Monday, January 11, 2016

On The Road Again...and again... (Days Gone By VI)

At the end of my last blog, I said that I would be catching up to the present the next time I posted. 

So now, ladies and gentlemen:



(To admit that I was mistaken.)

Those of you who know me best know how fond I am of that, so enjoy it while you can.

At some point, every blog post is going to be about the past, but there's just too much past worth talking about to cram into just one post. So you're gonna have to put up with this framing device a little while longer.

That said:


 To...America? Wait no, this is right outside of Manila.
Guess some things never change. Like corporate ubiquity. Thank God for Mountain Province.

Close Encounters of the British (& British Columbian) Kind: This post and the next post will find themselves full of visitors! (Just like the actual page. Thanks to everyone who checks this out, BTW!)

The first visit was in the form of Fr. Douglas Fenton, Archdeacon of The Diocese of New Westminster, Canada. The DoNW and EDNP (my diocese) have been (and are continuing) exploring the idea of a diocesan partnership between our two No, wait, just diocese. So Archdeacon Fenton came to meet with everyone here and to see life in the diocese live and up close.

Mission: Accomplished

This crash course in la vida montañosa included a tour around the surrounding towns near Bontoc - Sagada, Besao, Tadian and Bauko and several of their associated barangay (which, for those Stateside, are like suburbs - only in this area, they used to be the different tribes of the Cordillera. And because of that, instead of being directly connected a town center, there's usually a bit of distance between them. Sometimes a lot of distance. For instance Masla, which you'll see in my next post, and saw in "D.G.B. Part IV", is about 45 minutes from Poblacion, Tadian, but is still part of Tadian. And there's not a whole lot in-between.)

 Still in town

This was also the first time I got a feel for how Mountain Province is connected - or at least the sections I'd been to already. 

The day also included Fr. Fenton getting to see some of the churches and meeting the people who comprised their congregations. Also, he (and Andrew and I as well) were given the chance to address the congregation in Besao with regards to the formation of the partnership. And of course, what would a trip around Mountain Province be without food and dancing?!

That's exactly what it looks like

 A little fellowship before the official welcome

Welcoming Committee

"I just flew in from Canada and boy are my arms tired!"
(He didn't actually say that, thank God.)

We had a friend!

The musical stylings of the Besao deanery clergy

Awaiting the start of the native celebration

Just dance!
(Not the original caption - but the day I went to publish this, David Bowie died. RIP)

Native song and dance

Let's be clear: You do not mess with this woman.

From Besao we went on to Tadian and finished up back in Bontoc later that evening. Unfortunately, despite some spectacular opportunities for photographs, my phone battery AND the big camera's battery both died. Sayang!

After Fr. Fenton's departure, it was time to get back to life as usual in Bontoc. Only first it was time for something a little different - my apartment was finally ready for me to move in to! Prior to this point, I had been staying at a Diocesan-run hotel, The Walter Clapp. But now I got to move into my permanent place on the Cathedral Compound. (I can't recall if I've said this on the blog or just to people back home, but America really needs to jump onto this whole Cathedral Compound idea. It's really quite tremendous.)

So, as is tradition, we had a housewarming! And I killed my first chicken. And then a few minutes later my second. Sidenote: turns out chickens are somewhat durable.

Did I mention that my apartment is unnecessarily large? 'Cause it is.
That said, it doubles as the E-CARE Guest House, so it kind of has to be.

 Bishop giving a blessing.
Photo credit: Demery

Never going to lack for food during my year, that's for sure

As you may have guessed by the title of this post however, I didn't get to stay in my new digs for long. It was time to get on the road for the National E-CARE meeting at Cathedral Heights in Manila! But first, we had a stopover for the blessing of the E-CARE Marketing Center in Atok, outside of Baguio. So off we went onto the beautiful Halsema Highway.

Emphasis on the "high"

More bars in more places

View from the top 
Okay, so there was more mountain behind us, but the top of the road...

Coming along!

Catherine starts us off with the first reading of the blessing

This is the same room from "Days Gone By - Part I" - looks much improved these days!

