September 8, 2014

The Mark of a Warrior

A decade or so ago, people with tattoos are judged as previous inmates or menace of society. Even now, a slight stigma is still placed on those with visible tattoos. Personally, I still get disapproving looks from some church servants and old ladies.

But it was different in Buscalan. All the old ladies were heavily tattooed - traditionally done! After getting a small one for myself, I can't help but admire these people. Just imagining the physical pain they must have endured makes my stomach churn.

Among the ladies back then, tattoos were considered as ornaments. The more you have, the more beautiful. While among the men, tattoos served as recognition for doing something for your tribe. The most common of which is headhunting.

During those times, tribal wars were still common. And if you are able to kill a warrior from another tribe, then you've done a good job protecting your own - which gives you the right to get tattooed.

But since there are no longer tribal wars, the tattooing tradition of Kalinga people is dying (if it hasn't yet.) That is why I decided to visit Kalinga - while the last Kalinga tribal tattoo artist is still alive.

Apo Whang Od of the Butbut tribe is the last Kalinga tribal tattoo artist alive. Currently, she is training her grand niece, Grace to master the art.

A. Getting There

From Bontoc, you can ride a jeep to Tinglayan. Since the number of trips are limited, it can get really crowded - especially because deliveries to and from the town is also carried through that jeep. From Tinglayan, you can ask Kuya Francis Pa-In to accompany you to Whang Od's place. Francis Pa-In is a popular tour guide in the area, and is also a good friend of Whang Od and her family.

When I visited, Kuya Francis was already booked so he recommended me to his brother in law, Kuya Ronnie. He was a nice fellow. It was easy to get along with him without feeling the need to talk much or share much - it gives me the solace that I like.

B. Getting Tattooed 

Getting batok tattoo is probably the most painful "self inflicted" pain I've ever done just for the sake of it. In terms of pain, machine tattoo is nothing (at all) compared with traditional tattoo. I cannot even compare. I'm not even completely sold on the idea that it is safe.

Still, I do not regret getting tattooed.
Far from it, I want it.
It's no more a mark of a warrior.
But it is a mark I chose for myself.

I'll live (and die) with it.


By the way Grace will be attending this year's Dutdutan Convention!
See you around!

September 6, 2014

Up in Kalinga, You can See Forever

It won't be easy, but it is going to be worth it.

Sagada, Mountain Province

The road to Kalinga was extraordinary in itself - almost 11 hrs of freezing cold and cramped bus ride, 2 hrs of overpriced van ride, and 3 hrs of bumpy-topload jeepney ride along the edge of the cliff - with a dead buffalo and live chickens for companions. Phew. I almost lost my breath (literally.)

Topload all the way

All the while I was thinking that if ever this bus, or van, or jeepney I'm riding  is going to be another count in tomorrow's news on vehicle accidents, then I wish that all will be instant and peaceful. Que sera sera (whatever will be will  be.) No regrets.

But thankfully, I arrived one whole in Kalinga - uninjured and happy.

Mountain province is beautiful. There are clouds surrounding the mountains, and mountains surrounding you. The sun is warm, and the wind is cool. You look up and you see the infinite blue  sky. You look around and you see the horizon. It was as if staring staring at forever.

A. Getting There

There are Ohayami buses from Manila to Banaue. Check their website for schedule of trips. Upon arriving in Banaue, make sure to ask around for the schedule of trips to your other destinations as well. Sometimes only 1 trip per day is made for some places. Better be sure than stranded.

B. Nearby Points of Interest

Sagada - check out caves, hanging coffins, Mt. Kiltepan, and Bomod-ok Falls.
Bontoc - mostly a transportation hub for the travelers, not much to see around
Baguio - relax and stroll the Philippines's city of Pines.
Banaue - trek and wonder at the beautiful rice terraces.

C. The People

Traditions and  stories come to life because of the people that keep them alive. While in Kalinga, I've heard of interesting traditions and stories on coming of age, courting, marriage, divorce, the original meaning of headhunting, etc.

Witnessing love stories of people who are almost a century old is such an inspiring thing. Being welcomed to someone's home then being served breakfast and coffee is heartwarming. Being offered a ride by a complete stranger after missing the only trip back to the city is also a great blessing.

Obviously I had a wonderful time in Kalinga.

On my way back to Manila, I was all smile - thankful for everything. I realized that I'm not ready to be a casualty. I'm not ready to be another count in the statistic on deaths due to vehicle/travel accidents. No que sera sera please. I want to live long enough to see bits and pieces of forever.


