Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘explore’

Breathing Adventure: Travelling Back In Time At Las Casas (Bataan, Philippines)

I think I have fallen in love. No, not with some Prince Charming or some knight in shining armor. I have found basking myself in the glory of history. It’s a place where the past is immortalized through houses of grandeur, their stories resonating in my pure, Filipina soul. By the time I have stepped back into reality, I was never the same again. I think I have just left a piece of my heart in Las Casas.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan is a place owned by Jerry Acuzar, one of the most succesful and richest men in the province. It was built in 2010 but it is continually being developed until today. 

To get there, one has to take a three to four-hour bus ride from the Genesis bus station in Cubao going to Balanga (that would be Php200) and about an hour’s jeepney ride from Balanga to Bagac (Php50). Then, take a Php50 tricycle ride to the very site. I recommend you to leave at around 7 am even if the check-in time is at 2 pm. We were very lucky because our jeepney driver had agreed to take us straight to the resort while charging us only Php80 per person.

Stepping through the gates of Las Casas is like stepping back in time. It embodies everything Filipino, right from the building structures, the camiso de chino and the baro’t saya the staff are wearing to the true blue Pinoy values they are exemplefying. Their friendliness and hospitality are very welcoming for us. I even felt a little embarrassed when they have asked us to carry our bags to our room.

I couldn’t contain my excitement because everything is overwhelmingly IG-worthy. By the time we have entered our overnight abode, I screamed. With that, I was ready with my OOTD. I have to make sure I’d jive well with the place.

A jeep would carry us from the reception, to our quarters and to the little village where las casas (yes, the place literally means “the houses” in Spanish) stand. All houses, which were restored or remodeled, have story to tell. Some of them are linked to our national heroes, some had horror stories but others will just simply bring childhood memories of your old grandma’s house where the smell of burning leaves waft in the morning air. I assure you one day is not enough for all of these tours and activities.

One of the tour guides demonstrating some of the most curious things that could be found in an old house.

A room full of curiosities

Many statues like these playing children are placed in the village

Murals that replicate the works of great Filipino artists in one of the houses.

It would be good if you spend an overnight stay on the weekend because they have cultural shows on Saturdays and special activities on Sundays. One of them was the carabao race, which we have missed unfortunately. Still, we were able to watch a play at the end of the tour, which is about the value of the Filipino.

The carabao parade! We should have followed them to see them race. 🙂

Nighttime at Las Casas is very romantic. I don’t mind not having a date because the sound of the singing violin from afar is enough to melt my heart. If you’re wondering where that sound came from, that was from the open Italian restaurant in the village.

I warn you the food in this place is quite pricey but I can also assure you it won’t disappoint you. You just have to choose whether you like Filipino or Italian cuisine. We have chosen Filipino food because it is good for sharing (one viand costs around Php300-Php500 but a cup of rice is Php50). It is very fulfilling because it is tasty and it is really heavy in the stomach.

Ginataang langka

Liempo

Breakfast is just as good as dinner. Oh, the breakfast buffet is part of our overnight package so we can have as much bread and coffee as we want. I would say again the food is satisfying and superb. It’s enough to keep us going through the rest of the day.

That’s daing na bangus with eggs and fried rice, paired with lomi, fruits and coffee, along woth bread and jam. Who says we’ll be hungry the whole day?

The sea was not swimmable because the waves were dangerously strong. Don’t worry, there’s a small pool near the beach where you can waddle for a morning swim. 

Even after check-out, we can still tour the place in the afternoon. We did not miss the kalesa ride (about Php75 per person) but we were not able to take the balsa ride (which should have been at Php250) because it was beginning to drizzle. We’d rather horse around the rest of the day.

Meet Makisig, the strongest horse in town. I couldn’t imagine him carrying six ladies around town. 🙂

As always, we took a visit at the souvenir shop. I would have loved to take a picture while wearing a traditional Filipino dress at their Photography studio but the minimum price is Php800 to Php900! Nah, forget it. It’s not my pre-nup yet. 

