Sagada: Getting To Sagada

It was the first time for me to actually organize a trip for people, well it didn’t really started that way. Having several vacation credits expiring soon, I had no choice but to use it up -can I just say what a beautiful problem I had ;). So I planned a grand Cordillera circuit travel for me, a good seven days for me being on the road.

I guess I just have a big mouth so when I meet up with friends over coffee or just plain catching up I often times tell them about my plan. Hey, who wouldn’t be excited to travel and be on the road, away from work for that long? So when some of them learn about my plans they too got excited and wants to tag along with me turning me into an adhoc tour operator of some sort.

But there were road blocks in making it happen the most challenging of them is everyone’s availability. My initial plan was to go Banaue and spend a night Batad, proceed to Bontoc. From Bontoc I was to go to Sagada where I will be staying for about two days before going to Baguio then finally end my trip by the beach in La Union.

After several itineraries prepared I finally came up with something that I think would work!

Started our journey by taking a Coda Bus near St. Lukes in Quezon City going straight to Sagada(Fare: Php720) . Yep! Getting there is as easy as that! The bus departed the terminal by 9PM, good thing we reserved our seats prior going to the terminal as the bus was really packed. You can just call them to reserve and they’ll be confirming if you are pushing through the day of your trip.

view of Bontoc Town from my bus window seat

Upon arriving in Sagada we registered at the tourism office and payed the Environmental Fee of 35 pesos. They’ll be giving you a map that you can use to plan your activities. It also has information about accommodations where you can stay in the town. As for us, we’ve made reservations at George Guest House located along the South Sagada Road which was good because this is where most of the restaurants and shops are located. We opted to stay at their annex building away from the road but we were actually relocated to Lodge Labanet, a hotel of the same owner. It wasn’t bad at all since the location was better than George Guest House and our room was facing the back of the building so noise coming from the road was to a minimal.

We settled in our three-bed-room and had our first decent meal at Yoghurt House. This welcome meal made us feel rewarded after traveling for 12 hours on a bus something one must endure when getting to Sagada. After a good heavy meal we’re ready to embark on our first adventure!

 

This post is part of my Exploring Sagada Series

Mountains: Mt. Batulao Solo Day Hike

I was seeking for Solitude, some Me time. Being an introvert isn’t really that easy in this day and age of social media, yes it does take out the energy from me when I browse these “highly interactive sites”. But honestly, what triggered me the most to find solitude on top of a mountain was my recent heartache. It was something big for me, having just recovered from one after five years and finally allowing someone to break into it again with big risks was was quite a venture for me. It was painful.

I thought God would hear me better up there closer to him, that he would hear the pain of my bleeding heart that took a chance again. I was hopeful that someone would care for me even just for a little while, the same way that I care for this person. It was true for a while, but then everything suddenly changed. There were no more I miss yous, I love yous and I can’t wait to see you. There was just coldness that bit the air.

And so with a breath I decided, tomorrow I’ll climb a mountain. By my self. It was a good day to hike, a weekday when most of the trails are void from the traffic of people trying to get to the same spot where you want to be. A perfect time for solitude.

It was a little past three in the morning when I left my house. Got my self on bus, bound south of the island that I live in, yes this island boy with a broken heart is traveling alone. From Buendia I got off at Evercrest in Nasugbu, Batangas the jump off point. I could have taken a tricycle but I was there to do some healing and it felt like walking is good for healing. It was a good 2.5 Km walk.

At the entry point to the trail, there was this table setup with people manning it asking for hikers to take guides, but I’ve done my research and what they’re doing isn’t really sanctioned by the authorities. So as they tried to convince me to take a guide, I pretended to dial my phone talking to someone and walked around. When I came back they hastily told me to pass through and that I didn’t need a guide. Well I guess my drama worked.

They say that Batulao is great for beginners like me, the trail is easy to read and that the mountain is not that hard to scale. I thought that walking alone in a trail would give me the time and space to think about what had just happened to me again. Tanga nga eh (I’m an idiot, I know).

I started tracing the trail and true enough it was easy, I came across a few hiker saying hellos and good mornings to each other. I wasn’t really in the mood to be friendly, I just wanted to walk with my earphones stuck on my ears pumping music that just wrests my heart and the pain it feels. Then again I was in the mountains, I didn’t want to be rude so I obliged – I gave a little smile and greet them back.

There were resting stations –where you have to pay a fee- where groups of hikers spend time while some camp. The feeling of loneliness was reminded to me as I observe. I paused, breathe and moved on to my journey.

I took the old trail going up which was a bit more challenging compared to the new one. It was a welcomed challenge, to feel the pain physically hoping that when that pain is gone the pain in my heart would be taken away with it. Assaults, ravines and cliffs stood before me, but with faith in my heart that I can survive I walked pass through them.

On my way to the summit I got acquainted with hikers taking the same trail. Two girls and a guy with a girl who’s of best of friends. They invited me to join them, they were a fun group and for a moment I forgot about my heartache as we traverse this seemingly infinite trail to the heavens.

