Thursday, May 30, 2013

Photos from the Mountain Town of Sagada in the Philippine Cordilleras

Sagada is a small town in Mountain Province, one of the six provinces making up the Philippine Cordilleras. The town sits at an elevation of about 1,500 meters above sea level. It has become a very popular tourist destination over the last few years because of the relative respite it offers from the unbearable heat of the coastal areas of the Philippines. More importantly, however, it has become popular because of the wide range of outdoor activities that can be done here. There's trekking, rafting, spelunking and many others. It's certainly what we endured dangerous roads and chicken buses to come here for.

I would like to tell you that we did all those activities and enjoyed it, but that would be a stretch. As we are wont to do, we explored whatever it is in Sagada we could explore in the one day on our own. We walked, sometimes scrambled down mounds of earth, got up, got lost, climbed up, had lunch, and continued walking. We may not have seen whatever it is that drew and continue to draw people to Sagada, but I was happy and grateful to just be there. Sometimes that is enough.

Below you will find a few snapshots of what we saw and experienced during our full day of walking around the mountain town of Sagada in the Philippine Cordilleras.

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Sagada, Philippine Cordilleras
Found in the center of town is the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. It is owned by the Episcopal Church of the Philippines as majority of the locals here are Protestants, in contrast to the overwhelming number of Catholics in the Philippines.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why Travel Tuesday: Gates of the Annapurna Sanctuary

(Every Tuesday, I will be featuring a photograph from a place I have gone to, a photograph which I believe will inspire others to go out and see the world for themselves. For this week, Why Travel Tuesday features one of the most spectacular landscapes I ever got to see and walk through: Gates of the Annapurna Sanctuary.)

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Nepal
Gates of the Annapurna Sanctuary looking back down from the approach to Machhapuchhre Base Camp. Squint hard enough and you will see trekkers in the base of the valley.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Foodie Friday: Sago Gula Melaka

(We all know I love to eat, so you know I am not kidding around when talking about food. On Fridays, let me torture myself and anyone who might stumble upon this travel blog with a photo of a delicious food I had in my travels. This includes food I made myself. Yes, I cook. This week, Foodie Friday is something special. Not only do I tell you about my favorite dessert, I also show you how to make it. Here it is: Sago Gula Melaka.)

Sago Gula Melaka
Sago Gula Melaka (my own version of it)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dangerous Roads and Chicken Buses in the Philippine Cordilleras

I let out a tiny squeal, but truth be told, more than a few of my fellow passengers heard it, too. I laughed it off but everyone knew there was a tinge of worry and fear currently brewing inside. I looked out of the vehicle from my window seat and I saw the tires rolling very close to the edge of the highway at speeds too fast for my comfort. Already frazzled from a two-hour trek through mountain trails that morning, I sank my fingernails onto the big backpack on my lap every time our bus made a quick left turn. The road was carved out of one side of a gorge several hundred meters in height. Funneling through the base of the valley, the Chico River flowed eroding solid rock faces and boulders. I shuddered at the thought of riding on the roof of this bus, a very common practice in the Philippine Cordilleras where open-air buses easily fit twice its passenger capacity plus cargo both inside and on top of it.

Bugnay Rice Terraces, Philippine Cordilleras
The Bugnay Rice Terraces and its highway stop on the other side of the river, the starting point of our harrowing bus journey in the Philippine Cordilleras

Friday, May 17, 2013

Foodie Friday: Halo-halo (Tropical Fruits in Crushed Ice)

(We all know I love to eat, so you realize this was coming. On Fridays, let me torture myself and anyone who might stumble upon this travel blog with a photo of one of the countless delicious foods I ever had the pleasure of tasting in my travels, some of which include foods I made myself. Yes, I cook. This week, Foodie Friday features a summer snack popular in the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia: Halo-halo.)

Halo-halo (Tropical Fruits in Crushed Ice)
Halo-halo: the perfect snack/refreshment in a scorching hot summer day in Southeast Asia

Thursday, May 16, 2013

10 Practical Travel Tips on Trekking in Mount Pulag

Mount Pulag is a great trekking destination in the Philippines. Given its high elevation, the entire Mount Pulag National Park affords temperate climate trekking in the heart of a tropical country. I have climbed Mount Pulag twice now. Admittedly, the first time was difficult, aggravated by rainy weather, but it did gave me enough gumption to make trekking my b*tch. A few months after, I did a full-on 10-day trek in the Nepal Himalaya!

This year, I trekked to the peak of Mount Pulag again. Though I did not find the joys of trekking in Mount Pulag, unfortunately, I was very lucky to witness the glorious sunrise and the sea of clouds Mount Pulag is famous for.

Trek to Mount Pulag, Philippine Cordilleras
Trekkers enjoy Mount Pulag’s glorious sunrise and sea of clouds.

Having climbed the mountain twice, I have taken note of a few things that could prove useful, life-saver even, for those who want to trek to the Philippines' third highest peak. Let's get right on to it. The following are 10 practical travel tips on trekking in Mount Pulag.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mount Pulag and the Joys of Trekking

I will say it upfront. The joys of trekking, I did not find them when I trekked to the summit of Mount Pulag, the Philippines' third highest peak. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's back up a bit.

The first time I trekked to Mount Pulag was not my finest hour. Wheezing and panting through the mountain trail, I was finding that altitude was not my friend. The low pressure in the atmosphere meant that I got only a fraction of the oxygen I was used to on sea level, something my lungs and heart were violently correcting by working overtime. My blocked air passageways caused by a runny nose made sure I got even lesser oxygen. Weather, which at the time was rainy and foggy, was not helping. Glorious sunrise and sea of clouds, not this time.

That was early 2011. Pressure had built up since then that my second trek to Mount Pulag be more successful on all fronts.

Trek to Mount Pulag, Philippine Cordilleras
Mount Pulag's glorious sunrise and sea of clouds, elusive to travelers since the 1960s (or earlier, maybe)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Five Recommended Places to Visit in the Philippine Cordilleras

There is no denying it. The Philippine Cordilleras located in the northern part of the Philippines is one of my favorite travel destinations in my country. With the prospect of there being a Grand Cordillera Trail established, I'm getting more excited about having a teahouse trekking route in the region. The Philippine Cordilleras occupy about a sixth of the landmass of the entirety of Luzon Island, the largest of the 7,000 plus islands of the Philippines. There are so many places and people to see along the winding mountain roads of the Philippine Cordilleras. Here are five which I think are the most recommendable places to visit in the Philippines Cordilleras.

1. Baguio City

Baguio City, Philippines
Baguio City perched on top of mountains and among the clouds