Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Kalinga Tribe - A Beautiful Reflection of God's Grace

Hi family and friends!

I've just returned to Manila after spending the last week in the northern province of Kalinga. Jared and I were accompanied by my mentor Hart Wiens. Hart spent 20 years in the Philippines with SIL - a non-profit, Christian organization that studies, develops, and documents languages (especially lesser known ones). He invested much of his life and work to a Kalinga tribe located in a remote village called Asibanglan. Not only did he contribute to the translation of the Bible in their own dialect, but his team also translated and printed many of the tribes' own stories, various agricultural practices, and medical guides for the tribe. The tribe proudly proclaims Hart as both a hero and an adopted son into their village.

Before we arrived in Kalinga on a 12-hour bus ride into the mountains, we made a stop in Banaue to marvel at what many Filipinos call "the eighth wonder of the world." The Banaue Rice Terraces are 2000-year old terraces carved into the mountains by ancestors of the indigenous people. Here are some photos I took, though they hardly do the rice terraces justice...

When we arrived in Kalinga, we stayed in the capital city of Tabuk for three days. Our timing couldn't have been any better, because we were able to take part in a huge, two-day festival celebrating the rich cultures of the eight different Kalinga tribes. All of the tribes came together
and each presented either a song, dance, or drama that expressed their values, practices, and history. This is a huge deal, because for many years (and even today) one of the common practices between Kalinga tribes is revenge killing. If someone from another tribe kills a member of your own tribe, it's seen as both honourable and expected that you would kill a member of the opposing tribe and bring back their head. The most significant factor in preventing more revenge killings has been the introduction of the gospel to these tribes (...which Hart had a hand in doing). The concept of forgiveness has radically altered previous beliefs regarding revenge. In fact, the message that one of the tribes presented at the cultural festival was "Peace through God's love."

After the festival, we rode a jeepney for several hours up the mountains to stay for three days with the Kalinga tribe Hart once lived with. Around 30 people squeezed inside the jeep, 10 more sat on the roof, and another 5 stood on the back bumper and held on for dear life. The road (if you could call it a road) was almost vertical at times, and it was so rugged that we got stuck multiple times. We also had to ensure that the giant, live pig we brought was tied securely to the roof (...the tribe believes you shouldn't have a celebration without first spilling blood and feasting together). On our first night with the tribe, the arrival celebration lasted almost until the next morning. For hours, we danced their tribal dances and played the drums. Many of the tribe members sang songs, including songs of thanks to Hart for the sacrifices he made in bringing the gospel to their community. In the following two days, countless Natives invited us into their homes to drink coffee with them ( that was picked directly from the coffee trees in their village). They also gave us the best accommodations they had and served us excessive amounts of food, despite the current drought affecting their rice production. We hiked through mountains and between rice fields, went hunting in the jungle, and ate red rice, sugar cane, and even bat.

Hoisting the pig onto the jeepney.

Signifying the end of the tribal dance, the man chooses
a woman in which he'll place a piece of cloth in her arms.

Hart Wiens shows Jared and I his years of experience at tribal dancing.

Our shower consisted of a bamboo stick with a
continuous stream of water, and not a lot of privacy.

Wild Kalinga flowers.

Our new friend Alex takes Jared and I on a hunting expedition.

The part of this experience that affects me the most is how much Hart has accomplished in this community. The tribe continually stressed how Hart's sacrifice in dedicating his life to serving and loving them truly meant the world. To me, the most significant of his accomplishments was the immeasurably strong relationships he developed and nurtured with the people. I can only hope to make a sliver of a difference in my investments with the street children and the squatters in Manila.

ps. The newborn baby Rhianna (who I mentioned in my last post) is alive and well, and now out of the hospital, thanks to all of your prayers.

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! What an awesome experience you guys had!!! Soooooooo jealous. The furthest north we got was Banaue. That must have been absolutely amazing!