TEXT AND PHOTOS BY EUDEN VALDEZ
IN November, this author’s outdoor and volunteer movement RAK Ph Mountaineers embarked on its 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.
On the first part of this series, the Cordi cross country took us to reverse traverse of Mt. Amuyao from Batad, Ifugao to Barlig, Mt. Province. Then on the second part, we travel from Barlig to Besao. On this third and last part, we conclude our expedition by finally crossing over to Tubo, Abra.
More than the challenges we met along the way were the random acts of kindness we were unconditionally given. Here the best of them.
Finding a ride at Brgy. Tubtuba
From Sitio Pananuman, we descended for a good 30 minutes before arriving at Brgy. Tubtuba proper. The barangay hall confirmed our arrival but it was closed and empty. In front of it was a basketball—the usual set-up in a provincial barangay—where jeepneys were parked! We really wanted to ride one of those.
We inquired from the first locals we saw: just boys playing basketball. To our dismay, they told us that most of the community men went to the river, a far river!
Unsure on what to do next, we walked towards some households. This time, we were greeted by a group of seniors (in their 60s and who knows, 90s?) in another hall. As Ilocana, I served as translator and explained our current situation.
They endorsed us to a housewife, who to our second dismay, refused to have their vehicles rented. She explained that Tubo was too far and the jeepney would be used the next day.
At this point, we were desperate. Our TL, Sir Rick, suggested that the team’s two women ridehabal-habal (bicycle) to Tubo and look for our host there. The four men would continue the traverse.
I was doubtful of this plan because I didn’t want the group to divide, and second, I couldn’t bear the thought of them finishing the trip on foot. They could, I know, but it would be too much.
Plan B was for TL to ride the habal-habal alone instead and meet with the host, who was his good friend. Then, he would send sundo for us. Sounded about right when suddenly, the barangay captain arrived!
Again, we told him our state and to our surprise, he informed us that our host at home, in the next Barangay Dilong. This, however, confused us for Sir Rick was certain our host was waiting for us at Tubo town proper, although he really lived in Dilong.
To verify this information, we decided that TL would ride the habal-habal only until Dilong. But when he was about to go, the barangay captain told, “Why don’t you just all go to Dilong together?”
He then instructed the housewife to have one jeepney rented for us. Problem, semi-solved!
Spending time with Dilong locals
It was an hour of bumpy ride to Brgy. Dilong but we were rewarded with golden rice fields and churning rivers cast yellow by the nearing sunset. The scenery was a needed respite from our trek. It made us hope that our host was truly was in Dilong.
But he was not. We absorbed the bad news as we watched locals practice volleyball at the barangay hall’s court. TL again tried contact him but there was no network coverage! Probinsiya hits.
A lady barangay councilor saw us waiting with blank stares. So she kindly insisted we stay at the barangay office and have coffee and merienda—just like the mother at Sitio Pananuman. Regrouping there, we again assessed our situation.
We still couldn’t contact our host despite the use of radio communication devices care of barangay officials, who by then gave us the option to stay for the night. They already prepared the guest room for us. We, however, bid our regrets because we had to stick to our itinerary.
Next option was to rent a ride to Tubo, again! Prices were higher, indicating that the destination was farther. And we were running out of funds! We harnessed the courage to humbly ask if we could rent the barangay service.
They did not turn this request down but they had to check the driver’s availability. We waited giddily as the day started turning into night. When the male barangay officer arrived with the news, I swear my heart skipped a beat. He looked downcast!
Thankfully, the service just needed some fixing for an hour. He asked if we could wait. More than okay, really, it was a lifesaver.
With our spirits lifted, the group started talking lively again over merienda. After a while, the lady officer returned inviting us for dinner. But then the service finally arrived!
Although we had to pass for dinner, we made sure to give our sincerest gratitude. Off we went!
The much-awaited reunion at Tubo
We left Brgy. Dilong a little before 6pm. Because our driver wanted to return early, he was able to cut our travel time by half in the most unlikely road conditions! There were no lights, the road was rough and unpaved, and the van was all rusty and shaky.
Nevertheless, we arrived whole at Tubo town proper by 7pm. Again, we were dropped off in a court in front of a government office—only it was dark. There was no electricity!
But as if serendipity, the court lit up as our host Den Den Victor arrived to welcome us!
Finally, the much-awaited reunion took place and our Cordillera cross country was coming to a close.
Den Den, who was a former councilor, made us settle at the barangay hall, which made us realize that in our five nights in Cordillera, we always had a place to call home. Not once did we set up camp, our tents remaining unused.
Socials ensued after we washed ourselves up. We also celebrated the birthday of Alex, our senior member. We also listened to the stories of Den Den and Sir Rick, the long lost friends! Until finally, it was time to close one of the longest day of my life.
The next morning, our breakfast was taken care of Ella Saguiyo Bragado, another of Sir Rick’s longtime friend. We were served wild pig stewed in a savory broth with beans, as well as boiledkamote tops with bagoong dip. Such good food and good company during the final day of our expedition.
It was time to leave for Bangued, Abra when we experienced one last bonus: to witness the inter-municipal sports tournament even just for a few minutes. We cheered on Brgy. Dilong’s women’s volleyball team who we were watching practice the day before.
How life surprises! The Great Cordillera Cross Country, you are one for the books indeed.