There are serendipitous events that leave our beings changed. I know I wanted to immerse in a local tribe as a bucket list but I didn’t know it was going to happen this trip. The entire beautiful, magical accident started from an unknowing conversation.



Backstory
  
I was looking at the tourism flyer of Sagada, and read about a tribe ritual that happens only five times in a year. One month said June. I thought, what are the odds that it was going to happen on our weekend stay so I shrugged it off. 

Our tour guide then mentioned a certain Begnas happening the coming Sunday. He dismissively pointed where it was going to happen– on a far village, how many hundreds of steps away from our location. I thought the term rung a bell. Turned out, it was what I read. It was what I heard.
We asked for directions determined to not pass on the experience, but our dear ever trustee guide just said to follow the men and women in costume walking in the morning, chances are that they are going that way. We had no choice but to heed the instruction, and ask some more. The other guy, said another direction, only confusing us more. 
That Fateful Day
We showed up that morning after our Kiltepan sunrise experience. Thought we’d have an early breakfast first before trudging to that place we were not sure where exactly to find. We believed, the place could not be so vast to be painfully lost.
At breakfast, while chatting randomly, we saw men carrying a barbequed pig on their shoulders. I even pointed it like it was just an amazing site until my friend panicked to get a camera. I did, too. We were late. They were fast. There we knew which direction to follow. That pig was for the ritual.
Immediately after breakfast, we walked the road less traveled by. Unsure but determined trusting our people skills. We asked everytime, and generous Igorots happily sufficed.
Then, like being handed a gift wrapped in red, our eyes glistened with victory. There was a group of men of all ages in bahag circling a fire. 
It was a tall order, intimidating, and fearful at the same time to disrespect the locals, but we braved the group asking if we truly found the Begnas, led by my really courageous friend.
Hereon, everything changed.

Meeting the Tribe
 
Ezra, the 20-something Igorot  in bahag donning a jersey welcomed us like a friend. He said to wait in their Dap-ay with them, as they are about to go in no time. He told stories, back stories, of their interesting, rich culture. The older men were more stiff, stoic, intimidating. The chatty Ezra relaxed us, and eventually, we enjoyed their company.
When they left for the ritual, as they are about to hike the mountain where prayers are to be offered, Ezra asked to get our number so he can notify us when the dance ritual is about to start. We obliged and walked as far as we are allowed to follow them.
While waiting for them to finish, we found a little church and thought to say a little prayer. There, the officiating priest invited us to walk with him to his other service so he can drop us off where the dance ritual will happen. We followed just so we know where to go, and a little chitchat with a wise man wouldn’t hurt.
Lo and behold, we walked some miles and circled the entire town just to go back to our house, it hurts! We opted to go home first as it was still early and the feast will happen at lunch. We walked so long, we were so tired. 
The Text Message from the Tribe Member
While lying on bed, we received a message. Ezra said they were about to start. Barely rested, we rose up and walked again, contemplating for a few seconds what is it again where getting into. The sun getting sharper by the hour.
We met a Filipina-Caucasian couple who we were with in the cave and invited them as we thought they wanted to witness the ritual, too. At the site of the ritual were two other Caucasian guys and a crowd of local women waiting to go in. We chatted, explained a bit of the ritual to the foreigners, and waited for the respectful time to go in.
The ritual has begun. Had we ignored the message and stuck by the 11am lunch call time, we would have missed a big part of the life-changing ritual. No, we would have missed it all.
The rest of the story, I hope the pictures can tell. 
While waiting at the Dap-ay 

The circle of fire
 


The tribe going to the mountain
 
 
The men in red on top of the moutain
  The Village
  
 

 
 Begnas Ritual
passing over offerings while in line
 
left: Caucasian guy joined the ritual, got to marry a local girl; apprarently he was the friend of the 2 guys we met in line; right: badass tattoo
Balangbang dance
 
sharing of food
women of the tribe distributing food
Before we head home, we shared a drink or two in the spirit of gratitude and pakikisama
We left the tribe and the whole ritual with hearts full. Never did we imagine that this trip would be more than just a trip, but a heart-to-heart talk with the hurting elderlies of the Igorots, a first-hand history and cultural lecture, a sociology immersion, a physical test, and a humbling realization, that while we complain about things that won’t matter in the future, there are people in the far-flung tribes who are striving and struggling to keep their culture and traditions alive; ethnicity that actually make our country richer and more differentiated–vital to a more interesting tourism, benefits of which we all enjoy as a nation.
You can see the passion in their eyes, the pride in their stature, the poetry in their words, the beauty in their smiles. You don’t see things like that elsewhere.
So please, please, go travel.
Thank you , Sagada! That was awesome!
: j