After a week of rest from our Apayao journey, we were once again on the road… for Kalinga! We started around 19:00 from Baguio City on the 23rd of January, and arrived at the city of Tabuk around 4:00 am [24-Jan-2012].
We had around an hour for some sleep and by 9:00 am, we traveled to our case barangay for some interviews. By 16:00, we had finished a good number of interviews, then toured at the Chico River Diversion Dam.
The Chico Diversion Dam, was the principal structure of the Chico River Irrigation Project (CRIP) planned in 1962. You can find the structure in Sitio Ngipen, Barangay Calanan, about 14 km from the city proper.
Aside from diverting water for irrigation purposes, locals also use the dam to reach the other bank. Watching these two fellows cross would definitely make you worry if you think about what-if scenarios.
On our second day, we had finished all our interviews and focus group discussions. By 16:00, we were already touring around the newly constructed Tabuk City Hall. Signs of infrastructure construction were everywhere. Around two to three years from now, the six lane roads leading to city hall would probably be concreted, a central business district may already be in place, and you would witness the familiar urban environment in function.
The quick flow of data gathering would have not been possible if not for our saintly i-Kalinga friend, lakay Joseph. His red smile, brought upon by years of betel nut chewing, projected his fatherly disposition, as if already telling you about years of knowledge and experience that we were still in the process of starting. We efficiently moved from one place to another, as he guided us which way to go, where to set our eyes, and where to not waste your time. So on our third day, we of course excitedly agreed that we would go at a popular dining area in Tabuk – the Sirok ti Rangtay (under the bridge).
SRT, as locals call it, is a popular picnic area in Tabuk. Undoubtedly, the charcoal remains and fire spots in the area signify its function as the place for riverside alcohol sessions, as well as for occasional dips at the Chico River. We settled our things near a bridge post and started preparing our lunch – duck stew.
By four pm (4 was the magical ending hour in our Kalinga trip), lakay Joseph wanted us to meet his friend, a master alcoholsmith, for good basi (sugarcane alcohol). Since everyone in the team were superb alcohol analysts, this was yet again, a stroke of a series of very fortunate events.
We traveled for about thirty minutes, already in good spirits, to the alcoholsmith’s farm. It was just beside the highway, but you’d have to walk a bit to reach his house. We saw a number of goats along the pathway, munching on grass and some left over rice stalks. A water buffalo was tied on a tree. Two kids, probably born a few days earlier, were walking clumsily. You’d see fowls, and more goats, and dogs dutifully barking at us. Coffee beans was spread over a concrete platform to dry, as we checked out a parked tractor.
The alcohol smith had white hair, old and experienced, and probably his basi was also a result of years of trial and error until it was made the way it should be made. A couple of talks, and he went inside the house, coming out with a pitcher of basi, and a coconut husk for a cup.
Smelling the basi was pleasant. It was sweet and vinegary. In just a couple of seconds, you would have a second sip, a third, a tenth. You could barely taste the alcohol, as the natural sweetness prevails over your taste buds and into your insides.
Though it would be good to stay there for a few hours more, we had to go. Lakay Joseph was inviting us at their house.
The sun had already set when we arrived at their house. We reviewed what happened in the past days. We shared stories and experiences. I met his wife, who hailed from a place I know quite well. She recounted the past, of how she came to settle in Tabuk, of her children, of daily happenings, of her life. All I had to do was to listen and listen well.
Listening and telling tales could go on and on but we had to sleep. Tomorrow would be another adventure to live, another trip to undertake, another province to experience. But surely, spending time here in Kalinga was my most epic yet. Starting the day at sirok ti rangtay proved to be the defining moment in our trip. Who knows, we might come back for another SRT picnic.