The Mountain Province

Another week of hard work ahead of me to finalize my training manual for LINK, and then Cassie comes on Friday for an adventure around the islands!

The hanging coffins in Sagada. Some are years old, others put there as recently as last year.

Rice Terraces outside of Sagada. They only get more impressive and much steaper...

Tam-Awan Village from above.

It’s been a while… after all the work in February and the tedious note taking of the Human Rights Seminar, I needed a short break. So on Thursday, I took some books and headed up to the Northern Luzon, to the mountain towns of Baguio and Sagada. It turned out to be the perfect getaway. Cool mountain air, beautiful mountain scenery, including rice and vegetable terraces, and delicious, fresh vegetables.

At Tam-Awan Village in Baguio, I stayed a night in an Ifugao hut, a simple one-room hut from 1927 made of nothing but wood. I spent the evening with the group of Filipino artists at Tam-Awan, chatting away and sipping on homemade rice wine. I hiked around Sagada, saw the hanging coffins and walked through the rice terraces. Through the tourist office, I joined a German family on their hike, and they were nice enough to then include me in dinner and the next morning, a trip to the mountaintop to see the sunrise over the rice terraces.

On our hike to the hanging coffins, there were some human bones scattered on the ground, likely from an animal getting into a coffin, our guide told us. After the guide and his parents jokingly said he could take a bone, the little 7-year-old boy with us was quite upset that he wasn’t, in fact, allowed to have one!

When I wasn’t wandering the towns and mountains, I kept myself busy with internship work, reading books that I had borrowed from LINK. It was very nice not to have my computer, and to rely solely on books for the weekend:) This kept me occupied on the long bus rides too, and kept my eyes off of the winding road and the steep ravines that I felt we would plunge over at every turn.

I returned to reality Monday night, finally finished the Human Rights Seminar notes on Tuesday, and now my days are spent at the LINK Center. Those notes were much more work than anticipated, and I spent most of last week working on them too. The folks at LINK told me yesterday that they were thinking of asking me to take notes of their week-long training seminars, but realized that if anything was in Tagalog, I’d miss it. Thank goodness! I don’t know if I could do that again (although I would have let them know that, believe me).

LINK is a nice place to work – quite, clean, air conditioned, and great people. Throughout the morning, students come in for tutoring services. They come from all over the area, but as they pay for their own tutoring, most seem to be at least middle class. Multiple students have cochlear implants as well, which I definitely didn’t see at the public school. Actually, the only time I saw hearing aids there was on a couple of outside kids coming in for occupational therapy! A big difference between the two settings and the populations served.

When I went into LINK yesterday, everyone knew it was my birthday and I wasn’t sure how… turns out that the week before, when I had met some students, they asked me the same first three questions that almost all students ask me – what’s my name, what’s my age, and when’s my birthday. So they remembered:) After my morning work at LINK, I treated myself to an afternoon at the spa – body scrub, massage, facial, pedicure and manicure, at Filipino rates – can’t beat that:)

I went to the market this week and bought 8 eggplants, 6 onions, 5 tomatoes, 5 mangos, 8 bananas for $2.50 – I love the exchange rate and summertime! Not that I can eat all of that while it’s still fresh, but there are plenty of people to share with here.

At my hotel in Sagada, I took my first warm shower since I’ve been here. It felt so unnatural, so weird! Here in Manila, it’s easy enough to never want a warm shower - just plan strategically, such as after walking home in the hot afternoon sun instead of first thing in the morning.

Story by Hilary Cote


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