Conversations 'n Paranoia

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November 3rd 2012
Published: November 7th 2012
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We woke up sore from our record breaking five hours spelunking trip through the Lumiang & Sumaguing Caves the previous day. And for our last day we decided we’d go to the Echo Valley, but then we met a lad (name is Dan) on the way and decided to hire him as a guide. From the Echo Valley we will now go onwards to the underground river and to Bokong Falls.

Sagada is known for its hanging coffins placed strategically between the gaps of the Limestone Mountains scattered around town. We saw a few coffins at the Echo Valley and at random stone mountains we passed by, some coffins were placed so high we thought how on earth did they put them there?! And Dan had the answer - the Igorots Mountain People were able to bring these coffins up through temporary bamboo scaffoldings.

After going through yet another treacherous mountain path, we reached the underground river; it flows through a cave, quiet and peaceful, and looking around all we could see was the wall of the surrounding hills. We rested a bit to enjoy the stillness.

What was on Martin’s mind: Dell (one of our Cave Connections guide the day prior) told us that they (their ancestors) do cut people head’s off. I believe it was during the time of tribal wars; but what if we bump onto them today?! To die a slow and painful death.

...we continued with our hike.

Nothing sensational about the Bokong Falls or the Underground River but the whole challenge and the nature package was! The waterfall was especially cold my ears hurt after getting off the water! I relished the warm shower afterwards.

After dinner we decided to hang out at a small cafe (Sagada Pine Cafe) just in front of our Inn. The rustic arrangement of the bar has already charmed us the night before. The main agenda was to order a beer then drink the strawberry wine we bought earlier. I was so looking forward to the latter.

We sat on a table by the door, feeling the chill wind escaping through. We noticed the group of Japanese come in, one of them greeting the girl playing chess on the table next to ours. We’ve been seeing them around town, always with a smile that matches their laid back demeanor, walking like they’re tuned to reggae, cigarette in hand. One of them specially took our attention, the guy with the dreads. It looked pretty neat; he managed to grow it very long it goes down to his bum.

“I would love to have a picture with him.” I thought loudly.
“You want to? I can ask them on your behalf!” the girl next to me chimed in.
“You would do that?! Well YES!” I exclaimed.

The girl then approached the group, I trailed behind. Using a mix of English and Nihongo she was able to get the message across which then prompted a few giggles, five pairs of eyes now looking our way. I smiled and uttered “hello”.

I would like to believe that they were more than happy to oblige. Photos were taken, hands were shook, hi(s) and hello(s), smiles from both sides, and names were exchanged:

Taro, the guy with the dreads.
Hama, the Dolphy lookalike.
Ohn, the boss (he and the boys have a rafting business in Japan, Natural Groove).
Yori, the guy with the round glasses.
Chagen, the shortest (sorry Changen).

We’ve since started calling them °The Japanese High Club.

The girl who made it all happen, Anabs. She’s a freelance writer who knew a little Nihongo and has met the group a few days back.

...and our bunch: Martin, Cheska, Marvin, and me.

“We actually asked for a photo just because of his hair.” I said, pointing at Taro’s head.

They burst into laughter; eyes seem to disappear when they do.

“Kampai...” everyone got their drinks.
“How long have you been growing your hair?” I asked.
“8 years...”Taro smiling.
“It looks really nice!” I was quite fascinated.
“You should make your hair like that, but it will be just this short” Ohn gesturing his hands on the side of his ears.

They were planning to stay in Sagada for two more weeks and didn’t like the noise and the crowd in Manila. A few more exchange of questions and banter then we excused ourselves and went back to our table.

“Thank you guys. Arigatou!” some Nihongo I know.
“Thank you. Salamat!” Chagen with his own Tagalog word.

A short moment later the °Japanese High Club were on their feet, they mentioned about going to the traditional dancing and asked if we wanted to come. We saw the Begnas dance ritual yesterday morning but we missed the evening rites so we thought we should see it. And it would be interesting to hang out with the °Japanese High Club some more.

We started walking down the paved downhill road, the bright moon hidden slightly behind the clouds.

“Do you know the anime Naruto? He’s very famous here” I asked.
“Yea...anime” Taro laughing.
“One know One Piece?” Chagen asked.
“Oh yes, Luffy. He’s a funny guy” I chuckled, “How about Utada Hikaru? You know her?”
“Yea, she’s very famous in Japan” Taro answered back
“Cool. She’s known here because of that one song of hers (First Love)”I was unsuccessfully trying to remember the Japanese line of that song.

