Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Dog Days, Rainy Afternoons and Starry Mornings in Maligcong

A shot two or so years in the making - light painting the terraces
The rains followed me from my overnight stay in Baguio. I really meant to go birding for an hour or so after doing errands like picking up the Bone Talk books that our friend, Philippine-born author, Candy Gourlay, purchased from Mt. Cloud Book Shop for giving as gifts to friends in Maligcong as well as the Bontoc Municipal Library. I can hear birds twittering from the trees along Brent Road as I try to walk my way back to Bed and Breakfast at Station 120 on Lower General Luna but it was beginning to drizzle. As I was carrying a nice picture frame bought from SM Baguio, I decided to hail the first cab that passed my way. With dark clouds hovering and my cab driver corroborating my suspicions (he said it rained the past three afternoons), I lost interest in venturing to the Camp John Hay Eco Trail for birding. Nor walking to Session Road for dinner and coffee, contenting myself with the P145 buffet at the Station 120 resto upstairs (well worth it) and the good coffee at Scoops Coffee Shop on the ground floor. 

We toploaded on the first afternoon jeep headed to Maligcong from Bontoc, it left one hour early at 1:30 and prayed the rains wouldn't soak us until we get to Suzette's Maligcong Homestay. Thank heavens, the heavens opened after we got there (not that I minded getting soaked but I wouldn't want that to happen to my cameras and lenses). My canine friends are there to greet us, Maku and TamTam taking off where we left off last January, following me to our designated room.  Kunig, my other loyal companion, is content staying outside where it's cooler. 
Some participants of the Lang-ay Festival in repose
Blame the unusual weather patterns to, well, the new normal.  It's sunny in the early mornings, rainy in the afternoons.  Sunny during our attendance of the Lang-ay Festival street parade on a Saturday but rainy in the afternoons.  I would curl up with a book in the afternoons and snore until it's dark.   Maku looks content napping, too.  Ditto, TamTam, who snores like a human (farts like one, too).   A planned visit to the organic farm that turns out delicious goat's milk didn't materialize (scheduled conflicts).   Can't continue shooting the other elders of the village in Favarey either as it was planting season.   I've learned to accept my fate as "weather weather".   There's always another time.  No sense grumbling.
Lady farmer walking along the terraces trail
My buddy, Ferdz aka Ironwulf, is a thousand times more gregarious in waking up real early and shooting than I am, so I am blessed to have him haul me up at 3am on a Sunday halfway through the terraces trail to Favarey to spot the Milky Way position.  It turned out cloudy so we instead spent the early morning birding with the dogs.   Having to leave early for Baguio (he had to teach a yoga class as a guest instructor the following Tuesday) meant I have to decide whether it was worth waking up at 3am on a Monday to shoot.  Miracles of miracles, it turned out clear on that day (and as it turned out, on that day alone during the rest of my week-long stay) so I hauled up my lazy ass and went back to our original scouted position.
My canine bodyguard, Maku, waiting on the terraces
It was a moon-less night so I have to paint the nearby terraces with a 2000 lumen Klarus XT11GT torch; taking test shots on my Sony A6000 camera and calibrating the exposure until I felt I got it quite right.  Must be a strange sight for the locals who may have sighted the spectacle of crazy-bright light sweeping the terraces many times that very early morning.  The dogs, as always, kept me company even if they may have wondered why we stopped halfway through the trail and wandered no further.  At the risk of sounding like I'm bragging, I never felt alone or scared, even if I felt/sensed some rather supernatural things in the past.  The dogs never left my side, especially my shadow canine, Maku.  Oh, and I saw a fireball dance down the terraces some distance from where I was shooting, what they call St. Elmo's fire, spiraling down, one time when I shut down my headlamp and torch to take pictures.
Kunig, my original hiking canine buddy
Elegant Tit looking elegant
I got lucky with my light painting experiment as the heavens held off the clouds until the afternoon.  Still, I have to add that I waited something like two years for the opportunity to do so.   I had taken Milky Way shots within the homestay grounds in the past but would miss out venturing to the terraces due to cloudy or too bright, moon-lit conditions.    This time, it was just perfect.  Losing sleep was well worth it.

As an added boon, I kept awake long enough in the sunrise hour to hear the insistent chatter of a pair of Elegant Tits as they browsed through the remaining fruits of the guava tree and blessed me with their presence.   I guess like life itself, you take what you're given and be thankful for it.  The afternoon rains followed but what the heck, the mountains needed it.  Deal with it.  Or rather, sleep on it.
Tam-Tam, the third dog in the canine triumvirate

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