Best Sagada Videos in YouTube

Saturday, January 31, 2009

If I were to sell Sagada as a tourist destination through videos, I would use 5 of the best YouTube posts that I feel best demonstrate what Sagada is all about. 3 of my top five best Sagada videos are from the Biyaheng Pinoy blog. One is from a cousin based in Australia, and the other is from a young Sagada lad. Here are my best Sagada videos in YouTube. If you have other clips that you think should have included, please let me know.

Click on this link to view the 5 best Sagada Videos:

1. Surviving Sagada - by Biyaheng Pinoy
Short clip of scenes around Sagada. The background music is just beautiful.

2. Sagada Scenes - by filmmaker Luke Torrevillas
Scenes of Sagada landscapes and that of a wedding. I have lots of relatives in this clip including my paternal grandfather's sister.

3. Sagada Fiesta 2008 - by Biyaheng Pinoy
Longer clip that showcased activities during the annual Sagada fiesta. I used to lead Bomabanga's drum and bugle corp.

4. Sagada Song - by Shayenne88
I always get sentimental with this song. Video clip starts with a bus going to Sagada. In a way, it captures what I feel each time I am at Dapdapanan to start the winding ascent to my beloved hometown.

5. Sagada Begnas - by Biyaheng Pinoy
This movie clip showcases a spectacular Sagada traditional event.


Illinois Senate Removes Rod Blagojevich

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sagada Igorot Blagojevich(Above image is a screen print from the Chicago Tribune website.)

In an expected yet heavily anticipated vote, the Illinois Senate unanimously removed former Governor Rod Blagojevich by a vote of 59-0. Another 59-0 vote was passed to ban Blagojevich from ever holding elected office again. The new Illinois governor, Patrick Quinn, has taken the oath of office administered by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. He was the former Lieutenant Governor and is now the 41st Governor of Illinois.

To people following this story, it is a sad ending for an elected official who could have been a shining example of the American Dream. In a way, his rise to power is similar to that of Barack Obama; both men coming from non privileged families and working hard to achieve what they both had. Blagojevich parents are immigrants from Serbia who moved to Chicago after World War II. The young Rod Blagojevich spent a lot of time during his childhood working odd jobs to help his family pay bills. He shined shoes, delivered pizzas, worked at a meat packing plant and washed dishes to support his university costs.

He got his law degree from Pepperdine University, married the daughter of an influential Illinois alderman, and took the job of assistant prosecutor of Cook County. He won a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1992 and served for 10 years as a legislator. He was elected governor in 2002 and won a re-election in 2006; on both elections, he ran on the platform of reforming a historically corrupt Illinois capital. In December 2008, he was arrested on federal corruption charges. While he has been a well publicized target of federal investigations for years, he was caught on tape discussing a way to profit from the vacated Senate post of President-elect Barack Obama. He was impeached by the Illinois House of Representatives earlier this month, and today, he was removed from his post due to corruption and misconduct in office charges.

Looking back at where he came from and how far he has reached, this blogger wonders what made Blagojevich do what he did. Is it lust for power? Is it greed for money? Maybe a combination of both? Was he so blinded that he never actually thought he would be caught? My limited mind has a theory – this man was not corrupted immediately. He learned it somewhere. It started small, and then got bigger and bigger. He got away with small things, and was soon able to get away with bigger things. It all had to end though, and it ended in the worst possible way. I’m amazed at how the governor can appear publicly and deny any kind of wrongdoing. Incredibly despicable!

In western countries, and in some Asian countries like South Korea, corrupt men can actually be caught and brought to justice. I look forward to the day that the Philippines can do the same as well. Right now, the system of checks and balances in the Philippines is not as solid as it should to get the intended results. I’ve heard that gubernatorial candidates spend millions of money campaigning for a post that offers a salary of less than P60,000 a month. Do the math – are Philippine gubernatorial candidates running for office at such a great personal loss? Definitely not! The sad thing is that people vote for them anyway. When I think about these things, I arrive at the conclusion that majority of Filipinos are either stupid, or they are not educated / informed. I believe it’s the latter. And the sooner it is acknowledged, the sooner a solution can be identified. Unless, those in power decide to keep it that way. Then, it becomes more tragic than the Rod Blagojevich story.


President Obama and the Man with the Golden "Bahag"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sagada-Igorot-Kamehameha-ObamaLeft: A statue of King Kamehameha I at the US Capitol. Right: A smiling cut-out of President Obama at the Washington, D.C. Union Station. Photos taken on December 2008.

