Saturday, March 16, 2019

BUSHCRAFT FOR ALL IN BLUEWATER PANGLAO

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

SINGLE-USE PLASTIC & THE RAINBOW WARRIOR

THE FLAGSHIP OF GREENPEACE – the legendary RAINBOW WARRIOR, docked today, March 13, 2019, at the Cebu International Port, Philippines. It is their first time in Cebu and they would be here until March 17th. The ship is on a global campaign against plastic pollution and they choose the Philippines as their first stop.

SHIP IT BACK!
PLASTIC SHIP TOUR: PHILIPPINES

The presence of the RAINBOW WARRIOR exerts pressure on the source of these fast-moving-consumer-goods which belonged to the big multinationals and Philippine corporations. These are the consumer single-use plastic that you buy everyday and are very cheap like sachets, bottles, straws, styropors, eating utensils, cups, gloves, stirrers and packaging or are part of the goods you buy like transparent plastic. 

Both are the greatest polluters in our oceans but the latter is the most dangerous for it will disintegrate into microscopic fibers after many years and becomes part of the diet of fishes and all other marine creatures. Ultimately, it goes through our system, invading our arteries and veins, the heart and the brain. That is alarming! 

 
It is time for action. The result of the brand audit activity taken from the recent Lahug Creek cleanup in Cebu City have identified the top three multinationals which own most of the FCMG. According to Ms. Beau Baconguis of Break Free from Plastic, Filipinos spend 59 billion pesos on FCMG a year with which volume would cover the whole island of Cebu under 33 millimeters of plastic.

A press conference was held on board the aft deck of the Greenpeace flagship and highlighted by the symbolic signing of the Declaration for a Cebu Free of Single-use Plastic by Greenpeace representatives; the Cebu Provincial Government, thru its offices of Tourism and the Environment and Natural Resources; Break Free from Plastic; 5 Pieces Daily Habits; the media; volunteers; activists; and other stakeholders.

Eventually, I affixed my internet nom de guerre – PinoyApache – on the life-sized document. There is no turning back for me. I am not a dedicated advocate against plastic use even though I am already practicing this personal aversion on plastic since the early ‘90s but I see a ray of hope that this menace called single-use plastic and its FCMG cousins would finally be rid from Cebu’s shores. Let us ship it back to where it belonged!

I consider myself fortunate to have the privilege of visiting on deck the RAINBOW WARRIOR which I have longed for many years. In fact, this is the second Greenpeace ship that I have had the honor of boarding, the first one being the ESPERANZA in September 2006 in the same Port of Cebu. My presence is anchored on the invitation as a blogger, representing Warrior Pilgrimage.

For those who do not know it yet, this is the third version of the RAINBOW WARRIOR. The first one was bombed by French agents in 1985 while docked in New Zealand and was towed to its watery grave to become an artificial reef. The second saw action in 1989 and was decommissioned in 2011. The first ship was mostly used against anti-whaling, anti-seal hunting and anti-nuke campaigns in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

This new ship is actually a yacht. It uses sails most of the time when cruising on the oceans and has electric propulsion powered by both wind and by internal combustion engine which the crew use when there are no breeze to fill the sails and when on docking and undocking maneuvers.

It has a state-of-the-art design pertaining to its masts which are made of aircraft aluminum A-frames. The two crow’s nests travel on vertical rails like an elevator and are powered by electric motors. It recycles and reuse its bilge and sewage through biological treatments and no waste water is dislodged to the sea. Capt. Pete Wilcox, who served both older ships, is the current master.

For the duration of the stay of crew and ship, there will be a SHIP IT BACK Campus Tour on March 14th at the University of San Jose-Recoletos Magallanes Campus in the morning and the University of Cebu Mandaue-Lapulapu Campus in the afternoon. A whole day activity is reserved for an open visit by community partners.

Then on March 15th and 16th, the ship is open for visits and tours. The first day there will be a Green Fair in the morning and a fund-raising mini concert by local artists is slated in the evening. On the second day, a special dinner on board the ship will be hosted by Greenpeace for its supporters and friends.

