Stairs, stairs, and more stairs

This week we were able to help out with many different projects on the farm so we kept busy. On Monday, Jill and I helped Laurence hang new nets on the community basketball court that my mom had sent. People from the community rushed to help us bringing ladders and flashlights. I can already see how excited they are for the new nets and I can’t wait until all the kids see them the next day. The basketball court is such a central part of the community and is constantly packed with kids or teams playing basketball, volleyball or soccer. I’m glad we are able to bring so much joy to the community by hanging on these nets. I’m sure Laurence will be dunking on them the rest of summer as well. IMG_2688.jpg

Jill and I continued our work on our Ecobricks project by creating a poster explaining Ecobricks. We plan to hang this poster outside the Sari’s to encourage throwing away the plastic trash in the bottles. We wrote the poster in both English and Tagalog to be able to communicate our message with the entire community. Now we wait again, for approval and feedback on the poster. But it is another step in our direction for progress.

In addition to Ecobricks, Jill and I helped Jake plant some seeds for his Need for Seed project. I might have mentioned it before but Need for Seed is another project through MAD that aims to collect seeds and donate them communities in need. Jake was able to get potting bags and secure a spot for our plants in the greenhouse in the animal farm. I’m excited to see how successful our seeds will be and if they are to be able to give them to communities like the one we visited in Zambales.

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This week we also helped out with the construction of the new Plush and Play workshop. We shoveled gravel and sand into bags and carried them over to the construction site to be mixed in with cement to create the second floor of the workshop. It was definitely back breaking work but we were glad to be apart of such a big project on the farm and contribute as much as we could. They have been working on the workshop since we arrived and will be working for a while more once we leave, but we were able to participate in the beginning of laying down the foundation for the workshop. Our hands and backs were sore but we felt accomplished at the end of the day.

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The rest of the week we helped clean the SEED classrooms in preparation for the new batch arrival and helped with some of the other enterprises as much as we could.

On Friday we left for our road trip through the north of the island. We arrived in Banaue Saturday morning just in time to see the sunrise, it was beautiful. After breakfast we were dropped off at the starting point for our hike through the rice terraces. We hiked across the terraces and through the village surrounding them and down to a waterfall. It was amazing to see the terraces that were carved out of the mountain two thousand years ago and to see how green and fertile the land is! The hike down to the water fall was verrry steep with SO MANY stairs but the waterfall was worth it. There was a cool mist coming off that cooled us down from our hike and we were able to relax and enjoy the view before the upward return hike that followed. It was definitely a difficult hike but we could manage and the experience was worth the sweat and sore legs.

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We then drove to our hotel in Sagada to rest up for our next day’s adventures. Our hotel, Misty Cafe and Lodge, had a cabin-y feel and was nestled into the mountains. It was the perfect place to relax after a long day of hiking. The following morning we woke up early to see the Sea of Clouds. It was such a breathtaking view that pictures or words don’t even do it justice, its a view you have to experience in person. We were up above the clouds and could not only see the sun coming up over the clouds but the clouds rolling down and around the mountains below us. It was a very crowded area but the view was stunning no matter the amount of people. We stayed until our whole view and ourselves were submerged in clouds before heading down the mountain to our next destination.

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We made a quick stop in the town of Sagada to see their hanging coffins. It was a 200 year old tradition, instead of burying coffins, they hang them alongside the mountains so their bodies and souls can be returned to the nature that they came from. I really like the meaning behind hanging the coffins, but since it is so difficult and costly there have only been 20 hung in the past 200 years in the area we visited.

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Our next destination was my favorite! We drove through winding mountain roads until we reached Buscalan. From there we had to get out of our van and hike the rest of the way up to the village, on even MORE stairs. Our legs were screaming but it was all worth it in the end. Whang-Od, an 100 year old woman, lives in this village and does traditional kalinga tribal tattoos. To get a tattoo from her you have to travel through the mountainous roads we did and hike up to her village and endure the pain of a stick and poke traditional tattoo. Laurence and I, of course, had to try it! Unfortunately, the line for Whang-Od herself was 30+ people long and there was no way we’d get fit in today. Fortunately, Whang-Od learned her trade was a dying art and has begun teaching her grandnieces so Laurence and I were lucky enough to get one from one of her grandnieces. They use a thorn from a pine tree and charcoal and hammer the tattoo into your body. Yes, it is as painful as it sounds. But luckily it only took 10 minutes for Marie to tattoo the scorpion onto my wrist so the pain was tolerable. The scorpion symbolizes the strength of a warrior and protection. Laurence also got a tattoo of the eagle serpent eagle on his back. He thought I was just being a baby during my tattoo until Marie began hammering the needle into his back as well. But again it was so worth it! We were able to experience yet another indigenous Filipino culture and way of life and learn even more about the country we had been living in for the past two months. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember, especially now that I have a tattoo to remind me daily ;).

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