Surprisingly, we only remembered to take a bite at around 3 pm (I told you the breakfast is superb!). Let me remind you that puto (rice cakes) at their snack bar costs at around Php110 for every five, small pieces. Kikiam (a type of Filipino dumpling) costs at around Php90! Oh well, we’d be willing to try it for the sake of experiencing them.

We ended the tour (and the picture taking) past 5 pm. If you don’t plan to bring a car at Las Casas, advise you not to leave the place around that time because there would be no more jeepney going to Balanga. The last jeepney trip would be around 4 or 5pm. The tricycles did take us to Balanga but it’s a bit expensive. 

The gateway to the beach.

We all had our hangovers when we had left the place. If only we could stay longer. The place and the experience Las Casas offers are very satisfying. I’d recommend you to take a room for six if you’re going with a large group because that only costs Php10,800 or Php1800 per person during the weekdays (rates are more expensive on weekends). It would be great to visit the place with your best travel buddies.

From the left Tina, myself, Lans, Ross and Ritz…all aboard to new adventures.

What I love most of all in Las Casas is its tag, “Pride in the past, hope for the future”. Such houses are rarely found in the cities. It is sad many modern Filipinos do not have a sense of history. I admire Mr. Acuzar for keeping the Filipino spirit alive by rebuilding these houses. I hope it is not only the experience the visitors would bring home. I hope everyone who visits Las Casas would also carry the vision Mr. Acuzar has in preserving the Filipino heritage.

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Breathing Adventure: Touching the Heavenly Abode At Mt. Ulap

There’s no other place like Benguet. Sitting beside Baguio, many have fallen in love with this place because of its fresh air, scenic views, and alpine-covered slopes that resemble a bit of Europe’s fairy-tale forests. Besides that, Benguet boasts of giant mountains that defy the deities by touching the heavens. Among these is Mt. Ulap, which lives up to its name because it welcomes its visitors into the cradle of the heavenlies. 

Is it a deer? Nope. It’s a cow hiding as a deer. How’s that for an enchanted forest? 🙂

We left Cubao at 10pm to ensure we’d arrive at Benguet by 4 or 5am. First-timers are estimated to take an 8 to 10-hour trek on the mountain. 

The glorious sunrise was a wonderful opening to this long hike. Ever since my old phone has been damaged due to this poor writer’s absent-mindedness at the beach, I never imagined I would be able to catch again a momentous moment that actually happens everyday.

The hike was not as tiring as I first expected. It was one of the most refreshing hikes I had since I had my first taste of wonder at Mt. Pulag in 2015. 

The wind was cool enough to lessen the sting of the rising sun. I was surprised I did not consume a liter of water as I only brought a small canister with me. I decided not to tire myself with a backpack. I wanted to have the liberty of freeing my back from such heavy load. Besides, I enjoyed having my own stick, which I had bought at the registration area. I can be a good memorabilia after the hike.

There are three peaks at Mt. Ulap. The first peak already has amazing views itself.

Stone markers that tourists would like to build as proof they were once here.

Along the way, I took a moment to listen to the bird that was singing its praises to the Creator, who had artfully sculpted the beauty that I saw all around.

The Gungal Rock, which was the second peak, has been the most challenging one. One has to be loaded with guts to cross the sloping rocks to pose for a rocking profile pic.

Most breathtaking of them all is the last and highest peak.

Mt. Ulap would never be called as it is without the clouds that had slyly curtailed our wide-eyed, sun-kissed faces. The evergreen slopes beyond was playfully peeking behind those rising white pillars while we pranced and jumped around to get that perfect, perfect shot!

After going down a short but very steep portion of the mountain, we were finally relieved when we dropped by Mt. Ulap’s 7-Eleven. Oh, yes! More ref magnets to collect!

The descent at Mt. Ulap has been developed by installing makeshift wooden stairs. Lans, my friend who organized this trip, told me there were no manmade steps when they first trekked here in 2016. Mt. Ulap has just been officially opened in 2015 so it only took only awhile to improve the more dangerous path.

