I’m ashamed to say that when they said we’ll be meeting one of the smallest minority group in Isabela, I was thinking they were some remote tribes still wearing their traditional garbs similar to the Dumagats. The Yogad tribe in Echague, Isabela is quite different. They were wearing old Spanish style costumes in bright blue and red colors. They have small mirrors attached strategically at the front and back. They have swords and seem to be ready for battle. They did not come from deep into the mountains nor live by the sea. They sailed all the way from Mindanao many decades ago but today are facing extinction as an indigenous group.
Isabela consist of 34 municipalities and 3 cities in a province. It is the second largest province in the country. The vast area consist of agricultural plains, forested areas of the Sierra Madres and coastal towns. As one of the top corn producers in the country, Isabela found the bambanti, an Ilocano term for scarecrow, as a significant icon, symbolizing Isabela farmer’s diligence and resoluteness to earn his keep, feed his family and produce for the community. Hence the Bambanti Festival was born in January 2013. It aims to unite the municipalities, showcase their creativity, unique products and increase tourism.
Maligcong has become one of my favorite destinations in the Mountain Province in the recent years. I’ve cited five reasons on a previous post why one should go to Maligcong. Lately, I did notice that there’s already an influx of tourist discovering its quiet charm and natural wonder. Most of them were doing the short climb at Mt Kupapey to see the breathtaking landscape and the rice terraces at the slope of the mountains from the summit. Mt Kupapey is just one of the interesting places in Maligcong. My recent visits there were to do some exploration treks and hike, particularly the far flung village of Favarey and its surrounding area. This village amidst the vast field of rice terraces is called the “Old Town” by the locals as this is the original settlement of Maligcong.
Talk about Bicol and it’s hard not to tag one of the region’s signature dishes – the Pinangat. I had fond memories of this spicy and aromatic dish growing up. Whenever relatives from the province would visit our home, the pinangat is mostly one of the treats they would bring. Packed frozen and wrapped tightly in layers of newspaper to keep it fresh. While I had seen how the dish was made from our kitchen, it is interesting to see how it is mass-produced in a backyard industry setting. My recent visit to Camalig found me fascinated by both the sight and smell on how one of the most sought-after pinangat was concocted.
If you’ve ever visited the furniture shop Crate and Barrel, chances are, you may have seen these finely crafted placemats, carpets, rugs or even some exquisite living room furniture pieces made from abaca (Manila hemp), rattan or nito. The prices here is a premium and it’s easy to conclude that most of them may be imported. Interestingly, when I visited Camalig, Albay’s Natural Carpet Industries, I was surprised to see Crate and Barrel tags on the newly woven circular abaca placemats inside their 7,300 sq. m. factory. Those US$10 placemats at the shop can be bought here directly for only US$ 3. It just shows that the abaca industry is back in the limelight as one of the main export products of the country and can compete with international brands.
There’s a distinctive smell of wood amidst the mixture of paint and thinner lingering in the air. I could hear the constant pounding of multiple mallets on chisels carving away pieces of wood to make form to an otherwise large piece of wood. Occasional sawdust fills the air when sudden gust of wind blows through this open air wood carving workshop. Paete Woodcarving has been a thriving industry since the Spanish era until now. A walk at the town’s market road, it is hard not to notice the rows of shops, selling variety of wood work and paper mache. This crafty town of Paete, north-east of Laguna have earned its declaration as the Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines back in 2005. Thanks to proud Paetenians whose generations of wood carvers passed their skills and dedication for elevating the art. Here we meet some of the master woodcarvers that have etched their legacy in the town’s history.
Death and dying is an inevitable subject in conversations when All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day approaches. Like an evening conversation over a warm fire one cold and rainy night in Maligcong, from the talks of somewhat paranormal encounters in the rice fields we ended up talking about Igorot culture and the commonality of their beliefs within tribes in Cordilleras. It was interesting to talk to a native i-Maligcong and hear from them their traditions in wakes and still observed but slightly modified in the modern times for practicality. My thoughts immediately shifted to their neighboring town of Sagada only an hour away. The town has seen tremendous visits year long for its unique burial tradition of Hanging Coffins. Much so during All Saints day for its fiery spectacle during the Festival of Lights. But these popular display is just a small part of their traditions.