The past month, I have made an attempt to rediscover my community. There are so many places that I had yet to see. I figured it was time to check some of them out since I’ve been here over a year and a half already. I have visited, seen, and experienced some of the more not-so-well-known places in and around Baguio City.
Adivay-Benguet Provincial Fair
This event is held every year in La Trinidad. Somehow, I missed the memo that it happened last year, but I took a few opportunities to browse the crafts and display booths at this year’s event. Everything from strawberry wine, to silk, to silver jewelry was being sold. All of the municipalities of the province had a booth with their specialties displayed.
La Trinidad is also known as the strawberry capital of the Philippines. Inside the city proper are fields that grow any type of vegetable imaginable…also grown are the famous strawberries. I’ve lived in La Trinidad for a year and half without walking down the street on the outskirts of the fields. It’s a walk that should be done at least once.
Museum of Baguio City and the Mountain Provinces
I finally heard about this museum about 2 months ago. Situated in the middle of Baguio City, one would think that it would be better known, but if you blink, you would miss the hiding building. The museum is dedicated to the six provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region. A small, glass display case show cases the various cultural traits for each province. There is also an actual Benguet mummy on display. Mummies in this region are done in a bit different manner than what we have learned about from the Egyptians. The dead are strapped into a chair, bound, and suspended. A fire is then lit beneath the chair and the dead person is literally smoked, drying out the body’s fluids.
Tam Awan Village
Tucked into a far off barangay of Baguio is this village of reconstructed native huts. There are about 6 Ifugao huts and one Kalinga hut, which is rarely seen anymore. The village is also home to several artists trying to sell their various pieces of art. The artists are on hand to draw portraits of any of the patrons…for a small fee of course. There is a short walking path through the native huts. At the end of the path is a bamboo footbridge that looks a bit scary at first.
Anyone who has a curiosity about how the Earth came about needs to check out the Maryknoll Sanctuary. It’s run by the Maryknoll Sisters who are a progressive group of nuns that do trainings about everything from HIV/AIDS and reproductive health to working with children in conflict with the law. They believe parts of all of the creation stories (big bang theory, the biblical creation story, etc.). The property is beautifully landscaped and a footpath takes one through the history of the Earth. A resident artists produces beautiful paintings and there is also an in-house weaver.
St. Louis University Museum of Cordillera Arts and Culture
My favorite museum of Igorot (tribes of the Cordillera mountain range) art and culture, this museum boasts a wide variety of musical instruments, wood carvings, and woven bags. When you walk into the museum, you are introduced to Igorot tribes through miniature replicas of native huts. There are various displays showing religion, daily life, livelihood, art and music. The curator, Ike Picpican, is very passionate about Igorot culture and educating others about it. He gave us a personal demonstration with the various native instruments and led a jam session in which we were able to try playing a few of the instruments.
Balatoc Mines Tour
Only a 30 minute jeep ride away is the famous Benguet mines. Another volunteer and I decided to do the mine tour in Balatoc, a barangay of Itogon, Benguet. Mining was introduced by the American military after World War II. Balatoc is unique in that Americans built this little mining town so as you walk down the main road, you feel like you’re walking in a Wild West town. The first thing they had ask visitors to do before starting the tour is to get outfitted with a headlamp and boots. Then they are lead down to the mine entrance. Along the way the guide explains various tools of the miners. The great thing about the tour is how interactive it is. Visitors are able to operate a drill, ride on an old mining cart, and feel the blast of half a stick of dynamite. The guides also take visitors into the operational part of the mine. The dynamite blast was definitely the highlight of the tour in my opinion. Even though the miner detonates only a half a stick of dynamite, it shakes the whole mine and the sonic wave almost takes your breath away.
So, mom and dad, if any of these things sounds like something you would want to do during your visit, let me know. I’ve enjoyed going to each of these places and I’ve been able to take something away from all of them.
As far as work is concerned, I’m still busy. This past weekend another volunteer and I facilitated a session focused on HIV/AIDS education to the girls and women at the Regional Haven. The Haven is a center for sexual and domestic abuse cases in the Cordilleras. Now that the end of the year is coming, everyone is getting ready for Christmas and New Year’s. Reports are being written and Christmas parties are being organized so things are at a small standstill at my center, but promise to pick up after the beginning of the New Year! Hope everyone has a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! I’m headed to Sagada for Christmas and Bohol in the Visayan Islands for the New Year. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and write about it next year. Until then, take care!