I can only imagine what its like to touch the clouds and be part of sky, up until I managed to set my foot in the Ifugao region.
I was lucky enough to be invited by friend Tabitha (hernewlove.blogspot.com) to assist her in an engagement shoot in the Ifugao region. I was planning on leaving for Quezon Saturday morning but I thought, “hell. why not? its a free trip and its my first time to go that far” So I packed an over night bag with all of my essentials for the Ifugao and Quezon trip and met up with Abi at her house.
Upon doing research, we found out that we will be riding the OHAYAMI BUS for Kiangan, Ifugao. It was the only bus company that caters trips to Banaue and Kiangan (they also have a Baguio trip but I think it was from Banaue-baguio-Manila) So we took a cab and went to the Espanya station and waited for our 9:30 pm trip. There are only 3 trips that night. the 9pm and 10 pm trip for Banaue and the 9:30 pm trip for Kiangan. It was a sold out night for the bus company since it was a 4day long weekend for everyone. The bus drivers were friendly enough to assist in boarding (I later found our that they were locals and you can ask them about the culture in the province)When we got there, there was a mountain climbing group headed for their first stop Banaue.
We boarded the bus and I swallowed a pill off Bonamine (shameless plug) since we were seated at the waaaaaaaaay back of the bus. I took out my speakers and my pillow and dozed off. The first stop that the bus made was in Bulacan, but I did not bother going down anymore. The second stop, after 4 hours was in Nueva Vizcaya. Here I went down to stretch my legs and use the comfort rooms. In each stop over, there were clean bath rooms and food stalls in ever passengers get hungry. Now back to my seat in the bus and continue sleeping.
I woke up at around 6 am. We were in Langawe,Ifugao. We though it was our stop over since every one was getting off. Abi whispered to me, “I think everyone on this bus knows each other.” I pulled aside the shade and basked in the surroundings. The clouds were kissing the peaks of the mountain. The rivers were clean and flowing endlessly.
An hour later, I asked Abi, “are we here?” She said, “I think so. I think this is Kiangan.” The place was a small town, busy with tricycles and pick up trucks. We waited for Weng, the bride-to-be. We met her after 5 minutes and we drove to their house. There, they served us breakfast and offered us a bed to rest while everyone was preparing for the photoshoot. After resting, we headed out to the shrine.
At first i thought, “oh a shrine, is this where I will see the carvings and everything?” But Derrick and Marlon, Weng’s make up artist informed me that the shrine is where General Yamashita and the other japanese men were finally captured.
They informed us that up until now, tourists believe in the wealth that General Yamashita was able to hide in the mountains of Ifugao. the locals believe that Yamashita really did have a map but not all the treasure is located in their province. For them, they know that tourists still have a scavenging party for the treasure, but they just keep quiet and respect the mountains.
In the shrine, there is also an Ifugao Museum. In front of the Ifugao Museum is a wooden carved pole. Weng informed us that it was called a Hagabi, and it symbolized a family who followed the tradition of the elders and wealth of that family. She said, not everyone has that wooden pole. But it was still a sight to see.After the shoot at the shrine, we went back to the house to have lunch so that we can go to the rice paddies or the amphitheater like rice terraces. On the way to the house, there were signs on the posts saying “bawal dumura dito ng Mamo” Mamo, or Nga-nga is an alternative way to smoking in the region. Elders are commonly seen doing this and they chew tabacco leaves and spit it out. it causes discoloration to the mouth but do not feel insulted by the spitting. It is part of their culture, hence I respected it.
After lunch, we gathered all of our stuff and drove to the rice paddies. Unlike the ones in Banaue, where it is considered the STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, here the rice paddies are amphitheater like. But nonetheless, it was still a sight to see, it was a moment to be taken in. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I felt the cool breeze and listened to the water rushing through the man made water canal for the rice paddies. I felt the simplicity of their lifestyle, the quiet and the mundane. I felt at peace in that area and I wanted to go back for more.
