“I think we missed our turn somewhere” I exclaimed. We were already going downwards on an unfamiliar paved road. It was cold but it’s getting darker under the fog laden surroundings going deep in the afternoon. I checked my map on my mobile phone and that small triangular shape with the label of Lake Danum was already behind us for some meters already. We tracked back and thought how the hell we got lost. I guess the paved road confused us or how the fog had hidden the view from our eyes. I’ve been here before but it seems I’m visiting it for the first time.
We only have the afternoon to explore when we arrived in Sagada. Wanda, from Rock Inn drove us to town. We registered at the Town Hall which we highly recommend visitors do to help out the town and for their records. We decided to just walk to Lake Danum and probably catch the sunset there.
I can’t clearly remember the last time I went to Lake Danum. I do remember it can be reached by foot from town on partially rough road climbing up from the town. At the start of the walk I noticed how a few developments are stretching out to this region like a few homestay options, St Joseph’s Inn and Ganduyan Inn having extensions up. Walking further are large houses even a glass one. A local said it’s also an inn which a lot of Koreans use. From that vantage point I could also see the whole town of Sagada nestling between mountains. I could also hear the young ones enjoying the afternoon after school.
The road seems to be longer as I remember or I’m not that strong as I used to be anymore. But this road to Besao is a lot easier now being paved. I was still pointing out some of the markers that remain but it was on the road going left that we had doubts whether it was the way to Lake Danum. It turned out it was when we got back here from getting lost. I was used to seeing the Lake from the road but the fog blanket deceived us.
Lake Danum (taken from Kankana-ey word Danum whicm means water) is just a small body of water which can easily be mistaken for a pond. It’s a popular picnic area, jump-off for Mt Ampacao and a place to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, no sunset for us that afternoon. There were a few people there contented with their jump shots and another serious photographer who doesn’t seem to moving from one spot until he left with his brother and van service they hired.
With the fog, I really wasn’t looking much into capturing anything decent but I did try. There was a herd of cows and I wanted to place them as my foreground. But I was afraid of them. Just crossing to the other side of the pond, I could feel their stares so I kept my distance and walked carefully. But they were still out of my view so I moved further back to have them in the picture.
That’s when the funny thing happened. They kept their stare then slowly one of the cows approached. I stood my ground making sure that I don’t make a movement that would startle them. I’ve read some news of cows ramming into some people and barely survived. We even had encounters with frantic cows in Batanes so I was being careful, especially when one of the cows had a young one. But they got really close and started smelling my lens, then licked on my tripod. Probably some dried salt on the hinges. Then the whole pack was there. They turned out to be real gentle cows and were just curious with the gadgets we have. But there was a brief moment of scare there replaced by a feeling of amusement after.
Darkness caught us on the trail on our way back. Even the rains poured in for a short moment but that close encounter with the cows still played on my mind. Later I learned from a local there that if you ever find a free roaming cow here in Sagada and you caught them, they are yours. Now thinking about it I should have had a good supply of beef meat if I had one of them.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.