This post contains graphic images of animals that have been butchered. If you are offended or disturbed by these, please do not continue reading this post. Accordingly, viewer discretion is advised.

Preparations for traditional weddings in the beautiful and enigmatic provinces of the Cordilleras usually involve a variety of animals being slaughtered by the men of the community. During this wedding preparation, carabaos (water buffaloes) were butchered along with pigs. The slaughter of animals happen early in the morning, and can continue until the wedding the next day.

My mind was on two tracks that day. First, I was a bit miffed that I didn’t bring any ASA 400 film with me. Although I had my digital camera with me, I decided to document the event entirely on film, while making my way to the venue. The moment I arrived, the light in the venue was taunting me by barely emerging from the makeshift plastic roof and then slowly vanishing. It was a race against time and light. Left with the limits of my film stock, my mind went on problem solving mode or to put it more realistically, on overdrive. I had to make do of what I had and work on it the best way I could. There’s always another time to document an event entirely on film. Besides, one can never be upset with light. 

Despite the seemingly chaotic atmosphere, everything appeared to be organised. Each one has his/her own task. No one was idle for long periods of time. The men were in charge of the meat; the ladies, the vegetables. Some busied themselves in cutting the meat. Meanwhile other men were chopping the meat into smaller chunks for cooking. There is something for everyone to do, whether it is directly or indirectly related to the wedding preparations. If there is proof that the people of Sagada are a close-knit community, this would be it.

On a plastic sheet on the floor was the meat from the carabaos butchered earlier that day. I was totally absorbed as men cut the meat. The whole thing was a sight to behold, therefore, a feast for the senses. It was a patchwork of colours… from bright and angry reds, to the dark hues of animal fur. I can hear the big knives crushing through meat, then onto the wooden chopping boards. Each thud was like a spell, binding me into that moment. By lunch time, a heavy downpour was underway. The slaughtering of pigs continued in the background as the rain persisted on its onslaught. It seemed like the heavens were crying with the pigs.

I was allowed to roam around freely as I took photographs. Some won’t allow their photos to be taken as expected, but it didn’t matter. Most of them recognised me as I’ve spent a considerable time in Sagada before. Later on, I was invited to join the men for lunch. But that’s another story. The experience left an indelible feeling of acceptance, trust and friendship within me. I long to go back to Sagada soon.

Perhaps a question that you might ask me now is, “How did you manage to capture this without feeling upset?” I can’t totally explain it. In my mind, there was only one thing I wanted to do, and did it.

When things get a little bit chaotic, one has no choice, but to turn his/her attention inward. Affirmations and mantras suddenly engulf each crevice of the mind and body, pushing us to unveil from the very depths of our minds the lessons experiences have taught us. As for me, jolted from the reveries of convalescence, and the torments of isolation and loneliness, I came to see this event as a forward step to healing and hopefully, taking more pictures.

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