February 6, 2023

After more than three years, a trip to the outskirts is refreshing because one wonders how things have been here at Avong nen Suvaniin Datakan, Kapangan, Benguet. The last celebration was the thanksgiving feast for Roxanne’s departure, if memory serves me right.

An old friend, Rose Fianza, had built a typical Ibaloy hut for her mother which she aptly called Avong nen Suvani back in the late 90s. This home was on the ancestral grounds of her mother’s parents that was shared with 11 siblings.

This rich genealogical story is now the foundation of a mini museum that houses the Calical – Safinay Clan memorabilia. Still in its conception phase, the small structure that is some 10-by-10 square meters has begun gathering the material culture of the members.

A collection of Benguet baskets among which is the kayabang that is unique to the Ibaloys is an important element, one is worn by a mannequin to demonstrate how the strap is slung on the forehead and carried on the back long ago. Old photographs printed on a tarpaulin  are readily related by Rose and which should acquaint relatives on the roots of some five generations.

Most of the items in the collection showcase some materials used by households more than seven decades back. Remnants of the equipment used by soldiers like the canteen and lunch kit are among the items.

There are old charcoal heated irons in several sizes, fossilized wood gathered from the shores of the Amburayan River, and wooden harnesses of cows and carabaos are there, the wooden bowls of various purposes, and heavy metal cookware that preceded salad master with accompanying anecdotes are among the tidbits that must be told. But the still functioning hand propelled Singer sewing machine possesses an interesting validation of history for P80.

Rose noted thata father Seltel Felipe Cariño at 27 years old had learned from American teachers sewing as livelihood for blankets, clothes, and other needs.After the war in 1947, the waning of the demand for sewn clothes placed the machine aside until Roland Ogues from Paykek barangay sold the machine for P80 to send his eight children to school among whom is Nena Masferre.

There is an old wooden coffee bean crusher among the recent acquisitions from Dr. Julie Cabato that is for copying by enterprising hobbyists because the old, engineered device is devoid of nails and is being eaten by termites. 

The avong has an interesting hearth that can cook food with wood using a natural vent. The design of these houses incorporate natural ventilation and multipurpose heating. The sink of old was just an open series of slats to let the dishes drip and the water flow down to the lower grounds. The modern hut has a sink and proper drainage.  Those interested to experience simple accommodations pay P300 per head.

The garden is one to experience too because fresh lettuce and some herbs are available for salads. One can pick strawberries in limited quantity during the season. 

Plant varieties can be enjoyed and a taste of the miniature cucumbers is amusing. For the main course, pinikpikan with the homemade kinuday or kiniing is the native dish that is akin to tinolang manok

There was sauteed pechay and green lettuce salad with cucumbers and fresh pineapple as a vegetable preparation. But this is the place to get your binubudan kamoteng kahoy or red rice because these are regular traditional Ibaloy fare. These are boiled rice or cassava that are sprinkled with yeast. They are best after a day or two but the rice becomes tapuey or rice wine after a month or so. This is available at the car wash enroute to here.

There are other things that can be done here if you are into a quiet outing. This is open for a few hours of nature loving ogling, a quick nap or overnight stay with the cicadas.  A quick drive from Baguio City at most two hours but the roads are good and hardly any traffic to cut that travel time in half.