"Sometimes I'm afraid of my heart. Its constant hunger for whatever it wants - the way it stops and starts "

See you around!

August 3, 2014

After Naermyth: Can I wait for a Revelation?

Time and again, I have explained how uncomfortable I get when I am unable to comprehend or give closure to anything that matters to me (momentarily or permanently.) This is why I try my best not to watch/ read series that haven't completed yet. Otherwise, my mind will not be satisfied, and it can either (1) take drastic measures in getting answers - even if the answers are wrong or misguided, or (2) forget the object of confusion altogether - deny its existence and the fact that it ever mattered.

With Naermyth, option #2 is completely impossible right now - when I just found out that a book 2 (Revelations) is on its way! And that the series may even run a quartet! A  quartet! Imagine how long I have to wait!

That cannot be. I need to fill in the blanks now.
Yes, this is how I cope.

On Naermyth

Naermyth tells the story of a "soldier" after the humans lost the war against the mythological beings - which were never a myth a after all - hence Naermyth. The setting of the story is around the world but the protagonists are in the Philippines so most creatures are from Philippine mythology - to my excitement! Haha. It is a very easy read as well - YA category.

On Characters

The character developments are not in depth, but are enough for the readers to understand where they are coming from and where they are going. It's good for me, I don't care much for details anyway so long as the story moves forward in a sensible way.

I thought I would love Aegis because she is not a damsel in distress, cares nothing about what others think of her, and can be alone just fine. But her immaturity and rashness oftentimes put others in danger, and puts her in a position that needs saving. Well, I guess this is necessary for a story to brew.

Additionally, I find myself sympathizing with River, the "soldier" who chose to protect his loved ones by being a blacksmith instead - crafting and devising weapons or armors that can save the life of the user. His actions and words remind me of a maxim that I've been trying to follow since my quarterlife/existentialist crisis when I entered the corporate world after graduation, but that's another story.

"Everyday, each of us have to face a battle against our own shadows. Don't think you're any different... You may forget who you are, but I will keep reminding you."
- River

On Mythology

The promise of Philippine mythology is the reason why I read this book, but not why I kept on doing so since the discussion on them are very basic - probably for the mass audience to follow? I hope there were illustrations of the creatures discussed though!

On Questions

After reading Naermyth, there were some questions that I need to answer quick so that I can continue living peacefully even before the 2nd book is released. Can someone please help, hahaha - problema nyo din talaga to e?

1. How did the tikbalang story originate in the Philippines? Has someone ever encountered them being likened to god's messenger before? I've known of them being winged creatures, but never as beautifully described as in Naermyth.

2. Does anyone remember Occhio Del Dyo of Questor Anime Magazine? I remembered this title for some reason, but I don't really remember its story anymore.

On Having a Resolve

I hate that the story is so unfinished.
Instead of getting answers, there were far  more mysteries (and miseries for the protagonists) left.

I'm just glad the word I have to trust is that of River's rather than Aegis's. River has far more conviction as he has lost his everything already (good call on  that Karen Francisco!) For now that trust will have to do.

See you around!

I think I should get back to frequenting the Filipiniana section of the National Library.

July 20, 2014

Hair Talk (Oh Boy)


I was a target of bullying when I was a lot younger. Boys would often tease me for my curly hair. And so I wished that I had long straight hair instead.

Fast forward to college, people would still make comments about my hair - but by this time, I have already developed that attitude of not caring about others' opinion on my appearance that much. And to be fair, their comments are mostly out of fascination and not bullying - not that they can bully me anyway.

"Your hair has command on its own. It arrives before you do." (Solitario, 2013)

After not cutting my hair for some time, my hair kind of owned me instead of the other way around. In fact, my friends named my hair Elizabeth, because they thought it deserves to have a name. HAHAHA. When we would meet, they would ask how Elizabeth is doing.

Yes, I have such retarded friends :)

They even renamed my hair Lizzie after I had a hair cut last year:

Elizabeth (aka Lion King) and Lizzie. HAHAHA

After Lizzie, I now have Liz:

Liz - pixie cut for curly hair

How I wished Liz is always like that, but no. I have to blow dry the front part to make it look like that. Otherwise , I look like a  contestant of that's my tomboy grand finals:

I really do look like a boy (especially from afar, huhuhaha)

Oh boy.

I ain't got time for blow dry, nuh- uh! Aside from client expectations, hair must probably be the next difficult thing to manage.

