I am not a traveler. I’d rather stay at home and watch TV all day long rather than explore places and meet different faces. I never imagined that I will be travelling for almost 48 hours-back and forth- to a world-renowned attraction that is truly local yet so foreign to me. Fate played a joke on me one ordinary Friday. I came to the office without any hint that hours later, I would find myself packing my bags to the Mountain Province for a weekend I will never forget.
I was already at the office at 4 am. I checked my e-mail and facebook accounts as if it were the last time. The bus left at exactly 5 am. It was a 24-hour bus ride. From sunrise to sunrise, I felt like a sardine forced inside a small tin. 6 am the next day, I woke up to the wows and amusement of my officemates who were staring at the different cloud shapes as our bus reaches the peak of our destination.
As I set foot in the soils of this low-profile town, many of my misconceptions have been dismissed. Lubuagan has already embraced progress. Houses still exude a traditional aura yet they are no longer made of indigenous materials alone. The townspeople are very pleasant and hospitable to even greet and hug us as if it were not the first time we saw each other. There are schools, small businesses, and even cable television. Loading stores for prepaid mobile services are virtually everywhere.
The trees were lushly green. No hint of pollution darkening the surface of its leaves. One can also choose to dip his toes at the cold, crystal clear running body of water at the lower junction, known as the Fertility stream, believed to have miraculously healed women who find difficulty in bearing a child. When one takes a morning walk, he shall sweep and break through clouds and fogs of various shapes, sizes and volumes. The kiss of the late morning sun is relatively more intense. But in night time, air-conditioners and fans are unnecessary, thanks to the natural “winter” breeze, and the awe-inspiring moonlight.
Despite its simplicity, the town holds an unparalleled historical significance in Philippine History. This quaint town was once home to revolutionaries, including our country’s first president, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, who hid in the mountains after the American government began surging Philippine territories. His stay in Lubuagan led to the discovery of this town. Today, Lubuagan has maintained its simple charm, but it has also adapted with the needs of development. It has become one of the premiere tourist destinations in our country, especially during March, when the whole town comes alive to celebrate their grandest festival.
When one visits the town during such festivities, he will be enticed with the colorful “bahags” (local scarf) of native aetas who dance to the loud beat of traditional drums and upland bass instruments. Despite the changing times and the arrival of technology, the people were still able to preserve by heart their ancient songs and dances that make their culture relevant in 21st century Philippines.
As I watch them perform, I was amazed by the story unfolding before my very eyes. This was how my forefathers, the early and original Filipinos, lived in their time. I was stunned with the great and undying passion they had in protecting our motherland against foreign invaders and how they are expending more than their fullest effort to maintain their peoples’ unique identity despite threats brought about by modern era.
Before dawn breaks early Sunday, our bus was already heading home. Another exasperating 24 hours inside a bus. We can only be too eager to come home after three days, but we can’t help but do quick bus stops and take the rare chance of posing behind incredible rocks nestling within the mountainside chiseled to artistic perfection by the Hands of God.
Lubuagan truly holds a significant chapter in the history of our country. Yet, it is amazing how they were able to echo their unique culture from the uplands. It serves as a portal of the early beginnings of our country, where our authentic and untainted Filipino culture is still practiced to this day. Sadly, this “love child” of tradition and development is still to find its way to the hearts of my fellow countrymen, so that it will be put in its right place in history books.
J P C Calcetas