Hiking Like Never Before!

Trip Start May 11, 2006
Trip End May 05, 2006

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Sunday, May 21, 2006

I don't even know where to begin! I'm so behind on both my hand-written and online journals!
After our excursion to Laguna Province, we came back to Manila to shower and get on a cramped, overnight bus for 10 hours. We drove north to Banaue where the mountains are phenomenal! We stayed for 3 days and did the most incredible/difficult hiking that I've ever done. I can't wait to come back next year! We hiked in the 4000 year old rice terraces that have been made on the sides of nearly vertical mountain slopes. The hikes lasted all day sometimes; with us only eating breakfast and dinner, that was sometimes extremely difficult. Our group has maintained great support and energy. Banaue is much more traditional than Manila, so we learned all about the Ifugao tribe and their native clothing/rituals. We hiked to Batad and stayed overnight in a hotel that seemed to appear on top of the mountain. No road to get there, just an hour hike through the mountain. It's amazing to see all the cement that has been brought into these vast mountains. I have so much awe for the lives that the rice growers lead. It's a very difficult life. We also hiked up and down hundreds, maybe even thousands (I'm not joking what-so-ever) of stairs during this 3-day hike. We also wen to an exotic waterfall and swam in the waterfall's lagoon.
It rains nearly everyday, which is natural in the tropics, but can be a big hassle when you're hiking up and down muddy hillsides.... makes you worry about mudslides. We had a 3 wonderful guides; Elvis, Donny and Gisler. Elvis was the most talkative and hopes to see us again next year.
We rode on another 10hour busride back to Manila last night and are actually staying in the "rich" side of Manila. The hotel we are in is unreal. I could never afford this hotel in the US. To give you an idea of prices, I can have a big lunch on about US$2 or buy a fifth of rhum for US$0.40! My roommate Jenna (also the TA - Teacher's Asst.) and I got a PentHouse room. The view is great! Though, the views from the tops of the mounatins in the rice terraces are breath-taking. I hope my pictures can do it justice... if I get them loaded up.
Tonight, we are having a lecture on commercial sex tourism... since prostitution and transvestites seem to be most of the population... mainly in Manila. It will be an interesting evening, to say the least.
Tomorrow, we head to the Embassy... hopefully Dan will be able to get a new Passport! He has absolutely no ID or money with him, so he's learned how to limit himself, while the rest of us are more than happy to share.
Tomorrow we will also be going to a Dump to observe squatters and how their lives are run by living off of recycling garbage for cash.
I think we fly to Dumaguete the next day? Anyone have a copy of my itinerary? it doesn't make much sense to any of us, so we're just going with the flow... one day at a time!
I think we're beginning our more luxurious portion of the trip, and now that I have my luggage, I will be doing some research! There are 3 other divers in the group, so I have some helpers for my research thankfully!
That is all for now, I think.... I cannot believe I've only been away just over a week. I feel as though I have been here for months. I'm glad you be with these people and to have a relatively small group. I feel as though I've already made some lifelong friends.
By the way: my sister, Meg, sent me Filipino catch phrases:
Magandang Umaga = Good morning
Kumasta ka = How are you?
Paalam = good bye! (or farewell?)
Everyone here, for the most part, speaks English, so we have had an easy time getting around.
I've also just learned that I have a cousin-in-law here in the Philippines, so hopefully I will get to see him sometime while I'm here. If anyone is in touch wih Chris Maramba, please let have him email me, if possible since he is Filipino.
Ciao for now!
Amanda :)
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