The Man in the Golden Bahag. Upon entering the main lobby of the newly created Visitors Center at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., there was one particular statue that caught my eye. It was that of a dark colored man, standing in a very regal manner, and dressed in what seemed like golden clothing. He was dressed in a “bahag” or loincloth, although it was not your ordinary loincloth. I read the inscription in the statue and learned that it was that of King Kamehameha I (pronounced kuh-mey-huh-mey-huh), the first king of Hawaii.

I was amused. I read about this king from a green colored hard bound book borrowed from the IATM library in Sagada during my elementary days. I recall a legend about his golden spear – if other people touch this spear, they would disappear. That’s actually a cool gadget to have don’t you think?

Sagada-Igorot-Washington-DCAbove: Our youngest chase squirrels at the US Capitol grounds. The fenced area in the background is where President Obama was inaugurated.

Hollywood’s President. When we were at the US Capitol, we took the chance to see the site where Obama will be inaugurated. At that time, there was a white fence that covered perimeter at the back of the Capitol where he would take his oath. We could not see much of the place. And rightly so – security was expected to be tight for weeks around the area. To say that there was huge excitement over his inauguration is an understatement. It was all over the place – Chicago Tribune had a whole section published the Sunday before the event. Major TV and Internet networks covered the preparations non-stop. Yes, it is a historic event. Yes, he’s the first African American to be president of the United States. Yes, he has the highest approval rating of any recent president-elects entering this office. Yes, his ascent to the highest position in the US, and perhaps even the world, is a testament to what he has achieved considering his humble origins.

But what stood out to me was the heavy involvement of Hollywood stars in the run-up events to his inauguration. It seemed that every major star was present in the capital. Oprah even got to host her show in Washington DC and had Vice President Biden and his wife attend as surprise guests. Oprah’s show also featured the world debut of "America's Song" sang by such superstars as Seal, Faith Hill, Bono, etc… I was disappointed about the song though. I was expecting a bit too much I guess. I was hoping for some excitement ala WE-ARE-THE-WORLD or maybe even the lesser known VOICES-THAT-CARE. To me, it was worse than the performance of the America’s Got Talent’s top 10 contestants during finals night. I didn’t even feel a single tingle run down my spine.

Back to the topic though – for someone like me who frowns on the ideals that Hollywood is promoting, I thought that the heavy involvement of the stars cheapened the run-up events a bit. I would rather hear ordinary people say how excited they are with President Obama than have big name celebrities gush and try to exhaust every available superlative to describe their feelings. It just feels, I don’t know – insincere?

The President's Inauguration. My wife was wondering why businesses and classes had to go as usual on the day of the inauguration. I agree. In the Philippines, it would have been a holiday, hehehe. For my son at least, they got to watch the inauguration on TV at school. I was only able to read the text of his inaugural address from the CNN website a couple of hours after the inauguration. My wife and our homeschoolers got to watch the whole thing.

I thought his speech can be summed up like this – we have problems, we will be facing the problems, I cannot do it on my own, all of us are very much a part of this mess and so I would like everyone’s help to solve it. It is a step back from the I-will-do-this-and-I-will-do-that rhetoric that categorized the campaign period. I suppose that’s the way it is. You campaign to win. Now that he won, its time to set the expectations down a bit.

President Obama was not my candidate, but I am cheering for the guy to do a good job during his term. At church last Sunday, the whole congregation bowed down in prayer for him and his family. We are not citizens of this country, but President Obama’s decisions are bound to impact lives in or outside the United States. In the end, his presidency will be most remembered by the decisions he makes, and not the speeches he delivers.

President Obama and King Kamehameha. There’s actually a link between President Obama and King Kamehameha that’s why I decided to lump both figures in this one post. They were both born and grew up in Hawaii of course, but there’s more. In a biography of President Obama that I didn’t complete reading at Barnes and Nobles, I read an anecdote where the president’s white grandfather teased tourists in Hawaii, that the boy Barack was actually a direct descendant of King Kamehameha. This made the tourists shoot souvenir photos of the future president.

Last Tuesday, somewhere in rural United States, an elderly couple was checking some old travel photographs from a Hawaii vacation decades ago. While watching the inauguration, the old lady turns to her near deaf husband and says, "Dear, our new president looks very much like that great-great-grandchild of the Hawaiian king with a weird name. He has a weird name too."


A Photographer from Barlig

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sagada Igorot Barlig Photographer
Langfia Ayeona is a young Igorot photographer from Barlig, currently based in the UK. I stumbled upon her work while creating my recent bloggable entry. She has dozens of "treasures" in her galleries. She also started a blog on Barlig.


