Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Maligcong Sojourn: A Week of Rain and Pondering About Life, Nature and Living

Beautiful in any light
It might seem like a foolish exercise to most, going over 400 kilometers to the boondocks then spend the next seven days  largely cooped up, staring at the incessant rain, looking far into the mist-covered mountains and terraces.  Or reading books, sipping cup after cup of coffee, talking with the homestay dogs, Kunig, Maku and TamTam.  The few times the sun attempted to evade the cloud cover, I'd be out trying to pinpoint where the birds are hiding.

I have a different perspective on vacations, though, and those rainy days and their value are not totally lost on me.  I'm currently reading "Digging Deep" by Fran Sorin as I write this and I share her thoughts -- I may be seeing more or less the same set of things -- the birds, scenery, dogs, locals -- on this trip to Maligcong but I would rather term it as a reunion of sorts.  While I haven't added a bird to my life list, I am elated to spot the "regulars" like the elusive Blue Headed Fantail which seemed to have made his home in one of the homestay trees.  Or the Pied Flycatcher, now joined by two (or three?) more of his own kind.   Reuniting with them again is a happy occasion for they seem to be thriving.  Still, the mystery of why they as well as the other small birds have made the tall bamboos their favorite haunt remains.

Chestnut-faced Babbler looking at ya
Being reunited with the homestay dogs is another cause for celebration.  UK-based Filipina  author of the critically-acclaimed book "Bone Talk," Candy Gourlay, once remarked that a big part of why I keep coming back are the dogs and she can't be more right.  I have bonded with the dogs from day one, seen most of them growing up from puppyhood, and every return trip marks a return to old ways and habits.   Maku, the dingo-lookalike second in command and Tam-Tam, the black Labrador "baby" of the triumvirate, would, without fail, find their way to my room.   Kunig, the alpha dog, prefers to sleep outside where it's colder but on occasions of thunderstorms, he would paw at my door, then rush inside to hide under my side table where he has always napped when I met him about five years ago.    Why, even Uncle Jeffrey's dog, Tiny, would whine in glee if I happen to pass by in between the squalls.

One consequence of the almost non-stop rains is that I finished reading two books I brought along for the vacation -- Paul Theroux's "The Stranger at the Palazzo D' Oro" and Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" not even halfway through the seven-day break.  Well, it gave me more time work online when the Globe signal remains up (it was on and off most of the time due to the inclement weather).   
 
Silhouettes of the sublime
The quiet was broken during at the cusp of the long holiday weekend with the arrival of rather rowdy guests riding vans, announcing their presence noisily, bantering noisily during the day and drinking and making still more noises until about 1am.  Talk about lack of respect for the locals, tsk tsk.  Considering the fact that most of the guests were women makes me wonder why the toilet and bath ended up dirty, with soap cartons, shampoo sachets and plastic bags on the floor and the shelves.   Truly, one of the downsides of mass tourism is the phenomenon of the uncaring tourist -- why pick up your trash when someone can do it for you?   Why care for the local culture when all that seems to matter is that Instagram brag selfie on the boondocks?  Good thing the weekend warriors only last a day or two.
He's back - the Pied Flycatcher of the homestay
On this most recent trip, someone asked me why I keep coming back.  My answer is that the place resonated with me.  Honestly, I thought I was moving up the scale of supernatural weirdness when I keep having this mystical experiences around here, like hearing the wind speak, seeing a St. Elmo's fireball dance up and down the terraces, or navigating a road I can't find again.  That is, until I came across books such as Derrick Jensen's "A Language Older than Words" and Jane Katz's "Messengers of the Wind" which made me think, maybe I'm not crazy after all.  I feel a kinship for the natural world as well as the Native Americans who were connected to nature like Juanita Espinosa, a Ojibway artist who writes about hearing the trees rustling and telling their stories, and the wind flowing, revealing its secrets.   Maybe the mountains are telling me something and I intend to keep on listening until I come to an understanding.

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