Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Memoir: My Funniest Gardening Experience in Taloctoc, Kalinga

I grew up amidst the splendor of Mother Nature in the hinterlands of Taloctoc. I’m sure many of you don’t know where Taloctoc is.

Taloctoc is a small ethnic village located in the heart of Kalinga, north of Manila. Previously it was inaccessible to vehicles, but at present, a narrow, rugged road was constructed that made traveling easier.

This story happened several years ago when I was in grade school. The significant lessons learned though are timeless, and these are what I want to share with you.

In the village, gardening was a way of life. It was unusual for a villager not to have a garden somewhere, because a garden was a crucial part of the village’s subsistence.

Our garden was a few steps away from the teacher’s quarters where we were staying temporarily, as we had just come from town.

My mother, Asuncion, was a grade school teacher, and as expected, she had to be a role model for the folk in every aspect - including gardening.

“Do you think you could help me with this?” Mother asked me, one sunny Saturday when she brought me to an area below our house.

I looked around and noticed verdant, robust weeds growing abundantly in the area.

“What would we do here, Ma?” I asked curious.

“We’ll make a camote (sweet potato) garden,” she piped enthusiastically.

I was not enthusiastic about it because I hated gardening, but I followed her instructions, anyhow, weeding and digging the area to make the soil soft and ready to form into plots.

We made small garden plots, creating small canals for water drainage. The soil was rich and soft and we had no difficulty planting the ‘camote’ tubes. I was instructed to plant them about 3 inches away from each other.

“The roots would grow more rapidly, and there would be more tubes,” mother said.

Afterwards, I was tasked to accompany mother in tending to the garden. Every morning I went with her down that small patch of land.

I began to appreciate my quiet moments with mother. It was also fun weeding and adding more soil, so that the tubers would grow bigger and more delicious.

Within more than a month’s time we began reaping the fruit of our labor from our small ‘camote’ garden.

One time there was a contest in school to bring a simple food that was nutritious, and that had many health benefits. I had thought instantly about my ‘camote’ garden.

Excitedly, I harvested the shoots and the tubers and cooked the shoots with anchovy and tomatoes, then I prepared vegetable salad from the shoots too. I had cooked also the tuberous roots into barbecues and prepared sweet jam.

Yes, I won the contest, because the shoots were rich sources of vitamins, minerals and iron. The roots were sources of carbohydrates and fibers too. They ate voraciously the delectable food I prepared for them.

There was an underside though; some people gave off unwanted gas that made people scamper away. This turned the event to a comedy scene.

This is not the significant story though; the most important thing that I have learned while tending the garden with my mother were the precious lessons in life that she had taught me.

I could still remember mother patiently digging small canals so that water would not accumulate on the plant’s roots.

“What would happen if the water would amass?” she asked me.

“Well, the plant would die?” I replied, unsure.

“Of course dear, so remember any good thing could become bad if it’s in excess.”

“Even love?”

“Even love. Genuine love is tough love. We love you, but we reprimand you when you get out of hand.” She said sotto voce.

“If we don’t nurture and tend to our plants, do you think it would still live?” Mother queried again.

“Some of it would die,” I stated, sure of my answer.

“Smart child and the few that manage to live could be unhealthy and lost.”

“Love is like a plant that should be properly watered and exposed to sunlight to survive. Having too much of either would be damaging to the plant. So, when it’s time for you to love, think about love as a plant that needs nurturing and proper care.”

These are only a few among the many lessons that I have learned from her.

