Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Water Buffalo

Warning! This post may upset some vegetarians. In the past few months I have been introduced to a variety of new foods while living here in Besao. Most of them are delicious, and everything is sweeter than you would expect. The Filipinos put sugar in almost everything. The one that surprised me most was the sweet spaghetti. A dish which my Greek father would never eat. He might even liken the act of eating sweet spaghetti to sinful behavior. I eat tons of fruits and vegetables and rice is a must at every meal! Meat is a whole other issue. The people here grow and slaughter their own meat (mostly chicken and pig), so if you don't know how to do that, then you don't eat meat. Hence, I have been a semi-vegetarian for the past three months. I did learn how to scale and gut fish, so I eat talapia from the river about once a week. Anyone want to take me on a fishing trip when I get back? Today was a special day in Besao. One of the village elders passed away and so the other men slaughtered a caribao, or as we call them in the U.S., and water buffalo. I decided to give it a try telling myself that it was just like beef. It was tasty! It was also organic! Also cooked was rice and pancit. The family of the deceased fed approximately 1,000 people. It was amazing. Igorots came from everywhere to eat this special meat and pay their respects to the family. Funerals last for about 10 days here, and are filled with ancient ritual, some of which I was invited to experience. Other rituals are kept private, only to be practiced by the elders. They bring the coffin to the family home and sing music and dance and tell stories. The body is never left alone. All through the night there are people there. It is an amazingly elaborate tradition that requires the work and energy of the entire community. Please pray for the family of Joseph Ayeo-eo.
-Melanie West Goes...Water Buffalo.

Friday, September 4, 2009


We took the road less traveled, and it made all the difference. Janice Cadiogan, her friend Erwin (our guide), and I went to the caves in nearby Sagada and let me tell you, it was absolutely amazing! I am from Missouri, so I have been in a cave before, but this was no Meramec Caverns! There are no lights, no paths, and no shoes. If you lose your kerosene lantern to the waterfalls you are in big trouble because it is pitch black in there, and you might not be able to find the way out. Best to take a head lamp along just in case.Before we went down into the cave, we had an American style breakfast with Janice's aunt, and when we came back up, she fed us lunch! I love these Filipinos, they are always feeding me.
Once you enter the cave it is time to take off your shoes and walk/crawl through a couple inches of slippery bat poop. Sounds gross, but trust me, it's worth it!
Touch all you want. Your footprints even stay behind you on the limestone under the water for a few seconds. It looks really cool.

There are waterfalls and pools everywhere inside the cave. We got soaking wet.

They call this formation the king's curtain.
Repelling down this rock seemed scary at first, but the rock was not slippery there, so it turned out to be a lot of fun.

I can't wait to go caving again. I am going to take anyone who visits me here!
-Melanie West Goes...Cave.


Don't cry mom, I did not adopt a child. This is my friend Brenda and her baby Adrian! He was born the same week that I came here to Kin-iway and we have been experiencing this new world together. Neither of us have any clue what people are saying and we are both growing rapidly! It is a beautiful thing.

This cloth sling used to carry the baby is called an Eban. All of the women here have been using these for decades and they really work! You can hold the baby for hours without your arm getting tired.
-Melanie West Goes...Baby.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


August 30th was my 23rd Birthday and I celebrated here in Kin-iway. Here in the Philippines, if it is your birthday, you do the work. You throw the party, cook the meal, etc. So, I invited all of my neighbors over and baked the cake mix that my mom and dad sent from the U.S. It was devil's food with chocolate icing and sprinkles! They loved it!I asked Roland what he was doing with his hand to which he replied, "Manange Melanie, I am being handsome!"Top Row from the left: Padi Brent Quinnes, Brett Hearthorn, Salude, Sylvia (Erin on lap), Nancy Longatan, Padi Danie Longatanl, Brenda (holding Adrian), and Fadila.
Bottom Row from the left: Rodel, Precious, Roland George (all children of Fadila), and Cresencia Dongalen (Auntie).-Melanie West Goes...Birthday.

Medical Mission

Last week we had some visitors from the U.S. and Canada who set up a medical mission here at the covered gym in downtown Kin-iway. There was free medical care for all and so all were there. No one worked that day just waited in long lines to get their eyes checked, teeth pulled, and free check-ups too.This man is the chief of the council of elders of Besao. He made that hat himself.This is the line of people waiting to have their teeth pulled. Dental hygiene is very bad here in the Philippines, so many people's teeth rot away or need to be pulled.Sit down here in this chair, and let me give you a shot to numb your mouth.Lean your head against the concrete wall, it will only hurt for a second.Wallah! No more teeth! You can wipe your bloody hands on the wall... Next!-Melanie West Goes...Medical Mission.


Every Saturday morning at 6am I catch the bus to Bontoc. After a bumpy two hour ride, I coach swimming at the closest public pool to my house in Kin-iway. With about 40 students and only myself as the instructor, I usually end up staying until 3pm. We eat lunch family style with a big spread of food on the banana leaf covered tables. The students are great, and so eager to learn. I have no doubt that they will be fierce competitors in this year's provincial meet! The beautiful mountains surround the pool which make for great scenery. The sun is hot though, so SPF 30 is a must.-Melanie West Goes...Swimming.

Church in a Mall

Okay so I didn't really go in, but I saw this church inside the SM MegaMall in Manila, and I think I went into shock. When I asked why the church was there inside the mall, the reply was... "If the people won't go to the church, then the church will go to them." Wow, now that's mission! Just thought I would share some wacky Asian culture with those of you back in the U.S. -Melanie West Goes... to church in a mall.