Bomod-Ok Falls

I remember the panting – especially the panting. On the stone steps on the way to Bomod-Ok Falls, my guide and I would meet tourists gasping for air. In my mind I sneered at these crepuscular hikers: what hubris to drag your feeble bodies along the paths of the mountain and the rice terraces!

And then it was my turn to pant. After a momentary dip in the cold waters of the falls, we went back to the trail leading to the Bomod-Ok Information Center. After 5 minutes I noticed that I was breathing rapidly, and my heart pounding violently on my  rib cage. I told my guide that I want to rest, and so I sat on a terrace.

What began as a leisurely stroll to the falls ended up as an exhausting hike back to the Bomod-Ok Information Center. It took us over hour to get to the top, as I constantly asked the guide to rest so that I can catch my breath and slow my heartbeat.

At the end of the hike, I was chastened as to my physical capabilities. I guess I am – like the tourists I met – a crepuscular hiker after all.

* * *

THE TRIP TO BOMOK-OD FALLS IN PICTURES

(The trip to Bomod-Ok Falls begins here. The Sagada Tourist Information Office assigned a driver to bring me to this place where I registered, hired a guide, and availed of a walking stick.)

(Things to remember while hiking.)

(My heart sank when the guide told me we needed to go past this village before reaching the falls.)

(Pictorial Before the Long Walk)

(Rice Terraces!)

(Gold Panning: My guide looks at rocks with streaks and specks of gold)

(Violet algae inside a rice terrace. According to my guide, the farmers have to contend with algae and snails when planting rice.)

(We’re Near the Falls!)

(Bomod-Ok Falls)

(What the picture doesn’t show are the bats flying all around the place.)

(At this point I got tired looking at the rice terraces.)

(Before undertaking a trip to Bomod-Ok Falls, note that the journey entails walking up and down these steps. A thousand and more of these steps.)

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Cave Connection

The strangest diversion in Sagada: trekking inside a subterrane that seems like a passageway to Hades. But how else would you describe a network of caves whose entrance is surrounded by piles of coffins, whose terrain is shrouded in darkness, and whose rocks form various phantasmagorical shapes?

  

  

  

  

This brief sojourn into the netherworld involves conquering both your fear of darkness and fear of heights, as well as exerting the strength of your body. I do not fear the dark, and the glow  from the guide’s gas lamp is enough to banish frightful thoughts that come with the darkness. I do however fear heights, and in this case the light from the gas lamp becomes an annoyance, as the light dispels the blackness to reveal the occasional sheer drop. To control my fear, I focused on my guide and the path between us.

The physical exertion consists of clambering up and down rocks, climbing up and down ropes, wading through underground streams, and stepping on your guide. It is a tiring activity, and I asked the guide numerous times to stop so that I can catch my breath or drink mineral water.

 

  

I finished caving in 2 and 1/2 hours, head aloft upon hearing the guide say that the average time spelunking inside the Cave Connection is 3-4 hours (despite committing an amateur rock climber’s mistake of constantly clinging to the rocks).

Having conquered the connection between Lumiang and Sumaging, I now dream of spelunking inside the Crystal Cave.

Going to Sagada

Cable Tour Bus Ride [Note: I had the fortune – or misfortune – of getting a single-ride from Manila to Sagada. Normally Cable Tour buses stop at Bontoc. But on this journey, the driver decided to extend the trip to Sagada]

Having survived Cable Tour’s grueling 13-hour bus ride from Manila to Sagada, I feel qualified to write a blurb for the bus company. My imaginary and ecstatic write-up would be as follows:

Cable Tour’s Character Building Bus Ride!

Build character! Be a better person! Sign up for Cable Tour’s Character Building Bus Ride! And develop Patience, Endurance, and Fortitude!

Patience:  Travel in a bus blessed with engine failure and air conditioner malfunction! Learn to exercise patience or walk back to Manila from God knows what part of the country! We guarantee character transformation by the end of the journey! 

Endurance: Thanks to our custom-designed air conditioner, you will learn to endure heat for several hours!  And with our unusually angled seats, learn to endure pain in your backside as well!

Fortitude: Face your fear of heights! Take a trip up on the mountains, in a bus veering close to the edge of the precipice!

Yes, I felt my character transform after the trip. Now, whenever slighted by another person, I take a deep breath and – before taking appropriate action – count to five, five being the number of seconds it would take me to aim my foot at the offending person’s fanny. Indeed my character transformation was so effective that I decided not to repeat the experience upon returning to Manila and instead chose another bus (Lizardo) that took a different route (Sagada to Baguio).

* * *

Blood Pressure Tales Among all the backpackers to Sagada, perhaps I was the only one who toted a blood pressure (BP) monitoring device. My trip to the Mountain Province coincided with a BP monitoring period prescribed by my doctor. Thus I stashed an Omron device in my bag, along with my headphone, cellular phone, food rations, medicine, and books by Jorge Luis Borges, Charles Simic, and Alexander Kluge.

Bringing a blood pressure monitoring device to Sagada is one thing, but checking your blood pressure while traveling is another. A table and a chair are essential for the proper angling of the arm to be checked, but the gas station stopovers failed to provide such amenities.

However we did stop by a coffee shop in the Mountain Province; this shop is a bare and dingy structure, the opposite of swanky cafes in Manila that offers various permutations of coffee, cream, cinnamon, and sugar while playing house or jazz music. I walked towards the wooden table and monoblock chair in front of the shop, hoping – at last! – to check my blood pressure. But a middle-aged passenger, oblivious to the BP device that I was holding, glanced at me momentarily and ran towards the chair and settled his selfish and sorry ass on the plastic seat. I then imagined wrapping the arm cuff around his neck, and inflating the cuff until the eyes popped out of his head.

I went inside the coffee shop and saw a table with 3 customers. I put the Omron device on the table and took deep breaths to calm myself before measuring my blood pressure. One of the customers took interest in the device, and started conversing with me (thus disrupting my efforts to relax myself): “Uy ano yan? Subukan mo naman sa akin yan pagkatapos mo.” So after checking my blood pressure (168/98), I put the cuff around his right arm and checked his blood pressure (172/94). I told him, “Dapat hindi mo muna ininom yung kape mo. Mag-iiba yung numero kung may kinain at ininom ka.”

* * *

Masferre Inn I was incredulous: one thousand pesos per night for a room without an air conditioner? Then again, who needs air conditioning in Sagada? And the room is spacious and tranquil – good enough for my morning rituals. So I paid the receptionist cum waitress two thousand pesos for two days use of the room.

Inside the room, I arranged my notebook, pocketbooks, cellular phone, headphone, and Omron device on the table, converting the space into a simulacrum of my bedroom. The essential labor done, I plopped into the bed and contemplated the adventures that lay ahead of me.