My everyday thoughts are composed of YouTube video clips of cenobites, Blade and Rambo cheating death a lot of times, and love, in its complex form. It’s always a struggle between staying relevant and cuddling in my bed. But most of the time, I stay at home, as though I am that woman hiding in the patterns of a yellow wallpaper, struggling for freedom. I am free yet I am fascinated by the idea of not being free.

I’m glad my friends were able to convince me to join the 19th Invitational Climb to celebrate the Timpuyog Festival in Kiamba, Saranggani. It wasn’t easy to leave my comfort zone but I told myself maybe it was a chance for me to go out and interact, to prove my grandmother wrong every time she tells people I’m not a people person.

We left Davao at 1:30 am and traveled to Gensan by bus. We arrived at 5 am and had to ride a van to Kiamba. It was another three-hour travel and I was about to regret being away from home. But the ride was fun. It was filled with some scornful remarks from some scorned ex-girlfriend, a girl’s hateful comments about some guy who practically annoyed her for some very private reason and people checking their phones, trying to reconcile with their urban lives. I was having anxieties to be with strangers in one vehicle because I didn’t want to talk, I just wanted to think about the things I would do when I get back home.

We arrived at Kiamba at 8 am. Somehow, it felt nice to be in a new place. The plaza was crowded with climbers from different parts of Mindanao lining up to register and locals rehearsing their performances for the program. It was Kiamba’s 13th Timpuyog Festival and everybody was in the mood for some entertainment. Kiamba is a small municipality in Saranggani province. “Timpuyog” is actually an Ilocano word which means “unity” or being united. Perhaps the hundreds of colorful umbrellas I’ve seen are considered a constant reminder for the people of Kiamba to stay united and work together for the common good.

Day 1

Timpuyog Festival Kiamba

We were too overwhelmed to see hundreds of umbrellas 

Timpuyog Festival

Last minute food shopping

Kiamba Timpuyog Festival

Normally, I don’t feel comfortable with a bunch of strangers but I must say this dump truck ride was fun because I’m a fan of heavy vehicles

Timpuyog Festival

From L to R: Jhango, me, Daniela and Sir Rham. 

Timpuyog Festival Climb

I took advantage of getting rests in between. Good thing Jhango likes taking selfies (as though taking selfies might help regain stamina and boost self-confidence)

It was my first but it wasn’t horrible as what I had imagined it to be. Actually, it was fun because I got to eavesdrop and smile at strangers like we were in one big group and we had to help each other. There was a sense of belongingness and I knew everybody felt it. The good thing about trekking and climbing is that when you’re up there, you don’t think about your social anxieties anymore. All you can think about is to get there. 

We arrived in Purok Falel at 2 pm and immediately set up our tents. Good thing we had guys in our group – they carried the cooking equipment, canned goods and a few bottles of butane fuel.

Timpuyog Festival

We set up our tents in a school ground basically because the purpose of this activity was for us to communicate and interact with the T’boli tribe in the community. The T’boli are one of Southern Mindanao’s indigenous people. They were not aloof, they were friendly and eager to share their traditions.

I smiled when I saw some climbers made friends with the children, earning their trust and somehow making them feel that though they were living far away from the municipality, they were never forgotten. 

Timpuyog Festival 2017

 Boodle fight menu: unlimited rice, chicken pastil, boiled water spinach and vegetable stew with pork

Timpuyog Climb

After the boodle fight – MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS

After our meaningful conversations, I was honestly surprised when Bretchy and Sir Rham prepared pork soup with banana blossom. I was expecting we would be eating canned sardines or boiled eggs because nobody would be kind enough to cook something delicious. But I felt blessed to be with kind people who cared for each other’s belongings and welfare. It felt as though I was a part of a family. 

After dinner, we decided to drink alcohol since there wasn’t that much anything to do (although I brought my book with me and I was okay with being left alone inside the tent.)  Actually, from the moment that we arrived, we were already thinking of drinking and making plans for the evening. But the small store owners stopped selling Tanduay long time ago. They blamed Tanduay as the cause of fights of most men in the village, the same reason why some bars wouldn’t offer something as strong as Tanduay. However, they assured us that there would be available drinks later that night, including strong alcoholic drinks. But we only drank two bottles and had the chance to drink tuba or coconut wine in Falel’s breathtaking view deck.

Purok Falel, Kiamba

Purok Falel’s View Deck

Kiamba, Saranggani

Timpuyog Festival

Hanging Coffins | Bodies Inside Tree Trunks

Hanging Coffins in Kiamba

This is just an ordinary log or tree trunk inside a house for a non-T’boli. No one would ever expect a dead body inside it. I had the chance to talk to the owner of the house. She was still grieving for the death of her husband. Following the TBoli tradition, the dead body of his husband was inside a trunk, blackened with tree sap and would be buried or cremated only when she’s ready to let go and move on. It’s been three months yet she was still mourning. 

We didn’t have the opportunity to see the hanging coffins but I was told that those hanging coffins were dead bodies of babies, somehow becoming one with the trees. The Tboli people believe that babies remain angels as they die. They don’t touch the ground, thus their dead bodies are hung in trees. The bodies are covered with herbal leaves to suppress the smell. When I roamed around the community, I noticed that there were no nearby hospitals or even small clinics. As expected in far-flung areas, pregnant women go to manghihilot or midwives as they give birth. I hope there won’t be any more hanging coffins now that the government is exerting efforts to educate women about the importance of prenatal checkups and X-rays.  

Mindanao Artists

Bretchy, showing off Ronald Tamfalan’s work on a piece of T’nalak cloth


Kiamba Climb

Ready to downclimb


Day 2


Exploring Tuka Marine Park


Our second day was the most challenging for me. We didn’t use the boat to get to Tuka beach so we had to climb. I was carrying a laptop bag with me, not a mountaineering bag. The weight of my bag was pulling me down and I slightly panicked. Maybe I should be more ready next time. 


Tuka Trail

Tuka Trail

We reached Tuka Marine Park and it was paradise. 


Tuka Beach

Tuka Beach, Philippines

Camping Philippines

Tuka Beach

Tuka Beach Trip

On our way home


How to go to Tuka Marine Park:

Go to the transport terminal in Osmena St., and ride a van to Kiamba. After arriving in Kiamba, ride a tricycle and go to Lourdes Park. Find the tourism office and ask assistance from a tourism officer. 

Mindanao Climbers

Kiamba Festival 2017

Timpuyog Festival

LGU Kiamba offering free lunch to its people and visitors

Kiamba Festival

Aside from free meals, they also offer free haircut and massage

Kiamba Invitational Climb

Gained new set of experiences, social skills and new friends 🙂

The whole experience led me to the realization that there is also beauty outside the comfort of my room. Perhaps it’s time for me to go out and stay out for long hours just to feel that I am a part of something, meet new people and just be crazy. It’s euphoric to strip off your skin and live different lives once in a while. 

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