MESMERIZED BY THE RICE TERRACES OF BONTOC

From our quick stop at Mount Polis, our trip went on. It was already past 3:00 o’clock and we had to get to Sagada before dusk. Hence, we all agreed not to make any stopovers as not to delay our trip. But of course this didn’t matter when we started seeing thousands of astounding rice terraces as we began entering the town of Bontoc, the capital town of the Mountain Province.

Rice Terraces of Bontoc (1)And just as I guessed, all of us hurried down when Andrew, our driver-slash-tour guide, stopped the van near the view deck of Bay-yo Rice Terraces situated in one of villages of Bontoc. Like soldiers armed with heavy weapons, we ran and started our combat – but ours were cameras and candid poses with the spectacular view of Bay-yo Rice Terraces.

Bay-yo Rice Terraces Bontoc (1)Bay-yo Rice Terraces is a wower. It is not as big like those I see in Banaue but it seemed to possess an exceptional charm that made us all at awe seeing it. Unlike the ones in Banaue, there were no houses built in the middle of the terraces. Instead, houses were built on one side complimenting the stunning view of the terraces. “Gorgeous! Just so gorgeous!”

Bay-yo Rice Terraces, surrounded by the lush Cordillera Mountains

Bay-yo Rice Terraces, surrounded by the lush Cordillera Mountains

Bay-yo Rice Terraces' exceptional charm that wowed us.

Bay-yo Rice Terraces’ exceptional charm!

Absolutely, a wower!

Absolutely, a wower!

houses were built on one side complimenting the stunning view of the terraces

Houses were neatly built on one side complimenting the stunning view of the terraces

“Gorgeous! Just so gorgeous!”

“Gorgeous! Just so gorgeous!”

From the view deck, I went down somewhere I could get another good shot of this little stunner. An old man dressed in tribal wear came near me and chatted with me for a while. He was stunned to learn that we came all the way from Davao City in Mindanao just to see their “little pride”. Talking to him, I can sense how proud he is of his home and their culture. He even lent me his sword and shield for a photo op. Before he left, he even asked to tell my friends to come and see this place like I did. He was a charmer.

HELLO BAY-YO!

HELLO BAY-YO!

Me and my new friend! :)

Me and my new friend! 🙂

Done with short our relationship with Bay-yo Rice Terraces, we rushed back to the van to continue our trip. But just thirty minutes after we left another awe-inspiring view of yet another set of rice terraces of Bontoc were laid before our very eyes. They were the most beautiful rice terraces I’ve seen in this trip and I can’t afford not to take photographs of it. And so Andrew stopped and I hopped out of the van and started clicking my shutter button.

I was lost for words looking at this incredible creation.

I was lost for words staring at this incredible creation.

I say HEAVENLY!

I say HEAVENLY!

This sure will take your breath away!

This sure will take your breath away!

I don’t know exactly the name of the place but sure I know this is one of the best places to appreciate the breathtaking view of the Rice Terraces of Bontoc. Honestly, I was lost for words staring at this incredible man-made creation. But sure these photos I took would definitely speak for themselves. I say heavenly!

HELLO SAGADA!

HELLO SAGADA!

From there, our trip continued passing the proper town of Bontoc and then finally traveling up to Sagada. This crazy adventure thrilled so much making me savored the feeling that I was there – experiencing firsthand the many exciting things to see and do in this part of the country. Honestly, everything seemed surreal – and there I was enjoying every inch of this experience.

This is The Travel Teller’s Ifugao-Mountain Province-Benguet Diaries

1. DREAMING OF YOU CORDILLERA (The Beginning)
2. BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE!
3. THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis
4. MESMERIZED BY THE RICE TERRACES OF BONTOC

THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis

I’d like to stay longer at Banaue and savored more time with this childhood-dream-come-true experience but there are still other wonders of Cordillera that waited for me and my 11 equally bold friends. Thus, I left Banaue with a promise of coming back. And I promised to see more of what it has to offer.

…and so this Cordillera journey went on! From Banaue, our land trip continued – target destination: the quaint town of Sagada, Mountain Province.

Mount Polis Cordillera (54)As we headed forward, I was beginning to get sleepy. But just as I thought I can just drown myself to sleep, the breathtaking view of the countryside seemed so irresistible I can’t help but make my eyes wide open not miss every single scenery we would pass by. Countless of rice terraces we saw on the road, friendly local waving by, cotton-candy-like fogs were all over – they were so picturesque I can’t afford to miss.

Mount Polis Cordillera (29)Barely an hour since we left Banaue, we found ourselves stopping over at the District Highway Boundary between the provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province. A signage signaled that the place is called MOUNT POLIS.

