A Sojourn in South Africa II: Table Mountain

First Weekend Trip

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Yes, we were sent to Cape Town for a business trip. But that doesn’t mean to say there are no weekends. For that reason, we took this opportunity as well to discover what could Cape Town possibly offer to us during this short stay that we have.

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As mentioned in my first blog for South Africa, we can already have an impressive view of a prominent landmark from our hotel, and that is Table Mountain. So with that, Marefe and I decided to go visit it for our first weekend.

Quick Facts

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Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain which forms parts of the Table Mountain National Park. It was one of the voted and officially named New 7 Wonders of Nature last November 2011. It has an elevation of 1087 meters above sea level and you can reach the top in two ways. If you are an adventure enthusiast who loves to hike, then you can choose one from four major trails:

  1. Platteklip Gorge Trail
    • Distance   :  2kms
    • Duration  :  2 hours one way
    • Difficulty  :  Easy to moderate
  2. India Venster Trail
    • Distance   :  2.5kms
    • Duration  :  2 – 4 hours one way
    • Difficulty  :  Moderate to difficult
  3. Skeleton Gorge Trail
    • Distance   :  6.2kms
    • Duration  :  4hrs 15mins up until the upper cable car station
    • Difficulty  :  Moderate
  4. 12 Apostles Trail
    • Distance   :  6kms
    • Duration  :  4 to 5 hours
    • Difficulty  :  Easy

(You can find out more here regarding the above-mentioned trails.)

However, if you are not a fan of hiking or time is of the essence and you just want to see what’s on top, then you can go for the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. You can either book online or just buy a ticket once reaching Tafelberg. As per experience, there are a lot of tourists and locals alike during weekends wanting to go there. So if you want to save time, it is better to reserve online in advance. If you want to check their rates and book online, you can check here. As of today, a one way trip costs R190 for adults and R90 for a child with 4 to 17 years of age. Discounts are also offered for SA Senior Citizens. A one way ticket in the morning costs R50 and R80 in the afternoon.

Getting There

From our hotel in Tyger Valley, we just decided to go by Uber going to City Sightseeing Cape Town near V&A Waterfront to check on their tour packages at around 8AM. However, upon arriving, we were not able to catch the bus going to Table Mountain. With that, we just booked again with Uber and headed directly to Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Ticket Office along Tafelberg Road.

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Just a few meters before the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Ticket Office

Upon arriving at around quarter after 10, we were already greeted by scads of tourists and locals queued up, waiting for their turn to buy tickets for the cableway. There were three booths so it didn’t take that much long for us. Upon having bought our own ticket, of course we took the opportunity to have a picture of it with the mountain serving as a backdrop.

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It was at this time that I noticed something with the ticket. As you can see, it shows that there is 1 Up – Adult on the topmost part of the ticket. It got me thinking then that maybe we bought the wrong ticket as we are planning to have a ticket going down. So with that, we went back to the teller and she said that they are only selling tickets going up, not down. If we plan on having a ticket going down, we should buy the ticket at the top. Good thing, they do refunds and it was quick. Talking to them however was the hard part as we were not able to really understand each other that easily.

Starting with our hike

From the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, there aren’t much signages to direct you where to start with your hike. In our case, we just asked some of the staff around the area where is the entry point. From one of those we have asked, he said that our the start of the trail would be around 20 to 30 minutes from the ticket office. We just have to follow the road and there would be an information center to our right once reaching the jump off point. With the given information, we then started our hike at around 11:30AM and of course, took some pictures along the way.

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Platteklip Gorge Trail

When we were there, we were not really fully aware that there are different trails we could take to reach the top. Once we were able to have a sight of the information center at 10 minutes before 12NN, we saw a path on its right marking the starting point for the Platteklip Gorge Trail.

IMG20180210115046We read some facts about it and soon after, we now started our hike going up.

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Going Up

From this point on, let these pictures tell the story.

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After thirty minutes of walking, we are already at a higher elevation.

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Trails are established so there’s no need to worry about it.

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After almost 3 hours (contrary to the estimated 2 hours due to lots of stop overs taking pictures along the way), we were able to reach the top.

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And oh wait, let me take a selfie first. :p

At the top, we were also able to meet Olli (from Finland) and Marc (from Romania) who were also sent for this business trip.

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To more selfies :p

We took some time to roam around the area and after an hour or so of exploring, we decided to have our late lunch at the Table Mountain Cafe at around 3:30PM. They offer a variety of foods from meat, vegetables, desserts, and more. You can check out more details about it here.

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Chef Special Dish of the Day: Beef Bobotie. It is a well-known South African dish consisting of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping.

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After eating, we took another round in exploring the area more.

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Lion Head on the background

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Lion Head

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Souvenir shop on the background :p

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Searching for someone 😀

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For their souvenir shop, I wasn’t able to take that much photos as I was overwhelmed by the prices for most of the souvenirs. 😀 All I can say is that they have souvenir shops both at the top and by the side of the ticketing office below.

As we finished roaming around, we decided to already buy tickets going down at around 17:00 as the cableway has limited time operation and if in case the weather suddenly goes bad, they would also have to stop it, which will leave us with no choice but to hike going down.

The cableway ride only takes less than five minutes and once we were down, we decided to go and have our dinner at V&A Waterfront. (Details about it will be written in my succeeding write ups.)

Until then!

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Lion’s Head from below

Summary

  • 08:00 Leave from Protea Hotel in Tyger Valley
  • 08:40 Arrive at V&A Waterfront Cape Town Sightseeing Bus Ticket Office
  • 09:50 Decided to head directly to Table Mountain Aerial Cableway in Tafelberg Rd.
  • 10:30 Arrival at Tafelberg Rd.
  • 10:50 Head to jump off point for Platteklip Gorge Trail
  • 11:20 Arrival at jump off point, start trek going up
  • 15:00 Arrival at the summit
  • 15:30 Late lunch
  • 18:00 Ride cableway going down
  • 18:10 Arrival at the ticketing office below; Head for V&A Waterfront for dinner

 

Links:

A Sojourn in South Africa I: Arrival

A Business Mindset

Being part of a multinational enterprise, efficient collaboration between different sites across the globe is one key to a successful operation. Even if such is attained however, there are times when remote supervision and cascading of information generally does not suffice specially during critical periods where time is of the essence. As we all know, there exists time zones across the globe. At one point, we would either have queries or the need to respond immediately to another site so as to avoid waiting for a certain period of time that will often lead to lost hours. We are talking about business here and we don’t want to waste time for such cost becomes an expense. So how can we address this? Business trips! Yes, you read that right. Being in a single place lets two sides share information in a more efficient manner and learn far better from each other as they do not have to write very lengthy e-mails to each other or schedule web based meetings to explain what they could easily discuss when both are basically in the same room.

