Trek to A Most Wondrous Place- Alab

Make a trek to barrio Alab one of your priority itinerary.  It is just 15 minutes trike away from the Capital Town of Bontoc.  We will not fill this post with much text but allow the pictures to tell the story.  To book a trek, contact our Alab tour guide Ms. Ofelia Lopez at 09484352273 (from abroad, dial +639484352273).  Double click the photos for an enlarged view.
1. Galingan-Data-Kaman Baneng
2
2. Kaipitan Lake
3
3. Kaman-utek
5
4. Ebao Lake
4
5. Mati-im
6

The Vanishing Ancient Art and Lores of the North

PART 1 – TATTOOES

By: Glo Abaeo Tuazon

Email: twilight_gloatyahoodotcom

Photo by Glo Abaeo

Photo by Glo Abaeo

Art we say is in the eye of the beholder. It is described as an expression of one’s creativity and imagination embodied in a physical form for various interpretations or abstract manner as in a practice of some sort. Lifted from the Latin word “artis” it usually connotes skills and crafts. The word itself has meaning beyond simple description. It is sometimes contained or broad in scope, sometimes simple and yet very complicated. Lores on the other hand are seen to be accumulated knowledge over spans of time on certain subjects or matters, or traditional beliefs.

TATTOOED WOMEN OF BONTOC - They got their tattooes when they were teenagers, believing it to be part of body embelishments at that time. Though it hurts they say, they bore the pain with no anesthetics or antiseptics.  Photo by Glo Abaeo

TATTOOED WOMEN OF BONTOC – They got their tattooes when they were teenagers, believing it to be part of body embelishments at that time. Though it hurts they say, they bore the pain with no anesthetics or antiseptics. Photo by Glo Abaeo

 In the Northern Philippine territory, particularly the Cordilleran Region a lot of ancient arts and lores were once practiced as part of their everyday living routines. Something that has been kept and only discovered with the coming of the conquerors in the early 19th century. Fascination was the word most apt to describe the reactions of the foreigners, though some would consider what they saw as savage behaviour (something uncommon, as other countries have somehow similar cultures and traditions too) it was only lately when they stayed with the locals that they slowly perceived the rationale of it all (according to the local interpretations). A day of lecture or research, a week, a month, a year, is not enough time to comprehend all of these. For even between and among the locals, for each tribe or clan, they still have minute to large gaps or differences in presentations and reasons for all the things they do.

       Tattooes, tattooes, tattooes. If I would not have had problems with my depleting immune system I could have had some of these, maybe around my upper arm, like a band, or my ankles too. I could have had one embellishing the sorrounds of my navel and would flaunt it like a medal of sorts. Or one at the back of my shoulders, like a medallion or an amulet protecting me from harm. And I would have wanted it to look like the embellishments of those in the traditional past. Like having history written on the body to be read and remembered every now and then.

A TATTOOED LADY FROM TINGLAYAN, KALINGA (IMG 0017) - The tattooes were also had during here much younger years. She is just one of the few who still bore the tattoo inscriptions in those parts.  Photo by Glo Abaeo

A TATTOOED LADY FROM TINGLAYAN, KALINGA (IMG 0017) – The tattooes were also had during here much younger years. She is just one of the few who still bore the tattoo inscriptions in those parts. Photo by Glo Abaeo

 In the old North, tattooeing is symbolic, especially to the men. In Kalinga (and some in the Mountain Province) the tattooe is a right one must earn. The earlier centuries were so much different when these regions were having their own local and traditional “government” system, with “pangats” or the elders leading them. Clans were at times on guard for invading or marauding neighboring clans, it was a necessity for the men to be trained or brought up knowing the responsibility of protecting the family and belongings. Thus was embedded the warrior status. As explained to me in Sacasacan, Sadanga, it is necessary then for the women folk to go out and do the chores of tilling the fields, tending to livestocks and maintaining the household while the men stays back to protect the village, oftentimes gathering in the “ator” to meet and plan and strategize if necessary. These in some sense applies to most men in these northern provinces. So comes also the connection with the tattoo rights. As much as it is a form of body aesthetics, it is also connotative of a man’s status and the right to flaunt it. Traditionally a tattoo can be had after undergoing works or acts of valor, one which is warfare. In those days when a clan goes to war and brings home a “head or two”, he is considered a great man. He is considered one of the brave and gallant warriors and thus earns his right in the community, a tattoo can be had for that. Not everybody, not even with skills in hunting (for food) or working the land (farming) gives a man the instant right to a tattoo. He has to have other qualities to go with those. The rightful elders who lead these gallant men to good plans and uplifts and protects the community have had these etches on their body too. (Other discussions can be had in my works) In Kalinga men, the patterns are more intricate and mystifying. Each pattern symbolic of something. The “batok” (Batek for those in the mountain province) design of arch on the chest can are also varying from one person to another although they may be depictive of one symbolism, that goes with whoever the artist was who embedded the forms. It so also goes with those on the arms and back. Other artists even in those days (and there are a few of them) have to give in to what their subject wants and needs and those apparently are the reasons for the more “modern” designs exhibited side by side with the more traditional patterns. Like for example the very distinct form of an eagle, or the very distict letters. Other designs include the depictions of rice bundles and ferns, of snakes and centipedes, of spears and eagles. So much more motifs with different interpretations.

COMPARING THE MARKS - The marks may be the same but sometimes they do have different interpretations of it.  Text and photo:  Glo Abaeo

COMPARING THE MARKS – The marks may be the same but sometimes they do have different interpretations of it. Text and photo: Glo Abaeo

The women on the other hand can have it easier.  The reason is more for embellishment purposes. I have had subjects from Tinglayan, Kalinga and in different areas around the Mountain Province. Most of them are old now, beyond their 60’s and very obviously no other younger than them bear the scars and marks anymore. Thus it is now a dying art, one that needs saving even if it be in the form of documentation only, the purpose why I and some other interested people go around doing the things we do. In Bontoc Ili, a group of women cheerfully let me take their photos, explaining in part that in those days it is considered beautiful to have the marks, as most young dames of their days did, like a fashion statement. It adds to the allure of the body, especially in those days when going topless is not a taboo and the tattoos sort of dresses up the limbs. In women, most tattoos runs the length of the arm, from the shoulder to the top side of the hand. Patterns of short horizontal and vertical lines (geometrical) sorrounds the arms, interspersed now and then by bold dots and x’s, or the short waves (like a letter S lying down) and the “gayaman” pattern (centipede). These were reasons to bear the pain of owning the tattoos, sometimes it takes days or weeks for the wounds to heal and the swelling to subside. In those days, there were no antiseptics to quell infections and no anesthetics to quell the pains either, it all comes down to bearing with the throbbing pains after the pricking. In any case, most of those I talked to cannot “recall” moments when they thought they have had infections, or they simply have not known it then the fact that not many in those days have had formal educations yet until the coming of the Christian missionaries from Belgium and America when health and sanitation was first introduced and explained. They only speak of the searing pain. One said to me ignorance does have its benefits too. If you do not know, it probably would not happen to you.

IMG_0017

BEARING THE ARM TATTOOES – For women in Kalinga and the Mt. Province, the tattooes are mostly displayed on the stretch of the arms, from the shoulder to the top of the hands. Text and photo: Glo Abaeo

       How they do it is another matter. Lard was often mixed with soot or pounded coals to make the bluish-black ink (some uses pigments gathered from seeds or plants), it being the most ready and available medium in those days. A tattooing tool of pins or the sharp pricks or thorns of plants were gathered and bundled tightly together in numbers of 6 to 8, inserted on a fashioned tool to hold the pins and for better grip then dipped in the medium and the pricking starts.

       For whatever motivated them to get tattooes, it is a very much appreciated form of art. One that a person can carry around, like a mobile art attraction or exhibit, but sadly one that the person also takes to the grave when he or she expires. The great pride that each tribe depicts in all these markings are symbolic of their social and physical being. The traditions and culture of a race are somewhat part of the painfully embedded drawings. The blood and skin adding more emotion and irony to the story of a great people brandishing a way of living, their religion, beliefs, and rites of passages are inscribed with the prick of ancient tools and ancients arts.  

Bontoc Gets To Taste the Real Pizza

By Rush Tarnate, Dovic Ticangen, Cherrie Pie Kawaren, Sheree Mae Polled- BS Entrepreneurship;  Xijen College of Mountain Province

pizzeraBontoc, the capital town of Mountain Province is getting a taste of the real thing- this time, pizza, authentic that is.  As BS Entrepreneurship students at Xijen College of Mountain Province we were tasked to look around town for businesses that were unique and had the potentials for growth.  We learned about the pizza house that was growing in popularity among the locals.  This was a pizza house called the La Pizzeria.  Pizza is not new to the Filipino as the ever-adventurous Filipino palate adapts easily to foods of foreign origin.  Bontoc has pizza in some restaurants but the pizza served at the La Pizzeria is done with the right stuff- that can rival established pizza houses in the cities.  Margaret Chapiyen, earned an Agricultural Engineering degree in Nueva Ecija. Margaret found work at the Baguio Country Club. Thrust in the club’s kitchen, she got exposure to food service and preparation.  Then Margaret moved on to Hong Kong as a domestic helper.  Her British boss was fond of Italian cuisine.  Margaret’s experience at the Baguio Country Club was honed further in her boss’s kitchen in HK.  Margaret had the kitchen to herself as she experimented on pizza making.  She then moved on to China (mainland) and did some teaching until her contract expired. She was lucky to be taken in by a Greek Restaurant based in Shanghai.  Her food service experience got her into the restaurant.  Her skills at pizza making were further enhanced at the restaurant.  When Maragaret came home for good in her hometown of Bontoc, she decided to set up a pizza parlor.  The venture was setup at the second floor of the Macli-ing Building.  She named her place, “La Pizzeria.”  The place is quaint, cozy.  Pine wood tables and chairs add to the warmth and character.  There are books, magazines to read- to keep one busy as Margaret prepares your orders.  Margaret as a startup is doing it all alone.

 

pizzaDuring the start-up phase, her customers would comment about the ingredients.  It was a case of her customers being introduced to ‘unusual’ herbs and spices like basil, thyme, and marjoram.  Margaret then had to make adjustments as she realized that the pizza her town-mates have been accustomed to taste “sweet”, has sliced hotdogs, pineapple and cheese.  At first she did give in, and would ask her customers what ingredients they would like on their pizza before she makes it.  Eventually, she reintroduced the other ingredients (herbs, meats) that make up a pizza because she wanted her customers to learn about the real pizza.  Asked why she went into this kind of business- it was what she loved dong, she replied.  When asked about the challenges of the business, it was about sourcing ingredients.  She has to get her cheeses and other essentials from Manila.  She then has to travel to Baguio to get her ingredients as her supplier sends her raw ingredients up to Baguio.  This means lost revenue, as she has to close shop.  Pizza may not be news to the urban dweller but to the community of Bontoc, having mozzarella, various kinds of meat, real sauces and other pizza variations are a treat.  The great difference is the price.  A medium pizza can be had at 250.00 pesos compared to a small size pizza which can run up to four hundred fifty on most pizza outlets in the city.  On the side, Margaret can whip up a mean vegetable salad with vinaigrette to die for.  Margaret’s venture comes in at the right time.  In a community where almost all snack houses have a common menu, her pizza stands out from the rest.  She is also creating opportunities for local organic vegetable farmers who could supply her herbs and salad vegetables.  As a parting shot, Margaret advised us that as an entrepreneur, there is no age limit, what is important is the person’s interest, hard work and good financial management that helps you survive the first years of business.  It is also an attitude and perspective that one should carry on through the years.

How to get there:  From the Sagada Jeep Stop in Bontoc, go straight ahead towards the road going to the Bontoc museum.  From the Shell Gas station or police outpost, look at the second floor of the green painted building, that’s where Pizzeria is located.  Cross the street and go up the stairs to the second floor of the building.  Contact the owner, Margaret Chapiyen at 0910-946-7680

 

Bontoc Into the Future

Joel T. Fagsao
This post was written in 2008.  I hope this would serve as a perspective in the present times…as to how far we have gone since the time I wrote this.

basketBontoc, my hometown is 100 years old!  By the time this paper hits the streets, the celebration will already be in full blast.  As I look back to the place of my youth, I realized, Bontoc had all the right things to let anyone get on a good start whatever plans one has in his or her life.  For one, it had good preparatory schools.  The teachers were great, whether you studied at Saint Vincent’s Elementary, All Saints Mission Elementary and my alma mater, Bontoc Central School.   Reading, writing, math and sciences were emphasized.  There was this passion among the teachers to really imbibe in their students a good educational foundation.  In high school whether you were at Saint Vincent’s or MPGCHS, the same passion was there.  The old Mountain Province College also contributed to the town’s growth.  For one, it had the same dedicated teachers who despite the lack of facilities turned their students into great midwives, civil servants and entrepreneurs.  The college was then using our rooms at MPGCHS after our classes.  I took summer classes in the old wooden structure of Mountain Province College and enjoyed discussions with students and teachers.

It is thus not a surprise to see successful alumni, trekking back to Bontoc to celebrate class reunions and thank a town that helped contribute to where they are now.  Second, the values, the preservation of culture and keeping the faith helped mould the ideals of the residents of Bontoc. Bontoc in the earliest years of its development was host to the Roman Catholic and Anglican faith.  The religiosity of the people coupled with their traditional beliefs and practices provided a solid foundation of their values.  I grew up in a household with Dad as an Anglican and mama as member of the Jehova’s Witnesses.   Religion was never an issue as Dad allowed us kids to join in the Kingdom hall services of Jehova’s Witnesses. On occasion, he would bundle us to attend midnight mass at the Anglican Church and would always remind us kids to light candles at the cemetery for our grandparents.  Thus, we had quite a liberal upbringing as I wonder, could dad who had an American principal at All Saints Mission Elementary school, be a contributing influence to his outlook in life?   In my elementary years, I will never forget the values that I learned from my Grade 1 chums, Joseph We-eng and Fabian Pachakeg.  They were the kids I hung up with at my grandfather Lino’s house in Chakong.  Every afternoon, after class,  they and other classmates from Bontoc Ili would rush in all directions.  “Nak safaten si Ina tay namoknag, awitek awit na..” (I have to go meet mother who has gone to the rice fields and help carry her load) they would say in unison and off they go.  These children, young as they are had respect and responsibility.  With that, I was no longer ashamed to carry “arasao” (spoiled food) from neighbors for our gaggle of pigs or had to scrub every rung of our stairs a hundred times before going out to play. I maintain respect and admiration for my Ifab-fey (Bontoc Ili) classmates to this day.

mapurworld2 I also give thanks to my kindly neighbor my late grandma Christine Camarillo who obliged me to read all the comics I could get my hands into.  Aliwan, Banawag, Liwayway, Darna, Lamor, Wakasan or DC comics- Superman, Spiderman, Unknown Soldier and oh they were for free! No rentals.  This was my library and I was not yet in school then.  It gave me opportunities to learn.  It was my Internet Café in those days. Of course, who would not forget our town librarian, Mrs. Andaya?  The old library (now housing the Land Bank and multi-purpose building) had in stock copies of National Geographic even though how old, helped us pass the time during our two years of job search after graduation in college. Mrs. Andaya would kindly lead us to dusty shelves and introduced us to good books.

  My other grandma Theodora Basco would regal me with Bible stories and yes my first cousin Ligaya Accab who was patient enough to tell Hansel and Gretel every mealtime or before bedtime.  Third, the humility, tenacity of the Bontoc, I will carry till in my lifetime.  Sometimes, I feel a bit bad when I hear words like “Bontocish..”, ey dakayo ay iBontoc, maid progresso yo, compara sinan daduma ay taga Mountain Province…” well today, I just shrug it off.  After all, this is not a contest, as the saying goes…”we should never compare ourselves with others, for if we do, we will only be frustrated as surely, there would be others better than us.” Third, Bontoc is a hodgepodge of cultures.

 The Ilocanos, our Chineses neighbors, lakay (old man) Kinga of the Lumber store (they were always neat and courteous in their dealings with customers), American classmate Mitch Bowling, the Belgian sisters, the Kastens of Chakchakan and others of various nationalities helped form the ideal landscape for learning in this town.    Dangwa Tranco who started service in Bontoc as early as the 1930s is also worthy of mention in Bontoc’s development.  Operated by the late Bado Dangwa, the bus company played an important role in the town’s trade and commerce.  My grandmother, Theodora was an astute businesswoman.  She opened the town’s first shoe store and Dangwa was there to help move the goods.  As her niece, my mother, Carmen, grew up In her tutelage, she learned the ropes of the shoe trading business and again, Dangwa was there.  Despite the bad roads, the bus company never gave up and became an important vehicle literally for the town’s development.

Today, as Bontoc celebrates its centennial and when the last piece of trash is hauled off from the day’s activities, let us take stock of things and envision the Bontoc of the future.

First, Bontoc is a growing town but infrastructure and basic services are much wanting.  Water is a perennial problem in this town.  How come?  I came to know from old timers that in the early years, the water system had installed meters and thus was a bit regulated.  The old system never grew with an increasing population, worse the meters were no longer in use.  An overhaul of the water system is the order of the day.  Tabuk City has a good water supply system in place.

 In our case, we have an ample water supply source but the resources to bring it to our homes are a problem.  If we are able to spend for our own water pipes then surely, we can afford to pay for metered water.  Second, is there not a way for us to tap the river as an alternate source for our household cleaning needs?  HK uses sea water to flush toilets.  Third, we have no systems in place yet to entice investors to set up business here in town.  Business investments will mean jobs to our youth who have no choice but to look for jobs elsewhere.  I’m willing to work with organizations, the Local Government Unit to help draft an investment code for our town.

We should be prodding Bontocs who are now based overseas to invest in their hometown.  I wish somebody would set up a business process outsourcing (BPO) center in town.  A call center in operation encourages the growth of other businesses such as trade, services and food jaunts. We have trainable young people who can be employed in call center services.  All we need is the right telecommunications infrastructure.  Other areas for investment would be the tourism sector.  The tumanyans (clan landowners) can open up their idle lands (mountains) to host children’s summer camps, retreat, develop hiking trails or partner with invexijen1stors to develop their lands to host high value crops and even flowers for the Manila market.  Next, Lengsad and other areas can be developed to host the expansion of Bontoc.

 The lands on the roadside towards Guina-ang and Mainit are also ideal residential areas.   I also envision Bontoc as a future university town.  The reason I set up Xijen College of Mountain Province.  There is so much talent we can tap to really make this town a viable alternative educational center after Baguio City.  To dream is free and nothing is impossible in this world.  I would encourage town mates wherever you are to join a think tank that would help plot the future of Bontoc.

Fun-tak Technologies of Old versus Modern Day Technologies

Photo by Joel Fagsao

Photo by Joel Fagsao

Bontoc celebrates its 104th  anniversary as a pueblo (town) on September 16, 2014,  and I would like to share with you insights about my hometown.

The earliest studies of Bontoc could have been made by Spanish expeditions.  Then in 1903, American anthropologist Albert Ernest Jenks made a study of the way of life of my ancestors.  Jenks stayed in Bontoc for five (5) months with his wife during that year.

First, Jenks writes that the name Bontoc is “Ban-tak’,” a Spanish corruption of the Igorot name
“Fun-tak’,” a common native word for mountain (but then we don’t use fun-tak anymore for mountain, do we?), the original name of the pueblo.  There could have been more interesting facts about Bontoc had the paper records not been burned by a Spanish insurrect named Captain Angels.  Jenks based his research on a few remaining Spanish records and interaction with the locals.

In Jenk’s research there are two distinct institutions in Bontoc which sets them apart from the other tribes of the Cordilleras.  One is the lack of a lone leader who controls the affairs of the community.  In Bontoc, the affairs of the community are left to a council of elders. Jenks writes that the control of the pueblo by the groups of old men called “intugtukan,” operates only within a single political and geographical portion of the pueblo.  The pueblo is a loose federation of smaller political groups.  This could probably explain the proud character of a Bontoc and the existence of the Ato as the political unit of the community.

 

Photo by Joel T. Fagsao

Photo by Joel T. Fagsao

Jenks continues to write that the second institution which is the Olog (Jenks writes it as Olag), an institution- of trial marriage.  It is in this area that I do not agree.  While Jenks did not write about men going to sleep with girls in the Olog, attributing the Olog to trial marriage is a misinterpretation.  Indeed, in the Bontoc culture, if a married couple cannot bear children, both are free to find another mate.

Alas, the focus of my article for the re-launch of Weaves is on technologies.  I could write about the Olog issue at a later time.

So what are the technologies developed by my ancestors?  Plenty, but I believe it is more on agricultural practices and the related infrastructure that Bontocs and other Igorots fare better.  It took several years of schooling and even a doctoral degree for some to finally realize that modern agricultural practices are not the answer to food shortages.  In fact, the green revolution has wreaked havoc on the planet’s fragile eco-system.

Yes, organic farming has become fashionable and endorsing a return to such practices would just be met with a raised eyebrow by Ikit (grandma) Lapu who could just say “I told you so…”

Remember our khongo (the Bontoc pig sty)? It was a functional compost pit.  Our pigs then were fed with natural food and not on antibiotic laden feeds, and of course from our morning rituals which we now do in the confines of a ceramic cistern (khongo is bad, bad, say the health authorities, use the toilet….).

Local farmers have turned to the use of modern technologies to increase production.  A garden in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Local farmers have turned to the use of modern technologies to increase production. A garden in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Compost fertilizer from the khongo is carried on a khimata (two baskets tied on each end of a wooden pole) to the rice fields.  The soil is further enriched with sunflower leaves and stalks and grasses.  With organic farming came the preservation of ancient rice seeds which are now being re-discovered and sold as heirloom rice.  Reliance on a few modern rice varieties has contributed to the extinction of 1500 local varieties in Indonesia as reported by www.sustainable.org.

Then we move on to the rice granary which was well secured even without the modern day padlock or high tech biometric based security.  Only the owner knew the right combination to open the rice granary door with a few strokes of either removing a thin piece of wood here or there. With the spate of robberies in town, could a return to the rice granary as a storage area be the better alternative?

Before the National Irrigation Administration, ancient systems of irrigation were already in place.  Irrigation was engineered by our ancestors with no formal engineering training.  Yes, it’s true, cement and modern water impounding techniques further improved the traditional alak/payas (irrigation system) but remember, our ancestors did not go to school.

GreenhouseWhat about time keeping, weather observations and communications?  Of course the rooster foretells of the coming of the dawn.  Insects and birds tell the time-especially the coming of dusk.  It is noon when the sun above is at the center.  Hovering dragonflies warn of a coming rain or worse a typhoon.  I was surprised, on this day and age, I heard young men of Bontoc Ili (in the early hours of night) hollering names and “tengao si wakas!” (translation:  tomorrow is a day of rest-see it is not only the President who can declare a holiday!) The young men of Mat-ao in Alab (today) would put some twist to announcing a holiday by shouting “agtengao tayo no bigaaaaaaaat! Can we announce on radio or send a text message to announce a tengao?   I bet not, it simply doesn’t work with modern communication tools. When someone in the community was near death’s door, a lone gong is played on hallowed ground in a last ditch attempt to ask the one above (Lumawig) for mercy.  The sound of the gong also creates awareness in the community of someone dying.  This probably explains why not everyone agrees to the playing of gongs for a “show.”  The fotatiw (believed to be the light of the spirit world)- small fires that you see at night and would gather in a house also foretell of death in that household.  When (I see this flickering lights In Samoki at night in my childhood, I could not comprehend why all of a sudden, the light from afar would suddenly jump to a great distance. For sure no human holding a torch could do that).  When 24 hour electricity arrived in Bontoc, the fotatiw was gone.  Is there a modern gadget that could probably foretell of a coming death?

Today, the material world has made inroads into the Bontoc life-ways.  Things have changed.  Several questions have come to my mind.  Could modern gadgets translate to quality in the way we lead our lives?  Without modern gadgets, could our ancestors have led a pitiful existence?  If we were to go back to a simple lifestyle similar to how our ancestors lived, could we be better off in terms of peace of mind and contentment with what we already have?   I believe, my ancestors lead an existence of contentment despite the lack of material trappings of the modern world.  They ate full square meals from the fruits of their labor, they did not worry about having to pay monthly interests on a loan, they did not worry about having to pay the monthly dues on electricity, the car, the house, etc.  With the complications of modern life, I wish I were transported back in time, don a simple garb and live a simple life.

The Maligcong Homestay

A Picture Perfect Window.  The Place for You To Stay in Maligcong.

Joel T. Fagsao

Photo by Henry Fesway.

Photo by Henry Fesway.

It started as a coffee shop until husband and wife Jerome and Suzette Chees decided to setup a homestay amidst the famed Maligcong Rice Terraces.  Suzette loves to bake and visitors to the rice terraces would drop by her house for coffee and treats.  Often, the conversation would end up with the visitor saying “how I wish to stay longer, if only I can sleep in your house.”  Suzette would then refer visitors to the inn nearby, operated by the Paducar family.  The couple would hear the same suggestions from tourists all the time and so they decided to give it a try.  Last Saturday, I got my photographer friend, Henry Fesway to take a look at the Chee’s homestay.  We arrived at twelve noon and were met by Suzette and two lady guides from Maligcong.  The sign at the gate leading to a wide parking space said it all “Welcome Maligcong Homestay.”  Detached from the family home is a two bedroom quaint one story pine wood clad house.  The house, half of its walls painted in blue connects to a tiled veranda opening up to a great view of the rice terraces.  We took a quick look around, the smell of freshly baked squash muffins permeated the air as I feigned “I’m not hungry yet..” (typical of a shy Filipino), despite our hosts insistence that we have lunch first. The cool mountain clime and the green all around

Maligcong Homestay, creature comforts.

Maligcong Homestay, creature comforts.

you made you hungrier.  We sat down to a hearty lunch of grilled chicken, golden squash and taro (gabi), rice wine, finished it off with coffee, squash and carrot muffins and mini cakes.   While Henry took photos, we mapped out plans for the operation of the homestay-to me, it is an inn.   We noted that visitors can take the Maligcong public transport –twelve noon or choose other schedules from two thirty, then four thirty or five thirty afternoon ride.  The ride to Maligcong is in itself an adventure; it’s like taking a ride up to the Peak in HK but with a more scenic view and never mind the rough road.  The visitor drops off at the Maligcong Homestay and takes a brief rest, but a long nap would be best.  At seven A.M. either of the lady tour guides, Susan Kediam or Agustina Sokoken takes the visitor to the rice terraces.  The Maligcong Rice Terraces is still one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  The lush green of the terraced rice fields is a welcome respite from the drudgeries and rat race lifestyles in the urban jungles of the world.  The advantage of an overnight stay lets you take in the early morning view-ideal time for photography-you can show off in your Facebook page.   Your day starts with breakfast arranged with Suzette, the evening before, add in the coffee or mountain tea thank you.  DSC_8050 (Copy)The two bedrooms at the Maligcong Homestay are tastefully designed.  Pine wood floors provide the warmth, double beds lets you doze off in dreamland.  Why is my story title “picture perfect window?”  Well, the windows of the rooms perfectly frame the terraces view.  At first, you might think it is a painting on a wall, but look again and it’s the room’s window looking out to the terraces.

 

This is a far different experience from those who chose to stay in Bontoc town and take the eight o’clock morning ride to Maligcong.  There is no hurry if you spend the night in Maligcong giving you more time to explore the terraces and get the best views.  Meanwhile, we worked on the activities that the guides can do for the visitor.  A village experience would let the visitor try out the tasks of pounding rice, plant or join the rice harvest, this after taking a walk up a higher point to let one have various angle views of the terraces.

 

DSC_8041 (Copy)The guides also led us to undiscovered spots of Maligcong including a cave.  For the adventurous, an hour’s hike can also bring you to nearby Mainit’s hot mineral springs.

 

Visitors to Maligcong can make reservations at the Maligcong Homestay by contacting +639155463557.   Secure parking is available.  The homestay also has a souvenir shop or chose to stay over for a cup of coffee and muffins if one is in a hurry.  Suzette credits the full support of her husband for the venture, after spending time selling at the town market had this to say:  “we didn’t notice it, we did not realize that opportunities can be had right in our front yard.”

The Chees couples initiative will hopefully encourage others to invest in tourism support infrastructures and provide for local employment.  Lately, visitors suggested to the owners to change the name to Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay.

Bontoc: A Special Place in My Heart

By George Galo Devera
Ventura, California

bontocI always thought sightseeing was for vacations or new areas of interest. This all changed when I came down with the flu this April traveling by POV across Northern Luzon to Southern Luzon. The Weather was Hot, Humid with down pour of rain at no moments notice. The flu shortened my sightseeing for almost 2 weeks, there were times when I thought of the worst. I hoped to be at home where I could readily see my Primary Doctor. As I lay in bed, unable to do much of anything except feel sick and sorry for myself, I put my mind in gear and went down memory lane and began recalling all the beautiful and unforgettable sights I had seen the last 43 years.
Being a Military of over 26 years combining with 15 Years Federal, Juvenile Correctional Officer and a counselor for a total of 41 years, I found that I had many memories to draw upon. Rest and recreation in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia first came to mind. When I thought of all these places, I recalled the delicious food and the guest houses I went to, the small but quaint stores we used to shop, the narrow roads that took us to villages, the high rise buildings, the amusement parks and all the tourist spots were so beautiful and lovely; words are inadequate to describe. But nothing beats the beauty of the Philippine countryside which was filled with the aroma of flowers, bushes, pine trees, countless beaches, mountain springs and waterfalls specially my home town Bontoc, Mountain Province. Closing my eyes and recalling the beauty of my birth blace, I could see it all again. I could visualize, too, the locals in the villages dressed in their native garb, going about their errands, rushing to the different shops, attending to the daily needs.
Then I recalled a different memory when we lived in town during my 20 years growing up there. It was sparse and sometimes dull, but with a unique beauty that often caught one off-guard; a homeliness and charm that is hard to describe. I think sometimes the simplicity and plainness of the area can gently take one back to another time—one filled with goodness and decency; a journey that is refreshing and wonderful most Specially to the Town Folks of Bontoc, I highly recommend and visit Bontoc, Mountain province and you will see Nature at its Best and the Town Folks Hospitality…

Now, I think of sightseeing as not just of visiting and vacations but one that is filled with memories both sweet and bitter–a kind of time machine where one can sight-see any time, anywhere…..Perhaps I can now say that sightseeing is not just for the summer traveler but a kind of “twilight-time-zone” where you can sight see to your heart’s content

Bauko Profile

Bauko is located on the Southwestern part of Mountain Province, bounded on the North by the municipalities of Besao and Sagada (of the same province); on the south by the municipality of Sabangan and on the west by the municipality of Tadian, (of the same province). the municipality is composed of 22 barangays strategically situated from the north to south.

The municipality is inhabited by the indigenous people of the kankana-ey tribe. It has two district type of climate. April to October is generally wet with lots of rainfalls and typhoons. November to March is dry season of the year. Major source of livelihood is agriculture such as rice, vegetables and orchard production, livestock and poultry raising. The municipality is fourth class.

Nestled in the forested grandeur’s of The Cordillera Mountain ranges, Bauko rises from the clouds as dynamic and sparkling gem across the Kalawitan, Mount Data, Mount Bandilaan to Mount Am-o. It is reachable from Baguio via Halsema by 125 kms. Manila to Bauko via SanFernando by 448 kms. 134 kms from Tabuk City and 133 kms from Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya. Around 71 Km from the Banaue Rice Terraces.

More than just one natural activity, discover the natural attraction, cultural heritage, indigenous cuisine. More than just meeting the eyes of its people, its tradition, its natural treasures, generous people with simple philosophy in life harmonize with nature.