March 31, 2023

I was 24 years old when I and my cousin first came home to the province. Strapped in my seat as the Rising Sun bus plunged through dense fog of December, the road left the city and a force of excitement came over me. A while ago we hauled a black pig and tied it at the top of bus to bring it for our cousin’s wedding. The pig announced our departure and cried in agony and later when we arrived at Bontoc we found its back and feet ruby-red torn and bleeding in its struggle on our journey.
Whenever we go to Montañosa, we carry things from the city. We brought sugar, legumes, dried fish, lard, salt and second-hand clothes for our cousins, sacks for the milled rice grains, and some canned goods for storage when the wedding is over.
The wedding in the province – the mood, the voices, and the faces – always hunts my heart in longing to be tamed. I looked through the mountains framed in the large window of the bus and thought of how I spend my years in the city, wondering how my generation could have altered if my family stayed in our province. Like flowers pressed between pages, I pulled out a paper bill as my “supon” and put it side by side with the wedding card. During the wedding I would join many in dancing and gracing to country music, we will chase around the newlyweds, put cash in their clothes, and they would take turns in pulling it out and collecting it to start their family.
The pine needles scattered in the wind and tease the tall trees and like how a gavel separates the grain from the shaft, how remarkable it was to see how our distance separated us from our kin. Our life in the city is different from the plain and simple ways of our cousins.
Passing the sultry and dry place of Bontoc, I returned to our place in search for my roots and when I remember how flawed human I was, I resented my city. Like a disease, I removed my clothing and joined our public bath in Sadanga. We were the original nudists and there was no shame in our eyes, for when the city made us sick, we bathe under the stream of warm water ringed with tree-less mountains. We shed skin like plume grass in a wounded path, and hidden under the cloth of dense fog, we came renewed on our return. (RICHARD A. GIYE)