Right Set of Circumstances

So then came a time when such opportunity knocked and you know it. They needed one representative each from two teams, one of which I belong to, who will be sent for a training to Cape Town in South Africa. For the other team, Marefe, who has been with the company for a few years already, volunteered. For our team, most of the members were still handling specific projects which are planned to be released soon so they were left with 6 people to choose from. One more requirement they had was that the representative must have a regular employment contract with the company. Since 3 of the remaining people to choose from are still under probation, they were left with 3 people and that includes me. Thinking about it, who would decline such a great opportunity, right? Yet, it was not something you could easily say yes to for everything comes with its own pros and cons. One thing that held me back was the thought that I am still new to this company. Apart from that, I can’t help but think about not meeting the expectations of others. Perhaps, I was someone who was afraid to fail and commit mistakes which was more assimilated after working in a Japanese company. Yet, all those did not matter after talking to my line manager who is a really good persuader making me take risks and do things knowing that it is okay to fail for it is from it that we learn and grow more not just as a professional but as a person. So yes, after contemplating for more than two weeks, I decided to accept the offer.

Learning Never Stops

South Africa. Being not so good in geography, there was this thought in me that it is just the same with North and South America wherein South Africa pertains to the whole southern region of the African continent. Yet soon as I started reading about the place, I hereby say that I stand corrected (Forgive me for my ignorance :p). South Africa is just actually one of the countries within the southern region, particularly the southernmost country in the African continent. (For other facts and trivia, I will try to insert them along the way and hope not to miss one bit.)

The Start of a New Journey

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So here comes D-Day. Our flight was scheduled for February 3 at around half past six in the evening. What was I feeling that time? I really don’t know, nervous and excited perhaps. Being used to traveling far away from home, going outside the country felt just like taking another ordinary trip. There were no emotions at all that would make me think twice about going. What has only made me worry was the twenty long hour trip. Thoughts about planes crashing and going missing just went through my mind. Guess I watch too many movies :p.

First stop: Doha, Qatar

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Since we are having a connecting flight, we had our first stop at Hamad International Airport, often referred to as the “gateway to the world” connecting you to almost 150 destinations worldwide. Here, we took the opportunity to roam around.

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As this is not a personal travel where budgets were planned thoroughly over the past few months, we are here on a tight budget 😀 so we just spent most of the time window shopping and after some three hours or so, we now boarded the plane bound for Cape Town.

Reaching our Port of Call

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And so after more than 20 hours of being on-board an airplane with more or less 3 hours of waiting time in between our two flights, we have now finally reached Cape Town in South Africa. Soon as we got there, we took the chance to have our money in Philippine Peso (PHP) currency be converted to South African Rand (ZAR). There aren’t much banks that converts money from PHP to ZAR. Knowing this, I suggest the most tactful thing to do is have your money converted to the most common currency i.e. in USD. Luckily for us, there is Bidvest bank. The conversion rate during that time was that for every 1 ZAR, it is equivalent to PHP 4.40.

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At this time, Cape Town is experiencing the worst drought ever in history so then comes a saying “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

Soon after, we decided to buy a SIM card. From what I have noticed, there are 2 dominant providers i.e. Vodacom and Telkom. SIM cards offered by Vodacom is priced at around 30 – 50 ZAR if I can remember it right. As we just got to know the conversion rate from ZAR to PHP, we would automatically multiply the price by around 4. Comparing it back with those in the Philippines, the price of one SIM card is just around PHP 40.00 or less. So we thought that their pricing might be a little too expensive since we were at the airport that time. Their plans are even limited where you would need to purchase separately for your data, SMS, and voice calls. There are bundles. However, it is not as flexible as to what Smart and Globe do offer. With that, we just planned on dropping our things first at the hotel and go to the mall and see if there are cheaper SIM cards being sold.

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So we then headed out for the exit and on our way, it was at this time that I have learned something new about Cape Town.  It is known to be one of the greatest wine capitals of the world. (Before writing this however, I thought it was the official Wine Capital of the World but after reading what is written (see image below) and doing some Google research, I am once again wrong. Oh, I really need to read more. :D)

#STRONG INDEPENDENT EMPLOYEES

Contrary to the usual business trips being offered by other companies where someone would actually fetch you once you are at the airport, ours is somewhat different. Since we’ve arrived, Marefe and I were basically on our own. We had to find our way going to the hotel we had our reservations booked with which is in Protea Hotel in Tyger Valley.

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Good thing, there’s what we call the Internet where you could practically search everything and that there is this one site, TaxiFareFinder, that let’s you estimate the fare from your current location to your destination (with the traffic included). This is good to know because as we were at the taxi bay, some drivers have been offering us a ride for 500-700 ZAR (that is almost PHP2,000.00 up!). Upon using the given site, we came to know that from our current location, the fare should only be around 200 ZAR. Again, thanks to modern technology, we have Uber and checking out the fare from the app, it is only around 215 ZAR (that is just less than half of what the drivers have offered us.) Knowing the huge difference, we opted to book a ride with Uber. (As for those drivers offering us a ride at a very expensive rate, I guess this is something really common almost at any given place where tourists flock and we have to admit that it does happen at NAIA terminal as well. So as a tip, always prepare yourself to have an Internet access or do some research beforehand. It could save you a lot of money, and by that, I would mean a lot!)

An Interim Dwelling Place

 

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So as earlier mentioned, we will be staying at Protea Hotel Tyger Valley located in Bellville. From the airport, our travel took us around only 25 minutes or so despite the distance. It was like an expressway as there was no traffic. And upon arriving at the hotel, we had ourselves checked in and decided to take a rest for a while before going out to the mall and have ourselves familiarize the place. Despite the 6 hour difference though, it was quite a surprise we didn’t experience any jet lag.

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From our hotel, we can have a view on one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature which is the Table Mountain. What makes it so beguiling every time is how simple yet grand its structure is, making you wonder why the peak is plane (which lies as one mystery for me even now that I got back from South Africa).

Of Ancient Greek Architectures and Modern Day Malls

Once we had a rest, Marefe and I decided to go to Canal Walk Shopping Centre. What was our mode of transportation? Since checking the maps, the bus station is more than five hundred meters away and we were unsure of what time does it operate, we just decided to go by Uber. The fare is quite reasonable if you go as a group so we had no second thoughts about it.

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More pictures for Canal Walk in succeeding write ups 😀

Upon arriving at the mall, I have to admit I was moved by such an intricate structure for a building. To give a quick fact, Canal Walk Shopping Centre is built around a canal, hence the name. The place is wide enough, with over 15 entry and exit points from the lower level up to the roof level. From your banking needs to your Friday night entertainment activities, this shopping centre almost have all that you need. As for our dinner, we decided to try out the already South African owned fast food chain restaurant Wimpy.

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After, we decided to buy some groceries, mostly food and some personal care. Here, we learned that there are three dominant supermarkets which are Pick N Pay, Checkers, and Woolworths with the latter being the most costly. With regards to food, we can say that their staple food is mainly bread, fruits, and vegetables. Fortunately, I was able to do some diet before that involves no rice so staying here won’t be a problem :p.

Once done with our grocery, we then went back to the hotel. Again, through Uber. And oh yes, before I get to end this, I have to say that their drivers are really courteous and very friendly. They are so fond of having conversation with their passengers and with that, we got to ask a lot and know a few things from time to time.

