Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Sagada, our New Year celebration starts with a busy kitchen in the morning. The girls in our family have a reputation for their great kitchen skills - their products are the envy of many families. There's the family recipe for banana cake and lemon pie from lemons fresh my grandfather's orchard. A cousin is known for her chocolate cake - I particularly liked the colorful candy bits topped on the chocolate frosting. Our cousins from Loakan, Baguio City on the other hand are also known for their Ilocano cooking. I remember a New Year's dinner when each cousin prepared his/her own masterpiece. Boy, that was a feast to remember.

There had been bloopers as well - on one dinner, all the meals have been prepared and the guests are ready to be served when there was a sudden rush in the kitchen as we realized that rice hasn't been cooked yet. That made my grandfather shook his head. As a non-cook, I'm always constrained to the dishes afterward. I don't really mind it one bit as I would normally be very full and satisfied after our heavy New Year's Eve meals.

After the New Year dinner, my family would prepare to watch the community shows at the basketball court. In our elementary days, we would always troop to the shows together - but as we grew up and had our own friends, we would attend the community affairs in our respective groups.

The last hour of the year would be spent at the church for the New Year midnight mass. Since it is still the Christmas season, the hymns would normally be a replica of the songs sang during Christmas Eve. I remembered the church to be always full on these occasions. The Holy Communion line is also a time to see the faces of those who were present to celebrate New Year in Sagada. The last song of the midnight mass would normally be a high energy hymn - I will never forget the sound of "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" sang in 4 voices by the whole congregation. It is very heart warming.

After the last hymn, church goers would greet each other and sing Robert Burn's "Auld Lang Syne". Very western? Definitely, but always with a Sagada twist. The bells of St. Mary's Church would usher in the New Year. Firecrackers could be heard and seen from the church entrance. At this point, I would make sure to give each and every family member a hug, a buzz, and a Happy New Year greeting. We'd then make the slow walk home to a snack of a piece of cake or pie. Or some Sagada macaroni fruit salad.

While I always preferred going straight home after the midnight mass, I know that Sagada is very much awake until the wee hours of the morning. There are bonfires and gong playing. It would not be a New Year without alcohol and firecrackers. I suppose these two are a dangerous combination but unlike the cities where there are a lot of New Year injuries, I don't recall any New Year injuries occurring to any town mate while growing up. I remember a time during my teenage years when I fired my first gun. A cousin let my sisters and I use his pistol to file some rounds. I am a non-violent person so I didn't quite see anything exciting with the experience. I have something to tell my children though.

As I write this post, its 10pm of Dec 31 in Sagada - two more hours left in 2008. I am with my family half an earth away in the United States, it is early morning here. Our children will be meeting with their cousins later in the day to play and enjoy some meals together. It's not exactly as sentimental as the Sagada New Year celebrations I know, but for the children, it is something to look forward to.

Have a safe and joyous NEW YEAR to you and your families. Easy on the booze, and watch that firecracker.


Iraqi Journalist throws shoes at President Bush

Monday, December 15, 2008

In a bizarre moment at a recent press conference, an Iraqi journalist throws his 2 shoes at President Bush. Muntader al-Zaidi, the cameraman for al-Baghdadiya TV, aimed his shoes at the American president who had to duck twice to avoid being hit by the footwear turned projectile. The first attempt was a well-aimed throw to the president's head which he was able to quickly duck. President Bush was not injured in the incident and was quoted to have said "All I can report is it is a size 10".

Related stories:

Watch the video below:


Marky Cielo Wake and Burial Videos

The following are 5 selected videos during Marky Cielo's Wake and Burial, from Antipolo City, to Baguio, and finally, to Sinto, Bauko, Mountain Province.

Marky Cielo Burial Video - Sinto, Bauko, Mountain Province

Bobby Cielo, Marky Cielo's Father Video

Marky Cielo Wake Video – Sinto, Bauko

Marky Cielo Wake Video – Baguio City

Marky Cielo Wake Video - Antipolo


Yahoo Top Stars of 2008

Sagada Igorot Blog Top Stars

(Photo Credit: Screen capture from Yahoo Movies)

With half of the last month of 2008 gone, Yahoo! Movies published its list of the Top Movie Stars of 2008. The list included a new Singapore citizen, a deceased actor, the world's most famous celebrity couple, a former Ms. World winner, and several Oscar award-winning actors. While most movie stars in the list are expected to be there, there were some surprises. Conspicuously absent from the list is Christian Bale, the star of Dark Knight - the year's biggest blockbuster. Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey, Jr., the stars of Paramount's 318M+ hit "Iron Man" were excluded as well. Below is the list according to ranking:



DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Became a Singaporean citizen, ticking off much of the Chinese internet community. Signed on to star opposite John Cuszack in Shanghai.

RECENT MOVIES: Hannibal Rising


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Starred in box-office bomb Australia. Gave birth to a daughter in July.



DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Appeared in box office bomb The Hottie & the Nottie. Ridiculed John McCain in a parody political ad.

RECENT MOVIES: The Hottie & the Nottie, Repo! The Genetic Opera
UPCOMING MOVIES: Untitled Todd Solondz Project


DEFINING MOMENT THIS YEAR: Gave birth to twins in February.



DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Starred in Bollywood epic Sarkar Raj opposite her brand new husband Abhishek Bachchan.

RECENT MOVIES: Sarkar Raj, Jodhaa Akbar


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Continued her relationship with NHL player Mike Comrie, covered a Depeche Mode song, put a scorpion in her pants for War, Inc.

UPCOMING MOVIES: Greta, What Goes Up


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Had a reoccurring role in "Weeds" and made out with Ben Kingsley in indie flick The Wackness. The press connected her with Heath Ledgers untimely death.



DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Appeared in Chapter 27, re-created Marilyn Monroe's racy final shoot for "New York" magazine, began dating Samantha Ronson.



DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Got married to Cash Warren and a month later gave birth to a daughter.

RECENT MOVIES: The Eye, The Love Guru


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Gave birth to twins, starred in box-office blockbuster Wanted, received a Golden Globe nomination for Changeling.

RECENT MOVIES: Changeling, Kung Fu Panda, Wanted
UPCOMING MOVIE: The Mercenary: Love and Honor



DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Went hairy, fat, and bald for Tropic Thunder. Tried to kill Hitler in Valkyrie.

RECENT MOVIES: Tropic Thunder


DEFINING MOMENT THIS YEAR: Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

RECENT MOVIES: Christmas in Wonderland


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in a American Gangster.

RECENT MOVIES: The Great Debaters, American Gangster
UPCOMING MOVIES: The Taking of Pelham 123


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Sported yet another weird hairdo in Bangkok Dangerous. Began filming a remake of Bad Lieutenant directed by Werner Herzog.

RECENT MOVIES: Bangkok Dangerous
UPCOMING MOVIES: Astro Boy, Bad Lieutenant


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Was slimed at this year's Kid's Choice Award. Started dating supermodel Miranda Kerr.

RECENT MOVIES: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Starred as a suidical superhero in Hancock and a suicidal IRS agent in Seven Pounds.



DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: His wife Angelina Jolie gave birth to twins, starred in the Coen brothers Burn After Reading and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, announced that he would star in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards.

RECENT MOVIES: Burn After Reading
UPCOMING MOVIES: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Starred in Body of Lies and received a Golden Globe nom for Revolutionary Road

UPCOMING MOVIES: Revolutionary Road


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Won a Golden Globe for Sweeney Todd. Announced he along with Colin Farrell and Jude Law would fill in for Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

RECENT MOVIES: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
UPCOMING MOVIES: Public Enemies, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


DEFINING MOMENTS THIS YEAR: Though he died in January of a drug overdose, he still had the most talked about performance, as The Joker, this year. He was nominated for a Golden Globe.

