Archive for the ‘Hiking /Trekking’ Category


The Calayan islands: Chasing a Humpy Tale

In Adventure,Culture,Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Landscapes,People,Photography,Portraits,Travel on August 8, 2009 by ayshey

Bigger Fish

I got back fifteen days ago from a wonderful but exhausting trip to Aparri up north in the province of Cagayan Valley. We also ventured into the un-touristy areas of Camiguin and Calayan Islands–both part of the Babuyan Islands. In fact, the Philippine maps are wrong when they refer to these islands as the Babuyan islands when in fact, they are the Calayan Islands. I should look into this again soon just so I can be more firm about my facts.

We left the bedlam of a Florida bus station in Espana at 10:30 in the evening. We were waiting for H  who was late–should I say, again? But she arrived in time and we then settled back into our nice Super deluxe seats. J had the misfortune of being seated next to a hyperactive little boy who wanted to befriend everyone that night. The Holy Week season always sends stressed-out people from Manila into the places we call “provinces”. And so  the bus rolled out of Manila and into the highway to the North.

It was the usual gang of R,C, J,H and myself. R had this brilliant idea of looking into these islands that no one seems to know much about. She asked someone from her Makati office if anyone knew of the area where the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) volunteers had sighted the humpback whales, where they do research. Looking back now, I think R wasn’t really into the humpbacks really–and there was no promise that we would see any since it was already April and they usually come around the Philippine waters in February and March. The idea was just to check out the islands because we have never been there before  and it was a “let’s just see what the place has to offer”. I think that was the attitude. That was good enough for all of us.

Canon G10 performs

I had a Japanese dinner with N and T –it was almost their birthdays, these photographer friends of mine. And then Wena arrived with her brand new Canon G10 and there was a short lecture on how she can maximize her camera while on her Tibetan trip–yeah, this was  another adventurous Pinay friend who will be traveling on her own to China. It’s a trip i would also like to do. But that’s for another time.

We arrived in Aparri at noon the next day. We went straight to St Patrick’s Hotel. We got this idea of staying at this hotel in Aparri from a guy we met on the  bus. He seemed to be the team leader of a group of backpackers. St. Patrick’s was reasonably priced and it was AC! Aparri was terribly hot and any cool air was welcome. That evening, we bought our supplies for the next few days. We also bought lunch and bottles of water for our boat trip to Camiguin, our first island for the trip. We enjoyed  the sweet custard cakes at Criselda’s. Later,we  decided to buy big plastic bags at the market  to protect  our food supplies and our backpacks when we cross the big blue sea the next day. R had to work so she went to a nearby cyber cafe. The rest of us went back to the hotel to repack our stuff and to take our much needed showers. Wake up call the next day was at 4am but we put our alarms at 3:30am. Geeze.


Next morning, while our bodies wanted us to continue lying in, it was Day 1 of our journey to a place /places we had never been before. We gathered our packs and struggled down to the main lobby with our  plastic bags of  food ( vegetables,red and white eggs,canned goods of corned beef,sardines,a bottle of gin,etc. ). We were ferried to the pier by a white pick-up which was probably owned by one of the guests, we really didn’t ask anymore. It was 4am! The pier was dark and there were voices speaking in Tagalog. I could hear the locals saying in Ilocano that the small banca will be bringing the visitors to the bigger boat first. The rest of them will just have to wait. Hmmm. That was so Pinoy –to think of the “bisita” first before the locals. But it was the rule of the morning it seemed. We got on the small banca with our stuff. It was still dark but light was coming up soon in the distance. Then we were on the boat called The Saint Vincent. We sailed for Balatubat, Camiguin island at around 7:30am after a Coast Guard inspection. The other locals had to go down because we were too crowded. J sighed in relief. Maybe I should have too but I was too busy thinking of things to shoot, what the stories will be about.

Balatubat, Camiguin. It is the center of Camiguin island. It is also where we would be based for the rest of the days but we didn’t know that yet. We went straight to the house of Manang Awit whose husband was waiting for us. Manang Awit’s son Jun Jun helped us with our stuff as we got down the smaller boat to land on Camiguin. Manang Awit’s house was the usual base for WWF volunteers, we learned later. It had a kitchen,a bathroom, rooms and beds and plenty of water. It was also near the beach where we spent much time playing around with our cameras. It had  great sunsets too.

Camiguin is just like any island town in the Philippine archipelago. There were rice paddies, mountain vistas,a water falls (Tappao Falls), and a fiesta.We arrived on the day of their fiesta. We did not go out to check  the action later that night. We were tired and had agreed to go to Calayan island the next day after R talked to the boat captain…After lunch, we ventured out to the   settled down and made our beds on designated areas of the house we were in. Our food that night was vegetables and adobo

After lunch, we ventured out to the   settled down and made our beds on designated areas of the house we were in. Our food that night was vegetables and adobo

That same afternoon we arrived, we went to eat halo-halo at the nearby center of town. The fiesta mood was just beginning and the ice drop, the junk food, and other food was being sold.

I will just post pix  here so the story will be more complete. Enjoy!

Wreck 1

Wreck 2

I spent much time shooting these metal parts from some ship or other. I enjoyed the quiet time i spent on the beach. Great travel. Thank you, Ranhel for fixing this trip. Much appreciated.



