The Bucolic Life

Things here in Nagsanga – our barangay in Pasuquin – just don’t move along as fast as the rest of the world.  If the entire world was a large Formula I auto race, Nagsanga would be the lone kuliglig.  Compared to Nagsanga, the “Land That Time Forgot” is on Daylight Savings Time, “springing ahead.”

kuligligYes, things are that slow here.  But, it’s not a bad thing.  I, for one, rather like it.  So, too, do visitors from the high-stress, rush-rush corners of the world.  They and I all find the same solace:  relaxation without stress.  Even work here in Nagsanga is stress-free.  I can have five things going on at once here in the barangay. and can bring each to a successful conclusion – either sequentially or simultaneously – very easily without a care or hint of stress.

The choice of method for accomplishing something just doesn’t matter when the first choice made is to take stress out of the equation.  Perspiring from the air temperature alone is much more preferable to perspiration induced by heated stress.  Since heart disease is a top killer, and stress contributes to it considerably, I feel that the stress-free life here in Nagsanga has its therapeutic values.


Some days here in Nagsanga can only be described as “boring.”  Not all of them, mind you, just some of them.  Just what is the exact ratio of boring to not boring days totally depends on the whims of the day-counter.  Were it I counting the days and deciding which was boring and which wasn’t, I admit that the non-boring days would have a significant superiority over the boring days.  For me, just waking up each day is yet another adventure awaiting exploration.

boringBy the time I’m ready to start my new day’s expedition into the amazingly friendly unknown, something happens.  There’s a shift in the environment.  Excitement, and eagerness to get on with life, collide with the near nonexistent tempo of Nagsanga.  Hustle turns to shuffle, and it’s a stress-free life awaiting my next move, if I care to make one.

Flowers from WowPhilippines

On the days in which they happen, the mini-explosions of such collisions have far-reaching effect.  Today is one of those days.  I eagerly decided to key-up an article for LiP, and here I am, making my way through it without a care or hint of stress.  This could be a bad thing.


I admire the other writers in this “E-zine.”  Most all are story-tellers, and they have good stories to tell.  Stories of this exciting adventure here, or of that worrisome adventure there.  Stories of experiences they’ve had and are burning with journalistic desire to share them with us all.

Some stories are about topics that a portion of the readership, if placed in the lead role, would truly suffer experiencing.  They are comically presented, however, so that the potential sufferers amongst us feel no pain as they laugh along with the rest of us.

That is the type of story I want to tell.  That strange, isolated incident in the life of a foreigner experiencing culture, customs and traditions that put their own significant twist on the incident, making for a light-hearted and interesting account of “what happened next…” followed by a retreat into a “man cave” where good friends, good music, and ice-cold San Miguel Beer all awaited me.

Nagsanga !  Ain’t gonna happen!  Read my lips:  Ain’t a gonna happen!


What kind of cultural twist can be put on seeing the “goat girl” every morning?  Like clockwork, fifteen minutes after it brightens up just enough before dawn, she leads “Billy,” “Nanny” and “the kids” out to the fields for their morning grazing?  She trudges right out there into the fields left fallow with the kalding (kambing) [goats] in tow.  She finds a likely grazing spot, and ties the animals’ rope leads to the wooden pegs she had so accurately driven into the hard ground, using a large rock as her hammer.  With livestock securely grazing and unable to stray, the “goat girl” shuffles back to her home where who know what other chores await her.

goatsI was going to write “chores await her prior to leaving for school.”  I stopped.  I cannot say that I have ever seen the “goat girl” walk or take a tricycle to school.  For the past five years that I’ve seen her, she’s been the “goat girl.”  She’s grown taller during these past five years, now appearing to be either a brand new teenager or just teetering on the edge of being a teen.  Her shuffle and carriage is the same today as it has been.  Her style of dress remains constant, though it’s obvious that clothing changes were made as she grew.

Still, that’s about it when it comes to observations and writing of the “goat girl.”  I often wonder what else is part of her story.  Does she indeed work all day, having given up the chair in the classroom for that peg pounding rock?  Or does she magically transform into a schoolgirl who is totally unrecognizable as the “goat girl” and is wending her way to becoming a class valedictorian?

meat-grinder-clip-artShe has hardly ever missed a day with her charges; does she like herding them?  Or is she one of the first in line with plate, spoon and fork in hand, when one of her charges meets the butcher knife?  Or does she just settle for some rice as the goats are for selling just to make what little money they bring in?

