(Wow, have I kept people waiting for a long time. I hope I haven’t lost you since Day 1. Sorry about that, but anyway…)
I woke up at about 5:30 so I could get dressed and go out to grab an early breakfast before this morning’s escapade: Bomod-Ok Falls. Despite the burning I was already feeling in my muscles from yesterday’s spelunking, I went out and looked into different convenience stores to find some pandesal for breakfast, then went back to the hotel to have coffee. Finally, 7 came around and so did the empty van, into which the three amigos and I piled, all in the back (remember the girl’s request yesterday?)
So we hadn’t even moved two inches from the hotel when the Bee Gees started talking to me. Oh boy. They were’t even deterred by the fact that I had plugged my earphones into my head. Wasn’t that universal code for “don’t fucking talk to me”? Anyway, we picked up the other guests from the other hotel, and they finally ignored me, which was nice.
We drove to this place called St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, where we, or rather they, had breakfast. They wanted to load up for the tour, but that wasn’t how I work. I don’t feel comfortable doing any rigorous physical activity on a full stomach, so I was fine with the bread I bought earlier and some coffee.
Once everyone had fueled up, we went out front and were advised to grab walking sticks, then our guides Kidoma and Randy arrived and started briefing us on what to expect, how long the trip would take, etc. I wasn’t really paying much attention; I just wanted to get going, and we did just that a couple of minutes later.
The walk was pretty nice; the rains from last night was gone, and the sun was shining. A little too much, in fact; i was wearing my thick jacket because I expected it to be cold. It wasn’t. I also forgot to bring sunblock, which would have been a good idea as I had only my sunglasses to shield my eyes and nothing to protect my face. On the other hand, I was wearing comfortable rubber shoes and pants to protect my legs from getting scratched by grass, so I guess I wasn’t completely unprepared. Are you taking notes?
We left St. Matthew’s at about 8:15 and reached Fedelisan Village about half an hour later. We paused there to catch our breath, and boy, did we catch it hard. It was a long trek, which, as we soon learned, promised to be even longer. Enjoy the following photos, but know that in my effort to bring my experience to you, my readers, I had to endure incredible heat, exhaustion, and hundreds of steps (stairs and level, paved and muddy), so you better appreciate it.
We finally reached Bomod-Ok Falls a little past 9:30. I have to say, it was pretty amazing. And it was such a relief to feel the cool air blasting from the falls, I was content to just take photos, sit, and think. I wasn’t about to swim. Randy said the water would be cold, and it was; I took my shoes and socks off to cool them off in the water and had to pull them out every few seconds because I could feel them going numb.
I can’t remember how long we stayed, but once everyone had done their best not to turn into human popsicles in the water, we collected ourselves and prepared for the dreaded walk back. We had taken a lot of stairs down, so I knew the upward trek was going to be hell. I didn’t take any more photos of the trip back. Here’s what you do: go back to the photos earlier and look at them while scrolling up, because that’s really all it looked like.
Again, we reached Fedelisan Village to rest; all of us were admittedly out of shape, so we did need those stops. Because I had been walking directly behind the guide, I was urged to walk in almost the same pace as him, while everyone kind of lagged. My action was misinterpreted, though; one of the guys had noted that, while walking, he thought I just looked chill, to which a girl chimed, “I bet she goes to the gym.”
The truth was, I was just afraid to hold up the line if I walked too slowly. I was just as fucking tired as they were.
From here, we took a different path from our trek down earlier. We were told we were going to ride a jeep back to St. Matthew’s, which brought a sigh of relief across the crowd. But before that, more walking.
