As our coaster maneuvered through the winding mountain road in Labo, Camarines Norte, I couldn’t help but marvel at the breathtaking views that unfolded before my eyes. Unlike my previous nocturnal journeys to Bicol during my childhood, this daytime adventure through Labo municipality was a delightful revelation. Little did I know that this unassuming destination held a myriad of hidden gems waiting to be explored.
I must admit. The urge to cover as much places as I can when traveling has lost its zing. New places still fascinate me but beyond the established tourist spots. Lately I have been visiting Bontoc, Mountain Province a lot. I’m still enticed to explore deeper into the area. My recent visit finds me hiking the Caneo to Tocucan Trail. Villages off the radar to most people since they are located in valleys tucked deep in the mountains. It was an idea thrown to us by our friend Suzzette which we gladly obliged as I was also looking for good suppliers for some native weaving.
“Tig tig tak! Tig tig tak!” I hear the sound of the loom beaters colliding. Creating a rhythmic beat as a weave of pattern slowly forms. I watch Auntie Benita busy with her loom at the balcony of her house overlooking the roof of her neighbors along with the high mountains hugging their village of Caneo (sometimes Can-eo). Her ever watchful grand daughter Shakira stays by her side. Observing how she skillfully coordinates her motions, from pedaling the treadles to shuffling the shuttle between the threads. Much like Shakira, Benita learned how to weave watching her mother as she grows up. Traditional Caneo weaving, which they call Tilar, is very much alive in this remote village.
It all stared with a hungry Spanish explorer landing on the shores of Pandan Antique. Meeting an Ati local for the first time, he asked if they have food. The Ati pointed to a basket full of Kamote (Sweet potatoes) and said “Dan” which for them meant “that”. In excitement, the Spaniard exclaimed “Pan” which means bread, mistaking the potatoes as bread. It was an amusing play of words between two different culture that gave birth to the name of this place in Antique. Whether this event really is the etymology of its name, one thing is for sure, Pandan is rich in natural attractions and culture.
“This one took me about 2 weeks to finish” the woman weaver told me as she showed a golden angular pattern on a clean white sheet. The pattern is called sugkip, a tipas (slanting) design touted as the most complicated of Inaul Weaving designs that it takes 2-3 people to weave. I inspected the pattern in awe as I ponder its intricacies. Cotabato City may not have much in terms of natural attractions but cultural products such as the Inaul, a Maguindanaon hand-woven fabric, is particularly sought-after for its quality and beauty.
Maps are my best friend when I’m exploring a new place. Starting from where I am, the Motherland Inn 2, I asked the girl at the reception for the location of the Thian Phyu Money Changer Center on the map and found out it was about 3 blocks south west. Since I don’t have any kyat yet, I just decided to walk. Besides, exploring on-foot is the usual way for me to get to know the city. Botataung Paya is on the way so it might be a good place for a side trip.
A Yakan weaver doing her magic
It’s sad what Basilan had come to in recent days. In truth, there is more to the island than its wars. Basilan is home to the Yakan Tribes, also known as one of the finest weavers in our country. They have also become a victim of war, thus many of them have to move to neighboring areas of the Zamboanga Peninsula and abandon their homes in Basilan.