Monday, June 5, 2017

Meaningful Travels PH at Bontoc, Mountain Provice Vlog Series (Part 1)

Wazzup Pilipinas!

We joined Meaningful Travels PH at one of their community outreach cum travel events last May 25 to May 28. The journey starts with Day 0 - a 10-hour bus trip from Codalines Cubao to Banaue, then to barangay Maligcong of Bontoc, Mountain Province for Day 1 and half of Day 2, then from barangay Maligcong to barangay Mainit for half of Day 2 and more than half of Day 3. We left Bontoc on the afternoon of Day 3 but got left by the bus so we chased it via jeepney, and stranded for hours due to landslide accident caused by non-stop rains at Benguet. Got back home in Manila by around 9:00 am.

There's an article we posted showcasing what the Bontoc, Mountain experience so be sure to check out the link to the story here. It was scheduled to upload on the day we started our adventure there.

What you will read and see on the photos and videos here are just glimpses of the entire journey. A vlog series is posted separately by chronological order on our Facebook page at while some of them will also be uploaded on on our YouTube channel at

Since there are so many interesting stories to share, we decided to tell our stories in bite-size digestible parts on our social media pages, but is also offering a compiled version here on our blog site. It may be a bit tedious and redundant, but we won't be tired or bored to reshare our experiences all throughout our forms of media.

We even shared part of our story on our radio show (Wazzup Pilipinas Radio), along with other experiences from other events, last Sunday, on June 4, 2017 which was broadcasted live at DZRJ 810 AM and at all 8Trimedia Network sites and social media pages via livestreaming. You could always look for it online together with our topic for the day as we guested the very colorful and interesting members of the Manila Wrestling Federation that early morning of Sunday. A separate blog post about their guesting will be posted.

Day 0 actually started with a power dinner together with partner photographer Collin Yap sponsored by Rufo's Famous Tapa before our around10-hour bus trip from Codalines bus terminal in Cubao to Banaue where the glamorous Banaue Rice Terraces was waiting for us. Collin and I ordered two meals each plus dessert so we will be ready for the long trip. If you want to know what we ate, you can check out our post on our social media pages. All I could say for now is that there more than just tapa at Rufo's Famous Tapa restaurant.

After a while struggling on our bus trying to catch a good nap, we made a stop-over for some breather, streching and snack with partner photographer Collin Sarthou Yap, Ann Marie "Naknak" of Meaningful Travels Ph and Ginnie of Manulife. We've travelled for 5 hours already..but there's still a few more hours to go before we reach Banaue. We tried to sleep once again in the bus afterwards because it was still to dark to appreciate the scenery outside since it was only around 2 am so sight-seeing was not an option at that time yet.

I forgot to vlog while at the Codalines bus station because it was raining. It was difficult to put out the camera or even a smartphone for documentation because it might get wet and it was too crowded at our area of the bus station since everyone was at the waiting shed trying to keep dry amidst the rain. I had a GoPro with me but it was stored on my travel back pack since it was a bit too lengthy to carry around on my smaller backpack because I equipped it with a customized monopod stick. (well, honestly, it would actually fit but it would mean carrying a heavier load on my smaller backpack, and I did not plan on the raining part).

We were carrying around 16 boxes of school supplies, not including our backpacks.. We would like to thank Codalines for not charging us for our cargo. Thank you also to Conquer for my huge travel backpack that's truly designed for backpackers! Thank you too to Masthead for the Packing Cubes that I used to properly organize my stuff, Nalgene for the tough and reliable 1 liter Water Bottle, Bayer for the travel medicines and vitamins, Oppo for the smartphone I used for vlogging, etc.

The touchdown at Banaue at around 6:30 am was more than welcomed by the team. We're off to have breakfast first at 7th Heaven restaurant, and then visit the very popular Banaue rice terraces there at two viewing points. A jeepney will now be our means of transportation, and will be taking us later to Bontoc, specifically barangay Maligcong, and then barangay Mainit on the following days.

At 7th Heaven restaurant - which offers comfort foods and a great view of the Banaue Rice Terraces, we ordered mostly omelet for breakfast. According to our host, this is still not the best view of the rice terraces for afterwards we are headed to the actual view points or decks where we could see the rice terraces at their best.

I have an audio interview with the owner (who was probably too shy or unprepared for an unannounced interview) but I'm still thinking of how to put it on my videos....

I'm excited to see the views. At times like these, I wish I had a drone with camera to capture the view better. 

Fellow traveler Ginnie took a break from her corporate world to join Meaningful Travels PH as one of the attendees ready to explore a part of the Philippines (like the Banaue Rice Terraces) while doing good for the community (Far-flung schools of barangay Maligcong and Mainit at Bontoc Mountain Province). This is how traveling should be - giving back while taking in wonderful experiences that would forever be unforgettable memories -- hahaha - it sounds very redundant.. forever and unforgettable, memories for a lifetime is our peg for the moment.

I met a young lone traveler named Gabrielle who came all the way from Canada. I was surprised to learn that she was traveling on her own. She told me that Banaue was the last leg of her travel as she has been to other places in the Philippines for several weeks already. She was having breakfast that time but I was glad she let me interview her.

