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.
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.
There’s a certain sense of nostalgia finding a carnival behind our hotel in Quirino province. It’s like a throwback to my early years at home. When I was a kid, I revel at the sight of a small carnival being set up just in front of our building on a vacant lot. Oh we look forward to those tsubibo (small ferris wheel) rides, horror train and table games where we doesn’t seem to win. That vacant lot in the neighborhood is long gone and has been overtaken by buildings. A walk through the Paskohan sa Quirino in Cabarroguis town awakened that good old-feeling of Christmas. Simple pleasures of being with friends and family enjoying the bazaar, the rides and the company during the holiday season.
I’ve seen the fascinating Batik patterns in many shops when I was wandering the streets of Solo Indonesia. An Indonesian Batik is a cloth traditionally made using a wax-resistant dyeing technique. It is believed the age old tradition of batik making was introduced in Java between 6th and 7th century from India and Sri Lanka. Batik are usually sold in meters (2-2.5m) like tubes or sarong, but these days wit has been widely popular for contemporary use like a polo shirt for formal occasions (akin to Filipino’s barong) or a kebaya, similar to what the female flight attendants of Garuda Airline wear. Interestingly, the Indonesian Batik was also awarded by UNESCO as one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”, this makes it worthwhile to go deeper and inspect how these Indonesian Batik are made.
If you’re still reading this, I guess the world hasn’t ended as some people have predicted. It may be the end for the Mayan calendar last 21st of December but it seems the universe have other plans. A calendar may have ended but it’s also the beginning of something new. For me, staying in a small town like El Nido during the holidays made me appreciate the simple life and celebration they have for the season. It’s refreshing to be away from the mall world for once and avoiding the Christmas rush. It has been a tradition for me to take Simbang Gabi (Misa de Gallo) photos every year and this time I decided to catch the morning ceremonies at St Francis of Assisi Parish in El Nido. Looking at the predictions on a positive light, we have a lot to be thankful for the world having not ended yet.
I followed a man carrying a bundle of wood the locals call Saleng, a part of a pine trunk which easily ignites when lit. There were already a parade of people making their way to the local cemetery on the afternoon of All Saint’s Day in Sagada. When we reached the cemetery ground, the smoke-filled air and the grounds that looks like they were burning greeted us. It was one of the unique traditions in the mountain province I have first seen 7 years ago. They call the practice Panag-apoy which means to “light a fire”.
By this time, I had been used to the constant nagging of vendors. Initially they would eye you like a prey, ask where you are from, then give some trivia about the place or temple you are visiting, even accompany you around and finally ask to look at their wares without obligation to buy. On my way out from Nan Paya, I encountered this young persistent girl who tried to sell her lacquerware. I did look at the items she’s selling but decided not to buy the pair of owls (man and woman) that interested me that I found so expensive at 8000 kyat. As I head to the steps she was pleading. Telling me it would be good luck if I’ll be her first customer. She followed me to the exit with a face almost in tears.