Mt Madja-as, Antique, Panay Island

In Culture,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on April 3, 2008 by ayshey

Climbing Mt Madja-as ( “mataas” in Karay-a, the language spoken in Antique and also spoken in some parts of the Panay island) was a grand moment for us who have been to most high peaks in the country. I was not so sure how sore I would be after the climb but darn, here I am with a painful knee. I probably tore a ligament because I now limp when I get up in the morning. It did not help matters that right after Madja-as, i had to fulfill a photo assignment in Negros and Iloilo. In Negros, it was a long 4 day-trip via motorbike to visit and shoot many upland areas that were former areas of conflict and may soon experience more conflict if the mine operations go full-blast. It was a good trip that made me see the way other people live. It has made me see things in a new way, maybe also because I am no longer a wide-eyed girl. Haha.But I hope I can say more with my pictures. Find out if you get intrigued with the stories when I put up the pix at Banyas Tales, my other blog. I have so many thoughts about each place I visited although I spent more time in the hinterlands of Sipalay, southern Negros. For now, here are some pix from the climb.
Nong Dimas (guide since the 70s, left)Nong Arsenio (from Bgy Flores), C, J and R on Peak 1 from Bgy Alohipan, Culasi, Antique,Panay Island.

C at the ridge on Day 2, when we trekked at 1am so we could avoid the unbearable heat.
Day 2, moving towards Camp 2, Mt Nangtud, nearby.
Breakcamp at Camp 3 , Day 2. That’s H’s tent.
Nong Dimas Makiling, guide since 1979 for the first explorers of Antique, Antique Mountaineering Society,Inc. (amsi).
Nong Arsenio and Nong Jilly with Nong Dimas, at the last campsite before Bgy Alohipan.
J, Nong Arsenio,Nong Jilly,Hajji, Nong Dimas, and R at last campsite.
Campsite view at 1750 m asl. Not bad. Madjaas, astig ka!

We took the Iloilo Cebu Pac flight at 4:50pm on a Thursday,March 18. Everyone except H was present for this climb to Mt. Madjaas in Antique. R spent time and effort to get details for the climb.
It was a hassle as always -getting to tha airport on a holiday weekday. Everyone wanted to leave the pollution and the chaos of Manila behind. We arrived in iloilo and got a van for San Jose,Antique. We stopped by SM Iloilo to eat dinner. When we arrived in san Jose, we checked in at a cute beach house that had ac. Wow,mabuti naman. We finished re-packing our stuff just before midnight. At 4am, our alarm went off and we had to get up. Ang hirap.Hajji and Rodel from Antique Mountaineering Society (amsi) were there to bring us to Culasi, a 2 hour drive. Only Hajji joined the climb. In the pick-up, we slept a little more and woke up to a bright day and a beautiful view of the Madjaas range from the window.

Culasi. We met our guides -Nong Jilly (ex RPA) and Nong Dimas Makiling. They were from Bgy Alohipan and had climbed the mountain so many times before that they had lost count. After breakfast of mostly fish and rice, we left for the jump off at Bgy Flores at 1pm. We had lunch of adobo and paksiw na isda . After a short nap-and several revisions of our original IT later, ( too many revisions that we got confused about where and what time we were supposed to go) We arrived in Suli (ranch area) at 2:30pm. It was damn hot! It must have been one of the hottest treks in my life ever. But it was nice to see a hut and a great view! Hajj had this bright idea later that day for the team to sleep til 12 midnight and start trekking at 1am.This was so we could avoid the heat! We all said fine and as soon as we had dinner of good vegies cooked by the Ms J, we settled inside the hut (which had open walls on 3 sides) and tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. Mosquitoes bothered me. The heat bothered me. I just could not sleep and that was rare for me. Days later, we would hear that the guides and Hajj had been unable to go to sleep too because they felt a different presence in the same spot where we tried to sleep. It just wasn’t about the mosquitoes. Nyay!

We trekked at 1am and enjoyed the cool breeze as we walked The moonlight also illuminated some of our path even as we had our headlamps on. By 5am, we reached a spot where we spread our tarps and went to sleep for an hour until 6am. The sun was up and the breeze was cooler at that height. Breakfast and off we went again at around 8am. Nong Arsenio, our guide from Bgy Flores was a funny guy who liked to have his pictures taken. Here, he shows us a bunch of pitcher plants he found just below this viewdeck area. Nong Dimas in the foreground.

We reached Camp 2–a place which wasn’t conducive for setting camp because there was a small stream in the middle of it plus a lot of wild vegetation that didn’t look good. We all agreed we would push on to Camp 3. We got to Camp 3 at 4:30pm. It was a multi-tiered campsite–you might say.J and I shared a tent at the upper level next to the guides’ tent while H’s tent housed C and R at the lower level next to the kitchen area.

Next day, we woke up, ate the breakfast prepared by C and J and set off again at 8:48am. Ridging was not so easy when you think about all the wild plants that stopped us every now and then. It was not a fast climb but we got to Peak 1 at 2030 meters at 11am. One would need to leave theri backpack at one area and trek up slowly to a perch that wasn’t visible from below. It would take about 2 minutes to reach the highest point where R is seated in the pix here. R at Madjaas’ highest peak–2030m asl. Good enough for us!

