Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bontoc, Mountain Province: Mapping Out the Tourist Attraction Sites

Bontoc Fun Art Sites Map © Oggie Ramos/
Around the same time last year, I and some friends went on a 17-km circuit around Sagada for a sunrise to noon hike.  We started out on an alternative sunrise spot to Kiltepan, in Kaman-Baneng, which the Sagadans call Marlboro Hills, then later proceeded to Blue Soil, onto other stops.  Thing is, I didn't realize then that Kamanbaneng is actually at the edge of Sagada and Blue Soil, locally called Kaman-Utek, is located outside Sagada, on Bontoc territory, in Barangay Alab.   Admittedly, Bontoc is one of the places I've come to sort of take for granted, passing there enroute to other places, much like what I usually do in Baguio -- make it some sort of springboard in transit to other sites like the more popular Banaue.  Little did I know that I'm actually exploring a bit more of Bontoc with that foray into Kaman-Baneng and Kaman-Utek.

I'm making amends with this pet projects I've started, first with creating my own art map of Maligcong (my second home in Mountain Province) about two months ago, and this more recent one, of the entire Bontoc area.  This was based on the mural of the Bontoc Tourism Office and I've checked and re-checked the names for accuracy.  I've also added the names of the barangays in the native dialect/language so as to acquaint more people with how the locals actually refer to them, with their respective distances to the poblacion to help give the visitor an idea how much further they have to go.  It is a work in progress -- I will add more significant sites/attractions as I gather them from the tourism office and from my own forays.

A note on copyrights:  Publishing online means this can go practically anywhere.  This is a personal project to help out fellow travelers and help promote tourism in the Bontoc area; however, it also behooves the reader to please refrain from publishing/printing this map, reposting it online whether on blogs or social media without proper attribution, or removing my watermark and name.

Contact info: To inquire about Bontoc tourist sites, email the Bontoc Tourism Office at

Friday, November 6, 2015

Nitecore MH10 Real Life Review

Scratched, used, abused, recharged, still going strong
Of course, the ads are supposed to present a product in a great, sleek way.  I mean, you look at the Nitecore MH10 on the website or a catalog and you can almost feel the HAII military-grade knurling.  Looks every inch solid, too, like you can bonk it against an intruder and it would not likely sustain even a scratch.  Heck, there are also a lot of reviews online on new models but not much on a half-year or year-old one.  Sure, a torch can look good now but in an age of planned obsolescence, will it last?  This is crucial as a torch that comes undone during emergencies is a useless piece of junk.

While I find flashlights fascinating, I try not to be a flashaholic.  I only started out upgrading my sets last year when a neighborhood fire sadly revealed the inadequacy of my incandescent torches.  I do miss the durability of my old and trusted Maglites (two lasted like 15-17 years) but while Maglites have also moved into LED territory, I feel the tech is not as advanced as other brands (case in point, they have CR123-fueled torches but apparently refuse to carry 18650/IMR-powered ones).  I tried Fenix but had two bad experiences with their AAA lights (one leaked, another conked out after just three or so months) so I had to consider another brand when I began looking for an adequate search light that can double as my EDC.

I was a bit wary about China-made flashlights at first so I tested the waters on a Nitecore single AA flashlight, the SENS AA.  It is solid and still going on strong after more than a year and a half, mingling happily with my keys (the hard knurling is scratched but then again, no knurling can probably last being in a pocket full of keys day in and day out).   The SENS is a more than adequate replacement for my Maglite Mini Solitaire (2 lumens vs. 120 is a no-brainer) but I know I needed something to replace my big Coleman flashlight that runs on D cells (archaic, I know).  I looked around and toyed with another Nitecore, either a P12, EC20 or this, the MH10.

RECHARGEABLE HYBRID.  The three aforementioned flashlights share common specs, hovering around the 1000 lumen territory (only the EC20 is sub-1000lm) with nearly identical output and runtimes, running on an 18650 or CR123 batteries.  The P12 and MH10 are priced almost identically, give or take a few hundred pesos at Tactical Asia while the EC20 is a thousand pesos cheaper.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Maligcong in the Mists: Rainy Days, Lucid Dreams, 16 Degree Nights, and Chilling Out with a Lovable Canine

Room with a (misty) view
It rained the afternoon we left Maligcong, Bontoc, to accompany our Backpack Photography participants back to Baguio.  It was as if the heavens held its showers for three days and finally relented.  The temperature held steady at 19 degrees in the outskirts of Baguio where we stayed overnight as it was late in the day and there were no more buses going back to Bontoc.

We woke up to better weather and boarded the 10am bus the next day, enjoying a slightly longer slumber and we were spared from the head/body-swaying/slamming episode we had days earlier on the GL bus.  The trip though was still quick.  Maybe it was just me but I thought Kunig, Suzette's Homestay's resident canine, looked happy to see us back so soon.

Thinking the improved weather will hold, we planned some astro photography but the heavens had other plans.  It rained.  And rained some more, well into the morning, spilling and flowing into the following days.    We thought we had a chance to go back to Mt. Kupapey for the sunrise but instead, the days that followed turned into extended excursions to slumberland.


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