Sunday, February 20, 2011

Savouring the Scenic Sagada

"Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are beside me."

                                                                                                            Psalm 23:4

Being fresh out of my photography workshop, I was itching to click my camera (or maybe it was just an excuse to travel again). Sagada was what came into my mind. What could be more perfect? I don't have to book a plane ticket. Reserve a hotel. Or be stressed on my itinerary (thanks to the makers of

So after writing down all the details I need to survive Sagada, I set out with my backpack again, this time with a new addition to my team, my new DLSR, tripod and knowledge from the workshop.

The trip from Manila to Baguio was pretty normal. I've been to Baguio countless times, but the trip to Sagada was unexpected. Every zig and zag of the bus on the narrow road made me complete all the twenty mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

Finally, after 6 hours (left Baguio at 6:30 AM) of prayers..erm...I mean bus ride, I finally reached Sagada.

Since I am a first timer, it was advised to get a tour guide at SaGGA.

After settling down my things at Sagada Homestay, I asked my tour guide to start the tour at the Echo Valley where the famous Hanging Coffin is found.

On the way to the Echo Valley, you will not miss this 1921 bell in front of the Episcopal Church.

A very inviting opportunity.

If you could guess what season I went to Sagada last 2010.

Window fascination.

Before reaching the Echo Valley, I have to pass on the Valley of Death. 

Sagada is unspoiled and is being taken care of. NOT! I prayed that the people of Sagada would realize what they did before it is gone.

Left: A tree with the smoothest trunk I saw. Right: The cross from the World War Veterans’ cemetery a.k.a Valley of Death.

After the Hanging Coffins, my guide asked me if I want turn back or continue the journey. I chose the latter. Left: A supposed river (dried up when I visited). Right: The only exit I have to pass through from the dried up river.

4:00 AM and I was already at the Kiltepan Peak to see the sunrise. 5:00 AM, still foggy and no sunrise. 6:00 AM, it is starting to get bright but still foggy. I was not able to see the sunrise, but I was still lucky to see the western part of Sagada.

On our way to the cave connection. An odd scene.

Fascination on the Beetle.

Root baring tree. I took the one on the left on the way to the cave. The other one was on our way home after the caving. Those are two different trees by the way.

More centuries old coffin at the entrance of the Lumiang Cave (starting point of the Cave Connection Adventure).

Upper left: The guide getting the gas lamp ready for the pitch black cave. Upper right: Crystal clear water inside the cave. Bottom left: Does the water look shallow? Beware. Bottom right: Flowing water on sand stone which is formed like rice terraces. 

Pathway of darkness.

The formation above is of a person, but is it a He or a She? Below is another sand stone the looks like a miniature rice terraces.

The highlight of Sumaguing Cave (or rather the PG-18 Cave): Queen's Curtain (top) and King's Curtain (bottom). You will understand why I call it as PG-18 Cave once you experienced being at the Sumaguing Cave.

Limestone formations on the highest part of the Philippines.

 Lemon Pie House. My sanctuary after less than four hours of caving (my guide told me that I was fast for a first timer, usually it would take four hours or more). Their pies are superb (egg pie and lemon pie). We had our dinner here as well. I was able to try their native specialty: Pinikpikan.

Stacked up woods ready for constructing a new home.

The most delicious strawberry is not found in Baguio. Believe me when I say that it is found in Sagada,
specifically those that are sold by Strawberry Cafe.
This said Cafe also sell the best blueberries (FYI: blueberry is the best anti-oxidant). I bought 1 cup of it for P20 only along the Sagada market, but it's not good enough compared to the ones sold in Strawberry cafe for the same price.

Kids playing basketball with jacket and sweatshirts on. I can't blame them, the fog was too thick that morning. We were on our way to the Big Falls or Bomod-ok Falls.

Top: We have to balance our way to the falls just like the old woman. Bottom: Up close and personal with the terraces

The river was supposed to be a sign that we are nearing the falls.

View of the Big Falls from afar.

Final hurrah to the glorious Sagada!

In conclusion, my tour was very successful and memorable. I got my pictures. I conquered the cave connection for less than an hour. I went through Echo Valley on my own (the second time). Of course with  few disappointments I'd like to enumerate:

1. No majestic sunrise at Kiltepan View (it may be an invitation to go back).

2.  Seeing the nature harassed. 

3. Dried up river.

4. The big falls seemed like a small falls.

5. I should’ve had a refund at Sagada Homestay but was denied of it. I paid upon check in for 3 nights, but decided on cutting the stay for 2 nights. When I got back to town from Bomod-ok Falls, the last bus going to Baguio was still there. So I decided on a heartbeat to have another night at Baguio. When I went to Sagada Homestay to grab my things, the owner was not there. So I left the room key at the desk, left a note to give the refund to my tour guide instead. I instructed my tour guide to go back at Sagada Homestay to get the refund but the owner told him that it was not possible, I have to personally get the refund she said. WOW! I don't know if that was a scheme (Sagada is way too far for me to get back and get it) but I just thought to myself that she was just following a policy of her own.

So there goes my Sagada experience. I had another opportunity to appreciate and share God's goodness and beauty. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Baring the Beauteous Batan

 "The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it."

                                                                                          Ps 24(23):1

Third day in Batanes. Guess where were going? A Batan tour. I was just having fun on my own. BATAN tour in BATANes? How ironic?

Batanes weather is really unpredictable. The other day was gloomy and almost rainy. Today, it was sunny! How I wished to myself that I knew it would be sunny so that I could've waited for sunrise. So anyway, our first destination was at Chawa View Deck.

This is not Chawa View Deck.
When our van turned to a curve on the way to Chawa, I saw this scenery, and so I thought it would be a great photo opportunity.