Nong Arsenio didn’t tell us about this surprise! But it was good. We took pictures and enjoyed the view of Panay. Wow.There were 2 other peaks, the guides said but the highest one was where we were. Below, I bravely looked down and saw the sheer drop and the side of black stone that seemed to hold the mountain together. Nong Arsenio was our guide from Bgy Flores up to this point. From here, Nong Dimas would take over and lead the way. I followed Nong Dimas but I kept getting lost and I had to keep calling out to him. Finally, Nong Arsenio stayed in front of my trail after Nong Dimas and made sure I could follow the way. It was better this time. I think this is one climb where the guides were the best thing that ever happened to us. We reached an elevation of 1750 m and this was the boundary of Aklan and Antique, according to Nong Dimas. It was also 5:30pm. It was getting foggy and we were hungry and cold. We were still high up and we could see the mountains around us. We did an accounting of our remaining water and agreed that if we had enough water or if water was nearby, we would stay and sleep at that campsite. The guides said they would go down and get water. Nong Dimas and Nong Arsenio go down to look for water.
Foggy campsite.

In a few minutes they had put down their packs and gone for water. In the meantime, we set camp. J’s TNF tent would be a good wind breaker, she said so we set up camp in front of the less sturdy tent of the guides.Next was C and R’s tent and then Hajj’s. Mang Jilly cleared the campsite and flattened the wild plants near a bushy area that seemed impenetrable. Camp that night was not so comfy but at least we were warm and even if there was a big rock underneath my thighs, I was able to go to sleep. J also seemed to enjoy her sleep.
C woke up early and we followed soon after. Breakfast!

Next day, we broke camp and trekked down at 8:30 am using a very steep and unenjoyable trail. The trail variety was unimaginable that for sure, I will remember Madjaas till my dying day, I swear. I slipped many times and landed on my butt. On the trail, to break the monotony, we would often talk about “friends and neighbors”. In the ikddle of one conversation, J was so engrossed in my tale that she slipped and fell a few feet from the trail. She might have fallen further down if not for a tree that broke her fall. She screamed. I went down to help her and pulled her backpack up which I passed on to C. J then tried and successfully went back up the trail. So much for gossiping along the trail. Not a good habit. Tsk Tsk..

The trail was a classic! I will always remember how that downtrail tore some of my knee ligaments –because after the climb, I could not walk really well. ( I still need to go have a medical check -up).
At 1:30, we passed by a hut where some men (one of the guys was good looking,ehem) were processing abaca. They gave us a certain root crop which I had not tasted before–they call it palawan. Later in Bacolod, they would say that only the pigs eat that kind of root crop. Hmm…We ate it for lunch and left soon after. Earlier that day, Hajj and Nong Jilly had requested that they should go ahead and prepare our lunch of chicken tinola. We let them go. It was so hot and by the time we reached the cogonal areaat 3pm, we were ready to jump into any river (which was far away) just to cool off. My feet began to hurt terribly–something that I thought I wouldn’t experience again since I had clipped my nails and used two of my fake TNF socks! C went on ahead down to a shady tree and had a cow chase her! J and I slowly went down too and sank gratefully under the shade while we raised our legs and rested them against the tall trees. After an hour, we trudged on again and by 4pm, we began meeting people–barrio folks who looked at us with pitying eyes. We just smiled slowly. Then, we reached Bgy Alohipan and Nong Dimas’ home. The chicken adobe was ready and at Nong Dimas’ kitchen, it got demolished in a flash! By 5:20, we were on a habal to Culasi. I like the small community though and will like to come back someday just to shoot pictures again. My film camera was a good companion but I wasn’t able to shoot the community–no time. And the Madjaas background that we saw from a nearby barangay near Alohipan was dramatic. I want to go back and shoot it. And maybe say hello to the guides. We bought them groceries and gave them a good tip for their trouble. Joke we had afterwards in case we came across people who complained a lot (yung mga maangas) was-“Nag Madjaas ka na ba?”
And if he or she says “Yes”, we would counter by saying, “Traverse?”. Hahahaha.XXXX


Revisiting Maculot

In Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on March 11, 2008 by ayshey

On March 8, we climbed Mt Maculot. Great to be outdoors, and stretch them stressed out City legs and prepare for a major climb. It was also International Women’s day! 🙂

C, G, R and R at the summit of Mt Maculot.

