Conversations with Victor Baculi in Luplupa, Kalinga, Philippines
STORY: Most travelers stop by in the town of Buscalan to meet Fang-Od. But very little has been written about Victor Baculi. He is the first guide in Tinglayan, and arguably the most memorable of them all.
I've met him in one of my encounters with the other guides in Buscalan. People call him the "Bin Laden" of Tinglayan. Of course, they were joking. But he actually looked the part. Strangely, his face looked like someone you wouldn't want to mess with. It's a long story how he got his hair dew, but he looked quite different from anybody else.
I met him again while i was in Luplupa, on my 10th day in Tinglayan. He offered me coffee, but i declined. We have conversed countless number of times already. But this time, i was alone and visiting his humble abode. He offered me white coffee, instead. We already understood each other. We found ourselves at a nearby store, and he bought a
bottle of Ginebra. We went inside, and started chatting.
He wasn't my guide to begin with, so he didn't have to entertain me if he wasn't feeling like it. I was there as a friend, and good thing, we share common interests. We were taking a shot of the pure gin, with tap water as our chaser. As minutes pass by, and the alcohol in out system started to take effect, he became more relaxed and started telling me stories when he first started guiding trekkers.
I fancied talking to him was one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my entire traveling history. His stories, convictions and visions in life have opened my mind towards the kind of life i am living today. I didn't even have to ask for favors or advices, he was speaking in tongues. Ironically, we were conversing mostly in English as he is more equipped to speak in English than Tagalog.
It was a Sunday, and earlier that day, i chanced upon Victor Baculi over mass. I arrived a few minutes before it ended, and as i was just taking my time watching teenagers play hoops at the nearby basket ball court, he came up to me and invited me to eat at his house. Such kind gestures, most travelers would never experience, because everybody left already.
If at first it was the name Victor Baculi, later on, i would get the hang of calling him Uncle Chuper. My guide, Amboy, is his nephew so whenever we pass by his house, Amboy would check on Uncle Chuper to see what he's doing. In some days, neighbors would ask me about where i am going, i always utter "Uncle Chuper", and they would nod.
Days pass by, Amboy would guide some other travelers, while i stay put and chat with Uncle Chuper. On one occasion, he invited me over to a funeral. Yes, a funeral where most local people of Luplupa would hang out all day and night, and sometimes will never sleep. Uncle Chuper would glee at a sign of "white coffee", our personal favorite. With other peeps from Luplupa, we enjoyed each shots of Ginebra, downed at around eleven o'clock in the morning, at about 35 degrees midday sun. While most of the people i was drinking with don't understand my native tongue, it didn't bother me at all. After about three hours, i said goodbye to refresh myself from the sweltering heat. It didn't take long before i rush dressing up, and tuck myself to sleep at mid-afternoon. Before passing out, i try to remember what Uncle Chuper told me the other day, "It is cheap to be rich but expensive to be poor."