Watching Howie Severino in last night’s episode of i-Witness on his quest for the wild horses in Sagada made me sit up and pay attention. My visit to Sagada a couple of years ago was one of most interesting trips I’ve made. I didn’t see any wild horses there though. When our guide mentioned wild horses roaming a remote valley in Sagada, I imagined it’s some kind of mountain legend born one night after a traveler smoked too much jutes. But true enough, there are wild horses in Sagada, running free on grassy plateaus the locals call Marlboro Country. Howie Severino documented the encounter and it was aired last night. It’s so wonderful that there’s enough open space in Sagada for the untamed to safely roam.
Sadly, the wild horses of Sagada have dwindled from more than a dozen in recent years to five. Hunting by humans and climate changes are possibly to blame. Aside from their meat, wild horses are also captured and trained for horse fights. Although horse fighting has been outlawed, there are rumors that this brutal and bloody sport is on going in some parts of Mindanao. Horse fight is showcased in Samal’s Pangapog Festival, called Patanam sa Kuda, one of the island's indigenous sports. A gathering of Bagobos, Manobos and other highland tribes is celebrated in Kalibongan Festival in Kidapawan, and highlighted by an appalling spectacle of horses kicking each other to death. The stallions are trained to kick and bite each other as they battle over a mare. And up to 100 horses die every year from this traditional-turned-money-driven sport.
Stampede from http://www.allposters.com/
The horse in the top photo is Ginger, my boss’ daughter’s pet. Ginger roams a farm in Rizal and tied only when there are visitors. She was a bit spooked when I took her photos. I grew up with a great trepidation around horses…being warned every time that they kick people to death. But I always admire this graceful and magnificent creature. As one horse owner in Baguio told me, no horsepower motor has anywhere near the personality of a real horse. I celebrated a milestone 2 years ago by riding a horse for the first time!
The horse has long been a symbol of freedom. I’m a sucker for those Marlboro ads---where horses and cowboys keep each other company. I love the solitude of places where wild horses freely roam. There is something mystical and romantic about the image of wild horses, inspiring poets and painters. As Howie Severino wrote, wild horses symbolize whatever true freedom remains in a world where everything now seems to be tethered to each other.
Smoking is definitely harmful to our health.