Friday, December 26, 2008

Street Children

I still wonder how many street children there are in Baguio. I don't know what the local government can do to help them or do they really want to be helped? During holidays specially Christmas and Holy weeks, their numbers increases. Not only the street kids, they even have their parents with them. They come here to take advantage of the generosity of the people during these holidays.

But they're not the ones I want to talk about for after the holiday they will be gone. I am more concerned about the street children that do live in our neighborhood. Some of them are trying their best to survive by selling bags, cigarettes or candies on the streets.

However, many of them have relied on stealing to survive. Police have reports that many of them are committing crimes from pickpocketing, snatching to prostitution. These things has become normal daily chores to them. Can the society still do something to help them?

The photo you see here is just one of the photos I took of them. In here, they rely on the cheapest drug available, probably to escape from reality or perhaps they just don't have anything better to do.

Looking at them I feel lucky that despite of difficulties, I still have a place I can call home and a family to turn to when hardship is in the offing. I don't know if there is still hope for these street children. I am not one of the privileged so what I could give them is be just enough to feed one for just one meal once in a while. These kids had been surviving like this always depending on the little extras people can give them. But I believe that's not what they really need.

I believe what they need is a place they can call home, a decent job and someone to guide them. And who can possible provide that? I thought at first that it should be the government as part of the services they should be doing for the taxes we pay, now I don't really know if they even care.

I've seen many non-government agencies helping many of them but there seem to be no end of them. When will these problems be solved?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hans Adversity and the People He Touched

Born April 5, 1998
Died December 4, 2008

The first thing I remember of my nephew Hans Sebio, then only son of young couple Steve and Maggie, was when I was invited to attend a concert for a cause for his medical treatment. His father is a cousin and was a bassist in a band at that time. The young Sebio was diagnosed with a life threatening heart defect. Doctors diagnosed Han’s condition as “double outlet right ventricle – Taussig Bing variety with a large ventricular septal defect, right ventricular enlargement coaretation of the aorta, pulmonary artery hypertension; congestive heart failure, secondary to the above structural heart defect.”

With the rising bill for his medications, the young couple sought out good Samaritans through concerts for Hans and through the net. However, with all of their efforts they couldn’t even pay half the price of Han’s operation. They prayed for a miracle.

A miracle did happen when a New York based foundation wanted to sponsor Han’s medical treatment. Gloria Weichand, the founder and president of the Gloria’s Place of Hope asked the couple to bring the baby to New York. On September 16, 2000, Maggie and Hans flew to the big Apple and the baby was immediately brought to NYU Medical Center upon arrival at the airport.

Unable to afford a decent accommodation, Maggie and Hans stayed at the Ronald Macdonald House, a $20 dollar per night accommodation supposedly for cancer patients. When Weichand explained their predicament, the mother and child were accepted in the facility. New York became the home of Hans for the next four years.

After four years and three operations, Hans was strong enough to go back to his home. He started attending elementary school. For several years, he seems to be doing fine. He also had a younger brother Keefe to play with.

On September this year, he had cardiac arrest. The whole family decided to join Hans back to the U.S. This time the sponsor to Han’s operation was the Gift of Life International and the Verrazano Club of New York. On October 13, Maggie and Hans went to New York, while Steve and Keefe proceeded to San Francisco to stay in Vallejo with Modesto "Estoy" Aglit (a friend of Maggie and Steve).

The Foundation's representatives made sure the basic needs of Maggie and Hans were met and they were comfortable. After his checkups and lab tests, Hans' open heart surgery was scheduled on the 22nd of October. Everyone was expecting a recovery when Hans seems to be doing well. This would have been Hans' 4th open heart surgery. The whole family was supposed to stay in the U.S. until Hans has fully recovered. Their family friend Gloria Batalao was supposed to host Maggie and Hans while recovering. Gloria Batalao is also maintaining Han’s blog that she and Maggie created.

Few days before the scheduled surgery, the doctors requested a conference with both parents so Steve and Keefe left San Francisco for New York. They met with the Doctors who explained to them that Hans is too weak and his heart cannot hold another heart surgery and the only option left is a heart transplant. Han’s had to wait for a possible donor.

A few days passed and Hans suffered few more attacks. This time his fragile condition couldn’t take more punishment. No matter how he wants to hold on he succumbed to his disease last December 4 in the arms of his loving family.

In the next couple of days, many people came forward to assist. The medical staff at NYU, the compassionate Ronald McDonald House and the good people at the Verrazano Rotary Club who played a key role in his care. Members of the Verrazano Rotary (Coney Island, Brooklyn) and the Gift of Life office made the necessary arrangements to help the Sebio family bring Hans back to his home town. The staff at Ronald McDonald arranged for a memorial service and provided counseling. Even the cancer patients in the house who were fighting for their lives came to the service to bid goodbye to their friend in adversity. All good people who helped this family at such a critical time.

On the 17th of December, Hans was buried in his hometown by his loving family, relatives and friends. Reading all of the articles and bloggs written about Hans, the Gift of Life child whose few years of life taught us so many things.

Hans death is not the end of his chapter, many more chapters will be written because of him. All of the people he touched have more resolve to help the people in need. I was only able to help with that one ticket I bought for his concert and I wish I have done more. I hope I can do more next time another Hans comes knocking for help. I’m thankful that there are many people out there who have shared more than their extras. And for those who did services above self for Hans, whose ways of life are to help others, may God bless all of your efforts. Although results sometimes are not what you aspire, the hopes you bring make a big difference not only to the people you’re serving but also to the ones touched by your selfless acts.