What I’ve appreciated most in this trip was the camaraderie that has been developed among the group. Most of us were unknown to one another at the start but most of us have became clingy to one another at the end of the trek. That’s why hiking is more enjoyable than beach. The challenges we face in the mountains are actually refining us to become stronger individuals and to make stronger bonds of friendship. 

​Breathing Adventure: Lost in Cebu (Part 2)

A rainy day is a real spoiler for every traveler, especially when the place being visited is a thousand miles away from home. But no dark clouds can hinder us from exploring Cebu, so we headed south on our third day on he island. 
Being mountain lovers, we decided to trek the heights of Osmeña Peak. We had to travel about three hours from the city of Cebu to get there. By that time, I realized that the island was too big to explore and I am just too small to be overwhelmed.

Drizzles were dampening the atmosphere at South Terminal where we boarded the bus going to Oslob (which I will feature on my next blog) We made sure the bus would pass by Dalaguete as there are two different routes going to the far south end of Cebu. The real adventure begins when the bus dropped us off at the town of Badian.  

Every tourist who don’t have their own vehicles would have to take a motorcycle ride to the jump-off point. It took about an hour of travelling through smooth, meandering roads and inclined trails. A backride costs about P200. The most amazing thing was that the motorcycle was able to carry all the three of us!

(From far right) Lans, Ros, and Rhema (yours truly) going crazy on the motorbike ride.

The weather was becoming more dreary as we went deeper into more isolated roads. Fog began to enshroud us halfway going to the jump-off point, making me think I am entering Wonderland. What surprised me even more was when pine trees towered above us along the way, shattering my impression that Cebu was a fully tropical island crowded with sunny beaches and coconut trees. 

Osmeña Peak has a height of more than 1000 masl but the trek would only take about 20 to 30 minutes from jump-off point. We were greeted with young men offering us boots and raincoats which cost about Php50 each. We felt obliged to rent them because the ice-cold rain has been continuously making the trail soggy and muddy for almost a week. But the sunny smile of our tour guide, Evangeline or Evan as she would like to be called, made me enjoy the trek because of her stories.

Some of the flowers that can be seen on the mountain.

Evan said the original jump-off point of Osmeña Peak was at the municipal town hall of Badian which was two hours going to the peak if taken by foot. With the development of roads, tourists have now an easier access to the heights. Still, the town maintained its agriculture industry. Called the Little Baguio of Cebu, Osmeña Peak floirishes with lush vegetation.

Cabbage heads planted on the mountain

The place reminded me of Benguet as huge round cabbages flourished on the mountain side. Evan told me locals in this town have a very simple lifestyle. Most houses could not be brightened up by electricity at night and residents use fire and wood to cook their food. Just like the farmers of Benguet, they would carry their harvested vegetables to the lowlands and trade them for fish. Evan had this vibrant spirit and singsong chuckle as she showed me plants that would only flower at night and other strange plants that could only be seen at the site. And just as always, I was the only person Evan guided along the way because of my tendency to lose balance.

The cabbages being loaded on trucks, ready for trade.

The winds became stronger as we trudged near the peak. Unlike what we saw on the internet, we saw no green hills but only a white blank space on the horizon. The signage harrumphed noisily as the wind slammed violently on it. We screamed as we posed before my already wet camera. Evan maintained her pose and her eternal smile as she calmly took a picture of our panicky faces. 

Seeing nothing on the mountain did not fully disappoint me because of the discoveries I made along this short trip. Besides, the vibrant spirit of the locals was enough to energize us. It did not turn out the way we wanted it, but just as they always say there’s always a next time. Should I return, I’d return there by April as the locals have advised. And I hope Evan would guide us again – this time along dry land and beneath clear skies.

Our groups takes a pose with Evan (in black jacket) after the trip.

