Friday, June 26, 2015

Curious in Kalinga

"Why do you even do it?"

After a 14-hour bus ride, three-hour top load jeepney ride, and a two-hour trek and climb while carrying heavy camera equipment, friends ask why do I even do it.  Not to mention a new baby in the family and a tough month in my job, I am still addicted to the road less travelled especially when it finds a space in my hectic calendar.

In this set of photographs, you'll find how I am still curious with the things around us or how pieces of our old traditions make it's way to today's modern ways.  Why I still have the eyes of a "visitor" and why I still find gold in little things that most travelers find ordinary.

If curiosity killed the cat, it sure made me to pack my things and head to Kalinga of the North.

A note of warning though.  If you wish to find things like "how to get here", "what to eat", and other tips, this write-up is not for you; because you might as well use Google.  But if you wish to peek why Kalinga inspired me to travel more and sell our couch for a good back pack, this read is for you.

"Ten Thousand Times Better"
An office memo was circulated a week prior to this trip and said "try a different kind of stairs, schedule your vacation leave now".  Taking it literally and going to Kalinga is ten thousand times better than reading the circulated memo from my office chair.  

"What's Not to Jump For?"
When you are blessed with blue skies through out the journey and greens with purest kind, what's not to jump for?

"Choice of Vehicle"
The traverse from Tabuk to Tinglayan needed a vehicle that can take all the abuse and not complain, plus it should make a good contrast if parked side by side the rice terraces of Bontoc.

"Don't Tell My Mother"
When locals rely heavily on jeeps to transport goods, women, and children, you've got no choice but to give way and take the top load.  Don't tell my mother that most of the landscape photographs taken here were from on top of a jeepney while negotiating rough zigzag roads going to Tinglayan.

"Base Camp"
Sleeping Beauty Inn in Tinglayan, approximately 1,100 MASL,  is where we replenish loss of sugar (Coke) and protein (San Miguel) after a day's climb.  This is also where great plans are made during breakfast, and a jump-off point for most of our epic treks.

"Altitude Chili"
 These fuckers are left to dry in the mountain wind and in the thin air of Kalinga for it's full flavor to come out.  It's orgasm in your mouth, but not the kind you are familiar with.

"Support Crew"
Gotta give it to the staff of Sleeping Beauty Inn.  A smile starts our day while a hot Tinola soup topped with a cold bottle of the great brown beer cap of the five-star service of the inn.

"Suck in the View"
Take in the view?  This you got to suck in.  Shot just few inches from by bedside let's you forget stoned nights in Kalinga and gives you a better perspective for the day.

"Apo Whang-Od"
The only "mambabatok" (traditional tattoo artist) left in Kalinga.  Elvis represented rock-and-roll , Apo represented the Filipino culture.

Grace is the grand daughter of Apo Whang-Od who made a pact with the natural light of Kalinga mountains to follow her and light her path at every "mambabatok" session.

"97-Year-Old Gestures"
Ben Cab told me to capture gestures of your subjects.  This will not only give you a special signature in your art but also capture the real character of the subject.

"Human Design"
The body of a human, especially a woman's body, is designed for cradling our infants.  Notice the angle it automatically makes to make the baby comfortable and not slide to the ground.  Thanks to the bending lines on Ate's shirt in contrast to the straight lines of the bamboo so we can all enjoy the human design.  

"High Hi"
Houses in Butbut Tribe are distinctively elevated from each other with porches taking them straight to the view of the rice terraces.  However, visiting these houses gave me a unique low perspective of Tribe's high hospitality.  

"Flash Bright Smiles"
The children are the treasures of this magnificent tribe.  Untainted by technology and social media, you'll see them all over the place doing what children do, play outside, grab dirt, ask for candies from visitors, and flash bright smiles.

"Substitute for Human Hands"
Each tribe in Kalinga has different characteristics unique from the other.  The fine plaid design in this photograph that bind these two kids caught my attention.  It's a substitute to real human hands. 

Philippines still has a lot of cultural treasures waiting to be discovered.  Sadly, we are not that fascinated anymore of our own kind, we are more interested of other foreign cultures and westernized places.  In fact, visitors are more interested in us.  

Maybe on your next travel be more curious about our provinces, our local growers, and our artists because they are slowly disappearing.  Especially in places not accessible by planes and cars, or tucked away in our mountains.

For a change, let curiosity lead the way so you won't ask me again...

"Why do you even do it?"