Mount Polis Cordillera (40)I haven’t heard of this place nor learned about it from my research. My travel buddies didn’t mention it to me. To my surprise, I learned that Mount Polis is the 3rd highest mountains in the Cordilleras, and 124th in the entire country with an altitude of more than 6,000 feet. What’s more, Mount Polis borders the provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province.

Mount Polis Cordillera (15)It was the cool and crisp mountain breeze gave me a warm welcome as we got off the van. From a distance, I can see thick fogs covering the misty green mountains both Ifugao and Mountain Province. At one side I saw the giant statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I hurried for a photo. But of course aside from the giant statue, the place is just scenic and worth some memorable photographs.

SNAPSHOTS FROM MOUNT POLIS

The Travel Teller and the Statue of the Blessed Virgin

The Travel Teller and the Statue of the Blessed Virgin

Coffee Station at Mount Polis

Coffee Station at Mount Polis

The Cordillera Highway Camwhore

The Cordillera Highway Camwhore

Clean and Fresh

Clean and Fresh

Mount Polis' simple allure

Mount Polis’ simple allure

CORDILLERA, I worship thee!

CORDILLERA, I worship thee!

The scenic cpuntryside

The scenic countryside

Me and my two constant regular buddies Sarah and Pen

Me and my two constant buddies Sarah and Pen

Photo by: Jade Abulencia

Photo by: Jade Abulencia

Researching now I learned that Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the First Philippine Republic along with his company once passed through this mountain en route from Tirad Pass to Abra province to escape from the American forces during the Philippine-American War.

Mount Polis borders the provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province.

Mount Polis borders the provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province.

From Mount Polis, we continued our trail and this time I focused on the sceneries we passed by. I have traveled in some mountainous highways in the country including Mindanao where I hail from but traveling the Cordillera’s is different. It seemed surreal.

Mount Polis Cordillera (25)

…now WELCOME TO THE MOUNTAIN PROVINCE!

NEXT POST:  MESMERIZED BY THE RICE TERRACES OF BONTOC

 This is The Travel Teller’s Ifugao-Mountain Province-Benguet Diaries

1. DREAMING OF YOU CORDILLERA (The Beginning)
2. BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE!
3. THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis
4. MESMERIZED BY THE RICE TERRACES OF BONTOC

BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE!

Moving forward, I didn’t notice we had already reached another town as my mind wandered around thinking about this whole Cordillera trip until Andrew announced, “Welcome to Banaue”! Hearing this, I instantly shivered in sheer excitement. “Banaue, oh, my Banaue. At last, I’m here!”

BANAUE RICE TERRACES (16)I remember growing up how I love articulating the words Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe. I guess every little pupil who loves their Sibika at Kultura books would agree that the picture of Banaue Rice Terraces is one the most breathtaking pictures included in the book. Even in our classroom’s Filipiniana Chart, the postcard of the Rice Terraces of Banaue always stood out. And so the thought of going there marveling at this captivating spot once hailed as the 8th Wonder of World me thrilled me.

The rustic town of Banaue along the famous Rice Terraces

The rustic town of Banaue along the famous Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces on Php 1,000.00 Banknote

Banaue Rice Terraces on Php 1,000.00 Banknote

As we entered Banaue, my eyes began searching for this famous spot. There was a certain leap of joy I felt as we trailed going up to the town proper. Mountains surrounding web design Sacramento the highway were all green. They were so refreshing to my weary eyes. I was enticed to lower down the van’s window to feel the freshest air of the mountainous province.

Among the first few Rice Terraces I saw entering Banaue

Among the first few Rice Terraces I saw entering Banaue

When we finally reached the upper portion of the highway overlooking the valleys and hills, there I began seeing hundreds of rice terraces that are majestically and perfectly carved on the hillsides. It was such a spectacular view that struck me at an instant beckoning me to worship its grandeur. I had been picturing it out on my head but seeing it personally was just different – it was magical. I wanted to ask Andrew to stop the vehicle so I could go down and marvel at it gloriously but I knew there must be a spot where we can stay and catch the perfect sight of this wonder incredibly built thousand years ago.

These were like Candies to my eyes! :)

These were like Candies to my eyes! 🙂

True enough, minutes later we found ourselves parked at the view deck where the panoramic view the Rice Terraces of Banaue is at its best. I waited no second. I hurried down from the van armed with my camera and tripod hoping to take the best photograph of this jaw-dropping scenery – Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe. As I positioned myself to start photographing this awe inspiring view in front of me, I felt a strong force that halted me from what I was doing and to simply stand there, do nothing but marvel at the most breathtaking view of the mountainous region of the Philippines. Like an obedient child, I yielded to that force and simply stood there filling my hungry eyes with the most heavenly view that was laid before my sight. It was just so magical. Without me knowing, tears ran down from my eyes. I was becoming sentimental. I know they were tears of joy, tears of fulfillment – seeing finally something I only read on books and postcards.

