Saturday, March 24, 2007

Landslide!!! U-Turn!!!

20 March 2007:

We left Sagada very early in the morning (first bus out of Sagada to Baguio at 5am) to catch the last bus leaving Baguio to Kabayan (famous for Philippine mummies) to make-up for lost time. I’m responsible for the lost time because of my hang-over. It was raining lightly by the time we woke up, we passed areas with rain and areas without rain. There was no rain around the area of the town of Catubo, from there it is possible to hike to Kabayan for 4-7 hours (depending on your speed and the weight of your backpack). That did not sound like a good option for me, with 2 huge backpacks. We arrived in Baguio just in time. We were able to catch the last bus to Kabayan in ‘Foto-Finish’ style. The bus line is Norton Trans, YES, it is that bus line that is famous for that bus that fell off a ravine. Unfortunately, it’s the only one going to Kabayan. They renamed it A-Liner, but it’s still the same to me. It seemed as if everything was falling into plan perfectly, we will be able to make up time by traveling straight to Kabayan. We left Baguio at 12nn, and we encountered some rain along the way but it was not the alarming downpour. Then DISASTER STRUCK! Midway from Baguio to Kabayan, the road was blocked by a landslide. I got down, at first it was cool to take fotos and videos of the 2 Volvo heavy machines clawing through the pile of soil and rock. Then it dawned on me, the landslide did not just cover the segment of the road, it took down the whole segment of that road with it. The road wasn’t there, and the 2 Volvo’s were rushing to make a new one. Impossible! It’s 3 pm, there is no way that they could make a road in 3 hours before it gets dark! And I don’t have any assurance that the road (more accurately just a path) that they were hurriedly making would be stable to support a fully-loaded bus. Then my heart started racing. Then a mini landslide hit one of the Volvo’s! The operator had to be carried by his mates. Then another mini-landslide! That was it! I decided to get off the bus with my backpacks and walk back to the nearest town. Terai agreed without hesitation. And so we walked along 2 mountainsides, under the rain, on the mud, and through the fog. We saw one vehicle going the same way as us and we hitched. We hitched a ride with the ‘blasting services’ truck. It was such a comfort to hear the squishing sound to petrol in a metal barrel right in the middle of everybody and to see sacks of explosives under my feet, under my ass, and beside me. Whew! The truck dropped us off at the nearest town of Ambuklao. We were set to stay the night, even if it meant sleeping on the floor of the town hall. But then, 2 buses passed later going back to Baguio. We took that ride. So I guess they were able to fix the road.

The following morning, after staying a night in ugly Baguio, we were hit by a sudden bout of insanity, and we both decided to go back to Kabayan, and face our landslide fears and the mummy’s curse. This time everything went smoothly. We arrived there, saw the museum and the following day saw hundreds of skulls in a small cave that was just behind one of the houses, not even 10mins from Co-op lodge where we were staying. We took more creepy pictures. We were creeped-out several times in the cave when birds would fly in and out, and you should have seen both of us on how we ducked for cover. We also met the town’s ex-mayor, Florentino Merino, and we bought his book. He built the cooperative, and was one of the discoverers of the mummies, and his grandmother was the last person to be mummified. From all those accounts, I would have to say that he almost built the town of Kabayan single-handedly, and I would have to say that he would be the best source of information in that town.

And that’s the full story. That’s how I was able to get back to Manila in one piece. :-)

Monday, March 19, 2007


19 March 2007: Easy day. Had breakfast in my favorite place... Café St. Joe, native Arabica coffee as usual. After that Terai and I set out to Echo Valley. We saw the hanging coffins along the way. And in true geo-idiot manner, we got lost. It was a good thing though, coz by getting lost, we actually stumbled across Latang and Matangkib caves and the Underground River while locating the trail that led to the road. We ended the hike at 12nn and had lunch at Café St. Joe. After that, a little hike up to Calvary Hill then we had some dessert (yoghurt) at Yoghurt House. It was there that I realized that I’m not a yoghurt person. Then we did some shopping. I got some miniature coffins and a walking stick.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

St. Patrick's Day in Sagada

17 march 2007: 17 march 2007: Terai and I decided to do a cave connection. While hiring a guide, we met Barry Dillon from Ireland who decided to go with us.
It was awesome; we went in one cave and went out another cave. There were awesome rock formations, we had to climb up some rock formations, sometimes rappel down using a rope, sometimes squeeze through tiny crevices, wade through ice cold water, sometimes slide down some rocks uncontrollably on our asses, and sometimes bump our head on the rocks. It was so much fun!!

We also found out from Barry that it was St. Patrick’s Day. So in true St. Patrick’s Day spirit, we celebrated it by drinking at St. Joseph’s Inn. There was beer, persimmon wine, blueberry wine (my fave), and strawberry wine, and we were drinking it around a bonfire. In true St. Patrick’s Day spirit too, I got totally drunk. Terai informed me that I headed to a wrong lodge, I only have vague memories of that part, but I remember one guy pointing me to the right direction. But I have totally no memory of how I climbed up our lodge and got into bed. Terai just informed me the following day that when I was looking for the key, I just dumped all the contents of the backpack on the floor.

When I woke up the following day (2:30 pm), I had a terrible hangover. I also saw that the blueberries that I bought from the local market were all over the place, they were on the chair, on my shirt, on my pants, and all over the floor. Hehehe!

I went back to St. Joseph’s Inn when I felt better. I got coffee and soup. I met Jose (from Madrid) while eating. Terai was long gone when I was doing this; I suspected she went to the Echo Valley on her own because that was what we set out to do on that day. It turned out she met this girl from the Peace Corps and they both volunteered to help the local community by helping out segregate trash.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Batad and Cambulo

i'm currently in the mountains of Luzon with Terai. its the end of the first part, i have been to the towns of Batad and Cambulo. and i have literally climbed mountains to get there. i stayed in Batad for 2 days and my room has an awesome view of the UNESCO-protected rice terraces. among all the rice terraces (in Banaue, Cambulo, and Batad), i would have to say that the Batad rice terraces were the best (Banaue would be the worst). Terai and I also hiked to the next village (Cambulo), it took us 2.5 to 3 hours to get to the next village, and we literally climbed 4 mountain-sides to get there. there were also rice terraces there but they were not as beautiful as the one in Batad.

well, i'm in Sagada right now for the 2nd part of my mountain vacation. next to see would be the hanging coffins, the caves, and the underground river.

San Sebastian Church

Basilica Minor de San Sebastian

It is a jewel in the heart of Manila. It is designed by no less than Alvaro Palacios and Gustav Eiffel (Yes. Gustav Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Statue of Liberty in USA).

More to follow...