By RUDY D. LIPORADA
Au and I went to Bontoc for our first leg of places to visit this year in the Philippines. We were with her sister, Angie; cousin, Vicky; and grandnephews Peter and Michael. Michael drove the car lent by Au’s niece, Eden. Though our main mission was to trace the Igorot lineage of Au, we wanted to see places in her home province given our limited time of four days with two dedicated to travel time.
While still in Baguio, Michael gave the Bontoc relatives a heads up and told them to gather at Au’s cousin, Chayapan’s place to meet us and do our preliminary family tracing. So, there they were (cousins, nephews, nieces, grandnephews, and grandnieces) waiting for us after four hours of driving (Oh! Yes, unlike a whole day when the roads were not yet paved).
With those present, the preliminary tracing from the great-grand parents of the Olosan clan to the grandnephews and grandnieces was, unexpectedly, a breeze. This was done over cups of Sagada coffee (from the store of Chayapan and is noted for in the suburb of Samoki) and mounds of hotcakes (pronounced as haskiks).
We then spent the rest of the night planning where to go and what to do for the rest of our stay. With a number of relatives planning our itinerary based on what they thought we should see and do and how to go about doing so, many times we entered the syndrome of “kung ayaw, maraming dahilan; kung gusto, maraming paraan” (if you don’t want it, there are excuses; it you want it, there are many ways).
Later on, Michael would just blurt “nu achim, achim; nu madim, madim” (if you want, you want; if you don’t want, you don’t want).
That phrase became our byword (or rather by phrase) all through out the itinerary that we had planned.
Our destination on the second day was planned out to be at the Bontoc Museum, Maligcong, and Maiinit. No more discussion. All “achim”.
The museum featured photos taken by Edward Masfere who stayed with the Igorots and has archived their way of life from way back when. Most of his photos depict what would be ancient now considering the sprawling buildings in the hinterlands with the creeping urbanization. Bamboo bridges connecting the tribal villages across rivers are now been heavy traffic bridges crawling with buses, cars, and tricycles. Sporty teenagers in uniqlo designed mingle with adults whose only ornaments of the past had been relegated to beads. They traverse the barangays while rap music blare along the streets. The museum, like any other museum was truly a window of the past. Unfortunately, photographing was a no-no as all the prints of the Masfere are copyright protected.
We went to Maligcong as it would have been a Banawe sight experience in a mini-scale as far as the terraces are concerned. Unfortunately, harvest has already been done and the fields were no longer green. Still the terraces were grand depiction of man’s power to build a gargantuan line of economic resource borne out of necessity.
It would already be dusk when we reached Maiinit. Literally, it was ‘mainit’ or hot, that is the place oozed with hot springs. An enterprising clan set up a resort of sort and we immersed ourselves in swimming size pools even in the coldest of nights. We actually did not want to retire but we had to because we had to wake up at dawn the following morning if we wanted to behold sunrise over mountains of Bontoc and borders of Sagada.
Again, all “achim”.
So, it was that we were on the road, as agreed to catch the vantage points where we were to behold the glorious sunrise of the Cordillera mountains. We were also delighted that apart the from the sun’s beauty, we were presented with blankets of fogs that descended in between the mountains. I could say that those mountains are always cloud-kissed and their interlude is truly a vision to behold.
After the exhilarating dawn, we were off to Sagada to visit the caves were Igorot ancestors are laid in rest. Visiting the caves is actually is a misnomer as we stop short in front on the caves. Entering them and traversing their insides is an escapade no longer for me. I would rather have you google the trek inside as I would not be able to to describe the experience to you.
The going down to where one could view the hanging coffins was tolerable although I still had to catch my breathe several times along the up and down steep steps. There they were, literally hanging coffins by the face of the mountains. All, for the veneration of the Igorots’ ancestors.
After Sagada, we went back to Samoki in Bontoc to spend our last night with Au’s cousin and relived our escapades in ancestors’ land of my wife. It was a realization on her part that she really be proud of her Igorot heritage.
After Bontoc, we also went to Bolinao in Pangasinan, and Cebu and Bohol in the Visayas. But that is for another travelogue. # nordis.net