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Mini Trails, Big Delights

And so it was on a beautiful sunny February day when we decided to hit the trails for the first time this year. A rather late snowfall has visited Vancouver mid-February so skiers and snowshoers have been congesting the more popular Cypress and Seymour trails. As one not too fond of crowded hike spots, we opted to check out what lesser-known North Vancouver trails would lead us. And we were not disappointed.

Featuring Kaidu, the Siberian Husky, and Kojin, the dachschund, it was a delightful intermediate hike to loosen those taut muscles for more challenging hikes this 2019, I hope. 🙂

A Rainbow in Winter

Winter Rainbow by Carol Warner

The phrase “rainbow baby” is common among parenting forums these days. It’s a simple, beautiful phrase that tells a whole big story. A story of loss, coping, healing, elation yet again for being blessed, and the guilt that comes for being happy after your tragedies. For someone who personally experienced losses and is now anticipating the arrival of our greatest blessing yet, I can fully relate to the myriad of emotions that come with having a rainbow baby.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To learn that talking about this sensitive issue is changing for the better is very encouraging. Because pregnancy loss is one of those things that we don’t talk openly about when in fact 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet even with its prevalence, many grieving parents feel like their loss is minimized, dismissed. But with how easily accessible information is these days, it’s not difficult to find resources that could help one understand and make sense of what happened because undergoing such an experience should never be discounted. If you’re someone who went through a loss, do know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Your every emotion is valid and you don’t need anyone telling you otherwise.

I consider myself very fortunate to be in a country where we have multiple health and support programs that guide women who have undergone similar tragedies. Aside from a strong support group from friends and loved ones, being open to the idea of professional help can serve as a tremendous help. If resources and support programs are regrettably not available in the area you are in, the internet is a rich source of information and teeming with forums that talk about these issues. It really helps to listen and be heard by people who understand.

I am emboldened to talk about loss and grief seeing how many women do so now these days. We share to let others out there know that they are not alone. At some point, I thought shutting myself in my own little bubble would be the best way to process my grief and anger. It works for some time but I realized I needed to be in touch with people who actually got it.

Aptly named “rainbow baby”, we are beyond grateful to be meeting our bundle of blessing in a few weeks’ time. The pregnancy journey itself has been a challenge in a sense that I was scared for the most part of it. I could not truly get myself to enjoy the process as I was dealing with PTSD. The intervals between doctor’s appointments feel so long, and every update or development is a huge milestone. I can say that I started feeling truly joyful again after being assured multiple times that our little bean is developing wonderfully and healthily. At this point, I am now as big as an orca and have only two or three clothes that fit me so I keep on stealing whatever I can from my husband’s closet, but I have never felt more glamorous!

For anyone who lost a blessing, heal at your own pace and remain hopeful. You are a wonderful creation of God! A strong and brave woman, graceful and beautiful. You deserve all the happiness in the world and the pure joy of being a mother, in God’s perfect time. Blowing some baby dust your way!

Below are a couple of articles that might be helpful.

https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/after-miscarriage/

THE RISE OF THE IGOROTS (SPANISH COLONIZATION OF THE CORDILLERAS)

"Tubay"

The Spanish colonization of the Philippines, specifically in the coasts and plains of the archipelago is well-recorded and accounted for. However, very little is attributed about the colonial effort to subjugate that of the highland tribes, specifically that of the Cordillerans.

For more than three centuries, the Cordillera natives resisted the unceasing armed expeditions of the Spaniards. Efforts at ruling the mountain tribes proved to be ineffective. Attempts of propagating Christianity among the Igorots were likewise dismal failures.

At present, it is still an overwhelming question as to why the Igorots were able to avoid the clutch of Spanish colonialists. What steeled and urged these mountain dwellers to resist Spanish colonization? It may have been triggered by their love for freedom and homeland. What were their responses towards Spanish colonization? And what did this bring them in the end? A review of Cordilleran history would reveal some answers to a somewhat obscure chapter of our past.

The Highlands During the Pre-colonial Period

Previous to Spanish colonization, there was no Filipino nation to speak of. There were only small and independent communities scattered over the archipelago where there existed appropriate political, social, cultural and economic systems. High above the mountain ranges of what we now know as the Cordillera region were communities that may be characterized in their mode of production as primitive, semi-communal, and semi-slave. There was a distinct social stratification within these settlements. But one very significant feature was the trading among the communities.This trade extended to the lowland communities as well, which resulted in certain similarities between the upland and lowland culture. These similarities included the language, death rituals, tattooing and ornamentation, and headhunting practices among several communities. Most of all, there was never a hint of national oppression. But this rather languid way of living had its dramatic turn when Spain slowly wormed its way among the communities.

Expedition of the Gold Mines and Early Spanish Advances

Most of the coasts and plains then of the Philippines were under Spanish rule when King Henry III sent orders to the Philippines to exploit the gold mines in the highlands. Spain was in desperate need then for financial backing after it joined the Thirty Years War in 1618. It was common knowledge that gold mines were abundant in the mountains. The natives had continuously traded gold with their lowland brothers who were by then under Spanish rule themselves. The gold was the answer to Spain’s need to combat the Dutch. This was the major factor that lured the Spanish conquistadores to penetrate the mountains.

