Monday, July 23, 2012

Imugan Rhapsody: Escaping to a Farm Town for the Weekend

Imugan Into the Salacsac Misty Forest
Into the foggy Salacsac forest
There's something about Imugan that made us come back.  It's not a resort kind of place.  There's nothing there that remotely resembles a grocery.  We share air and room space with insects.  In lieu of air conditioning, our rooms do have big windows.  To take a bath and answer nature's call, we have to go to the outhouse.  There's no TV and the local radio station concludes its broadcast at 10pm.  There's not even decent Globe coverage (the Kalahan's eminent leader, Pastor Dilbert Rice, tells us the Globe tower was built in the middle of the wildlife corridor, hence an ongoing dispute).

So what made us come back? 
Imugan View of Mt Ugu Layers from the Salacsac Trail
Layers of mountains in the distance as seen from the trail
For me, it's exactly the lack of accoutrement, of trappings that made me wish I could come back more often.  It's nice to strip away the layers of technology dependence, of breaking routine, so I can enjoy a simpler, more laidback life.  There's something about immersing in nature that makes simple things special.   Breathing in the cool air, our lungs immediately sense the freshness.   Pushing the windows wide open, we let in the cool mountain breezes.  We napped on double deck beds lulled to deep sleep by the incessant sloshing of nearby Kalahan River.  For entertainment, we shared stories over mugs of hot coffee (who cares if it's instant?).  For our meals, we had Sinigang na Bangus (Milkfish soured in a soup base) during the rainy lunch, pork steak and watercress salad for the rainy dinner.  Nothing fancy alright but downright satisfying.
Imugan Salacsac Forest Moss and Lichen Patterns
Beautiful details and patterns on the trees
On our first afternoon, we hired a jeepney to the nearby barangays of Malico and Salacsac.  In Malico, the strawberry shrubs were still young, prompting me to instead play around with the friendly dogs.  In Salacsac, we hiked to the pine forest, site of an ongoing carbon sequestration project of the Kalahan.  The project requires sophisticated thinking to comprehend; the view of the majestic forest, however, requires only an appreciative mind.  When the fog rolls in and out of the mountains, the view alternates between post-card pretty and hauntingly-beautiful.  It's like being in Baguio of old minus the pollution and the crowds.
Imugan NightShooting the Milky Way II
The Milky Way revealed
We had to defer going to the falls until morning because it rained the whole afternoon.  Post-lunch, we had a chance to talk to Pastor Rice.  Talking to him, we got to know firsthand the issues of the community.  The rains also gave us some precious hours to grab some rest (I squandered away the time shooting the beautiful moths and insects and taking a bath since I knew it would be a lot colder later).

Come evening, we stepped out after supper to buy chichirya (stuff to nibble) at the only sari-sari store (convenience store) open at 7:30pm, giving us the chance to chitchat with the locals. We later shared fish crackers and chicharon (crunchy pork rind) with liters of Coke as dessert.  The whole afternoon of rain cleared the skies and the lack of light pollution made the night sky a dazzling panorama of stars with the Milky Way as the main attraction and the occasional firefly as a wonderful distraction. The air felt more squeaky clean - giving us another reason to nightshoot though going to bed was tempting.

Come morning, we set off for the falls about a kilometer away through the forest.  The fog slowly lifted to reveal the wonderful lay of the land.  The water is bitingly cold but after taking some images, I gave in to the temptation of showering under a small cascade of Imugan falls.  We enjoyed the falls so much, the hours went by unnoticed.  We came back an hour later than promised, famished and eager to breakfast on omelet, tuna, sardines and white bread prepared by Ate Persia, the dormitory's caretaker who has gone off to the market to buy new supplies for an incoming group of visitors.
Imugan Falls Silk II
Silky cascade of Imugan Falls
Afterwards,we hesitatingly (or was it grudgingly) freshened up and readied our stuff for the six-hour trip back to Manila (We actually took the better of 7 1/2 hours on board an AJA Liner bus which skipped the SCTEX to get more passengers on the road, but that's another story altogether).  We bumped into Pastor Rice on the way to the town hall for our jeepney ride to Santa Fe and told him we'll be back.  Soon, I hope.
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