And from Steve and Maggie here’s what they said, “To all our friends and relatives from all over who sent cash donations, messages of encouragement, and to all who prayed for Hans and our family, Thank you very much! May God continue to guide and bless you!”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Skyworld #1

Another shot of Baguio sunset while waiting for the supposed pizza party from Greenwich that did not happen. So we just shoot around.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Legacy Worth Remembering

Carl Cariño Taawan

Igorot, a name that has many faces. Their unique traits are different from those who have lost their culture and customs to the western world. People who are uninformed of their history branded them as ignorant and backwards and the name Igorot became a derogatory term for stupid people. Even some of those who are related to the name have changed it into something else. Many shunned using it to avoid the mockery.

One brave young man came out to join a talent search that will be scrutinized by millions and boldly put in his Igorot lineage. Although Marky Cielo is half Igorot and has spent years away from the Cordilleras, he courageously used the already humiliated term and faced the challenge the world will throw at him. True enough, using the name of his origin gave him the expected ridicule and the famous remark, “he should be eliminated because he’s an Igorot” came out. He stayed to the end of the competition not only to win but to educate these uninformed people of his unique origins.

His forefathers fought for freedom and independence against a European race that wants to enslave them. And while the rest of the country had been colonized, the Igorots fought losing many lives but they never lost their independence. They also defied the American colonizers when they hide the Filipino revolutionary leader in their midst. And when their existence was once again threatened by the waves of hardened armies of Samurai descents, they united and prevailed that even the great country of America was awed by their courage. They fought for their freedom and cultures and they were able to preserve it that up to the present these people still have their own unique culture and identity. Yet only a handful remained who admired them for the courage they’ve shown.

These are the people Marky represented. He may have fought in a different battlefield our forefathers faced but with the similar goal. In the end he taught not only the uninformed but also us, his kinsmen. He brought us back what many have taken for granted, the courage to fight for our unique culture and identity and the power to unite as one to defeat all the odds. We united to back him up and he won.

But what he won is not just a place in the world of showbiz. He won for all of us a place in the limelight of the real identity of the Igorots. He inspired us to keep fighting and keep teaching the world of what we really are. This is his legacy. His memory will remain not only to his fellow Igorots but to all of the people who saw and heard of this young man’s talents and courage both on and off the camera.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Adivay 2008: Depap

When the son of Kabunian, Lumawig, was on the right age to marry, he has chosen a bride from the mountainous region of the Cordilleras. When the wedding was due, Lumawig carried logs of pine to the house of the bride but there weren’t enough food for the well wishers to partake. And so he called out to all the animals and the forest. The deer came running out but they weren’t good enough for Lumawig. He called once again to the animals and this time, pigs came running out of the forest. Lumawig called out to the men to catch the animals to be cooked for the wedding. All men ran after the pigs and started catching each one of them.

From such legend came the Benguet tradition “Depap” or “Chepap” when the men catch animals, usually pigs, to be butchered for a Caňao. On the 22nd of November, this tradition came to life during the Adivay celebration.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Young Rider

Five years old Jana May Ampal shows her riding skills during the Dongba ni Kabajo (horse race). This activity is part of the ongoing Adivay Festival in La Trinidad, Benguet.

The Oldest Caballero

He's 83 years old and still riding. Esteban Esco Sr. won this exhibition show during the "Dongba ni Kabajo" (horse racing) which was part of the ongoing Adivay Festival in Wangal, La Trinidad.

Session rd at night

I like this shot better. Wala yong mga ghosts. Parang napakatahimik ng Baguio. Parang ghost town. Ngek. Mali ata he he.

One of my September to remember shots taken last September 21.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baguio Cathedral Night Shot

Taken from Pines View Hotel, master Noli's Suite. Not as good as his S5's quality shots. This is canon's sensor.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Lonely End

Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;
Many times he died,
Many times rose again.
A great man in his pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon
Suppression of breath;
He knows death to the bone
Man has created death.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Kibungan: Where Monkeys Roamed

Deep gorges separating and isolating many sitios and barangays, rocky cliffs formed as human faces, and pine covered mountains that is said to resemble those of Switzerland. A place named after a primate.

In the mountains of Kibungan dwelt monkeys that are believed to have vanished because of the degradation of the forests and hunted for food. These monkeys were bigger than their common families found in the area today. The Americans named this municipality after these primates. They were called by the locals “Kibengan”.

One of the people who saw the said monkeys was Bernabe Wance. “It was probably in 1932 that they still roamed these mountains, “he said. “As the population grows, the monkeys were hunted for food. The monkeys eventually run away or have been wiped out.”

Increase of population in Kibunga escalated when the logging and mining industry expanded in the area. Bigger communities like those from Sagpat and Lobo were formed during the gold mines that closed down sometime in the 80s.

Today Kibungan is subdivided into 7 Barangays. Badeo, Lubo, Madaymen, Palina, Poblacion and Sagpat. The language in this municipality is mainly Kankanaey. It is located within a cool highland mountainous zone with elevations at more than 2500 meters above sea level. During its coolest months of December - January, Barangay Madaymen experiences chilling temperature of 0 degrees Celsius causing the famous Frost of Madaymen.

The municipality has many sites to offer but many can be reached only through hiking. Here are some of them.

