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Kalinga Group Shot

The leaves seem greener here.
The air is cooler, because it stings your face just a little bit,
as if the air is kissing you on the cheek to greet you good morning.
The sun is brighter.
The water is crystal.

I can’t tell if there’s something magical about this place, or if my senses just take it all in differently. Like I’m being reborn, and I’m using my senses for the very first time.

Bitter coffee. Black, no cream.
Steam rising from my cup, my plate.
Bare hands.
Bamboo slats on the floor.

Children are laughing.
Little giggles,
hearty laughs,
muffled snickers.
They point at us from the little hill next to the hut.
They peek through the windows.
They’re not shy about staring. I’m uncomfortable, just a little. I wave.
They laugh and run away.

Cool water.
Crisp, like it ran through a little bit of ice just to get here.
The floor is slippery, so I grip real tight with my toes.
Bare skin.
Nervous smiles because this is awkward.
The water heals the bumps and bruises I acquired getting here.
I feel so clean, like bathing in water from the heavens.
I’m being baptized in the middle of a forest.
Shedding away the tough layer I’ve worn all my life
and being reborn.

¯ Ako ay maligaya kung kasama ka.
Ako ay maligaya kung kasama ka.
Ako ay maligaya kung kasama ka,
Kung kasama-sama-sama-sama ka. ¯

She holds my hand so I don’t slip down the mountain.
They sing songs to the beat of my heart.
She shares her cigarettes with me, rolled in thick newspaper.
Laughter. So much laughter, all the time.
Weathered hands, wrinkled smiles, bright eyes.
Resistance, and a way of life so ingrained and natural.

¯ There’s a struggle in those hills.
You can feel it’s power still.
The women’s take down private property.
In the peaceful act of the people’s will. ¯

I close my eyes and try to hold on to these fleeting moments.

Urong Sulong

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