We ended our cold trip with a bowl of batchoy (warm pork noodle soup) and a day full of laughs. Boarding on the bus going to Oslob, I kept my eyes on the blue-green sea that lined along the highway. Tomorrow shall be another day of adventure. And this is the one I was looking forward the most.

A nice hot bowl of batchoy to close the trek

​Breathing Adventure: Lost In Cebu (Part 1)

I was exhilarated and nervous at the same time. I gulped my coffee before I boarded on the plane. I felt my first panic check-in attack after a two-year flying hiatus. I had great trouble fixing my luggage one day before take-off. But I was still numb from the fact I was about to head to the far-away island of Cebu.

I thought I was transported back to Recto, Manila when we dropped by Colon in Cebu City. One of the curious little facts of this city.

Cebu is one of the major islands situated in the Visayas region. Travelling there by plane from Manila would take about one and a half hours. Called the Queen of the South, Cebu is the region’s main economic center. It is known for its beaches, dried mangoes, native guitars, otap (flaky biscuit covered in sugar), lechon (roast pig), and its yearly festival called Sinulog (an event dedicated to the island’s major saint). I honestly am not interested in religious festivals. I wanted to tag along with my friends because I wanted to experience the magic this island has to offer. 

Masks being sold at Sinulog Festival.

Curious as a cat, we strolled around the city despite missing the Sinulog parade. Like little kids, we had face paint, bought hats, and looked at what the crowd was looking at. I was surprised when Cebu City appeared to be a prototype of Metro Manila. Colon itself was reminiscent of Recto, scenes around the Church of Sto. Niño was almost identical to that of Quiapo, and the markets looked like Divisoria. I felt like I have been transported back to Manila so we tried to see other spots where we could stroll along.

Rains had spoiled our second day so we ended up in Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro. The latter looked like a mini-version of Manila’s Fort Santiago in Intramuros. The reason it is so is because Cebu was one the Spanish conquistadores’ main headquarters before they moved to Manila where they built a similar fortress as Fort San Pedro. Entrance is only at Php30 and it is here where you will get a glimpse of Cebu’s history. 

For those who have studied at schools around Manila’s Intramuros, you might mistaken this as a lane at Intramuros but it’s actually in Cebu’s Fort San Pedro.

A canon overlooking Plaza Independencia. One of the similar sights in Manila’s Intramuros.

One of the galleries that could be found in Fort San Pedro. This one is filled with pictures from this site’s history.

Another gallery featuring portraits of some of Cebu’s founding fathers and historical figures like Ferdinand Magellan and Lapu-Lapu.

Toss a coin to make a wish at this wishing well at Fort San Pedro.

The best part of our initial stroll was the food trip. From street food to mall diners, every meat comes with a serving of pusô (not the heart, but it is rice wrapped in leaves). 

Pusô in a basket.

Ranging from Php3 to Php5, they are being served on baskets along with a viand of siomai, pig’s face (yes! The skin made to be thin and crunchy before your eyes), or spicy lechon (somebody help my diet!!). 

A vendor slashing the pusô in the middle.

These handful of packed rice has been slightly slashed in the middle so you could easily open and eat it. Make sure you’ll count all the pusô you’ll be eating because they’ll charge you for each one you’ll gobble. Just don’t expect to eat with a spoon and fork because you have 

Street food siomai with pusô.

to eat your food by hand. Don’t worry, they will give you clean hand gloves. 

Pusô with, not pork chop, but with pig’s face.

Lechon with pusô.

Larsian is a recommended eatery in the city, especially for all grilled food lovers. They have a variety of meats, chorizos and seafood such as squid and blue marlin which they will grill and serve at your table. Each of them range from Php20 to Php150. And of course they come with pusô

Larsian

Grilled chicken, pork, and fish with pusô only at Larsian

As I’ve mentioned, Cebu is good for their otap so we did not miss dropping by Shamrock which was located along the Rotonda near Larsian. It also has a variety of other goodies like my childhood favorites, ronquillos and torones de mani

Other street food treats to be found in Cebu. This lady is selling baked rice cakes cooked in an oven.

