MAY 26 (CONT’)
I hustled home in the rain with the intentions of watching True Lies with a mound of junk food to keep me company. The rain ended easing up the moment I arrived home and since there was a break in the clouds, I took the opportunity to read a couple chapters from Brave New World Revisited in the sun. But the junk food beckoned and I retreated back to my room to crank out the testosterone. I’d picked up some Chippy corn chips and garlic chichacorn, and gave into a craving for real chocolate; I found a package of M&M’s, manufactured in China, for 45 pesos ($1 Canadian). It’s on the much pricier end of snack foods but I really wanted the taste of real chocolate. Anyways, thank you Lachlan for the recommendation because True Lies totally kicked ass. Can I just say that James Cameron pulls out all the stops whenever he makes a film? Seriously, the man just has to push it as far as his budget can go. And the special effects were super slick for a 1994 film. I think it ranks as one of my favourite action films just cuz I loved Jamie Lee Curtis and Ahnold in their roles, Bill Paxton was awesome, it had me laughing and crying to the end, and I was thoroughly entertained for every minute of the one hundred and forty there are in the film. It might have been the sugar or it could have been the adrenaline, but there were several moments in which I raised my fists in salute to the epicness of the situation. OK, enough gushing – the caves finally come tomorrow. Mom reminded me not to go alone, and of course I wouldn’t do something like that. I realize that I only have about 5 more days left in Sagada so I need to plan to do something for every remaining day. I’m thinking the hot springs, the underground river, Bokong Falls, and one more time to Bomodok. I need to visit the Lemon Pie House and the Yoghurt House once more too!
Oh, and for dessert after dinner tonight, I had some of the yummiest pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted. One of the neighbours had made it, and I think the reason it tastes so darn good is because the pumpkin used to make it is completely organic. It’s the same with the lemon and blueberry pies – organic sugar, organic fruit. Sorry Auntie Carol, but it just might be better than yours.
Today was my first full day back in Sagada. I couldn’t fall asleep til 2 AM which is the latest I’ve been able to stay up while here, and so I didn’t wake until 10.30 the next morning. I woke up to the sound of hammers and an electric saw; Uncle Lope is working on finishing his house, located right across the way from my bedroom window. I said hello once more to the hot shower then proceeded to laundering a week’s worth of outfits. By the time I finished, it was lunchtime. Lolo had just awoken and Lola Cecilia had just finished her meal so I lunched with him. Gatay/Arce had arrived over the weekend and she came over to the house along with Linay. The first words from my mouth when seeing here were, “Hello!” followed by, “You’re so big!” Her response: “You’re big too!” We walked into town together and I separated from she and Linay as I needed to get in contact with Mom and Pops.
So, Dad doesn’t know how to use Skype. I hope he’s able to figure it out for tomorrow. We exchanged a couple emails instead and I worked at addressing the birthday wishes on my Facebook wall. A belated thank you to all for the wishes! And I’m honestly surprised that more than a few people have been reading my travel journals, if only at on/off intervals. Thank you for your interest, kind folks! It’s nice to know there are those other than my mother that are mildly interested in my travels. Following the internet café I went to the Traveler’s Inn to see if Am-Aw/Amy (I’m still getting used to their English names!) had arrived from Manila. She hadn’t, but Arce and I had a nice talk over coffee (Kopiko makes a powder sachet that contains your instant coffee, sugar, powdered milk, and creamer all in one go), cinnamon buns, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol on TV (in the middle of summer!) We talked about things like school and relationships and the sort. She decided to study nursing after trying pharmacy for a bit and realized that her passion lay in helping her fellow kababayan. She’s thinking of working abroad (perhaps to Saudi Arabia) and making money before returning to the Philippines and eventually studying medicine. Apparently there are those in the barrios who are in critical need of medical attention and it’s a calling of hers, as she described it, to one day open up her own practice or even travel from patient to patient. The problem is, she said, is that, as is the case, tuition is too expensive. What surprised me is how much they actually pay in comparison to how much I pay in Vancouver. One term, she said, costs about 40 000 pesos; that’s the equivalent of about 10 000 dollars Canadian, almost double my tuition for an entire year’s worth of school. It’s difficult for her to work part time while going to school as well since, as part of her nursing course, she’s required to participate in duties outside of class time and they run on an ever changing schedule. She had just arrived in Sagada for a couple weeks’ vacation and then school begins again in the first week of June. Life as a student is so much more difficult here than it is in Vancouver; I’m lucky. I am glad, though, that we’re both taking the opportunity to study something that we’re passionate about.
I agree, pandas are cute. If I spot a beanie like the one you’re looking for in Van, I’ll let you know!
Good taste is my specialty. And Australia is not a matter of will but a matter of when!
That’s a good idea, thanks for that.
MAY 15 (CONT)
Dad caught the 11 AM bus to Baguio. He just kinda ran off – “here, give me a hug. Okay you take care,” and he was gone! I talked with Uncle Lope and Auntie Julia for a bit about my plans for the rest of my time in the Philippines. I talked with Auntie Julia about schooling and Arthur and my plans for when I’m back in Vancouver. Finish schooling first, then children. And no, eight children is too many. Three at the most is what I’d be comfortable with, sorry. We talked briefly about boyfriends, then I went with Boksit, Yawe, and Linay to a wedding that was happening in a nearby village. We got there just as they were to serve lunch. Boksit told me that they had butchered 21 pigs for the occasion because the entire barangay (community) was invited to partake in the celebration. I’d forgotten how they served the food to large groups, and then I saw the lines forming. The food in a plastic baggie trick! Takes me back to when I was first in the Philippines during Mom and Dad’s wedding vow renewal celebration.
After we gathered some food, we walked up to a Lola’s house (I forgot her name… I’m so bad with names here.) We ate our food there, and she had a large wood and string contraption used for weaving the patterns that are used by Sagada Weaving. She demonstrated how she used the machine and it`s really laborious work. All the threads are separated by strings that are attached to hanging bars and you arrange the bars to create the certain arrangement of thread that you need. Each row of thread is woven in by using a foot pedal to move the hanging bars forward and then you need to push out and pull in with your arms. It’s really hard for me to explain so I took a video that will much properly suffice instead. It’s a crazy job but somebody has to do it!
Last night we had company over for dinner before Dad goes back to Vancouver. He had cooked a lot of food: there was pinikpikan (salty chicken soup), adobo (pork cooked in vinegar and soy sauce), chocolate meat (the “chocolate” is pork blood), and polutan (barbecued pork belly – my favourite pork meat). Thing is I was with him at the market when he bought the meat and I couldn’t watch him cuz just the sight of the pig’s head and skin and blood made my stomach turn. Same thing when I came home – I go over to see what he’s cooking and the pan is full of raw animal bits, bone and everything. Lost my appetite. I’m a mild meat eater, I guess. I really can’t take the sight of meat in its true form; I’m okay with the grocery store versions in their lean, trim, packaged glory. Yeah, at dinner time the only meat I could bring myself to eat was the pork belly despite how tasty I knew everything else was. I just couldn’t stomach putting a chicken foot in my mouth. I would fail at Fear Factor, I’ll tell you that.
The little cousins came over and I was made aware of their presence when they came running up the stairs yelling “Manang May! Manang May!” Again, the first thing Vina Rose said to me was, “Where’s your camera?” A couple things I learned while watching over them for a bit: Sitol needs to learn how to share. He’s in his terrible twos and he kept playing over by the fireplace/barbeque and didn’t like to share his stool or the tongs that he was playing with. It’s funny trying to communicate with him as he doesn’t speak English but that’s the only way I know how to talk to him, and then he imitates only certain phrases, like “Oh my gosh!” He’s still the cutest thing ever, which makes it hard for me to take the sticks away from him when he looks at me with those big, brown, long lashed eyes. Also, maybe it’s just me, but I think the younger ones need to learn a few manners. I don’t intend that in a mean way, but it would help to say please and thank you when asking for things. Boksit Jr is pretty darn shy, which doesn’t help me much cuz I’m just as shy, even with family. It was weird cuz Dad and the aunties would be talking in front of both of us about how we should talk about things, and we didn’t end up talking to each other at all. Oh well, there’s always another time for that. Oh, and he looks so much like Uncle Russell, I can’t shake it.
I also had a much better taste of Filipino television programming. The commercials! It’s funny cuz I’ll recognize a jingle or a catchphrase and it’ll be for a differently named product, though I’m sure they’re all under the same parent company. And it’s interesting to compare how they market to a Filipino audience as opposed to a North American audience. Watched a bit of the Filipino Price is Right – watching Filipinos cheer is pretty funny. And there was a show about a boy whose skin had turned to chocolate, then a drama where one character died and the other characters were crying at the funeral (I laughed… because the acting was soooo bad…) Then there was Pilipinas Got Talent – why does it seem like Tagalogs are some of the most excitable people on this planet? It was a long night, and I ended up getting light headed and dizzy again for no apparent reason. I had to take a break from the company and nap for a few minutes. Dad checked my blood pressure and it was a little low but mostly normal, but my heart rate was elevated. No more pop for you, said Auntie Sattie. I can’t help that it’s so much easier to find than clean drinking water!
Today Dad leaves for Manila and tomorrow I leave Sagada for Lacma-an to stay with Mom’s side of the family for a week. We’ll be heading into town soon so he can catch the jeep to Baguio where he’ll stay overnight, then go to Manila the next day. I’ve inherited the dinky cellphone so I can keep in contact with the relatives. I’ll be staying in Lacma-an until next Sunday and then I’ll come back to Sagada and hopefully Gat-ay and Am-aw will be back from summer school. I’ll stay in Sagada for another week or so before heading down to Baguio with Uncle Topher and Manang Pinky. Manang Pinky told me that they’re planning a trip to the beach on June 4 so I’ll arrive before that so I can join them. Then, when it comes to going from Baguio to Manila, I’ll have to talk to Am-aw and if she’s headed back to school around the same time as my flight then I can go with her. Otherwise we’ll have to find someone who can meet me in Baguio and take me to the airport. That’s that! Since I don’t think there are many internet cafes in Lacma-an, I’m about to go full on internet-less for a week! I’ve done it before, I can do it again!