US Capitol Tour, Close Encounters with Erap and GMA

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sagada Igorot Family at the US Capitol(Left: Posing in front of the US Capitol)

One Saturday afternoon during our December holiday, my brother-in-law took us to Washington, DC for a tour of the US Capitol. We took the train to the capital's Union Station, and from there did the 10 minute or so walk to the United States Capitol Complex. The weather was very mild, and it was a good time to stroll with the kids and do a bit of sight seeing / history field trip.

The Capitol is amongst the world's most widely recognizable buildings. It is the meeting place of the US legislative bodies, a museum, and a tourist attraction apparently visited by millions every year. The construction of the building began in 1793 and has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended, and restored. It is part of a complex that includes the US House and Senate buildings, the Supreme Court building, the Library of Congress buildings. For this afternoon, we only had time to explore the museum inside the Capitol.

We got on a mid-afternoon guided tour that started with a 13-minute film, "Out of Many, One" - a look back on how modern United States was created. The tour went around several chambers including a huge one at the bottom of the dome. Each chamber was filled with artworks and statues representing all 50 states in the US.

As we were waiting in line, I had a quick conversation with my wife as I saw our 3 sons goofing around with their cousins. Our conversation turned to whether or not our children comprehend the places that we visit. Our 2 older sons probably appreciate that they get to see some of the characters and places that they learn about in their lessons. Our youngest at 4 years old, may probably think of this day as just another sightseeing afternoon. He'd most likely remember the train ride and his encounter with the squirrels at the Capitol grounds more than the tour itself.

Close Encounters with Philippine Presidents. Visiting the Capitol, so near the powers that be in this country made me think back of my own encounters with 2 Philippine presidents, and a near encounter with an American president. I was in senior high school in Manila when I joined a group of students that went to attend one of the US bases hearing at the Senate building in Manila. After the session, some of the senators approached the visitors gallery and had conversations with us, the regular folks. Then Senator Erap Estrada was nearby so wanting to start a conversation with him, I turned on an audio recorder I had in my hand, held it out in front of his face like a reporter, and proceeded to ask him some of the questions I had in mind. I noticed that while talking to me, he would put his mouth close to the recorder, maybe to ensure that what he was telling me was properly recorded. What he didn't know was that I ran out of tape earlier in the day, and I just turned the recorder's power on though there was no tape inside. My teachers had a good laugh when I told them about it while we were going back to school.

As for President Gloria Arroyo, I was a listener at a forum in the University of the Philippines during the campaign period of the 1996 Senatorial Elections. Then Senator Arroyo was on stage with other senatorial candidates, and I could vividly recall how small a lady she was. When she spoke at the podium, she had a low commanding voice and an immense presence that I don't think is captured on TV. That was the time when she was completing her first term as a senator, and she was better known as one of the hard working senators. Public perception on her is totally different now, a blogger posted on this blog that she is the biggest bully of them all.

I did have a near encounter with President George W Bush. This was during his visit to the Philippines though I don't remember which year it was. I was watching TV when I learned that a motorcade bearing him was driving from Manila to the Batasan Complex where he was scheduled to give a speech in front of the Philippine Congress. His route would take him through Commonwealth Avenue and then right to Batasan Road. That was a 10minute walk from our home and it was where I pass by when I ride a tricycle to work. I was in house clothes (sorry, no better term for pambahay) and rubber slippers but when I got to where he was supposed to pass, I believe that the motorcade passed by already. Sayang! (Too bad.) The road was narrow, and I could have told my family that day that I got within 2 or 3 meters of President Bush, hehehe.

(Below: The Capitol in the afternoon sun)
(Below: A closer look at the dome. Note the Statue of Freedom at the top of the dome.)
(Below: My eldest joins other tourist in checking out a replica of the Statue of Freedom in the newly opened Visitor's Center at the Capitol.)

(Below: A YouTube video of the US Capitol. I chose this video because it showed what the inside of the dome looked like. Too bad, I wasn't able to write "SaGaDa-iGoRoT was here" in the walls, hehehe)


Bloggables 003 - Baguio's coldest, Sagada Squash Noodles and a Blasting Priest

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some interesting news items, captivating blog posts, and a trio of Igorot bloggers are in my third bloggable.

First, the news - Business Mirror reports that Baguio had its coldest day in 23 years hitting 7.5C on Thursday, Jan 14. Frost affected towns across the Cordilleras such as Atok, Buguias, Kibungan, and Mankayan, Benguet; and Bauko, Sagada, and Besao, Mountain Province. If only Chicago winter is this warm, sigh! Inquirer reports the launching of the Sagada Squash Canton Noodles. And, SunStar Baguio published a rebuttal of the Baguio Flower Festival organizers that the yearly Panagbenga is a "commercialization of Igorot culture". Read this article with eyebrows raised - BFF brass denies using Igorot culture to lure tourists.