RECENT MOVIES: The Dark Knight
UPCOMING MOVIES: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


Kapuso vs Kapamilya over Marky Cielo

Saturday, December 13, 2008

(Photo Credit: Screenshot of PEP Homepage)

The unexpected death of young Igorot actor Marky Cielo, is seen as a factor in boosting several GMA-7 programs in the past days. Discovered during the Season 3 of the network's highly popular Starstruck competition, Marky Cielo has been a regular star of GMA-7. It is no wonder that the network "milked" what it could from the tragedy. In one of the SIS shows this week, an hour long tribute / cry-festival complete with interviews and emotional singing was offered to a very curious international audience that were just so hungry for news on the young actor.

Not to be outdone, ABS-CBN also did its part in covering the wake of the Kapuso star. Television crews of the Kapamilya network apparently disregarded protocol by not being sensitive to the requests of Marky Cielo's family particularly in not taking any shots of the actor's body during his wake in Sinto, Bauko. This incident apparently prompted the actor's mother to have yet another breakdown. Saturday shows however that were shown in ABS-CBN didn't feature any supposedly "stolen shots" of the actor. Still, this didn't stop GMA-7 from throwing some barbs at the rival network's insensitivity during its weekend afternoon shows.

As a fellow Igorot watching from afar, I can only shake my head and murmur, INE, KEDENG! (ENOUGH!) There is a death here, let's not turn it into a circus. Milking a personal tragedy just to increase ratings and have bragging rights run contrary to Filipino values that we so proudly claim we have. Where is delicadeza? Where is pakikisama? Is everything really all about the money?

It is exactly one week since the country was shocked by the death of Marky Cielo. The Kapuso and Kapamilya networks are expected to continue to outdo each other during today's afternoon gossip shows. Again, sensationalism and segments that cater to the tear glands will dominate the programming. At the middle of it is a grieving family who just lost the eldest son. Do the networks really care? I highly doubt it.


Impeach Blagojevich

It was during the middle of this week that people from Illinois awoke to the news that their elected governor has been arrested and handcuffed on multiple charges that he conspired to sell his office in various opportunities - including putting a price on the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. The 52 year old governor was elected twice to the position before, and on both counts vowed to reform the culture in the Springfield office that had a history of corruption with previous governors. His promises looks to be unfulfilled as after years of well-publicized federal corruption investigations, he is now being asked to resign, or threatened with impeachment.

"Impeach Blagojevich" seems to be chanted across the Illinois Senate, state offices and various Internet forums and blogs. A website called "Impeach Blagojevich" has already been set-up and is calling for Illinois citizens to "to commence a Constitutionally-authorized investigation into whether the Executive officer's conduct justifies cause for impeachment". Per the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the House of Representatives of the State of Illinois is the main authority to conduct investigations to determine the existence of cause for impeachment of the Executive and Judicial branches.

In the meantime, Gov. Rod Blagojevich continues on with his tasks capping off the week by attending to duties in his now new role of criminal defendant. He continues to rebuff calls to resign and showed no signs of backing down from his critics. He just signed a bill that extends insurance coverage for autistic kids - a clear sign that he's still the man in charge.

The current governor is just the latest to be charged with corruption in the state that prides itself with being the land of Abraham Lincoln. In the past century, four other Illinois governors have been charged or indicted of corruption charges. US News lists the following:

* George Ryan (Republican, 1999-2003)—currently serving a 6½-year sentence in federal prison for fraud
* Daniel Walker (Democrat, 1973-1977)—convicted of bank fraud after leaving office
* Otto Kerner (Democrat, 1961-1968)—convicted on 17 counts of bribery
* Lennington Small (Republican, 1921-1929)—indicted for embezzlement

Shifting focus to the Philippines, I don't recall any governor in recent years to have been charged with corruption. It doesn't mean though that corruption doesn't exist - it's just that our country still doesn't have the necessary checks and balances like what is in place in western democracies. In provincial campaigns, gubernatorial candidates are reported to spend millions in Philippine pesos to get a job that "officially" has a monthly salary of less than P50,000. The opportunity to serve the public maybe? Somehow, I'm not the only one that will raise an eyebrow on that.


Leave a Message for Marky Cielo's Family

Friday, December 12, 2008

I've contacted a family friend of Marky Cielo suggesting if an online guestbook for the family is a good idea for fans / supporters of Marky who would not be able to relay messages in other ways. She indicated that "comforting words are much needed" and that it would "help lift her frozen soul a bit", referring to Marky's mom. All posts will later on be downloaded for Mildred and the family to read.

Folks, please be as comforting and as assuring in the comments you leave in this post. If you are like me who would like to do something for Marky Cielo and his family but couldn't because of distance or any reason whatsoever, expressions of comfort / support will still help the family cope. I also suggest to leave your first name and location as opposed to posting anonymously.

Thank you!

Click here to leave a message.


Sinto, Bauko on the Spotlight: Marky Cielo's Final Resting Place

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It was early 2006, when Starstruck Season 3 was going underway, that a young Igorot boy brought the spotlight to Sinto, Bauko. Dozens of residents came out chanting “Dream, Believe, Survive” in support of this young man’s bid to become the first Igorot winner of the contest. There were joyous community singing and dancing led by his grandmother. Now, almost 3 years later, the same boy is being brought home but there will be no joy in whatever singing or dancing that will be done. Marky Cielo is being brought to Sinto for his final resting place.

Sinto is one of the 22 barangays of Bauko – Mountain Province’s most populated town. Reporters and columnists of major newspapers have mistakenly reported that it was a part of Benguet province. It is a relatively remote place, a 4-5 hour drive from Baguio City through the Halsema Highway. Visitors to the place will see terrain that is widely used for vegetable farming. Mt. Data Hotel, a popular stop nestled amongst evergreen forests at an elevation of 7,200 feet is also located in Sinto.

Sinto is a quiet and peaceful place but that will hardly be the case during the wake and eventual funeral of perhaps its most popular son. If the crowds at the Resurrection Cathedral in Baguio City were an indication on the activity surrounding Marky Cielo’s wake, expect a similar number to flock to Sinto for the final days of his wake. Plenty of relatives and friends from the surrounding towns of Bontoc, Tadian, Sabangan, Besao and Sagada will also be attending the wake for the first time. Expect too, that the burial that is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, December 16 will be highly attended.

Two of Mountain Province’s prominent politicians will surely visit during the wake or be present during the burial. Governor Maximo Dalog had earlier supported Marky Cielo’s Starstruck bid, and ex-Congresswoman and now undersecretary Josephine Dominguez had also expressed her fondness for the young Igorot actor. Other town and provincial leaders will also be expected to attend. What remains to be seen is the number of fans and admirers of Marky who will follow from Baguio and maybe even as far as Manila. There will also be relatives coming from far Butuan, where Marky spent his childhood days.

Reports have indicated that Marky will be buried according to Igorot custom. I don’t particularly know what that means since 99% of the Igorot funerals I’ve attended was done either in an Anglican or Catholic Church. The wake will be conducted in a slightly different manner than the normal wakes in Manila or the lowlands. There will be plenty of church hymn singing. Baya-o, a type of sing-song storytelling regarding the dead which I normally observed is done for older people may also be done during his wake as well. The normal time for the burial of younger folks like Marky would be in the morning, but everything about the actor has seemed a deviation from the norm so far and this custom may or may not be followed.