Les-eng Rice Terraces
These magnificent terraces can be reached after 6-hour hike through lush pine forests in Barangay Tacadang.
Mayos River
Located at the northeastern part of Barangay Poblacion. It is approximately 2.5 kilometers in length and is about 3 kilometers awayfrom Poblacion Proper. The river originates from ridges of nearby Barangays Madaymen, Palina and Tacadang and supplies water to rice paddies and vegetable farms along the vicinity.
Palina Rice Terraces
In Barangay Palina at the foot of Mt. Kilkili believed to be a former volcano because of its conical shape. Constructed following a century-old system of rice terraces built with stone walls and neatly arranged one after the other. The rice terraces are at their best in December and June when the rice paddies turn golden yellow, near harvest time. The Palina rice terraces is known as the municipality’s rice granary.

By: Carl Taawan

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Old Agricultural Calendar and Practices of the Sadanga

The old agricultural cycle in the Mountain Province particularly in the Municipality of Sadanga starts and ends after the planting season called Chinamey. Tak-chang, which actually means getting out of the field, signifies that the last season of the agricultural calendar which is the rice-planting is done. After the Takchang every household will have the Ap-apoy, a thanksgiving for having hurdled the planting season, the most difficult season of farming. During the Ap-apoy, each household will sacrifice a chicken to the spirits in their respective fields to bless their plants. After the Ap-apoy comes the Gup-khupo, a family gathering in their respective homes.

After the Gup-khupo, the elders will declare a Te-er. Te-er is a rest day after or before a grueling activity, signifying a pause, an end, or indicating the significance of the season. The Bontoc term Tengao is more popular to most. This may last for either one or three days; but always, this is a rest day or non-working holiday for the whole community. One who insists in working during Te-er is not given double compensation but is dished out a penalty.

In some cases, the elders may hold the Fvegnash after the Gup-khupo, the most festive of all the Te-er. Fvegnash is like the Gup-khupo of the whole community. The community will gather together in their Ator and have a community-wide celebration and thanksgiving with lots of dancing, beating of gongs, singing and imbibing fvayash and tapuey. Back when there were no Christmas, Hero’s days and Holy weeks, Te-er was the community’s holiday

The Sherdang follows the planting season. Sherdang is the time when the fields are turning golden brown as the rice ripens and harvest is in the offing. In some cases, Fvegnash/Begnas does not happen after Takchang but during the Sherdang. This is also a reason for a thanksgiving for the awaited harvest and also a time to sacrifice to the spirits for a bountiful harvest.

Before the harvest, the community elders declare a Te-er for Kagkaat, a one-day none working holiday. Non-working, in a sense that they are not allowed to work in their fields to harvest their rice fields. However, they’re allowed to weed out their pathways in preparation of the Harvest. Kagkaat actually means to weed out.

During Te-er, elders would police around the community to inspect who went to work that day. This is called “inlapat”. If one person in the community is chanced upon working by other members, uproar of screams will ensue and the guilty party will feel the pressure of the community. The guilty will be penalized either with a boar or other agricultural products.

Next comes the harvest season or Ani. After the Ani, the rice grains are dried then kept in their granaries called Agamang. Another Te-er is declared after the harvest.

Keshep is the second cycle in the agricultural calendar. The next timetable is to cultivate the fields for other plants like camote and other vegetables. With this system, the earth is recycled for the next season of Chinamey.

In the colder days comes the Shaknit. This is the time for them to gather sugar canes and extract their juices to make fvayash, their local beverage. The fvayash will mature in time for the next Fvegnash.

After the camote and other vegetables are harvested from the fields, the soil will be prepared for another rice planting season. Another Te-er is declared. This Te-er before planting is the strictest of all. No visitors are allowed to come to the village and no villager in the community is allowed to work. Signs will be posted in all entrances of the community. Once an outsider enters, he will be penalized. After the Te-er, the next planting or the Chinamey ensues. After the Chinamey, another agricultural cycle begins.

The system help establish unity among the people in the community. At the same time, it protects them and their agriculture from pests. If one does not adhere to the system, he will not only suffer the pressure of the community but his crops will also suffer from pests. In the old belief, this is a punishment from the spirits for his uncooperativeness. But the system has a different explanation in today’s scientific studies. Field rats live in a colony. When there are enough foods they multiply. When there’s scarcity of food, their numbers would decrease.

When the plants start to bear fruit, the rats’ populations also starts to increase. However, since the vastness of the field has been planted, no matter how fast the rats multiply their presence are barely felt by the farmers. And before their number increase to become uncontrollable plague, the rice fields are already ripe for harvesting. The goods are kept in the rice barns that are inaccessible to the pests. If someone did not follow the calendar and planted earlier or later than the rest, the bulk of the pest will feast on his field during the time it is the only one yielding fruit.

Their Panyao (taboo) beliefs also helped in the system. It served as a protector when the elders are not there to watch over them.

The system has helped protect the environment for as long as their history can tell. They have developed an excellent symbiosis with nature. No one would go hungry since everyone has his own field to till and animals to raise. Their treasures are the abundance of food, land to till and animals.

This was what the conquerors saw when they arrived in these mountains, yet they branded them as ignorant. They introduce accumulation of monetary exchange as the real treasure. With their mind set changed, the people of the mountains began to abuse their lands to produce more. Their important inheritances found their ways in the halls of the affluent as decorations. They would try different systems like fast growing seedlings so that they could convert more rice to the much coveted symbol of wealth. The use of chemical fertilizers was introduced and it slowly affected the land. In many places, rice can no longer grow without the use of these chemicals. The old agricultural cycle has changed in many places. Some have abandoned their fields to find a better way to earn. Farm workers decreases while other ventures increases. With less farmers, shortages of food is in the offing. Such is just one prize of the introduction of the so-called civilization.

