Humble. Honest. Simple.
These are the ways I can describe my very first Tarucan experience last Sunday, April 5. I say first because I believe that it won’t be my last. Instead of egg-hunting and enjoying sweet treats, we set aside the usual Easter Sunday frenzy and went out of our comfort zone for one whole day. Naturally, it wasn’t the easiest trip but I wouldn’t say it was death-defying. More so, it was refreshing to be in a different place and see things with a different perspective. It felt surreal to be in a poverty-filled place. The aeta community is a poor one but the people in it are rich in love and life contentment. I saw how happy they were with the life they have. I wouldn’t say they are 100% fine with it but it’s the kind of life they were raised in. In my brother’s words, “How would they know better? How would they know that there is such a thing as Instagram, or even a [rice cooker]?” Obviously, there is no means to do so, unless one of them spends a day in the city, goes back to his/her home and shares of his urban experiences.
There is so much to share about this trip. Read on.
Going on our first Tarucan trip, my family and I made sure to pay attention to our choice of clothing. We knew it was going to be dusty there, and so we wore pants, long-sleeved shirts, and caps, or at least something to cover our heads and our shoulders while in the 4×4 jeep. Basically, the photo above is what you’ll see for almost the entire duration of the trip. The 4×4 ride took us about 30 minutes before we reached the Sitio proper. The jeep could only be driven to a certain point, and the rest of the road had to be hiked. It was a steep road so we had to work on our calves and thighs harder, but it was a short distance. I was still breathing hard when we got to the top, though. So much for skipping cardio.
We were welcomed by curious kids staring up at us. Most of them were smiling and were excited to know what we brought for them. We only managed to bring packs of biscuits, boxes of juices, and a number of slippers for the kids, but once they saw us unloading the goods, they could hardly wait to get their turn. Despite all the buzz and excitement, they were disciplined enough to form a queue. However, it did not take long before the line got disarrayed and we were forced to hand out goods to whoever’s hand is reaching out, regardless if they already got a biscuit or not. I didn’t take part in the distribution. I focused on taking photos instead. I didn’t have time to fix mom’s camera so I just kept snapping photos. I was holding the camera on my right hand, and my phone on the left, and I was taking pictures with both. It looked pretty crazy if you ask me.
I was taking a photo of their church when Manong called me and invited me to walk with him, Kap, and Romie, our contact person. Kap’s name is Fred (or Freddie/ Freddy?) but let’s just call him Kap since he’s the “captain” in the community. They toured us around and showed us to different houses and to various establishments such as the school, the medical hall, and their office. I also saw the bungalow Jackie (Kathryn Bernardo) used in the film Crazy, Beautiful You during their one-week project in Capas. Mom’s calling to go to Tarucan only got heightened when we saw the film together. She would squeal in delight every time she sees an aeta kid, or hears them say a line or two. They have very cute accents!
Of course, I wouldn’t let the day end without me unleashing my inner (frustrated) photographer. The view was too beautiful and the kids were all photogenic both as individuals, and as a group.
We went up a hill and got to the edge where you can see an overview of the land underneath. It was vast and beautiful. We were cautious not to walk an inch farther since it’s dangerous enough, only to see three kids rushing down the narrow pathway on the side of the hill. They were professionals though, so as amateur hikers, it’s only natural for us not to follow them. My sneakers got ashamed of the kids’ bare feet.
Before we left the Sitio, they gave us a pot of plants as a way of thanksgiving. I’m excited to go on more trips like this. I can’t wait to go on our next adventure! It’s very refreshing to see a different set of people, hear different dialects, and get lost in an unknown yet beautiful place where a good wifi signal is not a problem (because there’s no power at all!), and all it takes is a wooden stick to play with the kids.
I couldn’t help but take last-minute shots before finally leaving the Sitio and getting back in the jeep. And of course, the ride wouldn’t be complete without me standing in the vehicle and feeling the breeze against my skin.
It was a very memorable experience for all of us, especially to my mom, if I should say so myself. We’re going back on Thursday and this time to give school supplies and toys for the kids, cosmetics for the teenage girls. It was, indeed, a humbling trip. At some point, I stared up at the sky and uttered a simple thanks to God for making all this possible.
Until our next trip!