DAY 10 – MAY 8
After the internet café, I met up with Dad and he was supposed to take me for ice cream. Unfortunately the Masferre restaurant was closed so I suggested we try the Kimchi House. Their menu wasn’t all that great – standard Filipino food plus kimchi dishes, and it was expensive. So we went to the Yoghurt House again. I have a feeling I’m going to become a regular there – I’ve been 3 times already in the week I’ve been in Sagada. Plus Tambay works there – turns out it’s her mother’s business. Dad just had beer but I was hungry and wanted to try their sweet potato fries and a tuna and cheese pasta dish. The sweet potato fries aren’t like the yam fries in Canada; here, they’re actual wedges of deep fried sweet potato. Apparently this is what Dad ate all the time when he was young, and when I asked if he wanted any, he replied with a no. “When you ate it all the time growing up, you don’t really want to eat it again.” The pasta was also good, but the thing is though it tasted yummy, it didn’t look or smell that appetizing. Think of the combo: tuna fish, cheese, and banana ketchup in the sauce. Yeah… no. I took a peek at the resto’s guestbooks and they date all the way back to 2004. A lot of people come through this town and it was cool to have it represented in messages and memories. I want to sign the guestbook myself before I leave Sagada. When we left we talked with Tambay and she suggested we go walk to see the sunrise at Kiltipan, which is only about a 10 minute walk from where we’re living. There are also the wild horses about 3 hours hike away at what’s called Marlboro Country. I love that name – it’s so representative of the American western influence that the Sagada people love.
Afterwards Dad and I went to Auntie Julia’s to try and figure out the cell phone situation. We’d bought a super old cellphone in Baguio for temporary use while we’re here. It’s so old the screen is in black and white. Thing is, the navigation is so ancient that it’s actually difficult to use. Well, that’s the case for Dad at least. I, on the other hand, achieved a score of Snake Master on, what else, Snake. And I managed to seek out those toques that have “Sagada” knitted across the brim from one of the souvenir shops! They’re the “old style” souvenirs – nowadays everyone carries the toques with a Sagada patch instead because it’s cheaper to produce than knitting it on. There was only one colour left and they’re a bit small, but I’ll stretch it out with my big head, no worries. Dad ran into a yogi whose been practicing in Sagada for 8 months now but was one of those people that went off to East Asia to train. Dad’s thinking of checking him out since he’s gotten so into yoga lately. Visited Grandma’s shop too and we discussed how delicious the pop is here compared to in Canada, especially in those lovely glass bottles. They have 1 L Coke glass bottles here! I swear the Coke tastes better, and Royal Tru-Orange is the best. I will miss it. Grandma also mentioned at dinner how it’s harder for her to understand my English. Must be because she’s accustomed to an American accent since it was the Americans that first made their way into town. I never realize I even have a Canadian accent til I speak to an American, so it was funny and interesting for her to mention this.
Today was the first day here that it rained all day. We’re still planning on going to Echo Valley tomorrow, but I’m not sure about the plans for the rest of the week since Dad now wants to go to the wedding and he leaves Sagada on Saturday to head back home. I don’t like not knowing what’s going on, so I hope we sort out what’s going to happen for the rest of the week and for when he leaves soon. He told me not to take any packages back with me that people want to send to family in Canada (pao-it). Letters and trinkets are fine as long as I know what’s being sent. He just doesn’t want me to be hassled by customs and immigration, and I agree – one of my fears is being hassled by airport security. That’s why I don’t think I can fly into the United States anytime soon… scans and such make me feel so violated. Anyways, we also hopped past Sagada Weaving on our way back from town and ran into the man whose family owns the establishment. He’s been contacted by someone interested in opening up a Sagada Weaving on Granville Island which I think is a wonderful idea. I really do love their products and the style of weaving is so unique that it’s immediately identifiable as belonging to the Cordilleras. Thing is, he wants to keep it with Igorots if possible (the person who contacted him is Chinese) and he wants to visit Vancouver to check out the place himself, if his visa comes through. I think it would be successful, hoping that their location on the island allows for a good percentage of the foot traffic. Dad mentioned that it was Nandas that first started the weaving industry for Sagada and expanded internationally – turns out it’s part of the family too as she is Grandpa’s cousin. There’s also Easter Weaving who does the suits and blazers and vests in that weaving style; I remember having a woven suit when I was younger which I’m sure no longer fits. Right now, I just want that lovely black woven backpack. So many wants! Oh dear.
DAY 11-12 – MAY 9/10
No Echo Valley for us! A typhoon rolled in from the south yesterday and we’re still feeling the tail end of it, so it’s been wind and heavy rain for the last two days. It’s like I’m in Vancouver again! I asked Dad what people do when it rains, and he answered, they stay indoors. And don’t do much. So really, I don’t have anything to report on. We’re headed to town soon to use the internet and so I can post a card. I think the rain is letting up. Hopefully we have time to fit in the caves and Echo Valley before Dad leaves on Saturday.
Just got back from town. After the internet café Dad suggested we check out the St Joseph Inn and Restaurant since we’d seen it mentioned in the Mabuhay magazine on the plane ride over. We walked up and it’s a lovely establishment with a beautiful garden that would’ve been much nicer on a sunny day. We had a couple beers (they brought me out a light beer at first – Dad said, “They assume cuz you’re a woman you want the light beer) and talked about the NHL playoffs. What a thing to talk about while in the Philippines, huh. He said that St Joseph’s used to be an orphanage, as well as a Japanese garrison during WWII. We also ended up talking about the concept of tipping since I noticed that no tip is really expected in the restos here. It’s weird since I’m so used to tipping – I always do it unless the service is absolutely horrid. But Dad wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t such a societal norm – he’d much rather give money to those begging for it. His argument was that people have a choice to enter that sort of service industry, and if your wages also depend on tips and you don’t receive a certain amount, don’t get into that industry. I realized that I drink more beer here than I do in Vancouver, mostly because it’s so darned cheap. Gotta watch myself, I really don’t want a beer belly (though the high accessibility of beer does explain why most men here have a beer gut.) We stopped by Auntie Julia’s shop to borrow their Scrabble set – I’m gonna try and whoop Dad’s ass tonight. Ended up loading up on junk food too. Their junk food here is so good… I think it’s the MSG in the seasoning. Of course, it’s absolutely horrid for you (saturated fats!!!) but I want to try everything. My only complaint is the lack of real chocolate. I miss chocolate so bad, haha. The rain has stopped and so hopefully we can finally go out tomorrow. Dad doesn’t want to go to the caves because he has a bad feeling about them… he had a bad dream, he said, and he isn’t confident in their safety. He refuses to go and says that I can make arrangements with my cousins to go later if I still insist. I do insist – as long as it doesn’t turn into a 127 Hours type situation. And no flash floods – apparently a tourist and a guide had died in the caves due to that happening. But if they were so dangerous, why would so many tourists pass through them each year unharmed?
DAY 13 – MAY 11
A sunny day! Slept in again today, I think my poor sleeping habits are catching up to me. Did my laundry – handwashing is an exercise, seriously – while Dad the handyman built a ladder. Then we headed into town and ended up checking out the Ganduyan Museum. The woman who owns it (I forgot her name!) is a lovely old soul who knows our family. She began collecting all sorts of Igorot artefacts since the 70s and gave a very knowledgeable tour of her collection. It was fascinating. There were the women’s beads, and back then beads were equal to currency so women took them everywhere they went. The more beads you had, the more prosperous you were. Most of the beads were not native to Sagada because they had come about in trading, but there were necklages also made of dog’s teeth and wild banana seeds. She had the men’s necklaces made of alligator teeth (believed to give them strength) and armlets and leg bracelets made of boar tusks and metal (the longer the metal rings, the more prosperous you are.) She had different examples of woven clothing for the rich and the poor man – a poor man’s blanket would take a few days to weave, while a rich man’s blanket would take 20-30 days to produce. Nowadays, she said, people dress in whatever they can afford, but in death must remember their lineage as the proper burial ceremonial rituals must be observed. There were even tiny stools that would also serve as a pillow and, when turned over, a chopping board. Traditional Igorot houses were very small, hence the tiny stools and tiny tables, and everything would be covered in soot (because of the wood burning stoves) and no one would care. She showed us the communal bowl at dinnertime, and because there was only a small well before the government or missionaries introduced other sources of water, water was scarce. So instead of washing the bowl after dinner, they would just turn it upside down and have the cockroaches clean out the inside. She showed us the gongs and traditional weaponry, and there was even a gong whose handle was a human jaw. Igorots are traditional headhunters! I knew that before, but I didn’t know how recent the trend had continued. Dad told me how he had handled a huge gong up near Bangaan whose handle was the skull of a Japanese man, so headhunting was definitely still a trend into at least the 1940s. And I learned of the importance of gecko, which is a symbol I had noticed on several occasions. It’s believed to bring prosperity and good health. There were the different stoneware containers used to keep tapey (rice wine) and even etag (smoked meat.) She told us how back then, once sealed, the meat could keep for years, but that’s not possible anymore because of the quality of the meat. Back then, pigs were only fed organic feed but now feeds are processed and there are hybrid pigs and the like, so while we still make etag (mmm so good) it doesn’t keep for as long. It was also interesting to see the influence that trade and colonization had upon the goods – for example, the Spaniards had introduced a round standing table which the Igorots adapted into a smaller version for their homes. There were also Chinese and Spanish wares, and a very cool “Speak No Evil, See No Evil, Hear No Evil” fixture made from monkey skulls.
