Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sagada in 1998. There is still magic.

At the onset of flooding in Baguio City caused by Typhoon Pepeng, media is one in expressing, Baguio, the respite from the city has become one congested city too. Thus the recall of this article written in 1998 when we declared that to simulate the authentic Baguio atmosphere, one must escape farther up North, to Sagada.


There is Still Magic in Sagada

There is still magic in Sagada despite the thousand lowlanders who escaped from Baguio and the city this Christmas 1998. Like a fairy tale, it starts with a struggle of several refusals in various instances ending happily with an unexpected fulfillment.

No Ride. We missed the Lizardo Bus at the Dangwa station in Baguio for the direct trip to the town. As early as 6 in the morning of Sunday 28 December, all the 6 buses were filled up and dispatched early.

No lodging. All inns were full. Some patient travelers had to contend with the hospital bed at the community hospital. That included us.

No Food. We were rejected several times at the Log Cabin, St. Joseph, Masfierre Inn and Shamrock for food and drinks.

Still there was magic in Sagada. The Celestine Prophecy attributed it to the pure energy of the mountain. James Redfield explained it as “the need to begin expecting miracles that will reveal our true mission in life. If we stay true to our life mission and do the inner work necessary to allow us to get out of our own way, opportunities will present themselves to help you with your problems.” Yet, despite the challenging incidences that Christmas holiday, everything just flowed.

I planned this trip in December and finalized the details only in Baguio via pager with my friends in Manila the day before. All met at Chowking in Session Road Sunday from various origins. I came from Baguio, two straight from the bus from Manila and one from the beach of San Fernando La Union. Mitch Soria, a PALMC colleague, Arney Nocum, a freelance photographer and a broadcaster, Tec Mañalac, a youth leader working at the Office of the Manila Mayor and I were directed to a bus headed for Bontoc. We got off at junction and hitched a ride in an open van. We were treated to an open-air view of the Sagada Mountain together with about twenty other passegers.

Upon arrival at the cooperative store, we saw Dax and Beatrice, our friends from PSI (People Synergistically Involved) who invited us at the St. Mary's orphanage (now rented by a Canadian Funded NGO IA for Transformation). That free accommodation freed a lot of time all for us. It was a big relief to first timers Arney and Tec who had no idea what was in store for them.

How can Sagada not enchant anyone? We were billeted in an old, big schoolhouse made of wood, now a rare commodity in this town. We experienced a 10° C on our first morning, the coldest ever for the year 1998 we were told. The pine trees bursting with pine cones all over surrounding the valley contributed to the cold, clean air that lingered with us all throughout our 3-day stay. Baguio may have been like this over 50 years ago with hardly any vehicle polluting the air. Like staying in a country club, we were given a welcome treat. Beatrice and Dax put up a bonfire at the school house' spacious front yard to warm us up.

Sagada to me is one modestly-sized theme park with the exception that everything is in its natural state. The country music of John Denver and Kenny Rogers played incessantly at the buses complemented the clean country atmosphere. To move from one wonder to the next, one walks for as short as 5 minutes from the Plaza (Echo Valley) to a long half a day (Sumaging Cave or the big waterfall).

We viewed the morning sunrise amidst streaks of light and mist at the Keltepan tower at the East Side of Sagada at six in the morning (elevation about 2,200 meters ASL). The group witnessed the same sun go down from the top of Lake Danum Mountain at the west side. Instead of streak of lights, the sun displayed various shades and layers of orange and blue set in pure un-adulterated air. We stayed until the threatening clouds claimed the view and the temperature dropped.

The entire town celebrated the Cañao wedding which kept everyone, residents and a close to thousand guests alive the whole night of Monday even with the 9 PM curfew imposed. This gave drinkers like Mitch and I a chance to enjoy beer at the Shamrock.

We walked North, East, South, West and trekked from 1,200 meters to 2,200 meters ASL. Dived at the waterfalls, entered the cave, patronized handicrafts, ate a lot of red rice, drank a lot of Sagada tea, met old friends like Ronald and Avic Arcilla, forged new friendships with Raul Lejano and Ron of Toyota. We expelled the urban air of Baguio and Manila and breathed in fresh ones from the mountains.

Why it there still magic in Sagada? Sagada this year was different. Different from last summer and the 1996 holidays when there was just a handful of guests. What with all these lowlanders, I thought the place has lost its charm. But in the company of Mitch, Arney and Tec and the energy all around us, nature still worked on us. It energized us to do about almost everything that can be done. It erased all the obstacles that got into our way. Means showed up when they was no ride to the town, no inns at the Plaza, no food, no way to the sunrise and no way to the sunset and no ride way back to Baguio and Manila.

We sneaked out of Sagada in a passenger jeep at 5:30 am on the 30th Tuesday to Bontoc to take the 7 AM bus ride to Baguio via Dangwa Transit. At past noon, we were perhaps the first batch backpackers to be back in Baguio from the enchanted place.

Then with the fun group of Jerry Balignasa and Russel Aguinaldo, we met up with the PALMC Group headed by Mayan, Wing, Art, Minerva, Ivy, Rhoda, Darwin, Ruel, Juno and his wife. We got a preview of the adventures of federation climbers as Jun Cipriano, Jun Martin, Gerry Girl N., Butch Ballesteros, Resil, Rudgir, Loyd, Ann, Joy and Dulce who trekked up to Pulag that same weekend led by EL Romy Valdes. We drank and narrated with gusto our stories until the bus trip, scheduled late that night until early morning, signaled it's time to go.

Traveling back to Manila on the 31st, I kept on hearing in my mind the song of the late John Denver asking to be brought home to country road where he belongs. With all these enchantment, we asked why don't we belong there too?

Recalling these enjoyable experiences, I looked back at the 5th Insight of the Celestine Prophecy, “the 5th insight deals with how we don't have to steal energy from others but instead can absorb energy directly from the universe if only we can open up to it."

Like magic, we were under the spell of this energy. It came neither from Baguio nor Manila but from opening ourselves up to the influences of nature from Sagada and Pulag and the company we were with.

Chito Razon 17 Jan 1998 Revisited 11 Oct 2009

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