it’s that time of the year again. All Souls Day.
the rain adds gloom.
*flowers to my lolos
it was a long day assisting Josia in these depressed areas, but i am sure my feat will not even come close to what these kids do. i am sure it’s a long tiring day for them too. collecting scrap woods to burn to make charcoal which they sell for a low price. this is how they make both ends meet. extra push.
this was 6 months ago.
today, i will present- this photo included- to a panel looking for a photographer for a coffee table book. it’s a long shot. but, i’m taking it. it’s my first time to show off my works.
hoping for the best.
sun was out. scorching. its rays were piercing.
on top of the jeepney, our only aid in surviving the sweltering heat was a bottle of emperador. fight fire with fire. we tanked up on alcohol with hopes that it will be enough to numb our senses from the punishing sun. somehow it did to a certain extent.
our jeepney hit the road around 8am. after 30 minutes, we started the ascent. the plains on the background drifted and gave way to hills and mountains. the ascend was gradual and so was the width of the road. from 2 lanes to, barely, 1. and, its up there in the mountains.
definitely, its not a cruise for the faint of heart. the dizzying heights can surely send chills. it is after all literally and figuratively a highway.
of course, the journey was not all that bad. though the sun and road conditions were not our side, the splendour of nature was.
it was ranges of mountains in all four horizons. the silhouettes of tree-cladded mountains, in all shades of green, was sheer sexy.
it was a 12-hour ride from Manila to Tabuk; roughly a 3-hour ride from Tabuk to Buscalan. the home of the Last Mambabatok and the place where our group TREK( TRails to Empower Kids) was set to give aid and smiles. barangay Buscalan/Loccong was the destination.
TREK is a non-profit organization, established by a group of mountaineering friends, that aims to give support to far-flung communities.
this is my feeble and long-overdue attempt as a Kalinga to learn more about Kalinga. i was born and raised in Tabuk which is the capital of the province but i failed to explore further than the capital’s borders. as a child who grew up around tribal wars and conflicts, it was unconsciously instilled in me about the vulnerability of the place.
the truth is traveling around my hometown had always been at the back of my head. but, somehow, something would always come and messed things up.
it was mid afternoon when we reached the end of the road for our truck. we started the 1-hour trek. the trail was fairly easy. some parts were almost too shallow even for one person passing. one side you hug the mountain; other side a ravine. and the awesome scenery was a dangerous distraction.
we stopped by Buscalan. distributed supplies. peeked at the legendary Whang-Od working and got scheduled.
we continued our hike to Loccong. it started to drizzle. it was an assault ascend to the top. we treaded through terraces which were then sleepery. the drizzle turned to a full-on rain.
with soak wet clothes, we crawled the final stretch- and so did darkness. it was nightfall when we arrived at the elementary school, our home for the night.
the temperature dropped. it was lightly cold. the water though was freezing. the supposedly relaxing shower turned to what felt like an ALS ice bucket challenge. the first pour of water almost sent me running out butt naked.
the night was spent on classic-Kalinga pinikpikan, warm beer and tribal dancing. the night was dark, sans electricity.
morning broke and the sleepy village came alive. the sky was lovely with orange streaks piercing through the clouds. the morning sun casted rays to golden rice terraces and the endless verdant greens. the air was chilly and fresh. it was a glorious august morning. Loccong is sweetly tucked in the middle of virgin cordilleran mountains.
the day went on with TREK activites and the tattoo session with Whang-od.
blood on my lower left tattoo-beaten arm gushed as the rain poured.
it was late afternoon when we bade goodbye to Buscalan. rain continued to rush, and so did we. i wore cotton shirt and running shoes, both then were soaked. it was a stupid idea really. sneakers almost whacked out. apparently i need to get new shoes at Zalora once i get home.
the alcohol did numb my senses when we toploaded our way to Buscalan that morning. to a certain extent. a few days after the trip, now in Manila, my skin was still sore. two weeks after and it was still peeling.
my first attempt in seeing more of Kalinga left me 5 shades darker, sense of heritage 5 degrees richer. it was a good trip. long overdue but great, nonetheless.
Whang-Od is dubbed as the Last Mambabatok. Hand Tap tattoo artist. She uses soot as ink and citrus thorn as needle. This practice has been done since the olden times. It was a scared tradition save for their tribal heroes. A mark for bravery.
This is one of the photos i took while waiting in line to be inked by the legendary Whang-Od.
Yes. It is painful. =)
*Aug 2014, Tinglayan, Kalinga
He greets everyone he sees with “only 10 rupees.”