It would be interesting to see how Sinto and its residents will be able to handle the situation. Television crews would be in the town as Marky Cielo’s death has hogged the limelight in recent days. I don’t believe the hotel will be able to accommodate all visitors staying overnight – most likely, local residents or even the schools will open their places for visitors as well. Support will most likely come also from the provincial government. It is just the appropriate thing to do – Marky has brought Mountain Province a lot of positive attention in his brief stint in showbiz. In death, he and his family are entitled to the respect and admiration they need, and deserve.


Increased searching on "Marky Cielo Suicide"

Monday, December 8, 2008

12/10 UPDATE: A family friend of Marky Cielo has indicated that "comforting words are much needed". If you want to leave a note for the family, please do so through this link. Thanks!

The cause of Marky Cielo's death as of this writing remains unknown - and I've seen reports that the family wishes not to disclose this to the media. And they have all the right to do so, unless perhaps, some criminal investigation is under way. I was checking the source of traffic for this blog in the past 12 hours and I've noticed an increasing number of searches on the keywords "marky cielo suicide". (See screen capture on left.) This blog happens to pop out under these searches because of the 2 recent posts on the young actor together with a post I had on cyber bullying that led to suicide.

While my wife and I pondered on the cause, the immediate reasons that came to our minds were the following: an unknown medical condition, or over-fatigue. Eventually, it was reported that he died of "bangungot", and if I haven't been told old wives tales, this apparently is a sort of heart attack. These however, do not fit into why he was found sprawled on the floor. Furthermore, as I was searching for news on Marky Cielo, I found the Inquirer article titled "Cops probing Marky Cielo's death". (See screenshot below.) Upon viewing this article however, it had nothing to do with any cop probes. So, I thought it was rather strange.

In an interview with the SIS show, Marky Cielo's mother hinted on a possible personal issue that has been troubling the actor recently. An article from a Filipino portal alleged that one of the young actor's siblings talked about Marky discussing death in recent days. The whispers on the actor committing suicide eventually turned into Internet searches, and eventually blog posts. I will not be surprised if a major newspaper will delve into this angle.

The sad thing about the whole affair is - it doesn't help the family one bit considering that they are already in a most difficult situation. Marky as a celebrity means that his most private moments will be heavily scrutinized, speculated upon, discussed appropriately or inappropriately, examined through a microscope, and even criticized. This is the price of a life in the public eye. I do wish however that the public will truly put themselves in the shoes of Marky's family. They need support, comfort, encouragement, and love as they go through this valley. As the public and the media admired Marky while he was alive, it is my hope that they will behave admiringly if only for the sake of Marky's loved ones.


Thousands, Blogosphere mourn Marky Cielo's Death

(Photo: Screen capture of iGMA.tv) While thousands of fans and non-fans alike mourn the death of Starstruck winner Marky Cielo, the blogosphere is also keeping up with hundreds of blog posts being written about the young actor's passing. In the last 12 hours alone, 280+ entries have been written on the topic, and the list is still growing. A lot of the entries were expressions of shock and remorse. Another consistent theme amongst the posts were the impressions on how Marky Cielo carried himself while in showbusiness. There was one blogger who said that though he wasn't a Marky Cielo fan, he knew from the way Marky was interviewed in TV that he was kind. Colleagues and fans echoed the sincerity and humility that Marky Cielo showed amidst an industry that is known for scandals and self-promoting personalities. The first YouTube video posted on his death has been viewed 34,000+ times in 24 hours, and has been commented on hundreds of times. The outpouring of emotions on his death indicates that though he has been a celebrity in just 3 years, this young Igorot has touched thousands of lives in a positive way. As a fellow Igorot, I've always been proud of him.


Marky Cielo, 20 - Rest in Peace

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The lad who captivated the hearts of Filipinos and Igorots alike 3 years ago has now left this world. (See video below.) Marky has inspired thousands of people in the Philippines and abroad. He has shown that humility and hard work, combined with talent, brings you a long way. Its too sad that he has to die at such an early age. To the Cielo family, we send our deepest condolences. May your family find comfort and support in our Heavenly Father as you go through this very difficult time. You are not alone in grieving the loss of this much beloved young man.

Related News Articles:
Fellow GMA 7 artists honor Marky
Glaiza de Castro had a dream about Marky Cielo before he passed away
Actor Marky Cielo Dead
Cordillerans mourn Marky Cielo death
Mom, Colleague Mourn Marky Cielo's death


Sagada Torch Parade

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Around this time of the year, and if I'm not mistaken, on the 8th of December, Sagada's St. Mary's School hold their annual torch parade. My 3 older sisters have been students of Santa Mal-ya (the Sagada way of pronouncing Saint Mary) and as a child, I always look forward to this time of the year.

We would have our dinner early, and make the 10-15 minute walk from Nangonogan to the municipal basketball court to watch the event. We would be fully dressed up, jackets and all to counter the chilly December evenings. We would wait with a sizeable crowd at the basketball court and while waiting, it is normal for the townfolks to sing a song or two.

I have very vivid memories of the torch parades I've watched as a child. From a distance, we would see a long line of torches seemingly floating in the wind. It could be pretty hypnotizing seeing the torches snake their way from Tangeb, down to Dao-angan, and up to the town center. By then, silhouettes of students carrying the torches would be discernible. As the torch parade comes closer and closer to the basketball court, the gong playing accompanying the parade becomes louder and louder. Pretty soon, the students in the parade would go down to the basketball court where a program would start with cultural presentations and singing. Despite the very chilly night, the students in the parade would be fully dressed in Igorot costumes. The boys wearing only the wanes (g-string) and the girls wearing the traditional skirt and belt with white blouses. I believe there were also competition between the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors of the school on who had the most creative torches and the best presentations.

One particular year I remember was when all my sisters were enrolled in St. Mary's. Our eldest was a senior, our 2nd was a junior, and our 3rd sister was a freshman. I fully remember the freshman class enthusiastically singing "KALAPATI, MISDA'Y KALAPATI" while the group joined them in the chorus. The seniors, who eventually won the presentation competition did the Balangbang, forming the letters of MERRY CHRISTMAS to the delight of a small but boisterous crowd from Manila. Somehow, the presentation of the juniors escape is not as clear for me, but I think they had some wonderful dancing from the Guina-ang students.

The last time I watched a torch parade was decades ago and I don't know if the Sagada Torch Parade is still being held in St. Mary's. I never participated in one because I spent my high school years in Manila. It would be a big loss if this practice stopped.These traditional events help link one's memories to their hometown, and for me, these are really fond memories to look back to and to share with my children.


A Gay Bishop and the North American Anglican Split

Thursday, December 4, 2008

As a baptized Anglican in Sagada's St. Mary the Virgin Church, I have always followed the interesting milestones in this denomination's history. It was in the 1990s that the Anglican church allowed women priests. In 2003, the Anglican church in the United States consecrated the first openly gay bishop. I remember that in exchanges within an Igorot mailing list, one Anglican noted that those who consecrated the first openly gay bishop did not believe in the authority of the Bible. This led to some heated exchanges for those who said they believe in the Bible but supported the consecration of the gay bishop.

I am not a practicing Anglican anymore, (if there is one such person) and I would classify myself as an evangelical Christian. And yes, I also find it hard to understand how the Anglican leadership in the US can consecrate a gay bishop and say they believe in the Bible as well. The Bible is very clear on how to select bishops. In 1 Timothy 3: 2-7, "The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach; no brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (but if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."

Let me state that I am not a homophobic gay basher. I have close gay friends - two of my children's godparents are openly gay. And as a Christian, I am taught by the Bible to love all people as Jesus does - and Jesus died for the homosexual sinner as He did for me, a sinner too. But a bishop is a person with the responsibility of leading congregations - and if he falls short of the standard the Bible has, then he should never be put in that position.

