Monday, December 31, 2007

::holidays 2007::

holidays 2007 is my first cwismas in my new home... i was going to put 'alone' but 'alone' is not an accurate description of how i spent it...

here's a photo blog of my cwismas 2007
*other pix to follow... waiting for uploads. ulk

ISM family

OA's 2007-08

reg and seth
with doc brok and BB

Purugganan Family

aniela, chie, tita precy


Mercado Family

*waiting for uploads

Sunday, December 23, 2007

surviving sagada!

We’ve been planning to hike up to Sagada, Mt. Province for years now and finally, last December 2007, we’re able to cross that out from our list of ‘to-go-to’s.’

We left Manila last December 19, 8:00pm via Cable Tours (E. Rodriguez Sr., Quezon City) and arrived in Bontoc, Mt. Province at around 8:30am of December 20. Our experience with Cable Tours is quite ok. We left a tad later than scheduled but it was a fairly smooth ride. Most of the trip was on zigzagged roads and it was good to know that the drivers of Cable Tours are very familiar with the route and that they were confident enough to traverse such difficult paths. 2-3 drivers would take turns in driving and it seems that they have their own fortes when it comes to driving on different road conditions. To reserve seats for your Sagada trip, you may contact Edgar through 09202153445. Their station is conveniently located in E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave., Quezon City, in front of St. Luke’s Hospital/Burger King.

As we arrived in Bontoc with hours to spare, we decided to grab a bite at Cable Café. The jeepney ride from Bontoc to Sagada take approximately 1 hour and it leaves every hour until 1:00pm. We caught the 10am jeep and made it to Sagada by lunchtime. We headed straight to the municipal hall where we registered as tourists. Registration is only 10pesos. For first time tourists, this is the place to check out tour guide rates and schedule the tours as well. We inquired about Mr. Faustino’s home here and sure enough, they pointed us to the right direction.

Mr. Fau’s house was definitely a welcoming sight. His home is right beside St. Joseph’s Resthouse and is surrounded be beautiful plants – flowers of different colors abound. We were welcomed by Nala/Ngala, Mr. Fau’s sweet, yellow Labrador and Kent, Mr. Fau’s good bud and housemate. We settled in our new home for the next few days and we got a tour of the cabin.

After a yummy lunch, we headed off to St. Mary’s School where Mr. Faustino works as the HS Principal. Mucho mucho kwento about the past of SMS, the changes, and the future… it really looks like it has so much potential and with Mr. Fau’s plans and his methods, SMS is definitely going to prove itself as an excellent school!

Just outside SMS is St. Mary’s Church – an Episcopalian Church (most of the Sagadians are Episcopalian/Anglican), where we took some photos. N.B. at Christmas time, Simbang Gabi is at 5:00am and church music would definitely wake you up!

We went around Sagada using our trusty map and we were able to find our way to Yoghurt House and we had some strawberry and banana yoghurt… it was really yum but one order is more than enough for 2 persons!

Next stop was Sagada Weaving where we saw some weavers doing their magic! And the products that they sell are wonderful! The colors are bright and the designs very intricate.

Mr. Fau is also helping out Sagada through St. Theodore's Hospital. They are currently making some renovations and expansion projects right now. Mr. Fau gave us a tour around the hospital and showed us also how the ISM kids were able to help them in the past. ICare really touches a lot of lives!

Off to dinner at home and to bed after a looong day.

On our 2nd day, we had a late start, prepared breakfast and chatted over munchies with Mr. Fau… then we met our guide – Enzo. Set up a time for spelunking at the Sumaguing Caves.

So come 2:00pm, we were in our adventure outfits and were ready to get dirty! First stop was the Sumaguing Burial Cave where dozens of coffins were to be found. Apparently, they no longer lay their departed loved ones here… process that they follow though is that they bring the coffin to the cave then afterwards bring the wrapped body, laying in a fetus position, there.