But many places like Sadanga still adhere closely to the old system and they are proven to be effective agricultural practice that will still work in the centuries to come. These people may not have enough money in the banks but they will never run out of daily necessities for their main treasures will always be what sustained their ancestors in the past, their farmlands.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

War Dance

What I am going to talk about here is not the war dance of our Igorot tribes but a documentary film I recently watched, a movie about the Acholi tribes of Northern Uganda. It’s about the lives of the people in a war zone torn by unending wars between the rebels and the Government. I wanted to watch the film to learn better documentation coz it has won several awards and was even nominated for Oscar. I learned more than just documentation here.

I was supposed to title this entry “The God Forsaken Land” but I don’t believe God would abandon those people even though that’s what some people think of them. Listening to the children’s stories would make your tears fall. In this place, common people are killed by rebels for no reason at all. They would hack them mercilessly and force their families to bury them. In some cases, body parts were just scattered and families have to locate the corpses’ heads to identify their kin. Raping of women are common stories. Old enough boys are forced to join the army of rebels. For the rebels, the more children they abduct for their army, the higher their ranks will be. These children are ordered to kill or be killed. There are about 200,000 children orphaned by the war.

But despite of this cruelty the Acholi people have kept their love for music. Playing their songs and dances can make them forget even just for a while the cruelty and make them feel as if everything is just how it used to be. In 2005, in the farthest and most vulnerable government protected school in a camp in Patongo emerged a group of Acholi orphans who aspire to present their musical talents in a National Musical and Choral competition. First time to attend such a big competition, the group traveled for two days on rugged terrains under armed escorts to the capital City of Kampala. To many of them, just going to Kampala is a big enough dream. Coming from the north, they were insulted by other competitors as people from the bush, rebels and murderers. Most of the other competitors believed the first time contestants will finish last. The inferiority feelings made it hard for them to compete.

Yet where most of the news are killings and fighting, the whole City is excited to watch what these people from the north are to present. People are keen to observe every time they’re onstage. In the end, they have exceeded everyone’s and perhaps even their own expectations. They have proven that they’re more than just children of war. They are musicians. Although they don’t have the freedom and resources like everyone else, they brought home the trophy for their country’s traditional dance called Bwola. The very first time the Acholi tribe brought home such a trophy in a National competition.

This event inspired many of them that despite of growing in a cruel environment, they can still do great things. This group did not just win for Patongo, they won for the entire Acholi tribe and the people who live like they do. Like what one of the teachers in the documentary said, the war has taken their parents, brothers, sisters and relatives and left them a lot of scars. But that’s not where their story ends; they still have the chance to become the best.

This story has also won my heart. It’s more than just an excellent documentary where I learned a lot. It’s an inspiration.

If you want to help the people of Patongo or other people like them, visit

Monday, July 7, 2008

Look Both Ways

As kids we were always receive an advice to look both ways before crossing the road. This advice will keep us from accidents even now that we're adults.

But that advice does not pertain only to crossing roads. There are other avenues that we have to look both ways before crossing. These avenues could be situations most particularly criticisms. Often we speak hurtful words against somebody that we would later regret. If we followed that advice, it would have saved us the trouble of hurting someone and hurting ourselves in the process.

If we keep this advice in mind always, I'm sure it will save us in many troubles. And looking both ways sometimes has humor. This was a story I heard years ago and it always brings a smile to my lips every time I recall it.

There was an event in one organization where they invited a guest speaker. It was in the lowlands and the weather was hot but they have no air conditioner, just an electric fan. The Guest speaker was sweating all over. One attendant saw this and went to increase the power of the fan. Another attendant saw this and discreetly he went to switch off the fan. When the first attendant noticed the turned off fan, he went again to switch it on in full power and kept watch on who's switching the power off.

When he saw the other attendant switched it off anew, he angrily confronted him. The second attendant explained that he switched it off for a reason. The Guest speaker is bald and sensitive about it and he was wearing a wig. His blown wig would be more embarrassing than his sweating.

In some instances, not looking both ways might hurt us more than the ones we criticized. Sometimes it will be too late to repair our undoing.

There was this one congregation visited by a traveling minister with his wife. A long week activity was scheduled for their visit. They would visit every member for encouragement. They would also go around for community work. Everyday, the visiting minister would be there leading them, even to the far-flung part of the community. But the wife is nowhere to be found. She was scheduled partners and groups to lead but she did not joined in the community services so the group had to be given a new leader.

On their last day, the Congregation prepared a feast for the minister. There came the wife. And so the congregation started a gossip about her saying she wants to be in a party but not in the community work. She's only concerned about the feast and that's the only reason she was there.

Their whining reached the minister's wife but she said nothing for it was how it happened. So they left the place, and she was deeply saddened for instead of building them up, she became their stumbling block.

After a few weeks, the Minister’s wife died. It was a shock to the Congregation when they found out. So inquiries were posed. It turned out that she was sick during their visit and that’s the reason why she wasn’t able to join them in their grueling community work.

Still some commented on the reason she was on the last day party. The thought of going to a party gave her the strength but not the community work. If she can come to a party, she can join the other lighter activities as well. She showed up doesn’t looking sick.

The answer came too late to them for the minister was the one who was hurt the most when their comments reached his ears. His wife knew that she won’t last any longer so even though she was in great pain, she did her best to see the congregation for the last time. And she tried her best to look ok so that she won’t concern them on anything. As good as her intention to be with them for the last time was as bad as their regrets when they look at her in the coffin with their bleeding hearts. They may cry all their hearts out but the damages are done and too late to be repaired. The price of not looking both ways before criticizing.