Ha! Who says climbing Maculot is easy? We did–but that was a decade ago. Years after we had all done our first climbs to this mountain, we all decided to do our practice climb here last weekend . The climb was in preparation for a Madjaas climb in Antique during the coming Holy Week break. But back to Maculot–it was not an easy climb . We arrived at around 11 am at the Cuence market. The bridge that would have taken us straight to Cuenca was undergoing a major repair that’s why we got off at the Lipa crossing and then took a 20 peso jeep to Cuenca. At Cuenca market, we decided to have an early lunch. Our lunch-quite expensive for palengke rates–40 for kare-kare and 30 for a small piece of Tambacol fish, left us satisfied enough for our 5 hour climb. Then we proceeded to Mang Manuel’s Mountaineer store which was next to the traditional trail. After Chincha put on her boots and we had drank a bit of water, we set out for a trail we had not seen in years. To our surprise we saw that the trail –even if it was not the best that we could remember because then its topsoil had been eroded –looked and felt good again. It would probably take another of God’s creation moments for the topsoil to come back and make the soil rich once again ( my uneducated guess) but it was good enough for us that day. It took us about an hour and 5o minutes to get to the campsite. And the campsite now had a semi-permanent hut that served halo-halo and which also stocked gin and other alcoholic beverages. We ate halo-halo but I was thinking how I don’t exactly welcome the presence of the store there but then these days, people go to where they can earn a living. So that’s the reality of that hut being there. But I wish the campsite had been left alone. We pushed on using the trail to the summit (R, G, C,Ro and myself) and met a group of guys who were surprised that we were all girls. Huh? This is the 21st century, boys! But they were friendly and nice. We moved on and went past the usual teka-tekas while the amorseco, madjong (in Bisaya, said Chelle), or mangkit and kulutan ( according to G ) clung to some of our daypacks and our trekking clothes. It was about 2 in the afternoon when we reached the summit. We wanted to go down the grotto side so we took a trail that took us down. The trail was wild with tropical flora but manageabale enough for us. Once in a while, we would consult each other on the right trail to take. Mostly we would look to R and C who had been to this trail more times than any of us. We reached a solid wall with a thick blue nylon rope dangling down its side. Now, for a test of our flexibility, agility and our fear of heights! When we all got down the second wall, we took a ten minute break so we could eat and replenish our lost energy. It was almost 4pm. When we got to the grotto area, we saw that the locals had preparations underway. There were huts and tables and chairs for those who would bother to climb up to the grotto to pray during Holy Week. At 5pm, we got down to the paved road. We had traveresed Maculot via the Grotto trail. We saw a lone tricycle waiting for passengers at the corner near the school. The tricycle driver’s name, we learned later on, was Vic Lunar. He was really nice because he brought us to his parents home when we asked him if he knew of a place where we could wash up. His brother was the bgy. captain in Bgy Pinagkaisahan. Mabait pa rin ang mga tao sa probinsya, sabi ni Ro. Oo nga. Kaya nung oras na ng bayaran, and he only asked for ten pesos from each of us, we paid him double for his trouble. He was very happy. We got down and almost missed the right way to the highway where a jeep would bring us to Lipa and the bus terminal. We saw a wooden bridge that was steep enough to make us ache all over again. Sakit ah. But it got us out of Cuenca faster than if we had gone back to the jeeps near the market. Aray, the muscles were clenched and tensed up after our city living! Going up the wooden steps, we saw the group of guys who we had met up at the summit. I would remember that Mang Orly, their leader, had said that climbing up mountains was his “beerhouse”, his only vice. G found it a nice comparison. We laughed and had a noisy banter inside the jeep on our way to Lipa. When we got down at Lipa, they moved off to eat, we presumed, and we climbed up the bus bound for Cubao. It was a nice dayhike, like always.


Pico de Loro

In Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on February 13, 2008 by ayshey

At 4:25am, I called Dollar taxi to pick me up on Feb 10, a Sunday. I got to Chincha’s condo in Makati at exactly 5am. Wow. On the dot daw ako, sabi ni Chincha. And breakfast was ready. Sarap. There was paksiw na bangus( yup–that was our breakfast food), sinangag,vegies,and tinola. Chincha and I ate ahead of Ranhel who arrived about 1o minutes after I did. It was a good start for the day. Thanks ,Chincha!

We walked down to the street on Burgos ( the red light district of Makati) as the day was just beginning. I looked at the passing images and just seeing the women on the street reminded me of Olongapo. One girl was talking in earnest to an Arab-looking man, another girl was seated on the pavement with her head bowed as though in prayer–or was she just getting her head cleared after the alcohol of last night , two girls in spaghetti tops were walking together on the same side of the street as us, and one young woman was just getting into a cab wearing a sexy top and skintight jeans. But that Sunday was for Pico de Loro–which Ranhel and I had never been to. Chincha has been there many times.

We took a cab to Baclaran. We got down on Roxas Boulevard and waited for a bus. The day grew brighter and Baclaran was just waking up. We rode a bus that had a big Maragondon sign on its windshield. It was AC. Yahoo! The fare was 60 pesos. The conductor said it would be an hour before we would get to Maragondon. Chincha reviewed her text messages from Ernest 2k1 who is from Maragondon. Looks like we should get down at the Caltex station. We sat back as the bus rolled past the Coastal Mall. Earlier, I saw that Dampa -the fresh seafood resto on that strip was now gone. Its nipa hut structure was a brown mess where it had stood years ago when we first had great dinners there with some mountaineer buddies. Long ago. So ang tagal na pala. Alongside were also huts on stilts plus the black sand and muddy environement–not a pretty site. It looks like the fishing is now dead in this area? Chincha said she wouldn’t eat tahong that was from Cavite. Me too! Then as we went in to Cavite’s other towns, I saw the piles of garbage that seemed to be on each corner. Where was that famous actor from here? What has he done for Cavite? Why all the trash? It didn’t make Cavite all that attractive to any visitor, yes but what about the ones who live here? As we got to the interior of Cavite and things became more rural–ricefields were aplenty and there was no more garbage. This is the Cavite we wanted to see! It was good to finally get down at Maragondon. The tricycle guy -Mang Jun charged us 250p to get to the Magnetic field highway where we would begin out trek. Chincha said we should go to DENR for registration but as we sped along, we decided just to go to the jump off and start trekking. Our trek began at 8:20am. The trail seemed old with tree roots all over the uphill climb. We all agreed the trail was friendly and gave an aura of welcome.