What’s Next

In my next write-up (or write-ups :p), I will be covering some of the most visited places within and near Cape Town, which is not limited to the following:

  • Table MountainIMG20180210112158-01
  • V&A WaterfrontIMG20180210194408-01
  • Kirstenbosch Botanical GardenIMG20180218160808
  • Bo-KaapIMG20180224192406
  • Boulders BeachIMG20180225150350
  • Cape PointIMG20180225122137
  • Groot ConstantiaIMG20180302174033

Until then!

~moderndayigorot

 

 

The Rebirth Of A Dying Tradition: Butbut Tribe Ed.

A Short Overview

“Batok” is the term used for the hand-tapped method of tattooing, often practiced before to symbolize strength among men after victorious fights and protection of their own village from other villages, as well as beauty and wealth among women as the cost of one tattoo involves a great amount. However, since the entry of Americans in the northern region with the aim of pacifying and “educating” highlanders altogether with modernization, slowly the practice of performing batok was gradually decreased since then.

Discovery

Apo Whang-od Oggay, hailing from Buscalan village of the Butbut tribe in Tinglayan Kalinga, was first featured in the television series Tattoo Hunter on Discovery Channel by anthropologist Lars Krutak. Since then, it cannot be denied how great the impact has been with hundreds of tourists flocking in to Buscalan village mostly on weekends, with the hopes of being tattooed by her as she has been often described as the oldest and last traditional tattoo artist of her generation. Yet, accomodating all would take her days. Some might wonder why don’t she just teach others to help her out? Now here’s the thing. The practice can only be taught to those within their bloodline. However, over the passage of time, a lot of things has changed. After she began training her great niece Grace Palicas roughly more than a decade ago, a lot of other mambabatoks have emerged, with almost 30 (figure to be confirmed, either close to 13 or 30) or more performing the said practice to date. The meaning of it however no longer holds what it was originally done for.

Of plans and uncharted waters

The idea of getting a tattoo has been on my bucket list for quite some time. I have been planning to have one in the coming months until one of my friends, Jhonethan, messaged me about going for an out of town trip as they are having a holiday day-off on the 3rd of September. Having a nomadic character who is always up for anything that involves wandering away, I said “Why not?” So then we had some discussions and part of our choices were to go for Batad in Ifugao or visit the mummy and burial caves of Kabayan, Benguet. With that, we took some time to search for some sample itineraries and local tour guides who could assist us. Soon as I was able to find a contact person whom I can coordinate with in Kabayan, Jhonethan suddenly decided we just go for Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga to visit Apo Whang-od. Again, having a nomadic character, it wasn’t a problem for me as long as I get to wander.  All that was left for us was to find a few more friends who can join us in this DIY trip to lessen the expenses :p.

Getting There

Then came Saturday. Unfortunately, only Jhonethan was able to grab a friend with him who can join us as my friend cannot make it given the time and date. So for our trip, we decided to go for the Manila – Bontoc – Buscalan route. Getting to Bontoc, we reserved bus tickets through Coda Lines. It costed us P760 for this one (P725 base fare + P35 online booking fee). Our trip was scheduled for 10:30PM and it took us roughly 12 hours as there are a lot of stop overs and there is a traffic along Nueva Vizcaya road.

Sunrise along Kayapa

From Bontoc, there are jeepneys going to Kalinga with its terminal located just by the side of the Mountain Province State University and near the DPWH office. When riding the jeepney, one must make sure that the route is headed for Buscalan. There is also a bus traversing the Bontoc – Kailnga route but I’m not sure of the time schedule. When we arrived, the jeepney scheduled for 11AM already left so we have to wait until 2PM for the next one. While waiting, a lot of tricycle drivers are offering to take us to Buscalan. We just opted however to wait as we are skeptical if the tricycle could really make it there. So after three hours of waiting, we already departed from Bontoc. For our trip, the fare was P100 and travel time was around an hour and a half.

No Pain, No Gain

After more than a day of travel and reaching Buscalan at half past three in the afternoon, we still have a long way to go.

The view that greets you

Arriving there, we were greeted by manong Pio who will be our guide. From the drop-off, we still need to hike for at least thirty minutes to an hour before reaching the village itself where Apo Whang-od is.

Jump off

Road widening and construction is still ongoing so we had to pass by a very narrow path by the side of the mountain.

IMG_5575The path going up is well made but it’s generally steep making you lose your breath and stop to take a rest from time to time. The best thing to do is be early so as to avoid the scorching heat of the sun.

Reaching the top

Once in the village, you will need to register at the souvenir shop and pay an environmental fee of P75.

Just some reminders to follow while in the village

After, we were led by manong Pio to Isabel’s Homestay. They have a fixed rate of P300 per head in the entire village so don’t go searching for a cheaper one 😆. Each homestay offers unlimited rice and coffee so all you have to worry about is your food.Along the way, you will get to see a lot of boars wandering all around.

 

Naughty little pig 😆

Hearing that, you might think that the whole place is stinky or that you might step on their poops. Despite that, you’ll be surprised to see how clean the area is and how fresh the air could be. It is just a simple place yet being there gives you the time to just enjoy the view and be at content.En route our homestay, we get to see Apo Whang-od’s house.

This is the stick that holds the thorn used for tattooing

Apo Whang-od’s house. This is different from where she performs batok.

Since it was already late, we took the time to roam around and take pictures, have a drink of their unlimited robusta coffee, and think about what tattoo design will we go with. We just decided to have our tattoos be done the following day.We went on the other side of the village. This is a perfect spot for pictures when the fields are green. This is where the sun rises as well.

One of the homestays you can find. What’s good about it? It’s in front of the rice fields.

Below are the materials they use for tattooing sessions including different designs which holds its own meaning. (I’ll be doing a separate article on each design, hopefully soon.) We get to also see Apo Whang-od in action.

Dog days

Mobile network coverage within the area is weak so you have to prepare for it! :pYou won’t be able to access your favorite social networking sites so it’s best you have stories prepared to tell your friends. If not, you can always play card games or drink to your heart’s content.

Now or never

So then came the following day and I woke up at around past five. Unfortunately, there was no coffee available yet so I just decided to go out and enjoy the cold morning breeze until such time Jhonethan decided we go by the other side of the village and have a view of the morning sunrise. So there we went and took more pictures after which we decided to eat breakfast.

Right after that, manong Pio led us to one of the skilled mambabatoks, manang Renalyn.I was the second one to get tattooed. When my turn came, I felt a little nervous not because of the pain I will feel but the idea of having my first tattoo. For the design, I chose to have the one called “Prayer”. Manang Renalyn starts out by drawing an outline of the said design.Then, she proceeds now by starting to tap the thorn covered in soot mixed in water. At the first hit, I really did not feel any pain. It was just like being poked by a small pin continuously.

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What only got me worried was the time it started bleeding. I tried not to mind it however and just trusted manang Renalyn. After thirty minutes or so, I was done.Next to me was Norly. While waiting for him to finish, I took the time to capture more photos.