Five years after the consecration of the gay bishop, traditionalists are moving to create a separate and competing North American Anglican church. In headline news the past two days, four breakaway Episcopal dioceses along with dozens of individual parishes in the U.S. and Canada with around 100,000 members announced the formation of a rival North American Anglican province. The group's constitution is looking to reflect the qualities of the new Anglican province which according to one its leaders should be "biblically grounded, Christ-centered, mission driven, outwardly focused, committed to evangelism and discipleship, and proudly Anglican."

The new conservative province already has the support of seven leaders of Anglican national churches including the archbishops of Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya and the Southern Cone, based in Argentina. Will the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, which the Sagada Anglican community belong to, take a stand in this divide? I highly doubt it, but I'd be very pleased if they do since I'm 99% sure which side they will be on.


Bullying: An Issue in Sagada and Elsewhere

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lori Drew, a 49-year old Missouri mother was accused of cyberbullying a 13-year old neighbor that apparently led to the teenager's suicide. Drew reportedly targeted the teen after the girl had a falling out with Drew's daughter, and she set out to "embarrass her, to humiliate her, to make fun of her and to hurt her". She created a dummy MySpace account for a teenage boy and pretended to befriend the teenage girl and eventually broke up with her through an email. The teen was so distraught by what happened that she eventually hanged herself. See the full story on 'Cyber Bully' Mom Cleared Of Felony In MySpace Suicide Case.

This is such a sad case for both parties. You now have a dead teenager, and a mother who is going to jail for her actions. Two families are severely impacted by this bullying incident. What I cannot imagine is the hatred that existed in Lori Drew's mind. How can a mother do such a thing to another's child?

In the broader context, bullying - whether virtual or physical is a challenge for the children being bullied. As a student attending Bomabanga (Sagada Central School), I was also bullied by at least 3 boys who were much older and bigger than me. I was terrified meeting them on the school grounds, and as an adult, I can even remember the hurting taunts they'd tell when they see me. I was blessed to have had a loving family who raised me in an environment where my self-worth was not determined by what bullies thought. And later on, I learned to forgive these bullies. I was wise enough to acknowledge that I cannot control what others think, but I can control how I react to circumstances. Eventually, I would meet these bullies in the streets of Sagada when I was older. I'd greet them and smile at them as if nothing ever happened.

But that's me, and I'm blessed. There are other bullied children out there like the teen who created suicide and who may have allowed bullies to determine their self-worth. It is a common issue in schools and something that should be addressed by those in authority - whether this be in Sagada or in Missouri.


Building my Igorot BlogRoll

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I've had this blog for more than six months now but I still just have a few blogs in my blogroll. While I'm tempted to go over Bill Bilig's blog and copy his list of Igorot blogs, I decided to go the long route and enjoy the process of actually reading a blog before listing it here.

I've come across several interesting blogs written by Igorots. There is the fellow Igorot from Liverpool, UK who has written multiple encouraging comments on my posts. Kasta man kailyan - I'll never tire of these. This guy goes by the pen name "Manny, Manwer, Manwell "; very unique if I may say so. He has a photoblog and a blog for poems; the blog names are equally poetic. Check them out at Summer Breeze and Mildsummer Showers.

Kayni of Hawaii posted a note on my "Remembering Auntie Rhoda" post saying that we may be related. It doesn't happen often that you find relatives through your blogs. Its another example on how the Internet is making the world so small. She has her reflections documented in kayni's corner cafe.

Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yangot's recent posts are on her trip with her daughter to Disneyland - HK. Her daughter's name, Gawani, is as Igorot as it can get. She did say that sometimes, "I am a busy person and she (the daughter) has to fit into my schedule". Ay, ay pay sa. Hope your grandparents don't get mad at you for such "busy-ness", hehe. Is she perhaps related to my friend Dina D? She blogs at Beauty Beyond Beauty.


Increased Site Traffic, Most Expensive Coffee, Remote Town ATM, Rich Nurse

Friday, November 21, 2008

1. My fledgling site traffic suddenly went up by 2x the daily average after posting my second bloggables post on the "motit", Igorot bloggers and Sagada Hospital website. I was baffled by this, and checking my Sitemeter statistics, I noticed that most of the traffic was coming from emails. If any of my dear visitors can just leave a comment and tell me how they learned of this post just hours after I published it, I would really appreciate it. My Google Adsense earnings for today just increased by five times the normal average that I get.

2. I did some digging on the most expensive coffee in the world and found out that indeed, it is due to the motit or civet cat. Apparently, the motit partially digest coffee cherries and upon excretion, the beans are collected, cleaned, and roasted. The internal digestion is said to add a special flavor to the beans and these are sold for enjoyment at the price of $600/pound - that's around $50/cup, 10 times more expensive that Starbucks. I thought it's disgusting, but I guess if you're a true coffee drinker, nothing will stop you from trying this brew.

3. There's a comment in the Lakwatsero website that indicates there is no ATM in Sagada as recently as May 2008. That has changed earlier this week with the installation of an ATM at the Rural Bank of Sagada. Encash, the ATM network uses the Megalink group and has 38 rural banks and two nonbank financial institutions for its client base. This is definitely good news to all Sagada travelers.

4. Finally, I remember a story of an Igorot nurse who one time took hours to go back to the of relatives she was staying with, since she had to walk from her school. She comes from a poor family in Sagada and didn't have any money for jeepney fare. Eventually, her determination persevered and she migrated to the United States as a nurse. Now, she has her own huge house, and drives a couple of luxury cars - a great testament that hard work and perseverance do pay off.


Bloggables 002 - Of "motit", Igorot bloggers, and the Sagada Hospital website

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My second list of bloggables - items in the Web that either features Sagada and the Igorots, or are works by fellow Igorots. Refer to Bloggables 001.

Photo Credit: Alamid Coffee at Squidoo

Motit’ excites Cordillera coffee lovers. Learn how the “motit”, Kankana-ey term for the Philippine civet cat (Paradoxurus philippinensis) is exciting coffee growers across the Cordilleras. There are lots of motits in Sagada and as a child, I’ve seen them eating coffee at our neighbors garden. They eat coffee cherries and later excrete these as feces. When cleaned and processed, Forbes magazine has described this coffee as the rarest and most expensive in the world. Read more…

Sagada Hospital Website: An anonymous commenter left a URL that pointed to the Saint Theodore’s Hospital website. This is a pleasant surprise. I didn’t even know it existed and judging from the articles, it’s just been newly set-up. It has a lot of articles on therapeutic cancer and detoxification and I might just want to read on these as my wife and I are trying to improve our diet. Lastly, it was a bonus to see familiar faces amongst the staff. I recognized Janice, the sister of a ka-barkada, and the high school teacher of my sisters. Visit SagadaHospital.com.

IGOROT BLOGGERS: Three Igorot bloggers deserve some attention – (1) Martin Polichay is an Igorot from Australia and writes on an igorot journey. (2) Vicente Sapguian previews the work of Leon Lonogan – “The Sun Sets at Sunrise: The Rise of the Agawa Tribe” in his blog, from greatman. (3) A young Igorot academic scholar in California writes on President JFK and General MacArthur’s “Igorot” comments at Allan’s Blog.