Rice cakes

Corn on a cob sold on the street.

I guess buying pasalubong and souvenirs was the greatest irony on the initial part of our trip. But that does not signal the end of our Cebu trip because we still have more to visit for the next three days.

Breathing Adventure (Mt. Pulag hike): Playing Upon the Clouds

20150404-183715.jpg Photo Courtesy of Highland Travel Crew

Ever dreamed of touching the sky as a kid? I thought of it as impossible. For me, to see them swirling as cotton-candy like castles above me was a satisfaction. The closest thing I could get near them was on an airplane. Still, they were impersonal, dreamy beings, as glass panes always get in the way of their existence and my own world.

When a friend invited me to hike Mt. Pulag, I obliged, longing to unleash the adventurer in me. But I never thought I could catch a great prize from that exhausting, five-hour trek.

Mt. Pulag is Philippines’ 3rd highest peak. It is located in Benguet, Mt. Province, which is six to eight hours away from Manila. If taking the Ambangeg trail (the one we had taken), it would take you about five hours before reaching the top.

As Luzon’s highest peak, Mt. Pulag has the reputation of having an extremely low temperature. Upon hiking, one needs to wear a windbreaker jacket. With that, I had to wear two layers of clothes and warmers to make sure I won’t get in trouble. I even covered them with a raincoat.

20150404-182741.jpg When we arrived there on March 26, we decided to stay in the ranger house as it was drizzling cold. We abandoned the initial plan of taking the first part of the hike that afternoon to stay at Camp 2 for the night. Should we have insisted on that plan, all of us might catch hypothermia without reaching the top.

Excited, some of us tried to explore part of the trail. Notice how the mountains consist of lush vegetation and plants not found in Manila. People here live a quiet living through agriculture and tourism (most of them work as tourist guides or porters for Mt. Pulag). It was a flourishing community, without the stress of infrastructure.

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After a night of getting-to-know new friends in the mountain group and a few hours of battling the cold while sleeping in that warm cabin, we started the hike at 2 o’ clock in the morning. The advantage of this Plan B is that we don’t need to carry our heavy bags to Camp 2, which would take about three hours from the mountain ranger site. All we need are our phones, cameras, and flashlights and our cold gear (not to mention hiking shoes to get sure footing on the muddy trail).

The hike to the top was dark and risky. Some parts of the trail were quite narrow. Steep cliffs were lingering at the sides. But somehow, the trail was easy to follow. I would have loved to gaze at the stars but I had to keep my eyes on the muddy and sometimes slippery track. The rain had passed but the ground was still wet.

Mt. Pulag is known for giving its visitors a view of the Milky Way. Upon reaching Camp 2, the skies uncovered the blanket of stars and wonders. But it did not end here. After resting for a few minutes, we continued our trek to the peak.

My legs were almost giving way. I’m not used to long trekking adventures such as these. On occasions my friends and I would trek mountains, two hours would be at most for me. But the head of the mountain group challenged me to reach the top, even though I was pointing at the mountain’s third highest peak nearby.

Mt. Pulag reaches the sky at 2,922 meters above sea level. It contains three peaks, Peak 1 as the highest.

The sun was peeking above the clouds. I wanted to stay where I was as my pace was getting slower due to exhaustion. And I was already screaming angrily and stomping my feet because I could see the rest of the group reaching the top and only two of us were left behind.

But I don’t want to be left out. The way near the peak was so steep, my friend and I were crawling on ground. If it weren’t for that nightly jogging sessions, I wouldn’t have survived the thin air at the top and rolled away down the mountain.

The sun was quite a bit high when the reached the top. Still a bit dazzled, the couldn’t grasp the reality that I was already at 2,922 meters high. Not until the sea of clouds danced before me eyes.

I was above the clouds. I never, never, never I could reach this top. And watch a wonderful phenomenon before my eyes!

