The year was 2006. I finished a 3-day luggage in a blink producing two mid-sized duffel bags bulging and loaded. Packing the night before a trip can be exhilarating, if you ask me. The anticipation is like a juggernaut of adrenaline, crushing everything in its path including sleep.
In the bus
The Cable Tours bus, stationed across St. Luke’s hospital on E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City, left for Bontoc at 8:30PM. Be sure to bring your own zoning out tools as they come in very handy for unbelievably long trips: a book (with a reading lamp since they turn the lights off soon), MP3 player, PSP, or even your trusty old brick game.
There were two stopovers I remember: one, in Bulacan and two, in Nueva Vizcaya. Bring your bottle of water, fine, but don’t gulp a mouthful every after 5 seconds if you don’t want a bursting bladder waiting for the next stop. You don’t want to be twisting and curling for hours on end. You can have a midnight snack or very early breakfast serving in one of the highway diners but you can always bring your favorite kutkutins to silence the little gremlins in your stomach.
The best way, however, to stop you from going hungry or getting bored is to sleep. So really, forget about brick games and snacks and just sleep.
Grand, but falling apart
When dawn broke, we were in Ifugao. I woke up to zigzags zooming in on us without end. Mountains lay from your foot to the farthest horizons. The guy behind me was right: the sun rose just in time for us to see the famed Banaue Rice Terraces.
We were silently stoked admiring its grandeur under our breaths as the bus passed by this miles-long view. It was beautiful and what a grand masterpiece of cosmic proportions. That’s stating the obvious, but you see, you don’t really understand what they were talking about until you see it yourself and form your own opinion about it. I thought it was beginning to look a little desolated though. Commercialism is a two-faced coin.
Big, big world
The travel from Ifugao to Mountain Province was, very – well – mountainous. It was amazing to realize how everything has a name—every place, every person, every tree, rock, insect or soil. Everything runs in a little localized system zooming out into a galaxy and then you look in and see—I am in this, part of this. At the turn of the bend, we were greeted by this enormous lush mountain and I was stumped at the enormousness of the world. It’s wonderful to see how little the bus I’m on is and essentially how smaller I am.
My thoughts and sense of wonder turn to be my best companions when traveling. I think that’s one of the reasons people go on trips. As they look out the world, they look inside and they find pieces of themselves along the way.
At about 8 AM, we reached the town of Bontoc. The group grabbed their bags from the overhead compartment and went down the bus. Then the bus sped off on its way to the next stop. From there, it was only one jeepney ride away to Sagada.
The jeepney drive from Bontoc to Sagada was the same as the last 30 minutes we had on the bus: cliffy and rugged roads, breathtaking views and, unfortunately, suffocating dusts wafting through any open spaces on your face. The tires looked like just a foot away from slipping down the cliff. I can’t imagine how it felt like for those guys sitting atop the jeepney. It surprised me that they were rushing to secure their spots on the roof even if there were more seats inside.
Market Day in Sagada
After almost an hour from Bontoc, we arrived in Sagada. The sun was generous that day. But since we were squeezed around mountains, it was cooler than expected.It was a Saturday and it was Market Day. There were makeshift stores on the road selling toys, home decors and other knickknacks. Down the pavement was a basketball court. Across the court was St. Mary Episcopal Church and it was surrounded by pinetrees. Hundreds of pinetrees were scattered every where your eyes land. Children play under the shades of trees. The town overlooks a magnificent stretch of rice terraces.
Suddenly, somebody pushed the slow-motion button. It was lovely.