filmmaking, laundry therapy, music, musings, travel

lake sebu revisited

this is y’egas, a t’boli singer from lake sebu in south cotabato. i came across her in 2004 when i went up the area to work on a documentary (which unfortunately i didn’t finish).  the first time i met her at her home and asked her to sing for the documentary, y’egas started lamenting in song about the conditions of her people and fighting for ancestral domain land titles in a largely government protected area (watershed). i gave her a token of thanks (p500) for her help and left.  i later learned from my guide that she didnt like me recording her; she was saying i might exploit her and her people and all that jazz. i was oblivious because she sang in her native tongue and didnt speak a word of bisaya! i also found out my recording got corrupted (used minidv tapes and for some reason they were pixelated and “choppy”) so i had to go back and redo the footage. i braved asking her to sing again and thankfully this time she was more than helpful, smiled a lot more and sang of the beauty of lake sebu and hoped i bring with me only good memories of her and her land.  she even recounted the death of a beloved datu chieftain and sang about a local epic.  here is the video to that song.

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sorry, i have no way of translating this video.  took me a while to find this file, one of the few scenes i was able to digitally convert and keep 5 years ago, and upload on youtube.  has it been that long?  i have one more of y’egas dancing and her brother, ma’afil, playing the hegolung he made for me.  ill upload this vid at another time.  here are my blog entries on the trip around zamboanga and lake sebu in 2004:

cruising down the freeway in the hot hot sun
more on motorcycle diaries

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travel

more on motorcycle diaries

pictures of a picturesque journey

more images from my trip through mindanao last year between september to november. during that time i was able to visit san francisco, agusan del sur; surigao and siargao island, butuan city, davao city, general santos, marbel and surallah in south cotabato; lake sebu, south cotabato; zamboanga city and of course my home base cagayan de oro city.

fiesta girl
high school girl in full costume, street dance competition, zamboanga city.

yet again i was lucky to have been in zamboanga during their city fiesta (more popularly called fiesta pilar). that day i gemini and i met up with viejay, who brought with her an old friend, who is a photojournalist from the philippine star. he was cool about me tagging along while he takes pictures during the festivities. so come celebration, i was on the road too, snapping away and recording the street dance competition on video. had a blast, ive never gotten that close to taking photographs of strangers. quite an experience. the music from the drum and bugle corps still ring in my chest cavity 🙂

police barricade during the parade
police barricade during the parade, zamboanga city

everybody that day were in high spirits and the crowd were clamoring for pictures as well. here’s one unguarded moment from the men on guard hehehe

wakan weaver
yakan weaver, yakan village, zamboanga city

on my last day in zamboanga, the boat i was to take to general santos was delayed for hours (apparently somebody fell overboard in mid-sea, exciting, no?). so girlie saavedra and roland, my companion in the bookid, toured me around the city (on a tricycle–a three-wheeled motorcycle) for the last time. one of our stops was in the yakan village. i was able to buy a few souvenirs, including a bag whose weaver i met that day. this old lady was his grandmother i believe.

ancestral domain
marker of the ancestral domain in lake sebu

this you pass by when you go up the lake sebu. it marks the beginning of the area that is comprised of the CADC 003 and CADC 004, which were awarded to the t’boli and ubo tribes. despite the recognition, tenurial security remains a dream as issues and old skeletons continue to haunt these people. some of the their lands were forcibly taken from them. since the tribes people have no concept of securing land titles and canned goods, they have been deceived of friendship in exchange of land areas. migrants have populated most of the areas near the lake and the tribes people have evidently been pushed up the mountain. environmental concerns include the progressive encroachment into the watershed areas. moreover, concerns of the tribes not only include education on modern methods in land management but might need an overhaul of cultural traits and customs as well. if they lose that, then they wouldnt be so different from ourselves.

tilapia galore
grilled tilapia from the waters of lake sebu

during the fiesta in lake sebu, the city government organized a tilapia eat-all-you-can festival. tickets were sold at p100 and mygas, the tilapia! grilled, fried, boiled, stewed, drowned, you name it! it was the first time they did that and it’s something to look forward to every year.

gemini in siargao
gemini fernandez in cloud nine, siargao island.

to get around siargao, one still has to rent out a habal-habal (motorcycle). either that or you go around swimming. cloud nine is where you would find the biggest waves for surfing. and since we didnt know how to, we ended up just looking and taking pictures. siargao is a wonderful place, luv it!

siargao bridge
general luna, siargao island, surigao

gemini and i decided to take a short sidetrip to surigao from agusan en route to cagayan. it was an impromptu decision really. we arrived in surigao late in the evening and had to check in a lodging house prior to taking the first boat out to siargao the next day. we were also supposed to have stayed half a day only but the place was so inviting it was a shame to have traveled so many miles and not enjoy it. so we ended up renting a cottage and taking a few motorcycle trips around the place, swim in the blue waters and be in wonderful company and beer in the evening. and yes, they have internet on the island hehehe

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musings, travel

cruising down the freeway in the hot hot sun

a journey through latin america on a bike

watching walter salles’ the motorcycle diaries, i couldnt help but be reminded of my travels through mindanao between september to november of last year. and although my two-month something trip pales in comparison to che gueverra’s 8-month eye-opening medical mission, i also had my fair share of eccentric characters, majestic landscapes, life-changing moments and dusty roads on habal-habal.

yes, my very own motorcycle diaries. read all about it.

the cinematography of salles’ film is great, the film explores beautiful stretches of latin land, picturesque views of the countryside and a grim but real image of poverty, suffering, hope and yearning for a better world and a better life. the music is underscored beautifully. gael works wonders with his performance. one would think he was too handsome for his own good, but gael knows how to handle that and it never becomes a hindrance. i would love to see this film again, reminisce of my own past journeys, and dream of more travel through this country. a tourist in your own country i may no longer be.