When I make a few initial inquiries about the “goat girl,” those I ask have a very difficult time understanding of whom I speak.  To the world, she seems to be a faceless character on the stage of life, with ever-changing sets and scenery, but the same old bit part.  The play-bill would include her in the “cast of thousands.”  Faceless, name known to a handful, and ever-present each morning, leading the family to graze.


rc2Well, as I’ve said, this is Nagsanga.  I have no “man cave” into which I can retreat.  We’re fresh out of ice-cold San Miguel Beer right now, but we do have some cold Royal Crown (RC) Cola in the refrigerator.  I think I’ll pour me a tall glass of RC, grab a can of dry-roasted almonds, go outside to my favorite chair on the porch, retreating to the revelry of my virtual man cave, and begin to ponder deep thoughts.

Think I’ll start with, “Do you think she would like being known as the “goat girl”?

Post Author: PaulK (203 Posts)

Paul is a CPA and a retired tax accountant, having served companies and corporations of all sizes, as well as individuals, in public accounting practices. Prior to what he refers to as his "real job," he served a 24-year career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. It was during this career that he met and married his OFW spouse of 35+ years, Emy, while stationed in London, UK. (Though he pleaded for the assignment, Paul never received orders to the Philippines.) A "Phil-phile" from an early age, Paul remembers his first introduction to the Philippines in the primary grades of a parochial elementary school where, one week each year, children donated their pennies to purchase school supplies, food and other necessities for Filipino children in need. That love for Filipinos continues to this day. Calling Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte--in the far northwestern part of Luzon--home (just about as far away from Davao as one can be while still being on one of the major islands) Paul prefers a more relaxed provincial life style, and willingly shares a different view of the Philippines from "up north"!


    • says

      Hey David – We avoid them and don’t have them! :lol:

      Seriously though, even way out here in the province we have sufficient, good health care facilities: new hospitals in the provincial capital that’s 18km (11 mi.) away; adequate number of trained and proficient doctors, etc. If it’s something that can’t be handled locally, they capably keep you stabilized and transport you to the nearest facility that can handle the situation.

      Things here, though, are so nicely peaceful and quiet that emergencies aren’t that frequent or critical. Most often, it’s a case of an elderly person suffering from the heat. ;)

      • David says

        Thanks, Paul,

        I would like very badly to move to RP, but I have some health problems (some of which stem from Agent Orange exposure), and I am somewhat fearful of not having adequate medical care.

        My location of choice would be on Panay (San Jose de Buenavista), and there are some pretty good hospitals in Iloilo, but I still have concerns about health care here.

        Quite frankly, I am green with envy over your serene lifestyle. LOL!

        All the best,
        Dave R

        • says

          I have some service-related problems as well, and so do a large number of military retirees living here. Each one of us has our own way of handling the problems.

          For me, the trick is spending 5 months in the USA – staying on TRICARE Prime, and being treated at the WPAFB Hospital in Dayton, OH. After I get my “flight papers,” I’m off to the Philippines!

          Others either use Guam facilities, local VA clinic & referrals, or TRICARE Standard.

          Where there’s a will……….. :)

  1. GaryM says

    I can’t hardly wait for to it Paul. I don’t know if we have a goat girl but I am looking some nice and boring days in Barangay 19, Masintoc, Paoay.

    • says

      Hi GaryM – You can always stroll down by the church in town to the Herencia Café and enjoy some pinakbet pizza! (I haven’t been there in a long time as they’ve been remodeling and refurbishing the café – wonder if they’re finished yet?)

      Then, there’s the lake! Plenty of lazy days awaiting you there! :lol:

  2. Pauk Thompson says

    A man cave is a state of mind along with a physical location, a broken stool under a mango tree, you on your porch, the man cave is where we go to ponder our navel or “Goat Girl” it’s where we (The Man) can isolate our self from the world of woman we deal with everyday. Inside the house is their territory where coasters are to be used, messes to be cleaned as they happen whereas the “Man Cave” the mess can be put off until you feel like dealing with it. I can sit in the middle of my kitchen and mentally go to my Man Cave at will.
    But a nice building out back is a good thing too!

    • says

      Hi Paul – I’ve adapted to the local customs and traditions when it comes to property, houses, shacks, etc. I madly need one to realize the full effects of my bleary-eyes navel pondering! :lol:

      (btw, I’m a walking “Man Cave: – at least that’s the implications I get from wifey!) :shock:

  3. says

    Paul, I think you hit a homerun with this one. I am very much enamored with the laid-back lifestyle in the barrio as you, where everything, even the dragonflies on the back of a carabao wallowing in the mud, seem to pirouette in slow-motion due to the “blinding heat of the sun” (Carlos Bulosan). When the sun reaches its zenith, you can find me in Mom’s backyard under the shade of the mango tree reading the Manila Bulletin with a pitcher of cold ice tea on the papag by my side..

