After our early morning sun rise tour, we returned to our jeepney and made our way back to our inn where our breakfast awaited us. Thus filled, we made preparations for our scheduled hike to the huge, picturesque and impressive 40-m. high Bomod’ok Waterfall (a.k.a. Big Falls), one of Sagada’s most visited tourist attractions. This waterfall flows down to Amlusong Creek to join the Chico River. Despite 2 past visits to Sagada, this would be a first for Jandy and me.
|Assembled and ready to go|
Joining the hike were Ms. Jocie Dimaculangan (our tour coordinator), Ms. Diosa Diaz, Ms. Eureka Joy Bueno, Ms. Joy Tenejero, sisters Jessica and Jasmin Bez, Ms. Long Garcia, Ms. Desiree Benitez, Mr. Donald Danao and couple Lilia and Aldrin Tejada. We left our jackets and bonnets and, instead, donned hats; light, quick-drying sport shirts and jogging pants; slippers and rubber sandals. I also wore my belt bag while Jandy toted a small backpack with our water and provisions. We, however, forgot to put on some suncreen lotion.
|The trek begins …..|
We again boarded our hired jeepney and proceeded on a 20-min. drive to the Tourist Information Center in Brgy. Bangaan where we met our two Kankanai lady guides: Ms. Joanna Tumag and Ms Norma D. Padawil. There were already lots of tourists gathered at the basketball court, the jump-off point for the trek. As we were early, there were still a lot of walking sticks available for us to choose from for use during our hike, free of charge. This supply would be exhausted by noontime.
|Bangaan Rice Terraces|
After a quick briefing by our guide Joanna, we began our trek by descending down a series of concrete steps carved along the mountainside. During the initial part of the hike, everyone was in the upbeat and jocular mood, especially our friends Jess, Joy and Desiree. Halfway through the hike, the heat, thirst, exhaustion and aching muscles would change all that. From afar, we could espy verdant Aguid and Fidelisan Rice Terraces, both chiseled out from an entire huge, rounded spur of a mountain, giving it the appearance of one single work.
|Traditional house in Fidelisan|
|The dap-ay of Fidelisan|
After about 45 mins., we entered the village of Fidelisan, the oldest in town and the heart of Northern Sagada’s villages. Visitors here have to register and pay an environmental fee of PhP10. Here, we passed by a traditional house and, beside a sari-sari store, a dap–ay (or a–to), an all-important open communal meeting place for male elders made with stone slabs (tourists are not allowed to enter here). Further out, we noticed a cable line system, powered by a car motor, used to transport gold and copper mine tailings. Ingenious at best but, sadly, I’m no fan of the destruction that mining, whether small or large-scale, causes to the environment.
|The ingenious cable transport system for mine tailings|
From hereon, the rest of the hike would be via cross-terrace walking wherein we had to maintain our balance as we traversed a maze of rice terraces via the narrow, meandering paddy walls (locally called pilapil). This afforded us the opportunity of observing the ingenuity of the terraces up close, including how the rocks were piled one on top of the other (those in Banaue use compacted earth); the efficient irrigation system; and the muyongs, the hydrological system that irrigates these terraces. The paddy walls are not always open to tourists (especially during obaya or sacred holidays) as it is taboo to disturb the paddies during the weeks when the rice panicles are ripening.
|Jandy traversing a pilapil|
After a 1.5-hr. hike, we soon espied the top off the towering waterfalls which had a wide and deep pool. As it was the Holy Week break, the area was packed with local and foreign tourists. Enough light for sunbathing was still available, it still being morning, but taking a dip had to be done in stages as the water was icy cold. Some intrepid daredevils made high dives, legs first, from a promontory just below the falls.
We left the falls by 11 AM and retraced our steps back to Fidelisan. By now, there were lots of tourists making there way to the falls and we had to wait many a long time for them to pass through as the paddy walls were just wide enough for one person. It was now noontime and uphill to Fidelisan and we were gasping for breath and taking a few minutes of rest every few steps. I was dripping buckets of sweat and ready to collapse when we reached the village.
|The halo–halo stand|
Upon arrival, we were saved by the sight of enterprising villagers selling cool and refreshing, one-of-a-kind halo–halo (PhP20/glass). Aside from the usual sago and gulaman, they also added the unusual mango and melon bits and macaroni with the shaved ice and evaporated milk. From Fidelisan, we took the right trail to get to Aguid. There, our hired jeepney awaited us to take us back to town.