Sagada / Igorot News Briefs:

1. “President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has Igorot blood on her hands…” says an activist as the House of Representatives probe the disappearance of Cordillera People’s Alliance founding member, James Balao. Read more…
2. BusinessMirror reports that an ATM unit has been installed in Sagada. Read More…
3. The exhibit “Sagada: Mountain Reflections” is available for viewing at the Crucible Gallery, fourth floor of SM Megamall A, Mandaluyong City. Read more…
4. Singaporean adventurer and world record holder, Khoo Swee Chiow, visited Sagada and remarked “I would definitely go back and bring my family here”. Read more…

Sagada Photo-blogs:
1. My Sagada Adventure by mel
2. Sagada’s Hanging Coffins and Exotic Caves by the “Bride around the Corner”. Is the groom waiting by the corner? Hehehe…
3. Sagada: A Perfect Example of Ecotourism by fellow Sagada blogger and friend, Irene.
4. Food Tripping in Sagada by happyfoodies.com

Site Redesign: Lastly, I’m going to change the look of this site in the coming days. I appreciate your continued support and please continue to provide comments and feedback on my posts. What is a blogger without readers? Have a nice weekend!


Memories on 2nd Visit to Versailles, France

Saturday, November 15, 2008

(Above: This Igorot blogger amidst the thousands of fountains at the Château de Versailles)

I visited France more than a dozen times between 2001 and 2004. It was on business trips for a client which was the leader mondial de la distribution de matériel électrique (leading distributor worldwide of electrical supplies). I was the European IT application manager of their warehouse system, and I was bouncing around France, Portugal, Germany, and the UK.

One of my favorite tourist stops was Versailles, the former center of power for the kingdom of France. It is located in the western suburbs of Paris and to this day remains an important administrative and judicial center. This city is world-famous because of the Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles). It is the biggest palace in Europe designed and built in the 17th century. Abandoned after the French revolution, the palace has undergone a series of re-construction funded by the French government and American foundations. It has been identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The fountains and the gardens are my favorites. It would take more than a couple of days to fully tour and enjoy the grounds. My second visit to the palace was with high school friends and it was during late spring - a perfect time to fully enjoy the place as the flowers and trees are in full bloom. We saw plenty of families having picnics and going on bicycle rides.

Sharing some of the pictures from that visit:

Entrance to the château, with a statue of the Sun King… King Louie XIV
The Grand Trianon, a pink marble mansion where the king once dallied with sweet young ladies (not his wife) provides a beautiful photo opportunity for this French couple
A well trimmed garden near an artificial lake.
The flowers are all in full bloom on the right wing of the chateau.
No better way to enjoy a day of sightseeing than settling down to enjoy superb French cooking.


An Igorot in Chicago reflects on Barack Obama

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

(Photos taken from Chicago Tribune)

I was in Dallas, TX during the fall of 2004. It was my first foreign assignment in the US. I witnessed the debates between John Kerry and incumbent President George Bush. I remember that the state of Ohio proved to be the sole battleground state and that it was a closely contested race. At the back of my memory during that campaign season was a photo of a beaming Illinois senator with his family that headlined a local newspaper. I don't remember much about that story, except that he delivered a keynote speech at a convention. That was the first time I saw and heard of a man named Barrack Obama.

Fast forward to spring of 2008. I'm back in the United States and this time with my family. We were residing at a northwestern suburb of metro Chicago. My wife and I were closely following the Democratic primaries and the heated contest between Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama. Somehow, I was cheering for Mr. Obama as he went on to win a string of states that eventually led to his being selected as the Democrat Party's presidential candidate.

Then came his acceptance speech which we watched from start to finish. To say that the guy can talk is an understatement. HE CAN HYPNOTIZE. In the 3 presidential debates, his eloquence allowed him to state his stand strongly, clearly, and almost effortlessly. It is not difficult to be charmed by this guy. He possesses youth, talent, charisma, and projected the ability of handling pressure effortlessly. He always looked cool. It looked like he was really destined to become this nation's president.

On election night, I came home from work and immediately switched on the TV. Soon, Obama carried pivotal states that were supposed to be close contests - Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia. It was turning out to be a rout. At 11pm CST, the polls closed in the West Coast and without a single ballot being counted, the networks projected BARACK OBAMA as the elected 44th president of the Unites States of America.

It was late and it was way past our boys' bedtime but I wanted them to watch his victory speech. Its not too often that one shares the same metro city as the president-elect. Thousands of people have gathered at Grant Park, a mere 30-minute drive away to celebrate his victory. Had my kids been older, we would also have trekked downtown to witness and be a part of this historical moment.

Ah, "historical". It's been 7 days since he won, and the word "historical" has been repeated a billion times to describe his victory. Amongst others, the phrase "first black president" keeps cropping up. Beyond his skin color, Obama has a very white background having been raised by a white mother and white grandparents. I don't know the statistics but he can easily be the most international president in terms of origin. Born in Hawaii, he has lived in Indonesia, and has visited relatives in Kenya as a youth.

For me, Obama is the epitome of an American dream. Born in a middle-class working family, he has told stories of how his mother studied with him at 4 in the morning just so he can get ahead in his studies. He went to top universities such as Columbia and Harvard and excelled at those schools. He was a community leader and an Illinois senator. He couldn't have accomplished much just by being normal - no sir, though he's talented, I bet that it his work ethics, self discipline and motivation that makes him who he is. On top of it all, he is married to an equally over-achieving lady, who happens to the descendant of slaves; and they have kids who aren't allowed to whine and receive paltry allowances amounting to $1/week. It's almost unreal.

Had I been allowed to vote, I wouldn't have voted for him though. I do not agree with him regarding his pro-choice stance and tax plan. I'll probably benefit from his tax plan next year but I don't think its the best for the economy. Yes, 95% of all the people would benefit, but the employers who employ the people? They're going to be hit in a manner that can substantially curtail their growth and affect their ability to employ. With regards to his pro-choice stand, I heard him explain in an interview with Pastor Rick Warren that he doesn't believe that life begins at conception. I wonder what he believes then, but for me, this is a fundamental issue that should never be negotiated.

Lastly, I've been tasked to hire employees before, and I take into consideration both experience and potential. The presidential election is like the process of hiring an employee, except that this is no ordinary job - it is the most important job in perhaps, the whole world. Despite Obama's talent and potential, it is too risky to have someone too untested to decide on options that will impact the lives of billions.

And yet, the elections are over and Barack Obama is the president-elect. My pre-election views have changed over the course of a week. I now think that though Obama may not have been the better candidate, he definitely has the potential to be the greater president. As a Christian, I am commanded by Scripture to pray for my leaders. As a resident alien here in the US, Barack Obama is my leader too, and so I shall be praying for him.


blog of the SaGaDa-iGoRoT wins Wk 133 & Wk 134 - Filipino Blog of the Week

Saturday, November 8, 2008

11/15/2008 Update:
Thank you once again, dear readers, for helping this blog win the Filipino Blog of the Week - Week 134. Because of 2 straight wins, this blog has been elevated to the HALL OF FAME. Woo-hoo! I truly appreciate all the support that has been extended.

Here're the results for Week 134:

Week 134 - Total votes cast: 255
Criteria: voting(55%) + judges(35%) + me(10%)
Winner (sagada-igorot): 94.40%
2nd place (planetputoniyods): 81.90%
3rd place (toofeel): 49.34%

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

My heartfelt appreciation to all who voted and helped make this blog the winner of Filipino Blog of the Week - Week 133. I think my site will continue being nominated as long as it gets to be in the top 5 most voted blogs for the next three weeks. Amateur bloggers like me are encouraged that some readers out there actually visit my blog and read my posts. On top of that, to learn that people go the distance and vote for my blog at another website? That's a thrill. A huge thanks to the Composed Gentleman blog. Click on the logo to learn more about the contest.