This is what I saw everyday while driving in and out of Basco.
Today was much more beautiful because of the presence of the sun. Every curve on the road took my breath away.

Chawa View Deck.
I knew it should be from above. But hey, the best thing was down stairs.
Even though my knees would hurt, I still went down for some of these shots.
You guess what happened? Yes! My camera got its first baptism of sea water.

I am sorry.
A friend forgot to lend me his circular polarizer. You know who you are, IDOL?

Marlboro Country.
Come to where the flavor is.

Cliff at Marlboro Country.
The wind would make your heart pound as it felt like it's pushing you.

On the road again.
I just can't get over having scenes like this while driving.

It leads to the view deck where you can see the waves rolled in on the rocky beach.

An Abandoned American Naval Base.
Tita said that the Americans left because one of their divers got lost at sea, and they were afraid that it might happen again. Talk about diving in an island where waves are unpredictably big and strong!

Town of Songsong.
The town folks deserted Songsong when a gigantic tidal wave came during 50's. Until now, the remains of the houses still stand up but no one is living there anymore.
Pink Chapel.
No. This ain't a chapel by the Pink sisters. It was just painted pink and I don't know why.

House of Dakay.
This is the oldest Ivatan house where the oldest Ivatan also lives.

Spanish Bridge.
Funny, they call this Old Spanish Bridge. Then I asked myself, would there be a New Spanish Bridge?

San Carlos Borromeo Church, Mahatao.
One of the big churches in Batanes.

An accidental shot.
Ten Commandsments - Ivatan.
It was a surprise when Tita told me they are the original Jejemons.
Oldest Lighthouse.
This light house is just outside Mahatao Church. This light house used to be lit by a sulu to guide and protect the people of Mahatao.

Nakayama Burial Site.
This was our only destination on our 4th day. We have to hike a very steep ground to reach this place. It was the burial site near the sea of the Ivatan ancestors. 

At the end of my Batanes tour, I was sad.

Not because I was leaving Batanes, but because I don't want to be stuck in Batanes for another day. I had no more budget.

Kidding aside, there was one family who was stuck for a day or two because their flight was cancelled. One of the tourists (a German) was charged by a travelling agency for Php 35,000.00 for his 6D/5N stay at Batanes Seaside Lodge that is just for one person only. An airline would charge you more than you would spend if you buy a package from them.

The Philippines is an exceedingly beautiful country. Majority of Filipinos are very kind and hospitable. You will never see anyone who would take care of you like Filipinos would do. But with this kind of situation I just shared, it's quite disheartening. One would think twice of going back or going to our country.

Luckily, the German tourist was satisfied with what our country has to offer, but I heard he would get back to the agency and complain. The family who was stuck in Batanes for a day or two finally had their flight back to Manila with us.

Me, I went about my routines. This time though, I have another thing to thank for and to pray for.

Dios Mamajes Batanes!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Surviving Sabtang Waves

"By your power the mountains were formed. By your strength the seas were calmed; you lull the roaring waves and the turmoil of the nations"
                                                                                                     Ps 65(64):7-8

Today is the day. It finally came.

Were going to Sabtang and although I am excited for it, I am dreading the only way to get reach it. Based on my readings prior to my trip; crossing the part where the Pacific Ocean meets with China Sea has the wildest waves and you got to be ready to get wet.

My initial concern was my camera...NOT! That was actually, the second, the first one is: How will I survive these excruciating waves?!

The answer: Three tablets of Bonamine.

Although this boat looks nice, I prayed that this is not the kind of boat we are waiting for.

Ivana Church.
Lydia told us that we should not be late for the boat ride, we're not. Problem is, we're way too early.

View from the bell tower.
I don't know if they allow people to go up. But it was open so I went ahead.

Honesty Cafe.
Self Service. Pay as you get. Write as you pay.

St. Peter the Fisherman?
We chanced upon 2 fishermen docking their boat on the shore. Their catch for the day: 1 big octopus, 2 1/2  fish. Curiosity got into me, so I asked why is the other fish halved. He said it was bitten by a shark.

Kids waiting for the boat as well.
To take my mind off of waves and sharks. I walked towards the dock and took more pictures.

Arrival of our boat. I sat down just in front of the boat because Tita told me it is the best seat to avoid seasickness.

After a very looooooooong time struggling not to feel sick during the trip. We finally arrived at our destination.

Sabtang Lighthouse.
Good thing I was able to take pictures while still on the incontrollable boat.

On our way to Chavayan.
We went on a stop over before proceeding to our first tour destination. 

Ivatan Kids.

Young boy on his way home.

Rays of sunshine.

From left to right:
Chavayan Church; an Old Well, one of the Houses; and the Narrow Street.

Unique street sign.

Chavayan Church.
This chapel uses the original Ivatan roof and is the only one still using it.

An old House near the Chapel of Idjang.

Idjang Houses.

Lobster and Buko.
I was expecting for a coconut crab, but instead I got a coconut juice and just a lobster.

The Arc.

Going Home.
Just Do It.

By 2:00 PM, we were back on Sabtang Port waiting for the same boat that brought us to Sabtang. every one was worried about the weather. It looks like it would rain anytime. The locals said not to worry though. I took my remaining Bonamine.

The boat came. Everybody went in and soon were on our way. The waves were bigger and tormenting. It was higher than Dirk Nowitzki - 4 times!  My soul was left behind every time the boat went up and down. The water was at its angriest. I felt like I was in one of those rides in Disney Land.

Batanes trip would not be complete with out going to Sabtang, but if you ask me if I'll go back to Sabtang, I'd say - HECK NO!

Unless, we go there by airplane.