December 15, 2020
BY RICKY MONTECILLO
Sitio Salacac in Malico, Nueva Vizcaya has been our home away from home ever since its Kalanguya tribe Chieftain Alfredo Segundo adopted us as their family last year.
Going back to experience its cold weather and warm people has always been a treat for The Long Riders.
The community in Salacsac is poor but rich in tradition. They live up in the mountains which they sometimes call the pine forest. The place is surrounded by pine trees and from the top you can have a 360 degree view of Pangasinan and Nueva Vizcaya.
We have a campsite on top of the sitio where we pitch our tents and where we gather for the night’s fellowship and sharing.
My wife Tina joined the camp, and she commented to me while we were driving back home that the experience was so humbling. She said that to be among the Salacsac folks, who live so simply, and who are so kind and hospitable, “gets you grounded”.
During dinner of the group at the small area of the Segundo Family, Tatay Alfie and Mommy Bita stood before us and in their native toungue, sincerely expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the friendship our group has extended.
While tatay Alfie was speaking, Mommy Bita just kept on rubbing her eyes as she shed tears of Joy. Some of us cried with her.
You see, we gifted them with a brand new 42″ inch HiSense Television. TLR Chief Restie Renia told Mommy Bi that now with a bigger TV set, she can see clearly her favorite Korenovela characters.
In the Kalanguya tribe, it is their tradition to slaughter and roast pigs as their special offering to friends. They cook them Lechon style or the local version “watwat”. For dinner we had lechon and saluyot with bagoong.
Going to Salacsac, we chose to pass via San Nicolas, Pangasinan, and drove through the scenic mountains roads. The Villa Verde trail is still about half paved and half rough roads. It gets tricky when it rains due to the slippery muds and sometimes even landslides.
Waze won’t advise you to take this route. There is another friendlier route through Santa Fe Nueva Ecija and the climb up is only about 20 minutes. But the travel time is much longer, more than 6 hours.
From San Nicolas, it takes about an hour to reach Malico and another 20 minutes going further up to Sitio Salacsac.
The drive is challenging but very enjoyable. One has stop to enjoy and breeze and the astsounding views for those facebook shots and tik-tok vids.
We camped and pitched our tents up the mountain. The weather was cold and the winds blew intermittenly throughout the night. There is something about camping that connects you to nature.
No matter if it is not too comfortable, sleeping in tents, hearing the sounds of the breeze and feeling the bite of the cold weather draws you, body and soul, to mother nature.
A couple of months ago, Tatay Alfie and Mommy Bita lost their dear daughter Julie to cancer. She also has 4 children.
I look at the Segundo elderly couple and imagine how deeply painful it must be to lose a daughter. Julie’s concrete tomb was built right beside their home and its cement is still fresh. A grim reminder of how recent Julie passed.
On Sunday, the morning after, we had brunch at their grounds where the pigs were slaughtered and being prepared. While waiting for the food, we gathered the children and distributed lots of toys and goodies. Christmas came early for the Salacsac little ones.
We also gave away lots of foodstuff, clothes and other gifts for everyone. For the poor and simple folks of Salacsac, The Long Riders family is very much part of the Segundo family.
Being there to share some of our stuff, to bring joy to everyone and getting to interact with them was our Chirstmas Mission for Sitio Salacsac. Merry Christmas!