Prior to this decision, the Spanish colonialists attempted to subjugate the highland tribes like all the other settlements in the country. Their first attempts had been futile. The highlanders simply ignored the pacification advances of the Spaniards. They did not just refuse the colonization. Being warlike and headhunters in nature, they beheaded any insistent alien who came within the range of their established borders. From this behavior of the natives sprung the term Igorots as how we call them now. This came from the Spaniards’ labeling for the entire highland population which was Ygollotes, meaning “people from the mountains”. But this had a derogatory connotation then such as dirty, uncivilized, pagan, barbarians, and headhunters to the Spaniards and the Christianized lowland Filipinos as well. Yet pacification of the upland population did not cease. More so that the need for gold urged the conquistadores to invade the highland region.

Photo by John Tewell

The first expedition for the Igorot gold mines was led by Governor Garcia de Aldana y Cabrera in March 1620. He was with some 900 Filipino soldiers from Pangasinan. A group of 50 Igorot chieftains met him and his troops and tried block his passage. He ignored them and continued to a village in Boa anyway. There, he burned the town and established a fort called Santissima Trinidad. They built their own cogon houses and even a chapel wherein two Dominicans said Mass for the first time in an Igorot settlement. All the while, Igorots went on beheading soldiers they chanced upon. Aldana retaliated by threatening the chieftains but to no avail. He then quickly scouted the mines and returned immediately to the lowlands where he died soon afterwards.

At about the same time, Philip III died but his successor ordered the expeditions to continue. So in 1623, a larger expedition was led by Sergeant Major Antonio Carreno.He built two forts, namely, Fort Santiago and Fort del Rosario, both near Antamoc, Itogon. The Igorots wisely attacked during the rainy season, leaving the Spaniards’ muskets useless. Moreover, the forts were razed to the grounds. The remaining soldiers then retreated.

The third expedition was under Captain Martin Alonzo Quirante who rebuilt the forts. Finally, he returned with 5,600 kilograms of ore for assaying. But the three expeditions had already caused a great deal of money and many lives with no profit.The Spanish government agreed to cancel the whole project. All the forces for this expedition were then withdrawn.

It was indeed a triumphant victory for the Igorots that lasted for another two centuries in which the Spaniards never occupied the gold mines again. But it can be concluded that the Spaniards were struggling for their interests in the cultural, politico-military, and economic aspects most importantly.

Igorot Responses Towards the Spaniards

The Spanish colonizers continued using various means to achieve their objective of integrating the Cordilleras within the colonial structure already set- up in many parts of the Philippine territory. All these efforts were geared towards the exploitation of the region’s resources, particularly gold. Despite these persistent forces, the Igorots stood their ground. Collectively, Igorots were fierce and violent warriors and headhunters. They were known to kill and rob Spanish subjects. Such a characteristic definitely posed a threat to the Spaniards. They were also pagans who clung firmly to their beliefs. They rejected the introduction of Christianity, making it harder for the colonizers to pacify them. And most importantly, the Igorots always had a strong sense of independence. They refused the intervention of “other” people towards their homeland and indigenous lifestyle. Here are several Igorot encounters with the colonizers to help us see how they dealt with the subjugating forces of Spain.

Isnegs or the natives of Apayao were subjects for conversion in terms of religion. But their chiefs, Alaban and Lanag, reacted by killing the missionaries and leading communities farther up the mountains of Apayao.

A revolt by the Isnegs massacred the soldiers when a Spanish soldier abused a woman from their tribe. And not very far from there, another Isneg, Juan Manzano, led an uprising against the Spanish priests and soldiers. Rather than submitting to capture, he commited suicide.

The Ifugaos in Kiangan, on the other hand retired to the hills when the troops launched their first attacks. But while the soldiers were looting and helping themselves, the Ifugao warriors returned with reinforcements, descended on the village unexpectedly, throwing stones and spears while shouting wildly. This made the soldiers panic; they fled in disorder with the Kiangan warriors pursuing them. They effectively drove the Spanish forces out. So the proud people of Kiangan continued to defend their homeland against foreign aggression and attacked the government highway.

A Spanish priest wrote that the Ifugaos were very difficult to control because they very numerous and robust. But for the Ifugaos, it was a matter of loving their land so much that made them struggle to keep the Spaniards at bay.

The Ilongots on the other hand went on beheading soldiers and burning churches. It was pretty obvious that they plainly did not want to be subjected under the clutches of the Spanish rule, be it the church or the government as a whole.

Igorots
Image from the “Igorots” by Bill Amos

The colonizers by this time decided to extend their territory fuarther up north where Kankanaeys and Ifontoks settled. An unsuccessful raid is made in Bontoc. It was without question that the Bontoc people were fierce and violent warriors and notorious headhunters as well. But gradually, the Spanish forces somehow managed to set up local garrisons within this village. Still, the Ifontoks never gave up. They attacked the garrisons, set fire on public buildings, killed many troops and wounded many more. Furthermore, they stole what they could especially the rifles and other weapons of the Spaniards.

