Mount Kiltepan, Sagada
The bus terminal in Banaue stood at a cliff with a view of the just-rising sun. Local men huddled outside the terminal, their lips red with nga nga, a mixture of betel nut fruit and leaf and apog, lime powder. A middle-aged man wearing a down dark jacket spat on the sidewalk. Elisa, our guide in Batad later that day, said chewing betel nut is like smoking. The fruit, along with caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, is a stimulating substance. “Pampainit din daw ‘pag malamig,” she was told it can help add warmth to the body when it’s cold. And most days are cold in the mountains.
The morning air was crisp when we stepped out of the bus. Not as cold as I imagined but enough to know you are 5,000 feet above sea level. From the terminal, you will be taken to a restaurant where you will wait for at least 2 hours and while at it, choose your breakfast from the menu quickly waved at you by a staff. “Let’s wait for other passengers to arrive,” someone commanded. I sniffed it: tourist trap.
Updated Feb 23, 2017
I was looking at the Perfection installation when the lights flickered and in a few seconds, the guards streamed in the booth and started announcing that the show was over. It was 9pm and I barely covered half of the 7th and last floor. Not surprising was the audible, collective gasp from the weary and thick Saturday night crowd.
I had not seen that much people in this city so interested in art. The fair features galleries spread across three floors of the The Link parking building across the Ayala Museum. For students of Makati, that’s a massive collection of free art; other students pay P50. For regular folks, that’s P250. One movie ticket, one unusual weekend. Why not.
The Binondo district turns into an exhilarating cultural destination on Chinese New Year’s Day, even for locals. It was likely the best day to visit for a full Chinatown effect. The crowd was thick and the lines were long at popular spots . It took us more than two hours at Dong Bei just to sample their dimsum. It was very good, yes.
Koming, our host at Ketut’s Place, was explaining the ornamental door that featured Rama and Sita, the protagonists in the Indian legend Ramayana. “Do you know Ramayana? Yes, that is Rama… Sita. Just like Julia… Roberts.”
He meant Romeo… and Juliet.
He was giving us a little tour of the different parts of a typical Balinese household. There is the ceremony building, where cremation and weddings happen. There is the parent’s home, the room that featured Rama and Sita, said to be reserved for copulating. If you see your folks sneaking out of the main house to go to the honeymoon room, you know they’re gonna do the dirty.
There’s the temple. The temple is the most interesting, mystical, ethereal part of the compound. Koming said most Balinese traditional houses have temples or shrines. It is where the spirits of their ancestors are believed to be staying while waiting for reincarnation to kick in. Owners of the family land are also not supposed to sell their properties as the spirits of their ancestors will be “confused” when they reincarnate to a different set of people around. It is believed to bring bad luck to the family.
The little tour was followed by a sumptuous traditional Balinese dinner.
The chartered car from Denpasar took me on an hour and a half ride to Ubud. Closing in, we passed by strings of shops, restaurants, yoga studios and t-shirt places. Streets were getting filled with travelers and locals out for a late lunch or on their way back to their hotels or homes. A beautiful temple on the left, a charming gilded shrine on the right, and a few more in the next 500 meters.