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Photo Courtesy of Highland Travel Crew

Imagine the sea of clouds falling upon the mountains like waterfalls. I never thought I had passed right through them and be above them. Below us are the mountains beautiful and green, as if they’re miniatures that I could fascinate with. But those clouds were a treat. Such was the prize of taking a risk to touch the heavens and behold the creation secretly intertwined with our being.

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Photo Courtesy of Tina Sison

Picture taking and selfie sessions were not missed during this moment. While everyone was taking coffee, I gulped on my friend’s tomato juice. But, I couldn’t help but endlessly gaze at the sight around me.

When the time to descend had come, I secretly did not want to go yet. But I promised myself to go back one day and gaze once more at the sea of clouds with my own eyes.

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(Pictures on the peak courtesy of Highland Travel Crew. Thanks, guys, for challenging me to reach the top!)

Cultural Immersion (Second Stop): Hopping the Hundred Islands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI dreamed of relaxing and writing in the middle of a small island surrounded by white, fine, sandy beach with a lush forest at its very core. Remotely, this island would sit in the middle of a vast sea green ocean, which would calm me even more. Sounds like a vacation for a terribly rich kid, huh? But it did happen to me on the first weeked of June, right in one of the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan.

For the first time in my life, I dropped by Alaminos, Pangasinan just for anGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA island-hopping tour on this popular tourist destination in the north of the Philippines. We first stayed overnight in Quezon Island, named after one of the country’s former presidents. This island is one of those developed islets open for visitors.

But the idea of being alone in the island did not happen though. There were packs of tourists by then (especially, it was a Saturday). But it dosen’t matter, as long as they don’t bug the other tourists. Just bring along your tents or sleeping bags, you can choose to sleep along the sandy beach or on the tree-filled hilltop.

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Quezon Island — my kind of place where I can relax and write my dreams away… 🙂

But while vacationing, I finished a few writing assignments while charging our phones. The fresh air, the sound of the sea, and the very ambience of the place was perfect to complete my task.

Then there was the threat of rain — strong rains. I was amused with the other tourists lounging and cheering at the coming gale while trying to fight the wavy waters.

Don't be scared when the rain threatens to loom over you

Don’t be scared when the rain threatens to loom over you

The dark clouds passed by. No terrible rains. Just drizzle. Twilight was falling.

It’s relaxing to walk along the beach while the darkness was slowly enclaving us. On one side of the island, the waves were slapping my feet like paddles. While the other side, the waters were very calm. It’s a surreal world for me — no cars and buildings, just nature and the ocean.

Living in an island though is not living in a highly technological world. I

It's good to bring tents for overnight stay. That night was just windy, but it did not bother our sleep

It’s good to bring tents for overnight stay. That night was just windy, but it did not bother our sleep

suggest that when you plan for an overnight stay there, better bring enough food, paper plates, flashlight, and drinking water. There is electricity but the lights are low. If you wish to take a shower, better go straight to the sea. The water used to shower in the islands is also seawater.

It’s nice to take dinner and sleep in a remote place. Come morning and a beautiful view welcomes you.

But the adventure begins Sunday.

Before island-hopping, we went snorkeling. It’s my first time to do that. It’s GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAlike looking above a giant aquarium with clown fishes and blooming corals beneath you. Wow. It is weren’t for water entering my nose, I could have stayed there longer. Too bad, I don’t have an underwater camera. Twenty minutes was the time given since there were other tourists coming. But we stayed a bit longer than that.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERASecond stop was Marcos Island. There’s a cave where you can dive into the waters. Disappointingly, I couldn’t bring myself to jump because of my fear of heights. Next was the Children’s Island. It’s named so because the waters are shallow for kids to walk through in order to reach another islet nearby. Last stop was the Governer’s Island, where I had seen personally that postcard view of the Hundred Islands. Now, these are the main islands where tourists can drop by and have fun.

