Mil-Tec and fully enjoy the comforts of Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer
Some photos courtesy of Jonathaniel Apurado

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