I came, I saw, I conquered….
You can now refer to me as King Buhok.
This past weekend we embarked on the “Tribes and Treks” tour with MAD travel in San Felipe, Zambales. We arrived at our hostel around 11 pm on Friday night, after traveling with public transportation for 7 hours. The hostel was small, adorable, and contained many ecobrick structures which really captured my interest. The next day we took a jeepney to a remote town about 15 minutes away from our hostel. From there, we began our one and a half hour hike to the middle of nowhere. ONce we got to somewhere, nowhere, Zambales, we were shown a nursery where MAD Travel had begun its tree planting operation
I guess a little bit of background is necessary. Zambales fell victim to natural deforestation when the local volcano erupted and destroyed a huge majority of forest cover decades ago. Since then the toll has been ever-increased by illegal, unregulated logging. Recently, reforestation efforts have been initiated, which was part of the reason we were there. After 2 hours of work in the nursery, we had successfully planted 1,060 seedlings.
Once we were done planting and had finished our lunch, we took another hike and eventually arrived in the Aeta village. The Aeta people are an indigenous tribe that live in scattered mountains on Luzon Island. They are considered Negritos and have very small stature. But the one trait I must mention, which was also my favorite trait, is the beautiful, lusciousness of their hair.
*Story Time*… During my time in the Philippines, I have noticed that people tend to laugh at me whenever they see my afro. At first, I thought it was out of pure admiration and astonishment (most of it was). But later, I learned that curly hair was often associated with lower status indigenous tribes of the past and that is what was making people laugh.
Back to the post… These people all had beautiful curly hair that looked like it was styled by the hair gods themselves. And then here I come, all 6’4″ of me, fro out and freshly detangled/ conditioned, finally arriving amongst his people. They loved it! The kids took a certain liking to me and I was eventually turned into a human jungle gym against my will. If you want, you can come to their school and observe the official art gallery of “Mr. Buhok.” In Tagalog, buhok means hair. If that wasn’t enough to solidify my celebrity status, this might do it. About 15 minutes after we arrived, the tribe elder Chieftess ( A beautiful 95-year-old lady who still moves like she’s in her early 60’s) hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek (in front of her husband *crowd gasps*). At first, this didn’t seem like anything but a cute gesture. I was later informed that this apparently symbolized our marriage, making me “King of the Aeta’s.”
In all seriousness though, this trip was my favorite weekend I’ve had in the Philippines. I was given the privilege of becoming acquainted with the most unique people you could meet. I was taken in and accepted as a Kuya and friend. I learned archery and got to buy an authentic Aeta bow and arrow set. I got to take on some beautiful views amongst the landscape. And, I got to aid in reforestation efforts in a land that desperately needed it. We ended the trip by relaxing on the beach for a short stint and then finished the night off with some cards and drinks.
It was an all in all great time that I would do over in a heartbeat. Today we are leaving for Banue and we will be traveling all weekend. I’ll finally be meeting Phang-od and getting my Batok tattoo. Wish me luck on that. I’m hoping I don’t end up getting a life threatening infection like some girl I read about in a blog post who had also gone to the legend for a tattoo.