She had become ill with ovarian cancer and so she turned her attention to different artistic endeavours. She showed us her beading work and wow, it was amazingly intricate. Then she had her pottery, and she had the initiative to take the pottery out of the workshop where she had learned it and worked on it from home. She etched her claywork in the style of the traditional woven rattan baskets and even included the beads and gecko symbolism. Auntie Julia later told us that the claywork had helped in her healing process from cancer, as working with the clay was therapeutic. We talked with her afterwards because she knew who we were and reprimanded Mom and Dad for being lazy since only Art and I were born. Igorots have lots of children, she said. I noticed! She also approved of my studying theatre; Igorots are natural performers, she said, and have artistic inclinations. Look at herself, she said, and yes, her work with beading and pottery and also sketching and watercolours was pretty awesome.
I know that we have our own collection of Igorot artefacts at home, like the shields, spears, head axe, woven baskets, and ceremonial jewellery. I asked Dad about them, and he said that a majority of those are modern reproductions. They still used real boar tusk and alligator teeth, but it’s unlike the bones and teeth we saw in her collection. I asked Dad where one could purchase these goods and he said mostly in Baguio. Her collection was made up mostly of antiques that you can’t find for sale anywhere really. Dad mentioned how when traders came up to Sagada, a lot of the older goods would be looted and sold elsewhere, like stoneware being stolen from the dap-ays. The shields we have were made by Auntie Christy’s brother, he said, but the spears are from Grandpa’s own collection. I sometimes feel like our house is a museum the way we have our roots on display for anyone to see – like with our fireplace, you have the shields, spears, head axe, head gear and arm wear, and Lakay Kabayo’s Masferre photograph displayed so beautifully. I’m proud of it, and I asked Dad if I could inherit the collection when he dies. He said, why do you have to wait til I die? Sure, I’ll be glad to take it once I have a place of my own!
Afterwards Dad was taking a look at Tshirt designs to take home as souvenirs. Now I understand the symbolism of the gecko as well as the heavy gold earring that was once popular with the elders. Stretched earlobes were a big thing back then, something I noticed too when flipping through Masferre’s photographs. Thing is, all the shops sell the same Tshirt designs so it’s really about choosing whose store you want to patron. We headed to Auntie Julia’s to hang out for a bit and we stayed till dark. Auntie Julia said I should stay with them after Dad left, but of course I’d have to help out with things like cooking. One problem – I don’t cook. I said that I could cook eggs and pasta, but that was pretty much it. I don’t even know how to clean a fish cuz all the fish I cook is in the form of a frozen filet, and no one ever taught me how to clean one anyways. Auntie and Dad talked about family reunions – it’s seriously such a hot topic – and also about how it was important for me to come back and see where I come from while I’m still young but also old enough to understand. It really is an interesting experience, and it’s not like I’m totally clueless as Mom and Dad had taught us some things while I’m young. I even know more about Igorot culture than I do about Philippine culture in general – honestly, I’m only learning about Tagalog food and culture now that I’m part of Kaba and have more Filipino friends. But I’m still learning, and I want to be able to tell my children about this too, so I’m glad that my parents are insistent about me learning about my lineage and my history. You’re Canadian, Dad said, but you’re also Igorot. Also, I just found out today that Igorot means “people of the mountains” or something along that line. There is to be a renewal of wedding vows happening in town next week which is a traditional ceremony that Dad suggested I observe. I remember how Mom and Dad did the same thing back in Lacma-an when I came to the Philippines the first time in 2001, but Dad said sometimes they have 5 or more couples undergo the ritual at the same time. He also said there’s what’s called a dang-tey which is held every 10 years, and it’s like a homecoming where people from abroad come home just to attend the ceremony.
Anyways, we walked back and brought the dog back with us. Grandpa has 3 dogs – a mom, a pup, and male dog. The male loves to travel around town and visits the shop often. Once he even fell asleep inside the shop and ended up being locked in. But there’s an ordinance against dogs roaming around on the streets in an effort to prevent the spread of rabies, so we had to take him home. He’s a good dog (though he has fleas!) and it’s like I have a pet (almost.) He’s a free spirit, Dad says, and that’s why he doesn’t like to keep a pet while in Vancouver because he doesn’t like the thought of restraining an animal that by its own nature should be free to roam and explore as he or she pleases. As we walked back, though, the streets were riddled with bugs. If you looked up at the streetlight, there would be a thick swarm of those winged termites and I would freak out every time one of them would fly into me or into my hair. They’d be all over the ground too, and these were the bugs that Dad used to eat for protein when he was young. If you tried them when they were cooked and you didn’t know what they were, you would think they were delicious, he said. No. Way. I can’t stand bugs on my body or even in my vicinity, it freaks me the eff out. I don’t want to walk back after dark again! The moon was crazy bright though – you could see your own shadow under the moonlight. I just need to avoid bright lights so I can bypass those damn bugs.
Tomorrow we’re off to Echo Valley (finally) and then Friday we’ll visit Bokong Falls. Saturday we’re going to have a feast of sorts with the Aunties from Lacmaan coming to visit, and Dad invited all sorts of friends and family in Sagada to the house for dinner because he leaves on Sunday to catch his Monday flight. We plan on picking up the things to bring back on Friday, and then I need to co-ordinate with the relatives to find out what I’m going to be up to for the four weeks after he leaves.
DAY 14 – MAY 12
Soooo we didn’t end up going to Echo Valley. I woke up early for once and went down for breakfast and turns out Auntie Sattie was going to be dropping by. She came with the Uncles and the little cousins and Grandma. The first thing Vina Rose said to me was “Where’s your camera?” I brought out my laptop to show them photos from our trip so far, as well as other pictures I had on my computer like the Besao New Year’s and Sam’s wedding. They were surprised at how big Art had grown, especially with his bald head and blossoming moustache. Lisa and Vina Rose are awesome girls. Dad asked me to go the shop to buy treats and they came with, and the shop lady asked me if they were my sisters. Nope, but it’s kinda cool feeling like I do have two younger sisters. We lunched and the Cartoon Network kept them rapt during mealtime. Afterwards we played around the grounds a bit. They’re really into plants and flowers and the like, and there are some really cool plants around here. There’s a flower whose bud, when you squeeze it, curls up into this clamp and pops its seeds out. And they know the different types of grasses and plants and what they’re used for and how they smell. It’s crazy cool how all this stuff grows right in the backyard. Man, I am way too old for all this running around – I couldn’t even sit cross legged for a prolonged period. The clouds started rolling in and you could hear the thunder coming. Now it’s raining like crazy and there’s even lightning. They went back to Lacma-an and we’ll be seeing them all again on Saturday. Dad and I were supposed to go out and clean up some place after they left but it looks like that’s not happening due to the weather. He keeps putting off Echo Valley – now we’re to go tomorrow and also go to Bokong Falls. I don’t know if we’ll have the time, especially since he still has to shop around for the things to bring back to Vancouver. And I’m feeling strange – I’m feeling dizzy and a little light headed and so tired even though I didn’t do much at all today. I hope I’m not getting sick. After Dad leaves on Sunday, I think I’ll go to Lacma-an, stay for a week, then come back when the girls arrive from down south. Then we can arrange time to see the caves and all that. I just hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow so we can actually get some of this hiking done!
DAY 15 – MAY 13
Yeah, I’m sick. Didn’t eat dinner last night cuz of major ugly cramps, then couldn’t sleep cuz of a fever and flu. Woke up this morning feeling a bit better but Dad said I felt hot. Uncle Lope’s back in Sagada and he was giving a pottery demo up at his studio. Tour guides had brought in some tourists from Manila to see his work and how he did it, so Dad called me up to go see as well. I took a look at his studio and his finished works – they’re really cool. Dad showed me the two pots that he wanted, and I want a teapot and set of teacups too. Uncle Lope showed me how they prep the dough by kneading it to remove air bubbles and make it not too hard, not too soft. Then he took me to his wheel which is run by leg power instead of electricity, which is more efficient here. He demonstrated how to begin with the most basic shape of the cylinder, then moved onto creating a small pot. After it’s shaped how you like it, you let it sit for about 3 days til it’s leather hard, then you work the bottom of the pot, let it dry to rock hard, then take it to the oven. Dad used to do a bit of pottery too, so we played around with the clay for a bit. I wanted to try and make a pipe but failed epicly. Since it’s right by the house I can always play around as long as I put the clay away after I use it. When stored correctly it can last for months. Dad was saying that collectors usually look at the works that have quirks in the glazing and the moulding which makes them more unique. Uncle Lope said that he didn’t expect to sell any works that time as he knew that they were just tourists having a look – usually collectors give a few days notice. But the guides take tourists out there because they decide what they think is a merited attraction, and since Uncle Lope’s work has been recognized in national newspapers, when he’s around the people come. He did only arrive just last night. Dad said that Uncle Lope was telling him about an Australian man who he had befriended, and thanks to the aid of the Australian embassy he was able to help set up that studio in the first place. Kind of like a grant as the government took interest in the indigenous art, and maybe hope to have Aborigines visit to compare art and things like that. Cool beans, seriously.
So Dad and I are supposed to go into town to pick stuff up for tomorrow’s big party and to get things to bring back to Vancouver. So much for Bokong and Echo Valley, but I can always go another time with the cousins and such. It’s just that I hoped that Dad could come with since these were his playgrounds when he was younger. Thing is, the rains usually roll in around this time in the afternoon (it is rainy season!) so we’re going to wait til the brunt of it hits then head up. I need to check out the internet café, and also get some Tylenol. Being sick, especially right now, is not enjoyable.
Oh, Dad and I also played Scrabble last night. I was SO CLOSE to beating him – I was leading him for three quarters of the game! It wasn’t til the last moments when I drew a J and a Q, then lost my I and place to play it, that I was screwed. The score: 275 to 234 in Dad’s favour. I was up by more than 30 points at a couple instances in the game! It’s ok – at least I know that I can beat him, and it’s just a matter of improving how I play that board. We’ll re-match when I’m back in Van.
