Far from the rocket-propelled grenades of Baghdad, the espresso stands of Seattle and the tulip fields of the Skagit Valley, lies the bustling Philippine mountain barangay of Mantalongon.
In a way the last two years of my life were all preparation for returning here. It's Ana's hometown and she's the one I was thinking about while I was in the USA.
Friday 3:30 am I flew out of Seattle.
Saturday morning I arrived in Manila.
Sunday I flew to Cebu.
Sunday nite I connected with Ana at National Bookstore in Cebu City, same place
Tuesday she and I rode a bus to Dalaguete, on the coastal plain 50 miles south of Cebu.
Wednesday we rode a motorcycle 13 km up into the mountains to Mantalongon.
Here's the central plaza.
First we visited Ana's family. They all teased me about being MacArthur, as in "I shall return." Pretty easy to come back to one of my favorite places in the Philippines!
Ana's mom, Quirina Flores. She's a vegetable dealer in Mantalongon and has sent all her grown children who wanted to go, to college (8 out of 11). It's a stunning achievement for a woman who buys and sells vegetables in a mountain village without telephones or a sewer system.
Three Flores sisters: Ana, Delia & Tesie.
Tesie and her 8-month old boy, Mark Brian.
Mantalongon is a market town where vegetables from the surrounding mountains are sold and put on trucks bound for Cebu. Here's the newly rebuilt vegetable market.
Cabbages and carrots.
The basket of cabbages weighed 150 lbs., the bag of squash 220 lbs.
That afternoon I went for a walk out of town. Ana doesn't like to walk much, so I went alone.
Walking west I passed many small farms. This is the vegetable growing center for Cebu Island, and the mountains are thickly covered with small farms growing cabbages, onions, garlic, camote, green beans, and ceyote squash.
I believe the natural ecology here is cloud forest, but on this visit there is noticeably less forest than last time I was here two years ago. All the mountaintops in every direction are missing their trees and instead are covered with planted fields. Continuing population growth creates a relentless pressure to grow more food (4 babies born every minute in the Philippines.)
I befriended some boys and they let me follow them up to their small house near the ridgetop.
Meanwhile, back in town:
Ana Flores Monceda and Chris Pforr: da beautiful young filipina and da skinny old foreigner.
What are we gonna do?