Friday, July 18, 2008

Conquerring the Cordilleras

Route taken: Manila - Kalinga - Bontoc (via Lubuagan and Tinglayan) - Sagada - Bontoc - Banaue - Manila

Tabuk, Kalinga

Tabuk, Kalinga is a 12-hour chilly bus trip from Manila traversing the Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and Isabela Route. A jacket enough to keep you warm during the trip is a significant measure to keep you from getting colds thus precluding you from bad trip. If you’ll depart Autobus’s terminal in Espana, Manila at 10:30 pm, you’ll arrive at the Bulanao junction facing St. Williams Cathedral at 8:00 am the next day, per my experience. A left turn after Quezon municipality in Isabela is a sign that you're entering to Kalinga and an arc that reads "Matago Tako Losan"will greet you welcome.

Things to do in Tabuk:
  1. Chill out at the Provincial Capitol and enjoy the overlooking view of Tabuk while relaxing. The capitol is just a 7-peso ride from the Bulanao junctions bus stop.
  2. Visit to the mini museum. There you will find native artifacts and other memorabilia of the ancient kalingas. Very near also from the bus stop.
  3. Test your fear of heights in the gigantic Chico River Diversion Dam. While riding on your way, you will have the pleasure of viewing the nice landscape of mountains buffering the river neatly shaped by erosions.
  4. Pasalubong and souvenir items shopping at the market and in Ayatu’s Souvenir Shop. Kalinga Blend and Kalinga Brewed are best pasalubong that you can get while you can choose native kalinga crafts souvenirs in Ayatu’s that came in expensive handwoven and simulated textile products. The cordillera is home to coffee trees. And in Kalinga, Nestle has a farm.
  5. On accommodations, Davidson Hotel and Kalinga Hostel are the popular.
Bontoc, Mountain Province

The Kalinga- Bontoc route is practically “the road less traveled”. The narrow road passable by vehicles one at a time is seldom taken by travelers. But if you’re adventurous enough to face the thrill of its deep shoulders, the route is your choice. The reward? Endless sight of rice terraces capped with fogs along Lubuagan and Tinglayan and the experience of surviving without the effort of fighting. Successfully finishing the 8-hour heart-pounding trip is like an accomplishment.

Views within Lubuagan and Tinglayan, Kalinga

Kalinga-Bontoc trip leaves 6:00 am via Isabela-Ifugao route and every 7:00 am via Tinglayan route daily. Now if you’re run out of cash, Bontoc’s only ATM machines provided by PNB and LBP can help you out. Up in Sagada, cards are useless. So bring enough cash for your food, lodging, tour guide fee, and souvenir shopping.

Sagada, Mountain Province

Connecting ride with a jeepney for Sagada was another journey adventure. The serpentine road endlessly going up to Sagada is like an endless journey to the heaven and after 1 hour we reach its community. Last trip is at 4:00 pm.
(I may sound boring telling my stories so you can skip from reading from here. You may find the photos more interesting.)
The first thing we did upon arrival was to look for a cheap place to dine, stay, and cheap charging tour guide. While searching for a place to have our lunner (lunch and dinner), we met Manang Katrina, a tour guide, selling her lemon pies in front of a store. She helped us look for a place to eat while proffering her service at P500.00 and accompanied us to Residential Lodge which offers a friendly rate of P200.00 per person with a communal bathroom equipped with hot and cold shower. No television.

Due to a tiring journey, we were all down to sleep as early as 6 in the evening. We were not able to experience Sagada’s nightlife. As what I’ve learned, there ain’t any. Locales are implementing curfews at 9pm with all establishments shut down. Don’t attempt looking for a bar or something to satisfy your urbane desires; you’re in a place off to preserve their conservative lifestyle.

The morning after, we had our breakfast at Masferre’s Restaurant where we poked fun at the topless women in the black & white laminated photo exhibit displaying the ancient civilization of Kalinga and Mountain Province. Reminder: taking pictures of and with the gallery is strictly prohibited. Trivia: Masferre’s Nikon camera he used to take photos in the displayed gallery is still intact until now.

After breakfast, we looked for Manang Katrina’s house. Then the trail began.

First stop, hanging coffins. Visible from afar. What I can’t imagine and I think made it amazing was the hardship of climbing a steep and sharp rock just to slip the coffin on its cliff. Take note, only dead who were married and with grandchildren during their living can be buried this way.

Second stop, burial cave. I dared not count the organized piles of coffins placed at the wide opening of the cave or touch anything there as warned by Manang Katrina.
Photo op was the most enjoyable thing to do.

Third stop, Sumaguing Cave. Along the way flaunt a nice view of rice terraces and pine trees. Taking a pause and striking a pose with these on the backdrop is a normal reaction. On caving, “tourists without headgears and gadgets cannot enter the cave” is a myth. Heeding seriously to the instructions of your friendly tour guide from time to time while inside the cave is the best protection. But if you like to guard yourself because you are careless, gearing yourself wont harm.

Our lesson: There are many tourist spots in Sagada. All these require NO entrance fees but 2-day devotion of trekking. So a 2 overnight stay for commuting tourists is advised for a fulfilling travel.