After a few photos, we went to the other end of the Sumaguing Cave to start spelunking. After going past the guano and rocky terrain, we were welcomed by the beauty that nature created inside the cave. With Enzo’s lone gas lamp, the pitch black cave was illuminated… going through its nooks and crannies were hard to traverse but with Enzo’s careful guidance, we made it through to the heart of the cave. Passing through chest-deep water, using ropes to climb down and up, we experienced an immersion unlike any other. The place was so serene and it was just a different world altogether.

It was quite upsetting though that on our way out, we encountered some foreigners who didn’t seem to care much for the solemnity of the cave… I do believe that there is a certain level of respect that must be observed in places such as these… it calls for a different kind of decorum.

Anyhoo, we were back home before 6:00pm and our bodies were aching from head to foot! We were hungry and it’s great that Mr. Fau found time to cook dinner for us! After stuffing ourselves full, we headed to bed to rest our exhausted bodies. We had an early start the next day as well so we really had to rest…

3rd day was market day, Saturday. The main street was full of people… buyers and sellers alike. They had a myriad of items ranging from household plastic ware to fruits, fish, vegetables, clothes! People from different towns and provinces were there… it was quite festive!

Then our next stop was the Big Falls also known as Bomod-Ok Falls. It was a tough trek – 2 hours to and another 2 hours back. On our way there, we went down through narrow stairs and slippery paths, through the rice terraces, under the blazing sun. On our way back, we had to climb up those steep stairways, go through huge boulders, and pass through thick shrubs. The hike was definitely worth it as the falls was definitely majestic… the water was cold but the current was very rough.

Back home by lunchtime and whoa! What a sunburn! Eeewness… :P

Despite the pain of the trek, we still pushed on for more hiking… up to Echo Valley we went to see the hanging coffins. Up until this age, the Igorots still bring their departed beloved to Echo Valley. They believe that hanging them enables their spirits to exit the body and the coffin more easily so that they are able to move around the mountains and look after their families. They do not believe that spirits go to heaven or hell.

After that short trip, we went to Lake Danom to view the sunset. The lake was more like a lagoon as some foreigners would say… It was really pretty and it felt like we were in a different country. We watched birds fly down and catch some fish in the lake. Unfortunately, the sky was overcast and the fog was hiding the sun. We didn’t see the sunset that the lake was so famous for but it was nice nonetheless.

Dinner that night was at the famous Log Cabin where French Chef Aklay prepared a scrumptious buffet dinner for 290 pesos/pax. The food was great! And the ambiance was just perfect! We ate like there was no tomorrow. It was definitely a great retreat after that exhausting day.

We weren’t able to get a pic of Chef Aklay as he is not so keen on posing for anyone… bigger story behind it but let’s keep it at that. *wink.

Sunday was our last day. Reg and EJ left early – around 7:30am for Baguio as they were warned about the throng of people who try to catch the hourly bus trip from Sagada to Baguio. As per Reg, the stories are all true and that if you want to get that ride, you’ll have to elbow your way up the bus! Even lola’s do it! Hehehe…

Chie and I however had more time to spare. Our cable tour bus ride was scheduled to leave Bontoc at 3:00pm. Afraid though of missing our jeepney ride, we left Sagada at around 11:00am. The jeep was full but we made it to Bontoc in no time. Thank goodness we made reservations when we arrived on Thursday! There were so many people trying to get seats, that even the center aisle was full! It was ‘standing room only’ – literally! We had a short delay due to an accident that happened earlier that day. Another bus or was it a jeepney, fell off the cliff! Another delay was caused by a flat tire… there were quite a bit of mishaps on our way home and with rain, I definitely said extra prayers to keep us safe on the road.

We were in Manila by around 3:30am and I must say, we were both glad to be back… the experience was exhausting but was definitely an experience we will never forget! We enjoyed our stay in the mountains and will spelunk again, for sure!

Mr. Faustino and Kent, thank you so much for welcoming us to your home! We had a wonderful time and we appreciate all your help. Mr. Fau, we really miss having you around ISM and we’ll definitely visit you again soon. Next time, we’ll find more time to relax and simply enjoy the beauty that is Sagada.