Someone, help me please.
Arlet  (& Liz)

July 16, 2014

Plus Ones

Love is always in the air, and I almost don't want to breathe it.

HAHAHA. Kidding aside, my group of friends is getting bigger and not because I'm getting friendlier, but because my friends are introducing their plus ones.


The Original Eleven (minus Luigi)

#Friends plus ones

Ay kagulo sa dami, next time with babies na sila, OPS jk :))

Needless to say, their plus ones are as awesome as them, except maybe for Jiah - She's definitely more awesome than our friend Jared. Hello, Jared! Your mom is also awesome!

Getting surrounded by these couples is another story though. It's a bit freakish especially once they start talking about being stable, marriage, settling down, and a bright (blinding actually) future together. And they seem to talk about such all the time - during roadtrips, dinner, upon waking up, before sleeping, while waiting for pizza - all the time. Suddenly, you smile and wonder how you've got nothing figured out anymore. Gosh, I don't even know what to eat for breakfast tomorrow.

Whatever. HAHAHA

Cheers everyone! To growing together, and solid friendship!

The Boys

The Girls!

 And the ones who has to take in and swallow all the cheese of the couples:
The Singles

Dati barkada meal lang, ngayon plus one meal na. HAHAHA. Okay last ko na 'to for today :) 

See you around!

I must be invited to the wedding or the baptismal or I'll be aunt Maleficent for you - the old version :)

June 25, 2014

One Way Trip To Manila

I was raised by my grandparents.

I grew up watching pigs eat noisily, pestering roosters before a cockfight, saving myself from an angry turkey, and taking a nap at around 3 in the afternoon. On days that I am not getting up close and personal  with animals, I am usually up a guava tree, making sense of the clouds above me. Hakuna matata (no worries) indeed.

And then I turned six. 

Probably not six?

Six - the magic age wherein I must start going to school. But school was far far away from where we lived. School was in Manila. And Manila was too far for my grandparents to accompany me and fetch me everyday. And so I had to travel to Manila without them, and live with my parents and brother instead.

I have heard of Manila before. It's a famous place. All our neighbors seemed excited to go there. I would frequently hear remarks like "she got a job in Manila!" to which someone would reply, "Wow, I hope my son will to!" I imagined Manila to be some elite place only the few could have the fortune of visiting.

I am now 22 years old.

I grew up playing noisily with other kids on the streets, pestering ice cream vendors and taho vendors for an extra scoop, saving myself from racing jeepneys, and gazing at the people rushing by at the LRT station.  

I have fallen deeply, madly in love with Manila.

No, Manila is not an elite place where the fortunate resides. It is the good, the bad, and the ugly - a melting pot of Philippine history and culture, a picture of hardship and luxury, a place where I can look reality in the eye and still see hope in it.

A melting pot of Philippine history and culture

Whenever fellow travelers or couchsurfers would ask me which places to visit in Manila if they wished to learn more about Philippine history and culture, I would accompany them to Intramuros and Binondo.

June 2, 2014

The 45 Degree Angle Challenge (Mt. Sembrano)

Math and numbers have always been difficult for me, but this time around, I understood perfectly what a 45 degree angle is. I understood perfectly what it looks like, and more importantly how it feels like (to slip on such, ouch!)
This slope made me obtuse! (What does that even mean? HAHAHA)

Located in Tanay, Rizal, Mt. Sembrano is one of the nearby mountains from Manila. From Starmall, you can ride an FX to Tanay (70php), and then ride a jeepney to Brgy Hall of Malaya. (20php). Be wary of trusting tricycle drivers.

Malaya Barangay Hall

The Barangay hall of Malaya, where you will register and pay 20php, is the major drop off point for the Mt. Sembrano trek. You can also rest and take a shower here after the climb. Barangay hall officials will offer themselves as guides for 300php (up to Manggahan), or 500php (up to campsite/peak).

The trek is mostly uphill, unlike other mountains which are a combination of both. On the residential area part of the mountain, be careful of your steps as several horse shits are waiting to be stepped on. Lots of mangoes (and jackfruit), on the place as well, they're selling mangoes for 150 php per sack there! Sweet baby jeezuuz!

Manggahan Area

The manggahan area marks the first half of the trek. There are lots of mangoes /mangga/ on the area. Hence, the name. If you would like to rest or eat, I suggest you do it here already, since the following stopovers have no shade. Another 10php entrance fee will be collected here. You can also buy a whole coconut for only 10php.