I grew up listening to bedtime stories, usually Filipino folktales. At night, before going to bed, my mother would tell us about how pineapple came to be. Now, I could still remember listening to Pina, a lazy young girl who wants to play all day in their backyard and never help his poor mother.
Every time her mother asked for help or looked for anything, Pina would only reply that she can’t find the object. One day, the mother got sick and asked her daughter to cook some porridge. But Pina ignored her and didn’t cook the porridge because she couldn’t find the ladle. Her mother, out of frustration, cursed her, saying that she wishes that a thousand eyes would grow on Pina’s head. The following day, the mother couldn’t find her daughter anywhere. No one had seen her. Months passed by, and one day while sweeping their backyard, she found a strange yellow fruit with thousand eyes. She remembered the curse she told her daughter. They eventually named the fruit Pina, after the daughter, which eventually became pinya.
There were many stories my mother had told us, from the stories of Pilandok and Maria Makiling, the race between the turtle and rabbit, the boy who cried wolves, and the origins of fruits such as lanzones, among others. When I reminisce about those nights and stories, it warms my heart.
When I became a journalist, talking to people and listening to their stories were my favorite parts of the job. I would “borrow” their stories to make my travel articles more relatable.
Listening to people’s stories connects me to the place I’m visiting. It gives me a unique experience. That is why no matter how many times I have visited a place, there is always something different.
Whenever I ride a cab and if I’m in the mood for conversation, I would almost always talk with the driver. Sometimes, they’d tell me where the best place to eat, or the hippest place to visit in town.
But sometimes, they would tell their life stories. Sometimes, I would hear weird stories such as how one family fights with each other using kulam, or how their town has changed through the years. There will always be stories about their woes and lament on the forever rising cost of petroleum, their “boundary,” and the fare hike, etc.
“Wherever we go, people leave a significant mark in our remembrance of destinations. Often it is the hospitality of locals and unique traditions that make us want to visit or return to places,” said NLEX Corporation president and general manager J. Luigi L. Bautista.
In an era where tourism has afforded us a window to the world, humans and their vibrant stories bring more meaning to our experience. Through the human element of travel, destinations transform from being mere points on a map to one that reconnects us to our roots and our humanity.
To celebrate these narratives, NLEX Corporation launched the Humans of the North, a six-part mini-documentary series on the indomitable human spirit, traditions, and cultures of the North. Each part features a unique story of people from different provinces of Northern Luzon.
“Through Humans of the North, we hope not only to instill local pride, but also create conversations that will engage travelers to look beyond the appearance of a place and look inward to its people and to themselves,” said Bautista.
One of the mini-docu follows the story of Ditas Gonzalo, a 46-year-old female kutsera from Vigan who left her hometown in search of a better life in the city. But with the sudden death of her husband, Gonzalo was forced to return to the historic cobblestone streets of Ilocos Sur and single-handedly raise her children. She returned to her roots and became one of only six female kutseras in the city and is beloved by customers and fellow drivers for her fortitude.
Then, there is the story of Manuel Acosta, whose search for self-fulfillment led him to La Union in 2016. Even without prior knowledge of farming, he founded Ibit’s Farm, one of the leading DOT-accredited agri-tourism sites in the province.
Determined to pursue farming and community dialogue, he was able to employ innovative and sustainable farming methods and novel agricultural practices, which he shares with other farmers through education and constant awareness-raising efforts. Through the Adopt a Family of Farmers program which he helped establish, he was able to uplift the plight of his fellowmen.
Another installment of the series narrates how Ezra Aranduque, a 60-year-old social entrepreneur, chose to return to his roots and preserve family and community traditions. His global journeys equipped him with weaving know-how from various countries and ignited in him the passion for preserving Sagada’s unique weave.
With the rising costs, fierce competition, and unpredictability of sales brought about by the pandemic, maintaining the family weaving business has proved to be the most challenging. Despite this, the businessman remains steadfast and committed to imparting his knowledge to more Sagadans, with the aim to uplift the lives of indigenous female weavers and keep the community tradition alive.
You can catch these wonderful human stories on the NLEX official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NLEXHumansoftheNorth.
Storytelling has always been part of our lives. When something good or bad happens to us, we always have the urge to share the story with our closest friends and family, or even strangers. Stories are not just for entertainment. Stories have the power to heal. They also have the power to shift mindsets and hearts.
So always make sure to tell and listen to a good story.