Barlig-Batad Traverse

From the bustling City of Pines to the small town of Bontoc, we took the first trip of jeepney to Barlig, passing through the rugged roads connecting these two municipalities. It was a busy day as the transpo we’re in was full. Bags, sacks, and cartoons of grocery supplies and of live chickens were stacked up on top. Then one by one, we climbed and found our own space.
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Beating the temp wth this melon flavoured ice candy!I haven’t had one for a loooong time so it was enough to quench my craving.

Top loading never fails! From the scorching heat in Bontoc, minutes later, the cool breeze of Barlig changed the mood and it made me more excited than I already was. I was so fixated with my sky gazing and so delighted with the cool temperature that when the jeep stopped, I didn’t notice that it was my friend who signaled the driver to stop for a while.

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It’s not very visible when you are on the vehicle. So you would have to be mindful of when you will stop. Otherwise,j ust let the driver know where they should drop you off.

Around 15:00 of May 5, we stopped along the highway and trusted our bags, all our stuff were in there, with our co-commuters, locals of the town, that they will leave it somewhere and we’ll just pick it up somewhere after our first stop in Lake Tufob. 15 minutes later, I found myself in awe of the environment. It was like walking in a deep green carpet. It was magical and mystical at the same time.

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Lake Tufob. It wasn’t what I expected as it was almost dry. This was taken in May, summer time, and the community needed water so they siphoned it somewhere down for community use.
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Lake Tufob in February. Timing matters.
 We enjoyed the cool temperature for a good thirty minutes just lying down, watching the clouds above and listening to the sound of nature. We could’ve stayed longer but we had a schedule to follow and time was not abundant then. We then hitched to the town center and we’re glad to have our stuff back. People are very hospitable and in this humble town, once again, I was reminded of the essence of living in simplicity.
We did what we had to do, heavy meal, registration, and prepared ourselves for our ascent. It was almost 18:00 and it was getting a little darker. We fueled ourselves with a heavy dinner as we knew the next hours will be tough. We met our very accommodating and ‘taraki’ guide. A few minutes later, we started walking…
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Time on the photo is an hour behind Ph time. I was not able to adjust the time setting of my cam.
…An hour later, everything was black. Only our headlights were helping us get through the trails. They were walking so fast that I was feeling so weak. I couldn’t keep up with them. I hated that I had to ask them to stop and wait for me. I couldn’t accept the fact that I am being challenged as early. They decided to make me lead so that they’ll just go along my pace. Later, I began feeling uncomfortable with my bag. It’s draining all my energy. The weight of my bag was fine but it was the bag that’s making it hard for me to carry on. A couple of hours later, I would stop for every 15 steps or so to catch my breath and rest. Man, it was very steep! Thankfully, in every stop I do, I look up and revel in the twinkling stars. If only I could just stop there and wait ’till the next sunrise, I would but time is running. Mng Ralph, our guide, saw me really struggling and offered his help in carrying my bag. It was a shame on my part that I had to give it to him but I had no choice. It’s the most sensible thing to do then. So when I was carrying a lighter weight than I initially had, I made it a point to just keep going and do better. In every descend, I get a little wearier because a descent means another steep ascend after. We were not on the summit yet. I really just wanted to go back but thanks to the friend who kept pushing me. Then after a lot of ‘ayyuuuh’ ‘madikun’ ‘adayu pay’ ‘agtulid ak san’ …
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At 22:20, we were at 2,270+ MASL! It’s as if I could reach the stars! It was surreal! Exhausted, cold and wet from sweat and mist, we found comfort in the old-yet-still-functional bunker. I was just too tired and it was too cold I didn’t have any energy to clean up. I just changed my clothes in the dark room, took out my sleeping bag and found a place where I could just lie down and drift to sleep.
 I woke up to the friend’s call for me to step out of the sleeping bag. He was already enjoying the sea of clouds and the magnificent sunrise. Despite feeling cold, I went out and was mesmerized of the most breathtaking sunrise I’ve ever seen. We actually woke up later than expected but the view was still jaw-dropping. I was truly in awe of the vast forest laid in front of me. I was higher than any of those tall trees!
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Finally, a sea of clouds!!! I didn’t have any of these when I went to Mt. Pulag as it was raining on the summit then.
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The friend prepared our breakfast and cooked more rice for lunch as well.
While he did, I was out feeling the crisp thin air as Christ Tomlin’s Indescribable played in my ears.
We had coffee, noodles, and rice, then we started going down at half past seven.This time, it was easier for me to walk down the steepest trail I’ve stepped on. I carried my bag until the last leg of the journey.
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I Still can’t believe I was there.
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We went throughout those mountains.
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Walked past so many greens.
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Occasionally stopping to take a photo.

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After more than 3 hours, we came across a small river where we refilled our bottles with fresh water.

An hour later, we found ourselves enjoying in this mini natural pool. It was hot and we were both getting exhausted from the heat. Without second thoughts, we put our bags down and dipped into the water. There were two locals who passed by and we didn’t mind. Pat-yay village is already visible and we thought, lunch could wait. We spent more time here …

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It doesn’t look like a place where you would swim so imagine the faces of the locals seeing us there. But the call of the water was too strong we didn’t care.

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My mermaid friend. 😀

Then after feeling refreshed, our hunger starts to bug us and we got back to ur senses that we still have a long way to go before we end our hike for the day. So we geared up again and continued our trek to Pat-yay through the rice terraces.

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See that! We’re almost there ..
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And we’re getting ready for lunch.
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View while having lunch.

The family we came upon were generous enough to give us some cabbage. I swear it was the best I’ve tasted so far and I’m not a fan of cabbage. We finished our lunch and we thought we could start immediately but procrastination kicked in and we agreed to sleep for just 30 minutes, power nap! It felt like we just blinked, though! That was the shortest 30 minutes of my life!