BANAUE RICE TERRACES (17) BANAUE RICE TERRACES (23) BANAUE RICE TERRACES (56)BANAUE RICE TERRACES (87) BANAUE RICE TERRACES (100)Contented, I began clicking my shutter button trying to develop a love triangle between me, my camera and these rice terraces. But as I put these scenes on still, I can’t help but wonder how on earth these ancestors of Ifugao built such spectacular piece of art 2000 years ago – a stunning masterpiece that Filipinos referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World. It is just so amazing to realize that 5,000 feet above sea level in this part of the country lies this magnificent piece of architecture built by the great ancestors of the Filipino race. Without a doubt, this is one of the best sources of the Filipino pride. It is an amusing heritage that every Filipino, including myself, should take pride of.

The Philippines' Wonder of the World

The Philippines’ Wonder of the World

While all of us busied ourselves with our own short love affair with Banaue, I forgot to notice the three old beautiful Ifugaos seated on the bench behind us. They were fully dressed in traditional Ifugao costume adorned with indigenous accessories. I found them so adorable we all couldn’t resist from taking our individual photographs with them.

My long lost friends.

My long lost friends.

my three instant friends. :)

my three instant friends. 🙂

The beautiful Ifagaos

The beautiful Ifugaos

I’d like to stay longer and savored more time with this childhood-dream-come-true experience but there are still other wonders of Cordillera that waited for me and my 11 equally bold friends. Thus, I left Banaue with a promise of coming back in the not-so-distant future. And I promised to see more of what it has to offer.

The Travel Teller with his 11 Equally Adventurous Friends: Sarah, Nicole, Ophelia, Mary Anne, Madeline, Jem, Kier, Eric, Jade, Glenn and Alex

I left Banaue with a promise of coming back in the not-so-distant future. And I promised to see more of what she has to offer.

HOW TO GET TO BANAUE:

Banaue is about 350 kilometers away from Manila and travel time via Eastern Highway (North Luzon Expressway) is approximately 9 hours passing through the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya. There are bus lines that regularly travel to Banaue from Cubao. Please do not be confused with this route from the Baguio route. While Banaue is situated on the east side of the Central Cordillera Mountains, Baguio, Sagada, and Bontoc are on the west side.

NEXT POST: THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis

This is The Travel Teller’s Ifugao-Mountain Province-Benguet Diaries

1. DREAMING OF YOU CORDILLERA (The Beginning) 2. BANAUE, OH BANAUE, AT LAST I’M HERE! 3. THE ROAD TO SAGADA: Quick Stop at Mount Polis 4. MESMERIZED BY THE RICE TERRACES OF BONTOC

PHILIPPINE’S BEST ISLAND DESTINATIONS: The Travel Teller’s Pick

Recently, I’ve gotten loads of emails from readers from across the globe asking for The Travel Teller’s pick of the best island destinations in the Philippines. Honestly, I have been to different towns and provinces in the country blessed with amazing Islands and Islets but collating the best and most beautiful ones is not an easy task. You see, the Philippines is an archipelago composed of 7,107 stunning islands and most of these islands boast of sparkling, dazzling even untouched beaches.

And so instead of giving you the best of the best, let me pick one Island/Beach destination each of three main Islands of the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) that has truly impressed me and left me with an awesome memory. It is with great hope that this may entice you to come and relish for yourself a kind of beach holiday you too will never forget. So, brace yourself. Get ready to fly bound to these destinations. This is The Travel Teller’s pick of the best island destinations in the Philippines.

THE ISLAND OF LUZON. Luzon, being the biggest Island in the country is home to some of the world class beach destinations now renowned to the world. Among those that I’ve visited and considered “top of the line” is the Caramoan Group of Islands.

The Limestone Mountains and Rock Formations of Caramoan

The Pristine Beaches of Caramoan

This Blogger at the Enchanted Lagoon of Caramoan

Caramoan is one of the thirty-five municipalities of the Province of Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region. It is situated at the heart of the Caramoan Peninsula at the southernmost tip of Luzon. The islands came to fame when it became the location of the 6 different International Survivor Franchises, the most celebrated reality show on earth. Long before the invasion of Survivor, Caramoan used to be a secret Island Paradise of the province. Isolated from the rest of Camarines Sur, it teems with pristine white sand beaches, stunning twin islands, limestone islets, undisturbed caves, enchanting lagoons and rich marine life making it an ideal island destination. It has gained a world class reputation as the one of the best Island Getaways in the whole Luzon. Today, despite its international fame, Caramoan remains unexploited and laid back retaining its enchanting and alluring beauty that charmed tourists, both locals and foreign alike.