DAY 8 – MAY 6
Today was super chill. I woke up late and did laundry, and of course doing laundry here is much different. Lucky that Grandpa happens to have a washing machine (be it ancient) but it would only do a wash cycle. I had to rinse by hand, twice through, then set the clothes out on the line to dry. Clothes are much heavier and harder to manage when wet, especially denim and sweatpant material. Dad and I had planned to go to Echo Valley and the cemetery, but because we left late and it looked like rain in a few hours, we saved it for another day. Instead we visited the church and Dad’s old high school, St Mary’s. The church was really lovely on the inside, with a gorgeous display of Christ and stones and flowers at the altar. At the school, the paths are lined with huge pine trees and look like a good place to just chill. I’ll keep that in mind for later when I’m on my own.
We walked down into town and I wanted to try the famous Sagada Lemon Pie House. Turns out it’s operated by one of Dad’s elementary school classmates. The décor inside is really cute, and Dad’s friend also makes the furniture that furnishes the interior. Their blueberry pie is really good – sorry, Mom, it tops yours. Same with their lemon meringue pie. You can really taste the fruit in its all its pure organic glory, and though it isn’t too sweet the sugar they use you can really taste as well, in a good way. It started out as just selling the pies in the market, but they were well received and he opened up a shop. The shop became popular when a tourist blogged about it, which is how I found out about it in the first place. Now it’s one of those tourist spots.
Speaking of tourists, it’s interesting to see all these “local tourists”, meaning other Filipinos who come to Sagada to sightsee. It really is a unique place in that there is so much to offer. The thing is, from what I hear when Dad speaks with others, is that if tourism is so important to this town it’s important to preserve the natural beauty that’s made it so famous in the first place. I mentioned this to Dad when I noticed all the garbage dumping that’s becoming evident, and from what he hears all these places he used to play in as a child aren’t as pristine as they once were. And there is also the importance of finding other industries to sustain the town since tourism is such a fickle thing to rely on.
We stopped by Auntie Julia’s shop where I picked up a couple postcards whose photos were taken by none other than Uncle Lope. They’re quite lovely prints, one of which we have framed at home. I’m sending one card to Lachlan, the other I’m going to hold on to for my card collection. I might pick up more of those style postcards to send to others because I actually think that Uncle Lope’s photography is better than those you find on some other postcards (no bias!) Thing is, no one was manning the post office despite checking back 3 times, and the third time I checked it had closed up. Haha, some folks are so chill here.
Dad left me in town as he ran back to take in the laundry before the rains got to it. I don’t think the rain did end up coming. After a bit of time spent on the interwebs, I headed over to the Yoghurt House. I was planning on seeking out some real ice cream, but decided against it and opted for a beer instead. Spent some chill time on the patio of the House with my pen, notebook, and tunes by Germany Germany. Some excerpts from my Moleskine: “I came here with the objective of finding myself, and finding some sort of inspiration. To get away from life as I know it and experience something new. Out of my comfort zone – so far so good. It’s so strange to feel like a tourist in the place where you’re from and having people who recognize you on the street though you have no clue who they are.” Also: “I think that’s all I have to say for now. I came here wanting to creatively write something but nothing came, so I won’t force it. Genius comes and goes when it wants, that’s the crux of it. Lachlan’s song that he sent me when we first talked is rather inspiring. “In Harmony.” Well played, Jones, well played.” Re-reading that entry makes me realize that I need to watch my spelling and grammar. Can’t let this age of technology and the revelation of auto-correct taint my writing skill.
Just ate dinner. Will go down later because Grandpa’s gonna tell us some stories. I’ll continue with as much as I can for now. I headed to Grandma’s shop afterwards to help close up then head back to the house with her. While there I met a man named Molé who’s renting in one of Grandpa’s houses. He’s a retired man from Germany who has spent a lot of his time in Sagada. He first came here while a young single man just travelling, and fell in love with the town. He’s been back for his honeymoon, and had both his daughters born in the Philippines so that they would be natural-born citizens. Now that he’s retired he lives in Sagada for most of the year, then heads back to Germany for a couple of months, then comes back. He had a lot to talk about, whether it be about the problem with American policy, the poverty levels in the Philippines (comparing life in Manila to that in Sagada), or how the world will soon be controlled by the big weapons, oil, and mining companies (he specifically called out America, Canada, and Australia as being the perpetrating governments that allowed for the level of corporate involvement in people’s everyday lives.) He’s a cool man to listen to, although he’s a little bit creepy. I think I tend to view older men as more creepy than charming.
Dad and I were supposed to head up to a wedding tomorrow morning, but it’s been postponed. We’ll still be taking a hike to the private mines and to Bomod-ok falls regardless. I’m looking forward to it, and to giving my muscles a workout. I feel like I’ve been doing too much sitting and lazing around while here. I also noticed that I eat a lot more here than I do in Vancouver. I actually eat all three meals, mostly because I can’t rely on food being available whenever I’m in need for it like I’m used to in Canada. Still, all food and no exercise make for the return of the itty bitty tummy. And I’m still drinking a lot of pop cuz it’s so easily available. Mom was right – Coke tastes so much better from the bottle. Maybe I’ll bring her back a bottle.
The wildlife here is interesting. There are bunnies and ducks running around, and there are adorable, albeit flea infested dogs everywhere (sup dog.) While at the school we came across a family of cows just chilling on the soccer field (I was about to call it a “pitch”.. jeeze, what am I, British?) Apparently they let the cows graze there and “fertilize” the field – there was cow dung everywhere. But these cows were just chilling in the sun, and I walked up to them and got in nice and close and took their pictures. Didn’t touch em cuz I was kinda scared Poppa cow might kick me in the face. And as Grandma and I were walking back from town I heard sounds similar to that of a saw. I asked Grandma what it was and she told me that when the rains first begin to come, the frogs begin to sing, and that was their song. When I go to bed at night I can hear the cicadas. And while at dinner, there was a large bug that had landed next to my plate and I freaked. Dad just picked it up and said that they used to eat those bugs, so I dared him to eat it. He did – just shoved it in his mouth as we were about to eat dinner. Ergh. They’re termites that have hatched wings, and apparently they’re a delicacy because they only come about once the rainy season starts. Fun food facts for y’all. Also: Clover Chips – so yum, and also very high in saturated fats. Don’t finish a package by yourself in one sitting or you just might have a heart attack.
DAY 9 – MAY 6
So last night Grandpa talked to me about where he came from and his beginnings in Sagada. He parents died when he was very young and so he had to drop out of school when he was about 8 years old so that he could work and take care of himself. His dad had married twice and he was the child of the second marriage, and when his mom passed he went to live with his brother from the first marriage. While there and working, he ended up falling sick due to a skin disease epidemic and so he was admitted to the hospital. It was while there that he met up with another brother who worked at the hospital and got a job assisting him and cleaning, etc. He worked there for a bit until he met Lola Cecilia, they were married, and had Dad. They saved all the money they could to build their house, and any bit they could manage was put towards adding more and more rooms to the house. Soon they were able to rent out rooms to travelers and students. This was when Sagada’s Traveler’s Inn was established. Then, as another inn had opened up in town, Grandpa had the idea to bake bread and serve coffee and sell it – he had learned to bake and serve coffee properly while working at the hospital, observing how things were done in the cafeteria. And so it became popular (Dad tells me that the way Lola Cecilia roasts the coffee beans from Pidlisan is renowned and sought after), allowing the family to make a bit more money. Still, that money went towards land and housing materials, and soon Grandpa was able to begin building cottages for travelers to stay in long term. This was important as it ensured a source of income for an extended period of time, as opposed to shorter term stays in inns. What also set these cabins apart was the fact that they had their washrooms indoors, and there was mesh on the windows to keep out the insects. Grandpa was the first to do this with his houses, and they were both things he had learned about while working at the hospital/mission house. This is why Grandpa is a bit of a pioneer in town – he was the first to start with certain things until everyone else followed suit. His lesson to me, though, was the importance of being able to take care of one’s self. He told me that though he is very sick right now, he is happy that he was able to give to his children what he had to work very hard for, and that his grandchildren are also given greater opportunity than his children. He’s glad that though he is sick, he is still able to take care of himself and not have to rely on others to tend to him. And if he were to die, though he says that he still loves living and does not wish it upon himself just yet, he is happy with what he has accomplished in his life. It was rather inspiring talking to him, though it was getting late and I was quite tired. I keep forgetting how ill he really is, and I’m grateful that he had the energy and took the time to share those things with me.
Dad and I woke up early this morning so that we could go on a hike down to the private mines and Bomodok falls. I think we missed the last jeepney to Bangaan so we began to walk and came across a forested area that was so similar to the forests in Vancouver. “Take a picture,” Dad said, “and people won’t believe you when you say it’s in the Philippines.” There’s a national ban on the export of Sagada pine, Dad told me. It’s an effort to conserve the forests because before those in mining would clear cut parts of the forest for the lumber. But now, you can’t even sell furniture made of Sagada pine trees outside of the area. I argued, why not allot a certain amount of the forest to lumber and other wood commodities? Dad replied that it was a matter of enforcing the practice, and so a complete ban would be easier to control. I said, why not create jobs by hiring people to enforce those restrictions, and so you’ll be contributing to the economy and diversifying Sagada’s industry. Dad said, it’s a corrupt government here in the Philippines, and what’s best for the people probably won’t het done. He didn’t say that last part, but that’s what it seems from what I’ve observed so far.