Once on the Pico trail, we started to recall past climbs–like we always do when we are together. We then reached the junction where 2 signs were posted–To the Falls and To Pico. We chose to go and check out the falls. It was a short walk from the junction to the falls. We also passed some climbers who were just beginning to wake up. Some were having a morning drink and returned our greetings. We went down the slightly steep path to the Falls and saw a nice enough -though not impressive Falls that had a small spout of water falling on the bigger pool below. It was not grand but it seemed clean,at least. We sat down to eat as Chincha brought out her Swiss knife and sliced opened our crunchy papaya ( cost us 20 pesos–mura sya ha ) . About twenty minutes later, more people arrived and seemed prepared to jump into the leaf-strewn pool of the small Falls. We got up to go.

We reached the summit at 12 noon after we ate our lunch of adobong chicken and rice. We bought this meal from the store just before we went up Magnetic Highway. Then we climbed up the peak overlooking a 360 degree view of the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas area–it was quite awesome! And to think we were in Cavite! I had not thought such a view could be had from a place so near the chaos of Manila! Cavite gained a good place in this blog because it didn’t disappoint us–we had finally climbed Pico de Loro.
While sightseeing on top of Pico, we met a group of trekkers. Their leader was Alex, someone who had been to a previous Pinatubo climb with Ranhel. And they were going to traverse Pico to go out to Nasugbu! Woohoo! That was really lucky for us. We joined the group of Alex and also climbed up the famed Parrot’s Beak even if the way up there seemed impossible! We made it. using available ropes and Alex’s encouraging words. Wow. The view was grand! When we got down, we followed Alex and his team and got out to the Nasugbu side. On the highway, Alex talked to two locals from Bgy Papaya. They got a jeep for us. We payed 900p and we were 8 people. Considering there were no jeeps plying the route at that time, we were happy to board the jeep. We didn’t need to walk all the way down the concrete highway to the bus station. We stopped at Bgy Papaya which was also close to the site which the SM Properties had just bought for development. I wondered where the barangay would go if development starts at full blast in this area. Ranhel experienced her usual headache when the heat gets too much. She drank coke but still had to sleep all the way to Manila as we rode a nice Eagle bus. We left Nasugbu at 6pm and arrived in Manila at 9pm. We were too tired to eat. Good climb, girls!


Mt Ampacao, Sagada and Mt Polis, Bauko

In Adventure,Culture,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on February 1, 2008 by ayshey

sagada cemetary 2007

sagada cemetary 2007

boys in bauko 2007

boys in bauko 2007

The bridge to Suyo.
Ricefields in Suyo as you go up to Data and Sabangan.
Houses in Data/ Sabangan.
View from Polis. Tadian on the extreme right.
Bagnen town. Never imagined I would get here.

G and I made last minute preparations to go to Sagada on the last week of December to escape the city’s noise during the New Year. We wanted to trek and smell the roses and not the smoke and smog of firecrackers! Sure, there were no roses–more like rice terraces and mountain vistas, blue skies and pine trees. Wow. Fresh air too. Anyway, off we went to Autobus on Espana and took the 10 pm trip. Funny how Manila “arty” folks like to “id” their “friends”. Some guy smiled back at me simply because I was smiling at everyone inside the bus–and said “Ateneo?” Hahaha. Hindi po. Peyups po. So fucking what? But I just smiled. Anyways, I am getting sidetracked. So, we got to Banaue at around 8am. It is really a slow trip. Literally. I couldn’t sleep. G was seated next to this nice guy from Banaue who was probably texting his gf and his mobile was always beeping. It annoyed G and she said to him with a sweet smile” please lang, paki-silent mode mo lang ha–gusto ko matulog kasi.” He did. But it was maybe just a few minutes of peace when we heard this boy screaming” San na tayo?”. We were on the Dalton Pass, boy! G and I wanted to throw the boy out the window! I think maybe the city has deranged him.

We got to Banaue, ate at Las Vegas hotel and looked out to the fantastic view of the terraces outside. Our breakfast was red rice and some vegetable dish. We then hiked up to the jeep station where we got a Sagada-bound jeep.He was going to pick up some passengers who had contracted him. He wanted us to pay P300 until Sagada but we said we would get off at Bontoc to see the Igorot Museum. We left and were a kilometer or so from Banaue when we picked up two white guys who were probably in their late 40s. They grinned and said hello. G and I were the only passengers. They were a bit flirty and engaged us in banter. Sometimes we would laugh at their jokes and smile. Other times G and I would lapse back in Tagalog and talk about our hiking plans.
We reached Bontoc but decided against going to the Museum because we wanted to get to Sagada early. Maye we would check out the museum on our way back. We reached Sagada at 4pm. We got down and quickly went to check if Mr Daoas’ inn had a vacancy ( I forget the name of his inn now but it overlooks the market and sits on that corner when you walk up to go to Lake Danum). There was no vacancy. We then walked down till we saw steps going down to a nice looking house-the Olabinan Inn of Manang Hilda. We booked a room and were quite pleased with the room. The bathroom was great too! After we had dinner at this place that used to be partly owned by Koreans and which was few minutes from our lodging place, we slept a good sleep.It was cold! We woke up early and put our baon of sandwiches and water for our hike to Ampacao. It was a nice hike too because this time,we were able to follow the correct trail to lake Danum. Last time, R and Lester got lost but we were able to reach Lake Danum anyway. That was in 2005, I think.

