Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 10th Installment

27. Mrs. Milagros Villasanta, a grade II teacher at A. Quezon Elementary School used a conceptual approach in Social Studies with her students as some supervisors observed. She was one of those who demonstrated a scientific approach; similar demonstrations were held at Albert, Burgos, Legarfda and Zamora elementary schools. The demonstrations “were the application” of seminars held at the NSBD, attended by some 200 supervisors and coordinators of Social Studies throughout the country.

28. Let me correct an impression I may have given earlier. Peggy’s birthday that year turned out to be one of the biggest ones she’s ever had. She almost didn’t go to school that morning because there were no classes, due to annual division tests, but Mr. Hernandez (her principal) promised he’d find her a job if she showed up. She was also told that her fourth-grade math class was going to meet her by the flag pole at 9:00 a.m. to wish her happy birthday, so she went to school a few minutes before then.

About a block from school she met two of her pupils, who jabbered at her in Tagalog all the rest of the way. As they reached the school grounds, one ran ahead a little ways, and right after that out rushed several of the pupils from the third-grade class with which she’d worked closely. Behind them came some more of the fourth-graders.

Then when she started to head for the flagpole, she was guided into the principal’s office. What a surprise! The desk was piled high with presents. Some were from her pupils, others from teachers … and, of course Mr. Hernandez. She got three bars of soap (one with a soap dish), lots of candy, place mats and napkins, a couple of purses, a good-luck Buddha, material for eight dresses (!), and she can’t remember what else. As pleasing as the gifts was the feeling that these people really cared for her.

29. We spent half of April’s salary on a vacation. Before we left the states several people told us to be sure to go to Baguio. And about three out of four people who tried to make conversation with us in Manila asked if we’d been to Baguio yet. For some time our answer was no because we didn’t go until Holy Week.” (The whole week before Easter is considered holy, although only Holy Thursday and Holy Friday are legal holidays. But that year Bataan Day fell on Tuesday of the week, and Peggy had classes on two Saturdays to make up for Monday and Wednesday, so she was free the whole week. I was through with classes.)

We saw why everybody raved about Baguio. The city … called the Summer Capital of the Philippines … is an eight-hour bus ride north of Manila. It is in the mountains, making it much cooler than most of the country, especially the capital. People in Baguio complained to us that it was crowded, due to Holy Week, but it seemed very quiet after the busy, noisy streets that we were used to. The whole atmosphere was one of peace and quiet.

We got into Baguio Monday evening. Tuesday morning we went to the Easter School, a weaving shop run by Episcopalians. There we saw Igorot women weaving their beautiful fabrics … some on large wooden looms and others on much more primitive ones. These women sit on the floor, and their thread is stretched clear across the room on a bar about six feet in the air. The women weave close to their bodies, and the cloth is rotated until the whole thing is woven. This method is much slower and less accurate than with wooden looms.

We spent most of the next day traveling to Banawe, which is noted for its rice terraces. The trip seemed rather treacherous because of a mountainous road that was often barely wide enough for the bus. And we froze because the bus was completely open and constructed on a flatbed. We sat on benches, and the conductor hung on the outside when he wasn’t sitting next to the driver.

From a distance, the terraces of Banawe look like big steps going up the mountain. In some places there are only five or six steps together, but other places have 30 or 35 steps in a row. Experts have estimated that the terraces took 2000 years to complete. The Ifagao’s, who are the mountain people living in this area, probably came from Vietnam thousands of years ago. They take great pride in their rice terraces even to the point of putting white clay on the stones that outline them.

Because the woman is the one who bears children, the Ifagao believe she is the best one to tend the rice. The men get the fields ready for planting, but the women plant the seedlings, weed the fields, and harvest the rice. While the women are working in the fields, the men look after the children and do the housework. In spite of the very extensive fields … which, if laid end to end, would reach half way around the world … the yield each year is only enough for individual families …none of this rice is sold. A long rainy season permits only one crop a year, and rice sometimes has to be imported or supplemented with sweet potatoes.

Peggy and I hired a guide to take us to Poitan, a nearby village. To get there we had to go up and down narrow steep paths and across rice terraces. On the way we saw several women weeding their fields. In the village there were very few women, but lots of men and children. Several small boys were carving large spoons and forks, which are sold in large quantity in Baguio and Manila … and even Honolulu.

Both Igorot and Ifagao men wear loincloths, popularly called g-strings. We saw several of these men on our trip. Although a g-string is about five yards long, the men wrap it around their waist so many times that it doesn’t cover much. In fact, in the back it covers little more than the crack between the two buttocks. These people spend hours squatting in what would be a most uncomfortable position for us. Sometimes their butts touch the ground, as can be seen from the men’s bare, dusty butts.

The mountain air is cool enough that few men wear only a g-string. Thus we saw incongruous combinations like a miner’s hat; a western, lightweight jacket, a white shirt; tennis shoes (although most of these people go barefoot) and a g-string. Many of the Ifagao and Igorot men then wore western clothing, but some still kept their native g-strings.

Most of the rest of our trip was spent riding on buses or waiting for them. Buses didn’t operate regularly on Good Friday, which meant that we spent from 6:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. waiting to get out of one dinky little town. We had lots of luggage due to woodcarvings from Baguio, so we couldn’t do much exploring. We didn’t know what was going on, and all day long we sat there beside the road because people kept telling us it wouldn’t be long before a bus came. But we did finally get home, and we did have a very good trip.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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