BY RICKY MONTECILLO
November 30, 2016
It was in fulfilment of a promise we made earlier this year to the people of old Dupag,Tabuk City in Kalinga Province.
Last July, our motorcycle group, The Long Riders (TLR) , made a stop over in the road side eatery in Dupag, in a place called DAO panciteria, when we met Edgar or Ed. He offered to take us on a short hike to see a hanging bridge nearby. The bridge leads to a place called Old Dupag.
That was when we discovered the Old Dupag community. After a short 20-minute hike, crossing the Chico River and following a cemented foot path, we came to see this charming and old community. It has about 20 to 30 houses only and the people there welcomed us. Even in their poverty, they were so glad to see visitors and they offered us some homemade rice cakes and taste their home grown Kalinga brewed coffee.
In my blog ridingintandem.net. in an article entitled “Nobody Ever Goes here” in Dupag, Kalinga.” “Nobody Ever Goes Here” in Dupag Kalinga, Philippines
“Belina, the oldest matriarch there, said that in their place “there is no government”. Life in the mountains is hard. Ed said that maybe we can tell the others about them, about their plight ……. We vowed to return more prepared. We hope to do so and bring some relief goods and other stuff for them. Nobody goes there and they feel that they have no government. But their warmth and kindness is reason enough for us to plan another trip to taste the Baboy Ramo of the old Dupag community and share some of our blessings. We are the Long Riders and we are telling the Dupag Story.”
It is in keeping our word that The Long Riders organized a Dental and Relief Mission set for November 25-27, 2016 for the benefit of the Old Dupag Community.
Over Private Messages in Facebook, quick meet ups at the Tavern (Festival Mall Muntinlupa City) and thru The Long Riders Facebook group, we organized the mission. When we announced our plans, there was an outpour of support from the TLR members. Our rider dentists Doc Von Evangelio and Doc Glenn Latorre volunteered their services to perform teeth extraction procedures.
We raised funds by selling TLR T-Shirts and accepted financial contributions from friends and strangers alike.
We were able to raise a modest amount to buy relief items for each of the 45 families there. Canned goods, cooking oil, iodized salt, fish sauce, soy sauce, noodles and more. The riders also bought and brought many other special gifts for the children, adults and elders like reading glasses, clothes, toys, slippers, wrist bands, back packs, rechargeable flash lights, transistor radios and some anti-biotics for those who had teeth extracted and some multi-vitamins!
The date was set. November 25 was a Friday and eleven riders came. We met at the Km. 42 Petron gas station along the North Luzon Expressway.
Those who came with all kinds of big awesome bikes were Restie Renia on a BMW R1200 GS, Sael Requierme BMW Sertao 650, Robert BMW R1200 GS, Glenn Latorre R1200GS, Wernher Asprec BMW R1200 GS, Glenn Peña BMW R1200 GS, Rodel Velasco Ducati Hyper Strada, RJ Cruz on Suzuki DRZ 400, Carlos Carlos with his KTM Duke 2(4)00, Jimmy Vidal Kawasaki Versys 650 and Ricky (me) on a BMW R1200GS. What an awesome set of riders.
Dupag is located in Tabuk City, Kalinga. This is in the northern Luzon and is part of the Cordillera Administrative Region or CAR. It is about 466 km coming from Manila and it takes eleven hours if one takes the car. We rode for more than 10 hours, leaving Petron at around 7 am and arriving at about 5:30 pm.
The ride was pleasant because of the cloudy weather. We also encountered light rains and had to be careful as the roads were slippery. But of course, we were not slow. We rode fast and smart, well with a little mischief. All part of grown up men having fun with their toys.
We passed the highways of North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), and then the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and a bit of the new Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) and exited at Victoria. From there we passed thru Bayombong Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Cauayan, Roxas Isabela, Mallig, Quezon and finally Tabuk City.
Riding to Tabuk is fun cause there are all sorts or roads, twisties, broken highways and dilapidated zig-zag roads. It’s an adventure ride anyway and the road conditions are perfect for those big adventure bikes.
It was growing dark already when we started our ascent to Dupag, after passing the Tabuk City center. Once the twisties or mountain roads start, the views become awesome. Mountain ranges full of vegetation, the mighty Chico River down below and century old plants and trees along the road side. No landscaper can ever replicate the wonders of nature. Nothing compares to experiencing the ride on our motorcycles. We felt the cool air and breeze, with the slight drizzle and cool weather, as we traversed the zigging and zagging of this mountain range.
