Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Ides of April past: Id Besao e.

On a smoky day in April we set out for a visit to another ancestral home in Besao.
Banguitan is our destination for a clan reunion. I haven’t been there in years nay decades and i was very much looking forward to the trip.

Going uphill from Dantay junction, the stagnant smoke in the air gave an eerie shade of blue to the daylight.

It wasn’t on the script but seemingly right on cue, our car broke down below a hillside hamlet – engine overheat. The radiator was boiling and while waiting we could have cooked any dozens of eggs on it – if we had them. It was boiling for so long i thought i was hearing the mainit hotspring. The summer heat didn’t help. We stopped for a half-hour or so for the engine to cool down.

We coaxed the car up to a cafe farther up the mountain in Dapdapanan where we cooled the radiator by hosing it down for a few minutes with cool mountainwater.

After some coffee and snacks, we got back on our way. Along the way past Antadao and Tetep-an are more burned areas and the ever-present smoke shrouding what would have been great views overlooking Killong, and beyond to Guina-ang and Maligcong hidden behind the high mountains.

A few minutes later we drove into Sagada. We did not know it beforehand but this day was a market-day. There was plenty of products on display at the stalls and roadsides all around. Since we had to make up time due to the car breaking down, we did not stop to purchase some of the many wonderful items on sale, which included loads of fresh and luscious-looking fruits and vegetables.

We arrived in Banguitan at around midday. Minutes earlier we were threading our way through Kin-iway and Besao. I wanted to stop and check out things but the smoky pall was so thick. We resisted the urge to stop but resolved to do so when returning.

At reunions, you meet relations (to state the obvious Mart). I had to apologize to most for not knowing or remembering names. I don’t even recognize cousins i lived with or played with in my long-forgotten younger years.
Like me, many of them have families with grown-up children. Some cousins have now got grandkids.

Lunch was served by the host families. Generous servings on huge pots plates bowls and cups of rice, noodles and lots and lots of meat dishes. I think i went for a 2nd and then a 3rd serving!
Thanks all.

In the course of the afternoon, we shared stories, some tall tales and reminisced about previous times. We talked about our kids, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. We remembered the departed. Funny incidents brought to mind got the hearty laughter and especially at the expense of some.

The children played while the adults talked and talked some more – about what i don’t rightly remember.

I was watching the children play a game of volleyball and it made me recall what seemed like yesterday when my generation was their age.

As if i needed reminding, indeed time stands for no one. I could only hope – as an older relative – that the future for these young people is as bright as can be.

So deep into the late afternoon we reunited – this group of people gathered together and linked by blood of a common ancestor. May their tribe increase.

A dampener to the reunion was - you guessed it:
a brushfire starting on a hillside.

But more worthy a mention is the memorable experience of the reunion. The optimism in the faces of these hardy people is manifest in the bright smiles and loud laughter of the children. This is their village and nothing, certainly no fire, can dare threaten the mountain fastnesses where their ancestors found their homes.
A mountain village proudly displays a streamer hailing the achievements of its kids in tests nationwide.

These ibesao kids like many of their kin will find their niche in this world. They will look beyond the horizon of the high mountain peaks, and go out and succeed. They will hold high the torch for their clan and their ancestors will be proud.
So parents teach your children well.

It was threatening to rain as we said goodbye. I was hoping the rain would hold off until our mostly young cousins from Bugang arrived at their homes first.

Waving goodbye i again saw in the hills that the fires have now spread some ways.
So have a safe trip folks, and let it rain on the fires.

As the reunionists slowly thinned out after farewells and hugs and waves, we strolled down to a cousin’s house for some wonderful brewed coffee. This was served with huge slices of sweet rice cakes. John or Gerry, thank you champs! I have never tasted better!

And later we had to get on our way, even though the heart wanted to stay a bit longer.
And so ends another reunion. Thank you family in Banguitan.

We did pause in Besao and Kin-iway for a few minutes.
And so it was – id Besao e, as just before we left,
I remembered an old blues tune:

I was gazing out the car window
to the St James High School,
and i know no one can do the yaa ao,
ay kanan di ibesao...
...katekateg na'd new orleans.

(I was back in Baguio a week or so later when i found out that the name Banguitan is actually the combining of the names of two other villages from where our ancestors hail from: Bangnen and Kaaguitan.
This tidbit may be apocryphal but is parole proof that our oral traditions live on and continue to define and shape our identity as mountain people.)

Driving back from one ancestral home to another, we again pass through Sagada, another ancestral hometown, not of my parents directly but, of the deeper roots of great-great-grandparents. I only had a passing glimpse of the poblacion in the twilight, but a new feature of this town is the increasing number of bigger higher and taller residences.
Good onya Sagada. Ipeyas nan gawis.

So there. A blog post on a visit to Besao and Sagada as I said before .
...mountaintop towns of sagada and besao.

But there are so many writers and bloggers from these towns that i do not presume to steal their thunder by writing about their hometowns.

ps. it's always heartwrenching to hear grim news from home.
Condolences to the families and communities of those who died in the jeepney accident in north Besao last June 1st.


  1. good to see the kids playing ball games outdoors and not slouched in front of computers shooting virtual baddies.

    A good part of i-Besao, if true, are descendants of Limahong, apparently (or is it his general?). Maybe it explains the relatively fair skinned colour of many, and the work ethics. I join you in wishing the Besao youth well with their future.

    You asked me if I'm related to late Sergio; yup, he's my late dad. so I'm also an e-Besao eh.

  2. Wow, I see that you are so proud to be an Igorot! And I am one too.

  3. Wow! I see that u r a proud Igorot no matter where you are..Keep it up! Ako din eh..

  4. "katekateg na'd new orleans"~hehe... I like that!
    Thanks for sharing an amazing story that reminded me of my very own experiences of Besao. I was in Baguitan last December- a peaceful place to be. I remember a story I heard from my 'alapo' about the origin of Banguitan. It's a bout a hunting dog... can't remember much. Sak kad kasin paisistorya ken amak when I get home tonight. Hehe. God bless! Mabuhay Besao!

  5. thanks for the comments. do let us know about the origins of the name of our ancestral home. kadya istorya-em nan kanan amam.


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