When I think of the rice terraces in the Cordilleras, I imagine marriage.
Well, I also associate the terraces built by the Igorot over hundreds and thousands of years with seemingly endless hikes and steep climbs to get the best views of the sprawling rice fields.
But over and beyond the physical ordeal one must endure to properly experience these monuments of Igorot greatness, I am more awed by the union between the rocky, steep surfaces of the earth and man’s ferocity to cultivate the slopes for his sustenance. Unbeknownst to him, his love for the land that sustained him carved landscapes that continue to delight generations. When I think of the rice terraces in the Cordilleras, I imagine marriage because as a 35-year old, I am already so sure that for marriage to grow and become eternal, love and hard work must be hand in hand.
Legally, I am unattached therefore I cannot possibly be a reliable source of opinion on marriage. During the last ten years though, my opinion on the institution had positively evolved. The years when I was 25 and younger don’t really count as far as marriage goes. Back then, I didn’t have a clue on relationships unlike my contemporaries whose romantic pursuits started when we were high school or college kids. When I eventually tried dating, I ended up getting drunk most of the time because real life romance is tougher than those in the books or movies. The change in mindset was because I have met couples whose marriages worked (or are still working, haha) and more importantly because I have become the other half of a committed relationship, a relationship that made me realize that I don’t like to stay single for the rest of my life.
I don’t really dwell on marriage, though. Work, books, movies, the places I am discovering in my travels, and the constant communications occupy me. But my recent trip to the Cordilleras where I hiked a lot and traversed the rice terraces of Banaue, Bontoc, and Sagada in a space of seven days sparked some inspired thoughts on marriage.
So what were my thoughts on marriage when the rice terraces of the Cordilleras inspired me to dwell on marriage?
Marriage is when you’ve tasted life singlehandedly and you thirst for more, no longer alone but with a buddy this time. Just like the many rice terraces in the Cordilleras. They are all unique but they may all feel and look the same unless you are crossing the fields with a buddy who may affirm or challenge your perspectives.
Marriage is when you’ve gone through the ups and downs of a relationship and you wholeheartedly acknowledge that while the bad days are inevitable, you will remain afloat because of the constant support, loyalty, and lack of judgment of your better half. Just like trekking Bontoc’s Mount Kapupey whose summit provides the grandest view of the terraces of Maligcong. You may be slow yet someone adjusts his pace for you. You may have to stop to breathe in air for your lungs and he unconditionally waits for you to recover.
Marriage is when you need not dress to impress. However, you may have to be always present, you got to be honest, and everyday acknowledge that a better version of yourself is your great gift to the relationship. Just like taking and posting a selfie after you’ve trekked kilometers from the saddle to the village of Batad in Banaue. You may look all dirty and sweaty but it is the sense of accomplishment written in your smile that greets your social media followers.
Marriage is a bookend. There are stories, places, and adventures in between. But you acknowledge that marriage keeps the books and stories from falling, from getting so disarranged because of the absence of a stable boundary. Just like the stories and traditions of the Igorot people. Thanks to the ancestral rights granted to their race, the rice terraces can still remain unspoiled by modernization while heritages of the Cordillera region may continue to be unique in all the world.
Marriage is recognizing your own limitation. In marriage, you acknowledge that you’ve reached a certain point wherein your achievements and strengths no longer satisfy you. You welcome a better half to tame you and keep you grounded. Just like the wonders shared by travelers who were transfixed by the moment when the clouds and fogs lift, separate and slowly reveal the rice terraces with their stairs of mud, stones, and blades of grasses. There is a different joy when a traveler shares his experience and encourages others to hike up to the mountains while they still can.
I pray for these thoughts, on marriage, to remain with me until I am 70 or 90.