Just as darkness fell amid the pouring rain, there it was, the Dao Panciteria where Pepsi, the charming lady owner stood waiting for our arrival with her ready smile. It was here where we stayed overnight last July. Restie was coordinating our visit with Pepsi and Ed and they were eagerly waiting for us.
We parked our big bikes in front of DAO and we set up “camp” in Pepsi’s humble eatery. We converted it into our refuge for the night, just like the last time. She was preparing dinner for the group. In the meantime, we deserved to indulge in some Red Horse beer and Emperador brandy.
Some of us went to bed early after dinner, to rest for the following long day. The others drank beer and shared stories and banter into the night. That’s how we bond. Ride hard, drink harder and laugh louder. We develop friendships in riding. Coming from various backgrounds, we share this passion for motorcycles and adventure rides. There’s nothing like drinking and sharing pulutan after long and exciting rides.
We woke up early, with the rain still pouring. What joy it is to wake-up and breathe the fresh cool morning air with the view of the mountains, pocket rice fields and hearing the sound of the gushing water coming from the small water falls nearby.
Imagine sipping hot freshly brewed, homegrown Kalinga coffee that is kept hot in an old fashioned thermos, as you gaze at the spectacular views.
Five Star hotels would charge extra for such wondrous views. There in Dupag, the beauty surrounds and embraces you free of charge.
That same Friday night, TLR’s dentist Doc Von Evangelio and my original riding buddy Carlo Escover drove to Dupag on Doc Von’s Mitsubishi Strada pick-up. They brought the relief goods and medicine with them. We were having coffee when Carlo called to say that they were already near.
Edwin Frondozo was also arriving on a BMW R1200 GS a bit later, riding solo. He said, he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Before breakfast we rode to Ed’s house nearby. He wanted us to see their house and have coffee.
Before 10 am, after having eaten a full breakfast prepared by Pepsi, we started getting ready for our Mission. Ed called in some boys, local ladies and men from the Old Dupag to come over and help us carry the relief goods. We couldn’t have done it ourselves even if we were a bunch of macho men.
We are wimps compared to the locals who had no difficulty carrying all the goods and even some of our own bags. They were like human 4X4 vehicles and running fast with no effort while we were huffing and puffing our way to the place.
Actually it was not so bad, it only took us about 30 minutes to reach the destination. (the locals take about 10 minutes only)
From the roadside, there is a cemented pathway all the way to the Old Dupag. We also crossed the Dupag Hanging bridge which stand about a hundred feet from the Chico River. At the time, the river was raging strong because of the non-stop rains. They said it was nothing compared during typhoon “Lawin” a few weeks back when the Chico River soared so big that it almost reached the Hanging bridge.
Fortunately, it did not bring damage to the place and no one was hurt.
However, because of that storm, electrical power in the Old Dupag was damaged and up to now, electricity has yet to be restored. But you know when the people there talk about it, they don’t seem to be angry. It’s been three weeks since the power has been cut-off, they told us, but it seems that they are not bothered.
Maybe because they are used to not having electrical power and are used to surviving and living the hard life, or they are so used to being forgotten by government that they don’t bother complaining. They have gotten so used to neglect, that they have accepted their fate. This should not be the case.
So, when we finally arrive at the old Dupag, we were greeted by the lovely and simple folks. The ladies and men and the innocent children. Lola Belina, who speaks to us in english, kept on saying “Welcome, welcome. Thank you for coming.”
The people of old Dupag are not used to being pampered. They were more than happy to see us and you cannot help but feel their warmth.
We set-up the dental services right away and our good dentists Doc Von Evangelio and Doc Glenn Latorre wasted no time in treating the patients. People in old Dupag never have their teeth checked. When they have tooth decay, they live with the pain and just bear it until the bad teeth fall off. You notice their teeth, especially the older folks. Obviously, nobody takes care of their dental needs.
Most of the elderly have few teeth left and the way it’s going, time will soon come when the teeth of the young ones, start to fall too. The dentists treated patient after patient. Injecting anaesthesia and pulling out bad teeth. They are given cotton balls to put pressure on the open wounds left by the decayed teeth.
Each patient is also given a set of anti-biotics and given special instructions by Carlo Escover, who took his chore seriously, patiently explaining to them the dosage and procedures. “Tatlong beses isang araw po. Kailangan busog.” He would say to each one.