These tribes all over the mountain range of the Cordilleras continued their resistance towards the Spanish forces. They burned and attacked garrisons, burned Spanish settlements, stole their arms and ammunitions and did not tire of taking heads.They attacked unexpectedly with their spears and bolos and arrows. It should be taken into consideration also that nature helped the Igorots in their resistance against the Spaniards. They made wise use of the rugged mountain terrain in defending their lands. It was a lot harder after all to colonize mountainous regions as compared to the coastal areas and the plains. The mountains provided the Igorots various means of defenses.They knew their land too well and this was without a doubt an advantage for them against the Spaniards who were not at all acquainted with these areas.

All in all, they created an ominous image for themselves. They threatened the colonizers and other Christianized Filipinos as well.

From here, it appeared like it was a clash between the Igorots and the Spaniards with the Christianized lowlanders. An Edict by the Royal Audiencia in Manila gave permission to the natives of the lowland to make slaves of any mountaineer they could capture, reasoning out that it was illegal to oppose the colonization projects of Spain. The Igorots by then had made a name for themselves as robbers, and vile pagans who captured and killed priests and prevented the propagation of Christian salvation.

The Effects

It wasn’t until the last years of the Spanish regime that the conquistadores were able to establish a more or less stable foothold in several parts of the Cordillera.

Spanish military expeditions continued and even intensified up to the dying period of the colonial rule. Simultaneous with these military expeditions were religious missions whose main objective, contrary to claims of Christian salvation, was the dismantling of the indigenous culture which had been the people’s source of unity against colonization. These religious missions attempted to deceive the people into allowing the unhampered exploitation of the region’s resources. Through the years, they managed to pacify a number of communities by converting them to Christianity.

It should also be noted that in the entire course of these expeditions, the colonizers used armies composed of lowlanders from nearby provinces of Ilocos and Pangasinan— a manifest example of Spain’s use of “divide and rule” tactics. This led to the disintegration of the harmonious relationship that previously existed between the lowlanders and the highlanders. It aggravated whatever differences that existed between them. The Spaniards were responsible for fueling a conflict between the highland and lowland people.

Within this period, the concept of Filipino nationalism against Spanish colonization was born. This developed from localized revolts which eventually reached the stage of nationwide revolution in 1896. This was participated by a large number of the Filipino working class, including the Cordillera people.

For the Cordillerans, their resistance was largely successful. It is indicated by the fact that at the end of the Spanish regime, when the Igorot territory had been carved up into a dozen military districts, the last census still listed one-third of the estimated population as completely independent. It is without a doubt that these mountain dwellers fought for their liberty with their means of disposal for 320 years, and that this resistance was deliberate, self-conscious, and continuous. So successful was their defense that for three centuries, they generally remained outside effective colonial control. But three centuries is a long time. Three centuries of a distinct experience with colonialism can spell a world of difference. And it did. It created a majority out of the colonized Filipinos who now shared more things in common as they suffered exploitation and oppression under Spain. It also made national minorities of those who did not undergo the great economic, political, and cultural changes which the majority experienced, and who were able to retain much of their indigenous lifestyles and institutions throughout the whole period of colonial rule.

William Henry Scott (Author of Barangay)
W.H. Scott (Image from Wikipedia)

To quote from Dr. William Henry Scott, a renowned Igorot historian, “… during those three centuries when Spanish firearms never really conquered the lofty liberty of the Igorots, they were paying a heavy price for their independence. Moving off into more remote parts of the Cordillera, they had to pit their brawn and brains against raw nature and sterile soil. And while they learned to carve the whole mountainsides into terraces to wring out a bare subsistence for living, their tribute-praying brethren in the lowlands were learning to farm like the Spaniards and cook like the Chinese. While Graciano Lopez Jaena was ornamenting the Spanish press with his graceful prose, and Jose Rizal was hobnobbing with European scholars in half a dozen languages, their illiterate Igorot compatriots were being exhibited in the Philippine Exposition along with other native plants and animals. In their mountain…independence, the Igorots missed out on all the convenient innovations enjoyed by their conquered brethren…. It was a heavy price to pay for liberty. And it is a price not yet fully paid…”

Now, was the independence painstakingly achieved by the Igorots really worth it?

Cordillerans as a National Minority Group

Today, we know Cordillera as a region inhabited by the majority of Igorots. And, we know the Igorots as a national minority group. They are still regarded erroneously as headhunters and barbaric individuals. Such notions are inevitable since the Igorots differ from most in terms of culture and traditions. But contrary to these perceptions, the Igorots are highly civilized. With the American occupation at the turn of the century, the Americans accomplished what the Spaniards were not able to do. American missionaries successfully integrated the last of the resisting forces through the spread of Christianity. Unlike their colonial predecessors, they did one thing that was a potent instrument in drawing the natives towards them. It was education. They established schools and taught the illiterate. Their years of settlement in the Cordillera communities led to the influx of ample Western culture.