We managed to hitch a ride most of the way; thank goodness because it was an uphill walk. We got off at a town (Aguid) where the road ended, and we needed to drop off some pao-it before we headed to the falls. After leaving it with the children since the parents weren’t home, Dad and I took a shortcut through the rice terraces, which turned out to be more of a scenic detour but I’m not complaining. It was really nice to get off the beaten path and climb down the way that those who tend the rice patties do. Dad said, “Imagine having to carry rice along here, and the women do it on their heads.” I said, “They must have excellent balance. It must be pretty damn hard to tip them over.” The paths really were narrow and sometimes it would be only small stepping stones keeping you from falling into the patties. Dad was saying that some people would get upset because tourists would keep falling into the patties, ruining their rice plants. True though, because when we met up with the concrete tourist path you could see footprints in the shallow mud beside it where people had stepped. The trail wasn’t that bad at all, and I actually had a lot of fun jumping between rocks. There was a bridge that crossed overtop of the river leading from the falls, and it was terrifying. I hopped onto it before realizing how dangerous it was – it consisted of pieces of rusted metal held together by rusted wire ties and a single wire cable. The plates of the bridge had loosened at a few points, and it was when I stepped onto it and it moved down that I freaked. I ran to the other side, and Dad said that the trail led to another part of the ridge where he had explored as a child. This side of the bridge also offered a lovely view of the cliffs, and you could see the falls that were still hidden from view on the other side. After crossing back, (more terrified than ever – I made us go one by one just in case those wire ties didn’t hold!) we leapt over to the falls.
Oh lovely, so lovely! There were a lot of people, more than I expected, as it’s a popular tourist destination. I was literally leaping from rock to rock to get close. I changed into my suit and went in first while Dad took photos. I didn’t realize how slippery the rocks were (duh) and ended up looking like a fool once I got in as I slipped more than twice on the rocks in the shallower end. But I managed to climb up and around, thanks to one of the many little boys who knew their way around the falls. Those kids were crazy too, they’d jump and leap and somersault from all points into the water. I followed him up to the higher rock but holy heck, it was too high. We went to where the water was actually falling onto us and around to the other side of the pool, where I took my first leap into the water. Gah, awesome! This was what I had been looking forward to! When I surfaced (wow, the water was cold but so nice) I realized that my left contact lens had popped out. I could still somewhat see, but my depth perception was way off seeing as I can’t see anything without glasses or contacts. Didn’t let it dissuade me – I went for another leap off the rocks, then freaked cuz I thought I had lost my other contact and I didn’t have glasses or a spare or anything. Luckily it had just rolled to the top of my eye – sounds gross, I know, but I was thankful. Dad climbed up too to have his go, and I wanted to see him jump from the highest point but he was worried the water was too shallow. We ate our lunch there, and Dad pointed out the differences from way back when. Turns out most of the rock used to be covered in falling water, and he pointed to the spots where he would climb and jump from while young. There was also an ugly plastic wire leading down from the top of the falls that obstructed the view. Not as good, he said. But I enjoyed it, seeing as my expectations had been whittled down due to news of there not being any water (since we’d arrived at the end of the dry season.) I’d definitely want to visit it again before I leave.
Then, with my impaired vision, we decided to walk along the terraces towards the private mines where Dad had worked mining for gold. Now this path was much trickier – it was a level pathway but much muddier and narrower. After joking about tourists falling in, I managed to dunk my foot in a puddle of mud. Wet socks are the absolute worst but I kept squelching on. When we reached the mines, it was pretty crazy. You could hear the dynamite blasts, and the rocks and water was tinged with orange and red due to the mineral content in the stones. Iron ore, Dad said. Rusty rocks. We had to cross some steep climbs where there was no path and instead just a big pile of gravel, and I was pretty terrified of slipping on a loose rock and falling down below. This was where Dad had come to work as a gold panner, but at that time it was not as large an operation as this (though this was small scale.) He was one of the first miners in that area. We went into one of the shacks where the miners were working and I saw firsthand how they sifted through the silt using old technology. It’s incredibly labour intensive and repetitive, and still they don’t get all the gold out. The tailings, as they’re called, are sold to the Koreans who then sift through it with their more advanced technology and get the remaining gold. However, those tailings are bad for the environment as they’re essentially silt runoffs, which is why those living around don’t enjoy the mines tainting their water supply for irrigation. We came across a lot of fool’s gold too and snagged some stones as souvenirs.
From the mines, we walked through Pidlisan which is where Dad used to live with Lola Gatay. This is where I remember the long walk back up to Bangaan from when we first visited. It’s essentially one long stone staircase leading up to the road, and it was still pretty tiring the second time around. It offered some lovely views though, and I left my mark at a resting shed at the halfway point. Not as difficult as the Grouse Grind, but prettier. Dad and I would drink water from a Canadian Club whiskey bottle which probably made us look like alcoholics to passersby, which was pretty dope. It reminds me of how mom keeps her water in an Absolut vodka bottle (cuz she likes the bottle!) and at work someone else kept her water in an alcohol bottle as well. So during break they’d have their bottle on the table making it look like a breaktime party, and someone would come in and Mom would say, “This is how we do it on the afternoon shift.”
Finally we came to the road. It was a good climb. We had missed the last jeepney back to Sagada so we walked. I didn’t mind as after that climb up, flat paved road was lovely. It was nice and scenic too – we saw the town that we were supposed to go to for the postponed wedding. I asked Dad if we were still going and he said, nope. Tried to hitchhike our way back but most of the cars were full, private, or a big truck. Tasted what was advertised as “ice cream” from a shop, but it was really just an ice lolly flavoured in pandan or ube. Wasn’t bad, but I’m determined to find a place here that sells real ice cream. I miss it! Saw a deer just chilling – the wildlife here is awesome. And there was a woman working in the field wearing a hat literally made of plants and leaves to shield her from the sun – or to camouflage herself from helicopters and those viewing from above. I wanted to go into town to catch a bit of the market day but Dad was tired. Also, my eyes were still wonky and my one shoe was filled with mud. Tomorrow we’ll go into town to use the internet café so we can wish Mom a happy Mother’s Day, and I also want to see if I can stream the Canucks’ Game 5. We be on to the Western Conference finals baby! Dad also promised me ice cream since I couldn’t go to town today. I saw a sign at the Masferre restaurant the other day that offered ice cream. I was going to try it, but I opted for a beer instead.
DAY 10 - MAY 7
Today’s been super chill so far. Slept in to get a good rest from our yesterday of hiking. I planned on going to town to stream the Canucks game, but instead stayed in to watch the Pacquiao/Mosley fight. We are in the Philippines after all. Mom called Dad’s cell which was probably a 30$ phone call. Dad goes home in about a week so I need some pesos for spending purposes. She’s thankful that I go into so much detail in this blog. You’re welcome, Mom. It’s good for me too, since I’m able to get back to writing and on a consistent basis. The fight was meh - I was hoping it’d be a good one seeing as how it’s been highly anticipated, but Mosley, you were disappointing. Let’s find some real men for Pacman to take out, yeah? Gonna meet Dad for lunch later in town - I’m out right now at the internet cafe. Missed the tail end of the game but a little bird (thanks Twitter) told me that we’re on to Game 6… kinda glad I stayed in to watch the fight. Tomorrow we hope to go to Echo Valley and see the cemetery and famous hanging coffins. I have a relative whose skeleton is being suspended over rocks… that’s a sick story for the books.
DAY 7 – MAY 5
We woke up early this morning to head into the city and catch a bus to take us up from Baguio back to Sagada. Uncle Christopher, Auntie Rhonda, BJ and the little ones were headed down to the lowlands for a family reunion too, and we said goodbye to Pinky and Darryl. I’ll be headed back to Baguio for longer on my way to Manila when I’m headed home. We tried to take a cab from Uncle Chris’s but trying to catch a cab in this city can be like waiting for paint to dry, so we took the jeepney instead (and I insisted we sit in the front seats so as not to be squashed like sardines in a can. I get enough of that on the 99b line.) The exhaust fumes in the city can be suffocating – I asked Dad how people can work in those conditions and he said they probably just get used to it. And to think that Baguio is reputed as being the cleanest city – I can’t imagine living and working in Manila.
A couple notes I missed when talking about the city. Like in Vancouver, there are several beggars, and a lot of them are much older folks who can’t work for money. Dad would stop in the middle of the crowded walkway to give them change, and I asked why he did that (as compared to buying goods from vendors or giving change to beggars in Canada) and he said, well, they’re asking me. Ask and you will receive, he said. Okay. It’s a nice gesture. Another thing I noticed was the abundance of bad tattoos. I’m no pro but I can spot a shit job, and I pointed it out to Dad. He said it’s because a lot of them are done at home or with their own tools. I would never do that – it’s my skin and my body and if I’m going to modify or alter it in some way, I gotta make sure it’s done by a professional and as safely as possible. Plus you’ll be stuck with that for life, and those sloppy lines and already fading ink won’t look so nice in 10 or so years. Final note: fake merchandise. Now I don’t care about taking money away from those big brand names, but what I do care about is the fact that it is a criminal offence to produce and sell fake merchandise and that this industry does perpetuate child labour and black market activity. It’s a little bit frustrating to be surrounded by all these fake goods. Like with TOMS shoes: I wanted to buy a pair in Van but decided to wait til the Philippines to see if I could get them for cheaper here (because the dollar is worth more.) The thing is, all I see are fake shoddily made imitations, and what peeves me most is that they’re being purchased with the notion that a pair of shoes is also being donated to a child in need (as per TOMS’ philosophy) but in reality, no such thing is occurring because they’re fake! I guess that’s also what I find upsetting – things being marketed as something they’re not. I like transparency in my consumer experience. There’s nothing I hate more when shopping than being lied to. It’s not ethical – and I understand that these fake goods are the basis of some people’s businesses and livelihoods, but there is always another way to make a living that doesn’t require illegal activity. After all, who benefits at the top but those responsible for the exploitation of others and who can most likely afford to do something else with their lives.
