That Friday morning, we all prayed hard for sun and blue skies. After the drenching of yesterday, still vivid and sharp, we wanted nothing more to do with rain. And as though the echo of our collective pleas reverberated throughout the divine plane, the roiling clouds started to ease. As a result, we hurried to board our designated motorboats.
The rainfall that was repressed during our first day in Cagayan was now letting on. Dark clouds loomed overhead and followed us like vultures waiting to pounce. Everything was bleak and the air was heavy with the smell of ozone. But despite the less than cheerful weather, we put on our best smiles and bucked up.
Our custom Lakbay Norte Victory Liner bus shuddered to a stop and, with a noticeable soreness to my tushy, I woke. From the window, I saw that the weather had turned bleary. We’d been traveling for 12 hours, spanning the length of Nueva Ecija all the way to Cagayan. To here, in the municipality of Tuguegarao.
After shaking off sleep from our eyes and a round of pandiculation, one by one, my companions and I disembarked. It was past 7AM but it felt like the sun got lazy and was taking its time to get up. A light drizzle was underway and wisps of morning fog blurred the edges of things. There was a dullness to the scene, almost like it was painted with watercolor.
It’s one of those trips that I just said yes without knowing exactly where I was going. I was yearning for a downtime after a somewhat busy week that I was ready to escape anywhere. It was an invitation to check out a resort in Batangas but I only knew of the details that day when I got into the car onto a road trip down south. We were going to Balayan, a town virtually out of the radar among four of us in the car. So following a crudely drawn map, a series of instructions and some pictures landmark as puzzles, we rolled on with a sense of adventure to find the resort named Blue Dolphin.
(This is an advertorial). A slew of reggae music blared through my portable speakers at the front seats of the van. It was Deng, our driver’s playlist, interplay of songs from Indio I, Coco Jam, Tropical Depression and Popong Landero to keep him into his driving groove while we head to Batangas coast from Tagaytay. At the back my cousins, mom and brother were amused by the two toddlers own song performances during the drive. We were already mid-way through our 6-day vacation and everything was going well.
It seems I’ve been scaling deeper up north a lot lately and I really don’t mind. It’s time to get past the ever popular Ilocos region and cross the border just a step to Cagayan Region and explore the next town of Claveria. Known as the gateway to the Babuyanes Islands, Claveria is a small town with its livelihood revolving around fishing. First time I went here during the Lakbay Norte 2, we rode through here under heavy rain but it didn’t dampen the magnificent rock formations the place holds. So I went back with a few friends and discovered a lot more.
The challenge was to reach Vigan in the quickest way possible coming from Sagada. The original plan was to go directly westward plying the Sabangan-Cervantes-Tagudin road from Halsema Highway, but as it turns out, even after a year, the bridge construction over the river cutting through Cervantes was not finished yet. The first alternative was to go back to Baguio then Vigan which would take a grueling 11-13 hours ride. Our driver and co-navigator did ask around while we made a stop at Abatan and found out we can avoid that bridge by going through the Mankayan-Cervantes-Tagudin route instead. We took this dare and preferred this unfamiliar route. Everyone seemed excited with this adventure detour, even I, when I realized we’re passing through the historic Bessang Pass National Park where probably the most difficult battle in the Philippines World War II history was fought against Tumoyuki Yamashita.