But despite this integration of the Cordilleras within the colonial structure of the nation, the Cordillera natives managed to preserve most of their practices. They clung to their spiritual beliefs and continued their indigenous lifestyle, at the same time learning the new ways introduced to them by the Americans. Such an attitude most probably made them distinct as we compare them now to other Filipinos who bowed down under Spanish colonial rule. In more ways than one, the Igorots never totally gave way to foreign influence. Somehow, they managed to stay independent until the end.

It is not a question as to why accounts about the colonial efforts of the Spaniards towards the Igorots did not find their place in standard Philippine textbooks. Documents are not completely willing to provide insight on the motivations and methods of the Cordillera natives in warding off the colonizers. It was indeed a thorn in the side of Spanish pride. Governor Salcedo himself spoke to his first council with considerable passion about the mountain ranges inhabited by Igorots, owners of the gold mines and enemies of the Christians. “It is a scandal to the Christian Filipinos and a cause for derision and mockery for foreigners that in the very heart of the island which is the main one, there should be such pagan enemies of ours—and with the fame of their rich gold mines, too.”

It was certainly a shame to the Spanish nation to permit such excesses. And another century later, Governor Primo de Rivera wrote: “ It is certainly humiliating for Spain and her government at home and abroad to realize that thousands of human beings live not only in pre-conquest backwardness but commit crimes and depredations, carrying their audacity to the extent of demanding tribute from the very Christian towns without receiving castigation for their troubles and without any authority, having been bold enough to impose itself upon them…”

It was indeed a battle for three centuries for these Cordillera natives. Their love for their homeland and lifestyle and everything they had kept them going. Even if it meant going farther and farther up the mountains, they took the risks just so they will not fall under the ominous wing of the conquistadores. Suffering the periodic destruction of their homes, fleeing from more and more remote mountain ranges, enduring miserable existence, and having labeled themselves as a national minority constituted the considerable price the Igorots paid for their freedom.

On emotional health, coping, and “kasiyana”

Emotional and mental health have somewhat been foreign concepts to me for the most part of my life, having been raised in a community where being emotionally delicate is dubbed as “kapoy” (weak) and the mentally-challenged are stigmatized. We are reared with the expectation to be always “taraki” (capable and strong) otherwise you won’t be able to find your way in the world, much less survive everyday struggles. For this, I am eternally grateful. I can confidently say that I was taught enough resilience and soundness of mind to enable me to somehow cope with the various trials and tribulations that have shadowed different stages of my life…or so I thought.

But human emotions have their limit. Like there’s only so much love one can give, only so much tolerance one can bear, and only so much loss one can accept to be fair. While we are all battling with the madness of this pandemic, I had to suffer back to back personal losses that set back my fortitude to the lowest notch. I had to personally experience fathomless grief and pain, not just once, but twice, to have full awareness of the decline of my emotional health and how it can drastically affect one’s well-being and functionality.

I had to learn the hard way that forcing yourself to be okay does not make things get better. I had to convince myself a lot of times that I am allowed a pass to be not “taraki” this time around. And then I had to acknowledge that I was undergoing the word that has never been readily recognized by the environment that I grew up in–depression. I believe that was the first big step towards coping, accepting that I am not vulnerable to this emotional state that is plaguing millions of individuals the world over.

Understanding the triggers to my emotional setbacks means attempting to accept these personal tragedies as an effort to reconcile with reality, no matter how agonizing it is. I find out that some days are easier than others, and I have no control over these much as I want every waking day to be better than yesterday. And there are definitely no shortcuts. I attempted going back to work after a brief leave with high hopes that sticking to my routine would establish a sense of normalcy that would ease me back to the daily grind that I’m accustomed to. But I was just not ready. This is something that just cannot be rushed. I realized that I have to be kinder to myself. That I need to allow myself to fully experience these tsunamis of emotions—repeatedly, and who knows how long.

Coping isn’t always a promising progression. One day I feel more like my old self, the next I just want to curl into a ball and exhaust myself bawling my heart out. But regression perhaps needs to be a part of it. One has to feel all these emotions, let them all out lest you burst or self-destruct.

Through it all, I needed to be reminded everyday that I was not alone. And though sometimes it works communing with just myself, most times reaching out to a kind, non-judgmental ear works wonders. Self-therapy, physical therapy, pet therapy, meditation, nature therapy, professional therapy–there’s not a single cure. I seek for that stalwart figure or figures to be my ready shoulder while being resolute in reconnecting to my dependable old self.

Here enters “kasiyana”. Loosely translated to mean ‘it will be okay’, “kasiyana” is that one term in our vernacular that encompasses an array of meanings and unspoken words of reassurances. It is like a big, warm hug, a very reassuring pat on the back, a firm clasp of the hand, and a hundred words that tell you, without literally telling you that somehow, it will really be okay. It’s a single word, but very heartening when one believes in it.

The same community that taught me and molded me with all these beliefs and values ingrained this basic but very powerful word. It makes me believe in silver linings. Because at the end of the day, with all the losses and the grief and the emotional torment, what else do we have left but faith. Faith that indeed, everything will get better. Faith that you will be alright. That you deserve good things after being denied some.