 Pure beauty

Oh wait, that last caption was meant for this picture. (Joke lang, girls :P)
This is the view I was unable to share with you last time I was here due to the clouds rolling in

Before we went all the way down to Manila - a 12-hour trip, despite only being 70 miles further than the distance from Dallas to Austin (those winding mountain roads really ramp up the time) - we decided to rest the night in Baguio City, Baguio!

Despite the fact that it had only been 6 weeks since I had found myself in the middle of a town larger than 20,000 people (Tabuk doesn't count since I was only at the edge of town), I was wholly unprepared for how time away like that would would wipe out my tolerance to city life. 15 years of living in cities approaching or well over a million people gone in practically no time. I simply wasn't ready to have as many people in one field of view as I'd seen in 6 weeks combined! That said, I got over it pretty quickly and resumed my former city slicker-ness, but it was a rough bit there at the beginning. 

Still a mountain town. Just a much BIGGER mountain town

 "Ooh, you know what I miss? TRAFFIC."

 A McDonald's in a city that doesn't believe in stocking bathrooms with toilet paper.
This is God's idea of a cruel joke.

 But Catherine did get a bear in her coffee, so...that was nice.

Alright, it's been great being back in a city with a hot shower and pizza like I'm used to, and Baguio truly is very beautiful (something I'll explore more in a later post) but it's time to move on. Oh wait, crap, I forgot - we're moving on to MANILA. I've made a huge mistake! Let's stay!!!

Nope. No such luck. Back on the road we went.

God is Good all the Time 2:
The Reckoning that a Pepsi water tower??

When you sit at the end of the table, you get put on group selfie duty...

Aw, SO close to the 'Horns

The meeting went well and was actually informative on what we're trying to do and where we're trying to go as E-CARE, but Manila still ravaged my lungs and my eyes, so I was more than happy when it was time to go again. Despite the fact that it was crazy early, per usual.

 I think Quisky was okay with leaving too

Picture, picture!

Back in glorious Mountain Province

The E-CARE crew 

And a glorious mountain man...
For about 8 more days. But that's for next time.
 Back in Bontoc.

 Gawis t'ay inmali takoh. And just in time, because it was time for more visitors! But that will be for next time as well. I can't promise it will conclude this series (it won't) but I can promise it will arrive more expediently than this entry.

Happy new year! I will see you all out somewhere on the Wild Wild World Wide Webternetsphere.


 On the road. Again. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Installation Sensation, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Turista (Days Gone By Part V)


I'm falling behind and I have a ton I want to get to in this one, so...


...not this road, though. 
Yes, those little things down there are trees.

So as I mentioned in my previous blog, I'll start with my trip to Tabuk, Kalinga for the installation of EDNL's (Episcopal Diocese of Northern Luzon) new Bishop, Esteban Sabawil. The trip took place immediately after Typhoon Lando, which had a minor effect on my part of Mountain Province (one of the beauties of being surrounded by mountains instead of built into them) but definitely hit hard in other places in the Philippines, especially coastal areas such as Aurora and Ilocos Sur. Even Baguio (which some of you may remember as the place I thought I was going and also where Catherine ended up) had the roof of it's SM Mall blown off! Woah! The worst we got was a river that was way deeper than usual and a lot of gnarly-sounding wind. So I'm certainly grateful that we didn't get worse and ask for your continued thoughts and prayers to those still dealing with the aftermath of this storm even now.

By the way, I mean gnarly in the bad way, not the 70's kind of way

Before we left, it was uncertain whether or not we would be able to take the way via Kalinga or if we'd have to go around the other direction. Now, in the States, that might add an hour or two to the trip. In this case though, it was the difference between a roughly 5-hour trip and a much less fun-filled 12-hour trip. Thankfully, we were able to go via Kalinga - and though all of the landslides had gotten a lane cleared through them, the trip wasn't without it's road hazards.

Pictured: Road Hazards
Also, steak and burgers

I double dog dare you to drive through here

Okay, this is probably what you thought I meant by road hazards. There was a lot of this too.
And a crushed truck that I missed. Which is heartbreaking, but also an incredible show of force.