The fore deck of the ship, near the prow, there is a wooden image of a dolphin. It belonged to the first RAINBOW WARRIOR, the one damaged by state-sponsored terrorism. It reminds the present crew and visitors of the memory of the scuttled ship and its lone casualty, the photographer Fernando Pereira.  

On both portside and stayboardside, there is a colorful painting of a Kwakiutl Native American art, of Pacific Northwest origin, on the superstructure. It symbolizes harmony with nature. Lastly, a Cree prophecy says that “when the world is sick and dying, people will rise up like WARRIORS of the RAINBOW...

Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

THE TRAILHAWK JOURNEYS: Iloilo Wilderness Survival Class

THIS IS NO ORDINARY CROWD that I am facing today, April 7, 2018. This is the cream of the crop of Philippine mountaineering and the legends of the Philippine underworld. I should be intimidated, shaking with stage fright, but I feel nothing. Instead, I sense kinship with these guys as if I am on home ground.

The Iloilo Mountaineering Club (IMC) is one of the oldest mountaineering organizations in the Philippines. It was established in 1970 and became one of the original founding clubs that signed the charter of the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, now known as the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, Inc. (MFPI).

IMC is quite active despite their preference to be in an inactive status, for the time being, from the MFPI. In fact, they are in the midst of euphoria after they have finally completed the Panay Trilogy, a project that took them many decades to accomplish. This is their banner year and I could feel the energy of everyone flowing.

The Panay Trilogy is the crowning glory of IMC. It comprises Mount Madia-as, Mount Nangtud and Mount Baloi Daku, spanning all the four provinces of Panay Island. The final and successful expedition lasted 18 days and involved the entire club either as the exploration team, the four supply teams or the standby reserve team.

The Western Visayas Caving Association (WVCA) covers both Iloilo and Negros and was established in 1995. WVCA is one of the founding clubs of the Philippine Speleological Society (PSS). WVCA is very active in explorations, trainings, assessments and participation in the annual PSS Congress. Their strict adherence to caving safety, ethics and ecology protection created the benchmarks on how caves ought to be managed.

IMC and WVCA are feathers from the same parents. Their members could do both mountaineering and caving with ease. Credit that to the founding fathers who are all close friends like Vic Pison, Dodot Pison and Fred Tayo Jr. for IMC and Fred Jamili for WVCA. This is a great community of passionate people who love the outdoors.

Today is the first day of the Araw ng Kagitingan Wilderness Survival Camp which would end on April 9. All would sit and listen to me talk and discuss the BASIC WILDERNESS SURVIVAL COURSE. Most of these guys had been to the mountains for a long time and each could have personally collected their own knowledge about survival. This training would refine that and guide them to the best practices of survival.

I would be assisted by Ernie Salomon and Jonathaniel Apurado who both came all the way from Cebu with me. Carrying us here last night is Randy Salazar of IMC and WVCA, driving his Nissan Strada, and would probably also help me if I need his expertise. Then Derek Manuel of Derek’s Classic Blade Exchange would also have a part during the training. Together we represent the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.

After an opening address by Sir Vic, this blogger proceed to explain the purpose of the training. It is designed for tropical wilderness settings of dense jungles and rugged highlands, which I first offered to the mountaineering community in October 2013. It is open to all individuals or groups of any interests and purpose. The training is done inside a local resort of Alimodian, Iloilo.

The first chapter is Introduction to Survival. Survival situations demand that you stay tough after the initial impact. Mental stability and toughness are very important characteristics of a survivor. You must develop a survival mindset. Do not engage in prolonged mind games of fantasy and false hopes. You should rein in your mind so you would not release excess adrenaline and cause you more confusion in a very stringent moment.

The best thing to do is stay still and fill up your lungs with oxygene. Your brain needs it most to help you process thoughts. You are now in a high state of agitation and so does your brain. Your brain will be in hyper mode, collating and processing many thoughts all at the same time which is beyond human capacity. We can do so one thought at a time. Just stay still and breathe regularly, supplying your blood system with oxygene.