Last night Dad and I shared a couple beers while talking with Uncle Christopher. Turns out BJ is really into baseball and played for the little and junior leagues while in elementary and high school. Uncle Olling is also down south training a girl’s little league team, and Sagada’s teams have represented the entire Cordilleran province during tournaments. Interesting as I thought basketball was the big thing (cuz we’re Filipino, duh) but turns out Filipinos can compete in baseball a lot better because you don’t need to be tall to hit a ball. True that. And you can buy alcohol anywhere here – no government liquor stores or anything like that. Taxes are also included in the prices of all goods. I forgot what the term for that practice was, but still, it translates to 20 pesos/50 cents for a beer as compared to Canadian prices (government taxation be damned). Ace!
The bus ride up was relatively comfortable compared to our first trip up. Seating was by assignment and the seats were much cushier. I kept entertained with tunes by Wolf Parade and Oh No! Yoko. Dad and I came to talking about babies and contraception and the like, and I asked about contraception practices here in the Philippines. So in the rural areas, midwives would go up and gather all the couples together to educate them about contraception and safe sex and planned parenthood. But because of modesty, they would only demonstrate the “condom on a stick” technique but not actually mention penises and vaginas. When the midwives would return to the towns, they noticed that despite their efforts to educate the population there were still tons of children being born, so they decided to go door to door and meet with each household. What they discovered was that their practices had indeed been put into use, but not exactly how they had expected – on the fenceposts of the houses they would find condoms slipped on top.
We’re going to rest for the remainder of today, and tomorrow we’ll get the laundry done and things like that because Saturday will be a big day. We plan to go hiking up to Bomod-oc where the waterfalls will be, go by the mines, and eventually make our way to a wedding that’s taking place a bit of a ways away. A lot of hiking in the schedule hence the couple days of rest. There are a bunch of uncles downstairs who have come to visit, but they’re all just drinking and I’m much too tired to sit around and try to follow the conversation. It seems a lot of what people talk about are family connections: who is related to whom in which town/city/province, and it kinda reminds me of the Bible when they would list the genealogy of certain people and it would go on for a good couple of pages. Coming to the Philippines, though, I realize how large my extended family actually is. The night before with Uncle Christopher we talked about how it seems that family reunions are becoming the trend. It’s done mostly for the young people, he and Dad said, so that you can meet all your cousins and make those connections that might be valuable in the future (I have a cousin who’s a lawyer and if I’m ever in legal trouble?) I understand what they’re getting at. Uncle Christopher joked about how we’re all descendants of Jesus Christ, and so yeah, we’re just one huge family. True that, true that.
DAY 4 – MAY 2 (CON’T)
It’s like I’m a tourist but with the perk of having most people know who I am or know who my family is. It’s kinda cool. After coming back from Lacma-an and resting up, Dad and I went into town to drop off the packages for Uncle Lope and then went to see Auntie Muriel’s house that’s being built. We took the long way round via the old foot path (as opposed to the newer and more accessible “car path”) and Dad was totally getting tired again. Anyways we took a look around their place, with only the top floor being somewhat completed. The thing about building a house in the Philippines is that you have no direct control or management over the project if you remain in Canada. And that’s the thing – if you’re going to put a ton of money into building a house (according to Auntie Julia, 500 000 pesos/10 000 dollars for the first floor) make sure it’s being built properly! The design is nice and all, but the laminant flooring is shoddy – it’s been nailed in and has warped so that there are bubbles underneath. Some of the doors can’t open properly because of that. And the grout in the bathroom will probably leak. All the money spent on labour, and then more money spent to have the job redone. I’d much rather work on the project myself and at least know that the money I’m spending is being used wisely.
We dropped by Auntie Julia’s shop again on our way back and I went with Lin-ay and Yawe (I think that’s the proper spelling!) to the well known Yoghurt House. I ran into Taday, who I’d met two summers ago while in Toronto with Auntie Magdalene. Small world! We’d picnicked and experienced the African Safari together. She’s working at the Yoghurt House, so at least I know someone here in Sagada that isn’t family and is around my age to talk to cuz her English is good. Anyways, yoghurt house: cute establishment. Had a San Miguel beer and a yoghurt with mango, banana, and strawberry preserves. It was interesting – the yoghurt tastes unique compared to yoghurt I’m used to in Canada. I think it might be the milk that they use. While we were there, a fire truck passed through town and turns out there was a house fire up at Ambasing (phonetic spelling again, forgive me). There’s only one fire truck to the town, says Lin-ay. Yawe is so cute but he’s a shy kid – he’d take a scoop of yoghurt, run behind the counter, eat it, then run back to the table.
After that, Dad and I headed to the internet café for some much needed reconnection with the rest of the world. Dad forgot the passwords to all 3 of his email accounts (way to go Pops) so internet time was pretty much all me. Chatted up Lachlan for a bit (yay!) and did a quick check in with the rest of the world. We’d tuned into Obama’s live address regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden earlier on in the day so it wasn’t breaking news. I just can’t stand CNN or much other American news broadcasting. Then we went upstairs to Alberto’s Café for a beer and to chat. Lots of tourists in that joint (there’s also a Kimchi Café! Seriously, Koreans = business. Dad says an enterprising Igorot should open up a school to teach Koreans English. I mused aloud why Koreans always seem to go elsewhere but Korea to learn English. Is it really more economical to travel to a foreign country to study as opposed to staying in your home country? Speculations. Anyways, back to the topic:) and the dude who’s family owned it was the first Igorot congressman. Apparently he’s known for showing up to congress wearing a suit on top, his g-string on bottom, and a cowboy hat. He also looks a lot like John Wayne. We then headed back Grandpa’s but ran into a party at the town square. It’s supposed to be a “crazy night” as part of fiesta, and then they started up with the gangsa. Dad ran to join in. I sat back and laughed and watched but you’d need to put a couple more drinks in me for me to join in and dance. Some of the guys invited me and Dad to shot some San Miguel gin, which I tried for the first time. How you drink it here is you just knock it back mixed with a bit of water. Wasn’t that bad! I’m just not a huge gin fan, that’s all. Dad told me about how because that’s how they’re used to drinking alcohol here, when they drink things like whiskey, it becomes messy. He told me a story about how two men went over to Grandpa’s and knocked back their whiskey, and though they were fine in leaving, they ended up having to crawl all the way home when it hit them later on.
Also, new word I learned today: potot (or is it putot?). Anyways, Dad used it to relate to me, in that I am his potot. I am a result of his sperm. Charming eh? If you stress the “po” then that is the translation; if you stress the po-“tot” then that means a pair of shorts. It’s been cool bonding with Dad – I asked him about any crazy drunk stories but he says he doesn’t remember. I say, you must have had people tell you about them afterwards. He says he’ll have to search for a good enough story to tell me. I say, I want to see if I can top him. But he was a crazy kid – he’d go camping with his smoking 6 year old friends and go exploring along the river when it was dark or go climbing the big rock. And of course he’d never let I or Art do these things because “we’re not equipped.” True that, true.
We go to Baguio tomorrow morning with Uncle Christopher. Hopefully we take the car and not the bus because I don’t think I can be crammed in for another 6 hours. We’ll stay for about 3 days and visit family, and try and get this internet/phone situation sorted out. Also, I am in much need of sunblock and sunglasses. Though I do want to get darker (I’m so white and so noticeable. It’s shocking.) I don’t want my tattoo to fade so I gotta protect it. And my eyes too!
Side note: I can’t help but comment on the economics in this town. It’s a free enterprise system, as Dad says. You can smoke and you can drink regardless of age, as long as you can pay. And with business, you gotta diversify as much as possible. Sagada Weaving is first and foremost because of its reputation and longevity in this town, but walking along you notice almost every shop has its own weaving company. What sets your product apart in this diluted market? It’d be interesting to see this town again in 10 years, as businesses start up and then close. And buying snacks from Auntie Julia’s shop had me looking at the nutrition facts on all of the food: so much saturated fat in each treat! I wonder how these children are not obese or diabetic, also considering how soda pop is more prevalent and easily accessible than clean drinking water. But the thing is they’re so active unlike those children of a North American culture, and their regular diet is much healthier, that it weirdly counteracts. But then here I am, neither of those things, searching for the healthiest sodium/MSG/transfat/saturated fat item to snack on. And I’m drinking way too much pop! Like I said, purified drinking water is rarer than soda. Speaking of soda, Coca Cola definitely has a hold on the world market – I haven’t seen a single Pepsi product yet. And the domestic snack market is also in control – no international brands like Frito Lays here, only Philippine-produced products similar to Cheetos or Sun Chips.
It’s also interesting to know how the Bosaing name has come to mean so much in Sagada. I guess Grandpa was a “pioneer” as Dad says in making the town what it is today. I asked if he was more affluent than others because of the fact that he owns so many properties and can afford to have a hot shower and flushing toilets in his own home. Grandpa was one of the first to begin renting out properties to tourists and missionaries while the Philippines and Sagada was under American jurisdiction. He also started up the first eatery, and maybe even the first inn. The traveler’s inn and Grandma’s and Auntie’s shops are still alive and kicking even after more than 10 years despite the influx of similar businesses.
It’s good that I’ve come back to visit now that I’m older and understand so much more about how ways of life differ. I asked Lin-ay what she did for fun while not in school and she said nothing, not even hang out with friends. She just helps out at the shop all day. And she’s only 11! But that’s what you do – free labour for the family business. And that house fire – most commonly caused by electrical wiring nowadays. There are no building codes that exist, and no such thing as house insurance. It’s like anything goes as long as there is a mutual understanding within the community, and you don’t see things like crime being rampant. Things might change as the town grows and it sees more and more tourism business, but you see it in Lacma-an too – just maintain a sense of respect for your fellow human and you will be returned in kind.
PS: I have a bad habit of saying “sup dog” to almost every dog we walk past.There are a lot of dogs here.
