Clouds rolling in at the Kiltepan Valley in Sagada
Clouds rolling in at the Kiltepan Valley in Sagada

It’s the 3rd year for Jim Cline’s Photo Tour in the Philippines headed by none other than Karl Grobl himself. I was told that they were quite surprised that the tour filled up unexpectedly. I guess many foreigners are really interested in the Philippines lately. We had a full house this time. A French, an Australian, a few from England and the rest from the USA. Their 2-week journey in the Philippines started the first week of June. I stepped in at the 4th of June to for a 6-day guiding and photography assistance to 10 enthusiastic participants while exploring the historic streets of Ilocos and the breathtaking landscapes of Sagada, Mountain Province.

The group shooting at Kapay-aw Terraces in Sagada
The group shooting at Kapay-aw Terraces in Sagada

Varying Photographic Styles

It’s always interesting to be in company with a bunch of enthusiastic photographers. I get to see their different styles and vision in their works during the photo sharing session which is really an inspiring and insightful part of the trip. As with our photo tours like this, I always find myself shooting less as I shift to the background and let the participants shoot more. It’s rather hard already to have a bunch of photographers in the frame  so I make sure I’m out-of-the-way and just be there to lend a hand. Karl is at his usual fluent self, churning some practical photography lectures amidst witty remarks to break some ice.

At time, I would have a chance to do some shoots as well when I find the participants already absorbed in what they do. Here I try to do some things differently and try not to repeat my old compositions and see things in a new angle. I present some of them here.

Bike and spiral at the Paoay Church
Bike and spiral at the Paoay Church

Ilocos Sur Notes

It’s the usual Laoag-Vigan-Sagada-Baguio route with a few twist. In Vigan we visited our favorites like the Pinagburnayan and the not to miss Calle Crisologo street. In addition we visited an Inabel Weaving factory in Camangaan. Abel Iloko fabric is a big part of an Ilocano’s life as these sturdy materials were used as blankets, clothes and other uses at home. There were a few pedal-frame looms with workers at Rowilda’s home in Camangaan, doing several designs of Abel. We also met the 91-year-old weaver Elena still possessing keen eyes and skillful hands on a lighter loom. During her time they use the Binatbatan, a method of beating cotton pods with a long stick to separate the seeds from the fiber. Nowadays they just buy quality cottons to use for the looms.

On their free time, a couple of participants from the group decided to use their free time to visit the UNESCO heritage listed Sta Maria Church. The gloomy clouds and occasional downpour didn’t dampen their enthusiasm to see the church.

The Vigan Cathedral and Fountain
The Vigan Cathedral and Fountain

Long Road to the Highlands

The Vigan to Sagada via Cervantes Bessang Pass is not a usual route. It was fortunate that Karl’s team found out the Aluling Bridge, the country’s longest bridge (to finish) is now passable. It sure did cut our travel time by almost 2 hours unlike when before when we had to back track to Mankayan and Abatan. This time we did a Cervantes-Tadian-Bauko-Halsema route which was surprisingly scenic as well.

Mesmerized by the dancing clouds at Kiltepan Viewpoint
Mesmerized by the dancing clouds at Kiltepan Viewpoint

Transfixed at the Dancing Clouds

Need I say more about Sagada? The usual highlights of our tour were the Hanging Coffins and the Burial Caves. But I guess my favorite is still the Kiltepan Viewpoint. The light may not be as magnificent as my previous visits but the clouds rolling over the valley were just fantastic when we returned in the afternoon and had the viewpoint all to ourselves.

The 91-yo abel weaver in Vigan
The 91-yo abel weaver in Vigan

6-days After

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun and this group was an enjoyable lot. It’s amazing how this tour attracts the sort of interesting people who are genuinely good and willing to learn. I had to say good-bye to the group after a long yet comfy ride from Baguio on an executive bus. They’ll be off to Visayas by this time and wishing them safe travels and more adventures on their photography journey.

Hands of a clay molder
Hands of a clay molder
Convergence at the spiral stairs at Bantay Tower
Convergence at the spiral stairs at Bantay Tower
Symmetry at the doors
Symmetry at the doors
Shooting Paoay Church
Shooting Paoay Church
Bantay Church Tower
Bantay Church Tower
Sta Maria Church framed
Sta Maria Church framed
Passing by the Abatan Market in Buguias along Halsema Highway
Passing by the Abatan Market in Buguias along Halsema Highway

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