If you have been raised up in the Cordilleras, you would never fail to associate “pilosopo” to someone from Ifugao. After all, ever since who knows when, you’d always hear of witty “Ifugao” jokes, though mostly mentioning Kiangan (which is one municipality of the province). At any rate, the label of being “pilosopo” or a great logician is – and probably will be – always there.
Another running gag about Ifugaos would be their moh-ma spitting skills, said to be able to spit at great distances with greater precision. Moh-ma by the way is the practice of chewing areca nut with betel leaf and lime. The practice is usually for “mouth play” (an exercise for curing idle mouth movements), and also as an energy booster, as the act of chewing “moh-ma” serves as a mild stimulant.
Alfonso Lista, is bordered by two provinces in the Philippines, Isabela and Mountain Province (click for map). From Kalinga, we had to take the better road, so we passed through Isabela first before reaching Ifugao. Along the way to the municipal hall, you would pass through Maris Dam:
We reached the municipal hall at around twelve noon, so the office we needed to visit was closed for lunch break. We had to eat lunch ourselves, no stop overs or snacks were done during the 4 hour trip. A market was nearby so we did not go very far for some rice, meat and vegetables.
After lunch, we had to arrange for our lodging area. It turns out that the municipal microscopist had already suggested their family house for the team. Ayus! Furthermore, the house was located in our case barangay. Very convenient indeed, as the nearest guesthouse would require around 30 minutes of travel time.
At three pm, we departed from the municipal hall to barangay Kiling. I would say, that the trip was so corny, as the rolling hills that you’d see from the outskirts of the central barangay (where the municipal hall is located) until you reach Kiling were all green with corn! As far as your eyes can see, stalks and stalks of corn are standing, cooling your eyes with its lush leaves and deep green hues. Apparently, the variety is drought tolerant, and only rely on occasional rains. That’s why even though the road was so dusty and dry, you’d think that there are water pipes running on the soil bed, as the the stalks look so well-watered and healthy.
Around 4 pm, we arrived in Kiling. The weather was quite hot, and we had to put some effort in settling our things in designated rooms. Now I know, that it was not just quite hot, but it was really hot! And I thought the weather in the Cordilleras is cool. One fact checked.
Some of us interviewed a health worker, and others talked with locals nearby. We planned for tomorrow’s activity and then rested early.
Talking with people the next day revealed that most of them are Ilocanos. Only a minority are Ifugao natives… and we were in Ifugao. Even the early settlers of the barangay were migrants from nearby provinces. Now I know that Ilocanos have really conquered the region in a way. We speak their dialect (it is the Cordilleran lingua franca), and they not only reside in Alfonso Lista, but also in the municipality of Paracelis in Mountain Province (near barangay Kiling).
Despite, the ethno-linguistic difference, all else are similar. They chew moh-ma, they till the fields, spitting the moh-ma is also colored red, and the kids also play with tops.
The International Finance Corporation ( a World Bank group) states that, “Magat dam was completed in 1983 as part of the World Bank financed Magat River Multipurpose Project (MRMP) in northern Luzon, about 350 km north of Manila. MRMP’s primary objective was to expand the existing Magat River Irrigation System (MARIS) to triple rice production in the Cagayan River basin in an effort to attain the country’s self-sufficiency in staple food supply. The dam is about 3,150 m long and is of rock fill construction. It was constructed as a multi-purpose project, for both irrigation and electricity generation. Currently about 85,000 ha of land is irrigated, and irrigation daily requirements (IDR) are discharged on a priority basis.” (Read more here)
Yahow! That concludes the Cordilleran Adventure… for now. 😉 And now I know again, that the adventures are still yet to come.