Here're the results as posted in the above blog:

Week 133 - Total votes cast: 164
Criteria: voting(55%) + judges(35%) + me(10%)
Winner (sagada-igorot): 92.20%
2nd place (shengysdelight): 57.11%
3rd place (haze-unplugged): 49.52%

I'm still nominated for Week 134 Filipino Blog of the Week. Please keep on voting for this blog. Thank you for your continued support.


All Saint's Day in Sagada

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

(Photo courtesy of Ironwulf.net)

Sagada has a very unique way of celebrating All Saints Day and this is due to the atypical location of its cemetery. Sagada’s central cemetery is part of the Anglican Mission Compound, and located above the St. Mary’s School, St. Mary the Virgin Church and the rectory. The cemetery is not in a flattened area. In fact, the tombs are scattered along the slope of a hill going up to the selected site for Calvary . One takes a winding upward path from the church to reach the place. (It is also the place where I’ve seen my first and only ghost but that is a different blog post altogether.)

While most Filipinos bring candles to light at the tombs of their loved ones on All Saint’s Day, Sagada locals would prepare bundles of wood and “saeng“. (I can’t translate this right now but suffice to say that it is a type of pine wood that combusts easily). Candles are of little use against the wind in the Sagada cemetery, so the people build bonfires instead.

A vivid childhood memory I have is the sight of dozens of bonfires lighting up the slope of the mountain where the cemetery is. Add to this the thick columns of smoke going up from the fires and the arrival of dusk, and it probably would look like a scene from a horror movie. The environment however, is far from gloomy. Children roam around happily, and parents watch that they don’t cause any damage. Relatives of those buried in tombs with limestone epitaphs advise those building bonfires to make these at safe distances to avoid damaging the stones. A drunken man may be seen visiting the resting places of his buddies, pouring a bit of San Miguel over the bonfires and thus allowing the alcohol to further strengthen the flames. There’s the occasional shout or two that can either be a warm greeting or a warning of some kind. Fire, after all, is something that can easily spread if not watched closely.

I do use candles on these occasions and as I’ve seen my mom do, I visit the tombs of relatives and friends and light a candle or add a piece of wood if there’s a fire that’s already burning. Lighting a candle is a challenge in the windy conditions – it is normal to put the candle inside a bottle or hide it against a wall so the wind cannot get to it. My dad’s tomb is at the upper part of the cemetery, and is separated from where my paternal grandparents were buried. It is however, adjacent to where my maternal grandparents have been laid.

I normally visit the tomb of a cousin who died as a teenager before I was born– his family resides in Tabuk, Kalinga and there is no one to visit his resting place during this time of the year. I rarely find it unlighted though, there’s most likely a candle that’s already there, or a small bonfire that’s burning. This would have been an act of kindness by a town-mate who probably was passing by and seeing the tomb un-attended, cared enough to light a fire.

It’s been a long time since I spent All Saints Day in Sagada. The bonfires I’ve seen in past years however still burn brightly in my mind.


Discover Asia's Sagada Tours

Friday, October 24, 2008

This got my attention because it features a stop at Sagada Weaving which is owned and managed by close relatives. Don't complete a visit to Sagada without visiting this shop - the one and original Sagada Weaving.


Want to travel North and see caves, green pastures and experience the beauty of Nature? Why not try and join our Banaue-Sagada-Baguio Tour. Where you can feel the real breeze and Chillax to the max!


Php 2,850/person: Min of 2 pax

Travel Scheds:

1st Travel Date: October 30 - November 1, 2008
Target Slots: 24
Available Slots: 10

2nd Travel Date: November 7-9, 2008 (Friday-Sunday)
Target Slots: 12
Available Slots: 7

3rd Travel Date: November 28-30, 2008 (Friday-Sunday)
Target Slots: 24
Available Slots: 18

4th Travel Date: December 27-29, 2008 (Saturday-Monday)
Target Slots: 24
Available Slots: 20

* Roundtrip Van Transfer (Manila-Banaue-Sagada-Baguio)
* 3days/2nights accommodation at Residential Lodge, Sagada
* 2 Days Tour at Kiltepan, Echo Valley, St Mary's Church, Lake Danum, Big Falls,Pottery House, Sagada Weaving, --Sumaguing Cave and Orange Farm.
* Entrance Fees and Permit
* Tour Guide Fees except at Sumaguing Cave (Php 100/person for min of 4 persons)
* Toll Fee, Gas, Driver's Meal and Accommodation
* Taxes and Surcharges

Assembly Date:
0800pm Assembly at Glorietta Makati.0830pm Estimated Time Departure from Manila to Banaue.

Day 1:
0500am Estimated Time Arrival at Banaue Rice Terraces Viewing Point. Stop Over for picture taking and souvenir hunting.
0600am Estimated Time Departure to Sagada.1100am Arrived Sagada. Check-in, take early Lunch and Rest.
0130pm Visit Lake Danum, Sagada Pottery House, Sagada Weaving
0330pm Proceed to Sumaguing Cave for Cave Spelunking. For those who doesn't want to explore Sumaguing Cave, our driver will bring them back to Residential Lodge.
0600pm End of Day 01 Tour.
0700pm Dinner and Rest.

Day 2:
0600am Wake-up call.Breakfast.
0700am Start of 2nd day of tour. Proceed to Orange Farm and Bomod-Ok Falls.
1100am Early Lunch.1200pm Visit St Mary's Church, Echo Valley (where the hanging coffins are located) and Kiltepan Rice Terraces.
0400pm End of Day 02 tour.

Optional Activities: Food Trip at Strawberry Fastfood, Yoghurt House, Masferre, Etc..

Day 3:
0600am Breakfast.
0700am Souvenir Hunting.
0900am ETD from Sagada to Baguio (Bring trail food since ride from Sagada to Baguio will take a while)
0300pm Arrived at SM Baguio to eat Merienda or Late Lunch
0430pm Depart Baguio to Manila
1030pm bEstimated Time Arrival to Makati.

For further information about this new project, please contact:
Janice Rovero
Discover Asia International Travel and Tours
123 Narra St. Sta Clara, Sta Maria, Bulacan
Mobile: 0917.502.1827
Email: jhanacer@yahoo.com
YM iD: jhanacer


Bloggables 001 - Sapay Koma, Tapis Police, Haikus

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm starting a list of worthy "bloggable" items in the Web that either features Sagada and the Igorots, or are works by fellow Igorots. This would be the first of such a list.

  • Sapay Koma – Essay by Jhoanna Cruz posted in her blog, Dagmay. If an article makes you cry and laugh at the same time, it’s certainly worth reading. A well written piece on a non-Igorot’s marriage to an i-Benguet (man from Benguet).
  • Tapis Police (Frank Cimatu, Philippine Daily Inquirer) – Read about the formation of a tourist police force in the Banaue – Bontoc – Sagada area. The article notes that women policemen wear the traditional “tapis” and high heels. These “tapis police” are apparently a hit with locals and tourists. I’d like to see a picture of them. Do they just stand behind the desk at police stations? I think so. I can’t imagine them running around the rugged terrain in high heels.
  • Siwat’s Weblog - A 54-year old Igorot, and a stroke-survivor at that, shares his writings and thoughts in this blog. His haikus made me smile.
  • Checking Up on Sagada - Ferdz Decena's latest blog post on Sagada is a photo-essay that only he can produce. I loved the photo of the young girl peeling a fruit. For one so far away from home like me, it was a nostalgic one. His blog, En Route, has multiple posts on Sagada dating back to 2005.
  • Pentax Forum Sagada Gallery. I'll never tire of Sagada Photo Galleries. This one is a wonderful collection of black and white and colored photographs of Sagada by Ansbert, a Pentax Forums Senior Member. The photos inside the church are a must see.
  • Portraits of Sagada – Erick of Tondo writes about his encounter with the friendly people of Sagada. I smiled at his observation that Sagada locals don’t ask money if they get photographed… unlike people from that another tourist town in the Cordilleras. Well, different strokes for different folks.
  • Idiosyncracies– A Bacolod-born freelance writer blogs on happenings in Baguio and the Cordilleras. Includes other topics of interest.


