those of you who have been keeping up with this blog might recall when, a couple of months ago, i wrote a post whilst in the middle of a meltdown from coffee works before shipping off to camiguin with organization b for what was a very poorly planned trip (for like 30 people to another fricking island)…i never really followed up on all that, though, so just very quickly – the trip wasn’t a total disaster, but i didn’t stay through till the end, so i only got to see the island from the jeepney ride to and from the main town, which encompassed more or less the entire circumference of the island and was enough to convince me that chris and i most definitely needed to come back. but i digress.
upon my return to cagayan de oro, as we had some bits to buy from a shopping center called lim ket kai, which is close to the bus stop at which i alighted, i returned to the very same coffee works from whence i had written that last post to await chris, who was making his way from our place to meet me. it was a bit of a journey, so i had some time to kill, and was fiddling about on the computer, trying relatively hard not to stare at the family of americans – as in mom, dad, and three little boys – that were waiting for their breakfast in the same cafe. finally i just had to know who they were and what the heck they were doing in cdo, so i introduced myself with some forgettable joke or something like that. turned out that they were some really kind people from oregon who happened also to be evangelical missionaries running an orphanage in the province just south of us, bukidnon. they weren’t preachy or anything, and i was sincerely interested to learn about what they were doing, since a lot of the premise of their work was in line with some of what i have always envisioned: a place for kids that really encourages local adoption, that works closely with the local government unit to stay in their good graces, and – this is the kicker – that exists in a clean, rural community far enough from the city that going back to the street would be difficult at best for the kids (as they often revert, especially in the first couple of months, for a variety of reasons), but close enough that reuniting with family would be a quick and easy option if it became available. there’s other stuff, but i’m getting boring here.
so, i was really interested in all they had to say, and then chris got there, and we got to talking with them about kaamulan, which is a festival chris had recently read about in a blog that i won’t advertise here because i found it demeaning and negative and not particularly well written. at this point i would like to open the floor for a discussion about the following: what, precisely, is a tangent?
moving right along (did i say long-story-short up there somewhere? i did, didn’t i? shame on me)…this lovely couple invited us up to their place for the festival! turned out that they would be flying into cdo on friday the 4th of march – saturday’s sort of the big culmination parade of this tiny little THREE WEEK LONG festival – and offered to even pick us up on their way, which was pretty awesome. they also said they’d make sure we had a place to stay and we’d get to see the orphanage…so cool! so of course we agreed practically before they’d finished asking. we decided to come back from camiguin that morning (see chris’ post), pop by the house, and wait for their call. it more or less went like clockwork – we even had time for a shower before changing venues.
so up we went…the journey to bukidnon from cagayan de oro is more or less straight uphill, as cagayan de oro sits squarely at sea level, and bukidnon is in the mountains. it was dark, so our lovely host was leading the tour with lots of, “…and in the day time you can see a beautiful waterfall here…and this is where I would normally pull over so you could take pictures…of course, you can’t see anything right now…” We did get to glimpse these beautiful vistas on our way back, but our traditionally psychotic bus driver didn’t leave to much room for looky-loos…
we were dropped off at the home of an absolutely lovely couple who – i cannot stress this enough to those of you who know them – were practical replicas of my mom and keith in SO MANY WAYS. and not in some others, but when you miss your mom, you’re more inclined to see the likenesses than otherwise…thankfully mom does not wear fake eyelashes. and isn’t vehemently fundamentalist. but she is a god-fearing woman (will flinch when she sees that i spelled out the word in full and didn’t capitalize), and it was just an overwhelming mix of their home’s decor, the salad/bread&butter with dinner, the sneaking of the bread we raved about into our take-home left-over vegan-version-of-her-spaghetti sauce that she would never have wasted but would have been hard-pressed to eat herself…and he was so like keith – a company man, deeply devoted to his faith, and when she convinced him to buy a cowboy hat, well…that was almost too much!
as chris and i prepared to go to bed the first night, they warned that we might struggle to sleep, since they were only about 30 yards from the main road, where young people were up until past midnight practicing…on drums…lots of them…thankfully we were knackered and slept about as soon as our heads hit the pillow. next morning we had breakfast with some of the kids from the orphanage who’d come to town for the festival, and then made our way to the street. bukidnon is home to 7 tribes (this link is a little bit patronizing, but short and comprehensive) of indigenous people, including the bukidnons, matigsalugs, tigwahanons, taalandigs, higaunons, and manobos. the people of bukidnon pride themselves on years of peace between the different tribes calling the province home. kaamulan literally means “coming together” in binukid, which sort of drives that message home. so the parade was a succession of the various competitors, all in traditional dress. my memory’s not great, but i would venture to guess that there were roughly 50-150 dancers in each group, whose performances all included excellent traditional dances and dramatizations – usually of courtship or battle. my personal favorite was a powerful battle reenactment where one side was comprised of beautiful, young women brandishing nothing more than hankies, who totally kicked arse against their all-young-male opponents – who were, i might add, equipped more traditionally with swords! behind each group of street performers followed incredible, massive floats. bukidnon is known as the breadbasket of mindanao because of the rich agriculture in the region, so lots of the floats were covered in beautiful motifs made entirely of corn, or lettuce, or broccoli!
after the incredible parade, we made our way down to the main grounds, where the dancers, who had been up until 2 or three practicing, and who had then performed in a street parade that went on from about 8:00 am to 10:00 am, were now competing at the actual fairgrounds! chris and i couldn’t really get into that part as it was really full up, and anyway, we really wanted to have a walk around. so we made the circumference a couple of times before it started pouring…at that point we took refuge until it calmed a bit, then made our way to a little cafe for lunch…but not before i’d decided to get a tattoo, and not before chris had been interviewed by a local radio station!.
lunch was an incredible experience in itself…it was this really cute place just outside a pension house. we noticed pizza and decided that was the easiest bet for a vegan (cheeseless, of course). while we waited for our pizza we commented that this pension house was the same color as the one across the street from our place…strange – maybe all the pension houses in malaybalay are turquoise? then the owner passed by as he swept, and we got to talking. before we left he sat down and offered us a coffee on the house. he asked where we were staying, and when we told him he informed that the flat we were staying in was owned by his brother…we only later made the connection that this WAS the pension house across the street from our place – we were just on the other side (der!). i got a text from our initial host to ask if we wanted to come see the orphanage, and as i was (quite rudely) replying, i heard the owner say that we may have heard of his cousin in manila, who wrote the theme for kaamulan this year – sammy asuncion? sammy? ok…not often that i refer to musicians by first name, but i hung out with this guy! and with his band! spy were regular occupants of lemuria, which was one of our haunts when i was here in 98! in fact, both dante – the son of the owner of lemuria, and sammy are considered to be part of the OPM, or original pilipino music movement, and both have played for pinikpikan, one of the most famous OPM bands. ok – a lot of weird information, but the point was, sammy was his cousin! hehe…how weird is that? and he’s also got a newish song out that’s really beautiful called pass the word…enjoy that one.
anyhow, that was really the extent of our excitement in bukidnon…plus the end our our first “vacation,” which was really timely because i think we were both pretty exhausted…truth is, between all we’ve got going on, we don’t really take whole days off, so it adds up, even if we work from home…and i think it gave us both a bit of peace…after all, we didn’t just come here to work, did we? this is a beautiful country, and i hope we get to see more of it!