Saturday, May 21, 2011

Certified Friendly! :-)

I've never really cared much for certificates or awards. For me it's just about doing what you love to do-- and thats the reward in itself. So when I do get a reward, its an added bonus. In this case, a real honor.

I've just returned from two weeks in the isolated region of Natonin. It took me two days hike down a rough dirt road, through virgin jungle, a mountain range, and villages where I was the first white person to visit.

I had been staying and participating in Natonin's Sasaliwa Festival. It was their yearly celebration of culture and community in Natonin. Folks from villages far around had come to participate. I made many new friends, and on my walk back to civilization I was able to visit many of them. I emerged back to civilization adorned in feathers, wearing a birds nest abaca hat, and sporting a traditional tiger-grass broom-- all gifts from my new Natonians friends. I must have made quite the sight!

I also came back with a Certificate of Appreciation.

On the last day of the festival they had a an awards ceremony-- mainly for the winners of the sports, cultural games and beauty pageant. I was urged to attend.

To my great surprise, I was called up! The mayor had created a Certificate of Appreciation for me! It reads:

"To Russel Maier for actively participating in the volleyball exhibition and for being friendly to the locals for the whole duration of the 4th Sas-saliwa Festival"

Wow. How cool is that eh? It's good to be friendly!

But it was so easy. Since I was the only white person in the village everyone was always looking at me, then smiling, and I was always compelled to give a big smile back! This led to many a friendly talk in which I strived hard to learn their local dialect. And then, this lead to me getting invited to play volleyball and to almost the whole community turning out to watch the tall white guy spike the ball ("You have a strong Boom Chewog" said one of my friends).

I am really really proud and happy to have my certificate. Before I left, I invited all my new friends to sign it. It filled up quickly with kind messages in half a dozen dialects! Today, I proudly hang it on my wall here in Sagada.

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