And when he senses that the patient is not attentive, Carlo asks, “Na-iintidihan nyo po ba?” He did it so well the other folks thought he was a real doctor. An elderly woman asked him if he had medicine to help her sleep. With a serious poker face, “Doc” Carlo advised the woman, “Inom po kayo ng dalawang basong tubig, tapos ipikit nyo mata nyo. Tiyak, makaka-tulog po kayo!”
Jimmy Vidal, on the other hand, was giving away reading glasses to the mostly senior folks. He brought reading glasses with grades ranging from 100, 150, 200 and 250. He also had with him a paper chart which he showed to his patients. Depending on what the person is able to read, and what size of font, Jimmy determines what pair of reading glasses to give them.
It’s amazing! People of old Dupag never wear reading glasses. They live with poor vision, much like living with the pain of having bad teeth. Jimmy gave out so many glasses and they were so happy to see the world or what they are reading with clarity!
As Doc Von and Doc Glenn performed their tooth extraction procedures, the other riders set-up a table in the house beside to distribute toys, slippers, clothes and other gifts. The children and adults were delightful and very happy! Lines were formed for each of the gifts and when new items are given away, more lines were made.
The community became festive and alive! “Christmas came early!”, said some of them. They couldn’t believe what was happening. “Thank you! Thank you! Why are you doing this? How can we re-pay your kindness?” They were overwhelmed and deeply grateful.
I told some of them that “We do this because we said we would return. We do this simply to make people like you happy, because it makes us happier.”
The locals cooked food for us and we had a delicious lunch. “It’s the least we can do for you” they said as we all partook of their local food. They served us duck on soup, fresh spicy escargot or bulong, pako vegetables and upland rice.
The food they served were all grown and harvested by them. Poor as they are, they are self-sufficient. Their water is fresh and clean coming from the natural springs of the mountains.
They breed and take care of ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigs. They plant vegetables, rice and tend to small fish pens. All their produce are organic, feeds and soil are all natural with no artificial feeds nor fertilizers. No wonder the people of old Dupag are healthy and live long. Aside from always being physically active, always walking up and down the trails, they also eat healthy foods.
We had some time to spare after the dental procedures were done. Doc Von and Carlo had to go back home because it was the birthday of Doc Von’s daughter.
We brought some goodies for the community and we started to distribute them to each family. We prepared for 45 families but it turned out they were less. So, we gave away the excess packages to the people who helped carry our stuff from across the river. We also gave away special gifts like re-chargeable flash lights, clothes and other special items.
During the lull time, Restie asked the locals about the legend of Dupag. One of the elder ladies volunteered to tell the Dupag legend. But since she spoke in the local Kalinga dialect, Teacher Daisy Banutan translated it to Tagalog for us.
It is told that Kabunyan or God built a mighty bridge made of stone to connect the two places separated by the Chico River. The people were happy and life was good. But one day, one of the natives went to the Kabunyan and told him that his son had died. It was a tragic and sad news for the Kabunyan. This angered him so much that he threw a tantrum and started to kick the bridge made of stone repeatedly until finally the big stone bridge that connected the areas in Tabuk got separated.
When the big stone bridge was destroyed it became crooked. In their dialect this is called “Dup-eg” or “tagilid”. Through the passing of time, Dup-eg evolved and is now pronounced as Dupag. That is how Dupag came to be.
Sael, has a simpler version. He suspects, that because of some western missionaries who came to Dupag, they must have pronounced the place “Dup-eg” with an american twang. But that’s the un-official interpretation, and he is just kidding.
Late in the afternoon, we asked about the waterfalls that we see from the other side of the river. The last time we were here, Restie saw the falls from afar. He said, “Next time bro, kailangan puntahan natin yun.” That’s Restie, where there are waterfalls to see, no mountain is too high climb, no trails are too hard to trek. We have to go there.
Nobody in Dupag really bothers to go there in Pataw-Ig Falls. Maybe they are so used to the beauty around them, they take it for granted. But they were eager to accompany us and take us to the falls, and show-off their own wonder of nature.
The falls is not too far away. But nearing the site, the trek became difficult as there’s no established trail. One of the guides had to cut away the wild bushes and branches of the mountain side to make a trail for us. The path was also hard to trek because it was muddy and slippery. “Gusto nyo po dito na lang sa baba, pwede naman mag langoy.”
But even if the falls is way up, there was no stopping us. We just had to go to it.
