Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bontoc: Beyond the Terraces, To the Pastures of Dreams

Cow trodden paths shaped by rainwater on a wonderful pastureland
It's not the first time I'm seeing this scenery; it's actually my fourth time but it seems new and refreshing every time.  The rolling hills of green pastureland that stretches and undulates as if to the sky like a lush carpet wrinkled in many places, dotted with trees, speckled with drinking and bathing holes, inhabited by itinerant carabaos, the lay of the land stretched it seems from this mountain to that mountain.  My first time here, the weather was heavily overcast but the scenery was still beautiful to behold.

In the golden gleam of the fading sun, the place is even more magical.  When people mention the Mountain Province, the terraces always come to mind.  So the sight of pastureland that reminds one the rolling hills of Viang on Batan in Batanes comes as a bit of a surprise in a province more known for terraces planted to rice, vegetables and other produce.
Carabaos resting as the sun goes down behind the mountains
Thing is, I'm not privy to tell where this is.  I'm featuring the pictures just to remind myself how magical the place is.  The dilemma of the responsible travel writer/blogger is whether or not to share a place found.  There are a lot of places in our country, nay, even overseas, which were charming and even pristine when first stumbled upon.  After being written about, hordes of people not at all interested in the charm/pristine quality/culture of the place follow suit in search of that brag selfie, then leaves the place in worse shape than when it was found. 

Case in point: I used to go to Sagada several times a year, dating back over a decade ago to have my dose of alone time in nature.  I can recall a time when shooting and witnessing the sunrise on Kiltepan Viewpoint meant trudging the trail all by ourselves at 4am.  Fastforward to the present: a recent image taken by a guide-acquaintance over there showed a huge throng of people crowding the viewpoint armed with selfie sticks while the nearby erstwhile makeshift campsite was turned into a parking lot.   I can't confirm it but I suspect this mass tourism attraction is due to the fact that a popular local movie included Sagada among its romantic locations.  So a place where people like me used to go to to drop out of civilization has turned into a mainstream Instagram/Twitter/FB must-visit, must-selfie-here location.  Sigh.  
Winding fences, rolling hills under a sheltering sky
Some people are also sounding the alarm on Buscalan, which used to be accessible only to hikers and mountaineers, now being visited by an increasing number of tourists who are more interested in getting that Whang-Od tattoo than understanding the culture and the people.

Which goes back to my point -- of appreciating the simplicity, the rawness of a place.  There are not a lot of these places we can escape to and keeping some of these places to ourselves may just be the way to help preserve them.  This pastureland of dreams included.
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