The first few times I heard my elders say “kasiyana” and implied the aid of the “adi kaila” ( the unseen), I never really bothered knowing if they referred to God, the deities, otherworldly entities, the cosmic forces, or maybe a bit of all. But whatever it was, I realized it was helpful to have something to hold on to. Religion, cultural beliefs and the values I have been grounded in are all crucial in somehow keeping me afloat day after day. These days it’s already an achievement to get through a day. Little steps. And it’s okay, because I have faith that one day I will get there. We’ll find happiness again, fleeting or long-lasting, it does not really matter. Kasiyana.

Finding the courage in accepting my vulnerabilities and limitations, much so opening and writing about these is actually scary. But knowing that being “kapoy” and doing something to overcome it—no matter how and no matter how long is I believe bravery in itself. I’ve been told by friends numerous times that I am stronger than I think, I would have to believe that. Like I have to believe in better days, in rainbows after storms, in laughter and happiness being so much stronger than anger and resentment, in delayed blessings. I have to have faith, because that’s all I have. Again, kasiyana.

Sunsets are beautiful. So is life. (Lake Danum Sunset, 2020)

How Our Alal-apos Outwitted Headhunters

Author’s Note: The recent ‘panag-aapoy/panag-dedenet’ (literally translated to lighting of fires) to warm the gravestones of our dearly departed made me reminiscent of a couple of Lola Banayan’s stories. She recounted mini-tales of how some early village folks escaped the blades of imminent deaths from the unscrupulous hunts of ruthless headhunters (referred to as ‘buso’ in the common lingo) by either using their wits or with the uncanny help of nature itself. As yet another disclaimer, I can only rely on the hyper-imaginative brain of a story-hungry toddler in retelling these so forgive the embellishments and the nuances that are sure to be inevitable.

The Warrior by James Gabriel Wandag


The Old Man in the Hut

A man who spent a long day toiling in his fields made the decision to spend the night in a little hut to wait until daybreak before he makes his way back home. The hut was by no means the most comfortable but it had a roof, four walls and a door–enough to pass the night in. Soon after he settled in, he heard some scuffling outside the hut. He carefully peered through one of the holes and saw two unfamiliar men who appeared to be headhunters. He knew right away that he had no chance against two men unless he does something quick.

He thought of running through the fields as he was sure he knew the area more than these non-villagers but he also realized that it was too dark outside and that made this option riskier. He checked his little knapsack for any content that he could use and saw that he only had kindlewood, a couple of matchsticks, and his ‘abilao’ (musical instrument made of bamboo reeds which is played by putting it between the lips while you strum one end with your finger as you blow it).

He lit one of the matchsticks and very soon, he had a little fire ablaze inside the hut. He went to one corner and in a deep voice said, “My friend, the night is cold. Why don’t you throw more wood into that fire you built.” He then went to the opposite corner and said in his normal voice, “Yes mister, it’s lucky I gathered a lot of wood earlier today.” He put some of the kindlewood on the fire then went to another corner. Then in a slightly higher tone, he said, “Brother, I believe you brought with you that abilao of yours. Would you indulge us with a tune or two.” Slowly he crept to a different side of the hut, pulled his little instrument and played a lively jig.

The two headhunters outside had been listening all the while to the conversations inside the hut. If their count was right, there were four men inside! Who knew if there were more? And so realizing that the two of them had no chance against four or so men, they quietly crept away from the hut.

Who knows how long this quick-witted man kept the pretense of not being alone inside the hut. But morning came and he was safe and alive!


The Girl Against Nine

Houses long ago did not have the comforts of indoor toilets. One needs to go outside to the backyard to do his or her business. So it was for a girl who had to go out to pee in the black pitch of the night.

She never suspected that there was a handful of ‘buso’ who were ready to go on a midnight hunt. They were prowling just nearby when this unsuspecting girl positioned herself to pee in front of them like it was no one’s business, as it should be. The headhunters were caught off guard and stood immobile on their spots while this girl proceeded to pee. The girl must had so much ‘tapey’ (rice wine) or water to drink during dinner that her pee noisily gushed. It made this distinctive sound that unmistakably said “Sham, sham, sham, sham!”. Lo! When the headhunters counted themselves, there were exactly nine of them! ‘Sham/siyam’ in the local dialect means nine.

It was the age of strong superstition so the ‘buso’ took this as a bad omen for headhunting. So they went away as silently as they came. The unsuspecting girl finished her business, still very clueless that she just escaped possible throes of danger and went back to sleep soundly.


The Old Woman and Her Flowers

An old woman was busy digging for camotes when a swarm of flies buzzed around her. She hastily swatted them away but they persistently flew around her, landing on her arms, her face, her legs, while noisily buzzing.

She stopped and wondered as she realized that the flies were singling her out. They weren’t flying anywhere else but on the spot where she stood. She took it as a sign that something foreboding was about to happen. She climbed the little hill that partially blocked her view from the other fields yonder and that’s when she saw three sinister men headed towards her way. Suspecting that they were headhunters, she immediately devised a plan and prayed to the gods that her little play will scare the men away. What’s a poor, frail woman against three sturdy men?

