First let me greet you all a blessed Christmas. It’s been a crazy year with a lot of highs and lows. But Christmas is here to remind us to count our blessings instead and see the world in a different perspective. I can’t say that things have all been good seeing the tragedy that happened to our brothers in Mindanao. But it shows that there is hope for humanity seeing the great outpour of support from people giving what little they can offer. This season, I revisit Simbang Gabi on some of the popular churches in Manila to capture a Filipino tradition.
We all deserved that long rest after that full day of driving from Vigan to Sagada via Besang Pass National Park. The group arrived in Vigan a little past 6pm and stayed at the elegant old-Spanish style accommodation of Hotel Salcedo de Vigan. With enough time to recharge the photo tour group starts to explore what makes Vigan so special. I’ve been to this UNESCO World Heritage City a few times already but I still like it, especially the photo opportunities it offered.
It’s surprising that most of us were already awake by 5am in the morning without even having to call everyone up. We were worried the night before that the constant bamboo-like clacking sound from the mountain frogs outside Bangaan Family Inn would keep us awake but it seems the frogs drifted to sleep as well. Or was it the amusing ghost stories that challenged to sleep? But ghostly presence or not, we were shooting trees from a hill far away as the soothing calmness of the morning in Bangaan unfolds.
It’s such a sheer delight to open our doors and be greeted by the morning scenery of Batad Rice Terraces and the surrounding mountains. Waking up was effortless, but seeing the warm-lit clouds like a painted sky above the mountain skyline put each of our initial plans to wash up when we got out of bed to a halt and quickly grab our cameras instead to capture what’s left of this sweeping light. Having woken up several times in this place, it’s a rare moment for me to see the sky lit up like this.
“Why do you have to go back here? The trail is exhausting!”, a participant exclaimed while we were hiking from the Saddle to Batad proper learning that it would be my fifth time to come here. While I laughed it out as I carefully navigated through a rocky downhill part of the trail, I was thinking at the back of my mind that there are places really worth going back to. Places you have to work hard for and feel rewarded once you reach it. Batad is still one of those magnificent places and I never get tired looking at.
The rain continued to pour down but that didn’t stop us from further exploring the eastern side of Ifugao for our ocular. Our tricycle drove 10 more kilometers from Hapao Rice Terraces (which is already 15km away from Banaue town proper) to reach the Rice Terraces of Hungduan, one of the 5 Rice Terraces enlisted under UNESCO World Heritage Sites which also includes, Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao and Nagacadan. Banaue Rice Terraces is not part of the UNESCO list but it is declared a National Cultural Treasure.
I’ve been up north several times already but it’s not often I get to tag the family along. The Ilocos Region is probably one of the easiest place to travel by road and add to that, it has a number of sights from beautiful old churches, heritage houses, delicious food, mega structures and wonderful beaches. Even from the several times I’ve visited the place there’s always something new to try and discover. This trip was last September 14-16, 2010. It’s a bit cramped and covers the ‘usual’ sights first timers in the region and more manageable sights.