If only we always have the patience to wait to see the other side of the coin before we open our mouths. What a beautiful world that would be.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cultural Retreat

Returning home feeling sick after an extended coverage in the Mountain Province. Exhaustion, having to get up early and sleep late, the heat, and eating mostly meat. But in those mountains you get a lot of time for yourself. No cell phone signal, no internet, and no noisy traffic. Just friendly people still following the old Agricultural Calendar. That's why Sadanga was dubbed as "a living museum".

Not much photos, mostly video is what I got coz the LGU and NCCA wanted a video documentary of their Fvegnas. The rest of the Media people weren't able to come so my coverage would be what a one man team can get. Not a complete angle and just using a power shot for the video but I guess I got the most important parts and the result came out ok. The video tittle, Fvegnash 2008, a Sadanga show of undying legacy will be out next week. It showcases their different customs they presented during the event.  Karareng (nose flute), Ullalim, Uggayam,  Tinaroyod, Darngek/Ayegkha and other cultural presentations.

Watching them perform revives an old passion I gave up years ago. To create a documentation of our dying cultures before they are completely forgotten, while there are still people practicing our customs.

I started a book on “Igorot Mythology” six years ago after I read the Aenid of Virgil and the Greek Mythology. I believed there was a way our story can be told also in such a manner by collecting all the myths and legends throughout the Cordilleras. And true enough, each place has a story to tell that are consistent to other tribes. All what’s left is to stitch them together and correlate each story to find out what we Igorots really believed in in the olden days. 

Studying our mythology and our diverse customs will help us understand what we are as people. And if you try to live in those places, if you look hard, you will find out that we were not as ignorant as the first travelers and conquerors labeled us to be. In the urban areas, we are adopting the segregation of garbage that our ancestors had been doing for centuries. And that’s just one of their systems that are very orderly. The most important of those is when they follow their stablished agricultural calendar that blends well with nature.

Coming up soon in my blog will be the Agricultural Calendar cycle of the Mountain Provinces and the difference in every municipality.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Intensive Graphic Training

Just finished a short intensive graphic training with macromedia flash to enhance my creativity. It was overwhelming what the software can do. A movie was designed using just that software and no actor was paid. The creators did all the voices. I sort of passed the first phase with flying colors coz it dealt more with vector designs and bitmap editing. Been doing those for years with Corel Draw and Photoshop.

The second phase of the training was how to manipulate the vector designs to animate. On this part I was awed. Gone are the old ways to create cartoon characters where you have to draw all the different moves. In those days, you need to draw 12 photos per second of the character's actions. The drawings between one action to the next are called inbetweens. With macromedia flash, the software will take care of those inbetweens. The third phase of the training was how to link these many animated objects to create one beautiful presentation you can integrate to a website or converted to a movie presentation.

Thought I would be facing the computer and be on my way designing big projects after the training. Turned out it's going to be the opposite. It wasn't that easy. The more I learned about it, the more I realized how big the things I couldn't do. It's telling me to concentrate or specialize on a few things. Knowing it all will get me nowhere.

I can now use several design software like Corel draw for vector designs, photoshop for photo manipulations, Adobe premiere and sony vegas for video editing, dreamweaver for web design, and macromedia flash for animation. I've been doing photography, videography, photojournalism, and most of the time graphic design. The knowledge I gained from the training is sure to help me in those fields. Yet I can't be doing all of these things and be an expert to all.

Photojournalism is obviously one of the things I should only do as a hobby but I want to keep it as part of my identity. I may never earn much from it but it can help me earn byline credits. It would be easier to market myself. Someday I may also need to give up videography. Video editing takes much time which is the same with my other passion, animation. Photography goes with graphic designs so I'll be keeping that. I'm now changing the design of my calling card from photo/video coverage & graphic design to photojournalism, web-developing & animation.

With my new outfit, I will still be accepting photo coverages but will be concentrating more with graphics and web developing. I can also create visual presentation in flash or convert it to a movie presentation (obviously I can't entirely give up video editing but the effects will be done with flash from now on, not with premiere and after effects). 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Kankanaey Town of Buguias

Long time ago there was a hunter from Kiangan named Lamia-en who frequently travel to faraway places in pursuit of a game. During one of his hunting trips, he reached the village of Tinoc or Tinec. There he met a woman named Dacal-le. He courted her and not long after, they agreed to get married.

They were married in Buguias near the hot spring in the area. On the eve of the wedding, pigs and cows were butchered. At night, worms rapidly spread on all the meat to the consternation of the gathered well-wishers. In the morning however, the worms transformed into beautiful butterflies and filled the vicinity with different colors dancing to the songs of various birds in the nearby flower fields and woodlands. The elders quickly interpreted this as a good omen for the new couple and that they will receive countless blessings. The couple became the ancestors of the peoples of Buguias. Most people in the municipality can trace their lineage to Lamia-en.

At the dawn of the century during the American regime, Buguias was a thickly forested area. Logging was the primary activity in the municipality up until the time of then President Ferdinand Marcos. This explains how communities came about in the highest places like Natubleng, one primary location of the many sawmills in Buguias. After most of the trees were felled, however, the workers started to look for other means of livelihood. Thence, they began farming and planted vegetable seedlings brought by the Chinese and Americans. Due to the government’s neglect to reforest, the trees slowly vanished until there was no more forest to speak of. The municipality then slowly and surely transformed itself into a farming town.