The summit. My goal, the sanctuary that I am longing for is now here. I see the sea of green below me reminding me of how powerful My God is. I am silenced by its beauty and magnificence, so I just sat stare at his creation. I whispered a prayer talking to my God asking him to enlighten me and grant me a strong heart to get through this. The wind was blowing a gentle cool breeze as the sun was shining mightily making it bearable. It was a good hour of contemplation, reminiscing and thinking of what had been, could have been and should have been. It seemed like an hour was not enough, I wanted to stay longer but if I do I might put my self trekking in the dark.

batulao

The trek going down back was more scenic than the ascent, the peaks of the mountain bade us good bye as we take a step at a time. It was just beautiful to meditate and talk to God ask for strength and enlightenment on top of a mountain. It does make you feel closer to God not because you are closer to the heavens, it is because from there you’ll see the power and magnificence of God through his creations; A hug to my heart and a kiss on my head.

As I reach the foot of the mountain back to where I started, God has blessed me with new friends. My heart may not have healed instantaneously but I sure felt that Someone is there looking at me, making sure that each challenge that my heart faces is something that I can over come.

As I write this monologue my heart still has pain, still has a pinch that reminds me that I am alive. I know it may be long before I forget about the risks that I have taken, the sacrifice that I willingly gave but surely every time that I go up the mountains I will be embraced by His undying love for me.

 Mt. Batulao
Nasugbu, Batangas
811+ MASL
Jump-off point: Evercrest Golf Course, Nasugbu
LLA: 14.0408 N 120.8011 E 811 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2-4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 3 with 60-70 degrees assault
Features: Open trails, rolling slopes, scenic views of Batangas

Information sourced from pinoymountaineer.com

 

Seoul Searching: Japanes Green House

There’s this somewhat, shall I use the word “hostility” that you will feel from South Koreans against the Japanese -at least on some of the online contents that I have seen about Korean culture. Some videos and articles gives a cold shoulder over Japanese products, well that is somehow understandable. After what the Koreans experienced during the Japanese occupation (much like here in the Philippines), we Filipinos are just either too forgiving or our memories are just too short for us to forget their atrocities. For me I feel that we have just moved on already.

But we cannot discount that there are good things that the Japanese have left to us such as politeness to our elders, food and a little bit of culture.

As for South Korea one of the things that Japan left can be found in the Royal Gardens of Seoul’s 5 palaces, The Royal Green House.Where used to be an agricultural garden of edible and medicinal plants is where the Japanese introduced Korea’s first green house. 

The green house is part of a the Japanese’ project to “violate” the Royal Palace’s grounds that included a zoo and botanical garden which was later transferred after the Japanes occupation.

The Daeonsi (large green house) can be found insde the Changgyeonggung Palace and is included in the free tour of the palace complex.

Tinipak River: Daraitan’s Enchanted Waters

The original plan was to climb Mount Daraitan in Rizal. But because of time constraints we ended up doing the river trek instead.

The Tinipak River is located at the foot of Mt. Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal. To get there is quite a trip, coming from Shaw Blvd. in Mandaluyong, you can take a jeep going to Tanay, Rizal getting off at the Tanay Market. From the market, you need to take a 1-1.5 hour tricycle ride through alternating but mostly rough road. We initially bargained for 300 pesos for a one way ride from the market to the jump off point but after going through the roads, we thought that the 400 peso price was just and right. Believe me. It was also kinda nice that our tricycle driver gave us a mini tour of Tanay, stopping at some of the vantage points where you can see the metro, the wind mills of Pililia and Monte Maria.

DSC_0023

The tricylce dropped us off the barangay hall where you will be registering and be assigned with a guide. The guides cost about 500 pesos who will assist you in any or all of the activities that there is in the area which includes but may not be limited to hiking up Mt. Daraitan, caving and river trekking. Before embarking for your adventure, your guide will be orienting you on the do’s and don’ts and some safety reminders.

I just have to mention that the Daraitan area, though fairly new because it just opened last year, has a really good system and their guides are well trained and knowledgeable. They are amazingly organized!

Anyways, after the orientation we decided no to take the mountain anymore due to lack of time. We started trekking and right from the start we were mesmerized by the beauty of the river. We crossed little streams and man made improvised bridges that just compliment the surroundings.

I felt like I was taken into another world, where you’d believe that fairies do exist, it isn’t that hard to believe in Daraitan actually.

After our short trek, or guide stopped for a moment on and asked us to say a short prayer.  We were about to enter the cave. I like the fact that our guide actually stopped and prayed with us, not all guides does this. As soon as we finished our prayer, he gave us few instructions  and we started descending to this small hole. It was quite cool and refreshing inside the cave with a cold breeze coming from the end, The trek.

As we got at the end (not actually the end of the cave) we were greeted by a cool pool of spring water that comes from a farther part of the cave system. We spent some time there enjoying the pool -which was very safe since it was just shallow.

We decided to to move on and continue trekking the river. The trek going to the cave was just beautiful so I couldn’t think of anything that could surprise me anymore. I was wrong. The river showed it’s  more of it’s beauty with bigger boulders and more enchanting rock formations as we continue with our trek.

I could just imagine bringing one of my brides here for a photoshoot, dressed in elegant gowns with their groom. I tell you you’ll just fall in love with the river.

Eventually, we reached a part of the river that is calm enough for the water to pool. The water was mixed warm and cold, I couldn’t distinguish where the warm water was coming from but I really enjoyed it. It was difficult to move on, from one spot to another, it was just beautiful! But we had too.

The river alone was an experience, even if we failed in our agenda to climb mount daraitan, we did not feel short changed. I’d love to comeback and stay overnight climbing trekking the river once again then climbing the mountain early in the morning the following day.

I’ll post a guide on how you can get to the Barangay Daraitan so don’t forget  to visit our site from time to time.