Monday, January 20, 2014


It started as a wild thought. The organizational annual planning on first week of January will be held in Baguio. Then Boni said, “how about a side trip after the planning?” The wanderlust in us was awakened.  A side trip to Northern Luzon and the thoughts of rice terraces, winter-like weather and good smelling coffee pushed us to seek permission from our Country Manager (CM). He said he will allow us IF we do it before the planning. We're afraid that was sort of a test for us. We have to prove that we will not be sleeping during the sessions and there's no other choice, so  Yes, we will do it. 

But as Christmas vacation was fast approaching, we were told that we will be rescheduling the planning session and we might not be able to pursue the trip after all. Our crestfallen faces made Manang Nikki (our Deputy Country Manager) talked to the big  boss again. “Yes payagan mo na yung mga bata!" our big boss said. We laughed. Three days of leave approved. Can anything be better than that? :)

So we spent the holidays with our respective families with the giddy feeling knowing that we will be jumpstarting the year to ease our itchy feet. In my part, I started walking and jogging around the fields in my hometown. 

My Dora backpack needs some stitching; its top pocket was ruined after the Bangkok adventure and it collected some dust. Come to think of it, I haven’t travelled outside of Mindanao for a year now. Last year, my former worked provided me the opportunity to explore the outskirts and the urban jungle of Davao, my second home. 
pink gloves (gifts from my Tita), pink socks and bonnets (gifts from friends)
Three hours and all of the essentials were packed- long sleeve shirts, thermal jacket, pink gloves and socks (I was even thinking of bringing a muffler!:p) , leggings, pants, trekking sandals and of course, my trusty leather boots. :D 

On January 5, we trooped to the airport by 11:30AM and found ourselves starving upon arriving in Manila. The three of us have large luggages and we would not want several security guards prying into things so we decided to eat at food stalls in front of Farmer’s Plaza before heading to E. Rodriguez Avenue for the Manila-Bontoc trip by Cable Tours. We took a taxi and tried to search for the bus. We were told it was just beyond St. Luke’s and beside Trinity College. We were already at the end of the avenue and we haven’t found it yet. It’s the sole direct trip to Bontoc and my companions were worried. We called Boni (our other companion who’s yet to come from Cavite and was tasked to buy the tickets beforehand, but failed to do so) and asked him for directions again. He reiterated the direction and other landmarks, with the help of google map of course. 

Sky as canvass

Instead of panicking, I asked them to just keep calm and enjoy the changing horizon. It’s already sunset. Good thing the taxi driver was also game for the chase wherever Cable Tours is.  

And just when I was about to capture Jolibee’s silhouette on sunset, I saw a very little sign informing that Cable Tours operations has been absorbed by Florida Bus! Lovely.

Manila traffic and beating the stoplights
So we asked Manong driver to drive us to Florida Bus at Sampaloc. We got there in time to purchase tickets for  the 8:30PM trip and waited for Boni to arrive. It will be a 12-hour travel and we got Bonamine (for possible dizziness), food and water! 

The last time I went to Baguio was in 2007 for the UP General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) and I was ill-prepared. This time, I have the experience of winter and trekked several mountains. I easily fall asleep during long trips. Just after taking the bus tickets, I fell asleep all the way to Bontoc (well except for a stop in Nueva Ecija). We brace ourselves for the colder weather as the bus traces a winding path to Bontoc proper. 
The Mother and the Baby Florida transpo
Goooooood bbbbrrrrrrrorning Bontoc!
We arrived at around 9AM in Bontoc. We asked around for the jeep that will bring us to Sagada. The trip is around 45 minutes. We’re faced with a minor dilemma: should we take the top load or just go inside. Our boss warned us not take the ride on top of the jeep as one former volunteer got herself injured badly when the jeep swerved in one of the curvy roads and she fell. But unlike her (a foreigner), we’re raised in the barrios and we take a lot riskier public transpo. 
Junction going to Sagada.
We embarked on an adventure of a lifetime. :)
We surmised it’s safer compared to the long habal-habal (motorcycle) rides we took in the mountains. Besides, the trip would not be as exciting without experiencing it. And peer pressure is even more potent than the mad eyes of our supervisor or security officer later. :p 
And we saw the envy from three foreigner backpackers who sat inside. Two of them went on top just to take a picture of himself alongside the baggage. Sorry boys, we took the risk better. :)

Indeed, we got the perfect view. It’s the exhilarating feeling of being outside and having a whole view of things around you and watching passing jeeps with full people on top, the sacks of rice and vegetables it carry and the people going on with their daily lives. We arrived in Sagada proper with smiles despite the painful butt and numb legs. We did it! 

The world is at your feet.
We walked down to Residential Lodge and rested for a while. It has one of the friendliest owner Tita Mary Daoas. Her daughter-in-law is from Sasa-11, Davao! And they gave us a room good for 6 people with a P250/night/person rate. The room is comfy and we have a good view of the pine trees. Our place is very convenient for the food houses we can’t wait to try. 
The Residential Lodge: Our home for three days.
For reservations you call or text these numbers: 0919-672-8744/ 0908-166-10770908-166-1077 or email:

Tita Mary and her two adorable grandchidlren. The youngest kid would only sleep if it's his grandma who'll attend to his needs.
We're starving and we walked to Yoghurt house and tried their specialty. Our rule in this trip is to have a culinary experience thus, we won’t be repeating any resto. We will try everything. J We have a sumptuous meal of meat and sautéed vegetables and banana and strawberry in home-made yoghurt. 

getting the feel of Sumaguing.
Then we started our adventure. We registered at the local Tourism Office, paid the Environmental fee (P35 each) and walked towards Sumaguing Cave (just to check its entrance, caving will be on our last day). 

On the road to the cave, there was this old woman who was bundling the dried abaca and I wanted to take her picture. I asked her permission. To my dismay, she declined. I could have just clicked the button and got away with it. But I wanted to test the boundaries of a free, prior and informed consent and the blurry lines of it especially in photography. We want to take photos that come off naturally, those candid shots of unguarded moments but it is also ethical to ask their permission first. And I don’t have long lenses anyway so that they would be unguarded. Most of the time, I take photos (especially of children)  and let them see it after. It was a test on my part to ask her. I know for one there are beliefs that photographs take away a part of their souls. Or to some areas where I have done fieldworks, taking photograph is a formal affair. They have to look pretty thus, one has to change clothes and put on make-up.

 When we’re back at the cross roads, Jorge asked if we would like to chase the sunset at Lake Danum. 
 We got an hour to do it but another trek to the other side of the mountain is not inviting. So we asked Tita Mary if we could rent her van. Kuya Marion picked us up and we took our way to Lake Danum. 

Sunset in Lake Danum.  
My first attempt in using filter.
The May and Boni Team-up! :D
It was cloudy though and the sun can’t get through. It would have been perfect to see the sun’s reflection on water as it’s setting. Kuya Marion told us he knows a good site for a good vantage view of the lake. He took us to the hill just before the entrance of the lake and we waited. 

 The sun started to set at the horizon and the clouds were parting, giving way for its glory. Sunsets are always spectacular.  With oohhss and ahhhs, yes we affirmed that the best moments in life are free and colorful.. ♥





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