Although the dominant dialect or language in Buguias is Kankanaey, the original language of their ancestors can be traced to Kalanguya, similar to Nabaloi or Ibaloi language. Interactions and intermarriages with the neighboring towns of Kibungan, Bakun and Mankayan who are likewise Kankanaeys, their dominant language slowly saw transformation. Kalanguya, nevertheless, is still spoken in the boundaries of the municipality close to the province of Ifugao. Today, many speak two languages, the Kankanaey and Iloko. In their interactions with vegetable merchants, they have learned to understand and speak Tagalog or Pilipino. There are countless Elementary Schools and few High schools scattered in the municipality. But eventually after high school, most of the students go to the City of Baguio to pursue their college education.

Up to the present, the main livelihood in the municipality is vegetable farming. In higher altitudes, like Natubleng and Sinipsip, climates are much colder that plants grow slower than in the warmer places like Central Buguias. It was noted however that vegetable that matures longer tastes better. The municipality has always been famous with their beautiful vegetable terraces especially when most fields turn vegetable green. With the introduction of different and imported plant seedlings and insecticides, however, more resistant pests have invaded the municipality destroying millions of crops every year consequently forcing many farmers to look for alternative livelihood.

Going to Buguias today, one would notice but a few trees in some areas, far in between. Most if not all available areas had been terraced and tilled as vegetable farms. There are probably no more wild animals to be hunted in the remaining wooded areas where Lamia-en and the legendary Apo Anno used to hunt. Incidentally, Buguias is also a tributary of the major Agno River that supplies three hydroelectric dams. One of which is Ambuklao Dam, whose efficiency and performance have dismally deteriorated due to heavy siltation through the years. If the state of the Agno River and the its surrounding environs remain unchanged, soon the other dams downstream, Binga and San Roque, will likewise meet the fate of Ambuklao.

Having grown up in Buguias, this writer, an eighth generation offspring of Lamia-en, has seen the last of the few remaining Benguet pine trees on many of the land tracts before they have been transformed into vegetable gardens that we now see. Unless the descendants of the great hunter Lamia-en start to maintain check-and-balance between nature and their way of life, we may never again experience the once exceptional state of Buguias; times when weddings, festivals and town gatherings are embellished with native flowers and flamboyant butterflies dancing to the sounds of vibrant birds ever abundant in the forests nearby.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Igorots: The Wild Men of the Cordilleras

For more than 300 years the Spaniards and Americans fought the people of the Cordilleras called Igorots. They were called savages and uncivilized or ignorant by these invaders. These colonizers wanted to eradicate these people’s customs and traditions and enforce their western cultures and religions. The savages fought back. They wanted their cultures intact.

For centuries they flourished in these mountains as farmers and hunters. Although they have occasional quarrels with their neighboring tribes, they were protected by their common law called “budong” (peace pacts). They lived in harmony with nature. For years they never exploited their natural resources to extinction. They cut only the trees they need for building houses and hunt only the animals they need for food. Their way of exchanging goods were mostly through gold or their local commodities (e.g. exchange rice for g-strings or animals).

The Budong

Peace pacts in those days are significant protection for the people. Once a quarrel against another tribe arises, they would bring it to their elders or peace pact holder. These tribal leaders are regarded much respect. The elders would commune with the peace pact holder of the conflicting tribe. They would be the one to decide whether there will be war or the conflict will be settled amicably. Often time the instigator of the quarrel pays for his action with goods such as domestic animals. Apparently weaker tribes always go for peaceful settlements.

Head hunting expeditions which happens when peace pact holders severe the peace pact against a rival tribe does not always occur. In contradiction to what other people thought, war is also upsetting to them because it takes too many resources and the lives of their warriors. But they don’t hold back once they were ordered to go to war. They only kill their enemy’s warriors. Rarely would they include women and children.

Living in Harmony with Nature

The Igorot people never lack the basic necessities in life. Rice, meat, clothing and shelter. Each household has a rice field to teal. Every community work hand in hand to plow and plant their fields. They know the timetable of the rain to water their plants. If one does not follow the crowd, his plant suffers the consequences. The bulk of pests would invade his plants.

This maybe is a myth in the mountains as a punishment of Kabunyan to the one who does not follow his laws, but it has an explanation in today’s scientific studies. Field rats live in a colony. When there are enough foods they multiply. When there’s scarcity of food, their numbers would decrease.

When the plants start to bear fruit, the rats’ populations also starts to increase. However, since the vastness of the field has been planted, no matter how fast the rats multiply their presence are barely felt by the farmers. And before their number increase to become uncontrollable pests, the rice fields are already ripe for harvesting. The goods are kept in the rice barns that are inaccessible to the pests. If someone did not follow the multitude and planted earlier or later than the rest, the bulk of the pest will feast on his field during the time it’s the only one yielding fruit.

The poor people in a community also do not have to beg to live. They work in the fields and would be paid rice for their wages. They would supplement these with edible fruits and vegetables from their forests and kaingins or swidden (slash and burn) farms. They also hunt wild pigs in the forests including the field rats for their meats supplies.

The forests thrive with wild animals and plants. The people only cut the trees for their basic necessities like firewood and for building huts and rice barns. Their forests are sacred for they believed that it is the source of their water and other important necessities and also the home of spirits. They fear of punishment from their ancestors or the anitos if they exploit these sacred places. Their beliefs are instrumental in the balance of nature.