Interesting Blog Reads:

Additions to my Blog Roll included the following Igorot blogs:

1. Postcards from Miss Igorota details the worldwide travels of an Igorot doll named Miss Igorota, or Miss Iggy for short. This blog has been active for a year now, so it's surprising that I just stumbled across it just now. I believe the bloggers are ladies from Benguet.

2. Life - the good, the bad and the ugly is the Friendster blog of our friend, Atty. Manja B of Demang, Sagada. The lawyer / activist / mother / world traveller writes about her adventures and her passions in her own "brutally frank" way. (I remember over-using that description back in high school.)

3. An Igorot Journey: Brisbane-based Martin Polichay of Mountain Province chronicles his thoughts and experiences on this blog.


Chicago Winter and Ice Cream

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Men-tingnin: cold. Men-te-leledek: very cold.
These Kankana-ey adjectives are not enough to describe the current Arctic weather enveloping the Midwest.

Dreaming of Australia. It's summer in Australia, and I am just salivating at the prospect of watching top notch tennis in the 1st grand slam of the year - the Australian Open in Melbourne. Here in the metro Chicago area, we're in the middle of a 3-day cold spell; and this year's winter is supposed to be the coldest winter in the past 8 years.

After days of snow, the sun came out today and its really bright outside. But its a joke, the sun is but a flashlight - no heat, no warmth, just cold, frigging Chicago cold. At least the wind has died down and the accumulated 12+ inches of snow is not being blown against the windshield while driving.

Still, where is global warming when its needed?

Ice Cream, Anyone? What we've learned the past 3 years is that - life continues despite the cold weather. We had 12+ inches of snow in the past 3 days - it didn't stop the activities. I still was able to drive to work, my eldest's school classes went on, and we all had to troop to the boys AWANA classes on Tuesday evening. Nothing got cancelled. When we got out around 8:30 pm, whatever water droplets there were inside the car accumulated in the windows as a very thin film of ice which the boys had mighty fun drawing pictures on.

Last Saturday, there were strong winds and regular snowfall and the roads were not cleared at all. We planned to attend some cultural activities in the library. When I called the library to check if the activities were going to be cancelled, I was informed that the performers and the audience were all there and things were going as planned. So, our whole family bundled up and made the short but slippery ride to the library. And we're mighty glad we did! The Israeli music and North American Indian presentations were a treat to the kids and us too, and we got to taste some pastries from all over the world. The driving was scary but once we were inside the building, the place was buzzing with activity and the people acted as if nothing was happening outside. For us, relatively newbies in this place, I'm still amazed how the people treat such extreme weather condition as "normal". When we headed back home after 4 hours at the library, it took me 15 minutes to clean around 3 inches of snow from our car and to warm the car.

By the way, guess what was they served during my second child's "Night with Dad" class 2 evenings ago? ICE CREAM!

When 28F becomes Warm. We're so looking forward to this weekend when the temperature will go "up" to 28F (-2C), just below freezing. Compared to these past days, we'll be feeling so warm we'll be going out with just long sleeves and thin jackets. This friday evening, we're going swimming. I guess the idea is not to mind the cold, and continue with the normal routine as much as we can. In the bigger picture, we are still very blessed. Can you imagine living in Canada where there are places where winter lasts for 8 months or so?


The Flowers of Sagada

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sagada Flowers1,2,3... common now and join me in belting this 80s teenybopper song.

"THE FLOWERS IN SAGADA, ARE JUST ABOUT TO DIE!" hehehe... I think I'm affected by the sub zero temperature that is engulfing the Midwest. To escape, I was going over Attorney Manja's Facebook photo album when I stumbled upon her "Smelling the Flowers" gallery featuring Sagada flowers she photographed over the holidays. It's nostalgic looking at the photos. They bring back a lot of memories from childhood years. Here are some of them, and you may want to help me identify those I couldn't.

Sagada Flowers
Flower 01 - The calla lily.
This flower somehow scared me. It reminded me of death, or the church, or both.

Sagada FlowersFlower 02 - The sunflower. One of my sisters told me that this flower follows the sun when it rises from the east and sets on the west. That's why the name "sun-follower". How true? Never proved it really. I had more important things to do than watching a flower follow the sun, hehehe. What I do remember is our neighbor with the huge sunflowers and we got to taste some of their seeds once harvested. Not so tasty - thought they were bland. And then there's the classmate in Grade 6 who made sunflower-orange juice or something like that for his science project and made it all the way to the Regionals. He blended sunflower LEAVES into the juice. Yum.

Sagada FlowersFlower 03 - The "lantana" - at least that's how we called it. The round green things that grew in its stem were ideal for throwing or shooting at a playmate.