The Trail to Mt. Polis. At dinner that night,we seemed to be the only people wanting to go hiking on January 1st.We looked again at the route pasted on the resto wall describing Mt Polis. Next day we checked out Suyo and asked an old lady there if it was possible to reach Mt. Polis via Suyo. She said yes. G and I had a great time looking for the trail leading to Mt Polis –a mountain that no longer sits on Sagada turf but is on Bauko instead. But we didn’t know that earlier. We woke up bright and early on January 1 and put on our trek clothes, grabbed our small daypacks ( G had a cute bear hanging from the back of her denim pack). Manang Hilda from the Olabihnan Lodge would later worry about us because there was one guest who was a Caucasian guy who came back late at night from Mt Polis. He got lost. Well, we didn’t. Here’s our route — Suyo to Nacagang—to Data Sabangan–to Bagnen (Bauko proper) –to Gutang–to Balintoogan–to Bugang and then finally to Ambasing. Nice.


How Grey was your Adventure? A Pinatubo Story

In Adventure,Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on December 12, 2006 by ayshey Tagged:

At the unholy hour of 3am, Jette and I were woken up by Sally’s call from her cellular phone. I imagined her saying “Jette,we’re here at Pasay Victory terminal na…”. Jette confirmed it as I stood up from the floor bed where I was camped for the night at Jette’s cute apartment. It was time to go meet the rest for Pinatubo adventure. I gathered my things,went to the bathroom and changed into my outdoor clothes. In a few minutes, I had stuffed ziplocked cooked rice into our packs. Jette, the team leader of our adventure, and myself- the photographer were ready to go. We took a cab to the bus terminal and met the rest of the 35 plus trekkers for this Pinatubo dayhike which we had organized. With the cool air and raindrops sliding down our backpacks , I felt the adventure already begin.

At Victory Liner Pasay terminal, many of Jette’s friends had already arrived. Edsel, Alex and Dennis who are some of my photo friends were there toting their camera bags. The atmosphere was one of excitement. But it was drizzling and I was a bit unsure about the weather. Heia, our co-organizer who had called Mang Edwin (the 4×4 jeep driver) the night before said everything was fine and that it wasn’t raining in the Pinatubo area . Again, Heia, wanting to make sure that heavy rain wasn’t pouring in the morning of our adventure, called Mang Edwin from the Victory Liner station just to check. It was 3:30 am. Again, the answer was satisfactory. So, we piled into the Victory Liner bus and got comfortable. Identification cards were distributed just so people would at least get acquainted. I noticed many corporate types (forgive the term-I was one too) in the participants and concluded that people from the city really needed to get away from the concrete jungle once in a while. I hoped the day would be magical for us all.

Philip,Leander,Riza,Clinton in Dau.We arrived in Dau at exactly 6 am. The 4×4 jeeps were all ready and waiting for us. After a quick briefing from team leader Jette for the transpo assignments, we also had to announce a delay because the group’s lunch had not yet arrived. It was in a separate car driven by our friend Roskie who was also our cook. The delay turned into an hour. By then, I was fidgeting and impatient with the turn of events even if Chincha, our fourth co-organizer and food preparation head was in that car with Roskie. People were naturally wondering what had happened. We found out later that the food folks had gotten lost and took the route to Mabalacat and ended up in Santa Ines. Geeze. So that was not a good thing. X mark for us, you might say.

Our 4×4 driver Mang Minyong had to gas up and so we drove off to Petron together with Mang Edwin,the head driver. But minutes after driving off ahead of us, we saw that Mang Edwin had parked on the side of the road and was on his cellphone. He had just received word that two 4×4 jeeps that had gone ahead to Pinatubo with foreign guests were asked to turn back by the Philippine Airforce. Whaaaaaaaaat? Darn. What now?

Jette talks to the Major. Jette, who was on another vehicle had to be informed about the events.Then she asked to talk to the Airforce guy who was in command. Communication was choppy. In the end, when we saw the skies turning a nice light yellow on the east, we thought it best to just proceed to the Pinatubo hot springs at least. There we could probably negotiate for a positive response to our request to climb Pinatubo. We did throw the idea of going to JEST in Subic as an alternative plan just in case we wouldn’t get past the Airforce command. But Pinatubo was the reason we were all together that Sunday and maybe we could persuade the guy who was in charge of the Pinatubo area.

We all drove to a barangay that was closest to the Airforce Major’s headquarters. Jette and Roskie were tasked to go and negotiate with the major. After an hour, they came back and said we had been allowed but up to a certain area only. The skies were still grey and gloomy and so were some of the faces that I could see from the open 4×4 windows. I had already scratched out the blue skies and green water pictures from my mind. I was thinking that maybe the landscapes would be better in black and white.