 That's not to say there weren't beautiful moments as well.
This one is known as the "Sleeping Beauty" near Tinglayan for it's resemblance to a sleeping woman 

 And of course, what would a road trip be without coffee?!

 The place we stopped was pretty cool, there was also a good deal of wildlife in that tower

 For instance...

 Not where the coffee was, I just thought it was cool

 Someone's comfortable...

After we'd had our fill of the coffee, it was onward towards Tabuk! Which turned out to be much, much larger than I anticipated. For only having the population of Wichita Falls, it was incredibly spread out - especially for a city in this region. Speaking of which, I was so unbelievably happy to see a straight road after 5 hours of wending and winding our way through the mountains. 

 You mean we don't have to turn the wheel?

When we got there, we had an awesome dinner set up and when I got to the room, I got an early Christmas present in the form of something I didn't think I would encounter in my time in the provinces - air conditioning!! It really is the little things sometimes. Plus, the hotel had the only amenity that matters: FREE UNLIMITED COFFEE. Does the hotel owner know their target demographic or what?

Not a bad view, either

A cool display of the traditional gongs in the dining area

Hmm, I guess these mirrors weren't really made with me in mind

 Or the ceilings.
That said, I've always wanted to be tall enough to have to worry about this. It's a dream come true!!!

The Bishop's installation wasn't the only reason we were in Tabuk, either. The night before the installation, I performed with Shalom Beharim (the clergy choir) in a concert at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church. It was a great time and it was cool to see so many come out to support the group, especially since the clergy all pay for their own travel to rehearse and perform as well as their own accommodations which means all the money raised through ticket sales can go towards the church's actual mission. Being that I was on the stage, I didn't get many photos of that night except for sneaking a photo during the group photo before the concert. That said, our director uploaded some videos of the concert to Facebook and you can check it out here:
(You can find the other videos from there - I trust you, dear reader.)

The bright, bright lights of semi-stardom.
 Okay, maybe a bit too bright. Actually, can we bring that down a bit?

After a fun concert (and a terrific intermission performance by St. Thomas' own church choir) it was time to rest up for the installation!

Unbelievably, I didn't take a single photo of the actual parade leading up to the Cathedral! Just the waiting and then once we arrived at the church. I still am shocked by this considering the way I am, but it's true nevertheless. 

Waiting to get started

An exhibition of the native gong dance outside the church

 Someone who possesses no sense of irony stole the real thing, 
so I'm posting this here for posterity's sake

The stage is set

And so, nearly one year after the departure of EDNL's Bishop Abibico to become Prime Bishop of the Philippines, the Diocese was ready to set up its new leader! 

" it me?"
"NO, get out of here!"

Some words for the new entering Bishop

Prime Bishop Abibico had some words of wisdom as well

 "Well, can we at least be in the family photo?"

Wait a minute, you get your own big comfy chair when you become Bishop?
Well that's enough reason alone right there to go for the job.

A parade of gifts for the new Bishop (this is only a part of it, BTW)

After the installation service was complete, there was an enormous celebration outside the Cathedral grounds which went on longer than I was able to stay, unfortunately. But I was around for the main portion of the program which included a very surprised me singing an Ilocano folk song from memory with Shalom Beharim (nothing like pressure to fire up the memory banks!), native dancing, a children's chorus and other performers. And food. Tons of food (okay, not literal tons.......maybe.....)

 Awaiting their moment in the spotlight

Tristan rocking the native dance (hint: he's the one who, even bent over, is still the tallest)
P.S. for more adventures in Tabuk and the surrounding area, check out Tristan's blog at

The kids got in on the celebration, too
After the program and gorging ourselves on food, it was time to head back to Bontoc. But we left knowing we left the Diocese in capable hands for the future.
Goodbye straight's been fun...

Here comes the bride....question: One thing I get asked a lot here (and I mean, a LOT) is if I'm married or not. Evidently, you're considered 'young' here until you get married, so I guess I'm even more incentivized to stay single while I'm here! (Yes YASC staff, I know it's against the rules we agreed on anyway, don't worry.)

