Poor internet connection for now, so no photos. Which is a shame because boy, is it beautiful here.
We arrived in Manila and stayed a few days in the city at the home of friend Bill and his family, who were wonderfully hospitable. They took off for an Easter vacation to Korea and J and I played house – doing laundry, cooking our own meals, and exploring Manila!!
Which we didn’t end up liking very much. We had been warned, but we strode on – attempting to wander until we found something charming. Which we didn’t. So we settled on some cheap shopping and replenished the holes in our first aid kit and and wardrobes before we leave SE Asia for Australia (where everything is ridiculously expensive). After finishing our real business in Manila – the heinous ordeal of renewing C’s passport – off to the aptly titled Mountain Province!! First stop Sagada – a tranquil mountain town in the Cordilleras famed for caves, pine forests, and hanging coffins (a Kankanay tradition – short coffins stuck haphazardly into high crevices in the rock faces or slung from pegs like picture frames).
Easter week crowds and hiked up prices led us to inquire about camping, which we hear is possible at the parish grounds? Except we’re told at the Parish that camping would be quite impossible, because there are cows about that might disturb us. Eh? Filipinos are not real big on camping, so its possible that the woman thought she was doing us a service by giving us a ‘way out’ and an excuse to seek proper housing. Unfazed, we circumvent the issue by hiking off into the forest and finding ourselves a beautiful isolated ridge with a view and a soft bed of pine needles, which serves us quite nicely. We explore some caves, do some hiking, see some hanging coffins, find the best local swimming hole I’ve ever seen, and enjoy the forest immensely until our last night there, when there’s a forest fire. Damn.
Apparently it’s a pretty common occurrence around here, pine forest and all, aided by the fact that they burn trash without much by way of barriers and flick cigarette butts in every direction. Either way, no one seems particularly worried except for us, and we find ourselves packing all of our things and trekking through the dark (and the smoke) down to the parish grounds for a safer camp site. Adventure!! We wake up at dawn to pack up our tent and hope no one sees us, down amongst the cows.
On to Banaue! The departure point for a two day backpacking trip through the forests, villages, and rice terraces surrounding this UNESCO area, but are delayed in the morning in Bontoc, when our jeepney is held up by the civic parade. Oh boy! A parade!
What begins as a column of immaculately uniformed army regiments, police and fire units all marching in unison slowly makes its way to security officers, then meandering groups of people holding fans and umbrellas representing the “Office of family health and young mothers services” or the “regional district re-zoning commission.” Likewise, high school and regional marching bands, then middle school, then there are eight year olds marching down the street banging on handheld xylophones and snare drums. Two hours later, off to Banaue!
The backpacking trip is so awesome it deserves a separate post. It was also exhausting, and immediately followed by an overnight bus, 3am bus station bench napping, and some last-minute plan-changing, from which we are now recovering with a few awesomely relaxing beach days (and a couple of short waterfall hikes, just so it’s not too relaxing) on the island of Mindoro, just south of Luzon.
The days are just packed.
Love and beaches,
C and J