Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Elders of Maligcong Documentation Advocacy Project

Anti Awwanen laughing shyly
My personal Elders of Maligcong advocacy project took almost two years to get started.  But start, it did just last November even though we only spent essentially two and a half days there (travel times from Baguio and later onto Banaue severely cut the stay).  Four years after first being drawn to Maligcong, I keep coming back as I've sort of found a second home in the mountains.

When my feet first touched ground here, I found a tranquil community, very well off the tourists' radar.  Now, it maybe on the cusp of popularity, having been "found" by travel operators and social media fanatics.  Still, I see Maligcong as emblematic of the Philippine condition -- a very peaceful, beautiful place peopled by a friendly community caught between the traditions of the past and the commercial possibilities of the present and future.  The population here continues to dwindle with the passing of the years, both the young and the adults venturing to the cities, bigger provinces, even overseas, to find better-paying opportunities.   Ma'am Juanita, who I last saw during my visit three months ago, and who welcomed me to her house and gave me some papayas and bananas, was among the latest to try their luck abroad.  It makes me sad to learn about this.
Apo Gaspar portrait
This explains, in part, why the rice terraces are worked on in increments instead of all at once; there are less and less people, now mostly women, who work in the fields.  Farmer-parents, even those most passionate to pass on the legacy of the land to their offsprings, are often tempered by practicality.  After all, what parent wouldn't want to spare their kids the back-breaking agony of tilling the land, sowing and planting, nurturing the plants, harvesting the grains usually just enough for local consumption?  
Uncle John Alitao portrait
I guess this scenario is oft-replayed in other households, other communities, across the country.  For the casual tourist who hops from place to place, the terraces are probably just a sight to behold before moving on to the next Instagram-worthy scenery, but to the locals, these are life-givers as well as a living legacy of their ancestors.   The terraces and its environs are linked to a culture, a way of life that may be fading into obscurity on the altar of commercialism, consumerism and homogeneity.
Anti portrait
This leads me to to my personal advocacy -- for the village elders are the bridge to that past, a time when observing rituals and following traditions didn't have to compete with video games, Facebook, satellite TV.  I want to somehow help give the place's history a face (or faces if you will) as a way of giving back to a community that welcomed me.
Anti Esperanza portrait
All portraits captured using Sony A6000 + Sony 50mm f/1.8 lens © 2018 Oggie Ramos

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