“Where are you girls going?” we asked curiously as three girls young girls, ages ranging from 10–12 were going down a trail almost unnoticeable from the dense vegetation just below the famed. “Down to check on our goats by the cave?” one said. A cave? I thought for a moment and probably she was referring to the Sagada Underground River Cave found deep into the valley. “Let’s follow them!” My newfound towering Russian companion excitedly suggested our group. In the many times I have visited Sagada, I don’t remember having visited the cave before so we just followed the young girl’s footsteps.
It was a relief that after travelling at least four hours from Bantayan Island, then a short 200 meter hike from the roadside, we were welcomed with Cebuano folk songs by the staffs of BAETAS (Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association). I may not fully understand the words but I could feel the collective liveliness from the group vocals to the energetic strums of the lone guitar. We were on the third day of our Oceana Philippines photo safari at Tañon Strait. We traveled southwest to the town of Aloguinsan to experience their Bojo River Cruise, the towns foremost attraction with activities revolving around the 1.4km river leading to Tañon Strait.
As if our unexpected night trek from Dila Falls in CEDAR Impasug-ong would quell our adventurous spirit that day, we are again lurched into the unknown adventure. Well not completely unknown but the degree of activity would challenge not only to our group in this trek but also the people who are attempting to organize the Atugan river Trek in Impasug-ong as an eco-tourism destination. Members of the Travel Mindanao team were willing guinea pigs in this exploration of trekking more than 8km of the Atugan river stretch.
Nevermind our wet clothes coming from our exploration and a quick dip at the Blue Water Cave by the banks of Pulangi River. We excitedly hiked back to Kiokong Eco tourism station and prepared ourselves for another plunge of adventure. This time, it is rappelling Pulangi Bridge. That’s 155 feet high descend into the washing machine like waters of Pulangi. I’ve done some rappelling before but this is a first for me from a bridge.
“Bumabagyo tas pupunta kayo dun?!! (It’s storming and you guys are going there?)” a grumpy old man blurted while we’re warming ourselves with soup and coffee in a roadside eatery in Hinatuan. Yes the weather looked dreary and occasional rain showers threatened to dampen our excitement to visit the much talked about Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. We trusted our instincts and continued with our plans, Typhoon Zenaida can’t rain in our parade and it turned out to be one of the best decisions we made in this trip.
Manila was dumped by more than a month’s rain in August, finding it a bit difficult to go around. The unusual habagat (southwest winds) rains caused major floods in the Metro but that didn’t dampen our eagerness to travel. Once abated, a window opened to travel to Kalinga, a province I have longed wanted to visit, not only to see the famous mambabatok Fang-Od (Whang-od), but the curiosity to see the land of the head-hunters.
More than 15 hours on the road can take a toll, especially if there are lulls in between and I wasn’t able to get enough sleep from that night bus. But on the final stretch on the road from Tabuk to Tinglayan, I kept my eyes peeled, trying to pave-off these drowsy eyes just to see the winding road along the mountains, the rice terraces, the Chico River and on my left, the imposing Sleeping Beauty Mountain looming over the rustic town of Tinglayan, Kalinga. We reached the town center and our drop-off, none other the Sleeping Beauty Inn, where we met with our tour guide and our home in Tinglayan.