The Sto. Nino came to her in a dream.
When she awoke, Conching Achay found a small black stone beside her bed. And she understood her calling.
Her healing instruments are rudimentary – the small, black stone, a half-foot bamboo tube and a glass. With these, she performs the bolo-bolo, a healing ceremony that is unique even to her province where strangeness is commonplace.
The black stone is dropped into the glass half-filled with water. Using the bamboo tube, Nang Conching blows air into the water and presses the glass against the afflicted part of a patient. The water turns murky and dirt and debris appear in the water from nowhere.
The glass is emptied, refilled with clear water, and the procedure is repeated. Again and again, until the water finally stays clear. All toxins have been purged from the ailing patient’s body.
Nanch Conching attributes her healing powers to the supernatural. The stone, a gift from beyond. She had lost it once in a visit to Manila. She prayed to the Sto. Nino. When she returned to Siquijor, she found the stone waiting for her on her bed. Once, an unbeliever attempted to split it into two with a cleaver. The stone was not damaged yet the bolo-wielder was struck down by an unknown force and died on the spot.
She prays constantly. A large altar with religious images is a distinct feature of her humble home. When she fails to pray, she is weakened significantly.
She is soft-spoken, her words sparse yet potent. “Do not forget the Lord. Above all things.”
Maria Todi. Tboli.
Maria Todi Wanan. 2017 NCCA Gawad Gabay Awardee. A proud Tboli who works tirelessly to ensure that her culture, traditions and way of life are not lost, and are handed down to the succeeding generations.
Laarnie Lumbos Espra. Blaan
A Blaan woman in traditional attire. The bamboo bridge that led to the community weaving center in Lamlifew was a good spot to take her portrait.
Gusabin, An Elderly Blaan
She bears a beautiful name and radiates with warmth and gentleness that calm and reassure. There is an air of understated regality to her constitution.
One of my most favorite portraits ever.
Liana Mora. Rock Star.
Ranked number one in women's bouldering in 2015-2016. Women's Open Champion of the 2015 Habagat National Bouldering Competition and the NUS 2015 Bouldering Active Champion in Women's Intermediate category (Singapore).
Beside a running river strewn with rocks and boulder near the border of Cagayan de Oro and the province of Bukidnon is a place where Liana hones her skills.
Liana burst into the scene from nowhere and has been dominating national competitions.
Yin-Yang. Mantigue Island Twins.
"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears." - Kahlil Gibran
While leisurely strolling around Mantigue Island, a lush four-hectare islet fringed by reefs and white sand just off the main Camiguin behemoth, I came upon the twins playing in a beached bangka. The children were part of the 20 families or so that made up the small fishing community that drew its livelihood from the sea. As I approached, one burst into laughter. The other became distraught. Two different reactions to the same situation.
I returned to Mantigue around 2015, 10 years after my visit, with the intent to take an updated photo of the twins, only to discover that several families from the fishing village had been relocated when the entire island was declared a marine sanctuary. I heard that the sisters had moved to Anda in Bohol. They should be in their early 20s by now.
I wonder how life has treated them. I would like to see them again and see how things have turned out. I wish them more reasons for joy than sorrow.
Kidlat Tahimik. National Artist for Independent Cinema
It is not commonly known that Kidlat Tahimik wore suits to work when he was with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. He obtained an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. Not hard to believe that he would found AISEC in UP.
A crossroad in his life was when he took a sabbatical from work in Paris and headed to Munich for the Olympic games in 1972. He had used his savings as capital to sell souvenirs and memorabilia during the games. He lost everything during the terrorist attack and found himself broke. He then found haven in a commune in Germany where he temporarily stayed until he could raise enough money to return home. He found employment in a movie set doing production support when the director saw him and used him as an extra. That director was noted filmmaker Werner Herzog who eventually influenced him to pursue his own visions.
Kidlat Tahimik's film Perfumed Nightmare was completed in 1977.
They Call Him Bin-Laden
Aga Khan Sharief's resemblance to Osama is what earned him the monicker. But his exploits are far from nefarious. During the Marawi siege, he negotiated with the Maute/Hapilon group for the release of hundreds of trapped civilians. He went inside the main battle area several times to arrange for short ceasfires so that other residents could be rescued by joint AFP-MILF forces.