 

Thorn used is taken from pomelo trees

 

We wanted to explore the area more after but since we are doing a DIY trip, we have to be conscious of our time as there are limited trips going back to Bontoc. Luckily, one of the groups there still has some seats available in  their rented van and offered it which we gladly accepted.  But before leaving, we sure didn’t want to miss the opportunity to have a picture with Apo Whang-od.Right after, we now joined the group who invited us. From Buscalan until Bontoc, the organizer just charged us P100 each for the fare which is basically just the same as when we went there. From Bontoc, we decided to take a side trip first to Baguio before heading back to Manila.

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Others

Summary of Expenses

  • P760 – Bus fare from Manila to Bontoc
  • P100 – Jeepney fare from Bontoc to Buscalan
  • P75 – Environmental fee
  • P333 – Individual contribution for P1000 guide fee since we were only 3
  • P300 – Homestay
  • P600 – Tattoo
  • P50 – Picture taking with Apo Whang-od
  • P100 – Fare from Buscalan to Bontoc
  • P212 – Bus fare from Bontoc to Baguio
  • P455 – Bus fare from Baguio to Manila

Possible Routes

  • Manila – Bontoc – Buscalan
    • Coda Lines Bus from Manila to Bontoc
    • Jeepney from Bontoc to Buscalan – there are no hourly trips so you must schedule accordingly
  • Manila – Baguio – Bontoc – Buscalan
    • Victory Liner or Genesis/Joybus from Manila to Baguio
    • D’ Rising Sun or GL/Lizardo Trans from Baguio to Bontoc – earliest trip is around 4AM and 6AM respectively but changes depending on given date and weather

Contact Person

 

A letter to my first

Before you, I have had more relationships than you will ever know. And as you have read that first line, you might be wondering already if the title of this article is right. But let’s skip that for now. Let me tell you some things first I want you to know.

As a kid, I already had felt the love one could get from a mother, a father, a sister, and a brother. I have been blessed with a family that is complete, one that not everyone gets to have. Our relationship is constant, but there have been ups and downs along the way. The biggest heartbreak of all was seeing my two sisters and brother leave to pursue higher education in the city. It was then I felt most alone. Though I have my parents with me, there are times when they are at work that I have no one to spend the time with as I go home. All I was left to do was either read some books or watch some television shows. And when I thought that that was all the pain I could get, I was faced by another predicament. We were evicted from the government owned house that we were renting, forcing me to stay at a boarding house. The space was small that either my mom or dad stays with me and the other one goes home to our house located in another municipality. Already losing touch with my siblings, I have to face the fact of not having the time anymore to be with my mom and dad together as I go home from school on weekdays. Yet as these events came to happen, the relationship we had for each other never ceased as the love we had for each other is still there no matter how far we have been separated for numerous times.

As a teenager, there have been a lot of pressures. I was challenged academically, trying to constantly prove that I am one worthy of being called a great son, and for some time I have been teased for being such a fat-ass or bullied for whatever reason they hold for doing so. Come to think of it. My problems back then were like too small but it was then that I found this other kind of love. It is the love from God. Many times I have already cursed Him for all the bad things that have been happening to my life. Yet, one by one, He answered me through such events I can never explain. He made me understand all the things that have been happening. He made me realize that it is all part of His great plans for me, that such things happen because He wanted to make me better, He wanted to make me stronger, He wanted me to share the love that He has shown me. Until today, He answers all my prayers. Although no words are spoken, His actions speak of it and I can surely feel it within.

As I felt the love from the Heavenly, I was also blessed with the love one could get from his friends, and more so from a best friend that soon I treated like my little brother (even if I was actually younger than him). Knowing him at first, he was a bully I thought or one of the bad guys at school in general. Though my perception of him changed the moment he questioned my integrity. He said how could I betray him when he gave his trust to me, that I broke the deal we just made. It was just a simple agreement that we made on something but it was in those moments that I realized that I have had some serious trust issues with people. But on top of that, it was during those times it came to my senses that even bad guys do have a good side and he showed me that. In some way, he taught me how to just let my guard down, believe in others, and trust that they will not hurt me. However, that’s not all I learned from him. There are a lot more that can never be put into words. The only thing I could say is that even if we meet only a few times in a year, the bond we have still is there up until now. Whenever we meet, it was just like yesterday when we last saw each other like nothing has changed except the challenges we face as we are getting older.

Apart from the love one could get from a friend, it was during my college years that I’ve had this mutual feelings that they call for someone. We were open to each other. We talked about our childhood, life growing up, and such experiences we have been through so far. We bonded so greatly that I thought for sure she is the one I will marry someday. So we skipped pass the courting stage and she took the initiative of asking me whether we can make our relationship official. Naive I was, I said yes. Soon as days passed, I learned to be more open to her, not just anymore as a friend but someone I look forward to growing old with. Yet as perfect as it may be, soon it just came to an end. I was badly hurt that instead of looking for reasons why, I just focused on my studies. I have to admit that I have been bitter towards her for sometime and to the idea of love itself. I had experienced having some mutual feelings with others even after her but because I was afraid to get hurt again, I have just let all those new chances slip away. It took me years until that one moment came when acceptance and forgiveness just suddenly knocked down my door. There was some pain left yet but somehow it all just soon came to vanish as we made amends. Truly, it was then that I learned that we can never just run away from the past so easily. Sometimes, we just have to face what hurts us one more time and end it the right way rather than constantly ignoring it.

Years after, I found someone again who I thought was really the one. I took that risk once more of letting my heart be put in the battlefield called love. I gave most of my time and attention just so to prove my dedication. Too good it may seem that it has born some fruits, the ending didn’t turn out like how a fairy tale goes. This was the relationship that you call as unreciprocated love. I gave too much that I got left with an empty heart, left alone to die or so I could imagine. It is a living testament that no matter how good we do to others, it can all just be taken for granted. You can never expect anyone to really appreciate the good deeds you do towards them when they really are not just into you. It was painful, I tell you. My heart was crushed that it has left me in despair for a far longer time than ever. I always say I have already moved on but every time I remember what happened, I could not help but just become sad in an instant. I tried to divert it into other activities yet it was just like an escape from reality. Soon, I have then learned to give time for myself, to see my worth as a person, and what I really do deserve. I gave myself the love I never gave before. I was so hooked up with the idea of having someone complete my life when my life has been actually complete the whole time. Though the road has been rough for some time, I have finally came to realize that some people were not just really meant for us, that they are just there to teach us a lesson so that when the right person comes, we are finally prepared to face whatever challenges life has to offer.

Having said all those, you might be wondering why I am telling you that you are my first. Well, hear this out. You are the first person I will love after experiencing these relationships, relationships that involves the love that a family can offer which has made me realize that love never ceases no matter the distance, the love from God which has taught me that even if no words are spoken such actions speak of it, the love you can have from a friend which has made me learn to let go and just trust in others, the love from a better half or so I thought which has taught me that acceptance and forgiveness is essential in moving on, and finally the love that I could give myself which has let me know that I am already complete even before I dive into any relationship.

From this part on, I just want you to know that I am more than ready to walk the path of uncertainties together with you by my side no matter how far we get separated because I know that our actions will forever speak of it, and we just have to trust each other knowing that we have already accepted and forgave all those who have hurt us before, and that we are already complete as a person.