1980s Sagada Images by a French Photographer - Part II

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Here's the second batch of Sagada images by a photographer from Paris, France. These photos are in black and white and in poster sizes. The edges of the photographs were not scanned due to the size of the scanner used.

Sagada's Morning Mist:

Sagada's Rocky Terrain:

Sagada's Rice Terraces:


1980s Sagada Images by a French Photographer - Part I

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In 2004, I was having dinner at a Paris restaurant with 2 Filipino high school friends, and 2 Frenchmen. The first Frenchman was a client, and the second was his cousin who happened to be a photographer based in Manila, and married to a Filipina. While waiting for our fare, a man in a black suit with some folders entered the restaurant. The photographer in our group whispered that the man who entered was a known French photographer who sometimes go to restaurants to publicize his photographs. (Now, I don't remember his name - but I hope to be able to research it in the web one of this days).

Our group struck up a conversation with this photographer, and soon enough, we learned that he's been to the Philippines. I told him I was from Sagada and he quickly said that he'd been to the town in the 1980s, and have some photographs that he didn't have with him a the moment. We got his card, and promised to visit his studio soon.

A friend and a cousin accompanied me to his studio just outside Paris. Once there, he showed me some contact prints of his Sagada photos. He had more than a dozen, in black and white. I chose 10, 7 to be printed in 5x8; and 3 to be poster size. The photos were worth some hard earned euros, but I knew they'd be used to decorate my house one day. Heck, 1980s Sagada photos by a French photographer are not that common. I came back after a week to get the photographs since he developed these himself. Of course, I asked him to initialize the poster size photos, which he happily obliged to do.

Two of the 10 photos I gave as a gift to a lola in Paris. The other 8 photos I brought back home to the Philippines. We left it there when we came to the US in 2006, but through the kindness of a colleague, the photos are now with my family again. I've scanned the first 5 and are sharing them in this post. I will try to find a way to scan the other 3 poster sized photos.

*** *** *** *** ***

Photo 1 Above: A tree obscures a traditional hut and a more recent galvanized iron house.
Photo 2 Below: A view of the town from the the yard of St. Mary the Virgin church.
Photo 3 Below: Sagada Rice Terraces.
Photo 4 Below: Sagada Rice Terraces.
Photo 5 Below: A view of houses below the Mission Compound.


Finding a Sagada Friend through Facebook

Friday, October 3, 2008

RC was the first Caucasian I befriended. This was during my 6th grade, way back in 1987-88. She is Australian. Her family rented a place in Nangonogan, Sagada - where I spent my early childhood years. I don't remember what her family's business in Sagada was. I know they moved from one rural place to another. Prior to Sagada, they stayed in Somalia. This means that her folks may have worked for a non-government organization, but at that time, it didn't occur to me to even ask. Her family were the first Buddhists I ever met.

I was a regular at their house; she and her brother had a good collection of Asterix and Tintin comic books. I remember playing darts with them both. And, when it was school election time, she run under my party as the Public Relations Officer (PRO). After a campaign speech in front of the whole school, she sang "Waltzing Matilda". I remember that I won in the position I aspired for; she narrowly lost to a 5th grader. (On a side note - when I worked in Paris, a French colleague was surprised that I read Asterix and Tintin as a child. He pronounced Tintin as "tan-tan".)

We had a class debate during that year - it was on the effect of tourism in Sagada. I was in the group who favored tourism, to my great surprise, she was in the opposing group. To me, she was a tourist in Sagada. Perhaps she didn't see herself as I did. She was one of five or six from that group who stood up and gave a speech why tourism is bad for Sagada.

After 6th grade, I moved to Manila to continue my high school studies. I believe RC and her family stayed in Sagada for a year or two more. After that, we lost contact with each other. Just last year, I opened a Facebook account. I searched for RCs name and I saw a profile from Australia. I sent her a message asking if she was the same RC who was in Sagada. She replied back:

"Yes!! I am RC who went to sagada elementary school, and I am delighted and suprised that anyone has found me! I would never have thought that anyone would find me from Sagada. I am SO PLEASEd you did. ...

The only thing is I have a vague memory I definately rememeber your name, and now your face has changed. I have photos of that time and I will look at them. Are you still in Sagada?"
Sometimes, the child in me wish that he is still in Sagada - a 6th grader, no cares in the world except for reading Asterix and Tintin comics, and learning "Waltzing Matilda" from an Australian friend.


Igorot Artifact at the Louvre

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It was in April 2003, on my 5th visit to France that I was able to fully explore the Musée du Louvre (the Louvre Museum), reputed to be the world's most visited art museum. I went there early Saturday morning and marveled at the amount and beauty of the exhibits. I wouldn't consider myself an art enthusiast, but even an ordinary Joe like me appreciate beautiful creations. Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo were amongst the most popular exhibits with plenty of excited visitors taking photographs of these.

Egyptian antiques dominate one section - I read somewhere that most of Egypt's ancient treasures are either in France or in England. The oldest item I saw was a wall painting that was 4000+ years old, though there could be older artifacts which I was not able to view.

A lot of the artworks were done by artists from France, Italy and Spain and I spent most of the morning and afternoon going over them. The afternoon was almost ending as I drew to a small section of the museum featuring American, Asian and Oceanian antiques. My heart was pounding in anticipation as I wondered if there was an exhibit from the Philippines. I saw just one representing our country of 80+ million people. Enclosed in a glass box was a carved wooden figurine holding a bowl. It was a type of bulul, and an engraved note indicated that it was previously owned by the anthropologist William Beyer.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org


Remembering Auntie Rhoda

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NOTE: This was originally posted in my now defunct blog - BlogBlog ni Kamulo II on Oct 2007. Auntie Rhoda started the popular "Sagada Weaving and Souvenir Shop" and this continues to be one of Sagada's biggest employers. The store is now being managed by her children. This week is the first anniversary of her death.

Around noon 22 years ago, a bewildered 8 year old boy sat down at a living room, bawling. Moments before, his eldest sister has informed him that their father passed away earlier that morning. The boy was grieving, yet perhaps not knowing the full gravity of the situation. In the same room with him were his 3 older sisters; all of them crying. They were living with their grandparents, which they do when they reach second grade age as the school system in that place was much better. Their parents and 2 younger sisters lived at a farm, a good 12 hours by bus / jeepney. The death of the father is the worst shock these children have ever experienced, and as they sat in that living room, a sobbing voice permeates the room. It was their aunt, their father’s youngest sister, and upon seeing the children, she embraced them and said, “An-ak ko, an-ak ko!” (My children, my children!) That aunt was my Auntie Rhoda. I was that 8 year old boy. That tragic morning is among my most vivid childhood memories.

Growing up, my aunt was one of several authority figures in our extended family. I saw her as someone who was very straight forward. She was strict, and she had rules. I wouldn’t say that she was sweet, that description is better reserved for another aunt. And there were times I stayed away from her, because I dreaded her reaction since I broke one of her rules. But there were moments I remember, when she showed how much she cared. Like when she went out in the evening to buy me some candies after I threw a tantrum having lost to an older sister in chess. Or when she played ping pong with us at a makeshift table above her shop. And there was a time when she complemented me after cleaning her room – saying it couldn’t have been done better. That compliment I fully remember since there weren’t a lot from her – but as her nephew, I knew that it wasn’t because she didn’t approve. She did approve, she just showed it in other ways.