In the hierarchy of needs and of nutrition in a survival situation, water is always on the top of the scales of both. Rightly so, for we are in the tropics and humidity plays a big role. With that, we surrender perspiration by the acts of our exertions and by what the climatic conditions imposed on us. Along with the lost moisture, is our body heat which we let go without our knowing.

When you stay still in one place, you lessen wastage of moisture and body heat. Then you confine the latter by setting up a shelter (if you still have one) or make one from scratch. That is the second need. The third would be food then warmth. Although food, and even water, would give you warmth, but heat from a naked flame or from the rays of the sun or from a person’s body is solace. Last is security which would complement well with the rest.

Our body has four hypothetical storage tanks that need to be replenished from time to time during survival. First is constant rehydration that would offset dehydration. Second is food that would give you nutrients, carbohydrates and proteins. Third is sugar which is converted by enzymes for your adrenaline rush. Fourth is fat, hardest to find in the tropics yet are wrapped as tissues in our body.

The topic for the next chapter is about Water Sanitation and Hydration. The first chapter had mentioned the importance of water during survival. Water could be sourced from natural springs, water seeps, man-made water holes, flowing streams, the atmosphere and from plants. It could be refined through boiling, by chemicals, exposure to heat, through filtration and by desalination. It is wise to cache water in your survival camp or just travel early and take advantage of shady places and breeze if you happen to have less.

We move on to the third chapter which is about Knife Care and Safety. The knife is a tool and should not be used to what it was not designed for like digging holes and as pry bars. It is a vital piece of equipment that should be properly handled and cared for because it is your link to your surviving. In all my training, knife etiquette is learned first before you touch a knife, so as to lessen accidents.

Besides that, there is a knife law that forbids the display, even of concealed carrying, in public places unless you are in a lawful activity, which we are in right now. A knife should be in a sturdy sheath when travelling and should be unsheathed when at home to keep it from rust. There are many kinds of knives and it is important that you know the parts, blade shapes, grind styles and the tang designs. You must also learn how to field sharpen a knife.

During this moment, Derek added his specialty to the lecture by showing the participants the different shapes and the different grinds. Derek further illustrate with a graph what are the most popular and the best grinds and what are the tools to grind or hone an edge. He also discuss how a knife edge behave when being grounded and the best way to remove burrs.

I was able to finish three chapters in the morning and noonbreak is mandatory when the clock struck twelve. There is no cooking as food is prepared by the family-run resort. After lunch, the hammock is an inviting proposition and I sneaked into its comfortable grip for a quick nap. I needed the rest since I did not feel well and the participants would be handling knives later. Refreshed after 45 minutes of siesta, I continued with the activity.

After the much appreciated instructions about the knife in the morning, we moved on to Survival Tool Making. Using a tool is essential in survival or even when not in that situation. I showed them the most basic of tools like the digging stick, traps and snares from pieces bamboo that I prepared, and the batoning stick. I let each carve a spoon on bamboo to practice their dexterity with a knife while supervising the practical exercise.

Following this is the chapter on Notches. There are five basic notches that are used regularly in bushcraft. These are applicable in shelters, furniture and tools. Again, this is another exercise in knife dexterity but it can only be achieved with the use of another tool, the baton stick. On a single stick that served as an art canvas, each participant carved their five different notches, starting with the easiest up to the most complicated.

At the last hours of daylight, the first day lecture ends. We have accomplished much for the day, simply because we started at 09:00. After supper, the socials on Campfire Yarns and Storytelling proceed. The evening start with individual introductions and, fueled by moderate supply of alcoholic drinks, it metamorphosed into funny tales which progressed towards the scary ones as the night approach midnight.

The second day, April 8, start with Customizing the Survival Kit. It is better that survival kits are made from scratch than bought commercially because a survival kit’s size and its components depends upon the type of the activity you are indulging in and the kind of environment you are going to visit. Your personal preference still matters. The components should include the medical kit, the replenishment pouch, the repair kit and a small knife. It could all be integrated in one container and should be waterproofed.

At this juncture, Jonathan, Ernie, Randy and Derek lent their survival kits to the lecture. Each one describe the items and how it could complement with the other items with little ingenious hacks. The individual survival kits came in different sizes, which ranged from a kit which focused more on first aid and to another which is for everyday carry (EDC).

