This weekend I went on the most unique tour I’ve ever been on. The tour was called Tribes and Treks with MAD Travel. This tour took us to the Yangil village to meet to Aetas, an indigenous tribe in the Philippines. The tour started at the Circle hostel in San Felipe. There were about 20 people on the tour, 6 of which were my friends that are interning at GK Enchanted Farm. We were all eager to start the day. When we were all ready, we jumped into a jeepney that took us to the starting point of our tour. Andrea, along with some men from the tribe, was our guide for the day. First we trekked to the nursery. The trek was easy. I was wearing flip flops it was so easy. We walked through a valley that was mostly sand and rocks. There were mountains on either side, but these weren’t like the mountains I saw when I was in Baler that were green and full of trees and plants. These mountains were green, but there were barely any trees or plants. They were barren. The trek took us through a couple streams, and at one point we stopped to relax and play in the water to cool off. Once we were all ready we continued walking to the nursery. It took about an hour to walk there. Before we started planting Andrea gave us some background information about the tour and the area.
She said that there was a big volcano eruption in the 1990’s that wiped out most of the trees around here. It took away the good topsoil too, so planting became difficult. In order to make money the tribe would cut down trees and sell the wood in bundles for 150 pesos (3 American dollars), and one tree would only make two bundles. This was hurting the environment and not making the tribe enough money. About a year ago one of the MAD travel team members visited the tribe and was inspired to help the people and the land. Now the goal is to replant 3,000 hectares with trees. Right now they have only planted around 2 hectares but are slowly increasing as time goes on. It’s because of people like us that go on the tour that help make replanting possible and speed up the replanting process. After Andrea explained all this, it was time to plant! Our job was to put dirt in a little black plastic bag and then put seeds in them. We did this for an hour. By the end of the hour we planted 1,067 seeds! This is amazing for a group our size. After our hard work we had some ube chips and lemongrass tea. Then we packed back up and headed for the village.
Photo: planting seeds!
I rode the carabao cart into the village. I’ve seen pictures of the carabao cart before and I just had to take a ride. It was bumpy and hard, but it was nice not to walk. The village was little. There are about 30 families living there. We rode up to what looked like their community center for lunch. We had some time before the food was ready so we tried native archery. My first shot was good! I almost hit the banana trunk, which was our target board. My other shots were not so great, but I enjoyed trying. Thankfully, lunch was ready soon after. This was one of my favorite meals so far in the Philippines. There was rice, chicken adobo, chicken soup, fish, veggies, and pineapple. The fish was cooked perfectly. I loved it. After we ate, some people tried archery again, some played with the kids, some talked, and others rested. I rested for a little bit before trying archery again. I enjoyed the archery so much I bought a bow and arrow set from Elder Doyong. He handcrafts each bow and arrow himself. Later in the day we got to see him shoot. He was amazing.
Photo: My first attempt at native archery
Anyway, after the down time there was a community program. This is when people from the community showed us traditional dances and songs. The first dance was a courting dance. Ninay and the chief demonstrated for us and then they pulled us up by twos to dance with them. I wasn’t very good but I gave it my all, and had fun doing it. The next dance was one by the children. They imitated different animals. They pulled everyone up to dance with them too, so all 20 of us were dancing like flies, monkeys, and frogs. It would have been funny to see us all dancing like animals. I’m sure we looked ridiculous. The next performance was from Elder Doyong. He played two songs on the flute. They were slow, but very good. The next dance was by Ninay and two girls, Princess and Rihanna. It was a slower dance compared to the first couple. They pulled everyone up again. We all danced in a circle and swayed. The last dance was one that Princess and Rihanna made up for us. They taught us the dance moves. It was fun to dance with them because they would do the dance slowly but then speed it up. We all looked a little ridiculous trying to keep up. After all the dancing, we took a tour of the village. Our guide showed us different plants that they use as medicine. After the tour we took some pictures and said goodbye. We started the trek back to the jeepney. Jill and I walked the entire hour and half trek back. It was hot but I felt accomplished when I made it back.
Photo: Hanging out in the village
This was probably my favorite day in the Philippines. I felt like I was doing something that was making an impact. I met people that were genuinely interested in meeting foreigners. The language barrier was difficult, but when we all danced together it didn’t matter. I loved playing with the kids and eating the food and trying the native archery. I would definitely do this again and maybe I can learn a little more Tagalog while I’m there!