Matilda was soon behind me and helped me out of the pit. She suggested we get back to the house and forget about the river. Shaken, I agreed without hesitation.
Back to our room, we giggled at what had just happened to me but we kept it a secret and until now, nobody in Uncle Lorenzo’s house knew.
It wasn’t to be the first and last time I would fall. During our 8-month stay in Buguias, I stumbled and rolled over several more times while going downhill due to my wobbly knees.
During the missionary training I lost weight because I was a fussy eater. Arriving at Uncle Lorenzo’s house I found myself devouring boiled potatoes. After a meal, I would get a second helping of boiled potatoes whipped with Mayonnaise. Matilda and I ate too much of them that Uncle Lorenzo brought us a sack of potatoes about 25-30kg and in just a week it was all gone!
I started to outgrow my trousers and my face was turning into a pear shape.
The Library and the Music Instruments
Uncle Lorenzo’s house was like a treasure trove. He had a large bookshelves covered with glass where I found books from my favourite Christian author, Ellen White. The smell of the old pages wafting through my nose made reading so addicting. I would stay up till late and get up before dawn hooked on those books.
Uncle Bok also kept some musical instruments, a trumpet, a sort of African drum with a decorative body, and an accordion. Without any other outlet for my artistic ability, I learned to play the accordion in a week.
Uncle Lorenzo’s garden was a haven. There were fruit trees of varied types: apples, oranges and peaches which were all a novelty to me. When Matilda and I arrived in September, the orange mini orchard was speckled with orange and green fruits.
Everyday, we stood by a tree armed by a knife and helped ourselves until we had our full. When the oranges were gone, we turned to the peaches tree.
Introduction to the Missionary Life
During the next couple of months, Matilda and I went about in the neighbourhood until we got to know everybody and everybody got to know us. We helped in weeding, planting, and harvesting. I remember the first time I harvested potatoes. It felt like digging for gold. I giggled with glee at each potato I dug.
In Buguias, I buried my old timid me to push myself out of my comfort zone. Apart from giving private Bible studies, I was also asked to speak during a graduation ceremony for the kindergarten attended by all the adult in the village. Thanks to my linguist family, I could communicate with the local people in Ilocano, a language that was common between them and me. Overtime, I learned the basic words and phrases in Kankanaey, the vernacular, but continued to use the common language.
Because of Uncle Lorenzo’s wide connection, Matilda and I had a chance to visit several places, climbed a number of unnamed mountains and experienced a wide variety of their culture.
A sort of ritual, a dance performed in every occasion heralding the start of a celebration, Cañao became my favorite event. It’s a trademark of the Igorot people. It’s one of the many things I loved about them. A culture preserved and they took pride of, Cañao dance.
Broken-down car in the middle of nowhere
December came up fast. Mr. Roman, our first host in Atok, invited Matilda and me for a trip to Tirad View Academy in Quirino, Ilocos Sur. He was going to pick up his daughter for the Christmas break. Located down south of Benguet but enclosed by a mountain range, the way to this place is so treacherous, it takes an expert mountain terrain driver to get there. Joseph, was the guy.
Leaving Atok very early in the morning, we were dressed in layers. The long drive made us sing all our songs until we didn’t have any more left. It was getting dark and we were not quite there yet. One by one, we took a layer of our clothing after the other until we only had one left. A sign that we had left cold Benguet behind and we’re in sunny Ilocos finally. It was getting late at night.
Arriving at Cervantes but still a long way to our destination, we spent the night at Pastor Wincy’s house who was greatly surprised to seeing me. He was my senior in college and a very warm friend who was like a big brother to me. Never in his life did he expect to see me in his territory and neither did I. He knew me well as a lowland girl. Nevertheless, our unexpected reunion brought excitement as we caught up with each other. There was a guy he’d been matching with me who’s from Tirad View Academy. Well, I also liked the guy but he was uberly shy and there was no way I would initiate the first step.
Early the next day, we set up to our destination with Pastor Wincy in tow. I thought we had overcome the worst part of the trip but I was wrong. We had to cross a heavily mined river with the unfinished bridge construction. This was the reason why we didn’t carry on driving the night before. The river could be swollen and impassable.
At midday we finally arrived and the first thing I wanted to see was the Tirad Pass. Tirad means pointed. Tirad Pass is a historic site where Emilio Aguinaldo, the first Philippine president made his escape against the American soldiers. Looking up from the valley, I marveled at the height and the role it played in the formation of the Philippine History.
Another schoolmate was greatly surprised to see me. Susan, a girl my senior and neighbor in the dormitory. Seeing a different Jemina who’s now bubbly (I meant talkative), Susan couldn’t believe I was a missionary because she said I didn’t know how to smile back in college and I was like a hermit crab, always in my shell. Little did Susan know I was making a pearl out of myself. 😉
Our trip back to Benguet the following day didn’t feel as exciting as the first. This time my eyes were always on the road and several times I noticed that as soon as we turned left, we would turn right again. I watched with great interest as Joseph steered the wheel clockwise and anti-clockwise non-stop. His muscled arms looked very strong and able in controlling the vehicle and I settled confidently in his proficiency.
My mind started to relax and I diverted my attention to the greens along the way. The road was getting zigzaggy again and before we knew it, the wheel lost its grip we couldn’t drive any farther. Fortunately, it was a level road near the river. The wheel needed a new part and the closest shop was about 2-3 hours away.
Providence smiled at us and let us get stranded near a potable water supply coming from a rock. Night has fallen and there was still no part for the wheel.
To be continued…
Update 6th November 2016:
N.B. There will be no more part 3 as I have decided to write an ebook about this series. Watch out for the coming of My Bittersweet Memories of Missionary Life in Buguias. Thanks for your participation in these posts.