#abramazing Journey

A Promising Future

Belonging to the Cordillera Administrative Region, Abra is a landlocked province approximately 270 miles away from Manila. In the past, Abra was marked with a stigma of being an unsafe place that has left many people to stay away, for reasons such as politics-related violence and the presence of insurgents within the area. Still, at present, this is somehow true. I myself have felt fear the moment I first arrived there two years ago as I saw a lot of soldiers marching down the road like as if there is a battlefield nearby. However, recent efforts of the local government to promote tourism can be seen as a pivotal point, with the influx of tourists as an evident sign that despite its lamentable history is a place worth going to.

Getting there

If you are coming from Manila, there are several bus lines en route Bangued, which is the capital of Abra. This includes Viron, Dominion, and Partas. Online booking is available for Dominion via Pinoy Travel and as for Partas, it is partnered with Biyaheroes. Travel time usually takes around 9 hours but if you’re lucky enough, you can arrive in as early as 7 hours from your time of departure. As for those coming from the Summer Capital of the Philippines, one can opt for Partas. Travel time usually takes around 5 to 6 hours.

What to Expect?

For our trip, we decided to go chase after three waterfalls situated in three different municipalities. Thanks to my friend Glen who did all the research and for organizing this trip.

1 of 3: Sapilang Twin Falls

This falls is located in Barangay Sagap of the province’s capital. As we are doing a DIY trip, we went for the town’s local means of transportation i.e., using a tricycle. A one way trip costed us P50 each with one tricycle allowing us to have up to 4 passengers. For the guide fee, it is worth P300 which is good for a group consisting of 5 people. Additionally, a P50 environmental fee is being collected for each group. The falls involves a hike that takes around an hour depending on your pace (and the number of pictures you take along the way :p) to reach the top.

It starts with a river crossing but don’t worry because it is just a feet high.

Photo taken while heading back 🙂

The trail is generally slippery so I advise you to have a footwear that offers a good grip.

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First stop for picture taking :p

There are a lot of good spots to take photos and that perhaps was what consumed most of our time before reaching the top.

Once on top, you can indulge in either of the twin falls. Each has its own path if you want to go up. The one on the left offers a relatively easier path to follow. Since we are in the wilderness, it is always best to keep ourselves attentive of our surroundings. Snakes are present and during our visit, we did see one on the right side of the falls.

Right side closer view

Upper left area of Sapilang Twin Falls

 

 

Group picture before leaving

Once we were done, we now decided to take our lunch first before heading to the next falls. On our way, we decided to take a picture first on one of those picturesque structures there i.e., the Calaba Bridge.

2 of 3: Tiggalay Falls

For our second destination, it is located in Barangay Kirmay under the municipality of San Isidro. The trip takes roughly around an hour using a tricycle. A one way trip costed us P300 which is good for a group consisting of 3 people. So you might wonder if this one also involves a hike. Luckily, you don’t have to as the falls is located just by the side of the road. However, if you are an adventure enthusiast, you can hike all the way up to where the water is coming from. As we are lucky enough, the mayor of that town visited the falls on that same day and so, there were no fees collected from us.

 

3 of 3: Kaparkan Falls

And for our last port of call, it is the most popular tourist destination now in Abra which is the Kaparkan Falls located in the municipality of Tineg, closely resembling the well-known Kuang Si Falls in Laos. It is around 3 hours away from the capital and getting there is no joke. During the onset of the rainy season, it is highly recommended to go with the round-trip transport service (either via a monster truck or jeep) being offered by the Abramazing team that is currently being managed by Sir George Lalin and Ma’am Dykath Molina. Why so? The road going there is so steep and it can become extremely muddy which is knee-deep, requiring wheels to be equipped with chains for it to have a better grip. Hiking is not yet being encouraged given the road conditions. If you want, then you might want to just try Mt. Bullagao or Mt. Pugao (which I have yet to try soon).

Reaching the jump off point, you will need to do a 15-minute hike to get to the falls. The trail is easy to follow as you just have to follow the path before you. Once there, such scenery will greet you. I’ll just have to let the pictures do the talking now.

They say this Balete tree is filled with mystery as there are some speculations that it goes missing sometimes in pictures taken. However, I failed to take a picture of it from afar as I did not know about the story beforehand. I just learned about it when I was already back in Manila.

Also, one can opt to go down to the so called Blue Lagoon. Unfortunately, for our group, we were not able to do so and perhaps, a reason to go back there again soon. So basically that is all for our #Abramazing journey last July and I’m looking forward to going back there again soon.

Basic Itinerary

Day 0

  • 10:00 Depart from Cubao

Day 1

  • 05:30 Arrival at Abra
  • 06:30 Breakfast
  • 07:15 Check-in at home stay
  • 08:15 Head for Sapilang Falls
  • 08:50 Arrival at Barangay Sagap
  • 09:15 Start hike
  • 10:15 Arrival at the top. Free time
  • 12:00 Return to jump off point
  • 13:00 Back at jump off point. Rest mode.
  • 13:15 Head back to town proper
  • 13:45 Arrival at town proper. Lunch time.
  • 14:15 Head for Barangay Kirmay
  • 15:15 Arrival at Barangay Kirmay, specifically at Tiggalay Falls. Free time.
  • 17:15 Head back to Bangued
  • 18:15 Arrival at Bangued. Photo ops at Victoria Park.

Day 2

  • 04:00 Wake up. Breakfast. Prep time
  • 05:30 Register at District office of the Congressman for Kaparkan Falls tour
  • 06:30 Depart from Bangued
  • 10:00 Arrival at jump off point in Tineg
  • 10:15 Arrival at Kaparkan Falls. Free time
  • 12:00 Lunch time
  • 1:30 Head back for Bangued

Who to Contact

You can easily message Abramazing team through their Facebook Page here. However, if you want to have a direct contact there, then you can either message either of the following:

  • George Lalin – 09275609121
  • Dykath Molina – 09277725856

They are most of the time active in Facebook specially Sir George so you can also contact them through Messenger.

For other questions, drop me a message here. Thanks!

 

Great Cordillera Traverse: Mt. Napulawan Edition

“Adulting” 101

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Friends. We all have at least one of them. And as we grow up, we come to accept the fact that we won’t always be able to meet each other every time we want to. Priorities come in and our time is now divided into countless responsibilities, personal goals, and the like. Yet above it all, we still try to find time to slow down a little bit and catch up with our friends. Either if it’s during holidays, scheduled vacations, or any other ordinary day, we make it possible as we don’t want anything go to waste. Now this time, my friend Arlene is set to come home from Singapore to attend her brother’s wedding and have a short vacation as well. With that, she messaged me if I am free by the first few days of June because there is a trail run event in Ifugao. Since it was still a month early, I had no definite plans so I said I am interested in joining the said event. With that, we then synced our calendars. Her only concerns now are having a girl companion and that one big question “Can we do it?” I was being positive so I said to her that we can (even if I too have some doubts :p). The only thing we have to sort out is who will be her companion if we are to camp near the starting point of the trail run upon arriving there a day earlier. So we both messaged our friends who are thrill seekers which are up for this challenge. Unfortunately after days of waiting for response, she decided we should just go camping there in Hungduan.

