Treks through the jungle and native festivals!

Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
Trip End Oct 05, 2008

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hello All! I am sorry it has been a while since my last entry. I was waiting for some exciting news to report and after this weekend, I have plenty of adventures to share!

On Thursday evening Kelly, Lina (the two PCV's in Baguio City) and I boarded a bus to Kiangan, Ifugao (another province in North Luzon). Jill the PCV in Kiangan invited a group of us to attend the Bakle Festival for the weekend. I am not sure I will ever get used to these long bus rides! We left Baguio at 9pm and arrived in Kiangan at 4:30 am on Friday morning. Needless to say we were very tired and groggy most of the day Friday. Jill just moved into her house that has amazing views of the mountains and rice terraces and is right behind the market. So great access to what I like to call the heart of the community!!

Saturday we attended the Bakle Festival in a near by barangay. The Bakle Festival is a harvest celebration for the rice and a time for the entire Municipality to join together to celebrate their hard labor spent in the fields. We learned how to pound, sift and pack the rice into banana leaves the indigenous way. It was hard work, and I now understand why women in the Cordillera (what North Luzon is collectively referred to as) are so strong. As all festivals here, there was native dancing that we all joined in on. Dustin (PCV in Ifugao) even purchased a locally woven G-string (what the men traditionally wear) and danced the afternoon away. (Plenty of pictures to see of this!) And as you can imagine the crowd was quite intrigued with this tall, white, American (Texan no less) dancing around in the native G-string!

On Sunday the real Jungle adventures began.... we all headed to Uttu Waterfall's in a near by barangay and what should have been about a two hour hike turned into four. After tromping our way down the muddy trail with beautiful views of rice terraces all around, we reached a hanging bridge about 20 feet above the river. By now I am used to walking across these rather sketchy hanging bridges, but I guess I was so enthralled by the surrounding beauty that I forgot to look down and notice there were slats missing in the bridge. Before I knew it my right leg was through the hole and I was flat on my face staring down on what could have been my death of a fall to the river and huge rocks below. I have huge black and blue bruises on my legs today to prove it and can now say I almost fell to my death on a hanging bridge in the Philippines. (Don't worry Mom I will be more careful next time). You would think the adrenaline rush of this fall would be all I could handle but the adventures only continued. I sat down to take a breather after my fall and somehow Adam (another PCV) and I got separated from the group and went on our only little trek through the jungle. The scenes were all too classic Philippines, greenery all around and fresh water springs. The Credence Clearwater Song, "Run through the Jungle" was playing in my head the entire time. There was a point where Adam and I agreed that at any moment we expected to hear the sounds of drums and see a group of natives in full dress on the trail. While that did not happen, we did stumble across an abandoned cabin with goats and barking dog's as house guards. At this point we realized we were way off our path and no where near the water fall. We turned around and finally found the other's and after crawling over huge river rocks, wading in the leech filled (had one on my foot) water we finally reached the waterfalls. It was well worth the bruises, leach bite and long journey. The falls were so loud and overpowering to be inside of, incredible!! This trip was indeed a highlight of my time here thus far! (Check out the pictures)

I arrived back to site yesterday and for the first time it really felt like I was coming home. My host family seemed very excited to see me, and wanted to hear all about my weekend, and of course my little two year old host cousin was all smiles when she saw me! I only hope that these feeling's of home continue to grow as my service goes on. I have two weeks at site and then head to Manila, Iloilo on Panay Island in the Vissayas (Central Islands of the PH) for Peace Corps Training's the beginning of September. I also just confirmed a week's vacation the last week of September with some fellow PCV's. We will be going to Croon Island in Palawan to get our scuba diving certificates. I am really excited about this trip and re-connecting with other PCV's.

As always I am sending love to all of you and hope all is well wherever you are in the world!

All my love and PACE!


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