|Igorot Street Dance|
|The hills in the distance are covered with buildings too!|
The festival lasts something like three weeks, with the main events happening on the closing weekend. People warned that I wouldn’t be able to find a bus to Baguio during the festival - so I didn’t. I hopped a 5am bus up to San Fernando near my lolo’s hometown of Aringay, and squeezed guitar, pack, and self into a jeepney. It felt like I was coming into Baguio through the backdoor. My Uncle Danilo was expecting lots of people but he opened his house up to me anyways. A short downhill walk found me at his door.
|A very special sculpture commissioned by Uncle Dani|
|How about now?|
|Kitchen #1 of 4 (AKA the "show kitchen")|
|Fish tank - Uncle Dani has a thing for fish tanks.|
He thinks they are calming. And he simply loves fish!
|Main Dining. Love the curved line in the custom cabinet on the left and the circles above it.|
|Nicest thing about simple beauty? It's cheap! |
Like the asymmetrical windows that also contain sliding doors (pagoda-style)
|The "waiting hall"|
|The office. Behind me, I came from a room for the secretary that's about 1/3 the size of this one.|
|Baguio's version of Central Park, at the bottom of the valley|
|Camping in the hills around the park. Community trust in action!|
|Sneak peak: the parade begins...|
|Or if you're still afraid, you can always get an aptly-named "Self-Defense Bag"!|
|While I was taking a nap under a tree, these kids played with me,|
the way little people might play with a giant - feathers, fingers and giggles.
So I woke up and played back.
|The Sunflower is the featured flower of Panagbenga Festival|
|Evil Spirit or Halloween in February?|
|Move over Parade of Roses!|
|Elders are highly respected|
|These boys were a trip - Camera Candy!|
|Always messing around, but always on cue!|
|Guina'ang Folk Troupe in performance - drum line on the right|
|A member of the Guina'ang Folk Troupe|
I hadn’t eaten at a restaurant since Dumaguete months earlier, and I heard of a place that was supposed to have real tablea cocoa. I had a vegetarian pasta, and I forgave myself for the carabao cream (from a water buffalo) that was in the super rich hot chocolate. I ate alone in the soothing ambiance, every mouthful steeped in pleasure. I spent a good 15 minutes watching some large, peaceful ants explore what was left on my plates (only an ant could find anything left on a plate of mine… they’re usually spotless when I’m through with the food that it held). I left as they were closing, with eternity in my hands, and needing nothing.
|Some of the wood carvings on display were incredible|
|I could see from the woodwork why my Filipino grandpa is such an inspired woodworker himself.|
I joined some foreigners at their table and mentioned that I couldn’t find the place I’d been looking for. They said, “Yes, it’s difficult to find, there’s no sign or anything. But you’re awfully warm.” “Really?” “Ya! Just walk to the top of this building, and you’re there.” Ecstatic, I practically ran up the stairs… to the 5th floor! The building didn’t look that tall from the street.
|Inside Oh My Gulay - indoors, on the 5th floor.|
|Current art installation - |
I saw a real lion fish in my first week in the Philippines... 6 months earlier.
This night would lead to the most profound personal changes in self and direction that are sure to reach far into the future; it was the climax of what I would later realize was a path that I had been tip-toeing since birth. But the scope would take a lot to explain and complete openness on the part of the reader. Russell came down from his northerly perch in the mountains to meet with Sarah. Sarah Queblatin is a mandala artist, humanitarian activist, and powerful healer. She was in Baguio for many reasons, but mainly to be with Pi Villaraza and the group that manifested around him and around Inner Dance.
Inner Dance, much like a person, is something different and unique with each passing moment. Sticking a "Hello, my name is" label on flowing water or a dust devil doesn’t really work, and describing Inner Dance and the people and places associated with it is equally challenging. Whatever you find on google, and whatever I write here is already outdated and inaccurate since it was written more than a second ago. But, at risk of losing you in the process, I’ll give a schoolboy try at description.
|The Inner Dance Crew - Russell is the awkward tall guy lit up in the back.|
One of many videos about Inner Dance
But I didn’t know any of this stuff at the time, nor did I know that these people I had just met would each have a profound effect on my life. Besides Russell and Sarah, there was Pi, Daniw (his wife and well-known raw foods chef), and Sinag (their 2-yo son). There was Maui and Zelli – Filipino and German alternative/natural builders, along with Zelli’s two daughters. There was Ryan, a permaculturist and acupuncturist based in Mindanao. Shiva, an Ananda Margi and his boyfriend/husband Tony, another Ananda Margi. Both Pinoy, but Tony was raised in Ohio.
As Sarah and Russell gave introductions, I wanted to take each and every person aside for a whole day and talk with them. In my life’s journey, I see myself in transition generation that bears responsibility for finding a new way to live after the current pattern collapses. In the next 20 years, something will make life as we know it unsustainable: lack of potable drinking water, out of oil and coal, global warming, world war, economic collapse. Most signs point to all of this happening in 10-15 years, and all at the same time, as any one will trigger the others. Point is, the current lifestyle has been lived long enough that most people don’t know how to do the basic things to survive that their great-grandparents took for granted, things like finding water, growing food, building a shelter, healing illnesses, making their own tools, building a community, etc… A huge part of my journey has been erasing my fears of survival by learning this basic stuff. Most Filipino elders and rural communities are completely self-sufficient. The Philippines is vastly abundant in skills needed to survive and natural resources. In my mind, this is wealth - not the power of some green-colored pieces of paper backed by the promise that someone owes something of value in exchange for the bank note. The people in this group are all coming into mastery of all the skills I've been seeking, and I’m a sponge wanting to soak it all up.
Russell was on my left, and Tony from Ohio was on my right. Of course I talked the night away with the fellow foodie from my homeland. Tony and I zeroed in on each other, completely stoked to speak American after so many months of clearly enunciating simple sentences to a Filipino population that speaks English as its 3rd, 4th, sometimes 5th or 6th language. I always tell shy English-speakers that their English is 100 times better than my __Tagalog__ (fill in the blank) will ever be. It’s truly impressive how many languages Filipinos can juggle. And oh, to find such an amazing vegetarian meal in a country with one of the worst food cultures in the world, second only to America.
It was on this night that the Universe let me understand just how perfectly existence can flow. Tony was the only person I wouldn’t interact with in the coming months until I came down from the mountains and reconnected with him in Cebu months later. Knowing that I would probably see some of these folks revolving around the project I was headed up to do was good enough to let me leave without feeling desperate to connect with everyone right then and there. Stomachs full, bill paid, we went separate ways. Back on the street, I wandered with Tony and his boyfriend, Shiva looking for a music venue. We got lost and the walk tuckered my new friends out, so they settled for a massage instead.
|Meshuggah-lovin' bass man. Damn good player too.|
In the morning, I hauled my stuff up the hill to catch a bus north to Guina’ang. The Universe apparently didn't want me to leave the area, as every conceivable delay kept me from getting out, so I went back for another night with Uncle Dani and clan. The next morning I was on the route north for real. By dark I disembarked from a 7-hour bus ride at the steps to Russell's house in Sabangan for the first time since December. The next three months there in Mountain Province would complete the 24-year journey I’d traveled thus far in life, and I would take the first steps with the kind of new consciousness that only comes from major transformation. Here we go!