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May 07, 2005

The Temperate Zone Spreads Her Chilly Tentacles... far away as the Philippines. Well, this place is certainly proving itself to be the "Land of Surprises," surprising to me anyway. I thought the climate here would be all tropical or sub-tropical and was shocked upon entering an environment not unlike the Northwestern U.S., where I have lived most of my life. I will touch on this subject some more later in this entry. Let's begin with my arrival to the lovely capital of the Philippines, Manila.

I. Have I Been Here Before?

Yeah, but it was called Los Angeles last time. I fucking hate Los Angeles and Manila reminded me exactly of that place. I stayed at a nice inn called the Malate Pensionne on Adriatico St. and recommend it if you must stay overnight. Other than that, visiting Manila again isn't worth a squirt of piss to me. Sorry for the hate, but that's just the way I feel. Wanna see a picture of Manila? Google it.

II. Baguio, Baguio...My, How You've Grown.

As you know from my previous entry, I have been in Baguio since my second day here. When my mother described the "City of Pines" to me, I had the impression that it was just a quiet mountain town with a few pines here and there amongst the tropical flora. Well, the town has grown into a fair-sized city (pop. 250,000) and the foliage is most definitely dominated by pine trees. It's an okay place to hang out-- nice parks, good nightlife (although sometimes too loud too late)...all the convneniences of the big city. Unfortunately, the city has gone the way of Manila and become much too Americanized for my taste. The young peoples' idea of a good time here in Baguio is hanging out at the Super Mall. God, I hate shopping malls.

My typical meal: pork adobo, rice, and coffee. Filipinos seem to have something against vegetables.

My first night here, I met a nursing student named Kristian who invited me to stay at his place. Very hospitable guy! He cooks very well and can give one helluva full-body massage. Kristian acted (and continues to act ) as my guide here. He even brought me to the Lamtang Boulders, which I read about at, but would have had a very difficult time finding without some local help. After a couple days in the city, I was craving some exploaration of the more remote areas of Northern Luzon (the island I am on now; there are over 7,000 islands making up the Philippines!) and on Thursday, caught the 6AM bus to Sagada.

III. Wriggling My Way Through the Caves of Sagada

Covered in pine forests and situated way up in the mountians, you'd think you were walking around Central Oregon and not the small mountain town of Sagada in Philippines. The main attractions here are the numerous large caves, some of which contain stacks of coffins which have been placed there for several generations. The town is beautiful, even more "piney" than Baguio, and c-c-c-cold at night. Really, I was kicking myself for not bringing another layer of clothing for chilly evenings. The town requires that you hire a guide for the caves (and for good reason, a person could easily get lost!), so I wasted no time.

Church in Sagada.

I visited two caves, the first being the largest in the vicinity (I don't recall the name). It was freakin' huge! Inside, there were some very interesting rock formations and lots of water. For most of the tour, we were wading through waste-deep water until we reached a nice big pool. It wasn't exactly warm in the cave, but I figured What the hell? and jumped in.

Wading through the water.

An impressive toothy rock formation.

This is called the "King's Curtain."

At one time, this area was under the ocean, as evidenced by these marine seashell fossils.

The cave swim.

The next morning, I caught another bus to the town of Banue, where I witnessed one of the most remarkable sights since Angkor Wat: the rice terraces at Batad.

IV. Batad

The majestic rice terraces of Batad.

Some 2,000 years ago, the Ifugao people (the local ethnicity of this region) carved, by hand, magnificient rice terraces into the mountainside, supporting them with stone retaining walls. The terraces thrive to this day, providing food for the locals and serving as one of the major tourist attractions in the Philippines. Luckily, I encountered maybe five tourists on my hike through the "Eighth Wonder of the World" yesterday. My guide, Reynaldo Agas, was awesome! Definitely the man to see for any of you planning to make a trip out here. I picked up a few souvenirs, including a walking stick with the Rice God carved into its head that I hope to take around the world. Before returning to our starting point (the day's hike took about 6 hours), we visited the Tippia Falls for a little rest and swim-time. We reached the trail-head well past dark, heading back to town in Reynaldo's headlightless tricycle (it's what they call a motorcycle with attached car). The twinkiling lights from the numerous glowing insects only added to the charm of this magical place.

Standing above the rice terraces.

Yet another view.

Hopefully, the Rice God does his job.

Walk quickly and carry a big stick.

The locals of Batad were very funny when it came to my appearance. Just about every person we encountered had to comment on my build or my tattoos or both. Some thought that maybe I had been in prison. Reynaldo told some of them that I was a great boxing champion from Manila and that I could kill them with one punch. Funny guy.

Ifugao girls.

Your man in Banue/Batad...Mr. Reynaldo Agas and don't forget to to let him know who sent ya!

For anybody interested in trekkig through Batad for one or more days, please contact Reynaldo Agas at 0910-272-3855. He is definitely top-notch and can arrange multi-day treks through the mountains with his porters, who will cook all of your meals and even serenade you with song and guitar. Mom, we're going to do this when you and I (and maybe the rest of you--Dad, Crystal, and Brian!) visit.

Read and Heed.

Posted by Gary on May 7, 2005 03:34 AM
Category: Philippine Islands

ok, now i know where you are...
i am envious of your position on the planet! i may have to include the phillipines on next year's travel itinerary...


Posted by: erin on May 7, 2005 12:28 PM

glad to hear your having fun. thought that was pretty funny about googleing the pic of manila.


Posted by: curtis on May 9, 2005 12:30 PM
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