Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Journey to the North - Part 1

During the Christmas Break we traveled to the northern mountain provinces of Ifugao and Benguet. We attended a wedding and spent Christmas Eve in the town of Kiangan. We traveled from Kiangan further north to Banaue and the village of Batad to experience the Eighth Wonder of the World – the ancient rice terraces. We rounded out our trip with a short stay in the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City.

We’ve never made the winter road trip from Southern Ontario to Florida, mainly because the idea of driving for that long in one stretch is just not that appealing. Well, I think we spent enough time in the car (6 adults and 2 kids) that driving to Florida would seem like a snap. It felt like we traveled to Florida and back 3 times! I know the saying is, the journey is more important than the destination, but this time the destination held much more spectacle than the journey!

Part One -

Our journey started with August, a hired driver, picking us up in Los BaƱos at 4am. We met our traveling companions Rachel, Jeff and Andrew in Manila around 6:30am , and by 4pm we arrived in the town of Kiangan, in the northern province of Ifugao. We’d only traveled about 250km but the quality of the roads, the other vehicles of all shapes, sizes and speeds on the road, and just the geography of traveling around and over mountains made it quite the road trip.

Rachel works with CRWRC, the organization we are volunteering with in the Philippines. For this trip, Rachel was our cultural guide. She is from Kiangan, and her family has many historical roots to the people and the region. Her great grandfather was the first deputy governor of the region in the U.S.-formed Philippine Congress. Her nephew is now Governor. We learned so much about Ifugao history and culture through the family stories that she shared. And through current family events. We attended a wedding in Kiangan, and experienced elements of a traditional Ifugao wedding reception. The music, dancing and rice wine went on for hours. Different groupings of people would perform the Eagle Dance – the groom’s family; the bride’s family; representatives of each of the “barangays” (neighbourhoods); the elders; and, of course, the visitors. Fortunately, we had seen enough groups of people dancing that we had some idea of what we were supposed to do. But I think they looked much more graceful than we did! The wedding was truly a community event. The wedding feast was shared with everyone. Apparently 14 pigs, 2 cows and 2 caraboa’s (water buffaloes) were slaughtered for the meal. There is always a large quantity of food at a Filipino event!

It was in Kiangan that the Japanese General Yamashita surrendered to U.S. troops, ending the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, in 1945. We visited the site of his surrender and toured a shrine in memory of those who heroically defended the country during the war.

We spent a couple nights in Kiangan before traveling on to Banaue and Batad. We were supposed to travel to Segada for Christmas Eve but a landslide on the road forced a change in plans. We traveled back to Kiangan. Over and over again we have experienced generous and gracious hospitality in the Philippines, including Rachel’s family who made room for the travelers from afar. We attended Midnight Mass at the local Catholic Church. The message, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2)”, had particular meaning to our family. Earlier in the day, we learned of the death of Pam’s cousin Ian. The assurance of hope and love that we celebrated together that evening was a beautiful gift.


  1. Dear Pam, John, Simon and Danielle,
    We are sad to hear of the death of your cousin Ian. Praying for comfort for you and your family.

    It is lovely to see your pictures and hear of your recent adventures!

    Wishing you a Happy New Year, with an abundance of God's protection and blessings!

    Love, Susan, Bill, Rudy and Nathan!

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