Next is Fire, Fuel and Campfire Safety. You cannot make a fire if one or all elements are not present, namely: fuel, heat and air. Lately, they added a fourth element – chemical reaction. Fire-making is 80% common sense, 10% skill and 10% perspiration. We are talking about the friction methods. Your fire can start if you can acquire and identify the right tinder, if you are in a dry place, and if you have the patience.

Aside from friction, there are the conventional methods which are matchsticks, lighters, ferro rods and the flint and steel. Then there is solar magnification which can be done with any lens, reading glasses, water and even ice. Then you have pressurized air, exemplified by the fire piston. I first give a demonstration of the flint and steel, which I paired with charclothe, and then with the ferro rod.

Everyone tried the flint-and-steel and the ferro rod but they were much successful with the latter, simply because it is much easy to achieve. Embers caught on soft fuel became instant flames and it was a smoke-filled mid-morning affair. Then I showed them how a tinder bundle is made. Popularly called as a “bird’s nest”, it is the material by which you transfer ember or a small flame so it would progress into a useful flame.. 

I start with the bow drill method and showed them how it is made and spun. Unfortunately, I could only make thick smoke as sawdust embers refused to light up my tinder. Humidity plays a big role here since it rained many minutes ago. I let others try the bowdrill. Three teams tried their best coaxed by morale-boosting chants but all to no avail. I tried with the bamboo method but I also failed until Randy came at the right moment and saved the day.

Noonbreak came but there is no meal prepared. Everyone is on fasting. It is part of the training. Everyone will have to experience the pangs of hunger during survival situations. When you are hungry, you get irritated by the humidity, the warmth, the uncomfortable position, crawling insects and you tend to be sleepy. Fighting off that demands great concentration and will power. All will avail of food right after the fruits of their night foraging later.

After a one-hour siesta, the participants go back to listen to the next topic which is about Foraging and Plant Identification. Foraging food in the wilderness or on unfamiliar terrain can be very taxing to the mind. When you are stressed and hungry, you tend to remove all caution. Looks can be very deceiving in the tropics like fruits, leaves, nuts, roots, flowers and mushrooms. Likewise, you need to evade harmful plants while travelling your way in a jungle.

Short term food would be grub, tree snails, fresh-water shrimps and crabs and frogs. These can be picked by hand. Cook it if you must to remove parasites and bacteria. Long term foods are meat from mammals, fish, birds and reptiles. For that, you must use a weapon or traps and snares. Traps could be anything designed to lure prey into a simple contraption of a hollow bamboo or a dam of rocks. It must work with the terrain, with gravity and the habits of creatures, including its anatomy design.

Snares are more complex. It has a spring-and-trigger mechanism which would be initiated by the prey. Showed the students a very common snare employing a pressure-trigger mechanism. It could catch anything from birds to goats. Another is a tube snare. You must use bait so prey would be lured to set it off. A single trap or a single snare would not yield you a catch but a trap line of 20 to 30 of these, after ascertaining where prey would most likely pass or visit.

Related to these is the chapter on Food Preservation and Cooking. If you can eat a deer all in one setting, well and good. You are very fortunate to still possess a healthy appetite. Meat rots in a short span of time. During survival, meat can be preserved and its edibility can be extended for a few more hours to several months. You can boil it. You can dry it. You can smoke it. Or you can cook it with its own oil from its fat.

Fish can be preserved by drying and by smoking. Fruits can be digested after a drying session and provide you natural sugar. Common rootcrops has high starch value and should be cooked, by all means possible, to remove toxins. Famine crops need to be immersed in running water for five days before cooking. Salt and vinegar are good food preservatives. Vinegar can be sourced from any palm.

Since there is still a few hours of daylight, I collected bamboo poles and teach them how to create an improvised cooking vessel, specifically designed to cook anything save frying with oil. I employ my Trailhawk System for this which also includes how rice is cooked, which is so different from the rest of the country. It is a Visayan technique which finds its origin in cooking milled corn.

