Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Road to Sagada

Six BACKPACKERS signed up for the Sagada Summer Escape! Accompanied by our one and only beloved guest Sheryl Dalagan, we boarded the bus at Ohayami Station on Night One. We traveled together for thirteen hours - from Manila to the Great Cordilleras to discover the treasures of this town nestled approximately fifty thousand feet high. But before getting off to Sagada, we had the chance to pass by some interesting spots as well. 


We went off at Banaue, Ifugao and registered at their tourism office. There were lots of tourists that day. Some, mostly foreigners, signed up to see the Batad Rice Terraces. The morning was very promising with fog kissing the greens surrounding the town. The weather was properly matching the altitude of Banaue, so we zipped in our 'winter' clothes. From there we chartered a van to get us to our target destination.

At Banaue's Visitors Center

We were told that we would be sharing the rented van with three groups. We waited and waited but only one person approached us. She is Aurelie Cressin, a French national who is teaching in the US. Whenever she's given weeks off from work, she would travel around the world. If this one's inspiring, wait 'til you hear this: most of the time, she travels alone. Yes, she is a cool Solo Backpacker! This was her first time in the Philippines. And we were very happy to meet her in this trip.

Meet Lee, a solo Backpacker!

Because only Lee (Aurelie's nickname) showed up and it was already past the promised departure time, our driver started the engine. It was nice because there was a lot of room inside the van. We skipped the Banaue Rice Terraces viewdeck since we have seen it already during our Ifugao Adventure last year. Passing by the area where the famed terraces can be seen was nostalgic for me. It was just like yesterday when I was with thirty friends during The BACKPACKER's Mt. Humalophop Outreach. How time flies so fast!

My only shot of Banaue Rice Terraces during my third time near it

Then came Mt. Polis - a mountain which is where the border of Ifugao and Mountain Province lies. There is a small community here, and a PNP checkpoint. But the most prominent spot here is the big statue of Mama Mary facing the road. We had a quick stop (and restroom break for some). Our hearts were leaping in excitement: we were entering Mountain Province!
Angel, Sheryl and April rejoice!
Hello Mountain Province!

There was a quick drop in the atmosphere when we roamed around. Despite the fact that the sun was already apparent in the sky, the breeze seemed to be cooler. It was a breath of fresh air as we stared into the horizon: countless mountains piling up beside each other. The sound of peace emanated the surroundings. There were vegetation and plantation here and there. It was soothing to all eyes, ears and nose. 

Matapang the Lion staring into the mountains
The BP boys Heinz, Ralph and Ivan
The girls in Mt.Polis

We also had a stopover in Bay-yo, the first barangay in Bontoc, Mountain Province after Mt. Polis. The first time I visited Bay-yo, we trekked along its rice terraces all the way to the hanging bridge near its base. This time, because we were on a time crunch, we just marveled at the view of the community and its terraces from the view deck. The local government (perhaps?) constructed it near the highway so passersby can adore the rice terraces even if they plan not to enter the community.

A native posing by the Bay yo signboard
The BACKPACKERS and Guests inside Bayyo's view deck

A few more curves along the road and the driver stopped our van. He pointed out the recent crash site of Florida bus line. I was surprised to see the bus which was still there. This was where comedian 'Tado' succumbed while he was executing the 40 Mountains Project. According to our driver, he was there when this very horrible incident happened. A lot of bodies did make it after the famous pink bus tumbled down the slope of the mountain. Despite the national highway paving our connection with the mountainous provinces of Cordillera, everyone still need to be prudent and careful in passing through this path. God bless the souls of those who died here.

Florida bus crash site

We reached Bontoc, the capital of Mountain Province. We had a chance to visit the museum which showcases the historical and cultural riches of the entire Cordilleras.

Bontoc museum entrance

The museum collected a 60Php entrance fee. There we saw the history of the Cordilleras and some old school pictures of the people and the culture. There were preserved icons and things used by these provinces. Unfortunately, picture taking was prohibited in the main museum. Along the path to the souvenir shop was the outdoor museum where we saw the traditional houses of the tribes in the region.

Feeling Tribesman
With the bulul guarding the village

We prepared to leave Bontoc to finally head to our main destination: SAGADA! Our side trips made our way to this far away destination more exciting. Up Next: SAGADA! 


Photo credits to Liz Honrade

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