It was 7 Celsius above freezing on a Sunday in the middle of February. The sun was supposed to showcase its magic as it rose on top of the mountain peaks 2922 meters above sea level. A sea of clouds was expected to swathe the peaks as far as the naked eye could see. Instead, a sea of mist hovered above the mountains. It was disappointing and I vowed to make another summit assault, maybe in a couple of years as the trek was excruciatingly long and tiring, to Mt. Pulag – the highest peak in all of Luzon located 216 km north of Manila.
A month later while the earth violently shook Japan triggering a deadly tsunami. I was frolicking with the huge waves on one of the beaches of this island made infamous by a group of bandits notorious for kidnappings and beheadings. This beach, almost an hour’s ride from the provincial capital, was gorgeous and secluded and with powdery white sand. It’s a pity not anyone can visit the island of Basilan, located 888 km south of Manila, and what it can offer to Philippine Tourism.
A quick stopover before flying back to Manila was the province of Zamboanga made popular by its supposedly colorful vintas – a type of bangka with its sail diagonally or vertically painted in different colors. I badly wanted to see one but the lone vinta I saw was on display on one of the seaside hotels. A friend told me there has been no vintas for years. Isn’t that false advertisement? Egging a tourist to come visit their province for their vintas and find a replica instead?
On the onslaught of summer, I hopped on an 11-hour bus ride to a province 444 km north of Manila famous for the beautiful Saud and Mairaira beaches, Bangui windmills, Kapurpurawan rock formation, and Cape Bojeador lighthouse. I had visited Mairaira a couple of years back and it’s amazing how commercialism can change a landscape. The beach, more popularly known as Blue Lagoon, now has a much longer shoreline (trees and weeds were sacrificed), more “paluto” stores, and teeming with more tourists. This is bad news for purists who want the beach untouched but good news for the residents of Pagudpud as this means additional income for them. Ano naman ang gagawin sa magandang beach kung hindi naman pagkikitaan ng mga local na residente?
After sunny Pagudpud I went all the way to the south of Luzon, to a beach popularly known as Calaguas, 256 km from Manila. It was my second time and the place was exactly the same as it was the previous year. Local tourists (when I think about it the 2x I visited the place I didn’t see any backpacking foreigner) still sleep on tents, cook their own food, and fetch their own pail of water using the water pump. Oh. And the toilet has no flush.
In the province of Ifugao, rice fields molded as terraces on the mountainside are aplenty. The most popular and the biggest are those from Batad and Banaue. We spent a night in the former overlooking the terraces made out of rocks that looked like stairways into heaven. The terraces are now color brown with patches of green as the produce has just been recently harvested. These terraces look like small steps in postcards but when you’re walking on the edge of these steps you realize these are huge, around 10-15 feet high. It’s amazing, when you think about it, how the early Filipinos molded these steps using huge rocks said to have been taken from a waterfall not far from where the terraces were shaped. What makes this feat more amazing is that these were created out of our ancestors’ ingenuity and not out of slavery. Wow Philippines indeed!
I travelled far less this year than in 2010. It was a conscious choice although I wished I had used my piso-fare tickets to General Santos City (Lake Sebu) and Mindoro (San Jose). One of the reasons of my diminished travel was because I flew home 4x this year, 640 km from Manila, which would total to 5120 km.
Adding the number of kilometers I travelled including my forays to my birthplace but excluding my daily commute, it would sum up to 10156 km. With the price of a liter of gasoline selling at 54 pesos and considering a liter is consumed every 10 km, I would have spent 54,842.00 pesos. That is a lot of money.
This is my entry to The Gasoline Dude’s Blogversary Writing Contest. Sana tama itong ginawa ko sa theme ni Gasul. Happy New Year!