Wednesday, October 21, 2009


My weekends begin on Friday around 11am when I catch the jeepney to Bontoc, an urban center located on the Chico River. It is about an hour long drive to the city filled with beautiful scenery and often hilarious conversations with the local people. No matter how loud we are or how distracted we may be, the Igorot people never fail to practice a moment of silence when passing a portion of the road near Dantay. Many people have been the victims of vehicle accidents at this place and some even believe it to be cursed by the anito (evil spirits of the ancestors). Although I have some trouble understanding the full influence of the anito on the Igorot people, I too observe the silence out of respect for the deceased. The fare is 60 pesos. That is equivalent to about $1.30. Upon arrival I head straight for the Diocesan office. I have lunch with the development staff including: Sarah, Mileatte, and Mariza who are about my age. We travel together often and have become good friends. I work at the office in the afternoon and then I go to the Bishop’s residence to stay with my Filipino family, the Alawas’. There is Bishop Brent, Auntie Shirley, Merv, and Fengag. The Alawas’ have three other children, a daughter, Joanne, and two more sons, Erwin and Challikis who are closer to my age. Their daughter is an optometrist and their sons are studying in University. I love to sip coffee and chat with the Bishop, or go around the Diocese with him visiting far flung communities. Auntie Shirley is a great cook and so easy to talk to. Merv is in High School. He is very committed to his school work and volunteerism. Fengag is the baby of the family, just like me. I call him Baby Brent. He is very popular among the boys his age and is leading them to a strong interest in preserving the traditions of the Igorot culture. It is so cool. He is often the one leading the playing of the gongs. The Alawas’ have made a room for me there in their home where I sleep on Friday nights. Saturday morning I get up early and head to the pool to coach swimming. I stay there all day and by 3pm I catch the last trip back to Besao. Then I do it all again the following week.
Melanie West Goes…Bontoc

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