Monday, February 20, 2017

Maligcong, Bontoc: Fog Chasing on Kupapey and Speculating About the Fickle Weather

Maligcong terraces with fog waltzing up and down the landscape
We pushed through with our Backpack Photography Bontoc Edition last Friday lasting through the weekend.  Coming early to Baguio on the morning when the city of pines registered a record low of 7.3 degrees, it was a nice change of atmosphere not that Manila isn't experiencing its own cold spell.  It's also nice to try Airbnb'ing with a local family for a change instead of the usual inn or hotel.

We lodged in Nanay Lorie's LE-ONIE's Petunia Room along the row of transient houses on Jungletown Road, far enough from the noise of downtown but within walking distance of eating places, coffee shops and if need be, the SM Mall where we usually buy our food supplies if the time is short to wander all the way to the wet market.  The lodging harks back to the largely wooden houses of my childhood, with a small garden with plants and shrubs including petunia flowers (hence, the name of the lodge) complete with round steel chairs and tables.  

A white cat (Bly) was sleeping when we arrived and was still sleeping when we came back later in the day; he only changed sleeping locations from the chair by the window to the rug drying on the garden table (talk about being comfy in this bed weather)Kiko, a lovable, friendly chow-chow-Labrador mix greeted us when we arrived, after we came back from late lunch and coffee shop and post-dinner hop later on in the evening.  How can we not feel at home when a dog you just met would be playing and asking for belly rubs?  I admit I am biased about staying in houses with dogs (and cats) as most of their owners would share my love for pets.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sagada - Bontoc - Buguias: Tripping, Pondering through the Cordilleras

Heavenly light at Loo, Benguet
There's a reason why I keep coming back to the Cordilleras apart from the want to travel.  Hieing off to the boondocks, walking the terraces, hiking the woods are my ways to reconnect to the earth.  The older I get, the more I yearn to put my feet literally on the dirt after weeks of being hemmed in by concrete.  One long-running joke I share with friends is that they'd know I won the lottery if and when I leave the city and go farming - a half-meant joke really as close friends know that's really my dream.  In the meantime, I enjoy learning and exercising my brain in walking through fields and forests, identifying plants I recognize and adding to my know-how on the many more I cannot yet identify.

This year, I've spent the first two weeks doing just that, traveling for an ocular in Eastern Visayas and a guiding assignment for foreign guests in the Cordilleras.  The guiding engagement took us to Sagada, Bontoc and Buguias in consecutive days.  In Biliran, we were hiking everyday in between shuttling via tricycle to various sites across the island so I was quite tired coming home for a day before leaving again for the highlands.   Dunno, but there's something invigorating about going back to nature that makes all the long travels seem trivial.

Honestly, I wasn't so keen about going back to Sagada though for so many years, I kept coming back to it.  It's my personal observation that the influx of tourists have somehow diluted the initial feelings of serenity, quiet, solace that it used to offer me due to mass tourism.  I've recently written about my experience of seeing a sea of crowds instead of a sea of clouds in Kiltepan.  Sure, any place would want more tourists but I guess nature is not like a rock concert where the more the crowds, the better the experience.  I know this is happening in a lot of places that only mountaineers (and ex-mountaineers like myself) used to go to and in a lot of ways, it's sad.  Not to say mountaineers are faultless but then again, we know the merits of hiking far and wide, earning our equity in sweat to enjoy places seldom reached by people who chose to ride their vans and 4-wheel drive vehicles.   To add salt to the wound, Sagada was one of the places featured in a popular, local, rom-com movie which stoked the imaginations of a selfie-generation, wanting to go here even if just to brag on Instagram or Twitter.


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