Auntie Rhoda managed a weaving and souvenir shop that was started by her mother, my grandmother. I don’t know the exact figures, but I know the business grew multiple-fold through the years under her management. She trained and employed dozens of women who wouldn’t have had the chance to work elsewhere. Later on, when some of her employees became her direct competitors, I asked her how she felt about it. She shrugged and said it didn’t matter. According to her, it was something that was waiting to happen. No hard feelings, no drama, no sentiments of feeling betrayed - she just quoted my grandmother - "Ay sinu nan adi mangan?" ("Who does not want to put food in the table?")

Perhaps, my aunt's most understated achievement was fully supporting my siblings and I through our secondary and college education. It wasn’t easy, there were six of us and at one time, four of us were in university. After providing for our tuition fees one semester, I saw her deep in thought. I knew that her business wasn’t going smoothly and there were challenges regarding the pricing of her raw materials. When I asked her what she was thinking, she smiled and said, “I’m just happy that I’m able to put aside some money for all of you until the end of this semester. Let’s see what happens afterwards”. Auntie Rhoda went beyond providing for our education - we never really sat down and talked about it but from her actions, she taught me about looking beyond the present, fulfilling long term commitments, and helping others.

After graduating from college, my aunt and I engaged in memorable intimate conversations. One of the things that she told me was, some months after my father died, she had a recurring dream where my father kept visiting her. She said that it was only after she promised my dad in a dream that she’ll take care of his children’s education that the recurring dream stopped. Looking back, that was an incredible commitment from someone who didn’t have the resources at that time. But as with other commitments my Aunt Rhoda made, she always delivered!

It has been more than 10 years since I graduated from college and had the privilege of visiting many places as part of my job. More than a year ago, I exchanged my frequent flier miles for a round trip ticket so my aunt could go to the United States to visit her daughter and grandchildren. That visit never materialized. On March 2007, Auntie Rhoda was hospitalized to remove a tumor in her brain. She spent many months in the hospital, most of which she was non communicable. After 6 months, her recovery was good enough that she was transferred out from the hospital to fully recover at her sister’s house. Just when everything was pointing to a steady and fast recovery, I got a call at dawn from my eldest sister saying that our beloved Auntie Rhoda passed away. I wasn’t able to attend her wake as my family and I were currently out of the country. During her wake, a lot of us cried when my mother told those present that she was very grateful for Auntie Rhoda since she took responsibility left by her older brother (my dad).

Two weeks prior to her death, I had the privilege of talking to Auntie Rhoda and was so joyful to know that she was conversing with relative ease. We were planning to go to the Philippines and had scheduled to spend some time to be with her. Her last words to me were, “I’ll see you in October”. As I type this post, I am with my family on board a plane from Chicago to Manila. Something in me is aching knowing that I won’t be able to see my aunt when I go home. As I look at my sleeping kids, I think about my aunt. She sacrificed to provide opportunities for others. If I can pass that trait to my children, her legacy will live on.


Sagada and Drugs - An On-going Struggle

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A reader left the following comment in a similar post I had on Sagada and drugs (click here for the link).

"i want to comment about this drug issue snan ili tako. ay inayan tay snan 16 years ay ninteteak snan ili tako, dan ado obpay nan adik amo ay maikikan. men-os-os-kila ak d wani sna up, ngem ay ngan nan aped da kanan ken sak-en, agtak kano daida is mj tay ado kano nan mula tako...

d siyempre nakikidebate ako na mali sila, ay maid kadtodi ken datako. ngem isnan nagbisitaak snan kabsat father ko, kanana ay tetewa kano di. siyempre shocked ako tay dan egay ko polos inamamo nan tetewa ay mikmikan."
Here's a typical i-Sagada talking, and with that, I'm referring to the way the reader uses English and Kankana-ey words and phrases in the same sentence. Here's my best translation of the above: "I want to comment about this drug issue in our town. Its surprising that in the 16 years that I've stayed in our town, there are many happenings that I wasn't aware of. I'm currently studying in UP, and this is what they told me - that I give them mj (for marijuana) since we have a lot of these planted... Of course, I debated and informed them that they were wrong, that we didn't have such stuff. But, upon meeting with an uncle, he told me that it was true. I was shocked because I didn't know what was really happening."

I empathize with the reader. He/she may have come from the same family as I did - a very protective one. I also didn't know much about this stuff, until I saw things firsthand. And that was already when I was in high school. Indeed, drugs in Sagada will only benefit a few persons - but it could lead to Sagada's downfall if this is not corrected.

One of the things that the local government can do is to work with schools and the teachers to increase awareness. Hold special programs to educate elementary and high school students about the effects of marijuana use. Make it as graphic as allowed to make the point across. Discuss not just the health effects, talk about other consequences as well. Selling and using marijuana is illegal and leads to imprisonment, family separation, and poverty. These impact not just one individual - but families and communities. How the Sagada community will handle this drug problem is critical - its a struggle it can't afford to lose.


Hector Begeo: An Igorot Olympian

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Hector Begeo (born June 19, 1964) is a three-time Olympian representing the Philippines. He is the national record holder in the men's 3000m Steeplechase. He also place second and silver in the 1983 Asian Championships. He is the only Filipino to advance into a semi-final in the 3000m Steeplechase in an Olympic event during the 1988 Seoul Olympics."

From Wikipedia

Now that the Olympics is over, I was wondering if there ever was an Igorot who participated in the Olympics. I had a hunch about a certain athlete and a quick google search pointed me to his Wikipedia profile, which quickly confirmed what I thought. Begeo's name is not pronounced as be-ge-yo as most Filipinos mistakently pronounce it. Instead, it is best pronounced using a German character, ö - umlaut, transcribed as 'oe' like 'i' in "sir". Try using the vowel sound in "sir" to pronounce bö-göw. (Kung ser ang pagkasabi mo, ambot sa imo, hehehe.) Aside from competing in the Olympics, he won four SEAG gold medals between 1983 and 1999 as well as the 1983 Asian Games bronze.

As a high school student during the 1991 Manila Southeast Asian Games, I watched Hector in one of his races. It was a weekend evening - the starting line of the steeplechase was just in front of where I was standing, and fellow Filipinos were egging him on as the athletes were warming up. I shouted "Go Hector!" and I vividly remember that he looked up to where I was seated and raised his hand in acknowledgment. The race started - and one could see that Hector was pacing himself, staying with the lead pack but not in the lead. He maintained his position which led to some impatient bystanders to question why he was not taking the lead. In the last lap however, Hector made his move and grabbed the lead. The stadium went wild and roared their approval with chants of "Philippines, Philippines!". The pace on the last lap was considerably faster than most of the race. Midway through the final lap, Hector has built a sizeable lead. He did glance back at his opponents at least twice before finally crossing the finishing line with the crowd cheering loudly.

I watched his victory lap before slipping out of the stadium and finding a jeepney back to the boys dormitory where I was staying. Watching that race made me feel real proud as a Filipino and an Igorot. My memory of that race is so clear even after 17 years!

There are dozens of Igorot athletes who have shone in international competitions. Recently, Franklin Kawaen (pronounced ka-wa-ön), an Igorot karate instructor based in Dubai was crowned World Cup champion. (See related article.) In due time, an Igorot athlete will soon win an Olympic medal - mabe even gold. Whether or not he is competing for the Philippines is a different story altogether.