With a diet mostly composed of fresh vegetables and fruits, it did not come as a surprise that kids in Atok, Benguet are naturally gifted with rosy cheeks, smooth complexion, and healthy eyes. With a great hope, urban or Western diet shall not reach this part of the archipelago since it might alter the pureness of their beauty and health.
There was a particular girl around eight who piggy-backed her younger sister. She eyed the camera with repugnance. Perhaps she felt what we did―taking pictures of the community without their permission―is an act of intrusion. Indeed, it is. Perhaps she thought we act like highly knowledgeable about their place. One would not blame her if she did think such.
The evolution of mountain climbing is reversed. Instead of returning to the basics, it becomes a luxury sports designed to those who have the resources to travel and purchase gilt-edged gears.
We have completely overlooked that it is not about fancy gears rather it is about the appreciation of what we do not possess, of what we possessed, of what we will possess, of what we possess. It is the pleasure of friendship, of laughter, of talks, of nature, of thinking, of walking, of silence. It is an act where the self is entirely stripped of its selfness.
Calla lilies are pricey flowers, yet in the mountainous Benguet, they are simply wild. Flowers such as chrysanthemum, daisies, lilies adorn the mountains. With Halsema Highway as Death Road, perhaps it makes death more welcomed.
The farmer tending the vegetation pointed the right direction toward Mt. Timbak which is signaled with three crosses―a local version of the Calvary. We noticed the two tombs in one side of the farm―right next to a house. In some cultures―local and foreign alike―burying the dead near the living is practiced. Oliver Sacks, a noted anthropologist and neurologist, noticed such culture in Pingelap―a solitary atoll in the Pacific. It seems like an act of close kinship. Perhaps it is an act of loneliness and reassurance―the living cannot depart from the dear departed. It seems the validation of life comes from the departed.
It is better to hire a jeepney from Baguio, and please pick a driver seasoned by Halsema’s snaky personality like ours.
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