So while I won't be getting married in my time here (despite the ribbing you all back home gave me) I still get to have all the fun of a wedding! The day after our trip to Tabuk was the first wedding I attended here (which is why we had to leave so early.) As of the present, I've attended two weddings, but I'll get to the other one later on. This one, oddly, was for a couple that now lives in Australia, so they were just as surprised to see me here as I was to see two Igorot Aussies getting married in the mountains of the Philippines. Ahh, such is love.

Unfortunately, because of the Tabuk trip I missed the first night of celebration (you heard that right) but I sang at the service itself and got to enjoy the second day's celebration. Not much to say other than it was fun and cool to see so many people come out to support the happy couple. Also, the guy had a killer full-back tattoo which again I neglected to get a picture of. Sayang!


Setting up for the meal

 That's a mighty pig pot you got there.
(That's not a typo.)

Meeting of the minds: Later on that week, we got to meet with several of the suppliers of products which are marketed and sold by E-CARE, especially those to be sold at the Atok Marketing Center/Café Galilea (which was totally supposed to be Cafe Galilee, but hey I like it.) We talked about production standards, the importance of branding and the possibilities for assistance from Department of Labor and Employment and also the Department of Trade and Industry in the communities' efforts. There are a ton of pictures on the EDNP Facebook group of the E-CARE producers meeting for those here, and I'm doubtful you folks back home need any pictures of a meeting since you probably have plenty of your own. I'll suffice to say it was an interesting gathering and some good info came out of it.

 And then we ate and sang, because I mean, of course.

The following day there was a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the school at All Saints. There was a huge crowd and a parade that went throughout the streets. And THIS one I have pictures of! Then all of the different grades put on their own performance which included singing, dancing, or in the case of the youngest ones, the entertainment of watching the teacher try to corral all of them into anything resembling a cohesive unit. Good times.

Obviously our staff is where all the cool kids are

Takin' over the streets

That probably wasn't easy to get out there

Adoring fans 

I survived Sagada and all I got was this t-shirt: Now, not everything I do here is church-related. And after a few weeks of traveling around to do work, I decided it was time to travel around to NOT do work! So, after the parade was over, I hopped on a jeepney (a bus/jeep fusion that you'll find all over Luzon) to meet up with Catherine and Rebecca in the most popular tourist destination in Mountain Province - Sagada. Because even though I'm here for a long time, I shan't fool myself into thinking I'm a native, so I might as well act all touristy and not feel guilty about it every once in a while. Now, while Sagada does draw a ton of turistas, it's actually not all that big - coming in at somewhere between 11 and 12 thousand people. Nevertheless, it's gorgeous and there's plenty to do so we jumped right in!

Some people are so literal

So after we registered as tourists and met Jay, our guide for the day, we went down into Echo Valley. (I'll give you a second to ponder how it got its name.) After successfully reverberating our voices off the limestone canyon walls, we went on to one of Sagada's more interesting tourist spots - the hanging coffins. This is a custom that is still practiced today and is reserved to the older members of the community (if I recall correctly, you have to have grandchildren to even be considered) and it is, of course a choice to be buried in this fashion. 

The belief as I understand it is that it not only places the dead closer to heaven but also allows them to look over their descendants who remain on Earth. And this is just one spot of the several spots where the coffins are located. Some of them are so far up the sheer cliff face that I couldn't even zoom in to get a good shot of it. Nobody really seemed to have any idea how ones like that even got up there. I know one thing's for sure, I wouldn't want to try to heave it up there. Another tradition for the dead occurred later on that weekend on the night of All Souls, when families would visit their relatives' graves in the cemetery all through the night and build bonfires to keep warm the spirits of the deceased. Unfortunately I had already gone back to Bontoc to sing at the Cathedral of All Saints on All Saints (fitting, right?), so I missed out on this tradition. Anyhow, from that spot we continued on through the rest of the valley into the mountainous jungle ahead of us.

The name is pretty straightforward, eh?

Deeper we go...