She cast off all her clothes and quickly gathered the brightly-colored flowers that were growing aplenty nearby. The flowers were in orange, yellow, but mostly red. She tied as much as she can to all the hair she has on her body–the hairs on her head, on her arms, her legs. She twisted her form in such a way that made her body ugly and crooked, then she walked towards the men.

In a shrill but unafraid voice, she chanted and hummed. Walking directly to where the headhunters were. The men seeing and hearing her got so scared out of their wits! They had no doubt it was a witch of sorts that was heading towards them. One can only imagine the powers this ghastly-looking, crooked woman in all her naked glory and seemingly ablaze with those blood red flowers has! They rapidly took off back to where they came from before the ‘witch’ even got close.

When the men fled, the old woman carefully plucked away the flowers from her body, put back her clothes on, and headed to her home safely where she cooked her freshly-dug sweet potatoes.


These are just three of the many headhunter-related stories that I could at least recall with a certain level of vividness. I really pray another inspiration will strike me to remember the rest real soon before I forget. Here’s to always keeping your memory alive, alapo!

Cry. Breathe. Repeat.

Who out there never had that sudden pang of ache when a painful thought, memory or emotion is suddenly relived? Because I get that, one too many times. But a feeling, whether new or old, is just one of those things you can just control. True you might be able to suppress it, but you can’t just will it away for your convenience.

A personal loss that caused immeasurable torment made me redefine yet again what pain was for me. And even though I convince myself that I’ve hurdled through the seven stages of grief, suddenly remembering this particular experience resets me right back to step one, like the tragedy just happened yesterday.

We learn the hard, long way that time has always been a friend when moving on. I stay positive that time will remain kind as I slowly heal. And that along the way, I recognize the silver lining why a tragic circumstance had to be experienced.

After this misfortune, it has then been my personal quest to prove my resiliency (for my own sake) and having a very formidable support group of friends, family and loved ones had been a huge factor towards this endeavour. Immersing myself in work, books, flour and eggs, and anything to keep my mind occupied have made the weeks pass by in a blur. Yet the lull that the quiet hours and nightfall brings still prove to be difficult. Those emotions are revisited. I feel those twinges of pain or during worse times, I get agonizingly unconsolable. It has been a process. Crying. Breathing. Again. But I know. It will be okay.

By Mom is Art


We heal and move on differently. No one can dictate how you should do it. It’s okay not to be okay right away. You are entitled to be weak sometimes. Seek out solace in the ears and arms of those who truly care. One should go by his or her own pace of recovery, because it’s all part of the process. Find your own way to heal.

For me, I reached out to loved ones to unburden my woes. I started loving my husband fiercer than I did before. I try out new recipes every week. I started to get my high from running and yoga. I listened to a lot of Avril Lavigne, I don’t know why. I ate tons of ice cream. I get ten times more cuddles from my dogs. And now, I write to share. I do what I can to move on. And throughout this whole undertaking, I try to seek and acknowledge the silver lining, understand and accept His greater plan, and remain positive in being immensely blessed with rainbow babies. Life is good.

Brioche Buns for Summer’s BBQ Fun

20200520_1547114549141774831241926.jpgYes! Barbecue season is here and what could be more satisfying than flipping those juicy patties on your newly-cleaned grill on the patio while sporting that one-pack with a cold beer? Well probably the thought that you’ve made your food from scratch—house-seasoned ground meat, those fresh tomatoes and onions harvested from the pot gardens you’ve labored over during the past couple of months, and that light, buttery brioche bun to make all those come together.

So while I’m grinding that slab of beef while being persnickety with my seasonings, let me share this very light version of a brioche bun recipe that I believe would give that extra yum for your homemade burgers!

Light Brioche Buns

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsps. warm milk
  • 2 tsps. active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsps. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour (see note*)
  • 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsps. butter (softened))
  • sesame seeds (optional)

*I ran out of bread flour and used APF for the entire batch and it turned out okay. Using this alternative might entail a longer mixing time though.

Procedure:

  • Combine the warm water, milk and sprinkle the dry yeast over to proof. Set aside.
  • Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add softened butter, lightly beaten eggs and liquids.
  • Using a hook attachment, mix all the ingredients on low speed for 8-10 minutes. Don’t worry if the dough looks a little craggy. It will also feel a bit wet but that’s okay. (Mental note to self to take these messier photos for better visualization!) :p
  • Place the dough into a lightly-oiled bowl and let rise for 1-2 hours in  a warm room.
  • On a floured surface, divide the dough into desired sizes accordingly. I did mine for eight equal parts.
  • Flatten the cut dough using a rolling pin. Fold the sides towards the center, gently tucking the dough in to make a seam. Flip the dough over and shape into balls. (Again with those photos!)
  • Place pre-shaped dough in  a flat pan with parchment paper and let rise for 30-45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your egg wash and sesame seeds while pre-heating your oven at 400°F. Place a pan with water at the bottom rack of oven for steaming.
  • When dough is ready, brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle some sesame or poppy seeds.20200520_1450566409314932596993134.jpg
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes while your caramelize those onions and munch on a pickle or two! 🙂

We tend to cut back on eating enriched bread especially when we have that summer bod in mind. But these brioche buns are so light and fluffy that the idea of an extra burger feels less guilt-free…ish. :p

Enjoy and happy baking!

