Our Escape to the Mountains

Trip Start Feb 01, 2008
Trip End Apr 07, 2008

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

After weeks of Eileen vigorously studying her Planet Medicine course and chilling with Ryan as often as we could, we decided it was time to finally escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Not to mention the lack of exercise we've been experiencing... we both felt our minds and body screaming for a release. Ryan was leaving on the 15th of March for his big journey back home, and likewise we felt the need to find a place that felt more like home. We had one last meal together exchange hugs and we were all off on our adventures!

Alas, our home is in the mountains! They were calling our spirits to frolic in the vast Northern Cordillera, where trails and tribal villages still thrive. We took an all night bus to Banaue, known for its 2000 year old rice terraces, making it the 8th wonder of the world!! I unfortunately was unable to sleep, I was far too excited that we were finally traveling again. I spent the night reconnecting with old joyous memories of the years that have recently passed. As I listened to the sweet music of our dear friends and local bands of the west, memories flooded my mind from Salt Spring Island to Kelowna, and to Nelson. (I felt great warmth and comfort visiting you all in your element and remembering all of your beautiful smiles..much love to you all!)

When we arrived in Banue, it was 6:30 am and the tricycle drivers were already their waiting for their prey to exit the bus. The moment I stepped foot off the bus I was swarmed and bombarded, Dan came to my rescue and we found our driver to take us to the trails. (We base our choice of driver on the feeling we get from the many drivers.)

First we spent some time admiring all of the hand made, wooden, carved crafts and woven garments. The people that live in this part of the Philippines are the Ifugao, they have their own language, but can speak perfect English! (There are over 140 different dialects here!) The town itself was breathtaking! The air was fresh and pure - we felt our energy soar to a state of utopia! Our minds and hearts felt such a release, we were in our element! The village itself is built on the side of the mountains, with ancient rice terraces all around and lush green foliage and flowers entending as far as the eye could see! Although we were tired, our journey was to begin right away. We met a local, picked his brain, and refused his persistence in telling us that we needed a guide. He finally realized that we weren't ordinary tourists with heaps of money, afraid to go for a walk - Where many people fear the unknown, we thrive in it! So we planned out a three day trek, and decided to take a 5 hour hike through the mountains to a tiny village named Cambulo. Even though this village was totally out of the way from what we had originally planned, Dan felt it necessary to get there for some reason... Not many tourists make this long trek, which intrigued us even more to check it out. It was a rigorous trail with our heavy pack and lack of exercise (in recent weeks). We put our minds and bodies to the tests. Along the mountain trail we experienced beautiful children ages ranging from 7 to 12 walking into Banue they were our guides and told the estimated time to Cambualo. At every kilometer their were huge waterfalls refreshing our over heated bodies, and revitalizing our energy with its cool essence. The views were spectacular with no sight of man to be seen for miles! It truly felt as though we left this world behind and entered Giai's secret paradise!

    Near the end of the hike we met some locals that directed us the rest of the way. As we were just about to continue from our short break, a young man passed us, carrying 2 by 6's of hard wood over his shoulders to the village!!! They have to other choice but to carry raw material's and food for hours into the village, All By Foot! "We have it soo easy back Home, talk about perspective"!! This includes, fruits they cannot make themselves, construction materials, and any other exports needed.

Entering the village was like stepping back in time! The cobbled rice terraces were enchanting, along side with the traditional homes and cobble paths between the houses which were an art in themselves! The Elder's of the village were charming and gentle, they appeared Timeless with their weather worn faces and bright eyes. Surrounding the village is a huge river that runs through the village and far terraces. Somehow they built an amazing suspension bridge to get to these terraces (talk about technology). On our arrival, we happened to meet a Nurse volunteer Edward ,who owned an Inn with a rustic fire place - We were sold - As it is much cooler in the mountains. His lodge just so happened to hasve the best view in town of the terraces and the rushing river! Edward showed us the rest of the village as children were crawling all over him, it was great. They later swarmed the lodge laughing and running away when we gave them a smile. It was soo fun! Edward is teaching the children and adults about basic hygiene, as well he has his clinic in the lodge. We spent the night chatting with Edward about Canada and Natural living and the importance of maintaining culture and tradition... especially farming! He happened to have grown up in Baguio, a city we were trying to get to by the end of the trip. He informed us of an organic restaraunt there in the city, worth checking out... We though nothing of it, noted it and went on....

We were shocked to learn that many of the youth are abandoning their culture. As the western world seduces the youth into believing that making money and having possessions is what matters in life. They are sadly being influenced by the western culture even in this isolated village, and its ideals in material affluence. The young people are leaving the village exponentially, because of this fallacy!  Leaving behind the natural, fertile world of community and tradition.  The west has given them a taste from the "fictitious bottle," just as it has been done to many aboriginal cultures all over the world. Although this village was struggling, they were happy and smiling and celebrating life. The real reason why they are suffering in the first place is due to the serious loss in manpower to grow the rice and vegetables. Additionally, it has also been raining a great deal in this area, which is very unusual. They are a month behind in planting their rice, which is serious if they don't produce a certain percentage of the required yield. However, in this paradise these beautiful people still have a sense of humor and warmth and Love. They are survivors that have thrived in these mountains for thousands of years - and we can all only send love and strength for these amazing individuals, that they will not have to conform and more importantly maintain their identity.


The following morning we continued on, and ventured to Batad, the most visited village in the area. The journey was amazing, as we balanced on terraces with 15 ft drops, looking out into the vast exotic mountain terrain with not a soul insight. We felt rejuvenated in this tranquil setting of ancient times, we experienced the euphoric feeling of utter freedom! The trek to Batad was quite steep and narrow with straight drops and muddy path ways. It was an adventure with our heavy bags and tired legs, but we did not let it slow us down! We felt as though we were on top of the world! When we reached the end of this trail, we could never have imaged the sight that was about to hit our eyes. It was beyond words. We entered this valley with hundreds of terraces scaling the mountain, little villages spread sporadically at the base and along the side of the mountain. The children were playing beside their parents as they worked the rice in ankle deep waters, planting the little bundles of premature rice. We could hear the crashing of a giant waterfall by our side. Our music became the soothing sounds of this giant natural beauty, as we made some "foods" with the gentle breeze dancing across our bodies and the sun kissing our cheeks.  We ate in silence reveling in our surroundings, and taking the time to reflect on our many beautiful experiences, it was magical! We ventured down the steep terraces following a narrow cobblestone path, which took us to the other side of the mountain. It was a steep, tiring hike back up the terraces, but once again the children came to our rescue giving us hints as to how to maneuver through the terraces...it was tricky business!...We decided when we reached to either take the shorter easier path or the longer trickier path...hmmm..and which did we choose, realizing that time was closing in on us?...of course we took the more challenging! And challenging it was! We had to juggle our way through the terraces which can become very confusing, but with the aid of the farmers we managed our way through. We were told to stay "Right"...but for some reason we came to a fork and something told us to go left! We followed our intuition, as it has always kept us on the right path! Then the rain came... We kept climbing and climbing, up, and up! Still unsure if were on the right path, and then an old women appeared with tattoos allover her arms and hands with white hair, she was our sign that we were asking for! We were on the right path, and we continued with the refreshing rain soaking us to the bone! It took two hours to reach the next signs of civilization, we began descending down the mountain assuming it was the way, when all of a sudden we ran into children coming from school. We asked them if this was the way and they kept shouting "Yes" "No"- finally After playing with us, they guided us to the hidden turn-off we missed, which happened to be very near! These children we amazing .. they were in flip flops running up the mountain side, making this trek every day for school, which is an hour and half from their village!!!  We trekked for 40 minutes running into women, farmers, and school-girls trekking back to their villages. The rain was coming down and our trusted driver Malchor was their waiting with his tricycle! It was treacherous journey home, and it took a skilled driver to pass through this mountain range road of potholes! When we arrived in Banaue, we were cold and wet and found a cozy place to sleep with a barely operational shower... with patience it pushed out some hot water- Ah it was Luxurious!


