I will never forget this moment with our Kalinga guide, Kuya Weber. We shared stories while we were climbing towards the village where Apo Whang Od lives. There were boys from the village traversing down like ants on a mission, they were fast on their feet even though one wrong step could cost them their lives (we were very high up the mountain at this point). I asked Kuya Weber if these boys go to school, and he said they do. I can’t believe they have to go through these obstacles everyday just to go to school. By the looks of them though, it looks like they were determined.
I asked him if he went to school, and he said he did. He was able to finish high school but did not attempt to go to college. He said he wanted to be a pilot, but he got married early and had a family at a young age. My mind went back to the boys who passed us by a while ago. I’m sure they have their own dreams, maybe one of them want to be a pilot some day. It was then that I realized that his dream would likely remain that, and the prospect of even experiencing flight was a slim possibility.
In that moment I felt both pain and gratitude. Pain for Kuya Weber whose opportunities were exponentially less than mine, and gratitude both for my opportunities and the luxury of being able to experience this moment.
“She used to tattoo warriors,” he blurted out in Filipino. He was referring to Apo Whang Od.
“Ngayon basta may kakayahan na makapunta dito, pwede na magka tattoo.” Kuya Weber stared ahead.
His words dug deep into my heart. I know I am not worthy, but I tried to find a reason within me to continue my journey towards Whang Od (literally and figuratively). I may not be a “warrior”, who killed and beheaded people to protect her village, but I am a warrior of life, one who struggles, fails, but gets up in the morning, sharpening my sword and gearing up myself for another battle. I will never quit.
So much of my dreams involve travel, and the pursuit of a good and happy life. A lot of us have been given an incredible opportunity, to study, work, and travel. How many of us actually realize how blessed we all are? Others are not so lucky. I see that a lot when I travel. I truly believe in the power of travel, it opens up our eyes to the reality of the world. Travel is education. Travel is experience. Travel is understanding. Travel is acceptance.
Physically, my body was about to give up. Though I’m an adrenalin junkie, I do not have an experience climbing mountains. I’ve never known exhaustion before I made that climb. I would have thrown up had I not took Kuya Weber’s word to NOT drink a lot of water on the way up.
Still, as I look down the path where I struggled to climb up, I realized that the only thing that would hinder me on my way up is my will to go on. I managed to crawl my way to the steep slopes and was able to finally step on Brgy. Buscalan, home of the legendary Mambabatok, Apo Whang Od.
Up top, I was yet again humbled by the beauty of nature, my heart grateful for this unforgettable experience.
I guess it was not a surprise that I chose “Hinuliab” as a batok.
I have a point I promise. This was not meant to be a post about my Kalinga trip. 🙂
Much of who I am now is because of what I see… what I touch, feel, experience. It is my ever growing appetite for anything undigested. So few people understand this, but I am happy and grateful for my life.
Just a shout out to all the people who made me who I am today (Hi, mom and dad!). Thank you for putting up with me!