When in Sagada, I usually try to stay at lodgings just at the outskirts of town. I stayed several times within town before and while I like the convenience, it can be a little noisy at times. That’s why I enjoy places like Rock Inn or Ybami because of the pleasant natural ambiance and closer to nature environment. My last visit to Sagada though found me staying in town again but I was glad to find Kanip-aw Pines Lodge this time. It’s one of the lodgings that has that secluded feel even just a short walk from the main south road.
This is where I bid goodbye to my friends Erick and Rocel. Coming from Kalinga. We headed back to Bontoc since the couple would be travelling back to Manila via Baguio. I, on the other hand would be staying in Bontoc to do further exploration. I got used to Bontoc mostly as a transit point to either Sagada, Kalinga or Banaue, but there’s this little upland town called Maligcong that’s only 30 minutes away from Bontoc that captured my curiosity. I heard of equally impressive rice terraces, scenic mountain hikes and cool clime.
I met a few travelers who likes to collect items they find meaningful and unique when visiting places. Some would collect coins, some ref-magnets, others would be a coffee shop mug. For Atty Dominador Buhain, co-owner of the popular text books and law books printer, REX Bookstore, his fascination with books led him to keep any literature he would encounter throughout his travel across 211 countries in the world and the 76 provinces in the Philippines. To house his collection, he built what he calls the Marikina Book Museum and Ethnology Museum. It certainly piqued my interest when I found out about it. Being a book lover myself, I’m interested to see what he has on his collection.
Much has been written about Sagada already so I won’t go repeating much than to update some of the old photos I took of the place. For those who have endured the hours of travel to get to this fascinating mountain town, I found it rare that people won’t be enamored with its old-world feel, lush surroundings, cool clime, great food and especially interesting people. I’m actually grateful Karl Grobl decided to include Sagada in their itinerary since the Cordilleras really shows how rich and unique our culture is beyond the beaches we are known for.
The Halsema Highway is one of the Philippine’s engineering feats. Its 130kms road stretching from La Trinidad Benguet to the Bontoc Mountain Province has an elevation of up to 7400 feet. It is the highest highway in the Philippines and is one of the most scenic drives you can experience in the country. Whenever I embark on a 6 hour journey from Baguio to Sagada via public transportation, I’ve always wished I could somehow stop for a while on some points of the road. That came into a realization when I became the local guide and assistant photography mentor for Jim Cline’s first Philippine’s Photo Tour led by Humanitarian Photojournalist Karl Grobl. With our own mini-bus at our disposal, the group made a few interesting stops along the Halsema Highway.
Light a fire for the souls
I noticed since I was young, Halloween here in the Philippines has been greatly influenced by the American culture. Adorned in many houses especially in subdivisions, are numerous decorations from pumpkins, spiders, cobwebs and the usual monsters we grew up liking to fear like Dracula, Frankenstein, witches and the local mix of Aswangs, tikbalan, manananggal and white ladies. Those talk of ghost and other supernatural phenomenon that seems to populate our TV screens and print media whenever Halloween approaches have waned my interest recently. I used to like them growing up.
The small town of Bontoc, Mountain Province
I’ve finanlly got a chance to drop by and explore this little town called Bontoc. Most of the time, it’s just one of those areas you only pass by either going to Sagada or Banaue. But it would seem that Bontoc is also an ideal point to jump off any trip going to the different parts of Mountain Province. If you are coming from Manila, you can ride on the new Cable Bus located in Trinity College and they head straight to Bontoc. From there,many jeeps plying to different directions like Banaue, Sagada and Besao can be found. Since Bontoc is in the middle, travel time is reduced.
Tatooed Women. A dying art form
Aside from the connection with different areas, it’s interesting to see our tribes people walking down these streets. Elders, still wearing traditional garbs and women with full body tatoos. Those tatoos are said to be a dying art form since modern women doesn’t like to put them anymore due to the painful process. These Tatoos for women are considered decorations, like jewels, for men however, tatoos are a badge of honor, it means they have slayed or killed an enemy during a war.