THE ISLAND OF VISAYAS. Visayas, dotted with the most prized island and islets in the country is undoubtedly the home of the most famous Islands and beach destinations in the Philippines. I can’t enumerate these gems of the Island as most of them are equally charming and worth visiting. But to top it all, no one can deny that the Island of Boracay is incontestably the most beautiful, most famous not only to the whole Visayas Region but the whole country.

Puka Shell Beach of Boracay Island

Posh Beach Hotels in Boracay

This Blogger enjoying the famous Sunset of Boracay

Boracay is a tiny island about 2 km off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas. The Island and its world class beaches have received awards from numerous travel publications and agencies around the world describing it as the crown trophy beach of the Philippines. Boracay is every beachgoer’s dream destination. It has everything what holidaymakers look for – posh beach hotels, classy resorts, restaurants, great food, shopping, water sports, souvenirs and island party. If you are up for great sun, sand and the sea, Boracay is for you. Everything is in Boracay.

THE ISLAND OF MINDANAO. Being a proud son of Mindanao, I can say our Island is truly blessed with so many pristine beaches waiting for hungry beachcombers and islander-wannabes to come. I have toured 75% of the whole Island and I can truly say every province we have here possesses beach havens one should never miss to explore. Among the islands and beaches I have explored in Mindanao, the one that left an indelible mark in my heart is the Bucas Grande Islands.

The Serene Lagoons of Bucas Grande Islands

Club Tara, one of the finest resorts in Bucas Grande Islands

Kisses Islets dotting the crystal clears waters of Bucas Grande Islands

The Bucas Grande Islands is part of the Municipality of Socorro and belongs to the Province of Surigao Del Norte. Socorro is one of the nine municipalities that comprise the famous Siargao Islands, the famed surfing capital of the Philippines. While the main island of Siargao is home to world-class surfing seas, the Bucas Grande Islands of Socorro features amazing wonders of nature set together in a group of incredible Islands so best to commune with Mother Nature. Everything that surrounds Bucas Grande Island is perfect work of nature – Limestone Mountains, karsts and rock formations, kisses islets, undisturbed lagoons, Underground River, underwater caves, twin lakes, pristine white sand beaches and many more. The most unusual feature that I truly say the rarest is the jellyfish lake sanctuary, home of the million stingless jelly fish in the island. Bucas Grande is so special to me that until now I wouldn’t get tired of telling beautiful stories about her.

THERE THEY ARE! The Travel Teller’s pick of the best Island Destinations in the country. Caramoan for Luzon, Boracay for Visayas and Bucas Grande Islands for Mindanao! They are just THREE of the best of the best! There are more to boast in this 7,107 Islands of the Philippines, the Pearl of the Pacific!

17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

I was in Clark, Pampanga for the very first time to witness one of the most anticipated annual events in the country – the 17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is an annual sport aviation event participated by different countries around the globe. It features hot air ballooning, aeromodelling, kite flying, aircraft competitions, paragliding, skydiving, dancing helicopters and more. The Clark Freeport Zone in Angeles City, Pampanga has become the home to this annual international event for many years now. The wide-open spaces, favorable flying weather, scenic ambiance and the general features and tourist amenities the zone has to offer make it the ideal venue.

It was my first time witnessing such a very spectacular occasion. To be honest, I have never seen a real hot air balloon in my whole life. So, this whole flying thing really thrilled me.

As this event draws multiple crowds from all over the country especially from neighboring towns and cities in Luzon, we were told to get there as early as possible. So by 4 o’clock in the very dawn, we were already at the vast roads of Clark Zone heading to the festival grounds. The traffic was tremendously heavy. The roads were jam-packed by service vehicles all loaded with eager spectators. As early as 4 AM, there were already people lining up to get to the entrance of festival ground. As early as that, I could already feel the excitement of the festival.

It was already past six when we made it to the main event grounds. It was very timing as the first set of hot air balloons were starting to ascend to the skies. Seeing these humungous bloated balloons gearing up to fly high, I was completely dumbfounded. I can’t help but admire this new colorful scene laid before my eyes. It was such a vivid vibrant event I’ve never seen before. Colorful hot air balloons of different sizes, shapes and styles abound the fiesta grounds. People went crazy yelling in full exhilaration every time their favorite balloon flew up. I, on the other hand, was glued in admiration seeing such one matchless spectacle! Magnificent!

Aside from hot air balloon, I got to witness yet another exciting flying event like paragliding and skydiving. It was just awesome. I only see them in movies and television. Seeing them for real is different – truly electrifying.

Everything at the 17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is worth seeing and experiencing. For first timers like me, it was an unforgettable experience. I have traveled miles away from Davao City in Mindanao to this part of Luzon to personally witness it and it didn’t fail me. Indeed, it was an awesome trip experiencing a weekend of everthing that flies.

I hope next year I can make it to the 18th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. I know it will be a lot funnier! IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES!