I woke up before sunrise because I wanted to capture the changing colors of the mountain ranges from dark blue to gold and then to green. Slowly the fog and clouds were melted by the sun’s rays. Fang-od is an early riser, I saw her feeding her pigs and chickens; actually, she just came back from her vegetable garden. She is industrious even when she has a headache that day.
Ma’am Vene scheduled a Focus Group Discussion for the female elders. They gathered together in front of Fang-od’s house, all with full-sleeves and august necklace tattoos. It was a jaw-dropping experience as this doesn’t happen everyday. I was lucky enough to capture them like a class picture, 20 years from now this will just be a memory inked on my mind.
Tattooed Butbut Women Elders at Buscalan Village, Tinglayan, Kalinga (2012)
I washed my clothes the day before and I was really worried that it won’tl dry in that wet weather. Ma’am Vene, Francis and I have to climb down by 9:00am. I have no choice but to put my still wet clothes in my backpack. Ma’am Vene and Francis will go to Tabuk City while I continue my way to Bontoc, the capital of Mountain Province, I wanted to see Sagada before sundown.
We arrived at the highway after 2 hours, perspiring and catching our breathe. I bid good-bye as Francis continually reminded me of how the tribes think of me- still as a spy or a military man. I should go back their and redeem myself. The bus will pass by at 11:30 so I used the downtime to hang my clothes beside the road where I found a clotheslines not being used. My boardshorts was the only one still wet when the bus arrived.
Kalinga to Bontoc road is scenic enough to keep me awake the whole 2 1/2 hours of the journey, add the fact that a truck lose out of control after just 30minutes of the trip. The driver dead instantly and his passengers badly wounded. No, he was not drunk, the road is rocky and slippery even during summer. We arrived at Bontoc around 1:30pm.
A friend told me of Etag, big portions of pork meat salted and left hanging outside until dried. This is then sold and used as seasoning and paired perfectly with pinikpikan, a traditional chicken dish common in the Cordilleras. This is also their way of meat preservation long before fridge were invented. It was nice to know and somehow document that this process is still being practiced as of this day. A kilo of fresh meat will be reduced half its weight when it becomes etag. It can last up to a year. I walked around the market curious of what else they got here- different varieties of beans, live cull, dried tobacco leaves, mountain tea, coffee beans, corn, cabbage, peachay Baguio and potatoes.
Before finally going to Sagada, I thought it was a good idea to visit the Bontoc Museum which is just about a hundred meters from the mansion-type Mt. Province Capitol. After the experience I had for the past 4 days in the Cordillera Autonomous region, I wanted to learn more about the rich Cordilleran culture. The museum entrance has a small Bul-ol or rice god and an arch laden with carabao head and horns. The museum receives a lot of foreign guest as I saw at least 20 Europeans, some even taking notes. How I wish Filipinos would have the same interest with their own culture. Very noticeable are the color themes of each Cordilleran tribe- Kalingas use red, yellow and green; Ifugaos love red and dark blue and the Kankana-eys white and blue. It was somehow heart-breaking that the museum displays need a lot of repairs but the meager donations were not enough to maintain everything in the museum.
Bontoc Museum is open Mondays – Saturdays at 8:00am – 12:00nn; 1:00pm – 5:00pm ; Sundays 8:00am – 12:00nn; 1:00pm – 3:30pm
The Bontoc Museum is a treasure trove of discoveries. Very striking are Masferre’s photographs- a Tinglayan Family preparing their evening meal inside a native house complete of furnitures, the father in g-string and the mother wearing a headdress, necklace and earrings, half-naked and the daughter peers over the meal being cooked. Another photo shows a dead Bontoc woman seating on a sangachil, a chair made up of pinewood. The sangachil is placed on the doorway with continuous fire below to smoke the whole body as friends and guest bring food or money, sometimes sing or talk as if the dead is still alive. This can go on for a couple of days. The most striking of all is a photo of a beheaded warrior tied on a wooden pole as if a pig, his limbs already decaying and suggest that it was recovered by his own tribe after a head-hunting expedition of an opposing tribe. The photo shows no warrior tattoos and could suggest that the victim is from Bontoc tribe. Inside the museum complex you also see Bontoc native houses, rice granary, ato or a meeting place of the elders to make important tribal decisions and more fixtures celebrating the Bontoc culture and tradition. I ended the museum tour by buying 2 Kalinga postcards, one I sent to my sister back home and another to someone special abroad.
On my way to Sagada, I met Kirky Awingan, an Igorot and a certified guide in Sagada. Sagada is an idyllic town, the smell of pine trees as you go up is really inviting. Kirky was kind enough to allow me go up the small bus for an unobstructed view of Sagada landscape- more mountains and more pinetrees. It just rained so I put my jacket on. In less than an hour I arrived in Sagada. It was my first time and I’m glad a friend of mine referred me to Salt and Pepper restaurant owners Kuya Andrew and Ate Safe who welcomed me to their old house and offered me a place to spend my nights while in town.
Route: Buscalan, Tinglayan – Bontoc – Sagada, Mt. Province
Expenses for today: Php 338
90- Bugnay, Tinglayan to Bontoc (2.5hours)
60- Bontoc museum entrance fee
23- postage stamps
45- Bontoc to Sagada jeepbey (45 minutes)