    In barrio Salaza (Palauig, Zambales), the day starts at the crack of dawn, and by sunrise, the entire barrio is an explosion of activity. Men in straw hats with bolos strapped around their waists ride their carabaos to the field Neighbors visit to gossip and take care of whatever businesses that needed to be done before it got hot. It was at such time, too, when an old boyhood playmate from the salbatana days came calling at 7AM to claim his belated pamasko from a balikbayan. He was polite, but boldly straight to the point. LOL

    By mid-afternoon, the entire barrio becomes eerily quiet, except for the sound of two wooden pestles alternately pounding pinipig in a large wooden mortar. The sound of pounding in rhythm as if it was “The Bolero” against the backdrop of silence in a bucolic barrio during the mid-afternoon heat always takes me back to my boyhood days in Salaza. Then as now, it was a soothing lullaby that easily lulled me to sleep under the shade of the mango tree.

    Looking forward to your next article, Paul. I hope that you can put flesh on the character of the “goat girl”. She sounds interesting. Does she look interesting as most Ilocanas are? LOL

    • says

      Hi John – (I just noticed your “avatar” – you’re all dressed up! No more bare chest or any other flagrant violations of tender readers’ psyches! ;) )

      Your prose is wonder today. You should try publishing.

      Yes, here, the day quickly begins just before dawn with the “honk, honk, honk” of the “pandesal boy’s” bicycle horn. Tremendous activity – at a slow pace – goes on until about 9:30 AM at the latest. Then, it’s ghost town time until about 5:30 PM. Things spring back to life and continue until the last song is played around 10:00 PM.

      Gotta love this life! :lol:

      And, yes, the “goat girl” does look interesting – I’m sure she’ll have no problem finding a husband later on!

    • says

      Hi Tim – Oh yes, I will find out more. But, there’s a “cultural dance” that I must do so as not to start tongues wagging or petty (or worse) jealousy make an appearance in the household.

      Direct methods are out. Indirect are acceptable, but for an older, married man like myself, care must be taken not to appear too eager or interested. It’s quite a fancy two-step one has to do in order to find out background information of a young, female subject. :lol:

      • says

        Paul, you are already pretty well-versed about the nuances of the cultural dance and the importance of dancing it especially when dealing with unmarried women in the barangay. I can only repeat what you have already said. Failure to do so, or even a mis-step while performing this 1-2 valse, could inadvertently by perception alone sully the honor and reputation of the budding dalagita in question. As you correctly pointed out, ignoring the cultural dance could result in wagging tongues and perhaps jealousy in the household. There is one other fearsome consequence I worry about, and that is the possible unsheathing of a bolo belonging to her Itay. LOL

        I don’t know of any method by which you could research more information about the young lady without arousing false perception. Perhaps, you could befriend her parents and invite them to dinner at your house in the name of the Filipino value called, “pakikisama”, but you already know that, Paul. :)

        • says

          Well, John, it’s all a two-edged sword. Many situations where it’s “da**ed if you do and da**ed if you don’t” exist when the cultures clash. Too, with tsismis being the national pastime, the task at hand is minimizing the number of wagging tongues – you can never be totally rid of them! :lol:

  4. PapaDuck says

    I’m waiting for your first publication of your boyhood in the Barrio lol. I know your missing it so much. It’s anything but quiet all day here in Cavite. Noise from many different sources all day long. Can’t wait to get to the quiet of Batangas. At least it should be fairly quiet on Thursday/Friday as the place shuts down for Holy Week.

    • says

      Enjoy the Holy Week, Randy. I know that you and Anne are looking forward to the fresh air in Batangas. Fresh carabao milk, fresh everything in the provinces, even the young ladies of Batangas, they are very fresh-looking LOL but this is not to say that Cavitenas are yesterday’s roses.

  5. jimmy says

    Your place sounds just like my place here in the camotes islands wonderfully slow & easy what a great life we have here in the Philippines. :)

    • says

      Hi Jimmy – Yes, so wonderfully slow, easy, and yet, therapeutic by its own nature to avert than old meanie called stress.

      We are very lucky, indeed. ;)

  6. says

    Here in the U.S. some folks don’t know the difference between show goats and meat goats. They are raised completely different, but the one thing they do have in common is they need a lot of land to roam to avoid disease. Confined areas such as feed lots lead to poor health. I had a few goats when I was younger. They are hard to keep fenced in. Not sure how it would be in the Philippines though.

    • says

      Hi Bill – Here in Nagsanga and other barangays of Pasuquin, they move the goats around quite a bit. No fencing – they just have a rope collar and lead, and they’re tied down to a peg in the ground, just as the “goat girl” does. Her methods are the norm, and by no means unique. Goats “free range” in the fields that are left fallow for a planting season or two. As the fallow plots “move around” quite a bit, so do the goats. ;)

      btw, there are no “show goats” in this province! :lol:

  7. bigp says

    Paul I found this to be a Very good article. And the mystery of the goat girl will stay with me for a while — hope you follow up and you find that she is on the path to a good life, a fitting end to a good story.