We continue our way downwards through the houses and onto the rice paddies, going through the unlit surroundings trying to figure out the narrow pathway. We were heading to the Dap-ay where the elders started the ceremonial Begnas the day prior.

“Are you Buddhist?” I asked Taro who was walking behind.
“ehm...I believe in God...I believe in spirits, I believe in everything” his answer.
“Well, that’s good. And you like Reggae” I added.
“Yea, yea” he replied laughing.

At one point the group paused to enjoy the placid night, smoked, and tasted a bottle of sweet strawberry wine, then carried on. The moon seemed to have shone brighter, illuminating the clouds which were formed like scattered cotton balls, the moonlight reflecting on the moist kamote leaves on the ground. We reached the Dap-ay, men were seated around a bonfire, drunk; a kettle was being heated next to the fire, a big metal pot filled with pork meat sits on the ground.

“No dancing tonight” they said gesturing for us to join and sit with them.

Cesca, Taro, Chagen, and I sat on the ground next to each other. The warmth of the bonfire felt so comforting.

One of the men noticed the bottle of leftover strawberry wine Marvin was holding.

“Bring it here” pointing to the spot in front of him.
“What is your name?” he slurred his words.

He then proceeded to chant a prayer in Kankanaey, we hardly understood and no one was sober enough to translate for us - I believe it was for protection, guidance, or thanksgiving. After his prayer, the elderly man apologized for his broken Tagalog. We did notice that they speak English better than the National language, and sometimes the locals would actually just end up sounding rude whenever they try and speak Tagalog.

I was touched by the gesture but at the same time uneasy about the drunk and disorderly situation. Some of the men were so wasted they’ve fallen asleep on the ground.

Cesca stood and left to join Martin and Marvin outside the Dap-ay as two intoxicated men started rationing around shots of brandy & gin and tonic. I was trying to figure out reasons to dodge the upcoming offer. I managed to avoid the offers citing problems with hyper acidity (which actually is true). But whenever I pass on their offer, one of the guys would have to drink my supposed share.

“Thank you so much you’re so nice!” I’d cheer him on.

...and again he’d come back and insist some more. Coffee and bread were also now being passed around.

“I’m so sorry, I really can’t handle alcohol” I’d say.
“Then I’d have to drink again ¤gulp¤ ¤gulp¤” he mumbles his words then continues to stumble his way around.

Poor Chagen failed to avoid one glass of gin & tonic and paid dearly with the price. He previously mentioned that he smokes but doesn’t drink; one glass of gin and he was down.

“I’m drunk” he mutters, still with a smile.
“Don’t worry, just go get some cold air and you’ll be fine” feeling bad I didn’t get to help him avoid the shot either.

Chagen still managed to talk sensibly, spoke about their disappointment with the 100 Islands Tour, their Jeepney top ride to the nearby town Besao and their hike going back to Sagada. I told him it was the Spanish Colonization that converted most Filipinos to Catholicism after he curiously questioned about why lots of Filipinos are Roman Catholics. I was a little careful not to mention the Japanese colonization though as I’m not sure if my grandparent’s horror tales about the era would amuse him.

The people around have gone even more wasted and so we decided to make our exit, bid The °Japanese High Club goodbye, Anabs, and the rest. And after arriving at our Inn we finally were able to talk about what was running inside our heads.

What was
on Cesca’s mind: They’re making us drink and eat so that later we will be offered as sacrifice. There’s this tale about Engkanto(s) environmental spirits that have the ability to appear in human form coercing their captives to eat black rice. When these captives give in to the demand to eat the enchanted food, they will no longer be able to get out of the enchantment and will be trapped inside the spirit’s world.

”I should keep watch and save them later.”

What was on Marvin’s mind: ”There’s a big metal pot by the bonfire, will we be cooked inside it later?"

What was on my mind”: There’s this story A MYTH about a school girl (probably a college student) who invited her schoolmates to her provincial town. The town eventually turned out to be a lair of Aswang(s) an inherently evil vampire-like creature that eats human flesh/blood/organs. The friends were then captured and offered for everyone in the town to feast on; thankfully they made a smart escape.

Please don’t take these must have been the high altitude or maybe it was the cold >.< Anyway, we had a really good laugh about it.

I now also have a name for our group...The Paranoid Four

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19



underground river
beer and chessbeer and chess
beer and chess

Sagada Pine Cafe
Sagada Pine CafeSagada Pine Cafe
Sagada Pine Cafe

random notes

8th November 2012
Start of the Begnas Ritual

striking photo!
8th November 2012

What an adventure!
Enjoyed this and, of course, the photos are just gorgeous!
9th November 2012

it was an unexpectedly fun experience! thank you :)

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