The Return to Hapid

Hapid, Ifugao - Part 2 [ Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 ]

Aging does strange things to you, like recalling those stuff that brought you to where you are now, which explains why I am here writing this…

I originally went on that trip with the simple goal of doing my work, fulfilling the academic requirements to graduate college and moving on.  It was not in my mind or plan that I would ever want to go back again.  So I did not really form deep relationships with anyone—including my own classmates in the team.  Two names stick: Danny, who was my roommate, and Mang Ramon, who hosted us in his house.  But I do not remember anything else: conversations, doing things together—all draw a blank.

And the awareness of an “awakening” of sorts was happening was only realized in hindsight long after I have moved on.

But will anyone remember me after thirty five years?  Going back to Hapid was kind of awkward and empty because who was my connection with the place?  Mang Ramon was way past his mid-life then so there is possibility he may have already passed away.  So do I drive in and walk up to anyone in the village and say I was once a student who did his research work there?  Will there be anyone who will care or remember?

Wait...there is someone—as I rummaged through the old photographs, I can distinctly remember a little girl who began following me around curious about my cameras.  She would tease me into taking her photograph or cajole me into letting her shoot photos herself…and what is that button for and what does that knob do and so on.  She was annoyingly cute.

This was 1981—I had something like ten rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 and a couple of color film (two Kodacolor negative film and one color reversal film—I forget).  We were in the middle of nowhere so it was not as if we can get an instant review of what photo was taken or quickly replenish my stock if it was used up.

Nevertheless, she knew what a camera was for and was interested in how it works and what I was doingshe persisted bothering me.  So I eventually surrendered and gave up: I taught her how to use them (a Canon AE-1 and a Pentax K2) and eventually let her take some photos of her own.  Indeed, she was given a "mission critical" assignment (later below).

So there was one person I somehow bonded with.  I can remember certain moments when she asked questions, annoyed me, ran around with my camera, and how I was worried she would fall or drop the camera…but I also cannot remember her name.  What I can vaguely recall was it started with “C” and there was this “bell” sound to it (i.e. Michael, Rachel or even Jezebel).  So I have since tentatively called her “Cel”.

On June 11, 2016, we drove to Hapid armed only with prints of random photos of the place and “Cel” hoping that would connect me with someone in the barangay.  I went to what appeared to be the hub of activity that Saturday morning—the church.  I walked up to a couple of ladies chatting there and explained who I was and that I was looking for this girl and her family.  A lady looked at the photos and after a bit of verifying with the other ladies declared: this is “Jingle!”


“Jingle” is her nickname and her real name is “Candice”.  Oooh…the “C” and “bell” sound that rings in my head.  I mixed up them up in the passage of time.

Candice does not live there anymore but her parents are still there, so the lady accompanies me to their house, introduces me and while in midst of the pleasantries and recollections of students from Philippine Christian University coming to town to do research work, Candice’s mom—who was now virtually blind because of glaucoma, walks in and says, “oh, I remember those days, I even remember when Candice used to follow around this student who had cameras…”

I am home.

The photographs Candice took ...

The last photo is significant because I counted on Candice to document this all by herself, all the grown up photographers were onstage performing (which include myself and the American missionary who was also our prof in Philippine Christian University).

NEXT: Hapid 2016 >>