DAY 5-6 – MAY 3&4
Yesterday we headed from Sagada to Baguio city. While waiting for Uncle Christopher, I and Dad went around for a bit in town. We looked at some of the souvenirs, and there were these postcard sets of photographs by Tommy Hafalla. Turns out he’s friends with Uncle Lope, as they’re both artists and have done an exhibition or two together before. I wanted the postcard sets but we looked around for a bit more instead. There were also these beautiful books of handmade paper – different types of fibers made for different types of paper, and there was rice paper and even ginger paper. They’re pricey but sooo beautiful and hand bound – gotta get myself a book even if it’s just small. We then went to the Masferre shop to see if they had any prints on sale. They didn’t, but there were two postcard sets similar to those by Tommy. I got them both. They really are lovely and I can’t wait to share them with people. So the story goes like this: Masferre was born to a Spaniard dad and an Igorot mom, and she was related to Lakay Kabayo, who is Grandpa’s older brother and so my greatuncle. He was also Masferre’s uncle, and so that would make he and dad cousins, and so Masferre would be my uncle. It’s pretty cool seeing as how his photographs have been recognized as notable documentation of the Cordilleran people. His name is popular, as is the photograph of Lakay Kabayo that we have hanging over our fireplace. Another cool kind of famous connection.
We headed down to Baguio in Uncle Christopher’s truck so it was a comfy trip. We stopped by Lolo George’s and Lola Rose’s place in the suburbs for a bit. They have a nice large house, and they were discussing the clan reunion to come up in 2012. Looks like we hope to come back in December 2012! We arrived at Uncle Christopher’s place and woohoo, there’s internet! BJ, my cousin, is Art’s age now. Saw Manang Pinky briefly but she works at night and sleeps during the day, so she had just woken up when we arrived and was off to work. Also saw Manong Darryl after only communicating with him over FB. And I have a niece, Dion, and a nephew, Casey. They’re both super adorbs. Up’d photos to FB of our first few days and holy crap, if I keep it up, there’ll be over a thousand pics from this trip. Also got some much needed Skype time with a much missed certain Australian. Woooo.
Today we went to see Uncle Lope and the house that he’s fixing up for Boksit to stay in while he studies in Baguio. It’s quite a piece of work… Uncle Lope looked like Bin Laden with his head scarf and long beard. He’s alive, Obama lied, they joked. Boksit is all grown up now! Unfortunately Gat-ay and Am-aw weren’t around as they headed back to school. I’ll have to wait til they come back up to Sagada to see them. Then Dad and I headed into the city to take care of the cell phone and internet situation. We took the jeepney for the first time while here and it was not as pleasant as I remember it being. They cram as many people as they can in there! Luckily it was only a short ride. We went to a mall called Tiong San where Dad bought the cheapest cell phone to use while we’re here as our phones on the Fido network won’t work with the network and phone cards here. It’s crazy how as you enter the malls, there are security guards to inspect your bags, but when you exit no one minds. I got a couple pair of shoes too! Black Keds and a sweet pair of colourful striped Vans boat shoes. We ate at Jolibee for lunch, which was my first time trying this uniquely Filipino fast food chain. Had the spaghetti (of course), but honestly, what’s the big fuss about it? It was ok – I tried it, but I won’t be running back to eat it again. Then we walked up the hill to SM, which is this lovely four floor mall that overlooks the city. Bought a pair of cheap sunglasses and some sunscreen (gotta protect the goods!) We walked around the mall exploring the place. On each floor there’s an outdoor patio with restaurants and it just offers a great view: you can see the park with the horseback riding and cycle boats, there’s the college that my mom went to, and the Baguio Catholic church. They also have a movie theatre and some designer shops. There was one store in particular called Artwork that sold all sorts of cotton tees with sick prints and designs, and for about 5 bucks each. Defs have to head back before I leave to pick some out, they were seriously sick. Went to Goldilocks for some deelish Mango with Sago, and we saw these hilarious rickshaw-type rides for children that were being pulled by blonde-haired, white-skinned robots.
We were short on cash so we needed to go find a place to exchange Canadian dollars, but the thing is the only thing that really is recognized here is the American dollar so we went to the black market. The thing about the black market is that everyone knows about it, so it’s not really that shady. I asked Dad why it’s called the black market then, and he said cuz it’s actually black. It’s somewhat underground and covered, and it’s setup as a bunch of stalls that sell other foreign goods (like chocolate!) and as soon as you walk in, people yell the different exchange rates for different currencies at you. We walked around the market a bit, and it’s just so busy – people are always asking you to buy something or the other. Another thing I noticed is how polite people are who serve you – it’s always maam or sir when they talk to you. And another note on the security guards – they’re pretty armed, and they’re everywhere! Even in the fast food joints and shops. I asked Dad about it and he said it might be because they’re afraid of hold ups and things like that.
We were tired from walking around in the heat and the crowds so we headed back and tried to catch a cab. The thing is, the traffic in this city is crazy – not as crazy as in Manila but still pretty wild. Dad was letting the cabs just drive past him and there were these kids that would run into traffic to try and stop the cabs, so I hailed a cab on my own! Haha not a huge deal but considering the fact that everyone else was trying to do the same thing I’m proud that I beat them out. So now I’ve hailed a cab while drunk, while in a different city, and now while in a different country! Just gotta do it in NYC now. Kinda paranoid though cuz of the story Auntie was telling me over breakfast about the cab driver that took a fare and raped and killed her. She was talking about how she still worried about her children when they come home late or don’t call or text, even with Manang Pinky who’s a grown woman. Once you become a mother, you become a worrier it seems.
We plan on heading back to Sagada tmw instead of on Friday as we had originally planned as there isn’t much else for us to do here. We decided not to get an internet stick because we’re not even sure if it’ll work all the way up in the mountains, so we’re gonna stick to the internet cafes instead. We have to take the bus up again, I hope it won’t be as crowded as last time. I’m glad to get back to the hot shower – here it’s a bucket of cold water that you dump on yourself to wash. Takes me back to the cold showers of Aurora, Ontario again. Gonna take advantage of my internet access while I can!
DAY 1 – APR 27-APR 29
Departed Vancouver at 11.30 PM on April 27. 14 hour direct flight to Manila. Actually, an enjoyable flight – managed to watch 127 Hours, HP Deathly Hallows, and the King’s Speech, was served 2 meals, and had a pillow and blanket. Not bad, made the time pass like sand. Arrived in Manila around 5 AM local time at Nino Aquino International – a much smaller airport than Manila International. People would wait for arrivals outside and stepping off the plane made it feel like they were awaiting some famous person. Hot and very humid for 6 AM, and so many people and cars around too for that time in the morning. I guess people don’t sleep much here, things are always moving. Traffic laws are completely non-existent: no posted speed limits, no signalling, lane markings mean nothing. You just honk and rely on your wits to not crash. And people everywhere too! Experienced some mass culture shock before we even boarded the bus from Manila to Baguio – just the level of poverty was surprising, and I was not prepared to see the way some people slept and lived on the streets. Also, so many billboards – like, huge, bright ads everywhere either advertising a food that is horrible for your health or some system to improve your lifestyle (weight loss, skin whitening…) It’s obviously more of a stigma in the city culture as opposed to attitudes in the mountain, and I wonder why some Filipinos feel the need to idolize their celebrities as much as they do, or find something wrong with them (that isn’t really wrong) that they must improve. And I’ve seen it too in some of my Filipino friends – “why can’t I have this or that like this or that celebrity?” That shouldn’t be a point of obsession or debate.
Anyways, we boarded a bus to Baguio at 7 AM which took us in, around, and through every town between there and Manila. Dad’s mistake for not thinking and not getting us the express bus. Crazy to see how desperate some folks are for housing: shanties were set up underneath highway overpasses on land that would be flooded during the rainy season. Also interesting to see how each town had the same shops that sold the same things to the same people – hard to make a living. The bus ride was okay in that it was air conditioned and there was good leg room. It just took a while because it went all the way around. Also! There are always people hawking something or the other: newspapers, bottled water, snacks, shoes, you name it. And with the bus, any time it would stop while in the city to let someone on, someone selling something would hop on too, and at the next stop get off then do the same thing over and over and over. Even at rest stops the aisle would be crowded with vendors, making it difficult to move on and off the bus. And it’s completely normal, just another way of making a living. The way the charge fare is different too. Everyone boards the bus then someone comes around, issues you a ticket for where you got on and your destination, then comes around again to collect fare. What should have been a 5 hour trip was about 7 hours, but that’s okay.
Finally arrived in Baguio and it was nice to see some uni campuses and younger folk walking around. I kept my eye out for stylish people! I couldn’t help it. Took a taxi to the bus depot and traffic isn’t as bad as in Manila but still pretty crazy. Man, I remember everything being bigger from when I was younger, but I guess it makes sense that memories from the past aren’t as large in present day actuality. But I could see some cool shops and places to look around at – definitely want to spend a couple days going around town. Had to use the washroom – oh, and this is crazy. They charge to use the “comfort room” as they’re called, and really it’s a toilet bowl with no flush capabilities (or toilet paper!) You just scoop out some water from this gross bucket and flush it out yourself. I really can’t do without running water or some other alternate source of clean water (if I’m near a river, I’m fine!) I need to be able to rinse and flush and wash with a steady stream of water available to me. Like I said, a river or stream will do! Anyways, this bus we took was crazy. You pretty much cram as many people as you can onto this thing, with standing room, people sitting on the floor and door step, and no air con. And the road up the mountain is mad twisted so we’re constantly hanging on to the seat in front and the dinky handle as our body swings from side to side. And it’s about a 6 hour journey so you do get sleepy, and the only way to sleep if you aren’t by a window is to hang on to the handle in front with your arms out like a rest. I managed to get some shut eye a couple times but I awoke swinging out to the left. Good Dad caught me.
