TEXT AND PHOTOS BY EUDEN VALDEZ
RECENTLY, Traveling Journo Ph has shared about the first leg of RAK Ph Mountaineers’ first-ever, much-anticipated “The Great Cordillera Cross Country.”
It was a six-day adventure that saw our team of six trek three provinces of Cordillera by foot, face tough weather conditions, carry full packs heavier than ourselves, and test our limitations. But more than the challenges, it also showered us with random acts of kindness from the locals we met along the way.
On this second and last part, the journey continues with more challenges, and even more random acts of kindness from the locals we met along the way.
We take off from our descent at the municipality of Barlig, Mountain Province.
Our unexpected host at Besao
Refreshed and energized from our rest, we were up early to catch trips to Bontoc, a town west of Barlig. There, we were to take another trip to Besao, also a western municipality, where we will cross borders to Tubo, Abra.
It took us over five hours to reach the Brgy. Poblacion in Besao via the terrain-fitted jeepneys, passing by scenic yet nerve-wracking roads that snaked the elevated and forested Cordillera. I didn’t get any peace of mind thanks to my anxiety to heights.
Due to lack of network coverage for most of our climb, we got late information that Besao Mayor Johnson Bantog II was not at the town for our courtesy call. He nevertheless took care of us by arranging with Tamboan’s barangay captain our place for the night.
This gave us certainty of where to rest after the tiring trip. We needed this before starting our long, road to Tubo the next day.
With a strike of luck, the barangay captain was also on his way home. We sat together inside the same jeepney to his barangay with a population of 800. And although bumpy and scary as hell (the last and perhaps only jeep traveling to Brgy. Tambaon was overloaded and the rough road was seriously dangerous), we all arrived whole.
Thinking we would set up camp for the night, we were proven wrong as the generous barangay captain brought us to the Brgy. Hall itself! It was a charming and cozy wooden house with a kitchen and a function hall. And it was much more than what we asked for. We only had gratitude for the people of Tamboan for entrusting us their home.
And there’s more! They even brought us food in the evening: tapuy, the fermented rice in wine, and local pancit!
We left very early without goodbyes but we will definitely return the kindness.
The kindness of Tubo people
Starting our trek at 5 a.m., we hoped to reach Tubo sometime in the afternoon without knowing what lies ahead. We were all first timers, even our team leader Frederick Laping who dreamed of this Cordillera Cross Country a decade ago.
It didn’t help that there was no network coverage and we still hadn’t gotten touch of our host. Our last communication with him was before climbing Mt. Amuyao.
Our “trail” was an actual road, a P53 million project “completed” in 2016, that connected the bordering towns of Besao (via Brgy. Tambaon) and Tubo (via Brgy. Tubtuba). Yes it was completed but it was far from passable. Officially 16-km long on paper, about half is not yet widened and flattened making it impassable by cars.
Lunch like locals at Sitio Pananuman
In the first half of the traverse, we hiked up and down a winding road, meeting few construction workers every now and then. During the other half, we trekked in still forested parts without human encounters. We could’ve vanished on the face of the earth and no one would know.
Still, we pursued our destination. Around 1pm, despite dragging our tired bodies, we finally reached the remotest Sitio Pananuman of Brgy. Tubtuba, the last in the southwest tip of Abra province. That’s roughly eight hours of walking.
But from here on, random acts of kindness and divine interventions came our way.
First, at Sitio Pananuman where we had our lunch. Kindly asking one of the households if we could eat at their front lawn, the mother wouldn’t let us be! She insisted we eat inside their house telling us only chickens eat on the ground. Obliging, we settled ourselves in their dining table and within minutes, we were served with native chicken tinola! What a good lunch indeed!
We rested at their front lawn as the whole family listen to stories of our journey. As we were still unaware of the still long road ahead of us, the same, kind nanang (mother in Ilocano dialect) decided to point our way.
And we definitely did not expect rows upon rows of mountains, similar to what we just went through. It was another seven to eight hours of trek, probably longer from our current state.
Thankfully, nanang gave us a sound advice: Go to Brgy. Tubtuba proper and ask to rent a ride to Tubo. Surely, there will be vehicles like jeepneys available there.
There is hope for us.