I wanted it to be a “mini” backpacking trip with a home grown advantage of being able to speak the local language, thus making no plans at all and relying on the spontaneity of where my feet will take me or where the next available ride will go.
If you had been following this blog for quite sometime, then you will know how much I enjoy mountains. I know I’m supposed to boast about the pristine beaches and perfect diving spots across the country, but I would like to offer you an alternative and consider the Philippines mountainous region instead, where the climate is cooler and the main attraction are hanging coffins and glorious rice terraces.
I love the idea of carrying my backpack across the trail, where the weight brings so much frustration and yet knowing that everything inside the pack is valuable in a way. I love the idea of catching my breath on every step while taking the next one without a moment of hesitation. I love the feeling of finally standing at the peak and letting that sense of accomplishment drown me with much happiness. I do love and enjoy every muscle aches too.
Mountain Province (Lalawigang Bulubundukin) or sometimes mistakenly abbreviated as Mt. Province, is a province of Cordillera Administrative Region of Luzon, situated in the northern part of the Philippines. It is subdivided into ten municipalities that is bonded by a distinct culture and shared a magnificent landscape combination of mountain ranges, waterfalls and caves.
To reach the Mountain Province you have to start your trip with a bus ride from Metro Manila to the city of Baguio, from there it will be your pick as to where you want to start your exploration. For my case, my unplanned route led me from Baguio to Sagada, from Sagada via Bontoc to Banaue, from Banaue to Batad, from Batad back to Banaue then back to Baguio again, then with time to spare hiked Luzon’s second highest peak Mt. Pulag, then finally rounding the backpacking trip from Mt. Pulag back to Baguio then back to Metro Manila.
Traveling to Mountain Province means land travel via zigzag roads that connects each municipality. There is no air travel, so it means you are basically connecting each town by a series of sometimes limited land transportation ranging from bus, jeepney, motorcycle, some sort of modified vans and 4×4. Travel time can vary between four to six hours to reach each town, though the beautiful scenery from the bus window will let the time passed by without you knowing. For most part, the roads are well-paved though there are still portion which are quite dangerous and often requiring a little “push” from everyone on board to get the jeepney moving.
The idea of top load became synonymous with touristy travel across this region particularly the route to and from the town of Sagada, though the original idea is for more practical reason.
With few and sometimes seldom transportation moving across each mountain villages, each space inside and outside the vehicle is well-utilized not only to load all the goods and products needed to be transported but together with villagers who are willing to sit atop the vehicle just to make it to the journey instead of waiting for the next day or next available opportunity to travel.
At first with hesitation but then gave into the idea, I did “top load” portion of my journey and surely it is the way to travel Mountain Province.
More Mountain Province story on the way….