My Cordillera Soundtrack I went on a trip up in the mountains with one good friend and ended up with 5 new friends, a whole lot of adventures and misadventures, and, an epiphany about a popular song – all set against an unlikely trip playlist.
“Love on Top”/ Batad Rice Terraces I was beginning to worry that my fear of falling down the terraces was preventing me from fully taking in the rice terraces that surrounded me. On my left were the muddy rice fields and on my right was what seemed like a deep fall waiting to happen. After making a misstep and completely immersing my left foot in mud in one of the countless rice fields in that village, I could not keep my eyes off of the uneven and sometimes unstable stone steps that lined the terraces.
On our way back from the Tappiyah Falls and my last chance to walk along the terraces, I paused every few meters to fully breathe in the fresh air and take a 360 look at the place I was in. I was inside Batad Village and rice terraces were everywhere. There were alternating greens and browns and some farmers still planting rice on the terraces, there were short lines of tourists walking along the edges and there was that body of mist that hovered through the village that seemed to be guarding it.
I was already regretting taking the trek for granted when I suddenly heard Beyonce’s voice. It seemed to be coming from the backpack of the guy ahead of me in line. C, who was almost felt like passing out during the trek, started singing along with the queen’s voice and just like that, I found myself skipping along the same edges I had been so afraid of to the tune of a song that I’d known only at that moment and was apparently entitled Love on Top. How clever, universe.
The rest of the day was spent in Hillside Inn’s deck with the best view in the village, I believe. C claimed it was beer weather and he was right. We talked about past loves (I kid not) in front of those beautiful terraces and the coolest ash tray shaped like a hand and through to the night when the terraces transformed into a black abyss that gave us the courage to talk about the moments when, in hindsight, everything could have changed completely – if only we were braver then.
“Oo”/ Mt. Kiltepan Sagada was the last minute side trip to Batad and as always (so they say), it turned out to be the best part. Where else would I be able to find the 5 best strangers to spend the night camping on top of Mt. Kiltepan because there was no room available in the whole town and we might as well beat the others to the most cathartic sunrise ever?
It was a string of events such as riding the same van to Sagada and all not having a place to stay in that led to us sharing 2 tents, marshmallows, beers and priceless stories around that bonfire. One was a paramedic from Canada on vacation here in the Philippines who shared that the craziest thing he’s seen on the job was a girl who bit off her own finger. Another tagged along with a friend because she was sorting through her feelings about a recently ended relationship – that friend happened to have the most interesting stories due to her romantic encounters in the past. One had sound advice to offer the love-troubled while another said the quote of the night which was: “Alam mo yong hindi nakamamatay pero nakakabaliw?”
A tender moment of the night was, however, when L’s voice gently pierced through the darkness with Up Dharma Down’s Oo. In a rare moment that night, we all fell silent and I felt that our minds traveled to the different places where our hearts were at.
Lost Stars/ Bontoc-Banaue route The large amount of time I spent in buses, vans and jeeps for this trip plus the first chapter of Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel solidified my love of being in transit. I find great comfort in the swoosh of green sceneries mixed with the quaint little houses and the otherwise sad asphalt.
And just when I have decided that there was nothing more to see since our jeepney was heading back the same way anyway, the swerving movement of the jeep that prevented me from sleeping, unlike the rest of the people on that trip, forced me to look outside and see the never-ending green mountain range. The ever mysterious fog was still brushing through the mountains, coaxing me to find the perfect song for this moment. I thought Jose Gonzales’ songs were going to be the thing as I felt like Walter Mitty sans the longboard, but it was Adam Levine who surprised me. Please don’t see just a boy caught up in dreams and fantasy. Please see me reaching out for someone I can’t see. And at that moment, in that cathartic moment as C would say, the song perfectly captured what I was feeling at that moment – after everything in that fateful short trip – in a way only this particularly melody and a bunch of strange lyrics put together could.
Visit Batad/Sagada! I rode the Ohayami Bus to Banaue. Tip is to be really early because the bus allows many chance passengers to occupy your seat when you’re late. We literally ran the length of Nagtahan Bridge to catch our bus only to find out that it has already left. From Banaue, we joined a “tour group” going to the Batad Saddle Point, trek to Batad Village, checked in Hillside Inn and then trekked to Tappiyah Falls with the guide. No reservations were necessary. Tip is to buy water in Banaue, drinks in Batad are pretty expensive. From Batad, we rode a van to Sagada, went to the Tourism Office to reserve tents. If you’re not camping, be early on top of Kiltepan for the sunrise though it doesn’t always show like in our case but the experience was still definitely worth it! Ride the jeep to Bontoc, then another jeep to Banaue and finally the bus again back to Manila. What a trip. Make sure to bring a sturdy backpack and lots of scarves, etc. I spent less than Php4,000 for this trip. A good playlist will complete the trip and of course the openness to meet fellow travelers is the trip’s gamechanger.
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