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People of the Philippines

There are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met.

Compiled By Joshua Berida

The Philippines has fetching landscapes of rolling, verdant hills and mountains, labyrinthine rivers that course through farms and towering limestone formations. We have some of the best bone-white, sand beaches in the world with cerulean waters that are beautiful above and under. We get to swim with turtles and whale sharks, explore the gardens below the seas and enjoy warm weather year round.

Travel, however, is not just about ticking beautiful places off a list. Sometimes a place does not have much to offer; no resorts, no landscapes to take selfies in, or memorable dishes to partake of. So what would make a place different?

The people I met on some of my trips often made the difference. Their random and simple acts of kindness give the place a different color, a hint of blue, a dash of red. Their stories shed light on who they are, the conditions they are in, and how similar their experiences were with mine.

 

The Mangyans of Mindoro; Woman from the Cordillera Mountain Range in Nueva Ecija

The Mangyans of Mindoro; Woman from the Cordillera Mountain Range in Nueva Ecija

Mangyans of Mindoro

Mangyan is the generic name of the indigenous groups living in Mindoro. My friend and I were trekking with our guide to one of the waterfalls when we first met the Mangyans. They were quite shy and some were not used to seeing outsiders in their small village. Their lives were simple; they tilled the lands and raised livestock. Some, however, managed to adopt some form of modern civilization, they had TV, electricity, and an irrigation system.

 

 

 

Kuya Jojo from Dinagat Islands

Kuya Jojo was my guide and boatman during my trip to Dinagat; the island province lacked the facilities for mass tourism and only the government office rented out boats to nearby islands, or so I thought. Kuya Jojo recommended his father’s boat for island hopping. He asked me if his child could come with us during the trip. Of course I said yes. Grandfather, father, and son, three generations were on that boat ride to the different islands and beaches surrounding Dinagat. It was the first time Kuya Jojo’s son visited the destinations we went to. I was happy to be part of his adventure as a tourist in his own province.

 

The Adasen of Abra

The Adasen of Abra

The Adasen of Abra

In the most remote villages of Abra in the town of Tineg, which has long been been isolated by the towering mountain ranges and the mighty Binongan River, there thrives an ethnic group of people called the Adasen. Since visitors from the city were unusual in their villages, they treated us like a king. They hunted for wild boar (alingo) and trapped the best river eel (igat) because they wanted to give the best for us.

The mere fact that they made an effort to hunt in the wilderness to offer what they considered their best made me feel like I was so special. The language of hospitality in this remote village is different. I appreciated the effort and not the convenience offered to us.—EDMAR GUQUIB

 

The Palaw'ans of Palawan

The Palaw’ans of Palawan

The Palaw’ans of Palawan

Story and Photo by Bernalyn Sastrillo

Together with two French nationals and a fellow Filipino, I went to Palawan for a documentary shoot, and our subject was the Palaw’ans of the southern part of the province. When we first arrived in their village, they were all hostile. The women and children kept hiding from us while the elders asked us what our “pakay” to their ethnic group was. So, I talked to the chieftain (good thing, he knew  how to speak in Filipino) and asked him to gather all the members for a meeting.

We all went inside the town hall, and we clearly expressed our intentions to their ethnic group. After the meeting, we all ate merienda and played basketball. They had fun watching us–a team of Manileños and foreigners–stumble and slip on their small basketball court. But the pain and the bruises were all worth it when we finally saw the smiles on their faces.                     —BERNALYN SASTRILLO

 

The strangers of Nueva Ecija to Banaue

During our road trip to Banaue, we got lost somewhere in the Cordillera Mountain Range. It was early, only 9 p.m. but the places that we passed all looked “asleep”–all their lights were off and there was no one in sight. It seemed like in those parts, it was already time for sleep.

Exhausted and hungry, we decided to stop by somewhere on the road wondering what we would do next, when all of a sudden, the lights in one of the houses across us lit up. A woman appeared and she asked us what might be wrong, “Are you okay?”