From Trail Running to Camping

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Supporters nalang kami :p Photo by Arlene

As we settled for the idea of camping, we just have to find ourselves a local guide there who can accompany us in Mt. Napulawan, one of the fabled mountains belonging to the Great Cordillera Traverses together with Mt. Ugo (Nueva Vizcaya-Benguet) and Mt. Amuyao (Ifugao-Mountain Province). Luckily, Arlene found a direct contact through Facebook named Nalyn Dax. She then asked the details of the guided tour considering there would only be two of us. At first we were skeptical of the rate and inclusions but as the date draws near, we accepted the local guide’s offer. During the course of waiting for the scheduled hike, another friend of mine, Carl, learned of it and asked to join as well. Now, expenses will be divided into three I thought :p.

Day 0: June 1, 2018 – Banaue Bound

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So let’s go fast forward now and skip the preparation part. Our DIY trip starts with an approximately ten hour trip from Sampaloc, Manila to Banaue, Ifugao through Ohayami Trans. We departed at around half past ten in the evening and arrived there in Banaue at around seven thirty the next day.

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Photo by Arlene

From there, we were fetched by Manong Romualdo coming from the tourism office who will take us to Brgy. Hapao in Hungduan by means of tricycle. Before heading there though, we bought some food for lunch and breakfast the next day. Along the way, we took several stops to take pictures of what Ifugao boasts off i.e., the rice terraces that belong to UNESCO’s  World Heritage List. (See Other Information for more details about the list)

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As we reached Brgy. Bokiawan, one tire has gone flat so we stopped by the side of the road and waited for the driver to replace it. While waiting, we decided to go to the tourism office and register first as we noticed that it is just nearby.

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Upon returning, the driver was nearly done fixing the tire so we just waited for a little while and continued with our trip soon after. It took us a total of almost an hour and a half before arriving at our guide’s house. There, we were offered breakfast and so we ate.

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View from Manang Nalyn’s house

After, we made our final preparations and later met Helgie and Koikie, both in their senior years, who are also joining us.

Day 1: June 2, 2018 – Moment of Truth

There are several trails that one can traverse when planning to reach the summit of Mt. Napulawan. One can start in Brgy. Hapao. The trail here is said to be relatively easier and the ascent is gradual but takes a longer time in return. The more usual trail starts in Sitio Tiiwan, Brgy. Poblacion and the exit point is in Sitio Balentimol, Brgy. Abatan. Our guide  suggests that we start from Sitio Balentimol. The prime reason for this is that there are two water sources that we will be passing through which are in Balentimol Falls and Munkilat Falls.

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Photo by Arlene

From Brgy. Hapao to our suggested jump off point, it took us more than half an hour to reach it. The scorching heat of the sun as it was nearly midday and my fully loaded backpack sure made me feel challenged as we started our trek.

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Start of a long journey

In less than fifteen minutes, we were able to reach our first stop which is the Balentimol Falls. It was originally named as Tobak Falls but since it exists within the area, it was later changed to Balentimol Falls instead. After fifteen minutes or so of taking pictures and refilling our water bottles, we then continued.

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Balentimol Falls (originally Tobak Falls)

As pumped up as I was and so was my friend Carl, we decided to go ahead of our guide with which she agreed as long as we keep ourselves safe. So we took the role as leads and moved forward. At one point, there was a two-way path that we encountered so we waited for the rest of the group. It was here that Manang Nalyn said we would just need to follow the path that has red ribbons tied to the branches of the trees. After giving those details and having enough rest, we went ahead.

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An hour has passed and we can already see our surrounding start to change as we are getting nearer to the mossy forest. It was already way past noon time and we are trying to find a place to stop where we could wait for the others so that we could eat lunch.

 

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Unfortunately, we could not find a good resting place so we continued to walk further. During this time, Carl noticed my right shin is bleeding and there is a blood leech big enough indicating it has already sucked a lot of blood from me. Since climbing Mt. Makiling, I was used to flicking every single blood leech that I can see crawling in my clothes. So I also did it with this one big blood leech sticking to my foot which I shouldn’t have because it could cause more bleeding. But what’s done is done I thought and we just continued for another hour until we reached our second stop which is the Munkilat Falls.

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Here, we waited for the others. As the bleeding from the bite of the blood leech still won’t stop, I sat near the water flowing from the falls and submerged my right foot, hoping that the coldness of the water could help with the blood coagulation. Unfortunately, it had no effect and it was here that I noticed that I wasn’t just bitten by one but two blood leeches. After half an hour, the others came so we brought out the food and ate our lunch.

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Arlene tried to tend to my bleeding foot but she was as surprised as I am that it is still not stopping after some time. Manang Nalyn then gave a stick of cigarette and instructed me to rub the tobacco on the bitten part. It did stop for a while until it started bleeding again. Though as expected that this could happen when bitten, I just let it off and we just placed a band aid before resuming our trek.

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Being the lead, we asked how long it would take from the falls up to the summit. Manang Nalyn said it usually takes around four hours but perhaps we could make it in three hours more or less. So we started with our last leg of our itinerary that day. About an hour has passed and it started to rain. I prayed it won’t get too strong and fortunately after fifteen minutes or so, it has stopped. From this point, the assault was very welcoming (insert sarcasm here :p). The slopes are so steep and never ending. Whenever we are to reach higher ground comes another steep slope in front of us. It was just too tiresome and we can’t help but stop almost every after a few leaps.

What’s more to that? Rain! Yes, it did rain again but this time it was way stronger and more persistent than it was earlier. It was in that moment that I remembered the story of my friend before where she said that it has been continuously raining throughout their climb. At first, I tried not to let it bother me. So Carl and I just continued like it was a normal thing. Yet came another two-way path. It was hard to tell which one is the right trail. From afar we cannot see any red ribbon to tell us. With that, we decided to wait for Manang Nalyn and the others. However, the rain was so strong and we are getting drenched already. By guts alone there is already no guarantee when will it ever stop. We were becoming hopeless. The cold is slowly creeping in to our bodies. And also, the dark is nearly starting to engulf the whole forest. We had to make a decision. So Carl made one more closer peek at one of the paths and affirmed that it is the right way. As we had only one common goal that moment of just reaching the summit, we pushed through and waded in the waterlogged path ahead of us.

Soon after an hour at around six in the evening, we were finally able to reach the top. There, we came to meet a group of locals who were also camping for the night. As the rain continued to pour heavily, we took the liberty of taking shelter by the set camp of one of the groups who arrived there earlier. Not before long though, the rain finally stopped. We then scoured for a good  place to pitch our tent. There are two main spots for pitching tent at the summit. The first one can be found and first reached by those coming from Sitio Balentimol like us. The other one is by the viewpoint which can be first reached by those coming from Sitio Tiiwan and is relatively wider than the first spot mentioned. Both are not really far from each other and each offers its own pros and cons. As there is more space by the viewpoint, we decided to pitch our tent there. Right after, we changed our clothes to avoid getting hypothermia. Then, we just brought out those quick bite foods that we have for dinner so that we could eat and sleep earlier.

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As soon as we were done, I went out of the tent for a while to go and pee. It was there that I saw the rest of our group who just arrived at around seven. I then helped out Arlene with pitching her tent first. After, Manang Nalyn said she would prepare some hot water so that we could have coffee and dinner. As I and Carl were already able to eat, I just had a cup of coffee before calling it a night.

Day 2: June 3, 2018 – Of Expectations and Reality

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Nature’s very own light bulb

Excited I was for the sunrise perhaps, I started waking up at around eleven in the evening and consistently almost every hour until three or four in the morning. As it rained the day before, our chances of witnessing a sea of clouds has gone pretty low. Yet still, I was hopeful.

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At around five, I already went out of the tent. I started walking around. Like a kid who can’t wait for his birthday present was perhaps the feeling I had that time. Eventually after some time, the light broke.  The sun has started to make it’s way up in the sky. Happiness there was. Simply, the beauty of nature was beyond words in those moments. Getting bitten by blood leeches, getting drenched in heavy rain, losing my breath to very steep slopes. It was worth it all. Despite not seeing a sea of clouds, I was embraced by a beautiful sunrise that soon lights up a vista of colossal mountains from almost all angles. It was more than I could ever ask for.

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Koikie, Helgie, and Manang Nalyn

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As one memorable experience, definitely we can’t miss out not taking a picture of the whole landscape before us. So we took much of our time taking photos from different areas at the summit. Then, we took our breakfast and after some time break camp.

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<<Succeeding photos by Arlene>>

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Group picture #1 at the summit

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Group picture #2 at the summit

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Marker at the summit of Mt. Napulawan

The descent as said by our guide is doable in four hours but basing from our pace she said that we could perhaps do it in three hours. So we accepted the challenge. We started going down at around nine. Minutes after, we are able to reach a lovely site of the mossy forest where one could take such great pictures.

 

Beyond that point, we stayed focus on our way going down. At one point, I felt a stinging sensation on my right foot. Again, a blood leech was starting to feed itself. This time, I asked for some alcohol from Carl to remove it. We continued  and soon after, Carl noticed my right foot is bleeding again. Guess what? Another blood leech has bit me. With that, we tried to walk our way out of the mossy forest faster than the usual to avoid being bitten again. After nearly two hours or so, we were already on dry land. Our feet are shaking already but we still have a lot of walking to do. We have ran out of water as well. Fortunately, the water source was already nearby so we stopped there. Since it is summer, the water flowing from the stream is too little that refilling our water bottles took us nearly half an hour. While waiting, I received a message from Arlene that if we are able to reach the exit point, we can go ahead to the pool and wash up. As our bottles got filled up, we now stretched our legs and feet one more time for the final blitz.

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Around twenty minutes later, houses are already visible from our standpoint. It gave us then the energy to walk faster and in the next ten minutes, we were able to reach the exit point. As a reward to ourselves, we quenched our thirst with a bottle of soda. We sat for a while and once we got a hold of ourselves, we headed for the pool named Dakitan.

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The locals said it is reachable in five minutes. So Carl and I panned over the place ahead of us whether there is a big establishment that can possibly have a pool. With no sign at all, we just continued walking and relied with our other information that the locals said i.e., it is located just by the side of the road. Minutes after, we came across a natural body of water to our left. There are people swimming there and it was then that we realized it was not a man-made pool we are talking about but a natural one! There is no entrance fee here so we went and find ourselves a good spot to place our belongings.

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Dakitan Natural Pool

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Photo by Arlene

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Photo by Arlene

 

As I can’t wait for the others, I went and took a dip first. Around thirty minutes later, the others came. We took a snack and after refreshing ourselves, we called it a day and went back to Brgy. Hapao to wash up and not miss the van going back to Banaue. #theend

Other information

  1. One can opt to go to Hungduan by riding a bus going to Banaue either through Ohayami Trans or Coda Lines. Both offers online reservation. Ohayami Trans offers excellent customer support based from my experience. As for the ride, they do offer center seats so don’t be surprised (because I was :p). The whole travel time is also quite longer as compared when riding through Coda Lines but I have yet to judge it the next time I will go there.
  2. From Banaue, there are jeeps going to Hungduan. However, during our time, it was a Saturday and the first jeep is scheduled for 10 AM as it is their market day there. So we opted to rent a tricycle instead.
  3. Registration for the hike is at the tourism office located in Brgy. Bokiawan which is just near the boundary between the municipalities of Banaue and Hungduan. It costed us a total of 300 pesos for the environmental fee and trek fee.
  4. There are 5 clusters of Ifugao having rice terraces that belong to the UNESCO World Heritage List:
    • Nagacadan Rice Terraces in the municipality of Kiangan
    • Central Mayoyao Terraces in the municipality of Mayoyao
    • Bangaan and Batad Terraces in the municipality of Banaue
    • All rice terraces in the municipality of Hungduan
  5. Others spell the mountain as Napulauan while some might spell it as Napulawan. To the locals, the latter is commonly used. Now, it’s up to you which one to use.
  6. It was in the slopes of Mt. Napulawan where General Tomoyuki Yamashita sought refuge during the last stages of World War II.

Mt. Poswey, Abra: First Organized Exploratory Climb

A short background…

Situated within the municipality of Boliney, Mt. Poswey stands at roughly 1546 meters above sea level. Currently, it is being claimed as the highest mountain in Abra. Some might wonder, what is the difficulty of the trail? Personally, I cannot decide but let me tell you our experience as we set foot on to this exploratory climb held last November 19-20, 2016.

Summit here we come

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Fifteen brave souls set for a new expedition with tour guide and organizer. Credits to the owner.

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New buddies 😀

The jump-off point starts at Brgy. Bao-yan. From here, it was estimated that one can reach the summit in as fast as 2 hours. However, considering the fact that we are all new to this mountain and the trails established here were nothing more than those set by the hunters, it took an average time of 3.5 to 4 hours for all the groups (Lead, Middle, and Sweeper) to reach the campsite before the summit.

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Along the way, there were many dried leaves and loose soil mixed up with fragments of rocks that makes it slippery to move forward. There was also a section where soil eroded due to the super typhoon Lawin which hit the province around October 2016.

Apart from that, the steep slopes and fallen trees as part of the assault requires one to be good in making themselves flexible to either pass underneath it or stretch their legs to cross over it. Summing it up, reaching the summit can be categorized as 5/9 minor climb. Easy some might say and so did I but no one knew this was just the start of something more difficult.

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Setting up tent for the night

Once we got there, we then set up our own tents and hammocks. The tour guides fetched some water and everyone started preparing their own meals for the night. After dinner and all the chitchat, slowly everyone was drifting away as each decided to rest and gain strength for what lies the following day.

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Traditional way of cooking

The start of  a long journey

It was around 5 AM the next day when we decided to ascend the summit to watch the sunrise. From our campsite, it took approximately 15 to 20 minutes for everyone to have reached it. The whole mountain is forested and the summit is no exception which made it difficult for us to completely see the sun as it takes its spot up in the sky.

Everyone was happy as every mountaineer’s dream is reaching the summit and watching the sunrise or sunset. It’s a fulfillment that is totally indescribable by words alone. Yet the journey is still to begin.

