The summer solstice extended the days in the country. But here in Batanes, the days felt a lot longer. 4:11 AM the sky was already showing shades of blue. The milky way slowly dissolves into the sky over at Mt Riposed. The purple glow brightens and unveils the landscape. We were at the sunrise point of Rapang Cliffs. I climbed on some sharp limestone rocks to get a better view near the cliffs. As soon as I saw the view behind the high rocks, my jaw dropped in amazement. I never thought Batanes could mesmerize me anew, but the landscape near the northern edge of the country just did.
Clouds have always been a thing of fascination. People climb mountains often to see the play of clouds billow across mountain peaks like waves. Dissipating in a dance from nebulous to nothingness. When I heard about the Mt Ulap Eco-Trail which recently opened last October 2015, I was intrigued. The Eco-trail is also known as the Philex Ridge, named after the huge mining company operating in the area. The highest peak, was named Mt Ulap by an engineer named “Lagman” who marked the summit in February 1, 1939. He described that the mountain is perennially a magnet for clouds (which is “ulap” in tagalog). The trail has long been a playground for trail runners from Baguio and Benguet. Now the local government, particularly the Ampucao Tourism Council opened the trail to the public.
Bontoc is such an underrated destination in the Mountain Province region. I must admit that I was guilty of dismissing Bontoc as simply a gateway to other destinations like Sagada, Banaue or Kalinga. Discovering the beauty of Maligcong three years ago changed my notion of Bontoc. I realized, the town is just the tip of the iceberg. My recent visit found me in Talubin, the neighboring village 6km from Bontoc Town proper, known as the Land of Clear Waters in the province. One look into the village, it’s easy to see the abundance of water flowing through the village. Talubin village is settled comfortably at the slopes of the Cordillera Mountain Ranges where streams from the mossy forest continuously flow and a clean river runs through. We were also there to visit one of the main source of water in Bontoc, the Humuyyo Falls, located 3,700 feet above sea level.
My motorbike ride roared through the narrow ascending road hugging the side of the hills. It’s always exciting to step on a new island. In this case, my feet, finally grounded on Tablas Island, the largest of the three mjor islands in Romblon province. I flew into the island via PAL and landed in Tugdon airport. My motorbike is taking me to Aglicay Beach Resort in the neighboring town of Alcantara. My eyes were constantly peeled as I absorb the idyllic landscape of this island countryside. We got off the main road and saw a sign “4km to Aglicay Resort”. I’m glad where I’m staying is only less than half an hour from the airport. As the motorbike took its twist and turns entering the distant baranggay of Comod-on, my senses were captivated by the road side view. The ocean vista opening up its glorious view and the cove just ahead. Stunning white sand beach before us hugged by verdant hills. This is going to be an exciting escape, I thought. Aglicay Beach Resort, my home for a couple of nights in Tablas, Romblon.
The day started with an amusing little chaos. It’s funny how logistics can quickly screw up at times. The plan was to spend time with relatives at La Jolla Cove not really Torrey Pines State Reserve. My sister and I took the AmTrak train from Vista to San Diego where our cousin picked us up at the Old Town Station to meet up with the rest of our cousins. A little misunderstanding went us driving around in circles at the upscale neighborhood of La Jolla. And when we finally got to meet heads with other relatives and laid our options did we get a clear direction where we’re going. Everyone agreed we’ll visit Torrey Pines State Reserve for the rest of the afternoon. I was excited as I’ve been yearning to do some trail hikes in San Diego since I came in the USA. That’s one of the things I like about in the country, the importance of parks and reserves and their accessibility in the city.
The mountain’s Hersheys chocolate kisses-like shape makes it an eye-catching roadside attraction when passing through the main highway of Pasadeña to Barotuan, about 12km north of El Nido from the town center. But it took a while before someone conquered the summit of Mt Mansilawit despite its low elevation as there were tales of giant snakes and notorious monkeys living on this mountain. Pasadeña Native couple, Sylvia and Alex were brave enough to explore and are now lead guides to share the wonders of this little mountain. I decided to bike here from town since I’ve been curious about this mountain and I thought biking would be the best way to see other places en route. It took me almost an hour to reach the signage pointing the way to the mountain.
“Wow! How does one get there?” I asked my companion Norbs while pointing down on a parallel electric line post way down below. It seemed so far and unreachable from where we were at Kamanbaneng Peak or popularly named Marlboro Mountain. After enjoying a wonderful play of billowing clouds after the sunrise, we were set for a long trek southwards of Sagada. It was a beautiful day for a trek but the rains the day before had dampened the ground making it more sticky and on some parts muddy. But after a few hours, we found ourselves below the electric line I was pointing to earlier but standing on the curious hues of the Blue Soil Hills of Sagada.