Project Breaking Down Barriers: Couchsurfing in Sabangan, Mountain Province

The bus ride from Bontoc took about a couple of hours so it was already quite late in the afternoon when we got to Sabangan.  Sabangan is a municipality in the Mountain Province and the only reason why we included this in our trip was our couchsurfing host, Russell.

Russell is a Canadian who has been staying in the Philippines for quite a while now.  He’s an artist who is very big on recycling and the environment.  His house is by the highway and it is also where you can find a lot of his creations.  He had Yakult bottles as legs for one of his tables.  He also has chairs, carpets, rugs, and curtains made from recycled materials (some of his works, by the way, were in an exhibit in Bencab Museum).  Being inside his house is a whole new experience altogether and an eye-opener, especially for someone like me who is a hoarder.  This made me intend to explore re-purposing the stuff I have kept all these years into something that I could actually use or give as gifts to my loved ones.  Let’s see. 😉

Before sunset, we went to a house of one of the ladies who is part of his project, Trashure.  From their website, “Trashure is the name of the movement/organization/business that we’ve got going that markets and distributes our Trash creations. By coming up with bold designs and techniques from transforming ‘trash into treasure’ we’re empowering communities to co-create amazing products from trash.”

As Russell described them, Sabangan ladies are really good weavers of recycled materials, which they make into purses and small bags.  Because of Russell’s background as an artist and entrepreneur, one of his major contributions to these Sabangan ladies was coaching them on how to make their products sell-able, in terms of designs, colors, and quality.  He would also buy their products and export them while making it clear to the ladies that they could sell their products to whomever they want, because the business is theirs.  I saw some of their creations and I was in awe with how they made them look like they’re not recycled, as if the materials used were originally intended for making bags and purses.  Their products include designs from junk food, shampoo sachets, tags, and a lot more.  I bought one for myself, one made out of yellow-red striped straws!

Russell buying straps for the bags made of recycled materials

In the evening, we did a couple of rounds of beer and chips.  We talked about love, life, projects, and Filipino culture.  Russell shared that he found Sabangan because he got lost.  And, what would have been a miserable experience turned out to be an awesome and still ongoing one.

Russell and some of his recycled creations behind him

The following day, we went around Sabangan for the last time.  We crossed a hanging bridge (again!!!) and had the opportunity to see kids swimming in the Chico River.

Chico River in Sabangan

We also visited one of the houses where we found a mandala.  This particular mandala was co-created by Russell and the kids of Sabangan, from broken tiles and bottle caps.  Russell shared with the kids what mandalas are and how to make one.  When he returned one afternoon to see how they were doing, he saw the “R” in the middle, the kids’ tribute to Russell.  Sweet.

Mandala as a tribute to Russell

Liked what you read?  Share the love!  Follow See ya, Monica on social media to get updates on my recent travels, with tips and a lot of shares on what I got during my trips.  Plus, some barely edited photos to give you the most authentic feel of the place. (I do not know how to use Photoshop, and what I can only do are cropping, adjusting brightness and colors the way I remember it):


Thank you! And, in whatever space you’re in now, I hope that you get something from reading my articles.

See ya,

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