Kalinga
Records of a journey in 1990
17th - 18th - Saklit & Lecong
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18th – Still in Lecong

Ganggang arrived yesterday evening and declared his intention to stay in Lecong; still too many aftershocks and not worth the risk. Ganggang isn’t very big, but he has sinewey strength about him and serious air. He commands respect seems as much Pangat (statesman) as Mengor to me, though his reputation is as the latter. He doesn’t speak English, sadly.

I spent the most of the day sitting on the balcony with the kids again, stoned. A kid sold me fistful of pollen for 20 pesos, which I squished to a squash-ball of black.
 
We’ve been singing and swapping words in English & Kalinga. “Noo Tachugt” “You are hairy.” It’s been nice, stopping to relax after all the dashing around, giving up on gathering ‘stories’ and letting the atmosphere seep in. Again, as I write, I’m surrounded by kids. The adults are all off at work. So it’s kids, a few grandparents, Moses and me in the village most of the day. At this moment eight of them are leaning on me, I counted them. They have their confidence up and have sort of taken possession of me. One is holding the page of this note book down from the wind, watching and helping me with my writing. Another is stroking my forehead.

Gang-gang of Nasablutan 

 
 



Marijuana drying in Lecong
 
 
Manuel appeared in the evening, climbing a couple of rungs of the ladder and sticking his head through the door. ‘Let’s go and eat Carabao’.  A ‘rich’ villager had butchered a water buffalo as thanks for the peoples’ help carrying a load of corrugated iron roofing up the mountain. As important guests, we were invited in to eat indoors with the other dignatories – pangats (elders), the teacher, some CPLAs and drug runners. We were treated to liver cooked in blood with our rice. Sounds gross, but it’s nice and soft. Tonight it would be the kids outside and not me who had to deal with the stomach - a meal of green, rubbery shag-pile carpet.

After dinner we went back outside and stood around chips of burning pine that cast a pool of orange light in an inky dark. Everyone was happy. The kids, bellies full of buffalo, went wild, like 3 year olds on chocolate. There were 3 main games going on. 1 – Touching me and running away, for the timid. 2 – All jumping in the air at once, to see high up my body they could get, possibly to check out the view from up here. 3 – Stiff arm barging, which didn’t involve me. You stiffen your shoulder, lock your arm, walk up to your mate a shove them as hard as you can. Then he does it back to you. It’s a game like knuckles or slaps.

It feels different here to Tanudan. There’s a raucous joia-de-vivre about the place, thigh thumping banter and high jinks - nothing demure about it at all. The language is guttural, full of throaty ‘oooh’s, ‘osh’s and ‘on’s. It’s a place in which you get asked questions like ‘Ben, why is it that I observe that foreigners cannot spit?’ .


19th July - Nasablutan
 
Finally everyone agreed it was safe to trek up to Nasablutan. The party was Moses, myself, Ganggang and Balisnog, Gang-gang’s old friend, probably in his 60’s but tough as an boot.

Moses and I tended to race ahead, waiting at forks in the path for the others, labouring under their loads, to catch up. Balisnog’s was a backpack full of dope seed. The air cooled as we climbed, springs freshened and the views opened up revealing hamlets and terraces in the valley below and new mountains rising over the nearer ridges.

Ganggang and Balisnog climbing to Nasablutan

The view down to Butbut

Small stands of marijuana sometimes appeared by the path and then the weather closed in. Ganggang hurried us down a track to a cave where we steamed in a huddle.  ‘We’ were now eight. Four loud middle-aged women arrived just after we’d settled. They budged us along with vigorous waves of the hands and squashed in.  One of them had a huge goitre, bulging the size of a coco-nut under her chin; the result of a lack of iodine in the mountain diet. I wondered if I might get permission to take her photo in the marijuana plantation.
 
 
For the next hour we sat in our cave, watching the rain and clouds blowing past. The women got stuck into a long and clearly very entertaining banter. One comment, addressed to Moses but referring to the ‘Americano’, raised particular hoots. Moses looked slightly embarrassed.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“They say that I should ask you which is bigger, the penis of the Americano or the negro?” 
 
We also talked about dope and the recent ‘raid’ during which two helicopters landed in Nasablutan. Ganggang said that two American ‘soldiers’ had been in the Hueys with the Philippine army. He was pissed off as the deal with Army, who were after all supposed to be the CPLA’s allies. There was a deal that if they ever did do a raid, they wouldn’t come to the villages and apparently on this occasion they even came down into Lecong.
 
 
I then gave a rather long, boring lecture about American meddling in the coca wars in Bolivia. Ganggang listened politely and then said to Moses “Tell him, that next time he comes, to bring with him the seeds of cocaine, even if it is just a matchbox.” I love Ganggan. He’s a total anarchist, though I suppose that diversification also makes good farming and business sense.
 
Then we opened one of the bottles of gin that Ganggang was carrying and Ganggang sang an Ulallim, about how great it was that I was up there and going to make a record of ‘the happenings in Kalinga’ for future generations. I got that buzz again, the one I feel when I’m getting really out of it, somewhere very remote and special.

Cash & subsistence crops growing together near Nasablutan

The rain finally eased, becoming drizzle, so Moses and I once again jogged ahead of the others, up the mountainside, at first cleared and burned for firewood, and then forested, dark and full of ferns. The path was a jumble of trunks and slippery roots that we jumped over until the path eventually dropped into a tiny hamlet of six houses in a hollow. Moses knocked at the door of a solid, corrugated roofed house. There was no-one home, or around the village either. Unlike most places, which are alive with kids and grandparents in the day, Nasablutan was quiet; a place for adults who were all out working.
 
Moses said we should wait. He didn’t know the way from here. So we sat on the porch, chilly in the evening mist. When Ganggang and Balisnog appeared at the forest’s edge Moses suggested I get my mud-soaked socks and boots back on for the final leg. He, like everyone else up here, skips along in flip-flops or bare feet.
 
Stinking boots on, trappings of western life and survival all duly organised, I was just ready to go, when Ganggang walked straight past us, up the ladder and into the house. 

 ‘But this is Nasablutan and the house of Ganggang’ laughed Moses ‘I was joking you’. Suckering each other, or maybe it’s just me, the foreigner, is definitely a Kalinga thing.
 
It’s cold up here, but Ganggang, bless him, quickly organised a fire and coffee. His wife, who has also arrived, is sorting out a fantastic dinner of fried salt-fish and rice. All is good with the world.


Balisnog of Butbut and Nasablutan
16th July - Tinglayan to Butbut
19th - 20th - Nasablutan
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