    • says

      Hi Loren – Well, the “goat girl” is certainly industrious in her husbandry. She, and the goats, come from a family compound across the highway and down a house or two. The compound holds a few smaller houses or kubos. I’ve never been there, so I can’t say much – right now – about the rest of her daily schedule.

      I know, I sure would like to have a surprise ending to the story! ;)

  8. sugar says

    Hi Paul – I have no idea what Bucolic means, but I like the article. :) There really is goat girl, huh? Ahhh the provincial life. I know I should go to the countryside more but I’ve never been out of Manila in over a decade. Traffic, buildings, malls and flood, pollution.. the metro that expats hate. He he. I’m not much of story teller either just wants happening in the Metro. He he. Have nice summer in Ilocos. I’ve only been there twice and it sooooooooo far like 9 hour bus ride. But I like he place and seeing old churches and houses.

    • says

      Hi Sugar – According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word “bucolic,” when used as an adjective to describe something, means “Of or relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life.” It’s one of my favorite words that describe the lifestyle I believe is ideal! :)

      You should get out more! All of that congestion, pollution, hustle & bustle can really wear a person down. A short stay in a “bucolic” setting will really help a person to unwind and feel good again. Come on up to “Ilocandia” and enjoy life once more! Instead of the bus, take a PAL flight from Manila to Laoag. It’s only 45 minutes maximum! ;)

      • sugar says

        Thanks Paul. I would like the pleasant aspect of countryside too..maybe even just for a week. When I have time and money I will go on vacation. :)

        And the plane ride wow 45 minutes compared to 9 hours.Next time will ride plane. That bus trip was in the early 90′s. Well, I like riding bus and looking at green fields. and cool wind blowing. :) Haven’t been to Pagudpud and want to. Soon,.

  9. Jay McDowall says

    My mom said Laoag reminded her of her days growing near the plantation on Kauai. Also say high to officer Jhonny Hernando, my brother in law. He is stationed in Pasquin now.

    • says

      Hi Jay – Your brother-in-law and a couple of other officers came out to our house earlier this year on a combination social/business visit. They were updating their list of foreigners living in Pasuquin and passing out information and phone numbers to use whenever we needed them. I remember his name on his nametag – at the time, I thought his name was “truly Spanish” compared to the other officers’ names! (Didn’t say anything about my thoughts – maybe I’d be arrested if he didn’t like the “Spanish connection”! :lol:

      You need to come “back home” more often, Jay! ;)

  10. says

    Paul, you’ve done a grand job of describing life in the outlying barangays. There is plenty of industrious work going on, but it does not happen at the killing pace of the western world. Up in the higher elevations, the mid day retreat from the heat of the day is shorter. I’ve seen our neighbors working into the night with flashlights. I think this is more to avoid the heat than for any pressing deadline. Still, the day begins for most when the roosters begin crowing around 3:00 or 4:00 AM. The goat girl has her counterpart all over the Philippines. Rural children tend livestock, gather wood, and stir the rice drying in the roadways.

    I’ll second the motion for John Reyes to write his memoirs of growing up in the Province. That would make some fine reading I think.

    Take care,

    • says

      Hi Pete – It is wonderful in the outlying barangays, isn’t it? !! I sometimes look to the mountains on the warmer days and think of what it must be like to exchange the “excess oxygen” for relief from the excess heat! Usually keep my mind from drifting too far by concluding that the end result would be “no change” – still huffing and puffing in the heat! :lol:

      I’m gonna miss this life when my “vacation” starts next month, just like you do now! ;)

  11. Jay says

    Hi Paul,

    I enjoyed your article! You painted a good picture with your words of life where you live and I liked seeing it through your description. Yesterday was April 15 so things should slow down even more for you.

    Take care,


    • says

      Hi Jay – Thank you! Things may slow down a little – clients living over here have until June 16th to file there tax returns, and believe me, they are “going for the limit” this year! :lol:

  12. PalawanBob says

    The best neighbors are NO NEIGHBORS!
    That’s how I feel comfortable about having neighbors, i live more than 2 hrs drive from the provincial capital.
    Although peaceful and very much bucolic, do you think it’s far enough?
    No way, sometimes I wish I could live on an island!
    Here,being totally oblivious to what’s going-on in the rest of the world, native people practice the most expensive entertainment in the world… making babies. Pregnant women are everywhere!
    This kano is scratching his head.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *