13.6 degrees centigrade according to my watch barometer. We were inside our tent. I could imagine how cold it was outside our tent hearing the unrelenting howl of the wind. It is 2:30 am and we’re at the Camp 2 of Mt Pulag, the highest mountain of Luzon and considered as the third highest in the country. I braced for the chill as I zipped open the tent door. A draft came in as I peeked outside. The sky was clear with stars jubilantly sparkling. The waning moon illuminated the landscape. “We have a clearing!” I gleefully thought. Thank god the weather was on our side and after almost 14 years, I’ll be back at the summit of Mt Pulag.
Looking out of the veranda from Suzzette’s Homestay in Maligcong, I have long wondered how the view is like from the mountains seen on the horizon. The peaks of Mt Matuon and its trails tease, along with otherworldly tales that its forest entraps people with its enchantment unexpectedly. As interesting as the local superstition seems, outsiders like me sees it as a place of conquest. Another trail to explore. I do respect local customs though so I waited for the chance. I was glad when Suzzette said we could explore the mountains with a local guide from Favarey on our recent trip to Maligcong. So in good company with Suzzette, Lagalog and three dogs (Kunig, Misty and Tiny) we ventured one morning to explore Mt Matuon.
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.
A mountain is never the same. The looming form may remain but the trails, the ecosystem and the peak weather changes constantly. Call it moody but the micro-climate dictates whether the view from the top is cloudy or not. Such is the case when we climbed Mt Fato in Maligcong for the second time. The neighboring Mt Kupapey (Mt Kofafey) with its outstanding view of Maligcong Rice Terraces and nature trail may have grown popular to the visitors of the region but Mt Fato offers a different side of the terraces as well as the mountain peaks of Kalinga and Sagada. My first visit with Backpack Photography gave us a clear view, my return howevers was welcomed with a cold embrace from the clouds.
I remember spending my first sunrise of the year 2014 on top of Mt Kofafey. Basking in the view of a sea of clouds unraveling before my eyes to reveal the Maligcong Rice Terraces below was just a magical moment that opened up the year. I knew someday I promise to be back. A few months later I kept my promise. This time I brought along my friends with me see this destination in Cordilleras I have been raving about. And also to see the Maligcong Rice Terraces in its evergreen state.
“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary”
This week’s Nikon Shot is from my new favorite place in Sagada, the Kamanbaneng Peak or popularly known as the Marlboro Mountain. I like this mountain so much I returned here again for the 2nd time last week after my first visit just a couple of months ago. This time we found an awesome vantage point overlooking the valley and with the Alab-Sagada border peak showing its height. I call this Nikon Shot “Up High Staring at the Sun” with our friend Mike looking straight into the sun.
I never get tired of Sagada. Even if go back to the same places I visited there again and again, even if there were hassles or inconveniences encountered going there, the allure never fades. On my recent trip to Sagada, I wanted to venture further and explore the “new” sites recently opened for exploration. My friends and I visited SAGGAS (Sagada Genuine Guides Association) office and was greeted by the jovial, Yaki. We were inquiring about a particular tour but curiosity led us to change plans seeing the map on their wall. We decided to head east then traverse southeast of Sagada going along the border of Alab down south. Our first stop is Kamanbaneng Peak, one of the alternative sunrise destination in Sagada.