Friday, March 26, 2010

Banaue Backpack Photography 101 Workshop: From Aparnga-o to Hapao


I keep waking up in the middle of the night because of the biting cold.  Mind you, I'm not susceptible to feeling cold as I can stand taking a bath using the tap water in Banaue town proper but I guess the 5-6 degree difference in temperature really leaves me shivering.  It's not just due to the elevation I was told but also the way the pine trees soak up the moisture during the day and their leaves release them during the nighttime that make the mountains where the Banaue Ethnic Village is located really, really cold.  But the rewards are aplenty -- the absolute silence, the redolence of pine leaves, and the beautiful scenes that greet your eyes when they open come morning.
Oh, going up and down the rolling terrain to the meeting/mess hall can take some getting used to but I guess that prepared us for our Hapao trek.  The Hapao terraces are in the municipality of Hungduan, some 20 or so kilometers and over an hour's jeepney ride away from Aparnga-o.  From the viewdeck, the terraces look like overlapping stacks of greens. The fair weather augured well for us as the pathways to the terraces were dry.  After a packed lunch at the Hapao viewpoint, we descended to the terraces with the full might of the midday sun upon us.

DESCENT TO THE LIVING TERRACES.  There were some parched portions that seem to have been affected by the dryness of the season but for the most parts, a lot of the areas we've passed through were green with month-old rice plants, and seem well-irrigated.  

It's really an edifying experience to walk through the terraces instead of just sighting them from afar.  Up close, you can see that that the terraces aren't just areas where only rice and other vegetation grow but rather where people actually live in.  The rice paddies are alive with fishes.  The terrace walls are lined with mint and other useful plants.  The pathways are frequented by amiable dogs and playing children.
PHARMACY BY THE TERRACES.  Mang Jun, our veteran guide, lets us take our time in shooting and admiring the terraces.  It was wonderful to have a very knowledgeable guide as at one stop, he pointed to a plant growing on a terrace wall for our closer inspection.  It turned out to be mint which we happily chewed on and sampled.  It would make a good anti-diarrhea treatment when boiled and drank as tea.  Chewed, it beats your commercial breath freshener any day.

On another stop, he pointed to stalks of Horsetails which when boiled is good treatment for urinary tract infection.  There's no Mercury Drug for miles and miles around but you can say there's a virtual pharmacy growing right there on the terrace walls.
SHOOTING THE RIVER AND SINGING OCEAN DEEP.  Greeted by a bevy of friendly dogs, we stopped by the Giovanni's Resort which lies near the banks of the Hungduan River.  Here, we waited for the sun to dip a bit lower so we can practice long-exposure shooting by the river.  In the meantime, we whiled away the hours chit-chatting, playing with the friendly dogs, befriending the friendly children who acquiesced to posing for the camera (make it cameras).  It's nice to see the girls experiment with long-exposure shots that we seem to have forgotten the time.  It was nearing dark when we made our way back and up the main road, passing by houses and even a church in the middle of the terraces.   There was even karaoke singing wafting in the air, a time when Abie, Joy and I joined in, finishing off stanzas of the Cliff Richard ballad, "Ocean Deep". In the creeping darkness, our jeepney made its way back from the hotter clime of Hapao to the growing cold of Aparnga-o, all occupants bringing home their stash of cool images and happy memories.  Be sure to take a camera with you! If you're looking to buy one try with these coupons here.
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