At 11:51 AM, we collectively collapsed at the pick-up site. After 10 minutes of waiting, we were asked to board a parked jeep. We were all supposed to take a single jeep, but everyone wanted to ride up top (one of the must-tries when you’re in Sagada), so we rented another jeep so everyone can experience it. To the locals I’m guessing we looked like idiots, sitting on the roofs when the jeeps were pretty much empty. We didn’t care; even when it rained a bit, we stayed up there. We were all soaked in sweat after the trek, so there wasn’t much of a point going in now. The ride was pretty exciting, particularly in parts where we had to drive right at the edge of the road very close to the cliffs because another vehicle was going the other way.
Back at St. Matthew’s, we returned to the breakfast site, where we were to have lunch. We learned that they offered boodle-style meals, so we agreed to do that. It was my first boodle-fight and I didn’t really enjoy it much; I felt like I didn’t eat my money’s worth. Might’ve also had to do with the fact that I didn’t really know the people I was eating with. Everyone else enjoyed it, though.
After a while, we proceeded to the site of the Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins of Sagada where, to our dismay, more trekking awaited. Muscles screaming, we trudged on down after our tour guide, Sohe. (I hope I got the spelling right. He also goes by the name Yamada, he said.)
We walked through an ordinary-looking cemetery, where one of the stars, we were told, was an American priest who wanted to be buried according to Igorot tradition, but didn’t pass the test. More on that later.
At the bottom of the valley (I accidentally deleted my photos of Echo Valley, but here’s what it looks like) were the famous Hanging Coffins. According to the assistant tour guide, there are strict rules when it comes to who gets to be buried there: you have to be a native Igorot, you have to be a believer of the locals’ traditions (particularly animism, Sohe said), you have to be a good person (there goes my chances), and you have to be a grandparent (apparently, part of being a good person means fulfilling your familial duties of procreation). Being murdered doesn’t count, said the guide, as you have to have lived a ripe old age. I was wondering if there was some sort of The Voice-style of choosing candidates, but the guide simply said the locals get to decide who gets to be buried there. I’m not well-versed on the rules, but that’s how I understood them. Whoever has a better understanding of the whole burial thing, feel free to correct me.
On our slow, muscle-burning way back up, Sohe mentioned there were some hidden coffins in small caves all over the valley, and that we could visit one. The others hung back, but a couple of the tourists and I went with the guide. Hey, we were already there, weren’t we? Might as well have a peek. We got there just in time; it started raining, so Sohe suggested we hole up with the coffins and wait for the rain to pass.
Once the rain stopped, we walked back to where the van was parked, where everyone else was already waiting. From there, we headed to Sagada Pottery, where we got a demo of how they traditionally made clay pots.
Then, we headed to Lake Danum, where we took photos of the foggy lake while everyone had some yogurt (except me, not a yogurt aficionado) at this singular food stand. The fog was so thick, I thought giant tentacles would shoot out and tear us apart, but it cleared up a bit before we left and we were able to see the lake a bit more clearly.
Finally, we were dropped off at our hotels, but not before everyone talked about meeting up later for drinks. I stayed quiet; I wasn’t going to join them anyway.
I dropped my things off at the Shamrock and went out to buy a handful of souvenirs and some snacks, then headed to Sagada Brew for an early dinner (I was there by 5:30). I had to; I overheard the other tour guests talking about having dinner there that night too, and I didn’t want them to catch up to me.
Back in my room, I took another excessively lengthy hot shower, then started packing up. At about eight, I was snuggling in between the sheets ready to zonk out, when I heard knocking on my door. Shit. It’s probably the Jonas Brothers here to invite me to the tour group’s drinking session. I held my breath and burrowed even deeper under the covers (as if they could see me) as they knocked a second time, then they drifted off a few minutes later.
Look, I had all kinds of aches and pains and I was tired of hanging out with them. As I’ve said over and over, it’s not other people who’s the problem, it’s me. I’m already uncomfortable and awkward around people; getting me blind drunk will not improve things.
And by the way, sitting at the back of the van suuuuuucks. But I had a plan for tomorrow. It will involve a bit of assholery, but I really don’t care. It has to be done, I thought as I drifted off.
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