       We woke early the next morning to see the sunrise in this magical place, and hopped on a packed "Jeepney" to take us to Sagada, 4 hours north west of Banaue!..We met a friendly Spanish couple, who were interested in sustainable living, so we had a nice time chatting, making the trip pleasant. As we ventured closer to Sagada the vegetation slowly began to transform into British Columbia like terrain! It was as if we were traveling through our moutain range with giant pine trees everywhere!.., When we entered Sagada we were in Nelson all over again! We found home... We even stayed in our own cabin, fully furnished, kitchen, fire place, away from the town. Sagada was by far our favourite place, and the people were so kind and welcoming! The first day it began to rain, but we loved every minute of it! We walked in the rain to town and picked up fresh fruit and veggies, stopped by the local bakery and ventured back to make a feast, with the fire crackling, warming our wet bones, we cozied in for the evening! The next day the sun was shining, and we hiked all around, going into underground rivers and different look out points. Sagada at one time submerged by the ocean! It is evident with its numerous caves and smooth water worn mountains with shells and fossils imbedded in the rock!

The owner of our cabin, actually had a cave café under his home! It was magnificent! This area is known for its caves! We couldn't resist a cave adventure! We went with guide as the caves are dangerous on your own and one needs special equipment!...The pictures explain the trip!...

That evening their was a native ceremony for planting of the rice. We were welcomed with open arms! They even taught us their dance ritual and Dan played the instruments with the other men, as I dance with the women! It was so funny, because they kept calling us up to dance becuase we were the only forigners present... So there we were, dancing in a native style we have never practiced before, with every single eye from the village people on us!... They shared their stories and drinks with us! We felt very fortunate to be part of this magnificent event that happens only four times a year... We just happed to be there one of those nights. All the good pictures could have been taken during the day, which we missed out on. That's ok though, I didn't mind missing out on the 3 animal sacrifices anyways....

So we left the next morning, fulfilled and ready to go to Baguio, the near by city (well, about 7 hours away). I should mention that Dan had an unchallangeable call to make it to Baguio even though it was so far out of the way. So unchallengable, that we went the 7 hours out of ourr way just to spend a few hours that afternoon there!... sounds crazy huh? Well, when we got there, we went strait to that cafe that Edward had told us about.. "Cafe by the Ruins." Immidiately we realized why we were called to Cambulo to hear from Edward about this place in Baguio... we met two brothers, Israel and Marc. They were thrilled to run into us as well, as it is not common to run into "rainbow family" in the middle of the Phillipines. It turns out that Marc was on an amaing journey that had led him to Baguio to learn under the instruction of one of the greatest psychic healers ther phillipines has ever known. This mans name is Jun Labo, and he is the father of Israel. We learned all about him, his practice, and the presence of energy felt throughout this part of the Phillipines. We would have stayed to learn more, but our bus was destined to take us back to Manila to meet with Helen and Stephen, who would be there the next day. So said our farewells to the enlightning discussion and people involved within it, and went on our way. Anther overnight bus, and we arrived back in Manila the next morning. What was weird was, when we arrived, Dan's aunt and her girlfriend were just leaving to go to Baguio..?... It turns out that she had messed up the details of our potential rendevieu, and showed up a day late.... oh well.

All was good, and we took the morning to rest before meeting with Stephen and Helen.

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Louise Bartlett on

Hi there,

You're trip sounds incredible. I've really enjoyed reading your blogs. Please could you tell me the contact details of the cottage you stayed in in Sagada. It looks so lovely - or how we might find it?

Thank you,


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