SAGADA

planting rice“Simplicity is indeed often the sign of truth and a criterion of beauty.” Mahlon Hoagland
395 kilometers from Manila; 12 hours drive via Manila-Baguio-Sagada route- long and winding road.  Apparently, one would feel tired and uncomfortable reaching this place, but the reward one would get upon arriving this place is indescribable!  The sight is heavenly and surreal. It is already passed twelve when we arrived; the town is celebrating their fiesta.  There are numerous people witnessing the cultural parade.  Local and foreign tourists seem to be engrossed taking pictures of the ethnic presentation of each tribe.  We headed directly to George Inn, wherein we are offered a room that has a great view of verdant ricefields and pine trees standing tall in the mountain, that almost enveloped by mountain dews.
Cold breeze embraces, we just want to stay at our beautiful room but the itch to explore Sagada summons us.  Just a stone throw from George is the Calvary Hill; a place where the tomb of the departed love ones of Sagadenos lie.  More importantly, the famed hanging coffins of ancient people are seen from the Hill’s highest elevation.  It has been a tradition and custom of ancient Sagadenos to place the remains to a wooden coffin that were later placed at cave’s cliffside.
dan and cha
We trekked through the rice terraces in the mountain to reach Bomod-ok falls for one hour.  One could already determine that he is near the falls, because the sound of water falling down against the big rocks is apparent.  And when finally getting there, the magical sight of Bomod-ok washes away the tiredness and restlessness.  Just the sight of the falls provides a zest feeling and relieve one’s exhaustion. The water coming from the falls is extremely cold.  This falls is the major source of irrigation and domestic water supply of the village people.

Curiosity leads us to Lake Danum, since part of the movie scene from Don’t Give Up on Us was shot here.  To my mind this place is perfect for dreamy rendezvous.  The lake is calm and tranquil as surrounded by tall trees in the mountain, buffalos and cattle grazing around the lake.  On the other hand, a walk from the lake to a higher elevation, awaits a great view of sunset by the mountains of cordilleras.
lake danum side
Farming is the major source of livelihood in Sagada.  Cabbage, cauliflower, string beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, and other root crops are grown in the village gardens and hillside farms.

What struck me the most is that life here is peaceful and simple.  Sure it is hard to walk and trek through and through just to reach one’s destination; one has to wait for an hour before jeepney to arrive in order to reach town proper.  The thing is village people lives with it without complaint. Our stay in this place reminded of the profound and basic truth in dealing with life that is -SIMPLICITY.

Puerto Princesa- Palawan

Puerto Princesa City is a flourishing and peaceful city; prominent for being an environmentally conscious city. Literally, it is a city within a forest because it is surrounded by seas, trees, and mountains. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is apparently the motto of every Palaweno, evidenced by lack of litters, scattered trash bins, and posters heralding the anti-litter city ordinance. The city government is serious in implementing the anti- litter ordinance that provides for the following penalties: a) P 200 pesos for first offense; b) P1000 pesos fine plus two months imprisonment. The campaign is very successful because locals and tourists are cooperative.

The main tourist attractions in Puerto Prinsesa are: Underground River and Honda Bay.

Underground River Exploration

Underground River, is the most photographed tourist attraction in the city. Philippine’s pride for being nominee to the new seven natural wonders of the world. The UGRiver exploration provides a very exhilarating experience. It is dark and misty inside, and the only illumination which affords vision to the unique stalactite formations is the tour guide’s flashlight. Entrance to the 8.2 kilometer river is made possible via paddle boat.

There are wildlife inside the cave such as snakes, birds, and bats. Adventurers who yearn for more thrill may opt to go on exploring the monkey trail after the twenty minutes UG exploration; play with the monkeys who seemed to have grown fond with human company; see the monitor lizards lazing; bird watching, or simply have a glimpse of mangrove wildlife around. The trek promises a sighting of a very exotic way of life.

It is better to arrange the UR exploration with tour operators since it is more practical and time saving. There are many travel agencies in PPC to choose from, just ask around from the locals. Rates are standard. Package is P 1,500.00 per person inclusive of:

a) Round-trip van transfer from your hotel to Sabang beach;

b) Boat ride from Sabang to UR site;

c) Entrance and environmental fees;

d) Boat ride inside the underground river;

e) Buffet lunch at Sabang, after the UG exploration.

Honda Bay

Palawan is blessed with gorgeous beaches. When visiting PPC, plunge into the invitation of clear blue waters of Honday Bay. HB is a series of islands – Pandan, Snake, Starfish, Luli and Cowrie. Each island offers a different experiences; Pandan prides a fine white sand , with tall coconut trees that serve as a shade. Among the islands, Pandan is best for swimming, snorkeling, and frolicking with the colorful fishes. Luli boasts a golden yellow sand, no tropical trees, but a vast expanse of mangroves. Interestingly, “Luli” is a short term of Lulubog Lilitaw; it’s actually a small island, where a quaint chalet stands charmingly decorated using native Filipino materials. Here is a perfect place to slack-off and wait for sunset, as one savors the picturesque view of mountains and seas under the brimming sun.

One should never miss the magnificence of Pambato Reef, it is truly an oasis of enormous corals of green, red, blue, and yellow packed together. PR is abundant with live corals and sea creatures. It is such a delightful experience to swim and to see the hidden highlights of the sea.

Tip: Rent a mini-cab/ van/tricycle to reach Sta. Lourdes Wharf, register with HOBAI and pay to them the boat rental. Rates are standard that is 1,500 pesos. Buy provisions from the market before going to the wharf as there are no restaurants in any of the islands.

Sampling the local cuisine has always been part of my journey  These are the various restaurants and cafes that are must try in the city:

Badjao Seafront Restaurant is my number one on the list. Tucked away from the city proper, offering a sweeping romantic view of sunset by the bay. Their seafood platter is value for money, large servings and real fresh seafoods. I particularly liked their tuna rolls, very savory. Their service will not disappoint a diner.

Kalui Restaurant gained its popularity because of its charmingly native Filipino themed interiors and exteriors. One must removed their sandal or shoes before entering the restaurant. Folk songs are played inside, to have a feel of the place. Each day they come up with a “days catch”, a well planned menu consisting of main course, soup, grilled seafood, and a complimentary dessert.  Foreign and local tourist fills the place.

While there is no Starbucks in the area, they have their very own Itoy’s coffee. This coffee shop promotes locally produced beans. Their cafe is very cozy,  wifi connection is free for the first hour used of internet.  I tried their cappuccino, great taste! rich and bold.

Palawan is really amazing, I had learned a lot from this trip! Beautiful, beautiful place!