Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for February, 2017

​Cultural Immersion: Baguio Weddings – A Kiss, A Gong, and A Dance

The sound of gongs is strongly infusing the festive atmosphere. The bride and the groom were greeting well-wishers who had attended their wedding ceremony earlier. Looking closer at the floor near the stage, a group of men playing gongs were formed in a circle. Old men in baseball caps, traditionally dressed elderly women wearing colored beads, young men in tuxedos, and ladies in satin gowns took turns in dancing traditional dances to the beat. In such a wedding feast in Baguio, no modernity can hinder the rhythmic culture their generations have embraced. 

In the definitive Filipino culture, weddings are held as a community event. Almost – if not everyone – in the community are invited to celebrate. The bayanihan system (a classic Filipino attitude where the whole bayan or community helps one another) becomes alive in such occasions. Neighbors would voluntarily help to cook, arrange, and even organize the wedding. While this tradition is slowly dying because more couples are relying on professional wedding coordinators, this concept is still being kept in many rural provinces and cities, including Baguio.

An example of the bayanihan system – locals form a line to pass food to one another in this large gathering at my friend’s wedding.

Every Filipino loves Baguio for its cool climate, strawberries, and many popular tourist sites. I love Baguio for its meek and courteous people. Some of them have become my friends and I have the privilege to taste their culture and their way of living.

I had two friends who have recently married at Baguio. Just like how the quaint townspeople of Bulacan would hold their weddings, they similarly hold their matrimony with a community celebration. My province, Bulacan, would have videoke as a form of entertainment while Baguio people would celebrate this occasion with dances and gongs. 

Gongs are considered an ancient instrument by city people like me. I am impressed that these people would not use them for production numbers alone. Both elders and youths would join together and strike musical rhythms on it. They are accompanied with traditional dances that love and courtship to mark the occasion. 

Food being served to the community at my friend’s wedding.

Usually, they would hold their celebrations the whole day, even up to the wee hours of the morning the next day. There is an abundant flow of food, mostly made of pork and chicken, rice, and pansit (a type of Filipino noodles) which the whole community would partake. Locals are not shy to share their talents while everybody would show their appreciation to them. Celebrations would continue at the house of the bride and the groom. Old men at night would chant to call the spirit of the anito (traditional deity) to bless the gathering. As the music and dancing continues, the bride and the groom danced along with everyone. And of course, the visitors are not exempted from joining in the fun.
For the first time, I played the gong. It was heavy for me, but the hypnotic rhythm of the instrument made me enjoy every moment I danced to its tune. I just think I look awkward while dancing. My Instagram post just proves that (sorry I can’t upload the video on this blog. So please click the link to find out. I am the lady in the white dress and black blazer in the video).

Baguio people are proud of their artful heritage, as they wear woven Kalinga skirts or intermarry these designs with modern fashion. They love their culture so much the rhythm of the gongs pulse through their veins, willingly dancing along every clanging beat without hesitation. Through the sound of their instrument they become one, bringing into awareness the legacy they carry as Igorots.

Celebrations would continue at my friend’s house the whole night

Manila, a fascinating city of sights, color, sounds, is nothing as unique as this. The mixture of various cultures has turned this central city of Luzon into a melting pot of obscurity. We have become more in tuned with modernity and Western civilization, losing into consciousness the beautiful, old songs that have been passed down to us through school. Looks like Madonna’s Crazy For You has become the local fixture in videoke sessions. 
I keep on learning so much from other cultures in my own country. With all regions having their own differences, it just proves that we are a diverse society. I’m glad we have Filipinos who still carry the pride of their heritage. The Igorots are teaching us that traditional hertages are not a myth but they are living, breathing, and are worth to be celebrated for their uniqueness.

You can check out the videos on my Instagram account @rhemapenaflor. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

​Breathing Adventure: The Final City Tour (Lost in Cebu Part 5)

I felt quite forlorn as our vacation in Cebu was wrapping up. It was the final day of our tour and we tried to see a few more places before moving back into reality.
After a heavy breakfast of eggs, hotdogs, and pandesal, we said goodbye to our very kind, elderly neighbors who had welcomed us more than our host. We proceeded to the city to get a taxi that would take us to a few more tourist sites and to the airport.

Orion overlooking Cebu City

We went to Tops, one of the highest points of the city, to see the Temple of Leah. We could have chosen to take a tour at Tops next but it was inaccessible during that time. A landslide caused by continuous rains had blocked the main road going to the peak. Fortunately, the Temple was still open to the public.

The Temple of Leah is not a place of worship. It serves as a dedication of entrepreneur and engineer Teodorico Adarna to his wife, Leah. This structure was also made for future generations of the Adarna clan to trace their roots and their heritage, as well as to stand as a landmark for Cebu.

Curious tourists came in groups to gaze at the glory of this temple that stands atop Baranggay Busay. Paying Php50 at the entrance, I’ve noticed that the temple was not yet completely done. Mounds of gravel was still hauled on a corner while parts of the tower’s basement was still undone. Construction was still ongoing although it had already begun on 2012. 

On the other hand, I was impressed by the Roman-inspired structures and statues that adorned the place. Walking along the fountain made me think I was in Italy. Doric columns and fierce, golden lions have guarded the steps into the temple. Neoclassical figures of Roman deities have beheld the vast and aesthetic topography of Cebu City. 

I’ve read articles that Leah was a traveler and she loved to collect items which were laid here. Giant Chinese and European vases she used to collect stood along the staircases. A dusty cellar full of foreign wine was kept locked in one of the rooms. This room, as well as other curious ones that were heavily locked, should have been developed and opened to the public for a grander visiting experience. 

Giving homage to the statue of Leah

In the middle of the large room stood the statue of Leah. Shrouded in gold, she beamed before intrigued tourists who dropped by to see who she was. It was the main attraction actually, but I guess the tourists who visited have realized they wanted nothing more but selfies and groupies in the place.

Turning wacky with friends

There was limited time left before my friends’ 4pm flight. Our lively and courteous taxi driver suggested we should take lunch at a popular seafood restaurant in the city. Now this is were diversity of Filipinos comes in, because Cebuanos have a totally different dialect and accent compared to those who live in Tagalog regions. We heard our driver say the name’s place was Isticki. But when we arrived at the place, we saw that its name was STK.

STK stands of sinugba (grilled), tola (boiled), and kilaw (marinated). They offer sumptuous seafood dishes like mixed seafood and the halaan soup. The place is very classy and homey as its antique decors would remind you of those summer days at grandma’s old house in a province far from Manila. 

Mixed seafood

Halaan soup with rice

Some of the antique that remind you of grandpa’s time capsule

Seafood that you can buy and take home (although they are a bit too expensive)

I returned to Manila alone because I was booked on a much later flight. My friends have taken an earlier flight. Despite the flight being late because of bad weather, I was still brimming with excitement. I wanted to tell everybody how wonderful Cebu was and I can’t wait to return again to see more of the island.

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