The next half an hour was another struggle. It was an arduous path we managed to get through. Along the way, we met another climber doing the opposite of what we’re doing. She was alone and we heard her companions were either left somewhere along the way or they went back. We were doing Barlig-Batad and they were doing Batad-Barlig. We have already crossed what she is about to cross and I was glad we were doing Barlig-Batad. The paths we covered earlier that day were so steep that I can’t imagine myself getting through them the other way. Man, it was almost vertical! I imagined myself crawling if I was her. I didn’t know if she was able to make it to the summit, if she did, she must be very proud of herself!

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Resting after getting through the almost vertical trail yet again.

We hurriedly walk and walk and walk as we were trying to get to the next stop before darkness enveloped the village. No more mossy forests but there were rice fields, and more rice fields.

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We just kept moving until we saw roofs in between mountains.

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At 17:37, we reached Cambulo, often the place where most trekkers/climbers/mountaineers stop by for the night before getting to wherever they’re heading the next day. Apart from the guides, we were the only Filipinos doing the traverse in the village. Some groups came from Pula and they’re heading to Batad. Some came from Batad and were heading to Pula. We are sociable people but for some reasons, we didn’t get to actually meet anybody while in the guest house.We had our first decent shower and finally, we slept on a decent bed. At night, we heard the beat of the gongs and were curious so we went out and see what was happening. In the guest house next to ours, there was quite a number of foreigners gathered while the local kids danced to the beat of the gong. Their performance was great and we were quite envious of the performers because as young they are, they already know how to beat the gong and dance with it. Yet another proud moment for us to be one with these  Cordilleran people who grew up around majestic mountains some people could only dream of seeing and who have a rich and unique culture of performing arts. Like them foreigners, we were entertained and were honored to watch such performance from the locals.

It was a restful night and the next day is becoming closer to the end of our traverse. We left the guesthouse after breakfast. Energized, we didn’t realize we were already in Batad.

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Earlier than expected, we reached Batad at 08:37.

We spent some minutes enjoying the view that’s laid upon us. We could only imagine how hard it was for the old folks to create such an amazing site. They never could have imagined that the place they built to sustain their basic needs would be a world heritage site years later.

And because my mermaid friend needs to dive, we hurriedly went to Tappiya falls overtaking groups and groups of tourists along the way. It was his first time and my second time in Tappiya falls. The first time I went there, I told myself I would never go back because the trail to and from the falls was really draining. But for some reasons, I was back and I was still amazed.

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I’m no swimmer but because I’m with the mermaid friend and Mng Ralph, our guide, is another swimmer, I felt safe and so I tried to brave the strong current. I thought I would drown because it was cold, I was still scared, and the current’s really strong, but I didn’t dub the mermaid friend ‘mermaid’ for nothing. He came to get me as I was struggling to catch my breath.

We spent most of our morning time in the falls. We watched as more and more tourists come and see the cascades only to realize they couldn’t swim in it after the arduous trail they’ve gone through. We recognized some faces from the guest house in Cambulo. We came earlier and they left earlier too. We saw young and old people from different walks of life arriving for a reason and leaving with their own stories, but first, they would have to walk back the same trail they took before they could finally tell their stories. It was quite a scene to watch.

It was almost lunch time and we have a ride to catch so we prepared to head back. We took the same trail and took our bags back from the store where we left before we went all the way to the falls. So we went to the other side of Batad terraces, opposite of the place where we took the photo of the terraces above.

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That’s what we had for breakfast!

Lunch was served right where this photo was taken.

After lunch, we continued our walk to the jump-off point. Just the thought of walking another steep trail makes me weak already. It’s like a never-ending up and down walk. But I was so happy when I learned that we no longer have to climb up the steepest stairs I’ve walked on in 2014. The road they were working on in 2014 was almost complete and so we just had to wait somewhere before the steepest stairs. Because I was sure I’ll be missing feels of the Cordilleran mountains soon, I talked the mermaid friend into toploading from Batad-Banaue. He was tired but he agreed, and I’m happy. haha!

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But actually, there’s a Japanese lady behind me whom he wanted to take a photo with but didn’t have the guts to do so. Hahaha. Peace friend!
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30 minutes later, we were in Banaue.

We then went to have some snack. I was thinking of brewed coffee but we had beer. I felt like I deserved one after 2days of extreme activities. We chatted a little more with Mng Ralph and he was quite surprised when I told him my mermaid friend and I are not a couple. I don’t know if he really believed but at least he tried to show that he did.

We went to see the van schedule bound for Baguio. When there was enough time for us to spend, we decided to visit the museum after we bid farewell to Mng Ralph. We couldn’t take photos inside the museum but outside, it’s a great spot where you can take a shot of the town proper and some parts of the Banaue Rice Terraces. Note that whatever photos you saw in your elementary books that says Banaue Rice Terraces, it’s not a hundred percent sure you will see it in Banaue. In my case, it was the Batad Rice Terraces labeled as Banaue Rice Terraces I saw in our Araling Panlipunan books. *sigh* This I realized when I got to the place.

So that’s about our Barlig-Batad Traverse which I hope I still can do again in the coming years. Mind you, the difficulty level 8/9 given by Pinoy Mountaineer should be taken seriously. Let me end this entry with what my mermaid friend said:

“It was quite a bit of a challenge but we were constantly reminded by the enchanting trails, the breath-taking summit and invigorating waterfalls of why we keep exploring the outdoors.’If it’s easy, it’s not worth it’ could not be more true in these adventures. We appreciate better the things that we would normally consider mundane: walking, eating, witnessing the sunrise all become a hot cup of coffee on a rainy day.”

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