Sagada FlowersFlower 04 - Dandelions in Sagada. When I told Manila acquaintances of dandelions in Sagada, they looked at me like I was crazy. Somehow, lowlander ignorance is amusing.

Sagada FlowersFlower 05 - Bottlebrushes. Saw a lot of these at the U******s.

Sagada FlowersFlower 06 - Don't recall the name of this flower. Something like million flower or billion flower.
As a child, it didn't fool me. I'm sure that were only a few dozen petals at the most.

Sagada FlowersFlower 07 - The Sagada Gumamela. This variety is not common in other places I think. We'd use it to make our own bubbles. The ones in front of the B****s on the way to the elementary school were tasty. You pull the flower, and you suck the sweet liquid in its base. It was more than twice that I got an ant in my mouth just because of the my gumamela-sucking days. Ah, it's still protein.

Sagada FlowersFlower 08 - Poinsettia. The Christmas flower is free in Sagada.
Here, you have to buy it for some dollars at Walmart.

Someone do help me in naming these other flowers.
They all seem familiar, I just don't remember what they are called.

Sagada FlowersFlower 09

Sagada FlowersFlower 10

Sagada FlowersFlower 11

Flower 12

Sagada FlowersFlower 13


Sagada and Marijuana, Again...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sagada MarijuanaA reader that goes by the nick "kat-eng" (and it would be interesting to know why he/she chose such a name) left a comment on my Arroyo post about Sagada being in the news recently due to the well publicized "Alabang Boys" drug case. True enough, I searched for recent news and there were several articles in major newspapers about the case. The "Alabang Boys" - Richard Brodett, Jorge Jordana Joseph, and Joseph Tecson – all scions of wealthy families, were arrested last year and are currently under the custody of the anti-drug agency for drug-related cases. DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez has said that an internal investigation on an apparent bribery attempt is currently on-going after a draft order for the release of the three suspects were put on his table for signing from one of his undersecretaries.

Former pro basketballer star and once character actor Dave Brodett, came out with his son, Anthony, and testified against his arrested cousin, Richard Brodett. In an effort to clear the family name, Dave Brodett has publicly pleaded with his brother Butch and sis-in-law Myra, whom he knew were watching, to tell all about their son Richard. Where does Sagada come into play? It was apparently the source of marijuana for Richard Brodett. "Pinaakyat pa ng nanay niya iyan sa Sagada para kumuha ng marijuana.", his cousin Anthony said.

I can't remember if there is a more publicized case in recent history than brings into attention the drug problem in Sagada. I hope this attention will make the leaders of Sagada and Mountain Province really act on the problem. Sagada would be much better without drugs. Here's what a local tourist once posted on this blog: "I believe there's so much more going for Sagada than a marijuana-induced high." Very true. Most tourists would confess that a visit to Sagada is a high in itself. No need for hallucinogens to enjoy this place.

Related Stories on the Brodett's Case:

Dave Brodett: old school gentleman
Brodett kin squeal: Richard used, peddled drugs early on
DOJ to probe official in ‘Alabang Boys’ drug case

Related Posts on Sagada and Drugs on this blog:

Sagada and Drugs
Sagada and Drugs - An On-going Struggle


2008 Year in Review

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Before the second weekend of year 2009 is finished (and I’ve let the first weekend go by already), it is time to look back to the first year of this blog and reflect on what has happened.

April 2008: Created which later became My first 27 posts were created this month though I backdated some of these to cover the earlier months of the year. I don’t remember why I did that. Maybe to fool readers that I launched the blog at the start of the year? That doesn’t make sense.

May 2008: My reaction to an ignorant use of the word “igorot” was the first post that gained attention amongst readers. The offender was a Filipina based in France. My personal request through an email for the blogger to correct her ignorance was ignored. I guess if people choose to be ignorant, then, there's nothing I can do about it. For other Filipinos that are broad minded and who still have an incorrect perception of my people, then, hopefully this blog will change their minds.

June 2008: Announced the re-launch of my site, Sagada Igorot Online. The original site that was launched in 1997 was called “Kamulo and Kosta’s Home”. I'm currently working on a re-launch to officially rename the site as

July 2008: 0 posts as my mind wandered away from blogging. Zero, jero, wala, maiwed, itlog, nothing, none. Did I say zero posts? Perhaps it had something to do with the nice weather and the longer days of the Chicago summer. Who wants to type anything after spending a full day swimming with the boys at the pool / beach?

August 2008: Featured posts on BIBBAK Illinois and the Olympics.