We arrived at the junction where Uncle Christopher picked us up, and we drove a bumpy 20 mins up to Sagada to Grandpa’s house. It was dark by this time, and OH MY GOODNESS these mountain roads are terrifying at night. Like on the bus, there is no light but your own headlights, and no barriers on the side so you really have to know the road as you twist left and right. They’re even unpaved so the vehicle is bouncing on gravel and dust in the dark towards the edge of a cliff. It’s frightening. Grandpa was home when we arrived. I hadn’t been to this new house but I recognized it from the videos that Auntie Grace took when she visited. It’s a gorgeous space with stone tiles and beautiful hardwood everything. And Grandpa – oh my goodness. Like I said already, it’s crazy how things change from how you remember them. He’s sick, and he no longer has that big belly I remember playing on when I was little. When I hugged him I towered over him – he’s probably as tall as Mom. It’s hard for him to move around, and he doesn’t go out anymore. He, Dad, and Uncle Christopher talked for a bit, and from what I understood the conversation concerned a lot/house property that was my Dad’s to inherit, but given the circumstances of my Mom being off work for so long and Art and I in post-secondary, we weren’t able to do whatever it was needed to be done. I was tired so I went up to bed – I chose the room with two beds and the table cuz I need those sort of things, haha. And hallelujah, there’s a flushing toilet with running water.
DAY 2 – APR 30
Dad woke me up. Actually, the roosters woke me up, but it was still dark out so I went back to sleep. We went around the rest of the property looking for a shower because heck, it’d been over two days since my last shower. I remember the two houses down on the hill from when we were here last, and the house that used to be Grandpa’s. Then there’s the new house, and the newest addition is being built. Each house is right now being rented out to tenants, but it belongs to each of the children. Where we’re staying now is to be Auntie Grace’s, and Uncle Lope’s place is the one being built. We took a look at his pottery studio and his work is really nice. Finally we found the shower and OH MY GOODNESS HOT RUNNING WATER! This is amazing. Seriously. This is wonderful. I could do with a cold standing shower if I had to as opposed to the “cold water in a bucket – scoop it up and pour it on you” route. But this is just glorious. Soooo I took my sweet time with the shower and scrubbed away two days worth of travelling filth. Dad whipped up French toast for brekky and we got ready to go into town. The plan was to visit town, pick up things that we needed (like a 3 pronged adapter for their old school 2 pronged plugs) then go to Kiniway for the Dongalen reunion.
Saturday is market day so the streets were lined with stands selling fruit and fish and pig heads and clothing. We tried to see if Dad could exchange Canadian money for Pesos at the rural bank – no go. American currency just is this symbol of status in this country despite the fact that the Canadian dollar is going so much stronger nowadays. We also tried to see if we could use the loads or SIM cards in our phones – also no go. Damn Fido and their closed network! I haven’t been able to get service since Baguio. We looked for an internet stick – still no go as they sold out. We went and visited Auntie Julia’s store at the Traveler’s Inn and yes, I made her feel short. I saw Lin-ay briefly and oh my goodness she’s all grown up. She was only a baby when we visited last being carried around in Auntie Julia’s arms. And her youngest Yowie (phonetic spelling here folks!) is five and absolutely adorable. We talked for a bit about how it’s tricky to keep a business running here in Sagada, what with the competition offering TV and wi-fi in suite for less. Diversification of business is important, hence Uncle Lope doing some pottery then going out to the fields or going back to the inn, and the shop selling everything from tourist wares to hardware to food. We also talked about Am-Aw and her studies – she’s in Baguio with Uncle Lope and Boksit and we hope to see them in a few days. About to leave, Dad runs into someone he knows/who knows him through this or that and so they cracked open a beer. I insisted on having one too and holy heck, San Miguel “pale pilsen” is deeeelish. Warm or cold! And cheap too!
Then we hopped into Uncle Chris’s truck and headed to Agawa. Another bumpy partially paved road that offered a nice view of the town. Got to the reunion and saw Lolo Geoffery and Auntie Sattie and Auntie Juana and Lola Felomina. We did the thing where we introduced ourselves to everyone and I of course spoke in English. And of course, the point was brought up immediately after of how it’s important to keep the language going. And again it was mentioned that I understand a bit but I don’t speak it. I think I’m beginning to realize how little I actually do know as I really need to listen in to the conversation and look out for keywords if I’m going to understand. I was in charge of videography, which is really just me panning around the sitting people and the scenery. And I ate the food.. there was pork and more pork and I ate it. I ate more beans, to be honest, and I used a fork. No eating with my hands… I don’t have that ultimate child carefree attitude where I don’t think about things like bacteria and dirt. Same with the pets! The dogs and cats are freaking adorable but they all have fleas so as much as I want to, I can’t assuage them with petting and playing if I don’t want to be bitten and eaten alive. So yes, I used a fork.
Point of interest: more than twice I’ve been asked if I’m married. Really? Do I look that old? Or is it common to be married at the ripe old age of 19/20? I also needed to remind Dad that I’m not yet 20. Met the little cousins too! Oh my gosh the little ones are the absolute cutest. I took out my camera and they were the biggest posers and wanted to go “kasin! kasin!” It also started raining after a thunderstorm rolled through. Not as much rain as I’d expect for a thunderstorm! And it barely rained here in Sagada though the two towns are only about 10 km away. Oh, mountain life. Dad’ll be cooking sinigang for dinner. I saw him buy the dead fish at the market. Fish, I have no problem with eating when I’ve seen their dead uncooked carcasses so I plan on filling my tummy tonight. I’m much too tired to do much else right now but write this. The sun rises really early, around 5 am, and then the sun sets around 7. And since there aren’t lights anywhere, once it gets really dark there’s not much to do but go home and sleep. I think my body is still getting used to the time, but I’m still finding it hard to pull through the day without wanting a nap. I hope keeping busy, getting active, and this natural timeline will help in remedying my “low energy”. Tomorrow we’re going to Lacma-an to see Lola and the Aunties again, and my little cousins. I love those guys.
PS: I think Mom was right when she said that I would start to get bored if I stayed too long. Already I realize that there isn’t much to do if you aren’t off visiting people or exploring and adventuring, and I can’t do the adventuring solely on my own (as long as my Dad or any immediate family has any say.) It’s what people do: hang out at the shop and socialize, and considering the fact I don’t know many people to socialize with, I kinda strike out on that one. Oh, to be young when card games and throwing chickens off balconies could amuse you for hours!
PPS: Sagada is such a tourist town! Koreans, white folk, even other Filipinos come here to visit. Apparently all the inns have been filled up. Also, I feel kind of uncomfortable… like the men stare at me. Maybe it’s cuz I wore a dress? I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing that again without my Dad around. No time to be fashionable here, May, if I don’t want to attract attention.
DAY 3 – MAY 1
Dad and I went to Lacma-an to see Lola and the Aunties. First thing we did when we got there was nap, it was so humid. They opened the parcel and Lisa wore my old sweaters. I heard them killing and torching the chickens for food but I didn’t look because I knew I couldn’t. Even when it came time for dinner I ate a bit of etag but no chicken. Little Sitol brought me to their pig pen where they have a huge sow and 11 little piglets. Took some pictures when Uncle Marvin came to feed them, and saw their two bunnies too. Lisa took me to their school which offered a lovely view of the rice terraces, and we picked some flowers. There’s a red lily-like flower that smells deeeeelightful. Then we went up to the church with Auntie Juana and all the little cousins and JV. Met some Aunties and Lolas too, who all asked me who I was, who my parents were, and where I was from. Overheard some kids call me “Americano” and Lisa yelled back that I could understand them. Guess it’s cuz I’m so darn white! Lola Severina reminded me to extend my regards to people who I’ve now forgotten. Way to go, May, way to go.
The kids really like my camera. Pictures were taken during church service, then we walked back up to Lola’s with some fish. Ran into one man who was selling pots and pans who said something to me that I didn’t understand. Lisa yelled at him “English!” and he was all surprised. I asked them to tell me what he said and it was something like “you are beautiful.” I don’t like not knowing what people are saying about me especially because it’s so obvious that I’m not from here. Darken up already skin! It’s better when I’m with Dad but now I know what they meant about me not going around on my own.
When we got back, Lisa, Rose, Sitol, and Filippa took me on a walk to the rice terraces. It was getting dark and the clouds were coming down low. They picked shells out of the water because I told them that I like shells, and we came across a dried out fish pond. The mud was all cracked and they jumped down, but when I walked upon it I would sink in at some parts cuz I was so much heavier. We had fun taking pictures and you could hear the frogs in the shallow water surrounding us. Little Sitol got all scared and covered his ears. It was getting really dark so we headed back to eat dinner and the kids went crazy playing with each other. Man, I remember when I was young and had that much boundless energy. After dinner I went back to Auntie Sattie’s with Vina Rose, Lisa, Sitol, and Filippa. They’re so adorable, they ended up gifting me with a purse, nail polish, a ring and a couple necklaces. Then they went and put on make up and princess dresses and we took pictures again. Sitol wore Rose’s scarf like a cape and powdered his face with baby powder. He reminds me so much of Art it kinda made me miss lil bro.
DAY 4 – MAY 2
Slept over at Auntie Sattie’s place. They have a VCD player and there’s this Igorot comedy show that’s just horrible. I don’t understand what’s happening but the camera work and acting is pathetic. Sad to say it, but it’s true. There are also Igorot music videos we watched last night and they are hilarious. At least there are somewhat creative-minded folks willing to make something out of it. All I’m saying is that it could be better.
After breakfast we left Lola’s and walked for a bit down around the rice terraces where we could see Agawa. I think Dad’s the one to get tired first now, though he won’t admit it. We didn’t walk all the way back to Sagada and ended up taking the bus down instead. Because it’s fiesta week they had a basketball game set up between the different districts, as well as booths for each district. There seems to be so much going on as compared to how I remembered the town. We dropped by Sagada Weaving on our way to Grandpa’s and there’s a gorgeous black/yellow backpack that I want. And also, I want to drop by the Masferre gallery to see if I can get postcards of his prints. Probably won’t be able to afford an actual print but at least I can share the postcards with people. Gotta send something to Lachlan too! We go to town later and I want to drop by the Yoghurt Café (which is famous, apparently) and the internet café. I have a feeling I have a massive backlog on FB and email.