Now, that I am a professional, I would always remember the lessons gleaned from these gardening moments with my mother. I hope you have learned something as well.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nipa Huts, Refreshing Abodes

Nipa huts are superb places to stay in especially during the summer season, when the weather is too humid. For the older people of Kalinga, the nipa hut is where home is. Made of bamboo slats and cogon, it's sturdy and comfortable to stay in. When you go to Kalinga, try staying in one of these nipa huts. Nipa Hut image courtesy of Roselle, thanks.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Incredible video of the Mountain Provinces featuring a Picture from this Blog

Watch this incredible video of the Mountain Provinces posted by Wilson Anaban Sy on Facebook. One picture featured my brother which was featured in this blog. The lyrics of the song talks about the honesty, sincerity and hospitality of the mountain folks. I remember the houses in Taloctoc when I was a kid; they were never locked but nothing was ever lost. Agreements were all done orally - nothing on paper - but that agreement is followed perfectly. I hope this can be applicable in the urban areas, as well. Watch the video below:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Taloctoc Experience

I call Taloctoc a paradise because nature abounds and it has provided solace and comfort when I was a child. I will never forget the following:

·         The dawang (Chico river) where I and my playmates swam, dived, almost got killed in. I will always remember its shimmering crystal clear waters during summer where we catch fish using our bare hands. Its raging, murky water during the rainy season that has drowned a number of people, almost including me.

Image credit: Nats Dalanao

·         The Chico river’s bank where we picked juicy guavas and filled our stomachs with; Its clean, white sand where we sunbathed and frolicked; its shiny smooth stones where we slept after stuffing ourselves with all the guavas and sweet berries we were able to consume.

·         The majestic mountains we climbed every time we went back to high school. I remember looking down from the mountain top and imagining I was in heaven looking down on earth; smelling the fresh scent of  dew drops on the verdant grass, and watching the clouds drift by just  inches from my fingers.

·         The green rice fields I toiled in when I was not in school; the nifty air coming from new mown hay; the fresh veggies we cooked freshly plucked from the vegetable garden provided scrumptious viands for our hungry stomach after our arduous work.

·         The oil lamp flickering on our wooden table, casting shadows, as we narrated ghost stories that made every one scared but laughing.

·         The big bonfires in the elementary school plaza where festivities were held with taddoks and gangsas.

·         The kaingin season when every day was hard work. I was usually tasked to fetch water with a bamboo pole from the foot of the mountain, and waking up in the wee hours of dawn to pick freshly grown mushrooms from tree stumps.

Everything was fresh and invigorating. Did I really do all of these? I did, and I’m happy I was able to experience these things because they have given me the chance to appreciate nature now that I live in a metropolitan area.
Thank God, I’m an i-Kalinga!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Chico River, One of the Natural Treasures of Kalinga

The Chico River is one of the natural treasures of Kalinga. It is a winding river that snakes its way through several villages, such as Bangad, Lubo, Mangali, Taloctoc, Pasil, and Tabuk, to name a few.

Taloctoc is particularly mentioned because this beautiful village is the only village enclosed by the river’s loving but sometimes harsh “arms.” Taloctoc is surrounded by the river, except for a few kilometers that serve as the neck of the village. When you look at the village from the mountain top as you descend via the man-made trail, it looks like a head of a man, because the river surrounds the village.

It is a breath-taking site that most visitors admire. During summer, the Chico River serves as a picnic and bathing paradise for village folk. They would spend considerable time in the river, enjoying the crystal clear, calm waters bathing, swimming or fishing.

Image courtesy of Nats Dalanao of Lubo

Young people often spend the day diving, swimming and exploring the riverbank for wild guavas and berries, and then picnicking by the fine, gray sand. Stone climbing is also an alternative venture.

Some of the stones are so big - they look like rocks. The Chico River is a refuge and a haven for the village people during summer. You can pick the summer months to go there for a great vacation.

During the rainy season however, it turns into a ferocious and cruel adversary; claiming lives by its swirling waves and deadly current. The Chico River is feared, respected and loved. Just like Mother Nature, the river does not serve anyone. It is a neutral force that could be harnessed as an instrument of death or life.

Recently; however, the Chico River is popular internationally as a water rafting attraction. Many local and international tourists have enjoyed the exciting ride in the swirling waves of the Chico River. The people of Taloctoc have enjoyed this nature’s gift to them and had optimized its beauty and splendor. Having no paved roads going to Taloctoc, had allowed visitors to bask in the incredible verdant mountains and the sparkling splendor of the Chico River.

If you happen to visit Kalinga, which is North of Manila, do not forget to visit the Village of Taloctoc, Mangali and Lubo in Tanudan. The wonder of nature, with its variety of unique flora and fauna would amaze you no end.

The natural brooks and waterfalls can also be a source of a countless of interesting activities. An exploration of the Chico River before and after you visit Taloctoc would complete your travel experience.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Spectacular Pictures of the Ifugao Rice Terraces and More by Nathan Allen

I chanced upon Nathan Allen’s spectacular pictures of the Cordilleras when he became popular due to an article he wrote about Filipino food.

Nathan Allen is an American but has travelled the Philippines a lot. He has made friends from the Cordilleras, Palawan, Cebu, Baguio, Bicol and other beautiful spots in the country.

On his  Facebook website page, “I Dreamed of This” has already more than 50,000 “Likes” and is one of the Top 20 Travel Blogs.

Nathan posted this:  

“Guess what? Thanks to all your likes, shares, and comments, "I Dreamed Of This" has hit 50,000 readers and become one of the top 20 travel blogs on the Internet!” 

He granted me permission to use his pictures in this blog. Thanks, Allen for your generosity.

Nathan pounding rice with a friend in Batad Rice Terraces, Philippines

Rice Terraces in Ifugao, Mountain Province, as captured by Nathan's camera

Batad Rice Terraces, Ifugao, Philippines

Waterfalls in Sagada, Philippines

Woman drying harvested rice in Ifugao

Nathan Allen
Nathan Allen is acting as a travel Ambassador for the Philippines with the way he keeps promoting the country's beautiful culture and places. You can read more of his articles in his travel blog, I Dreamed of This, and you can like his page on Facebook.

I can’t help but share his pictures here because they’re simply amazing.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Taloctoc, Kalinga; The Kaingin Rice

One of the cycles of labor that the Taloctoc youngsters go through is the "Uma". This is the "kaingin" - a mountain clearing in which rice is planted during the summer months. Taloctoc is a village in Kalinga, Philippines which has a rich culture existing even up to the present times.

The month of April would see the native folks, burning and clearing an area in the mountains ready for rice planting after the first rainfall.

Image credit: Arvee Gaye Trinidad

We had built a small hut in which we could take a rest, but folks usually went home to the village after a hard day's work. Since I was not used to hard labor and the hike every morning and evening to and from the mountains, I would stay with my grandparents in the Kaingin hut.

This would save us the hike everyday. Before the first rainfall, the kaingin would be cleaned thoroughly and weeded. It was on times like these that I would wake up very early in the morning and take a walk savoring the nippy morning, fresh air, the awesome view from the mountain top as the sun arises from the east, and the wonderful, morning silence when all can be heard are the chirping birds and the melodious sound of the cicadas.

I would have fun picking up mushrooms from tree stumps for viand. Then I would fetch water down the stream with my bamboo pole. It was heavenly! You have to experience it to know what I mean. It would be during the months of May that rice planting is done. Afterwards, the succeeding rains would then allow the rice seedlings to grow robustly into a full grown rice plant ready for harvest. Harvesting was also a whole day affair.

It has to be harvested all in one day because of the superstitious belief that the gods would get mad if this was not done. The labor was done by all the native folks cooperating to allow the successful harvest of one kaingin after another. Everyone helps everyone - the true "bayanihan" (unified) spirit.

The kaingin rice varies in color, it is pinkish to red; it is bigger and fuller than the field rice, it is also more delicious and believed to have more nutritive value. It contains more essential nutrients than the field rice and could be eaten without any condiment, viand or side dish. Its aroma is also pleasant and is an appetite inducer. If the ordinary rice has vitamin B12, the kaingin rice has more vitamin B12.

It also has niacin (vitamin B3) and these are essential in cell growth and blood cells development. After all the hard labor in the kaingin, it is pleasurable to sit down and eat the kaingin rice which is still the best that I have tasted so far. This was published by

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Panagbenga Flower Festival 2014 Pictures

All these pictures of the Panagbenga Flower Festival 2014 are courtesy of Lionheart Jude Ballug of Baguio City.