I can't adequately convey how tall and foreboding this thing is

But I can for this one!

Celebrating my triumph over scale

Over the river and through the wood: Typing that out just now I realized that since there aren't all that many bridges compared to how many miles of river there are - statistically speaking, you'd think that you're probably not going over the river (unless you're in something that flies.) You'd think you'd be going through it, as well as the wood. But "Through the river and through the wood..." just doesn't have the rhythmic flow, I suppose. Plus, most travel (at least in America) does happen over bridges or in a plane or helicopter. Anyway...

I digress...

Through the river and through the wood.
Okay, now I digress...

 Rebecca, jonesing for some all-natural coffee

Uh, yeah, I'll take that house please

You could actually walk through this cave and follow the river to the other side of the mountain

Too bad you had to ask for the lantern tour package at the start.
My phone flashlight would have worked, right?
I realized as I typed that that no one ever really has to specify "cell phone" anymore do they?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, digressing...

As we neared the end of the tour and came up out of the Echo Valley, we took an unexpected detour and crossed the street, past some farmland and to a secluded natural pool formed at the base of twin waterfalls.

Not the end

Because first we had jump up to (and eventually jump back off of) this "bridge"
See, NOW it's over the river
Alright, I'll stop

 THIS is the end. And the end is awesome.

 Snapped this one back at the tourist center. Notice the name of the lake in the middle?
"Danum" means "water." So the lake is named 'Lake Water' 
Clever, Sagada. Very clever.

The next day, after eating a very hearty breakfast at Antie Alma's we decided to take the road by foot to nearby Besao, where Attorney Floyd had invited us for dinner. (Also, big shoutout for Inandako  - definitely stay there if you come to Sagada - if you can find it. It's past St. Mary's and out past the baseball field near the limestone formations. Also to Mama Kim's Lemon Pies which she also runs there in Sagada - they were delicious!)


Orange you glad you stayed here? 

And yes, apparently oranges are actually green before they ripen

After taking our time getting coffee and cake at Sagada Brew, we then set out on foot to trek the 7-10km (depending on who you ask) up and down the mountain into Besao. We also stopped in at a roadside pottery shop called Sagada Pottery. At this shop, they learned from a missionary who came to Sagada back in the 70's and spent a couple of years experimenting with the clay in the area and teaching them how to test it, form it, fire it and glaze it. They source everything from right there in Sagada and the finished product takes months to complete start to finish. It was very cool to see how everything was done. 

On the road again....again....

For some reason we decided to stop and do jump pics
 Rebecca is going to kill me for posting this

Oooh, what's in here?

Well, that was unexpected

Ma'ams Sigrid and Tessie are both legitimate masters of their craft
Again, check out Sagada Pottery about 1 km up the road to Besao if you ever come to Sagada

Rebecca is following their words

"Why do you come to Besao? 
To watch the sun set in Sagada!"
Yeah I know that's not sunset. Don't worry, we'll get there.


 Catherine noted that Lake Danum (lol) felt more like home than the Philippines and I agree

Along our way we saw some incredible views (like the one above and more to come) ran into some cows, and saw dogs pretending to be hood ornaments. After taking a brief respite at Attorney's house, we made our way to what Rebecca promised would be one of the best views to a sunset that we would find in the Philippines. And after several "just around the corner"s (a navigational unit used with the same finesse by British missionaries and my Dad alike (sorry Dad :P)) - we finally arrived and, that said, the view she promised did not disappoint! Then it was back for dinner and then back to Sagada under an endless blanket of stars. And then, at least for me, it was back to the singing as I left before sunrise to jeepney back to Bontoc for All Saints' day.

Oh....howdy y'all.....sorry about the whole steak and burgers quip earlier.........
Yay Chick-Fil-A??


 Sleepy mountain town

Hitching a ride

Okay, so maybe Besao has a pretty great sunset all on its own....
Yeah. Totally worth it.







And for those of you wondering: yes, I will absolutely delve more into the daily life here in Bontoc, all of the people and friends who make my journey special, and more on the work itself.

All in due time. 

Thanks for checking in. 


G'night everybody