Something inside keeps telling me to talk to her the first time I saw her ordering her food at the counter of 7th Heaven. Our orders came first so we got to finish eating early and while waiting for others to finish drinking their barako coffee, I approached her for a friendly chat and asked permission if I could record our conversation. She was more than willing to do so. She even gave me her social media account and likewise she got mine so I may hear from her soon.

It's a bit funny that I got to meet her at the 7th Heaven restaurant since we all know that Gabrielle is the name of an angel, and true enough, her beauty was like an angel. Gabriel in the Abrahamic religions, is an angel who typically serves as God's messenger. He may have been depicted mostly as male, but I know her true gender must be a woman since God would perhaps prefer to be surrounded by beautiful women.

"Archangel Gabrielle (aka Gabriel) is one of my favorite archangels. She has a loving, feminine energy and nurtures all those who ask for her help. She is known as the “angel of communication”, mostly known for delivering the message regarding the birth of Christ. Gabrielle is a wonderful coach and mentor for those with a life purpose involving communication or the arts. If you have a book you’ve been trying to finish, she’s your girl. Call on Gabrielle for help, but be prepared to accept the help she offers. Sometimes Gabrielle’s energy can push you, so make sure that’s what you’re asking for." -

I bet that Gabrielle is also sending me a message. I don't know exactly but it must be a sign that I should continue to travel especially within the Philippines. I should have told her to be real honest with me and admit that she is truly an angel from heaven sent to inspire me to continue traveling. Who's such a wild coincidence finding her at this place.

Wazzup Pilipinas is now at the first view point of the Banaue Rice Terraces offering a spectacular view of the man-made wonders, and some photo opportunities with some elders wearing the traditional outfits that can accepts donations for every poto ops with them. Similar outfits be rented at a nearby stall for a very low price of only Php10. You could also borrow the wooden bike for actual usage and of course photo and video ops.

Of course, we will never forget to yell out the iconic shout-out of Wazzup Pilipinas that can be heard even at the opposite side of the terraces. Many residents are probably wondering what the commotion was all about, but sorry I could never really leave every opportunity for a shout-out. Lol!

For me, the shout-out is to proclaim to everyone the beauty of the Philippines, and to engage us to get involved in knowing what is happening within the Philippines, and beyond. Everyone around the world should know that the country is one of the best, if not the best, destination for all your leisure and business venture needs. There are so many possibilities that you should always consider the Philippines as part of your itinerary.

I tried out the wooden bike of the Igorots. If I had more time, I could have mastered the no-pedal contraption. You'll be glad that there's a brake that comes with it. Though i must admit that going downhill with that wooden bike is sort of scary so I refused to go all the way down. Balancing is quite a struggle because the fear of going downhill is right smacked on my face.

Honestly, I did it only for the video and photo ops .... but then I was offered a topload experience after so I had to stop and ride back on the jeepney for our next part of our Bontoc Mountain Province adventure. Toploading is when you ride on top of the jeepney so you could experience the warmth and cold breeze hitting your face while you admire the scenery down below.

Whoah!!! I could have stayed long on top but the seats on top of the jeepney could be better. I was afraid I might break my ass into paralysis.Lol!

Yeah!!! I'm on top of the world!!!! The only difference with that of Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack) is that I'm not on the Titanic but on a jeepney, and I'm not with just one lady named Kate Winslet (Rose), I'm with two ladies (Naknak and Ginnie) and a fat guy named Shakshaker (Collin)...

Lol! Look who's talking, I'm nearly as fat as my buddy photographer Collin Sarthou Yap ..That's why he would sometime call us B1 and B1 ... stands for Baboy 1 and Baboy 2...Hahaha .... But Naknak would often tease us with the term "Bromance" when we always want to be around each other...Lol.. Well, I know I could count on Collin, and of course, I am also a true friend for the boy scout who brought almost everything necessary. I brought with me a huge travel backpack from Conquer, I forgot some necessities like the flashlight or headlight for our early morning trek. But I never forgot my scarf that was a gift from another photographer friend named Edmund.

Seriously, the toploading experience is fun but we opted to conserve our energy so what you see here is the first and last time we toploaded. We know that we are about to embark on a tiring journey soon so we had to save our strength for the real challenges ahead. Sacrifice a bit of fun so we could share with you better experiences through our photos and videos, and of course our non-stop stories.

Still on top of the jeepney, we are about to go down at the Aguian View Deck of Banaue for another spectacular view of the Banaue Rice Terraces.

Unfortunately, we were only allowed at the upper levels of the view point as they no longer allow entry towards the rice terraces itself. It's probably because of the recent rain that has been happening for days so the owners are concerned for our safety. The path towards the rice terraces may be weak or prone to accident that may cause unwanted injury to visitors.

The view here is a lot more fascinating as it offers many shots from different angles compared to the first viewing point where we came from before this stop.

There's also a bigger stall selling many souvenir items but we were not interested in buying since we are there for the travel adventure and to give back to people via a community outreach program donating school supplies to needy students. We may be carrying only more than a dozen boxes but every little thing counts, and the recipients (teachers and students) are more than grateful to receive every help possible.