Ube Keso Pan De Sal (A Recipe with Love) ♥

In the spirit of sharing amidst lockdowns and quarantines during this global pandemic, and as we productively while the long hours away by keeping our kitchens busy and our ovens warm, allow me to share a simple recipe that will hopefully bring some delight into your homes. From my oven to yours, from my heart to yours. Yes! 😉

I’ve seen bakers posting about the new craze of three Pinoy favorites put together—pan de sal (bread roll), keso (Eden cheese to be very specific), and ube (purple yam)—all rolled into a truly delectable and beautiful purple bun! I thought that was a brilliant play on flavors and I could not wait to make some. I’ve read a lot of recipes on this and after a couple of tweaking and several attempts later, it is with confidence that I share this one, my first, ever, yay! 🙂 Friends, I give you, this recipe with love. ❤

Ube Cheese Pandesal
Yield: 12

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Warm Milk
2 tbsps Oil ( I use Canola Oil for a more neutral taste)
1 Egg
1 tbsp Ube Extract
1 cup Cooked and Grated Purple Yam
(or rehydrate 1/4 cup powdered ube with 3/4 cup hot water)
Cheese (cut into sticks)
Breadcrumbs

Procedure
* If using Ube powder, start by rehydrating. Mix the powder and hot water and let it sit.
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt).
2. Add in the warm milk, oil, beaten egg and extract.
3. Mix on low using the dough hook attachment until everything comes together.
4. Add the purple yam. Continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
5. Place dough on a lightly-floured surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes. (I tried doing everything manually and I had to knead longer as I was working with a stickier dough.)
6. Once you get a ball of smooth dough, place in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and proof in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
7. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 equal parts (approximately, 90 grams each).
8. Pre-shape into small balls then flatten with a rolling pin.
9. Insert cheese chunks/slices in the middle of flattened dough then fold the sides to tuck the cheese in. If you have extra ube, you can add some with your cheese inserts. *Do not be tempted to put a lot as it might cause underbaking.)
10. Roll dough balls onto the bread crumbs, just enough to lightly coat the surface.
11. Place coated buns into prepared pans, an inch apart from each other and allow to rise in warm room for another 30-40 minutes.
12. Bake in preheated oven (340°F) for 20 minutes.

It might seem like a lot of words but the process can simply be broken down to mixing, kneading, putting in a lot of love, proofing, shaping then baking. This recipe calls for a minimal amount of bicep work but yields a lot of gastronomical satisfaction, especially for the Pinoy palate.

Enjoy unleashing the inner bakers within us and keep safe everyone! ♥♥♥

Barefoot Chronicles: Batad, Banaue

As someone who grew up in a tourist town that boasts of stately natural landscapes, I have this rather obnoxious instinct to compare places of similar appeal. Such was the mindset I had when we set off to see the prominent Batad rice terraces and the Tappiyah Falls that was the highlight of the village attractions. But I ended up being tremendously awed. It was an entirely different experience.

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A “Bulol” (rice god) overlooking the grandiose rice terraces.

Batad is a village in Banaue, Ifugao. It’s a two-hour drive from my hometown, Sagada. Yes, we have several impressive waterfalls and the underrated yet majestic rice terraces (Kanip-aw, Kiltepan, Aguid) but I went there with the expectation that Batad would offer something equally grand, if not more rewarding. And I was not disappointed.

We met Ervin, our very friendly and knowledgeable local guide who was first in line in the queue of accredited guides enlisted for that day. Although my sister was positive that we could find the waterfalls ourselves so long as we follow the trails through the paddies, we understood the town regulations regarding acquiring local tour guides. And we come from a town that thrives on tourism too, we should know better despite overestimating our sense of direction. 😉

A short canopied walk to the village of Batad warmed up our already conditioned legs (or so I’d like to believe as we’ve done a couple of hikes back in Sagada prior to this). We were advised that we should pre-order lunch in one of the restaurants that had stunning views  that overlooked the rice terraces. They estimated that we’d do a 3-4 hour back and forth trek hence we’re looking at a late lunch.

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A narrow concrete path has been constructed all the way down to the falls.

The trek going to Tappiya Falls was a delight in itself. Although I have to be honest that the views were no longer new to a village girl like myself, but what made the experience different was all those village folks who we met along the way. Everyone was genuinely friendly and welcoming. They are like us, Sagadians, who wisely took advantage of the livelihood that tourism entails. The village people have strategically set-up small convenience stores and souvenir shops for the trekkers. And every stop was a welcome respite. We stopped for ice cold water, bananas, a souvenir or two, the occasional breeze or simply for the shade and the pleasant conversations that every villager eagerly engaged with.

I could rate the downward trek as easy but the heat was the main challenge. With no trees to serve as shade, it was no wonder our tour guide had thoughtfully brought his umbrella with him. Guess who used it? Haha!