We drove on again past carabaos grazing in the field, Aeta families walking to and from their homes with the children grinning at us from the road, and a landscape of wide rivers,lahar sand and slight jagged mountains that were the beginning of the Pinatubo terrain. As I gazed out of the 4×4 jeep, I remembered trekking the Pinatubo trail via Zambales a few years ago. That trek was not as wide nor as lonely as the vista we were now seeing.

I guess I think it’s lonely because you notice how a person can simply be a small dot on the horizon in a landscape like that.

The rest of the land is stamped clear as Mother Nature’s turf.

At a certain place called Durungawin,we were met by 3 Airforce personnel who had feared that we would ignore their command and just drive on. Their detachment was just nearby. From there, they raidioed their headquarters and said that we had arrived and were just looking around. Many of the would-be trekkers got down from their 4x4s and brought out their cameras and walked around to see what the place was about. I felt heavy disappointment in my heart. This was an unexpected situation. The 4×4 drivers had driven guests before under worst weather. If it was just drizzling, why must we be kept from climbing to the crater?

A few hours later—after playing in the lahar sand, we came back to the Airforce detachment which was next to an Aeta village and met the man who had asked us not to proceed to Pinatubo. His name was Major “Hellboy”. Major “Hellboy” announced that we are not allowed to climb Pinatubo. Well, why not,Major Hellboy?…I don’t need to ask the reason why he is called that. Anyway, he explained that there were students who had been rescued a few weeks ago and that took a lot of effort on their part. I guess, in other words, he didn’t want to do the same thing for a bunch of Manila tourists who were raring to go up the volcano. Bad trip, I thought! In the Philippines, the military have a way of lording it over even the local government units. And that’s an understatement. There’s also this certain view of things emanating from a particular mindset–maybe from their barracks environment, perhaps? But that’s another issue altogether…Sigh.

We ate Roskie’s menu of delicious chicken adobo, steamed vegetables, ensaladang talong,grilled porkchops (which was supposed to have been the surprise dinner for everybody), and fried bangus. There was enough food for all and the military personnel got to eat too plus the untouched food were given to the Aeta families in the village.

Although the sight of the Aeta families peeping at us from their huts also made me think. The Aetas there live in the barest minimum possible

After lunch, when everyone seemed to have had a fill, Jette announced that instant coffee would be available. We brought out the Salazar goodies of brownies, choclate cupcakes and other breads. Those that had a sweet tooth made a beeline for the sweets. In dire situations like that, instant coffee could be gold. Maybe because it was cooked mountaineer-style on an MSR stove?

Then it was time to visit Tambo Lake, which was formed after the Pinatubo eruption. It was a 45-minute drive from where we were through the same rough terrain. The Tambo Lake was suggested as a small way to make up for not being able to get up to the Pinatubo crater. And it is usually bypassed during normal Pinatubo treks by the DOT or the local tourism unit.So, it was a good chance to see it. Even with the grey weather still hovering above us, it was a nice treat to see a freshwater lake in the vicinity. Normally, I’d already be splashing about or swimming and having fun in a lake like that on a bright f16 day. But not that day . So we all wandered around with our cameras. I photographed some local women fishing. Then there were Aeta families just standing around near us. They had their children with them. But there was not much time to linger and get to know them.Maybe I could document their life near the world-famous volcano sometime.

After Tambo lake, we all got in the 4x4s again and headed for the Victory Bus terminal in Dau, Pampanga. It was back to the city, to the reality of a Manila life of jobs, bosses, deadlines, traffic, smog, business concerns, email, mind-deadening television, and the general routine of the weekend warrior. But we had plans of coming back to reach the Pinatubo goal next time. Maybe it will be blue skies and green crater lake water by then.



In Culture,Hiking /Trekking,Travel on December 5, 2006 by ayshey

Trekking the Rice Terraces

( Ifugao: A Culture of Rice Terraces )

On the night before supertyphoon Reming hit Manila (but which did not happen, we found out later), I sat inside bus 142 (Autobus along Espana near UST) and waited for the rest of my 3 trekking buddies. Someone had suggested we check out the interior villages of Cambulo, Batad, Bangaan and Mayoyao in Ifugao during the long weekend ahead. Having grown up in Baguio and being an Ibaloy myself, I was no stranger to the interesting cultures of the Cordillera . I had driven with my father and some of my siblings past the blue and green mountains along the Halsema when we were kids. But when I first saw the Batad rice terraces years ago, I was still awed by the bright green rice terraces that sparkled in the early morning sun. During this trip, seeing the terraces again was wonderful .We also came across a few dignified old men and women wearing their traditional tapis and g-string which reminded me of the fragility of the Cordillera cultures. Soon, it will not be here, I thought. But that is another long topic for another time.