He sells yellow flowers with candle on a small paper saucer to pilgrims and tourists in Pandey Ghat. The flowers are then offered and floated in Ganges.
I always shy away from sellers whenever im traveling. Aside from i avoid lugging around additional baggage, i avoid unneccesary expenses too. I always brush them away with a smile.
One time, as i was walking around the ghats, he ran to me with my lost bonnet on hand. I left it at the Chai place the day before. He handed the bonnet to me. He said he remember seeing me wearing that bonnet and he was kind enough to get it from the Chai shop so he could give it back to me.
More than the bonnet, its his smile that made me smile that morning. It was sincere. Most of the time sellers only want to get money from you. Travelers are their prey. Its a bit difficult at times to distinguish a tout from an innocent who is just doing his job to make both ends meet.
I bought one of his flowers. We offered it in the river. He smiled. This was his smile on the photo. I tried to have a conversation with him but the english he knows is only “only 10 rupees.”
the Monsoon Palace or Sajjan Garh is perched on top of Bansdara peak along the Aravalli hill range . it towers above the city- which lays on flat land- at more than 3000ft. it has sweeping panoramas- Udaipur city on the east and the Aravallis on the west.our first day in Udaipur almost became our last day there too. we did not like it. im not saying the city is not nice. actually, i think the city is very nice, too nice for our liking. its too clean, too fancy, too touristy. But since we only have 3 days to kill before Holi Festival. it will be too short to travel to another town.we thought of heading outside the city the next day. explore the outskirts on bicycles. it might shake off our first impressions of Udaipur.we rented rundown bikes in Heera Cycle shop( 50rps). it has clunky wheels and brakes. its the best ones they have though. conquering the hills on these tacky two-wheels seemed quite a challenge. yang got the fitness of ironman. and i got the will and arrogance of Tony Stark. so, we should be good.we kick-started the 7.5km road around 4pm. anytime earlier than that and we should have gotten our skin toasted. the sun rays were piercing even at 4pm. it was a hot day. the first 2.5kms is concrete highway. we breezed through it easily. we reached the electric substation and continued to the small rough and dusty road leading to the main gate. the palace is inside the national park. from afar the palace started to appear high and imposing.
its a few hundred meters away from the gate and we hit the slopes. the park looked dry with nothing but shrubs and bushes. we took our first stop for a water break. the sun was still scorching and the heat was oppressive. 4:30pm. as per Yang’s gps, we finished a little over half of the total distance and a few meters of the 3.5kms assault/climb to the top where the palace is.
we pedalled on but we’re forced to take another stop. the heat was unbearable. the unpaved dry road started to feel harder to trudged onto. the gradual slope turned to full-on ascent. it felt almost impossible to kick on the pedals as the bike chains might break. we gave up on riding the bikes and started pushing it forward.
after reaching what-could-be the first 500meters of the whole 3,500m, i wanted to stop. i was panting. heat and exhaustion got the better of me. we drank almost 3/4 of our water. cotton shirt was sweat soaked. i should have bought some dri-fits. im checking out Zalora once i get home. it was around 5pm.
i stared at the palace and it was so damn distant and high. it was a long shot to get there before sundown. i asked Yang if we should continue, he said yes in a heartbeat. and my heart just fell. i was tired. it was not biking anymore, not trekking- it was suicide. but, yeah, im too cocky to back down.
time constraints, heat, exhaustion, water, distance and that fukcin bike (which felt as heavy as a motorcycle)- good thing im stupid at times. i never bothered analyzing if it was indeed possible to reach the palace under these conditions. i followed the chinese and trekked on.
sun dwindled down and casted a shadow to the side of the hill where we were at.
2kms is a short distance. but it was uphill so it felt like 2bazzilion kms. tourists with puzzled looks on their faces in air-conditioned cars occasionally passed by. my motivation was to get to the palace and order some fancy, expensive food they serve because i fukcin deserve it.
they had to make the road zigzag because it was just too steep.
i have no idea how we did it, but, yeah, we reached the palace minutes before sunset. the palace was no fairytale- castle-like inside. as it is dilapidated; rundown like our bicycles; beat-up like our bodies. the real gem of this palace is not the palace itself but the spectacular views from the windows.
i had my fair share of trekking and mountain biking in the past. but never trekking with mountain fukcing bikes.
but all-in-all, i am glad it happened. i am glad Yang said we should continue. i am glad that im cocky at times. i am glad i was able to take some good photos. it is one of the more memorable experiences from my trips.
and there is no tired, aching body a cold bottle of beer can not soothe.