Life in the city can get maddening, and one gets the occasional hankering to get away. If online is the farthest you can travel to at the moment, we recommend seeing life through the eyes of 22-year-old Ilocano vlogger, Ruben Baguio Jr., who in his YouTube channel goes by the name Gayyem Ben.
His videos are possessed with a serenity that is almost poignant, much like the way you imagine sitting in the middle of a rice field and taking in the sunset, or getting your feet wet in a batis as the world around you begins to wake up. In the videos, the scenes make up Ben’s everyday. They provide snippets of the young man’s life in the countryside—in Dupax Del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya, to be exact.
His latest upload offers picturesque views of the mountains and rice fields at daybreak. He takes his audiences with him to the hanging bridge. He shares his little adventure of finding crablets for the next meal, and the pleasure of the cool riverine water touching his feet. You can almost smell the coconut milk as the pan sizzles away with the day’s catch. Like most of his videos, it ends with a heartwarming shot of him and his family partaking of the food he lovingly prepared.
Curiously (but only because we’ve only encountered his videos recently), YouTube audiences have been devouring his content since it launched in June 2019. The channel has since gathered 185,000 subscribers. A simple breakfast video has so far garnered 748,000 views, while his tutorial on making dinengdeng got 703,000. His pork adobo has been played 562,000 times on YouTube, while his cassava video is also drawing a lot of viewers—it’s now nearly at half a million pageviews.
While he doesn’t exactly show extraordinary culinary skills—his recipes are in fact very simple—one could say he’s feeding his viewers a little food for the soul. Yes you can maybe follow the steps of his recipes but the way he’s made the videos, he’s less interested in teaching you how to make a new dish. He’s really after his audience getting a glimpse of doing things outside of how they usually do it in the big bad city.
It’s the of Filipino culture that inspired Ben to produce videos. In a Q&A he posted early this year, he says he wants to showcase traditional countryside life. “Para maipakita ang kultura natin. Kasi yung ibang vloggers dito sa Pilipinas, more on challenges, pranks [ang ginagawa].”
This pride in the simple life is evident when he puts the spotlight on local ingredients and cooking using the pugon and palayok. He’s showcased his inventiveness with the cassava, banana blossoms, corn, and sweet potato, and shared ways of cooking not-so-popular ingredients such as madre de cacao flowers (he turned them into okoy) and bignay (he made candies out of the berries). He also has an episode solely dedicated on rice—where he showed the traditional way of preparing the palay, from harvesting to cooking.
Ben purposely includes baybayin translations on the gfx of his videos because he wants young people to appreciate our ancient Filipino alphabet. He said he hopes it could be brought back as a national writing system in order for us Filipinos to have a strong sense of cultural identity much like the Thais, the Japanese, and the Chinese.
Ben mostly speaks in Ilocano in his videos as a way of maybe setting an example to the younger folk from his hometown. According to him, many Ilocano youths now no longer appreciate the beauty of their dialect. “Gusto kong gamitin nila [ang Ilocano] at maipasa sa next generation,” he says. “Gayyem,” by the way, is an Ilocano term which means friend.
Every now and then, Ben does travel vlogs to show other places people can visit in Nueva Vizcaya, which is known as the Citrus Capital of the Philippines. He says the province is such an underrated destination. Many tourists have yet to discover its attractions. But he assures there is much people can enjoy here—the Kasibu for caving, the Imugan Falls in Santa Fe, the Sea of Clouds and Naruron Falls in Dupax Norte, the Lower Magat Eco Tourism Park in Diadi, the Flower Farm in Kayapa, and the old churches.
If you’re impressed with the production value of his videos, you’ll be amazed to find out that in many cases, Ben did everything all by himself. The evidence is in a video showing behind-the-camera footage while filming. “When I started to vlog, it was really a one-man job. Now, he gets help from his siblings. “Because of them, my videos have improved.”
A video is usually done in two days, he says—one day is allotted for filming, the other day for editing. In the beginning, he was shooting with an Oppo F5S cell phone, a gift from his sister-in-law from Saudi Arabia. “Kasi matagal na akong walang cell phone nun,” he remembers. “Sabi ko, sa tulong ng cell phone na ito, magiging successful ako.”
The earnings from his vlog allowed him to purchase his first camera, a Canon EOS 1500D.
Asked how he plans his videos, Ben says he simply puts himself in the shoes of his audience. “Matutuwa kaya sila sa idea na ito? Magagandahan kaya sila? Mai-inspire kaya sila?”
Asked for advice he can give to city folk considering to live in the province, he says they better think about it a thousand times. Life in the city and life in the province are two totally different things. “Many say that life in the countryside is simple, pero hindi naman po talaga simple. You need to work hard in order for you to live here. Yung mga nakikita nyong taniman ng gulay, mga prutas, hindi po yan basta tumubo lang. Kailangan mo po iyang alagaan,” he says seriously.
But that doesn’t make life in the province any less fun. “Sinasabi ko po sa inyo, napakasaya po ang mabuhay dito sa probinsya,” he assures. “Halos lahat po ng mga tao dito are very kind, very pure-hearted.”
Ben says he would like to experience city life in the future, but only to try it out. Ben was born and raised in the countryside and would love nothing but to live there for as long as he can. At least that’s what he says now. Through his YouTube channel, he has newfound purpose in relishing provincial life even more, the life he was born to, sharing the joys of rustic Filipino living as authentically as possible to his audience, one vlog at a time.