September 2008: Did another take on Sagada and Drugs. For another post called “An Igorot Moment”, I hunted down a photo of Marky Cielo wearing such shirt in the Internet.

October 2008: Started the Bloggables series.

November 2008: Obama is elected president and I received my first blog award. (Somehow, we are related, hehehe.) I was nominated and voted upon as the Filipino Blog of the Week for 2 consecutive weeks at the Composed Gentleman’s website. They gave me a Hall of Famer “trophy” to display on my side bar. I never knew there were actually some readers who cared enough to vote for my blog in another website.

December 2008 was the Marky Cielo month. I wrote a couple of blog posts on the death of the young Igorot actor, Marky Cielo, and lo and behold, my blog traffic skyrocketed to heights I’ve never thought possible. The total number of hits I received for the month of December alone was almost x times the number of hits I received from April to November COMBINED. My friend, T is right. Internet surfers are crazy about celebrities. This was a different kind of celebrity though – he was the first showbiz personality to declare on national TV that he was a proud Igorot. Eat your heart out, Martin Nievera. See chart to see how my December traffic compares to other months.

Moving Forward: There’re a lot of plans for this blog and in general for the coming year. I hope my readers will stay with me as I continue to blog and build on Matago-tago tako am-in. Was-in di mamangset.


Gloria Visits / Promotes Sagada

(Photo above is a screenshot from Fung Yu's 3D shots of the president in Sagada)

In an effort to boost Sagada as a tourist destination, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited the town during the holidays. She was accompanied by 14 lawmakers, her husband, and grandchildren. The president visited the Echo Valley, the Hanging Coffins, and the Lumiang Burial Caves. Thomas Killip, a former mayor of the town and now presidential assistant for Cordillera affairs said that the trip was more of an exposure trip, not a meeting or conference trip.

Related Stories:

Arroyo visits Sagada caves to promote site as tourist destinations
Arroyo tours solons in Sagada


Meeting EK, a Reader of this Blog

As mentioned in the previous post, I learned of a reader of this blog at one of the Sagada Igorot gatherings during the holidays. I was casually talking to a nurse from Bontoc who is a good friend of my cousin. Her husband, who I shall refer to by his initials EK (sorry po, hehehe), is a neighbor from Sagada. I think we were discussing the US presidential elections when EK told me that he reads my blog on a regular basis. I was pleasantly surprised since I don’t think I published my name on the blog though I did post one photo in one of my archived posts. I pressed further on how he learned that this blog is written by me and he said something like, “Maybe people who know you personally can identify you”. Right on. If he’s a reader, I’ll take his explanation anytime.

EK and I had a discussion on the identity of another Igorot blogger from Sagada – Bill Bilig of EK wasn’t sure, but he thinks that Bill Bilig is an alumnus of Sagada’s St. Mary’s School and he resides in Manila. His real initials are like his penname – BB. He is a prolific blogger with very timely and well researched posts on the Cordillera and Igorots. He hasn’t been that active in the past months though. Mr. Bill Bilig, maging sino ka man (naks!), you have readers who miss your regular posts.

Another thing EK asked about was whether there is an archive of the latest Igorot blogs / Sagada blogs that I keep on my sidebar. There’s actually none. These are feeds that I take from Google Blog search. The blog displays only the 5 most recent blogs having the words “sagada” or “igorot”. displays more though.

  • Latest Igorot Blogs - contains the links to the most recent 25 blogs with “igorot” in them.
  • Latest Sagada Blogs - contains the links to the most recent 10 blogs with “sagada” in them.

For EK, let me see if I can increase the list to the most recent 50 blogs. Still, I don’t have a solution on how to archive this. 50 blogs is a good number though. More than 50 and my webpage will look like a link farm already, something that I would like to avoid. If however, one is interested in checking ALL blogs that have “igorot” or “sagada” in them, check the following Google Blog Search links below:

Igorot Blog posts Sorted by Date
Sagada Blog posts Sorted by Date

It’s interesting to note that there are more than twice as much “sagada” posts than “igorot” posts. One can actually use Google Alerts to search for specific news / blogs on particular topics. These alerts can be sent directly to one’s email. I prefer people to visit my blog or my site as opposed to getting the list of blogs through their email though. It helps my traffic too, hehehe.

Hey EK, asa ka man men-post is comment mo isna tapno ammok ay binasam nan post ay na-ay. My best regards to Mng. E, and the kids.


Sagada / Igorot Gatherings over the Holidays

During our Maryland vacation, there were several Sagada / Igorot gatherings that we attended.

The first was a visit to my aunt near our company headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. After picking up my brother-in-law at the Dulles International airport on the afternoon of Dec 24, we dropped by my aunt’s house. She was just recently widowed and we weren’t able to visit during the wake and funeral of her husband, a jolly good Igorot who I will always remember as being very upbeat and optimistic. 2 of her sisters, very nice ladies who we’ve known since we were young were with her when we dropped by. Her eldest sister, Auntie J, was a very close friend of my dad who passed away when I was 8. Auntie J is in her 70s and as she looked at my 3 young boys prancing around, she said aloud, “Ag-set mo dakan ud aped matey ay masapa. Ilam et sak-en nan mang-ila isnan ap-om”. She was actually talking to my dad in an endearing Igorot way. Loosely translated, she meant “It’s your fault – why did you die early? See, I’m the one who is looking at your grandchildren.” Sweet!

We spent Christmas Eve at the house of my sister. There were at least 9 Sagada / Igorot households represented in their house that evening. To combat the blatant gift giving, my sister requested if I could prepare a devotion for the kids so they could hear a Christmas message. I gave a small presentation on “The Perfect Gift” focusing on a gift that was so precious that it can never be taken away, it is never wrong, and it will never be broken nor wear out. It was done on the family room, with the Christmas tree lighted and the room literally overflowing with gifts. We ended with two prayers and a hymn – thanking God for His most precious and Perfect Gift – His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.

After the prayers and the singing, the children were surprised and amused to see a figure in red, wearing a red Igorot shawl, red pants, and a pasted on beard and sunglasses come bouncing down the stairs to the sound of HO-HO-HO. It would have been best if his coming was announced by a gong. The sight of the “Igorot Santa” made the teenagers and the adults in the room double over in laughter. He was so funny! I would have posted a picture but I don’t want my brother-in-law to strangle me.

On Christmas Day, we made the nice 1 hour drive to Annapolis, Maryland for the blessing of the house of a neighbor from Sagada. Mng. G is a few years older than I and is a batch mate and close friend of one of my sisters. We also met in 2000 back in Singapore. She and her husband and their 2 children moved to Maryland in the past year after stints in Canada and in Arkansas. They bought a newly built 2 storey house in the state capital that was near the bay. It was a very nice place with lots of room and which overlooked a park. We had a good time enjoying the wonderfully cooked meals the hosts prepared themselves and chatting with old friends and new acquaintances. There were visitors from New Jersey and a couple of Mng. G’s sisters made the 18hour ride from Arkansas. It was while thinking of writing this post that I realized one thing – majority of the visitors that day came from just 3 families who lived near each other in Nangonogan, Sagada. Too near that if stories I heard were true, sibling spats in one household could be heard in another. Would their elders ever have given it a thought? Here were their descendants, celebrating a new home on Christmas Day, thousands of miles away from Sagada.

On New Year’s Eve, one of my cousins got married to a Caucasian American in Washington D.C. We received their wedding invite in August but we had to decline because we weren’t sure if we would make the drive to Maryland by then. It was a good thing since we babysat the children of a sister while the parents attended the church service and reception. The wedding was attended by relatives from different states, with some relatives travelling all the way from Australia and Canada. It’s obvious but I’ll state it – Igorots and their offspring are all over the world.

We spent our New Year’s eve at the same house we spent our Christmas Eve. We interrupted the kids’ Wii playing sessions to countdown the New Year. As the wedding was over by that time, visitors were coming in and out of the house to greet and munch at the food my sister and her husband prepared. Karaoke singing went non-stop until the early hours of the year. Unlike Christmas Eve when there was at least the Igorot Santa, there was nothing uniquely Igorot in the celebrations except for the Igorot participants. The celebration was classic Filipino – spent with family, plenty of shared stories, karaoke-singing, and food.

The last gathering I attended was at my Auntie J’s despidida. It was held at the house of her son, who happened to be a neighbor of my sister. My mother and I dropped by to say goodbye. It was supposed to be a short stay since it was late in the evening, but as with any group of elder ladies, stories take time to be exchanged. It was at this gathering where I learned that one of our family friends is a regular reader of this blog. Surprise, surprise! This post is long enough so I’ll reserve that story for another post.

Our 2-week holiday was filled with a lot of gatherings amongst Igorots from Sagada. The gatherings were always heartwarming and sentimental. Though far from where our roots are, relationships that were cultivated in Sagada have gone across the globe and continue to flourish. It’s always a joy to be a part of these gatherings – my family and I look forward to joining some more this year.


Our December Road Trip

Thursday, January 8, 2009

(Photo: Rural Pennsylvania scene, Dec 2008)

In the 2 weeks during our Christmas – New Year vacation, I drove almost 2000 miles. Majority of this was the more than 1400+ miles 2-way drive from our northern Chicago home to the houses of my 3 sisters and their families in Maryland.

Eventful Drive. Our drive to Maryland was quite eventful. We started after midnight in a day where there were almost 12 inches of snow in most of the Midwest. I knew we had to leave after the snow settled and the roads were cleared because in another 24 hours, another snowstorm was scheduled to arrive. I was more than scared – so scared that I downloaded a free “last will” template from the Internet; and hurriedly customized one for my wife and one for myself. We had 2 neighbors witness it being signed at 1am, minutes before we hit the road. It was our first time to do our wills.

I worked from home that day and slept for 4 hours during the evening so I should not be sleepy while driving. That was the plan. Bad plan though. At 6am in the morning, we were at the Ohio turnpike, going 60+ mph in not so ideal visibility, and I was slapping my face and hitting my front legs with my fists, and chewing on some candies just to keep my eyes open while maneuvering through what seemed to be mostly 18-wheeler traffic. My wife and I were slightly amused to observe that one truck that seemed driven by a drunk / sleepy driver attempt to overtake other vehicles. To make matters worse, I was driving on borrowed glasses. At a stop-over in Indiana, I was wiping some water droplets from one of my lenses when it fell and I couldn’t find it even after 30+ minutes of searching. My eldest and a kind stranger joined in the search to no avail. My wife’s glasses were a bit weak for me. I could see well on the road, but the signs were not as clear in the dark as my own glasses would have allowed.

I couldn’t take it anymore so I took my sister’s advise, and the best advise ever for sleepy drivers – we pulled over at the nearest service plaza, turned the engine off, set my alarm for a 30 minute sleep, curled up and slept. I woke up after 20 minutes with a very clear head. Daybreak was starting to make the roads clearer. I hit the road again and didn’t get sleepy all the way to our destination. I shudder as I think back on possible scenarios while driving in that sleepy state. For sure, God has sent angels to travel with us on that trip. There were 2 or 3 moments when I actually closed my eyes for almost a second while driving on the highway. It was madness. Good thing my children slept through the whole ordeal. They woke up around 10am and asked for breakfast. I was more than happy to oblige.

All hail the GPS. A sister called us to check on our progress while we were near the Pennsylvania – Maryland border. Bad timing – it made me miss my exit. So, our little faithful GPS re-calculated and showed us a route that made us go through narrow roads and farmlands. It was charming in the first 15 minutes – my wife took pictures of the sceneries while we coasted along. (See pictures above, and at the end of this post). Then, my children noticed something – there were houses, parked vehicles, and livestock roaming around. But where were the people? There was no soul in sight. They were starting to say that the place was deserted and haunted. To make matters worse, we passed by a cemetery that had tombstones on both sides of the road. Eerie! Good thing it was early in the afternoon and the sun was high. I couldn’t imagine driving through that route in the evening. After 30+ minutes of rural driving, our GPS led us back to the highway. It’s a really neat gadget – this GPS.

Our Drive Back. After our Maryland vacation, I prepared for our trip back to metro Chicago by sleeping relatively early in the evening. We started at 5:30 in the morning after a lovingly prepared full breakfast (by my sister) with strong coffee. It must have been the events during our drive to Maryland 2 weeks ago that my wife finally found the courage to drive on the interstate. (Between the two of us, she is the more experienced, and yes, the better driver. She actually was the one who taught me how to drive in the Philippines, and she has driven the Manila – Baguio route several times.) I was pleasantly surprised to see her behind the wheel and take us from Pennsylvania into the Ohio turnpike. I was even able to nap while she was behind the wheel. I drove most of Ohio and into Indiana, but from there, she drove us all the way home. It was our fastest time so far. We spent a total of 12.5 hours on the road, including 1.5 hours of brunch and 2 other bathroom breaks. It was the trip that my kids were least bored. They slept for most of the morning and the afternoon too.

A Future Road Trip? I have this idea of a road trip that I think my family would like to take when my kids are older. We have done the Chicago – East Coast drive four times already. How about doing a Chicago – California drive? I did a Mapquest search from Chicago to San Diego and learned that it was a 31 hour, 2000+ mile drive. I’d like to make it relaxing and do some sight seeing along the way. Our route would take us through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, then California. I’m envisioning it to be a 14-day vacation, with a maximum of 6-7 hours of driving per day; and an every other day driving to enable us to stay at a place for 2 nights, and use the interval days to sightsee. We would reach our destination on Day 9, and spend the rest of the vacation in San Diego.

We would be so nauseated with driving that on Day 14, we’d just hop on a plane and fly back to Chicago. Does anyone want to join us?

Sharing some pictures where we got lost in Pennsylvania.
You be the judge. Do you see any living humans at all?