The Western Influence

For centuries, the most important treasures for the Igorots are their animals and fields. The rich have more carabaos, cows and pigs. The poorer usually have their pigs and chickens. When the colonizers introduced the power of money, the usual practices are no longer important. Exchange of goods has also changed. People would accumulate more money than animals and land.

The west has also introduced logging. With the opportunity to earn money, people discarded their beliefs and joined in the exploitation of the forests. The industry has destroyed more forest products in just the first two decades of the American time than what the Igorots have used up in centuries.

The same influence has caused many to abandon their fields and find other money-making ventures somewhere. They sold their fields and animals and joined the vast number of people migrating to the cities. Many went to work in mine companies.

With the influence of rampant violence and the lack of respect to the elders introduced by the western world, the original essence of Budong is slowly deteriorating. Peace pact holders are often times not consulted and vengeance are exacted without the usual budong consultations.

Crimes in the past days pertain only to stealing and killing. They don’t rape and disrespect their women. They follow the courtship law. Men and women used to bath in the rivers together naked and without malice. The vile acts were introduced by the colonizers who pillaged their lands, burned their huts and fields and raped their women.

And these savages are the people who brought us the so called Christian Religions. Religions that are laden with the old pagan traditions of Rome (e.g. celebration of Christmas day on December 25 which was actually celebrated in Rome as the birthday of Saturn; existence of Purgatory that is not found in the Bible but actually part of the Greek and Roman Mythology, etc. etc.)

We were called uncivilized and savages then. But I do believe that even when we didn't have guns and machines we are more civilized in our ways that those who came to conquer us. When they came to influence us, our natural resources we fought so hard to keep were wasted to corruption. (Here one ironic example: When the Japanese came, we fought hard not to lose what's left of our resources to them. After the war, 90 percent of our forest products went to the rehabilitation of Japan. Our fathers fought hard for it only to be given by our western influenced corrupt leaders to the very people we're keeping it away from. And these leaders are the country’s richest today.)

Are we to blame the Western World for the influence and changes in our cultural upbringing? To me it’s yes and no. Yes because they did bring us a lot of influence to abandon our beliefs that enforce respect to nature and to our elders. No because what’s happening is global. Change will come to us one way or the other.

This is just yet another battle for the Igorots to fight. To learn from the old beliefs and traditions, learn its scientific benefits and incorporate it to the new generations’ teachings. It’s a fight to bring balance to the old and new traditions and to the people and environment.

It is another fight to be able to maintain our unique identity while able to compete worldwide in every aspect of undertakings. Being knowledgeable in our culture, history and its scientific significant at the same time expert in the ways of the western world can give us edge over the rest of the competitors.

(Note: This article is a result of one person’s research and does not represent the opinion of the whole Igorot tribes.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Angels of Naswak

By: Carl Carino Taawan
(Published by Star Eye, Zigzag and Cordillera Today)

Vanessa Maturana, a 26-year old accountant was one of the winners for this year's Lucky Summer Visitors or LSV in Baguio. LSV is a major annual event of the Baguio Broadcasters and Correspondents Club where lucky winners are given a 4 day red carpet treatment to the most interesting places in and around the City.

However, Vanessa decided to forego the offer for her philanthropic work in the remote place in Bokod called Naswak. Vanessa is part of a group of mountaineers called KIKKM Inc. They were on a mission to build a dormitory for young students in that remote Barangay.

The mountaineers adopted the said community in 2003 and had been conducting several projects like medical missions, relief operations, providing school supplies and learning materials, and emersion to the community for cultural awareness. The dormitory is one of their projects to address the problems of the school children in that community.

Elementary students as young as 7 have to trek the mountainous and dangerous paths for hours to get to school. With the hardship of the travel, many of the students can't regularly attend their classes. Some eventually stopped and just helped their parents at home. Many had to wait till they’re old enough to travel before they can back to school.

Project Coordinator Joffrey Geroso said,”The dormitory will serve as their temporary shelter thus they don't have to travel the long distances everyday. They will be spending more of their time to study in school, not on the trails. It will eventually help them improve their school records. This is a way to help students help themselves empower poverty thru education.”

The dorm will accommodate 50 students from grades one to six. It has a library and separate toiletries for girls and boys. “The dormitory with be located at the school premise and will be managed by the Parents and Teachers Association and the community”, Geroso said.

“Ground breaking last March 19, 2008 was the 1st phase” said Geroso. “We erected 2 posts and two more will be accomplished by the local community. “We are still on funds generation and solicitation for the said project. It still needs support from other organizations and funding agencies. Material costs double because of the hauling from Baguio to Bukod, Bukod to Petal, Petal to Upper Ekip and to Naswak.”

“We will be opening an account just for this project for those who want to donate”, the group’s president July Tadifa said. KIKKM Inc. is registered as a nonprofit organization at the Security and Exchange Commission with registration no CN200406487.

Ms. Maturana’s sacrifice to forego her VIP treatment has brought a more lasting reward. The gratitude of the people of Naswak. To this remote community, Vanessa and the KIKKM Inc. officers and members are indeed heaven sent. They are inviting other groups and individuals to participate in this project or initiate other sustainable development projects to the community.

For donations and more details, you may contact the following number:

Baguio Group Mario Abraham: 09178806254 / Rodel Mapa: 09193910398 / Kimberly Gaturian: 09275012088
Manila Group: Ian Abao: 09188744665 / Joffry Geroso: 09106219604 / Teresa Jimena: 09177858257

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Baguio Forums

When pioneered local forum sites, many used it to exchange ideas, news, or just plain talks. Many people met new friends. It has become a tool for organizations to post activities. Many organizations were started here and many forum sites sprang to deliver the demand of the growing forumers.

