Monday, February 20, 2017

Maligcong, Bontoc: Fog Chasing on Mount Parutan and Speculating About the Fickle Weather

Maligcong terraces with fog waltzing up and down the landscape
We pushed through with our Backpack Photography Bontoc Edition last Friday lasting through the weekend.  Coming early to Baguio on the morning when the city of pines registered a record low of 7.3 degrees, it was a nice change of atmosphere not that Manila isn't experiencing its own cold spell.  It's also nice to try Airbnb'ing with a local family for a change instead of the usual inn or hotel.

We lodged in Nanay Lorie's LE-ONIE's Petunia Room along the row of transient houses on Jungletown Road, far enough from the noise of downtown but within walking distance of eating places, coffee shops and if need be, the SM Mall where we usually buy our food supplies if the time is short to wander all the way to the wet market.  The lodging harks back to the largely wooden houses of my childhood, with a small garden with plants and shrubs including petunia flowers (hence, the name of the lodge) complete with round steel chairs and tables.  

A white cat (Bly) was sleeping when we arrived and was still sleeping when we came back later in the day; he only changed sleeping locations from the chair by the window to the rug drying on the garden table (talk about being comfy in this bed weather)Kiko, a lovable, friendly chow-chow-Labrador mix greeted us when we arrived, after we came back from late lunch and coffee shop and post-dinner hop later on in the evening.  How can we not feel at home when a dog you just met would be playing and asking for belly rubs?  I admit I am biased about staying in houses with dogs (and cats) as most of their owners would share my love for pets.
Long-exposure experiment of incredible fog show viewed from Kupapey
Waking up at 3:30am and taking a really cold shower (couldn't wait for the heater to amp up the heat) was a difficult proposition especially when it's very tempting to give in to the call of slumber and steep under the thick blanket while the temperature hovers around 12-13 degrees.  We met up with our participants at Pandefour coffee and bake shop in front of the Dangwa station, sorely missing the coffee and hearty breakfast fare (large bowl of fried chicken with fried rice) of Sab-atan Restaurant which now opens at 7am instead of staying open round the clock.
The papat-ay trees at Favarey against an overcast sky
The sun was up when we made our transit to Bontoc, the bright blue sky quickly changing to grey and overcast the farther we traveled north.  By the time we got to Maligcong, we weren't so sure if the fairly good weather would hold.  The previous week, we were told that temperatures dropped to levels colder than Baguio's so it was a surprise that the mercury hovered around 17-18 degrees on our first afternoon.   

The fields around the main village in Favarey are ready for planting (the paran or seedlings taller than a month ago when I was last here) and the next day, a te-er (rest day) was about to be announced (the fields for planting would be off limits to both locals coming or out as well as visitors passing by for the next five days.  That meant foregoing siesta to visit the village and trek our way back to Suzette's Homestay in Makonig, some 1.3 kilometers each way.  It's heartwarming to be greeted by some of the villagers who remembered us from our outreach three months ago.  The heavens held up the rains leaving us speculating over dinner if an elusive sea of clouds would show up the next morning.
Og with adoptive canine, Kunig

A FOG SPECTACLE ON MT PARUTAN.   Suzette (Chees) hiked up with us to Mt Parutan (also known as Kupapey) along with her dogs (my adoptive canines), Kunig and Maku.  Halfway through the trail, we can already spot the thick bank of fog floating over the mountains.  Our speculations proved correct -- there was a sea of clouds that morning and more.  We were awed, transfixed by fog lifting up to the sky and meeting the clouds as if waltzing to the rhythm of the wind blowing through the fir trees.  

I was tempted to instead just sip my cup of mountain coffee and watch the spectacle instead of shooting as it has been sometime since I last saw this breathtaking scene.  People always ask me why I keep coming back here; part of the reason is that the scenery never grows old for me.  It's never the same, the only constant is no matter the season or weather condition, the scenery remains hauntingly beautiful.

What's funny is that every time we decide to pack up our stuff and hike back to Makonig, the landscape would shift to another level of beauty -- sun rays would seep through clouds and selectively illuminate the treetops or a part of the village, a glowing fog bank would hang suspended over a row of houses.  We repeatedly reached for our cameras to capture the ethereal scenery.  In all honesty, even if my experiment with long-exposure photography at that time yielded no post-worthy results, I would still be happy, having seen the fog spectacle and sharing it with friends.
Kiko of Petunia Room Lodge


The scene would sustain us even when the rains came in the early afternoon and preventing us from venturing to the fields in Kadachog and pasture lands near Maligcong.  That there was a lengthy power outage lasting until around 7:30 in the evening couldn't diminish the experience.  It was fun to eat dinner, drink mountain coffee and chitchat by candlelight.  The rains brought down the temperature making lying down to read (or dream) as something that can't be considered as time wasted but rather relished.

INFO:  Our Baguio Airbnb host is Le-Onie's Petunia Room, 20 Jungletown Road, Baguio City • Mobile: 0927.7338996 • Airbnb link here

Our second home in Maligcong is Suzette's Homestay and Coffee Shop, Makonig, Maligcong, Bontoc • Mobile  0915.5463557 • FB page link here


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