92128260_524191381832795_1377643994648936448_nI’ve seen a number of waterfalls in this lifetime but I was not prepared by the beauty that awaited us. This hidden gem just behind a ridge of rice terraces artfully designed like an amphitheater made me feel like I was seeing one for the first time. It was magnificent. It’s imposing beauty towered over us as we waded barefoot towards its inviting pool. We basked in its beauty and its chilly waters before we halfheartedly got back to the same route towards the paddies.

The hike back was expectedly more arduous. The sun was already higher and those giant steps were a pain to the gluts! We were definitely not prepared for that! Whoever came up with the souvenir t-shirt design that read “I Love Tappiyah Falls, I Hate the Giant Steps” was on point.

We got back to enjoy the most fulfilling meal of chicken stew, chopsuey and pancit canton. Although our bold estimate to make the round trip within two hours time was off by a good half an  hour, our legs didn’t fail us against those treacherous meter-long stairs.

We did a couple of side trips in the beautiful town of Banaue before heading back home to Sagada. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening trip to a neighboring town that offered similar sights to what we have back home. But now I can say you can’t really compare. Each place has its own unique and identifying charm. The people’s warmth made the experience more gratifying.

A beginner could easily do the trek to Batad’s pride. Doing the trail back is a different story though. 😉 Lots of water, sunscreen, hardboiled eggs and bananas would be a good starter pack for this must-do trip up north.

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The Search for the Perfect Cake

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From Wayne Thiebauld’s collection of cake paintings

I fell in love with cakes at a young age. My childhood best friend had older sisters who would often bake what I thought were the most delectable creations. They would huddle over their dining room table with their mixing bowls and recipes and whip up the most amazing cakes that I could only dream of making. I thought they were all so beautiful and dainty as I witnessed them sifting and whisking and mixing. I adored them. And I adored whatever they made.

I was eleven when I summoned the courage to make my first cake. And that came with a lot of sneaky planning. My family was scheduled for a trip to the city and I volunteered to stay home to take care of the pets. I had everything deviously planned out. If whatever I make would turn out to be a disaster, I would just chuck it out. The evidence of my failure would be gone and I will not breath a word to anyone.

So the long awaited day came when it was just the cat at home to witness my first trial. I rolled my sleeves up and baked. It was good. And no, it’s not a biased conclusion of an 11-year old girl. It was truly good! It took  a lot of self-control to not finish the whole 9 x 13 inches of chocolatey goodness! I had to painstakingly wait for everyone to come home so they could taste it, be gobsmacked that I made something unbelievably good, (yes, I was that confident, haha!)  so that they will let me do as I please with the oven now that I’ve proven I could work with it. Boy was I so full of myself that time! 😉

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Because every cake is an achievement! 😉

I was not able to make cakes that were as good as that first one the next couple of times, or years for that matter. But I achieved my purpose then–for them to let me tinker with the oven and play with whatever ingredients I could find in the shelves. My love for pastry and baking grew as my search for the perfect cake began.

Cakes as we know them today have come a long way from the first ‘kaka’, believed to be of Viking origin. The ancient Greeks then popularized ‘plakous’ (meaning flat) which consisted of flour blended with honey, eggs and nuts. Now we have modern cakes, fancy entremets, multi-layered paves, and visually out-of-this world cake designs that I cannot even dream of conceptualizing. But throughout the years and a couple of unwanted pounds after, I realized that if I want to eat cake, I want to taste cake. By that I mean enjoying it with its wholesome basic elements–a flavorful base and just the right amount of frosting or not, no garnish necessary.

These days when I gave myself the opportunity to try out different recipes with whatever stuff I can find in the pantry, I realized that there are those I love to make and those that I hate. Some I could finish a slice and some I could not even bring myself to taste. I’ve grown a very discerning palate or sense of preference but it weirdly does not have anything to do with flavors but more of how a recipe speaks to me. I realize that I always delight in something that brings nostalgia.

Like with most foods and smells, our senses get excited more strongly when we can relate, and such associations are mostly founded on memories. In my case, I always go back to those days when every slice of cake regardless of what it was made me giddy with excitement.  To those cakes that were made by my best friend’s older sisters. My aunt’s banana cake with lemon glaze. My sister’s squash cake that was so delightful even without any frosting. My mother’s big, fat pancakes. And to that one fateful day that I schemed to bake for the first time.

I haven’t found my perfect cake yet. Because there probably isn’t one. But it is for this reason that I’m equally excited every time there is a new one to slice and try. It might just be that.

 

Kokujin Conquers Some Trails

The pack decided to revisit some trails down Lower Seymour a couple of weeks ago before summer totally ended. We love the numerous trails offered by the vicinity because they’re a combination of easy to intermediate in terms of difficulty. We do have to take into consideration that as much as our sturdy dachshund proves to be the leader of the pack, he has the shortest, stubbiest legs that render it impossible for him to go through some obstacles along the way without assistance.

I personally recommend this area for hikers with smaller dogs. It’s pet-friendly, terrain-wise as well. Next time we might bring some bikes as they do have some challenging and challenge-free bike trails that I’ve been wishing to try.

Sharing some clips of our gang’s little adventure in one of the many hiking trails of this beautiful city.

 

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