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Oh those leafless trees…

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Our next destination is to head for Camp Bantay Gubat. It was estimated that it can be reached normally within 2 hours. We started after breakfast at around 7 AM and with that estimated time multiplied by two, we expected to reach the camp by 11 AM.

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And this is where our struggle began. Due to the typhoon Lawin, a lot of trees have fallen, soils became loose and so did the rocks. With this, our guides needed to clear up and make new paths along the way for us to be able to pass. It took us much time, frequently changing our route from the riverbanks to the mountainsides and vice versa.

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In addition, roots and trunks of trees as well as steady rocks were hardly out of our grasp as we go down the slippery sections of the trail. What’s more to that? River crossing! Our feet were already shaking from all the hours of walking and we had to pass through the river and it’s not just an ordinary one. It may only be just less than 2 feet in height yet the current is so strong that one can fall down immediately with just one wrong move.

As we did a little time check, it’s already more than a quarter past 11 AM and we are still far from reaching Camp Bantay Gubat. With that in mind, thoughts of giving up started to arise in my mind.

Take 5 (minutes) turned take 2 (hours)

After passing through the river, we then decided to rest for a while. We dipped ourselves into the cold running water to feel refreshed again. It was nirvana. If only we can stay a little longer, we would. Unfortunately, we have a strict time to follow. So after spending around 15 minutes in the cool river, we took our lunch.

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As we have underestimated this exploratory climb, what we had left were just pieces of loaf bread and one can of tuna for our second day. It was heartbreaking! But that wasn’t just the sad part. As we were done eating, the sweeper group came in with a bad news. One of the members experienced severe pain along his lower back making it questionable whether he could still push through. Fortunately, there were some of our companions in the group who are skilled enough to handle the situation and attend to his pain. As it subsided, he was then carried by the guides using a hammock tied up to two running bamboos. With what has just transpired, we got delayed by another 2.5 hours more or less.

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As we continued, we were challenged by other impediments such as the blood leeches and mosquitoes in Mt. Littakan apart from the usual blocked paths that adds up to our time. As we have traversed through that mountain, we were welcomed by a riverbank. And guess what’s next? Another river crossing! Luckily, the current in there was not as strong as the previous one which has made it easier for us to pass. The only thing is, you have to walk by a herd of carabaos first and hope they won’t chase after you, then cross over the water again since the river along this area is wide enough that it is divided by rocks together with a pile of sands along the middle of it. Fun, isn’t it? But what’s more fun is knowing that we already reached Camp Bantay Gubat after almost 7 hours.

The last stretch

From this point on, our next destination is to reach Udiaw up to Sitio Likowan, which will be the end point of our exploratory climb. The total estimate time is 3.5 hours. If we were to consider again adding time allowance, it would probably take us around 5 to 6 hours. Time check. It’s already around 30 minutes past 3 PM. With that given, we are to reach the end by 10 PM at the latest as said by our guide. It was frustrating. Having no heavy breakfast or lunch at all, I was already physically and mentally exhausted to be honest. Yet, this is the main challenge when you are engaging yourself in mountaineering. You can’t back down. You can’t just walk away and say I quit. You have to finish what you have started, to become responsible of the decisions you take. So I stood by it. We stood by it.

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Our last assault now has started. We have to reach for Sitio Likowan. Along the way, this is where we have learned that we were not only passing through one or two mountains alone. As a matter of fact, completing the whole traverse of Mt. Poswey means climbing up and passing through the sides of at least 8 mountains in total, as what the guide has said. Putting it aside, it’s already 5PM and we are passing by the edge of the mountain. At first glance, it’s fine. Look again and your feet will shake so hard and one wrong step means goodbye. We have to stay focused at all means. Thirty minutes have passed and it started becoming dark. This is it. Another challenge we have to face. We are doing a night trek!

Of sunsets and night trek

As the sun between the two mountains waved its goodbye, the darkness came and diffused, not only in sight but also in our mind. We were becoming more frustrated. When will we ever reach the end of this trek? Apparently, we have no food left except some cookies and candies. We have no other source of energy. The idea to just camp along the way and let morning come sprung into our minds. Yet, we can’t let that happen. There’s no source of food, only water. So we had to build ourselves one last time. We have to make it before the night time passes. Our feet were already giving up. It’s evident from the frequent slips and trips, to the verbal complaints we speak to ourselves, and undeniably saying our feet is injured. But still, we pushed through and by around 7PM, we have came across some rice fields. This is a good sign I thought, for not far from here surely there is already a community. My energy level boosted once again. This is it. Thirty minutes after, we passed by a man. Another good sign I thought, for surely he lives just within the area which probably means we are getting nearer. Then there was it. That bridge. Finally, from a distance, it can be seen. We were already in Sitio Likowan. We survived after almost 10 to 11 hours of trekking (+2 to 3 hours rest along the way).

Behind victory lies another challenge

From the bridge, we were then fetched by another guide and lead us to a house where we can take a shower and eat while waiting for the last group to arrive. Our happiness was more than what is painted in our hearts. We took the liberty then of refreshing ourselves and making each other feel proud for another achievement that we have conquered as a group, a success, an experience we will forever keep.

As soon as the last group came, we then have to make our plans. Out from our exhaustion, we forgot that from Sitio Likowan to Amtugao Proper, we have to walk again since there were no available motorcycles for rent. Another challenge it was. The happy and joyous smile in our face was swept away. But we have no choice. We have to walk again for another hour. So then we did, and we were able to reach Amtuagan in the time given. From Amtuagan Proper, we have to make it to Sabnangan. By motorcycle, it would take at least 30 minutes to reach the said place. And it is here that we are again faced with a difficulty. Since we arrived late at around 10PM, there were very few people they can contact to drive us to Sabnangan. One of the options given was to walk which would approximately take another 1 to 2 hours. However, since all of us are tired, we patiently waited. At around 11:30PM, I finally got my turn. I was pleased that finally, I’ll just have to ride a balsa at Sabnangan which would cross over Tumbal river, where the jeepney at the other side of the river will be waiting. But then, another surprise came. It was never expected. Riding the motorcycle wasn’t such a big thing. But, riding on it while passing through unpaved roads which are muddy, having so many holes and rocks going up and down at maximum speed was what made me totally awake in that whole 20 minutes. It was the most extreme ride I had. As we went uphill, the driver even lost balance. Good thing we didn’t fell by the rice fields. Once reaching Sabnangan, I was more than relieved that I still got off the motorcycle. From there on, we waited for the others before we rode the jeepney going back to Bucay.

By the next day, we just dropped by ** where the Sleeping Beauty of Abra can be best seen together with that matching photograph that goes “I ❤ ABRA”.

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So that concludes our journey to Mt. Poswey. It was my first overnight and exploratory climb. Even though my body was beaten so much during this event, I have no regrets about it because I have learned a lot and it’s not just about how one can conquer mountains with great physique and endurance. It also opened my eye to how diverse a small community can be from dialects they speak to the cultures and traditions that they have unceasingly preserved up to this modern day.

That is all for today.  Cheers!