Thursday, August 26, 2010

Between Nowhere And Infinity: Into The Cordilleras

When I explained my trekking plans to the Cordilleras to my friends, I was vehemently discouraged, warned of the NPA and other bandits living deep in the mountains, possible abductions by tribal headhunters, almost non-existent road conditions, catastrophic landslides, tribal unrest, and a host of other evil portents that would all lead to my untimely death.

Of course, as I've always known, these weren't what I found.

The abandoned remains of the Chico River Diversion Dam was a mad place to start. Built in the 60s, it saw bloody battles between the tribes defending their ancestral domains and the Marcos administration. The project was finally shelved in the 1980s.

Jeepneys in these parts are hybrid 4x4s that run on diesel. They're mountain bad-asses and could traverse the most treacherous of roads. Passengers are a hodgepodge of people, goats, pigs, bales of vegetables, and sacks of rice.

Chanced upon these boys building their own toy car with wood, recycled rubber, a bagful of nails, and a heaps of imagination.

An old man painstainkingly shucks each palay.

I had the good fortune of meeting and being invited to the home of Alonzo Saclag, village elder and probably one of the last living crusader of the Kalingan culture. He still fashions traditional musical instruments by hand to this day.

Mr. Saclag and his lovely wife, Rebecca, offered me a cup of very strong coffee. In their tribal tradition, a drink offered to a guest means giving that person their tribe's utmost respect and protection.

In my wanderings, these kids gave me a warm welcome and grand tour of their village. Unlike their counterparts in bigger towns, these kids have not learned to ask for anything but would instead offer you their hands and show you around. They took me to their school and in the school's backyard was a sprawling amphiteater of rice terraces.

A grandmother carrying her grandchild.

Bus rides throughout the Cordilleras is long, bumpy, and butt-numbing at best. But you get to meet wonderful people who would share their produce, smiles, and stories to while the time.

Like a boy, I was excited! The jeepney ride I took from Lubuagan and Tinglayen to Bontoc was a heart-pounding, epic 4 hour journey that cut through rocky, unpaved and sometimes muddy terrain. Sometimes, there'd only be four inches of space between the tire and the ravine.

One of the many unspoiled lesser known rice terraces in the Cordilleras.

Sagada, Mt. Province
A lady goes off to market to sell these vegetable flowers.

While I was walking through unmarked roads, I often wondered and imagined what lies beyond the bend. It was nice to be just alone with all my thoughts and imagined conversations with myself.

Traditional Igorot houses in Bontoc.

Betel nuts drying by the side of a road. In these parts, betel nut chewing is considered tradition and is common among men.

Alma, a young wife makes a living from weaving. She invited me to her home and showed me how she makes traditional Igorot garb. Weaving is still pretty much part of everyday life in the Cordilleras.

On my last day, with my eyes still crusty with sleep, I took this photo from my window. I'm sure people up here always wake up to something this pristine and wonderful. To city folk like me, this is something I'd treasure and preserve in a photograph.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Why are nightmares called nightmares when the worst horror you face is during the day?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roxas Boulevard

Taken on an early day when I thought Roxas Boulevard looked like a desert oasis.