Just the idea of staying in a forest town for four nights already excited me. It was one of the requirements for taking on this photo documentation project for an NGO on a small rural town known as Imugan in Santa Fe Nueva Vizcaya. It sits right smack in the middle of central Luzon in the midst of the Caraballo Mountain Range just between the Cordillera Central and Sierra Madre mountain ranges.
I met with my accompanying writer Nash at the Victory Terminal in Kamias Edsa as early as 4am in the morning. We had to catch the earliest departure since we need to be at Santa Fe Municipal before 11am. There are only two jeeps a day departing in front of the municipal building heading to the town of Imugan. Their times are world apart. At morning the jeep leaves at 11am and in the afternoon at 4:30am.
It was a typical 6 hour bus ride bound for Tuguegarao but us alighting off at the main Maharlika Highway when we got to the Santa Fe Municipal Hall. We were able to catch the 11am jeep. And like any other provincial jeeps, they pack in a lot. It’s not only passengers but goods and supplies as well filling in the jeep and also the top. Imagine vegetables, cements, gas tanks and other supplies. I even had a few tied up live chickens underneath my seat.
My companion Nash was trying to get a grasp of their language. Nash is a Kankanay from Benguet, but he lived abroad for a few years now and was recently back here for an occasion and decided to take on this task of writing documentation. He said their dialect was a bit different theirs but could catch some words here and there. The ride was said to be 30 minutes which was a puzzle since we heard it’s only 7km from Santa Fe. But we found out that the 7km was going up the mountain slopes. The air was getting colder as we climbed up higher.
We finally reached the small Imugan Capitol which doubles also as their market place. It’s a fairly simple town. We looked for the “Green House” which was supposed to be the place of our host Pastor Rice. We were able to walk a bit around the village. It was very charming. A river runs through the town’s verdant landscape. It’s everything I would expect of the countryside, air with the absence of pollution and free flowing cool waters from the mountains. My GPS reads that the town sits around 967meters above sea level which explains its cooler temperature. Mountains surround the area making any cellphone signal really spotty to nonexistent.
Pastor Rice wasn’t there so we looked for our other contact Mr Tamomo and was led to his house. We were welcomed there and talked abit our project there. Unfortunately Mr Tamomo has a group of guest that just arrived from Kasibu region to do a two day workshop on Forestry and Conservation. Nash would attend the workshop since he could understand Ilocano, while I was left by myself to explore the town.
Well not exactly by myself because the local kids were there to accompany me. Even if they don’t fully understand me they accompanied me around the place while I walk. I would hear them say Amerikano which made me laugh a bit since I’m very Filipino in looks. Probably my camera gave them away and mistook me for an African-American. I also passed by a field being harvested and noticed that most of the farmers are women. I had to ask this and this nice lady told me because most of the men are working out of the town so most of the women here does the farming.
Imugan Town is very small and I can easily remember the main roads. They have a Kalahan Academy, a basketball court and a small food processing plant. The place has no distinct accommodations aside from a couple of dormitories. Imugan isn’t really a tourist spot since most of the people who visit here are NGOs, students, foresters and those who are there to study more about the conservation and use of our forest. The Kalahan Ancestral Domain has a large area scope that has a very dense forest growth and it is here where they first initiated the Carbon Trading in line with the Kyoto Protocol. And our task here is to document how they measure the carbon stock here for trading in the forest of the Kalahan Ancestral domain. It’s very technical discussion which I’ll brush on a little later.
For the meantime, while they were having their workshops, I decided to visit the nearby Imugan Falls which is abut 30 minutes away. I told a local to tell the kids not to come with me as I’m afraid of any accidents that may happen to them on the trail even if they do know where the falls is. So then I threaded the trail and went out to look for this falls.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.