Red and green all over, cold wind, bright lights and carols. Yes, it's Christmas season once again. The city is in full swing preparation – and the year will be ending soon. The past months has been overwhelming and blessings keep on coming, but have you realized when to give back?
This realization lead us to traverse through the rough road and mountainous land of the north – Kalinga. The journey's aim is to help the less fortunate students of Southern Tinglayan National Highschool. We are set to give them a complete, quality studio-like ID picture – free of charge.
It was a long, 10-hour drive from Antipolo to Mt. Province, and 4 more hours to reach Kalinga. 14 hours of travel, hours of headaches, hours when we have to endure hunger for moment, and 14 excited hours to deliver service to our dear students.
Going to the school was a challenge for all of us. The road was narrow, rocky, and some parts of the high way have no barriers, letting you see the vast green forest. I never thought that fear and amusement may co-exist – not until that moment I saw the majestic greens all over the mountains, and the fact that we are 1,700+ meters above sea level. Truly, priceless. This was a view you get once in a lifetime, and I'm glad I had the chance.
The trip was a joy to experience – no tall buildings, no huge billboards, no traffic – just plain nature and welcoming residents. Chickens and native pigs running, edible plants all around, large portions of rice fields. A different way of life that's refreshing and a life I was so curious about. Simple, but why its seems so complicated?
No rough road can stop us! A view of the highway going to Tinglayan Highschool.
“Love your child, no to tribal war”
It was not the kind of sign we usually see on the streets. It's a strong statement that amplifies fear and caution. This unusual sign stirred my interest. Why a sign like this was way up there? What history does this magnificent paradise sits on? Through the course, I have learned that head hunting was a way of life and a common practice among the people of Kalinga way back ages ago. “Kalinga” was derived from the Ibanag word that means “headhunters” The strong discernment of the people in tribe loyalty and membership paved way to brutal and constant killings. Even Whang-od (Kalinga's last mambabatok/tattoo artist) was a victim of the head hunting days. Her lover was beheaded leading to speculations why she never married. The rich culture, nature, and talents of the Kalinga warriors protected them from invasions of Americans, Japanese, and Spaniards – making Kalinga a province with untouched traditions and native norms.
We are only few kilometers away from the school until I saw these children probably on their way too. I can't help but to salute their perseverance and desire to learn, even if they have to walk several mountains away to school. I just wish they would not change this mindset when they grow old; still striving so they would have a better future.
As we are getting nearer our destination, the team was really excited to see “sleeping beauty”, and no, we are not talking about the disney princess. Kalinga's sleeping beauty was a mountain view that was perfectly molded as Aurora, the sleeping princess in the tale most of us grew up on. It was a pleasant sight, and Kalinga never failed to amaze me once again.
Finally, we arrived at Tinglayan High School. The students were already waiting outside and looks very excited as we are. Without asking for any, the bigger kids offer help in unloading our heavy equipment. Everyone was at gaze while we are setting up. I guess its not everyday they have visitors like us, and the fact that they will be finally be having their ID pictures taken.
We brought our top equipment to ensure that they will be getting the same quality pictures like those in a professional ID studio; two units of softbox kit, the latest Tronix Explorer500Li to power an Elinchrom D-Lite 400 flash system, and another 500Li to supply our two Epson T60 printers. A new product – P-dock, to run the two units of YongNuo 560 III flash guns, and a lenovo netbook for editing. According to one of the teachers, the school year might end without the student's Ids. As he says, taking an ID picture cost so much (50 Php at least) and most of the students cannot afford the value. Plus, no one goes to their school to have their photos taken due to the unbelievable distance, unless the students are the ones who will go to the town which is 10 mountains from their homes. Upon hearing, I felt gladness that I became part of this project.
The activity went very well. The students were shy at first, so we have to joke around and make them feel that at ease. All smiles are on the camera, on us, and on their classmates. Surely, that took the sense of tiredness the team felt. Taking their pictures, handing out the print out, and them saying a warm thank you was a feeling to treasure. Indeed, a merry Christmas! :)
Location: Southern Tinglayan High School, Tinglayan, Kalinga
2 x Tronix Explorer500Li
2 x Tronix Lithium Ion Battery Pack
4 x Tronix Photo Paper in rim
Equipment and supplies ready to give service Smile! Taking pictures of the students
Printing out their free pictures! Supervising the editing
All smiles even off camera Under the shades, waiting for their turn