Once we reached the base of the Pataw-Ig Falls, we had to take our traditional swim despite the cold water. We wasted no time to strip to our trunks and we dip into the cold plunge pool. The force of the water was strong and it was creating some sort of cold winds. The falls is tall and must be at least a hundred feet high. Carlos Carlos (double name) was the first to dip and he frolicked in the falling water, enjoying its force and power.
We also sat at the base where there were big rocks, waiting for Restie to arrive so he can take our picture. They said Restie might have decided to stay down because the trek was too hard. I thought to myself, you don’t know Restie if you think he will not come up.
It was all worth the effort. The Pataw-Ig Falls is mighty and awesome. We are glad that we went all the way up and experience its wonder. Tony, one of the guides said, “Wala po nag pupunta dyan tulad nyo. Kayo lang po.” I felt honored and proud that we had this opportunity to trail blaze this site. Those who hiked to the falls were Doc Glenn, Sael, Jimmy, Rodel, Carlos, Restie and me.
The hike back takes you to the side of Chico river. From there you see the mountains and spectacular views. Restie stopped us for a moment as he led a prayer of gratefulness to the Lord for giving us the opportunity to experience his creation up close and personal. Amen to that.
When we returned from the hike, the people were already preparing for the night’s festivities. They put up a makeshift tent in the clearing where we were to hold the event. The men took out their special and traditional gongs and started to rehearse. Dong, dong, dong, ding, ding, dong, dong.
They were dancing in a circle while holding and hitting the gongs in an almost hypnotic rhythm. As the beat went on, the local ladies started to perform the traditional native dance. It was enough for us to try it out ourselves, playing the gongs and dancing too! What an experience. There is something about the sound and rhythm of the gongs that transcends you to another plane. If not for our monkeying around, we may have gone into a trance. Okay maybe not. But the sound is really enchanting.
As darkness fell, we started the festivities. The locals performed a dance ritual to the sounds of the the gongs. At first there was only a young couple and soon enough everyone joined in and we found ourselves all dancing the traditional dance! We were having so much fun, made even better by the buzz of Ginebra quatro quantos. Edwin Frondozo, the guy who rode alone kept on leading the cheer of the crowd, shouting “hep hep! Hooray!”
Jimmy Vidal, who earlier in the day was posing as the Optometrist volunteered to be the Master of Ceremonies. Jimmy is a natural. Keeping the audience entertained with his wit and humor that can give Willy Revillame and Jojo A. a run for their money!
Glenn Peña announced that we were holding a singing contest and he was sponsoring the prices. The crowd got excited and talked among themselves to form groups and solo performances. To sweeten the pot and to make sure everyone gets a price, we got from our petty cash an offered them as prices.
The night was surreal and magical. The young ones sang songs and performed dance numbers while the elderly also sang their traditional songs. Lola Belina sang her version of “If we hold on together”. She couldn’t have chosen a better song to capture the meaning of our solidarity, between The Long Riders and the people of Old Dupag. As the chorus says,
“If we hold on together, I know our dreams will never die. Dreams see us through to forever. Where clouds roll by, for you and I”
Dreams, even in desperate and dire situations, give hope and reason to live on. Sang by Lola Belina, the oldest person in old Dupag, sends a profound message and meaning for all of us. “Live your story, faith hope and glory, Hold to the truth in your heart.”
Chopped pine wood continue to burn as bon fires which served as lighting to the event. It also added to the ambience of the place. A pig was slaughtered as their gift to the Long Riders. The party was in full swing as everyone wore their happy smiling faces amidst the laughter and boisterous outbursts coming from the riders!
All those who performed were given prices. Robert, who we call Fr. Robert, also distributed some cash. And the grand price winner, the duet who sang tagalog songs received 1000 pesos. Everyone were winners. Everybody was happy. Including the Long Riders who were acting like juvenile deliquents out on a day pass.
We capped the night and festivities with a sumptuous dinner. We had a great time.
Lola Belina offered her house for us to sleep. She said it could accommodate all 12 of us. Her house was spacious and we slept on the second level. It had big wide windows where the cool breeze passed through and through. They prepared the house and spread mats, blankets and pillows. We must’ve slept with big smiles on our faces.
The locals showered us with appreciation and love. I believe each one of us, The Long Riders and the people of old Dupag formed a strong intangible bond with one another, and no matter the distance, will hold strong forever.
If this article comes off as sentimental, then I’ve said it right. We are telling the story of Old Dupag, Kalinga, as promised.