I hopped in the #44 tricycle side-car owned by Mael, my driver who’s a native of Sabtang Island, born and raised in Savidug, a village at the central coast of the island. As with any tricycle in Sabtang, they have modified the look to add cogon roof making it look more native and offers shade on the ride. Mael’s young daughter of 8, who’s obviously clingy of her father joined us as we head to Savidug Idjang, just 1.2km south of the village. Idjangs are stone fortresses found in Batanes and the Savidug Idjang is considered the most impressive among the four found throughout Batanes. I’ve always admired the drum-like rock outcrop from afar, wondering what it is like to be on top of it and see first hand the ancient dwelling place of the Ivatans. This time I stayed overnight in Savidug village to climb it. Mael said he could take me there as his family has a patch of land near the idjang where he takes care of his goats and often go up the place as part of his daily morning chores.
The Cordilleras have many charming towns and villages nestled along hilly slopes high up the mountains amidst verdant forests. I simply enjoy just riding a public bus in the north, the ordinary non-airconditioned ones as the air passing through the window is fresh and cool enough for comfort. Often than not, country music blares through the speakers. As some Dolly Parton or Garth Brooks belt out some narrative tunes, I marvel at the passing scenery on the winding mountain road. Houses by the ridges, rice terraces, mountain gradients, and the thin mist or passing clouds lingering until they dissipate early in the morning. I am heading back to Maligcong, a village in Bontoc that’s slowly getting some curious look from Sagada and Banaue-bound travellers. Aside from being a side-trip, they are beginning to be a destination of their own. Here’s a few good reason why you should visit Maligcong now.
The guard seemed puzzled that a guest would be heading to the beach as early as four a.m. “Mag sho-shoot lang po sir! (I’m gonna shoot some photos sir!)” I said. “Ah cge sir! (Go ahead sir!” he replied with a smile as he unlocks the side door. It was the main gate from El Puerto Marina Beach Resort and its a few meters walk to the beach walking, by the resort fence on a dirt path. The nocturnal salty air got stronger as I near the shore. I seemed to have stirred the attention of a resident dog who doesn’t stop barking seeing (or was it smelling) my presence there. Another guard doing his round saw me and I sent a quick wave to to let him know I saw him there and start setting up my tripod for a shoot. The landscape was well-lit by the waning crescent moon. I wanted to shoot stars but this dreamy and solemn landscape will do. Lingayen beach in all its vast morning glory unseen in slumber.
A 4–5 hours drive in a private van from Manila to western part of Lingayen, in North Pangasinan led us to El Puerto Marina Beach Resort. A resort that seemed to be at its lonesome on the western end of Lingayen Beach. Secluded and far-flung. Within its gate and fenced property is a fairly large area. There’s enough parking space for at least 5 vehicles. There’s a fishing pond, a pavilion for dining and if you look closely by the reception counter, a small pond with an arapaima.
There was a night in Sibaltan, El Nido where a group of performers from the Sibaltan Heritage Society (SHC) showcased a few Cuyonon folk dances. Cuyonons, are an ethno-linguistic group that originated from Cuyo Island. I watch at least five pairs of young boys and girls enthusiastically dance on the sand, under somewhat dim light of the night from Tapik Beach resort. The sound coming from a boom box was all treble with scratchy bass but the performance was all heart and passion as we could see the expressions from the young performers as they execute dance steps highly Spanish-influenced, often upbeat to jumpy with a lot of swirl movements from the girl. I could not understand the lyrics but I was told these dances are often about Cuyonon life – livelihood, courtships, marriage that are often depicted with witty naughtiness to slightly obscene which is a character of Cuyonon songs. Watching this humble spectacle made me imagine how the Cuyonons manage to cross the Sulu Seas, traversing at least 100 nautical miles to reach the shores of Paragua, what we know now as the land of Palawan. The newly built Pangko Maritime Museum in Sibaltan, sheds some light into the history of Cuyonon migration.