 
After assigning them into seven groups of six persons each, the participants begin the process of making bamboo cooking vessels and, as a community; they use one firepit to cook all seven bamboos in a line. Everyone lend their hands for their group by feeding more firewood or peering into the chamber to observe the tell-tale bubbles. I leave them to their devices and seek out the comfort of my hammock. I am so tired. 

When I receive news that the rice is all cooked, we proceed with Nocturnal Hunting. There is an assigned area for this and all would hike in darkness with headlights and hand torch looking for edible tree snails. After an hour, each group returned empty-handed. There is not much left. I was hoping even though our camp is near human habitations. I later found out that the area is a man-made forest of introduced trees which no indigenous fauna would make home.

Anyway, the catering service provided Plan B and everybody made amends with their hungry stomachs while half of them made many trips to the buffet table. A campfire is lighted up early by the youngsters when we went foraging leaving us with just a few firewood to start another Campfire Yarns and Storytelling. We decide to ditch this night activity so all could sleep early and recover from the torture of a hungry day.

The final day, April 9, is the one marked as an official holiday. Before, it commemorates the Fall of Bataan, and was named as Bataan Day. Then they changed that to Araw ng Kagitingan, which is “Day of Courage” if you translate it into English. To honor our fallen heroes, we raise the Philippine Flag and sing the National Hymn. We follow it up with the Oath to Flag and Country.

After the formalities, the Blade Porn begins. I have never seen so many blades before when I started my bushcraft camps eight years ago. The whole of Panay, comprising the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique produce their own distinctive battle and utility blades which are laid before me side-by-side with branded blades and those from other regions. It filled to the brim one 8-ft. by 8-ft. laminated nylon sheet and needed another sheet to accommodate more. It is a collector’s delight.

I have to finish the rest of the topics and proceed with Navigation and Understanding Trails. This is more on traditional navigation which use the natural terrain, shadows and the sky fixtures for travel; avoiding obstacles and exposed areas; and knowing how to identify signs on trails made by both animals and humans.

Following that is Understanding Cold Weather. During survival, exposure to the elements is expected. There are five physical mechanisms that steal away body heat and the things that we should do to keep us constantly warm.

Last topic is Outdoors Common Sense. This is based from my yet unpublished book, ETHICAL BUSHCRAFT. It is about trail courtesy and behavior while on the trail; choosing the best campsites; practicing stealth camping; increasing individual safety and security; wildlife encounters; and introduce people to the idea of Blend, Adapt and Improvise.

After the training, there is the giving of training certificates for the participants and the certificate of appreciation for me, Randy, Derek, Jonathan and Ernie. Then the most awaited part, the giveaways, is raffled off to the participants. At the top of the ladder is a beautiful Schrade knife, courtesy of Classic Blade Exchange. Then you have more ESEE knives, Marbles Arkansas stones, survival items by SOL and UST from CBX.

More blade giveaways came from the Knifemaker of Mandaue City and locally-made blades courtesy of Filipino Traditional Blades begun to find new owners, as well as camping and hiking accessories from Silangan Outdoor Equipment and from PAC Gear. This is the highlight of the day and, after lunch, everyone break camp and made it to their cars and pickups. 

I have a long day ahead tomorrow with Randy, Ernie and Jonathan but it would be another adventure and another article, perhaps. My grandfather’s journey came full circle as I delivered the survival instructions for IMC and WVCA, which I came to understand was the most I handled in my many years teaching this. I counted and signed 49 certificates.

Oh, I almost forgot. My grandfather taught me these skills when I was 6 years old until I was 8. He was from Lambunao, Iloilo. He left his hometown when he was 12 on a one-way trip to Cebu. He lived by his own wits there and almost fought in Europe during World War I as a Philippine Scout; he became a three-term municipal councilor, a lawyer, started a family, a professor and survived World War II as a most-wanted guerrilla officer in Bohol.

I cut my teeth under him. He is no other than the late Gervasio Lavilles, the wellspring that made Cebu a Chartered City. It is an honor to impart what I learned from him back to his native soil. It came at a most appropriate time, Araw ng Kagitingan. He was an unsung hero. 
Document done in LibreOffice 5.3 Writer
Photos courtesy of JM Alabe Mejorada of IMC/WVCA