1996: Living with the Itawes

Peñablanca River, northern Sierra Madres, Cagayan Valley

In 1995, I approached the UP (University of the Philippines) IPEG, a research initiative in studying Philippine entholinguistic groups, and I offered my services as an anthropological researcher. They were initially hesitant in taking me in, because they had already competent teachers and students, who are ready to do field research. However, I convinced them that my training in mountaineering and first aid, as well as documentation would beneficial to the team. So Dr. Zayas and Dean Paz took me under their tutelage, with Eloisa C. Verdolaga helping me along the way.

Taking a break from a 3 hour hike to the local chapel, which is two peaks away
Taking a break from a 3 hour hike to the local chapel, which is two peaks away

1996: My first assignment was with a team to do research among the Itawes people up the Peñablanca River, northern Sierra Madres, Cagayan Valley.

To get to our research base camp, it would take a 4 hour boat ride upstream through the Penablanca River
To get to our research base camp, it would take a 4 hour boat ride upstream through the Penablanca River

The main area of our study was in this village called Lapi, which was supposed to a site of an ancient battle between the Itawes and the Agta people.

From the closest river bend, it would take another 2 hour hike to the village
From the closest river bend, it would take another 2 hour hike to the village

The Itawes have already let go of any customs that predated the Spanish colonial era, but they have developed their own fold variation of Christianity, which includes interventions of a dwarf named “Kulit”. I wish I could find my other photographs of this trip, but most of them are just documentations of their material culture.

A group picture, along with last goodbyes to our host family
A group picture, along with last goodbyes to our host family

Here we are with our host family, on the day we were to return to Aparri City.

The Callao Caves and Chapel Photograph by Arch. Reniel Firmantes Pasquin (2011)
The Callao Caves and Chapel
Photograph by Arch. Reniel Firmantes Pasquin (2011)

The upper Peñablanca region is no tourist spot, and all rugged country. Much of the mountains are bald due to framing, some cattle, and logging. However a notable site is the Callao caves, which is where our journey began. It is known for the chapel built into the cave. I have no picture of the place, so I am sharing someone else picture from the net.

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