In our case, which was targeting Banaue as next destination, chasing the 12:00 noon last trip back to Bontoc prevented us from pursuing to other spots. We have to hurry back in order to catch the 3pm last trip to Banaue.

Banaue, Ifugao

Pissed off because we were left out by the last trip, we rode the bus bound for Baguio and drop off at Dantay Junction. Luckily a jeepney routing to Banaue fetched us and instead of dropping us in Bontoc, they suggested coming with them to Banaue. Unluckily, starting from Bontoc’s exit, the mountain was covered with thick fogs stretching to Banaue and the rest of Ifugao. We are thankful a little portion was visible.

Autobus Liners going to Manila travels nightly from Banaue for 10 hours every 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. Fare at P400.00.

transportation rates as of December 2007:

Manila-Kalinga = 589.00 Deluxe
(Autobus) 500.00 Regular aircon
Kalinga-Bontoc 200.00
Bontoc-Sagada 40.00
Sagada-Banaue 140.00
Banaue-Manila 400.00


denz d menz said...

hmmmm... where's our christmas sidetrip to isabela?

redlan said...

whatta journey it has been!

Brigida Ayson Schmidt said...

Hey Islander, thanks for this so damn informative post of yours. I am actually planning to go towards Northwest on my next trip to the Philippines. Last time, I just went to Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Pangasinan. I know there's more out there that needed visit.

P400 fare is very very cheap! I like the time too, 10:30 pm to 8:00 am. It's hell of a strain, but so what, there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I will go to Sagada and see the hanging coffins. Father Nil said we should stay there for a week, then go to Banaue Rice Terraces. These are all UNICEF protected right?

Anyway, thanks a lot!

The Islander said...

@bridge.. yup. and much protected by its people. especially in sagada, where they wanted to retain their culture and tradition. I just miss our tour guide then, Manang Katrina, who was so amiable and accommodating. she even welcomed us in here home.

Lawstude said...

wow. nakakapagod na biyahe pala ginawa mo. non-stop talaga. at least kahit medyo foggy sa ifugao eh napunta ka na sa sagada. di pa ko napupunta doon eh.

wowow. hall of famer ka na. congrats.

teka bakit governor's island pa rin ang latest post ko sa link mo. tagal na nun ah.

sige parekoy. travel safe.

Chokolatier said...

gusto ko rin pumunta jan di pa ako nakakapunta hehe.

The Islander said...

hehe yup.. kakapagod na byahe yon. nasuka pa nga ko eh. pero ayos lang. worth it.

onga naka hall of fame din. medyo madami ang naawa sa sinapit ng previous blog ko. hehe. at maraming salamat sa suporta mo.

at yung sa post mo, ewan ko sa blogger kung bakit ganun. ayaw mag update. di ko alam anong gagawin dun. di naman siguro pupwede ang 'refresh'.

The Islander said...

@chococa.. talaga? di mo pa napupuntahan? gusto mo sumama ulit? haha. via kalinga-banaue naman.

Paulette said...

wow coool!!!! gusto ko din pumunta dyan! as in! madami pa ba weed sa sagada? hehe

The Islander said...

meron ba? hehe di ko alam eh. sa other part siguro. sayang kung alam ko lang makapagharvest sana ng limpak limpak. haha

the donG said...

astig! byaherong byahero ka din talaga. ngayon luzon na rin ang pinapakita mo. parang magkakaugnay tayo nina lawstude kasi halos related yung mga post natin. upcoming pa nga lang ang akin.

The Islander said...

hehehe onga eh.. kaya medyo nakakarelate ako sa inyo ng konti. konti lang naman. kasi mas laboy kayo kesa sakin. haha

estan said...

bai! i've been dreaming of doing the kalinga - banaue route but haven't got the time yet. Its terra incognita for me. The farthest I have gone beyond Tabuk is Lubuagan where I spent the night at the government hospital due to high fever. :)

The Islander said...

hahaha. ended in the hospital? due to what? colds? hehe.

anyway, i think the kalinga-banaue route is impractical, though it is the safest. the vizcaya route can be taken when pursuing to banaue instead of going to kalinga.

still nothing beats the cordilleras loop (coined from your term. hehe) (isabela - kalinga - lubuagan - tinglayan - bontoc - sagada - banaue - vizcaya route)

Anonymous said...

hey islander, been to sagada several times, really a must-see paradise. sarap balik-balikan. yeah right, maraming weed don. haha. anyway, ganda ng mga posts mo, any entry about Mindoro Island, you may want to include it in your future trips. can i add ur link? salamat. maligayang paglalakbay!

gay said...

the people in Tabuk, Kalinga are friendly, accomodating and respectful. though it's really tiring and silly to expeienced the 12 hour trip but it's worth it especially when you see your loveones. gay/10-30-09

The Islander said...

hi batangmangyan. added na you already. maganda talaga sagada. especially so that the locals are helping in its maintenance and preservation. mindoro and anywhere in the philippines is in my list, as long as the budget can afford it. but for a year now, i cant make it because im here somewhere far away from home.

The Islander said...

hi gay. i bet youre from kalinga. youre lucky you have a nice place. i just hope its peace and order will be in place.