Organizations for philanthropic works were also formed. One is the "Baguio Forumers Club" now called Forumers Association of the Philippines (FAPI). The group adopted a part of Burnham Park to improve. This site was poorly maintained for the lack of park workers. The group started with tree planting activity, in concord to the City’s Regreening movement. “It was not merely tree planting on the site”, explained the group’s president, known as S.S. or Single Shot in the forums. “The place was entrusted to the organization to beautify and create it into a real park.” Donations from individuals locally and abroad were funneled to finance this project. Individual volunteers did the handworks.

Another group from the newly formed lead by the Administrators have adopted an orphanage and used their site to raise funds. The raised money were used to fix the children’s playgrounds and repaint their toys and equipments.

A newly formed organization was the Cordillera Online Community from The group undertook projects in isolated shools in Benguet distributing school materials. They have also supported several fund raising projects like concerts for causes. Like the other forum organizations, they were able to raise funds for those who can’t afford medical treatments.

With the help of the forums raising funds for projects are made easier. Without these sites, communications would have been impossible. Baguio Forums will always be a part of these organizations.

From these forums a yearly tradition was born, a grand eye-ball was held where members of the different forum sites meet. This year it will happen at the City Tavern on May 10 at 7 pm. My names in those forums are shadow and hunter.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Paypal Philippines At Last

I believe this is something a lot of us had been waiting for. There had been a lot of potential online businesses in the Philippines but there was one big problem. That's how to receive credit card paymets for our local products or services. I actually missed this email I received last January 29. I stumbled upon it when I was cleaning up my spam messages.

All you need is your credit card. If you can't open a credit card, just open an account and apply for a debit card. In some banks, debit card account is only Php2,000.00. Next you open an account with paypal and include your debit or credit card number.

Now you can receive payments through paypal. You can transfer your payments from your paypal to your bank account online. You can then withdraw the money from your bank.

For more infomation click this link. You can also use xoom, moneybookers. If you want to know how to setup your website just pm me.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Back to my saddle again

After almost a week in the mountains covering local festivals, I'm back with darker skin, a little cough and a bunch of photographs. I also earned a new name from my media colleagues. Boy alcohol. I'm not alcoholic but why did I earn that name?

Maybe because I was drinking even when it's liquor ban in those places. Maybe I was drinking redhorse with my lunch and the rest are not. Maybe I was looking for gin when the stores are already closed. Maybe because I had to drink before going to bed so I could easily sleep with the snoring of my room mates.

The answer is all of the above.

 Visiting several villages made me realize how much we in the Cities have forgotten in our cultures and traditions. Customs that the foreign oppressors thought of as backwards. Many of us have already lost those customs with the influenced of the so called western or Christian cultures. With those influences, many of the old cultures are crumbled and along with it comes the deterioration of the people's love of their homeland.

In the far away villages in the mountainous regions of the Cordillera however, many still respect the old traditions and they still practice their old beliefs along with the new ones. The beauty of the old ways are still intact with their festivals and celebrations. Our camera shots are not enough to describe these beautiful and colorful traditions that has been intact for hundreds or thousands of years. But why would the Spanish and American Conquistadores thought of our old traditions as backwards when it brought balance in nature for many centuries?

The influence of the west is also strong in those places and perhaps someday, these beautiful customs and traditions will cease to exist. Let us hope that even though these people will embrace the Christian beliefs, they will still retain their customs that has been instrumental in bringing the beautiful terraced landscapes we enjoy today.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Shadow (4th Composition)

I am just a tale of twilight...
magnifying your illustrious silhouette...
smothering your every subtle move...
taunting your shape until the lights are out.

Shadow was my pen name and my former cybername before I started using Baguiosmile. I wrote the above for this purpose.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Session Road in Bloom

Went up Maharlika roof top to shoot the Session Road Scene with Sir Noli. Here's how it looks up there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

They Eat Like Us??????

I have written this a long time ago but kept forgetting to put it in my blog. My reaction on the eating habit of Luc Gallardo who used spoon and fork and was regarded as disgusting by the school principal (

Her mom Maria Theresa Gallardo was told that her son should be punished for eating with spoon and fork. He was prejudiced and was forced to eat alone in another table every time he eats like a pig. That's using the fork to push the food into the spoon. What the.... I just ate like that last night at the Bulaluhan. I haven't yet seen any pig in my place that eats with spoon and fork. At least in the Philippines they behave like pigs (see the picture of a pig made in the Philippines).

And what about eating with your hands or with Chopsticks? If that's how you were raised and that's the most comfortable way for you to eat, you have to change it in that part of the Planet. But in our part of the world, we cook pork, (that's pig's meat :-), into delicious dishes like sinigang, binalsig nga inanger, and also bulalo. Like what Mrs. Gallardo said, how indeed can you eat those delicacies with a fork and a knife? I pity this Principal Bergeron and his co-teachers who haven't tried our appetizing dishes.

One day I'll go and see how Principal Bergeron's pig dine. That would be a very good photography subject. In that part of the World, pigs eat with spoon and fork. They EAT LIKE US?

At least not all Canadians think the same way. This is what the Canadian embassy said after the incident: "To assert one's eating practices, which after all are most proper and which have become part of one's cultural identity is, in fact, encouraged under the Canadian immigration policy on creating a Canadian mosaic rather than a melting pot.

There's one pig I'd like Norman Bergeron and Martin Bertrand meet, Hannibal Lecter's pig.