Thursday, April 14, 2016

Maligcong, Bontoc: Songbirds In the Trees, Herbs on the Veranda, Snoring Dog Under My Bed

The morning alarm clock perched on a nearby tree
One of the privileges accorded a repeat visitor to a place is a sense of perspective.  You get to see different guests who pass through and observe their appreciation (or lack of).  Since I'm of the age where I'm past beyond just going to a place for a brag-selfie, besides declaring enjoyment when I'm not really enjoying the experience, I somehow have a disdain for the attitude of late of some locals I've encountered here and elsewhere, who act bratty and bored because of a hundred and one reasons.  It could be the fickle weather (as if anyone can flick a switch and guarantee a marvelous sunrise or breathtaking sunset).  It could be the lack of built structures or nightlife.  It could be the stoical guide or "expensive rates" (not funny that people will gladly shell so much for an overrated brand of coffee but will scrimp on services that require hard labor).  

It's well and good that a lot of people can now afford to travel.  However, that doesn't mean a license to trespass on the locals, disrespect the local rules, customs and traditions, or look (demand?) for the creature comforts of the city (that's how beautiful Boracay went south fast but that's another topic altogether).  I won't go as far as what travel writer, Paul Theroux, believes,  that "if you're not suffering, you're just a tourist" but I try to minimize my impact, respect the locals and their rules, enjoy what the place has to offer, and do my part in helping the local economy.  I'm not traveling so far to experience the same thing I'm having in the city (I mean why the heck would you want to tire yourself for the same thing?).

My recent visit to Maligcong in Bontoc, Mountain Province, exposed me once again to both local and foreign tourists.  Why am I not surprised that the French guests showed more respect for the local customs and more interest in the place (besides being un-demanding despite being older) than the local guests?   Could we be taking our own places of (dis)interest for granted?  Do we go to a quiet, serene, place to add noise and be rowdy?
My adopted canine, Kunig, sleeping (snoring, sighing, dreaming) under the bed

This takes me to my point: there are places like Maligcong where people who love the nightlife and gawk at built structures will likely find downright boring (well there are built structures here though they are thousands of years old).  It is as what it is.  A place where songbirds wake you in the morning as they rush from the trees to the eaves of the hometay's veranda; where the herbs sway in the breeze all day long ready for picking; and where you may discover, as I've always been finding out, there's a friendly dog snoring (oftentimes twitching his paws as if dreaming) under the bed, will either be your cup of tea or mug of boredom.  A place with no wi-fi or cable TV and where a star-filled sky during clear nights or fireflies wandering from the bamboo thickets to the rooms, count as evening entertainment, is either to your liking or loathing.
Suzette's herbs and edible plants have proliferated like crazy
Save for an ocular of the pasture overlooking Bontoc Illi, I really was in no mood or shape to hike during my recent short break so I stuck to trying to work online (emphasis on the word 'try').   Well, it was inevitable to strike up a conversation with the homestay's French guests, perchance to make new acquaintances and learn a new thing or two.  There were no "I've been to this and that place" bragging competition which could be typical fare when you talk to other travelers.  No crazy-about-gadgets-talks typical of other small talks and chit-chats with strangers.  No put-on airs really, just honest-to-goodness tete-a-tete (see, I'm testing my French there) with friendly strangers/new acquaintances.
The carpenter and the French guests
It was actually refreshing to share notes about foreign tourists who seem to appreciate the terraces more than some locals I know.  Also fun to share anecdotes and insights such as how to make sinigang using guavas with Christine who hails from Bourdeaux, making a soup base that tastes a lot like bouillabaisseJacy, the ex-banker from somewhere north of Paris, would also give me insights on the difference between northern and southern French cuisine as well as similarities/differences on meat preservation here and over there.  With Bernard, Christine's hubby, I also get to share my wonderment on how the design of Ifugao houses has this rat/rodent protection design feature on their posts that are similar to those in the northern parts of France and some parts of Europe.  

There were other interesting bits and pieces of topics, too -- like the merits of Tanduay rum, the variety of adobo, the herbs in the garden.  Why, even the French family that passed thru enroute to the hot springs of Mainit, probably were amazed to find sage and other familiar herbs growing on the veranda.   I espied the dad unable to resist picking up some of the flowers and putting them under his nose -- such a gesture of appreciation for the green growing things.  Anyway, our conversations were learning experiences as well as an opportunity to share a bit of the Philippines to foreign guests.  

The garden is also a source of inspiration for me.  I certainly envy Suzette's resources -- plenty of sun, the cool climate, the usually wonderful weather.  It's amazing what can grow out here though credit, of course, goes to her green thumb and persistenceWith every visit, her garden continues to grow.  In my mind, I can see the proliferation of even more plants including edible flowers, in the near future.  Maybe, there will even be a time when guests can handpick their edibles for their dinner salad.
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