|After a whole day at school, the kids march back home through the terraces|
I packed an hour before I left for the bus station, even going to the store to buy a new neck pillow and some stuff for the dogs. For the first time in many years, I took the Victory deluxe bus, foregoing the chance to taste my favorite Sison's barbecue. It was too quick a trip to Baguio for me, arriving at a little past 4am -- way way too early even if I was to catch the earliest GL bus to Sagada. It wasn't that chilly and if not for the drizzle, I wouldn't even consider donning a jacket. As if a sign of good things to come, by the time we stopped at Mountain View in Sabangan, I was greeted by Blackie and Whitey, the friendly dogs there at the gas station. The owner of the hardware may not remember me from two months back but the dogs surely did. If I have my own vehicle, I would have gladly lingered and bonded more with the dogs.
|Maku and his stuffed toys (the purple one I bought in the Bontoc palengke)|
When I got into Suzette's Maligcong Homestay, it was still raining. Kunig was hiding somewhere in the house (he's scared of thunder) but Maku didn't seem to recognize me at first but then quickly warmed up when he sniffed and probably recognized I was the guest who gave him a bath two months prior. He took the purple teddy I bought from the Bontoc palengke and promptly added it to his collection of stuffed toys. The next few days would alternate between sunny mornings and rainy afternoons and evenings. I would be joined by a Pinoy and French couple the following days, the latter staying almost as long as I did but as always, I never find myself alone here as the Che-es brood are already family.
|Some of the bounty from Tala Farms|
On my third day in Maligcong, I joined Suzette and Tina to pay our respects to Joel and his grieving family. I don't know what prompted me to tell my story to Joel's wife since she didn't know me. But I felt it had to be told. To stave off the sadness and tears, Tina recalled the funny incident when I chased Joel's dogs at Tala Farms and fell from the raised path leading to the main road entrance, my back to the ground. I didn't know what hit me.
In any case, it would be a comforting thought that Joel is rejoined to the earth he treasures. In his passing, one can only hope that his dream of bringing back pride into farming among the younger generation will continue to live on.
|All suited up on the greens|
On my recent visits here, I had a wonderful time talking and learning from the French guests and this visit is no different. The couple, I feel, has a deep interest in the local culture. One time, Pascal and I had this talk on the local language as compared to French. This would progress to the local Bontoc and Maligcong culture, customs and traditions. It's not the usual tourist bragging tete-a-tete or intellectual exchanges, just a sharing of minds. Bittersweet to note that it takes visitors from thousands of miles away to express an interest in these things, going beyond the beauty of the terraces and into the cultural fabric itself.
|The rice plants are heavy with grains and ready for harvesting|
EATING FROM THE GARDEN. I'm a frustrated locavore since I live in a building and even with a green thumb, I don't have the space and wherewithal to grow what I want. Suzette's Homestay is like my outlet for being a locavore even only for a few days as Suzette has managed to grow a variety of edibles. I don't know how Suzette manages to multitask and squeeze in gardening in between rearing five kids, and taking care of us guests but her garden is a wonderful testimony to the effort she and Jerome puts into it. The eggplant and bitter gourds were ready for harvesting so one afternoon, I picked the eggplants and she simply fried them, served with longganisa fried rice and bagoong. Simple joys, really.
|A cosmic sight just staring at the night sky|
These are again simple joys I must say at the risk of repeating myself. I know some people, even some friends wonder why I keep coming back here often with not much pictures to show for it. All I can say is that some of the most wonderful pictures I take, I take with my own eyes and keep in my head. And that some of my most wonderful experiences I don't get to share on social media but keep in my heart.