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my motorcycle diaries

i was inspired by the film to share a few more pictures of my trip down south. i would definitely recommend going around the country. you will realize there is indeed so much beauty here than you could possibly imagine, and so much love and spirit among its inhabitants.

mang bering
manong bering at his house on km14 la paz zamboanga

mang bering has lived on the la paz mountain all his life. he boasts he knows every inch of the mountain and can even trek through it at night without a torchlight. whenever he’d take us out through the woods he’d normally make it difficult for us by not using the footpaths. luckily my companion roland and i were up to it. in the evenings we’d huddle near the hearth in the kitchen and tell tall tales of giant beasts and kapres who protect mang bering and his family while swigging straight tanduay. he’d laugh his heart out and talk to me in a mix of chavacano and ilonggo, and id confirm his statements with bisaya.

the trip up to la paz would take an hour and a half on habal-habal (a motorcycle) from the foot of the mountain all the way up 14 kilometers (hence the name of the station kilometer 14 hehehe how convenient, eh?) the road of course starts off cemented until you pass the 3rd kilometer then all hell breaks loose. to get to the watershed border of the la paz (this area is a buffer zone to the watershed) you have to continue up km26 still on habal-habal. the day we went up were escorted with armed men on convoy. i thought that was rather cool. didnt get a picture though, but i got it all on video.

lake sebu
lake sebu, late afternoon

lake sebu is a municipality in south cotabato, featuring three natural, freshwater (of course) mountain lakes, the biggest being lake sebu. to get to the center of the town we had to travel on motorcycle (habal-habal, the faster alternative to jeepneys) for about an hour from surallah (three hours ata from general santos). most people in this area go around in motorcycles, same as with la paz in zamboanga. it’s the most convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation. deadma, your lamborghini cant do shit on the mountain pare.

this shot was taken from the resort where i stayed for two weeks (on and off). the lake is majestic but the people who live in this ancestral domain is more worthy of attention. their plight to security and livelihood may be paralleled to many like them all over the country but nevertheless as important. talking to a lot of their leaders has opened my eyes to injustices in the world over.

fall-side lunch
robert, nelson and a kid guide

watershed falls at lake sebu south cotabato to get to this waterfalls at the tip of the lake sebu mountain in south cotabato, we had to walk through the rainforest. it took roughly around an hour to two hours depending on how fast you can crawl through mud and rock, under canopies of giant ferns and shrubs. if you were lucky enough you would avoid picking up leeches and other bloodsuckers.

the scene in this place is breathtaking, and yes, i almost died here. i slid down the rocky wall that i climbed up on (in my underwear, yeah we took a bath). it was only more than a meter but the experience was something else, my life indeed flashed before my eyes! what stopped me from going all the way down the length of the mountain was my (thankfully) rather long chin.

my companions on motorcycle through the rainforests and ricefields in lake sebu were robert and nelson. nelson is from agusan and is a forestry graduate. robert is from the area and is half-muslim, half-t’boli. despite his mixed heritage, i often told him he’d be the future of his people, having been enlightened by every thing good and bad about their culture. i hope he’ll indeed take his place in the world.

breastfeeding mother
mother from the ubo tribe nursing her child

we visited the house of an ubo datu and almost never came out alive! we were asked to wait near the house and because my friend didnt stop me from my actions, i went ahead taking pictures of the house and the residents. we were able to talk to the lady of the house and one of her daughters. suddenly this rag near me (suspended from the ceiling) started to shake. then water began streaming out from under the rag. what i originally thought was a bag of clothes turned out to be a baby cradle! the mother was amused that i was caught unaware. later she began nursing him and i silently took a picture before turning my attention to the grandmother who began chewing betel nuts.

perya scene
perya at the poblacion during the week-long fiesta in lake sebu

i was lucky to have visited lake sebu during the height of its municipal festival. in the evenings the poblacion (sentro) was in full swing with kiddie rides, videoke booths, and gambling tables. we’d normally take a stroll, eat at the carinderia that serves a healthy serving of grilled chicken and swap stories of personal histories, philosophies and theories on life and development of the native race over red horse. will the drinking never end? 🙂


y’egas, extraordinary t’boli artist

had a grand time listening to y’egas sing! the t’bolis normally tell tales and histories through song and i had the opportunity to hear y’egas recount the death of their datu chieftain, speak of the beauty of lake sebu, and detail a local epic by singing. and yes, she sang in her native tongue so i didnt understand a thing. but man, her eyes, they will render you helpless and mesmerized. she has cast her spell on you and you cant resist but do her every bidding.

y’egas and her family
y’egas (& the t’boli tribe) amused at seeing herself on video

here is an interesting scene of the tribes people up close with technology. although they are not ignorant to the sight of tourists with their cameras, it’s a different experience altogether when they get to hold it and see themselves on the camera. and here, y’egas was watching and listening to herself. everybody were highly amused.

ben in the mountains mode
picture taken during one of those foggy mornings in la paz zamboanga. me with my walking stick, my videocam, and a raincoat ready for a drizzle or a trip through the rainforest.

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