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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Humuyyo Falls in Talubin, Bontoc: A Refreshing Sight in a Town of Abundant Water

Humuyyo Falls, the tallest cascade in the Bontoc municipality
About two months ago on my last visit to Maligcong prior to this one, I got into chatting with Eli, the friendly tourism officer of Bontoc, about trekking to one of the province's waterfalls.  You would think that visiting this frequently has somehow exhausted my options for exploration.  The opposite is true.  I somehow can never get tired of going to Mountains Kupapey and Fato, visiting the school with Kunig, exploring the orange farm, finding a new organic garden.  For years, I've gone to Banaue, foregoing Bontoc, and it is only now that I'm really exploring and enjoying the wonders of this municipality, as if making up for my sins of omission.

A few months ago, I created an art map of Bontoc perchance to help in promoting the province.  Well, there's a raft of difference between creating a map and actually going to see what's in the map.  So on our second day in Maligcong, we opted to venture to Talubin, 12 kilometers from Bontoc town proper, to hike and see Humuyyo, the highest waterfalls in all of Bontoc.  Not wanting to miss this added spectacle to a tourist's itinerary, we were joined by our friend, Suzette, of Maligcong Homestay and our perennial guide, Tina Sokuken.  Jerome, Suzette's hubby, was very kind to take us to the Talubin jump-off using the van.  Otherwise, we would either have to catch the 7am bus headed to Banaue or the 12 noon jeepney to venture here.  As we've learned the previous day, it almost always rains in the afternoon so a morning trek would be best.

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