I checked my inbox this morning and found more emails expressing their interest and support for the Dune crysknife project. They came in towards the end of the week and my apologies if I wasn’t able to reply immediately because they came in while I was headed out to lead a climb up the third highest peak in the Philippines, Mt. Pulag.
Mt. Pulag is most popular for the majestic “sea of clouds”–clouds rippling like water beneath your feet at the summit, best viewed while the sun is rising. It’s also a great place to enjoy almost freezing temperatures, a rare experience for us in the tropics; a perfect getaway from the hot and crowded cities of Manila where I live. Most importantly the mountain is situated inside a Protected Landscape, one of the most biodiverse spots in the land and home to over 500 documented plant species, 33 birds and a number of endangered mammals. One of such rare animals is the Carpomys melanurus, one of the four species of Cloud Rats that live in the mossy forests. I have had the privilege of sighting one of these elusive creatures last year; I came across it while I was going up the trail where I found it in what I thought to be a ponderous state. It looked me over briefly, before disappearing.
It was a moment full of meaning at the time. To me it was like encountering the very animal Paul Atreides had asked to be named after: the hopping kangaroo mouse of the Arrakeen desert the Fremen called muad’dib. In Dune the kangaroo mouse is revered by the Fremen as an embodiment of a wise spirit that guides their people in the ways of desert survival. Encountering the creature reminded me that I was only a visitor in the place and the beings of the place were kind enough to open their home to us. I’ve climbed this mountain around 15 times over a decade and I’ve only encountered the Cloud Rat only once. This is why whenever I climb up this mountain I always keep my eyes open and try not to disturb the stillness of the forest in the hopes of sighting my personal muad’dib again.
Another reason why I had wanted to go up the mountain was because the place is revered as “the Playground of the Gods”. As I’ve said in the About page, I’ve named the whole endeavor of pursuing my passion for collecting toys and creating things Ginton Forge, after the metalworking god of the T’boli tribe in the Philippines. I made it my personal ritual this weekend to bring a crysknife up there, in the hallowed place of our indigenous tribes. 2,922 meters above sea level ought to be close enough to where the Big Ones Play. As I write this, I think it is a good idea to go south sometime this year to visit the T’boli and present their chief with a crysknife as an act of thanksgiving for the Ginton Forge’s progress. Now that would be a trip to look forward to!
During my climb I reflected on the journey to get to produce my first crysknife (the painted version is finally done and I will write about it soon) and I have nothing but gratitude for all the blessings and support people around me had given to this seemingly crazy project. Most people my age would rather focus on their office jobs and careers rather than spend their time in unconventional pursuits, like say, “toymaking”. I’ve certainly thought what I was doing was rubbish at some really difficult points in the whole project, like when three experimental rubber moulds failed, one after the other. But then again, here we are with a product I can finally be proud of. I have certainly learned a lot throughout the entire process, not only about the art of manipulating resin, but also about myself.
There is just so much to look forward to at this point. I’m already looking at Sky’s Spear from Hero as my next project after all the crysknives are done. Thank you for your support, everyone!
Next to reflective thought and thanksgiving, the other important thing I set out to do in this trip is play. This was one of the first things I promised myself when I began collecting figures (or what most people would call “toys”). The first figures I bought as an adult collector were a set of Metal Gear Solid figures by McFarlane Toys, which cost me a pretty penny since I purchased them in 2009, more than a decade after their initial release. I remember keeping them for months in their bubble card packaging in boxes in my closet to “preserve their value”. Then a major flood hit Manila that year and I realised that I could’ve perished without enjoying my “toys”. Since then I’ve made it a point to “play”–and relish tearing up that nice mint packaging while I’m at it.
After establishing camp and pitching our tents at the Mt. Pulag campsite, I donned my jacket and pretended it was a stillsuit, then tucked the sheathed knife into my pocket, Fremen style. Only dwarf grass and bamboo grew up in Pulag’s peaks so it was easy to imagine the landscape as rolling sand dunes. I stalked the camps, pretending I was a Fremen scout stalking some offworlder settlements in the sand dunes of Arrakis. I trudged around like this for as long as I thought that my girlfriend, who was taking pictures, could tolerate.
Anyway, it was a great weekend. But now I’m back, back to my task of getting a couple of Fremen their much awaited crysknives!