We left Manila at 10pm and arrived in Banaue at 7am. It was drizzling and many of the backpackers from Manila were either making a quick stop in Banaue before proceeding to Sagada or were also going to Batad. We immediately followed the Autobus announcement that we should reserve our return seats for Manila as soon as we got down the bus. So we paid for our tickets and set off for Las Vegas , a small restaurant in Banaue. They had decent meals but their brewed coffee was not the best in town,I suspected. After a breakfast of fried bangus and garlic rice, we negotiated with Mark, the jeepney driver who had respectfully followed us and introduced his services. The one and a half-hour trip to the Batad ridge would cost us PhP1,500.00. Since we were only 4, we thought it best to invite another friend who we saw at the Autobus terminal. He was with three others who were all willing to share the cost for the jeep travel. So, we were set. It was still drizzling when we left Banaue at 9:30am. We arrived at the Batad Ridge after an hour.This was our jump off to Simon’s Inn where we would stay overnight in Batad.

By the time we got down Mark’s jeep, it had stopped drizzling a bit so that everyone brought out cameras and started shooting the breathetaking landscape. Mark,our jeepney driver cum tour guide said that Batad Ridge was at an altitude of 5,100 feet. Then it was time to trek down to the village. It was a choice of using either the cemented steps or the winding but gentle trail going down to Batad village. We chose the trail because though it was longer ,it would be kinder on our knees. If we wanted to have a longer career in trekking, we wanted to make sure that our knees would be preserved for other treks anywhere. We arrived at Simon’s Inn at 11:45am and immediately ordered our lunch of vegetables and tuna on rice. I had been to Simon’s Inn a few years ago before it had grown bigger. Then, it was just a small porch overlooking the Batad rice terraces. Today, Simon’s Inn is still adding new rooms, but it is also the most popular (it is mentioned in the pages of Lonely Planet) and the view was spectacular. Simon Illag, the proprietor is a kind and amiable middle-aged Ifugao native who also doubles as the cook.

At exactly 1pm, we began our trek to Cambulo, a barangay that went past more rice terraces and followed a beautiful green river. We trekked past traditional Ifugao huts ,saw two teenagers pounding rice, came across old men carrying logs for firewood, and smiled at stern-looking old women who would not pose for pictures. Children said hello and a few asked for candies.We didn’t have any to give nor did we want to perpetuate a culture of kids begging tourists for goodies. But we took pictures of two mothers and their children because they said they didn’t have pictures of their kids. We promised to send them copies of the pictures.We also saw black native pigs which my companions had not seen before.They remarked on the unusual features of the pigs. I had seen black native pigs that were usually thin and had longer snouts before and knew that they were often used for traditional ceremonies in Ibaloy feasts. I didn’t imagine it was different for the Ifugaos.

It rained an hour before we reached Simon’s Inn at 5:40 in the late afternoon and it was not easy trekking in the almost-dark trail. After a delicious hot meal of “tinolang manok” with papaya, we had a hot bath and relaxed in our pajamas while we re-told stories about other treks and other journeys. We slept at 12 midnight and got woken up at 6am by our friend Heia, who was determined to hike to Tappia Falls. Jette and I had promised the night before that we might go with Heia to the falls. We had seen the falls before but reluctantly put on our hiking pants and shoes because we thought we could also use the hike to make up for days when we just sat on our behinds because we were too lazy to exercise. I thought the falls was still as grand as it was years ago. We trekked back to the to the inn in 45 minutes by taking the same path along the terraces.

We had our brunch of pancakes and jam.We left for Bangaan village at 1pm and followed a really nice path that widened into a gentle trail to a waiting shed that gave a beautiful view of the rice terraces below and the green mountains around us. We reached Bangaan with the late afternoon sun behind us. Then we stopped to take pictures of the Bangaan terraces below. A few meters away sat native houses owned and managed by the Laroco family of the Family Inn in Bangaan. For 400 pesos, we got a native hut for the night. That night, we sat down to a dinner of fried tilapia and red rice and the best native coffee in Ifugao. The tilapia was from the Laroco fishpond behind the Inn. Uncle Florencio, the owner of the Inn had fixed our beds and brought us to our hut that night after dinner. It was a nice night at the cozy Ifugao hut, which was refurbished but was originally almost a hundred years old, Uncle said.

Next day, we hired a jeep to bring us to Mayoyao and then to Banaue. A two hour trip on a bumpy road, it was worth it to see the Mayoyao Rice Terraces which are on UNESCO’s

World Heritage list. It was bigger than Batad’s rather small terraces but it had a different charm though we didn’t really go down to trek along its footpaths.There was no time this time. It was a hot blue sky day. We lingered just a bit more and then rode our jeep again back to Family Inn in Bangaan where we waited while the driver and his companions fixed something in the jeep. Meanhwhile, we sat down and enjoyed a cup of the Inn’s good coffee. Uncle brought us biscuits and strawberry jam. Then it was time to say goodbye to Uncle at 3pm as we left for Banaue. In Banaue, we went straight to Las Vegas restaurant for a delayed lunch of adobo,vegetables and fried egg on top of garlic rice. We all hurried with our meal so we could browse the interesting shops for Ifugao crafts. My friends Cynthia and Heia bought native “bangkitos” (low chairs) made of Kamagong wood, and an interesting wood relief, and “bulols “or rice gods. We left Banaue at 5:30pm. The long trip to Manila was full of memories of green rice terraces against blue skies and low clouds atop dark green mountains while fog sat there in the early Batad morning. There were still many trails to explore in Ifugao’s interiors. We would be back.