It is said that the Takibo fishermen of Laguna wear hoods not just to protect their their skin from the sun, but also to hide their faces from the fish as they act as executioners as well.
Rommel, a ranger who watches over the Tamarraw at Iglit-Baco National Park.
Tamarraw count for 2013 --- 345 heads!!
From over 180 a decade ago to almost double the number, steady as she goes. Baby steps still but making progress.
Rommel and other rangers like him risk life protecting these endangered animals. No insurance pay, no overtime pay. Just sheer dedication and sacrifice.
Adams. Ilocos Norte.
I had left the shores and the flatlands and ventured up the mountains for Adams, a small highland town, at the rim of the Cordillera backbone, where a postcard view awaited in almost every turn and residents of Igorot decent held to their old ways. Its pastoral seclusion may not last long as word of this secret spot in the hinterland has already gone out. Only the 14-km stretch of rough unpaved track cut off Adams from the outside world. And the prospect of a paved road could facilitate the arrival of the crowds.
They made their own wine in Adams from bugnay fruit, the local berry that grew in the wild. I opened a bottle and sat on a bench outside the slanted house, amongst the flowers, savoring the essence of a lost idyll captured in a half-filled glass. I lost track of time, deep in my own thoughts.
Surrounded by peaks and verdant green city-less horizons, I could sit here and wait for the berries to grow and the wine to age.
Veepee Pinpin. Ecclesiastical Architect.
Vincent Pinpin (VeePee) is a lover of architecture, which to him is the synthesis of a people's culture, lifestyle, and art. An interest in how a man shapes and is shaped by his environment had been a preoccupation of VP's ever since his childhood in his family's ancestral home in Laguna, eventually leading to his choice to enter the UP College of Architecture.
Now a practicing architect, VP's design philosophy stipulates that a space ought to be designed with a purpose in mind -- while remaining friendly to the natural world. A deeply spiritual man, his main focus is designing religious spaces and teaching Asian vernacular architecture.
Mang Boy (Molejon) moved to Bataraza in the mid-70s from Quezon Province. Back then, he would sell fish to the mining engineers and workers of Rio Tuba Nickel. The nickel mine was just being developed. Sitio Marbahay was just a small fishing community but a jump off point to the islands off southern Palawan. He recalled that the young Galib Andang (Commander Robot of the Abu Sayyaf Group) would ask to be ferried over to Balabac.
Now, he oversees the LGU's fisheries programs and is in charge of the marine sanctuaries/no take zones of the bio-diverse area and the protection of the endangered saltwater crocodiles that make the Rio Tuba basin their home.
He recalls how crocodiles would loiter around their village, especially after high tide. They would hear the breaking of mangrove branches or the squealing of pigs under attack.There have been several casualties, part of the hazards of living beside the crocodile habitat.
“The crocodiles remember. They will come back for you.” He relates one fisherman who hit one crocodile with a paddle. The reptile came back for him a month later and returned to the same fishing ground where the incident took place. The bantay dagat personnel shot the crocodile and hit it on the side side before it escaped. But the fisherman had already been killed.
The village-folk caught one entangled in the mangroves. The crocodile had a scar on its side from what appeared to be from a bullet wound. The DNR scientists from Puerto Princesa came and took the animal with them. It was 18 feet long.
Juan Ponce. Siquijor Mananambal.
I sat in the sala of Mang Juan Ponce, the oldest mananambal (healer) in Siquijor, with his years approaching a century. His wooden house stood at the edge of a forest shrouded in mist, deep inside the mountains, in the municipality of San Antonio.
Mang Juan, the gatekeeper of mythical secrets handed down from generations past, appeared frail but exuded immense wisdom and subdued power. He sat Churchill-like in the corner of the sala, his hands resting on the shaft of a cane, his sunken eyes studying me intently. Mananambals are the good guys. They heal the afflicted and ease their pain. April 2010
(Mang Ponce passed away not long after that visit).