Kalinga
Records of a journey in 1990
Dacalan
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Dacalan

I spent the afternoon asleep or rather, on lying on my roll-mat wondering what I was doing here. To be honest, I’m lonely. Mrs Dangpasson is a lovely host but very shy. She calls me ‘Sir’ though I’m young enough to be her son. She won’t eat with me. Instead she hovers, bringing food and apologising for the ‘hardship of Kalinga’. It’s a bit of embarrassing.

I got up before dawn to take photos. The village was all misty in the half light, with smoke rising through thatched roofs beneath a deep blue sky. The moon was rising, strangely, above silhouetted beetle nut palms, while the sun lit the tops of the hills in the background. This is a very beautiful place.

After a breakfast - avocado and rice - I was invited for breakfast - deer and rice - by Veronica from next door. This happens a lot and is not good for the constipation.

Veronica is very into her beetle nut. Most of the old folks up here carry around little vials of powdered shell. They sprinkle this on about a quarter of a nut, wrapped it in a leaf and chomp it up.  The result is red gums and black stumpy teeth.

 “You want to try?” she asked, as we sat on her porch overlooking the village.

“Why not?”

I’d always assumed beetle was a mild buzz, like cigarettes or something. It’s wasn’t. My veins and capillaries seemed to double in size. I felt a great surge of heat run through me while my mouth went berserk.  Gollops of red drool and leaf shards streamed from my mouth. Veronica dealt with this like an expert - squirting lines of crimson saliva over the balcony. I called for a bucket to dribble into. After the rush, it was rather nice. The village seemed prettier, colours a little more vivid than normal. 

 

Dacalan - viewed from the path to Lubo
   

Melchor - Fishing in the Tanudan River
 
A street in Dacalan
 

Having recovered I went down to the river for a swim and to do some washing. I was keen to get out of the house and away from Mrs Dangpasson’s shrieking grand-daughter. She’s about 18 months and covered in raw circular scabs. It looks like worm sores or something. They’re pussy, bleeding and driving her crazy. That’s the hardship of Kalinga, not two breakfasts.

Anyhow, after my snooze, I went wandering around the village and bumped into a municipal councillor and four engineers from the National Irrigation Administration, here to check out some project.

According to the Councillor (I didn’t get his name) Dacalan has almost all its peace-pacts intact and is a quiet and peaceful place. The one problem is with the Basao people, who my informant reckoned to be an aggressive and untrustworthy bunch. The basis of the problem is a boundary dispute, dpwm to the  the Basao people claiming a slice of Dacalan territory (of course). It started when Basao people wilfully chopped down a load of Dacalan coffee trees near the disputed boundary.  That didn’t cause an immediate problem. But, a couple of months later, the Basao people invaded Dacalan territory and started shooting villagers who were working a kaingin up on the mountain. Some of the Dacalan people were armed, there was a shoot-out and someone from Basao was killed. No-one from Dacalan was hurt. The Basao people then demanded payment, threatening revenge. The Dacalan peace-pact holder, after consultation with his barrio-mates, refused and, naturally enough, the pact was broken. Nothing has happened since, but everyone here is very wary of the Basao folks.

In the eyes of my informant the Basao  were clear baddies – the kind of people who would restore a peace pact just to entice their enemies to travel unsuspecting in their territory, so that they could attack them.

An example of thing apparently occurred the Chico dam era (1975 I think). Elizalde, the Panamin crony behind the Tasaday story, wanted to put on a show for Marcos. The peace pact between Basao and Lubuagan was broken, yet, somehow Elizalde managed to convince the two peace pact holders, some fellow villagers and councillors to hold a peace-pact renewal party at Malacanyang palace in Manila. The government paid for a great feast, spears were swapped, Ferdi and Imelda enjoyed the show and everyone was bussed home. Everything was fine until they got to Basao, where the bus pulled up for a piss-stop. One of the Lubuagan people wandered into the bush for a private moment and was murdered. The Basao did not regard the phoney peace-pact as binding at all. Or, so I was told.

  The terraces and granaries of Dacalan

“You drink gin?” the councillor asked, concluding his story.

So began another impromptu Kalinga party. Passers-by, in ones and twos, paused ladder and peered up. “Hi Cousin, I see you’re drinking gin, What’s the occasion?” they seemed to say. Many received the invite to climb the ladder and join us. The thatched hut got increasingly steamy.

After six bottles, the head engineer felt it was time for polutan. There was a discussion, until a price of 300 pesos was agreed which sealed the fate of one medium sized dog. Judging by the yelping, that dog knew that its number was up. There were a few squeels, then the acrid smell of burning hair filtered as the corpse was turned over a fire.

The polutan was barbequed dog skin, cooked in embers, rubbed in salt and served with spring onions. And, I have to say it - dog skin is delicious. It’s very soft, almost like gum, but gum that exudes a rich, gamey fatty juice as you chew and suck on it. A much better drinking snack than peanuts.

The dog’s demise had attracted a lot of attention and more guests. Chief among these was a large policeman, who somehow outranked the councillor. He, the head engineer and I were clearly on top rung of the hierarchy within the hut. We enjoyed frequent hits of gin and the largest, juiciest plate of dog. The 3 junior engineers and councillor came next with a slightly smaller plate, while the other 20 guests had to make do with two small plates between them and long waits between ‘shots’.

Most of the guests really spoke either. They mainly seemed to be there as witnesses to a conversation between the policeman and head engineer, which went along the lines of:

“blah blah Government sponsored project blah blah blah participatory or amortised funding blah blah”

“What you say is very true blah blah blah, pertaining to the NIA, according to my information blah blah...”

It was all rather grandiose and self-congratulatory, but, I suppose, that’s business and politics the world over. The head engineer did after all pay for the dog. ..

 
 
A malaria victim being carried to Tabuk
Houses in Dacalan
Lubo
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