I celebrated my birthday in Baguio, a beautiful mountain city in the Cordillera region of Luzon. It was made even more memorable when an old friend from our time in Mexico and his partner flew in from where they’re living in Shanghai; no small feat given that they braved a national Chinese holiday, the last of the past two typhoons and landslides to make it in time! Gifts don’t get much more meaningful than that. It’s also sweet to get 2 continuous days of birthday wishes because of the time zones…

Now we’re even higher up in the Cordilleras, visiting Bontoc and Sagada, where rice terraces dating thousands of years back form a dizzyingly high stairway to, you know. Met with some incredible people whose families have farmed there from the start. This is one of the major origins of indigenous Philippine art, which survived in large part due to the difficulty of getting here. The jeepney works hard here, with fewer trips and heavier loads to make it up the hills and dirt roads, saving lives sometimes when hiking was once the only option.

Shifting clouds and sun changes the color of the mountains every few minutes, and the mist rolls down them like smoke. From the terrace of our little log cabin, the air is fresh with pine needles and a little bit of smoke. And it’s too cold for dengue mosquitoes to survive, hehehhh…