Clueless of the place we’re heading to, the scenery of rolling mountain ranges rising parallel to the mighty Chico River, and expansive farm fields gave me helpful hints to a bucolic countryside perhaps or even more. The latter was spot-on as I set foot in the village of Naneng in Tabuk, Kalinga.
We were met by several locals who offered us a cup of brewed Kalinga coffee and some native delicacies at the open-air basketball court. Not long after, the village’s young residents showed up wearing traditional clothing and performed a cultural dance. In keeping with the wishes of the elder population for the current generation to preserve part of their way of life, artistic, cultural, and traditional practices are taught in their school. I have yet to explore the small town, but we got a taste of the warm hospitality and caught a fascinating glimpse of the villagers’ rich culture.
Arduous Backstrap Weaving
Inside the nearby hall, we were then shown some of the creations of the women weavers in the village.
We met and observed a few of the women masters of the traditional “laga,” or back-strap weaving. Among them was Remedios Amla, the oldest weaver, who first learned backstrap weaving in the late 1970s. Laga or backstrap weaving, is an olden method of creating woven cloth in the province of Kalinga.
In back-strap weaving, the warp yarns are attached at one end to the weaver and the other end to a stationary object like a tree or a wall.
When using this technique, the weaver is required to sit on the ground or on a small bench. The process makes for a more difficult yet portable, flexible, and simplistic alternative to the traditional pedal loom. This weaving mechanism allows for the creation of narrower but longer textiles.
Chilly Night on a Homey Home Stay
After satisfying our yearning for new cultural knowledge, it was time to explore the village. I started off by walking towards the river. I stopped short of going down to a natural pool filled with hot spring water as I got captivated by the verdant green fields along my path.
I sat down on a narrow-cemented trail and flew my drone to get a view of the whole village from the perspective of a bird. I saw how the old houses and rows of streets aligned beautifully next to the flowing, clear waters of the Chico River.
As spectacular as it looked from above, viewing it back on the ground was equally enchanting as the gentle breeze caressed my face while I continued my stroll through windblown rice fields and towering trees, creating the kind of bucolic dreamscape a city slicker like me could only hope to see on a daily basis.
We spent our first night at Duyan Homestay, owned by the family of the first elected governor of then Kalinga-Apayao and located a stone’s throw away from the 1927 Saint Joseph Parish Church. Like most of its neighboring homes, the homestay is typical of the pre-World War II architecture found throughout the village.
Having learned about this village for the first time, I was surprised to learn that Naneng Heritage Village was already a favorite among foreign tourists. “Before the pandemic, we would host up to 40 foreigners, the last time (were) all Israelis. They will stay here after their river rafting and make a bonfire, sing, and dance,” one of the locals tells us.
The residents were so hospitable that we actually feasted on double dinners that night. The first one was at a house whose owners invited us for a chat, and the other was at our homestay, where we had chicken curry, fried fish, and a vegetable dish with squash and tomatoes freshly picked from the backyard. With a full stomach, an 18-degree Celsius evening, and a plush bed cushion placed over a polished wooden floor, I had one of the best on-the-road snoozes ever.
The only downside of our visit to Naneng Heritage Village was that we only stayed for a night as we had to go back to Tabuk the next day to cover the Bodong Festival, which in itself is another interesting story to write about.
Image credits: Marky Ramone Go