Location: Manila, National Capital Region, The Philippines
I met Craig, another Filipino-American traveling through the Philippines for the first time, in the taxi line at Manila’s airport. He sparked the conversation (something I soon learned was just something he liked to do) by asking me surprisingly personal questions about my travels. And, to my surprise, I was happy to answer them.
We found out that not only were we both from America, but he grew up in a city in Indiana not far from where my own family lived. We bonded over our favorite fly-over state and our travels. I told him that I was only in Manila for the night and headed up to Baguio in the morning, on a mission to visit the village my mom grew up in. He too was only in Manila for a short while, hoping to head up north as well. When Craig found out I didn’t really have anywhere to stay (I’d just Googled the address of a cheap hostel) he asked if I’d like to crash at his friend’s house.
So that’s how I ended up meeting Anthony and his assistant MJ, two of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to hang out with. I thought it would be awkward just showing up to their house, a total stranger begging for a couch space for the night, but the instant welcome and generosity they provided completely changed the atmosphere. That night, we shared stories and pictures from our other travels (everyone had a bit of a travel bug). Craig also revealed more of his plan for his time in the Philippines: he wanted to go up to the far north, into the mountains, to get a tattoo from the last of the mambabatok (a headhunter warrior tribal tattoo artist). It sounded like an incredible adventure to me. And the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me; I was headed up north anyway and after I visited Naguillian, where my mom grew up, I didn’t have a plan. But maybe this could be it.