Friday, December 9, 2016

Maligcong, Bontoc: Revisiting Foggy Kupapey and Giving Back to the Village Elders

Dreamy, draped in fog, like a magical land emerging from the mists
To think we were here less than two months ago.  Now, the terraces wear a shade of brown, and in a lot of places, the glassy sheen of water.  When we went here last time, some of the rice plants have yet to be harvested or post-harvest, cut and cleared.  As if to make up for the loss of greens, the sunflowers have bloomed in profusion, dotting the landscape with streaks of bright yellow that grey, somber days could not diminish.

We would've liked visiting sooner weren't it for two typhoons which wreaked havoc on the northern part of the country.  The Cordilleras in particular were hard hit; Bontoc and nearby Sagada were cut off from vehicular traffic for almost a month owing to the damage sustained by the bridges in Samoki and Sadanga.  In the aftermath of the typhoons, we thought of doing a small outreach as Maligcong already feels like a second home to me.  I was also feeling low, owing to mixed fortunes the past month or so, and felt that the mountains and nature could provide a salve. 

Armed with some donations and some funds from some of our Backpack Photography participants/friends as well as some of our own monies, we decided to buy supplies for distribution to the elders of Favarey in Bontoc instead of buying in Manila and bringing it all the way there.  That way, we could in our own little way, plow a little to the local economy and at the same time, spare us from lugging heavy baggage on the buses going here.  But first, we knew we had to revisit Mt Kupapey.  We heard the weather has been a bit rainy for the past few days so we knew we were taking our chances for a clearing.  I've been traveling off-season for quite some time and has adopted a pragmatic attitude on the weather -- whatever will be, will be.
My adopted canine, Kunig, finds Misty curled up against a tree to escape the cold
HIKING TO KUPAPEY ANEW.  So we took off at 3:30am which is usually my sleeping time in the city.  We really wanted to shoot the starry sky at the summit but the heavens had other plans.  It was drizzling on the way up.  I was huffing and puffing while the four dogs, Kunig, Maku, Tiny and Misty, were sprinting up the slippery trail.  Ah, the joys of having four legs.  We met our guide-friend, Tina, on the way to the terraces; she will be fetching guests from the homestay who will spend sunrise on Kupapey; we will go ahead and see if the heavens will clear.  We got a bit disoriented but found our bearings on our own.  Closer to the summit, the wind sounded like a waterfall as it blew from seemingly different directions.  I was complaining a day ago how comparably hotter it was in Baguio than in previous months.  Now, I'm beginning to get chilled to the bone.

By the time our new acquaintances, Red, Lilly and Mico, got to the summit, it was already light.  The wind was relentless so much so that even Misty and Tiny would curl up behind the pine trees to momentarily escape the cold while Kunig and Maku would scramble up and down, presumably to keep warm.  The three stayed until around 7am when the sun still didn't show signs of showing up behind the thick fog.  Kunig, Maku and Tiny accompanied them as they descended with Tina to explore the terraces.  Misty stayed with us as we lingered on, enduring the cold and admiring the scenery.

I am very fortunate to keep coming back here the past two years.  I've seen the scenery in different seasons and have always found them beautiful no matter the weather.  Strange statement coming from a photographer you might say but as a nature lover, I've come to appreciate the changing moods, colors, hues, permutations, of the seasons.  Maybe it's my age, too, but I've come to be pragmatic when it comes to the weather.  If Yahweh wants to give you foggy, drizzly, weather, just enjoy and make the best out of it.  And I wouldn't call foggy weather out here less than scenic.  On the contrary, the weather made the terraces dreamy, as if a magical land hiding and emerging from the mists.
Kap, one of elders-recipients of our small outreach inside his house filled with drying rice stalks
REVISITING THE VILLAGE IN FAVAREY.   We spent the succeeding days going to Bontoc town, buying supplies, repacking the food stuff and with Suzette and Jerome's help, pinpointing the elderly recipients.  Come Friday, we handed the medicines to the village clinic then hied off to Favarey, what used to be a 2-kilometer trek through the terrace cut a bit shorter through the new road that leads to the elementary school on the ridge.  I've been to the village several times in the past but this was the first time that I was able to go around, go through small alleyways, knocked on doors and entered houses to speak to the locals at length.  To be able to give in our little way to some of the village elders and evoke a smile, a thank-you, was heartwarming.  To be honest, I wish we could've given more even if it means reaching deeper from our own pockets.  On the way back, we met quite a lot of people coming home with provisions.  The next day, there will be a wedding here in the village as well as another one in Bontoc and there will be celebrations.  Ah, the joys of community life, an art now largely lost in the big city.

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