Have I mentioned that this kind of vacation is for rich kids only? Not really. In fact, it’s affordable. For a group tour, you can get a deal of P800-P900 each person. With it is a boat and tourguides who can ferry you from island to island. Well, some of the tourguides actually led us to buy their Alaminos Longganisa, which is really good. There are a lot of transient houses at Alaminos, where you can stay and shower.

If you are more familiar in Manila, just take a bus going to Alaminos, GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAPangasinan. It’s about P400-P450 on the estimate. The trip would take about four to five hours. You won’t get lost because the conductor will tell you where’s the stop going to the Hundred Islands.

Summertime would be the most preferable season to visit. April or May at best. When we came there, the time was nearing rainy season. It’s no wonder heavy rains fell when we went home in the afternoon.

With this short trip, we’re not able to visit all the islands (and none of us were able to count if the Hundred is really a hundred). But it carried a good memory for me. Too bad, none of us brought home an Alaminos Longganisa because of that heavy rain. I guess that’s a good reason for me to return there soon. 🙂

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Cultural Immersion (First Stop): Mt. Province

On a hike to the top of Mainit! :)

On a hike to the top of Mainit! 🙂

“Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.” (“Never be a stranger in your own land.”)

Here is a line always stated when we talk about culture and tourism. Just like most Pinoys in the central part of Luzon, I get only a limited view of the overall culture the Philippines have. But once I get out of my Manila domain, I’m just amazed at the variety of language, food, and culture that all these 7,000 islands contain.
I had a taste of cultural immersion in my own country when a friend invited

One of Mainit's public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

One of Mainit’s public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

me last two weeks ago to Mainit — a district in Bontoc, Mt. Province. For those who are not familiar with Mt. Province, it’s located in the Cordillera region, about five hours from Baguio (which is familiar to most of us).

Mainit quite known for its natural hot springs (“mainit” in Tagalog means “hot”, perhaps where the name came from). Just like any other towns in the Cordillera, Mainit has a lot of mountains to hike and explore (which I looked forward to). But the main event is a peace pact gathering of two families.
Now, it’s like a huge reunion of two clans (the other came from Abra, another far region in the North). Together, they reviewed and renewed their pact and friendship. But the most interesting part are the songs and dances that every family performed. But they did not do it with some cheesy,

The gathering for the "Peace Pact". Aside from the renewal of this pact, it's also a reunion of two clans.

The gathering for the “Peace Pact”. Aside from the renewal of this pact, it’s also a reunion of two clans.

upbeat, dance music with sexy dance moves (like what kids in the Metro or in our town would perform in yearly Christmas parties). They performed it traditionally.

I’ve seen Ifugao dances being performed only on big commercial events, special school programs, or only when your elementary school teachers prompt you for the sake of passing your PE exams. But these people are a natural. Wearing their traditional clothes, each group graced before the crowd without hesitation, dancing to the rhythm of gongs. Even the children themselves were not shy in dancing. I was amazed with the pride they held in upholding

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon's traditional courtship dance. It dosen't matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon’s traditional courtship dance. It dosen’t matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

their culture. But they would be more pleased when foreigners — like me — would join in their dances, even if you do your own version on the traditional “courstship dance”.

I’m impressed how these people in the far-flung provinces kept their songs and their dances for generations. I haven’t seen much preservation of the traditional culture in the Manila area. Manila is the melting pot of people from different regions in the country, but it’s rare to see each one carry an identity from their own provinces. Perhaps with the “globalization” instilled in this modernized area, we try to move to another kind of culture without upholding the old ones that our ancestors had proudly held. Sadly, it’s like regretting identities that we’ve never had in this industrialized culture. Or copying from the Western world.
After the children performed, the man holding the mike told the smaller

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

children to follow their example. I guess it’s better than teaching your kids how to doggie at school.

I’m proud that these Northern folks are my countrymen. I guess they are richer than most of us here in Manila who keep a wrong impression of who and what they are. We just need open eyes to see that culture is richer than wealth. It’s something that we can carry and can be identified with no matter where we tread.

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