We then told her that we were lost, and after giving us directions, she suddenly quipped, “Are you guys hungry? Please come in and have dinner!” The moment she said that, we almost cried for joy but then we also felt shy so we wanted to decline. She kept saying, however, that she knew we were hungry after our ordeal. We then entered her small house and saw that she had a section that looked like a sari-sari store. As she was tinkering around her kitchen, I said “Do let us pay for the dinner.” But she dismissed us and said that there was no need. We kept insisting but she was adamant about it.—AILEEN ADALID (www.iamaileen.com)

 

Kuya Oggie from Mariveles

On my way to explore Sisiman’s lighthouse in Mariveles, I met Kuya Oggie, an old trike driver who offered to take me and my toddler around Sisiman for “whatever amount I’m comfortable with.” He took it upon himself to carry my toddler and my bag and take our photos even if I didn’t ask him to.  He asked his neighbors to lend us their beach huts for free instead of charging us the usual P150 (which they did). It was very fatherly.

Stories of kindness like this are not rare when traveling. I’ve had strangers offer to carry my pack, bring me and my child to more convenient albeit out-of-the-way stops, and share their food and shelter despite their hand-to-mouth existence—all voluntarily and without asking for anything in return. It’s beautiful being out there, in a cynical world, where you rediscover faith in humanity and the basic goodness of mankind.—GRETCHEN FILART DUBLIN(www.filipinaexplorer.com)

 

Family from Tawi-Tawi

Family from Tawi-Tawi

A family in Tawi-Tawi

I will never forget the family who took care of me during my stay in Tawi-Tawi. They live a simple but happy life in one of the stilt houses in Bongao. They shared their knowledge about Islam and Tausug culture, and made me feel really welcome, like I was a part of their family. The food they offered were all delicious. I prepared a meal on my final night for them as a token of appreciation for their hospitality. They made my trip to Tawi-Tawi an unforgettable experience. They left a spot in my heart and this is definitely one of the reasons I want to return.—JAN ASHLEY FRANCO (www.breakawayph.com)

 

 

 

The Aetas from Pampanga

The Aetas from Pampanga

The Aetas of Pampanga

There was an event at Sandbox that time where I was part of the organizing team. I was off duty then, until these kids from the Aeta Community residing at Porac, Pampanga approached me and asked why I was alone. I told them I had no one to spend lunch with. Surprisingly, they offered to keep me company for the rest of the day.

We had such a sumptuous Korean lunch– my treat, of course. We went to every activity there was– from kite making, to poi dancing to watching the most awaited concert. It was a wonderful day for me. I spent so much time with these beautiful kids just talking about everything under the sun and doing absolutely everything we could. In exchange for the beautiful memories, the oldest of them offered to braid my hair.—MARY JOY GOZON

 

The T’boli of Lake Sebu

When my friend Mai and I went to Lake Sebu, South Cotabato to hunt for locally made t’nalak, we met these T’boli women who only showed patience and graciousness in assisting us with our queries. We also witnessed how this unique Philippine textile was intricately woven using only simple weaving machinery. While the men already followed modern clothing practices, the women still do their daily activities in their traditional garb. Seeing little girls wearing their traditional attire to this day shows how they give importance to their culture.

While the vibrant material used is made from handwoven fine abaca fibers, the designs of the t’nalak was said to come from only a few they call the dreamweavers. I was able to meet Lang Dulay and her grand daughter Marilyn. Lang Dulay was once a living cultural treasure, a dreamweaver. The designs of the t’nalak as shown in the picture were hers.—PAULA ANNTONETH O (www.ponderingpaodaolei.net)

 

No matter where we are in the country, we are all Filipinos. We live on a land broken and separated by water, but each land is part of a whole. The people we meet have their own stories, their beginnings and ends, how their experiences made them who they are. We are no different from our landscapes and coastlines, all formed over time, carved by nature, by pressure, transformed into something beautiful, something worth the adventure.