I’m on a horse.
My groin hurt the morning after.
That’s what she said.
DAY 5 - JULY 9 (cont.)
Today was a very lazy one. The teeny tiny kitty cat at Auntie Julia’s refused to let Art and me be; it would take a nap in Art’s lap, which was adorable, but then would try and climb up on our shoulders, digging its claws in to hang on. On our walk back home, we stopped by the Yoghurt House for lunch. There’s a girl that works there who I first met in Ontario when she was visiting Canada; she came along when Auntie Connie took me to the African Safari, and I reunited with her on the off chance last year when Dad and I decided to try out the tourist haunt. I forgot her name and I hate having to ask people their name when it slips my mind; we exchanged genial greetings but I felt a bit embarrassed not being able to address her properly. I kind of hope she forgot my name too.
Art and I sat on the balcony which overlooks the street and provides a decent view of the hill on which St Mary resides. We wanted to order onion rings but that item was unavailable, and the potato salad would take 45 minutes to prepare. We settled on the Mexican pork sandwich instead. They’re famous for their yoghurt but that wasn’t something Art was into, and it doesn’t mix very well with beer either. It’s a popular tourist eatery; when we were there, all but one of the patrons were tourists or visitors from Korea, Germany, France (I think), and some English-speaking country. I wouldn’t imagine it would be popular with locals either, as the prices are geared towards a tourist demographic and most Igorot folk would take a home-cooked meal over restaurant food any day.
DAY 1 – JULY 5
We arrived in Manila on Friday morning after an uneventful flight. The plane was an oldie; there were tears in the seats, wear in the upholstery, and small compartments in the armrests intended as ashtrays. Since we left Vancouver at 1 AM on July 4 and arrived on the 5th, we essentially lost an entire day due to travel time and the sun’s natural orbit. Perhaps the greatest thing to happen while on the plane was when we landed as the cabin was met with applause and cheers of “Hallelujah!” and “hello, Philippines!”
My first observation when exiting the plane was, “Damn, this humidity.” Mom was stoked that the sun was out, but just give it til the afternoon for the thunderstorm clouds to form. I couldn’t help but notice that there was a girl wearing a pair of Ed Hardy tattoo pattern tights unironically and felt the need to point it out. My Mom then felt the need to point out that I was being judgemental. Maybe it’s because I feel like a giant when I’m in the Philippines but I had a strange sense of entitlement when judging that stranger on her unfortunate fashion choices.
My second observation was that of mild chaos. I’m not a big fan of crowds in general, but it irks me that much more when people in a crowd don’t know how to function properly, not knowing where to line up or how to move from point A to point B efficiently. It’s even more irritating when some of those incapable folks are my parents. It’s difficult to be patient with them when it seems so obvious to me where to go and what to do next, especially when they’re freaking out over telling me what I already know.
We have so much luggage travelling with us. There are 8 of us with at least 2 pieces each, resulting in having to transport more than 16 pieces at every exchange. It took us a while to find a cab that would carry all 8 of us and our boxes from the airport to the bus terminal and boy, was that voyage in Manila rush hour traffic an edgy one. I forgot how crazy it can get, taking us an hour for a trip that should take about 20 minutes. There are no lanes, or at least no cars stay in them and ride the line instead. Nobody signals, and there was a moment when we were nearly sandwiched between two charter buses. The roads are shared between taxis, pedicabs, bicycles, motorbikes, charter buses, work trucks, you name it - driving in Manila is like navigating with the head of an owl.
By the time this posts, I’ll be on a plane halfway to the Philippines. When I left last year, I didn’t think that I would be returning so soon especially considering it had previously been a 10 year gap between visits to the Motherland.
My feelings leading up to this trip have been more apprehensive than excited this time around. I feel like I’ll be leaving so much behind this time around, and have already done all that I want to back in the Philippines. It’s a strange thing to feel this way about a trip of which most people I know would gladly trade places with me. For some reason, I want to keep working and keep on the grind without having this interruption. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid that once I pull myself out of the flow it’ll be difficult for me to get back in.
I’ve been thinking about it. I’m looking forward to this trip so that I can have time away to read, to write, and to rejuvenate. However, I realize the greater importance this time around is the opportunity to spend time with family. This might be the last time my family and I will travel back home together. I’m not only travelling with my parents and my brother but with my uncle, aunt, and two younger cousins. I’m already annoyed to the teeth with their antics but hey, it isn’t everyday you board a plane with a five-year-old in tow. However, the specific reason for this trip is to be present at the anniversary of my Grandfather’s death. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to spend time with him before he passed, less than one month after I left last year. There is a legacy in Sagada surrounding the Bosaing family name, and to learn of all that he had done for that mountain town is awe-inspiring. It’ll be weird to visit without him still around.
We’ll see how I feel when we land. There’s nothing but sun in the Vancouver forecast while we’re flying into humidity, thunderstorms, and typhoon season. I’m writing this as I wait for our flight to board and I’m eager to get this 13 hour flight over and done with. From there, it’ll be a bus ride from Manila to Baguio City where we’ll spend the night and then a bus the next morning from Baguio to Sagada. It’ll be a bumpy ride.
PS - Duty free shops are the BEST. I can only buy fragrances in a duty free shop cuz it’s so darn cheap. And I think I’ll just drive down to the border any time I want to buy alcohol because $22 for a 1L bottle of Crown Royal, whaaaaat?!
Marlon Brando with Philippine children in Apocalypse Now (1979)
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.
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.