Saturday, August 13, 2016

Maligcong, Bontoc: Back to the Boondocks to Pay Respect and Find Some Comfort and Solace

After a whole day at school, the kids march back home through the terraces
It was on the heels of a coming tropical depression that I came back to Maligcong.  Along with my backpack I brought thoughts to ponder upon.  Oh there was much on my head -- a sibling suffered a third stroke, my best buddy left for overseas, a farmer-friend passed away.  There I was, avoiding going on Facebook as it seems strange that people I know all seems to be having a wonderful time and there I was, lost in a daze.  It seems a wrong time to take a trip.  But on the other hand, I believe nature is a balm to the soul.  Besides, I think (or I feel) my surrogate dogs, Maku and Kunig, can use my presence (or should it be I can use their presence?).  So what was supposed to be a three day break stretched to six, but I'm getting ahead of the story.

I packed an hour before I left for the bus station, even going to the store to buy a new neck pillow and some stuff for the dogs.  For the first time in many years, I took the Victory deluxe bus, foregoing the chance to taste my favorite Sison's barbecue.  It was too quick a trip to Baguio for me, arriving at a little past 4am -- way way too early even if I was to catch the earliest GL bus to Sagada.  It wasn't that chilly and if not for the drizzle, I wouldn't even consider donning a jacket.  As if a sign of good things to come, by the time we stopped at Mountain View in Sabangan, I was greeted by Blackie and Whitey, the friendly dogs there at the gas station.  The owner of the hardware may not remember me from two months back but the dogs surely did.  If I have my own vehicle, I would have gladly lingered and bonded more with the dogs.

Friday, July 1, 2016

El Nido Palawan: Waxing Poetic on an Assignment to This Eden

The sea breeze carried its redolence to shore
The scent of sun and sea flowing freely to where I lay
If for a moment I felt unwell and unsure
The thought is forgotten I wish the feeling will stay.

It's been two years since I've been to El Nido in northern Palawan and the changes are, to be modest about it, surprising and immense.  Work may have taken me back here and for that I am grateful to be able to go explore places I have not been to before.  It's still a lovely, lovely place.  Another two years down the road, who knows what it would be like? 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mt Ulap Eco Trail in Itogon, Benguet: A Sublime Walk in the Clouds

Sublime sunrise on Abanao Paoay
We're barely a fourth of the way in our 9 kilometer trek to Mount Ulap and already found ourselves in a sea of fog.  Abanao Paoay (elevation: 1788 meters/5866 feet above sea level), which means vast grassland, is the grassy clearing about an hour and a half hike from Barangay Ampucao and on this Saturday morning, we started early at 3am so we can catch the sunrise on this first vantage point of the Mt Ulap Eco Trail.  After a 1 kilometer walk on concrete (a warm-up Alex quipped), it's a 45-minute assault (as described by my buddy, Ironwulf).  We were hoping for a glorious sunrise but nature has other plans.  That's what weather-weather means.  Instead of begrudging the heavens for this, we just made up our minds and enjoyed the view.

Our guide Alex was very patient (I'm not a strong hiker, more of a walker in the Bill Bryson kind of way).  He's also a very animated and knowledgeable guide.  I tend to ask a lot of questions the more difficult I find a hike.  On Abanao Paoay, he pointed out the Philex mining town (boy was it big) to the south, Mt. Sto. Tomas and traces of Mt. Ugu in the distance, plus some other features of the lay of the land.  To the north, the Philippine Military Academy looked like one huge white estate sitting on a hill.  It was fascinating to see the fog banks rolling in and out of the mountain side, draping the scenery one minute and revealing the view on the next.

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