Tag Archives: Kalinga

Climbing beyond the clouds; On trusting someone else with your pack


Before we left for our trip to Kalinga in the Cordilleras, I told my husband that I will be completely dependent on him. He answered, “No worries. It feels good to have you dependent on me for at least once in our life.”

True to his word,  my husband did everything. He just asked me to pick out this number of pants and shirts. That’s all I did. He bought our bus tickets. He packed our bags. He pre-cooked the food we brought to the community. He arranged for our guide.

This is something that I’ve never done before. I am used to being self-sufficient. But for this particular trip, I didn’t know what to pack, I didn’t know what to expect. I had to work right up to the last minute before we left to catch the bus. I had no idea how we’re getting there, what exactly is going to happen. This is not me. Or at least, not the me I was before. I would have researched the trip to death, pre-arranged everything that can be arranged from miles away and tried to iron everything out so that the trip would go smoothly from one point to the next.

This time is different. I have someone I can completely trust. I know that my husband will do everything he can to make the trip as comfortable and enjoyable for me as possible. He will go out of his way. He will put me first before anyone and everything else – including himself.

Now, I have a really bad back. I visit my chiropractor at least once a month to keep the pain at bay and try to ensure that it wouldn’t get worse. That being said, I couldn’t have possibly reached the community atop the mountain if I had a pack to carry. Worse, I can just imagine how much my back would be screaming at me if I lugged stuff as we traced the sides of mountains and trekked up steep inclines. Here’s me without a pack, negotiating the narrow path.


Looking back, I now realize that the trip wasn’t just about me relying on my husband.  It was about us trusting the good in others. The trip wouldn’t have been as wonderful if it weren’t for the nameless people who, one after the other went out of their way to make the trip a little better for us.

It was about talking to random strangers, sitting on the floor and shelling dried beans while passing the time, taking a glimpse into their lives for just a little while. It was about sitting on a log beside a mother, listening to her stories about her children – all scholars, she proudly tells me. I learned how two were teachers but had to look for better paying jobs and are now working at the BJMP in Valenzuela. It was about trusting a young guide who would unobtrusively keep an eye on us, making sure we don’t fall. Knowing just when we’re about to run out of breath and suggest a quick stop.

The pack that I’ve been carrying, the one filled with worries and work-related concerns, got lighter with every story we shared, with every smile I received and returned.  I felt these just leave my pack, one by one, ride the wind, go back to Manila and wait for me there. That wonder is not something that I could have done by myself. Without knowing it, I needed these strangers, random people, who didn’t feel strangers nor random at all, to help lighten my pack.


Climbing Beyond the Clouds



(That’s me and our guide. Photo taken by Mars with a Blackberry cellphone camera.)

Mars has always subscribed to the flow of the universe; it is never wrong even when everything looks bad from our perspective. There are bigger things beyond whatever plans that I try to painstakingly lay down but go awry anyway. Sometimes I need to be reminded of this. Sometimes I need to reconnect.

Our trip to Kalinga holds meaning to me at different levels. It marks our celebration for Mars’ birthday. It is one of the trips that we enter as a couple, just the two of us, and we leave stronger – as a couple. It has always been our goal to travel across the Philippines together. To discover things together and in the process discover who we are as a couple, who we are individually. It was a break from the daily grind where a million things vie for our attention all at once. It allowed us to focus on ourselves and on each other.

It was the time for me to leave everything behind and soak in the universe. Sure, I often travel for work but these journeys are always too short, too hurried (and harried) and too packed for me to connect with the pocket of the universe I am visiting. This trip to Kalinga was different. It was for us. It was for me.

It was a loose end finally tied. I’ve long decided to have a tattoo. I’ve long decided that I will only get a tattoo from Apo Fang Od. But for the longest time, I couldn’t decide on a design that I will not outgrow nor regret having. Now, I know. I found what would endure forever. I have decided more than a year ago. This is just the physical manifestation. Things all came together perfectly during this trip – with a satisfying tak tak tak tak. Here now is the fulfilment of that decision.

I will try to write about our trip to Kalinga in several parts, as I digest everything that this trip meant and means to me now. I will take it slowly to let the experience brew to the dark, strong, exquisite cup of Kalinga coffee that Apo Fang Od’s daughter in law welcomed us with. But I will also treat this as urgently as I can. Just like my tattoo, I want to capture the trip while it is still fresh, inflamed in my mind, before it melds and fades into the skin of my everyday life.