Weng informed us that if only we had time, we can go to Batad, Ifugao. the Rice paddies have so much grandeur and we can go to a nearby waterfalls (I love waterfalls by the way. The first time I saw one was in Taytay, Rizal). But it was a 2hour drive from Kiangan and we might miss the bus which leaves for Manila at 7pm. Next time Trace.
The backdrop of the shoot was perfect for their concept of the traditional wedding. Again, I had a Culture lecture from Derrick and this time, Loinaz, the groom-to-be. They first showed us the belt that is worn by the man. Derrick informed me that the belt is made out of pure ivory and is usually passed down within the family. Loinaz, on the other hand, showed me the headdress that he was supposed to wear. Its made out of the Ifugao cloth with horns and feathers. They were not allowed to wear the headress at the wedding because they weren’t able to follow the tradition of feeding the community for 9 days. Derrick then showed me the jewelry of the bride. Once again, it was also an heirloom from their elders. It was made out of precious metals and stones. They even informed us that there is a necklace made out of gold. If it has more than 3 rings, it means you are wealthy. The last thing that they showed us is the “Dungdung” or the headress worn by the bride. Once again, it was an heirloom. Not all families are able to have these, I was told. Only the rich can pass it on to their children. Both attires were put on meticulously, carefully and with respect. the skirt not too long or short, necklaces in proper areas, the knife worn at the left side. Both did not smile, for it was only proper to do that.
Too bad, we weren’t able to go to a real,traditional Ifugao house. The house that we were supposed to go to was damaged by the landslide the week before. But i was informed by Manag Vivs (Weng’s housekeeper) that the Ifugao hut is where the mourn the dead and where heirlooms are stored.Not all homes have the Ifugao hut, only the rich have it. After wrapping up to the shoot, we had a chat with Weng at their home. She told us her story, her travels and their culture. She informed us that Loinaz needed 13 pigs and 1 Carabao for the ceremony and they have to feed around 3,000 people. She informed me that everyone in the town knows each other and that they have to follow the elders and the tradition (meaning they will do the traditional dance.) In their town, everyone has a doctor or a lawyer in the family because that is what their parents can give to them: proper education and love for their culture.
Before we left, Weng invited me to go back to the wedding. She said, then we can go to Batad and see the waterfalls and the other rice paddies. She said, I can sit with any of the guests and stay at a home stay over night since its the long weekend. I am up for the challenge but of course budget is being taken into consideration.
At 7pm, we said our goodbyes to Weng and to the peaceful place that of Kiangan. The rain was starting to pour and all you can see is fog leading up the road of the bus station. I couldn’t help but be amazed by their simple life and wishing I can come back.
Congratulations Loinaz and Weng. I am hoping to see you again in the land where the clouds and the mountains meet.
some notes on the trip:
1. OHAYAMI BUS is located at J.Fajardo St at Espanya Manila. 3 buses depart everynight. 9 pm and 10 pm for Banaue and 9:30 pm for Kiangan. the bus ticket is Php 400 one way. You better reserve in advance for this since the buses reach maximum passengers. Better bring a blanket and a hoodie since the bus ride gets really cold. Also check what time the bus leaves for Manila and buy your tickets early, since there is only one bus from there to Manila.
2. Bulacan and Nueva Ecija are the stop overs. You can buy food in these places. Also be ready for 5 peso coins for the rest rooms.
3. Do not be shy to ask for directions.
4. Twali is the dialect used by the Ifugao people in Kiangan. It might sound funny to the foreign ear, but pay your respects. Do not laugh at the way they talk.
5. Do not cringe when you see someone chew and then spit. Its part of their culture. Pay your respects to the elders and tradition.
6. If at the rice paddies, wear durable boots. soil is soft and wet, you’ll easily sink.
7. Bring a durable jacket. weather changes from daytime to night time.
So far, so good. One new place checked in my list. 🙂 Enjoy the place wherever you are going. be respectful and have Positive thoughts only. 🙂