“I’ll climb this mountain as long as I still can” Bing exclaims as she gleefully trod the trail on the pasture lands of Ivana, Batanes, as we head to the summit of Mt Matarem. Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney, or Bing, for short, is a native adventure-loving Ivatan who has learned to be independent from her family early in her life as she studied in Manila during college. Much more when she married her foreign husband who took her around the world and eventually settled in Switzerland. She makes it a point to go home every year in Batanes for family and be rooted to her home. We sure am glad Bing was there to join us for this climb.
They say the third time is a charm. For Camiguin, my third visit on this island province found me on one of the summits of Mt Hibok-hibok. A mountain I used to just marvel from afar when I roamed around Camiguin from my last two visits. Whether from white island or driving on the coastal road, I’ve always imagined how it’s like to climb this stratovolcano that helped shaped the landscape of this island. Standing at 1,332 meters above sea level, Mt Hibok-hibok is one of the 24 active volcanoes in the country.
I was supposed to go to Itbayat but the weather have other plans. Boat trips to the island was suspended for the next few days due to inclement weather and erratic waves. Since I had a flexible itinerary, I decided to take a detour to Sabtang Island instead. The smallest island of Batanes municipality is popular to day trippers from Batan Island. Personally, I would rather spend a night here. No matter how familiar I am with this island, I know I can find something new to do. For one, I haven’t stayed in Chavayan village yet. Or better, try the Old Procession Trail from Chavayan to Sumnanga. I have always been fascinated with that trail. I guess it’s about time I explore it.
The summer solstice extended the days in the country. But here in Batanes, the days felt a lot longer. 4:11 AM the sky was already showing shades of blue. The milky way slowly dissolves into the sky over at Mt Riposed. The purple glow brightens and unveils the landscape. We were at the sunrise point of Rapang Cliffs. I climbed on some sharp limestone rocks to get a better view near the cliffs. As soon as I saw the view behind the high rocks, my jaw dropped in amazement. I never thought Batanes could mesmerize me anew, but the landscape near the northern edge of the country just did.
Clouds have always been a thing of fascination. People climb mountains often to see the play of clouds billow across mountain peaks like waves. Dissipating in a dance from nebulous to nothingness. When I heard about the Mt Ulap Eco-Trail which recently opened last October 2015, I was intrigued. The Eco-trail is also known as the Philex Ridge, named after the huge mining company operating in the area. The highest peak, was named Mt Ulap by an engineer named “Lagman” who marked the summit in February 1, 1939. He described that the mountain is perennially a magnet for clouds (which is “ulap” in tagalog). The trail has long been a playground for trail runners from Baguio and Benguet. Now the local government, particularly the Ampucao Tourism Council opened the trail to the public.
Bontoc is such an underrated destination in the Mountain Province region. I must admit that I was guilty of dismissing Bontoc as simply a gateway to other destinations like Sagada, Banaue or Kalinga. Discovering the beauty of Maligcong three years ago changed my notion of Bontoc. I realized, the town is just the tip of the iceberg. My recent visit found me in Talubin, the neighboring village 6km from Bontoc Town proper, known as the Land of Clear Waters in the province. One look into the village, it’s easy to see the abundance of water flowing through the village. Talubin village is settled comfortably at the slopes of the Cordillera Mountain Ranges where streams from the mossy forest continuously flow and a clean river runs through. We were also there to visit one of the main source of water in Bontoc, the Humuyyo Falls, located 3,700 feet above sea level.
My motorbike ride roared through the narrow ascending road hugging the side of the hills. It’s always exciting to step on a new island. In this case, my feet, finally grounded on Tablas Island, the largest of the three mjor islands in Romblon province. I flew into the island via PAL and landed in Tugdon airport. My motorbike is taking me to Aglicay Beach Resort in the neighboring town of Alcantara. My eyes were constantly peeled as I absorb the idyllic landscape of this island countryside. We got off the main road and saw a sign “4km to Aglicay Resort”. I’m glad where I’m staying is only less than half an hour from the airport. As the motorbike took its twist and turns entering the distant baranggay of Comod-on, my senses were captivated by the road side view. The ocean vista opening up its glorious view and the cove just ahead. Stunning white sand beach before us hugged by verdant hills. This is going to be an exciting escape, I thought. Aglicay Beach Resort, my home for a couple of nights in Tablas, Romblon.