We may be enjoying ourselves with these side trips but the real enjoyment will come later as we see children smiling and appreciative of our presence. Isang ngiti lang ay sulit na sa ang aming paghingal dahil sa paglalakad papunta sa kanilang lugar. I may not be fit for the long trek, but I am proud I made it, and survived this unforgettable experience.

I tried to interview an old man dressed up with the traditional tribal outfit of the Igorots (or should I say Ifugaos?). He was actually on a working mode at the site because it was very evident that he was there for the ephoto ops for tourists who would give him some money as a form of payment for his services. They don't really ask for a fixed price but he jokingly mentioned "One Thousand Pesos" when I was chatting with him for the name of the place. '

He seems to be implying that I pay him Php1,000 for his services as a model for our photo ops and selfies. Well, I paid him what I can and have in my pocket at that moment. I'm sure there will be many other tourists who would do the same and be more generous. I'm betting he probably earns more than me...hahaha

We are still at the 2nd viewing point at Banaue admiring the Banaue Rice Terraces. But aside from the photos and videos of the place, I also brought home photos and videos of this old man.

I tried asking him to shout Wazzup Pilipinas, but go and see what happened.

Upon arrival at Bontoc town, we met with additional people whom I thought were from the local tourism office. Later I realized they were from Bontoc and will be joining us from now on for the rest of our travels to barangay Maligcong and then to barangay Mainit.

Their names are Virgie and Berlin, who were still both shy to converse with us since we've all just met. But later on ...maybe when they saw that we were friendly enough, they became more comfortable to converse with us. In fact, Naknak was joking that Virgie had become my number one fan because she kept on shouting "Wazzup Pilipinas" even when we were several distance apart during our trek at the barangay Maligcong rice terraces.

We stopped over at the public market to have some barako coffee and "tinulok" (which my friend Collin was saying it was "tinusok" in Tagalog (until now I am not sure if he was joking or not...hahaha). They mentioned that we will also soon taste the "Patupat" - another snack, and the "Pinikpikan" - a chicken viand.

It is very obvious that I was excited for what's about to happen soon. I couldn't wait to explore and embrace the new learning and discoveries we will soon encounter at Bontoc.

Later that day we were joined by more people from the local tourism, and other volunteers who joined us in both exploration of the sites and the community outreach where we distributed school supplies.

Orientation time with Ann Marie "Naknak" Cunanan of Meaningful Travels PH before starting our journey towards barangay Maligcong where aside from the community outreach, our side trip is to admire the grandeur of the Maligcong Rice Terraces, and the following morning is to hike Mt. Kopapei to witness the sunrise from up above the mountain top overlooking the rice fields down below.

You can see from the video our masterplan for the visits and even discussed how we would introduce ourselves to the kids. But you must know how I introduce myself, and that is always by asking them to yell out the iconic shout-out cum greeting of "Wazzup Piipinas!!!!"

At barangay Maligcong, not all expectations were met especially on our climb to Mt. Kopapei where one of us was even slightly injured (but only really really slightly probably because we forgot to do some warm-up and stretching before we started our early morning hike). ...and also it had been a long time since we last climbed a mountain. I was even catching my breath forever to the top. How many stops I made just to rest? I lost count...but I always use the excuse of my guide, Clement, taking photos of me as a way to rest. Clement can now add to his portfolio the job experience of being a photographer. Hehehe.

What we are proud of is to have successfully distributed school supplies at the targeted school there, where we also conducted games for the children, and ate locally available food together with the newly-discovered snacks like "Patupat." Likewise the communities there prepared food for sharing of all. Barangay Maligcong allowed us to stay at their classrooms for the night, while the community at Barangay Mainit even prepared special performances participated by parents, teachers, barangay officials and students.

My colleague, Collin, even got to persuade the folks at both barangays to pose for him wearing their traditional clothing. That's my friend, who is always able to charm his way to get a photo shoot especially from good looking subjects of the female kind. Well, you will expect that from a person who is always around beautiful women joining pageants, modelling and fashion events. Sometimes, I would even be jealous because I thought he was supposed to take photos of me...Lol!

We visited Bontoc Museum together with the staff of the local tourism office. The place had many interesting artifacts but sadly we are not allowed to take photos inside the museum so our documentation from that part of our journey are mostly of the exteriors and the rear part of the museum grounds.... But there's still the memories, especially when a colorful tour guide named Beau had so many interesting facts to share.

Later we realized we were with a previous beauty pageant winner who won as Miss Mountain Province 2016. She has already transferred her title to a new 2017 winner just recently but we still wanted to have a photo shoot with her. Unfortunately, she was only with us on the first day so we failed in doing so because we were so busy with activities on our first day at Barangay Maligcong. We can't blame her because the following day was a weekend (Saturday) after all.

However, I was amazed at their stamina while we were all together that Friday especially when we were with the children of Barangay Maligcong where we had them do activities and games after the distribution of the school supplies. One of them was really strong as he was able to carry two of our heavy bags containing our stuff like clothes, cameras and accessories. One of them did still stay with us as a representative of the Maligcong tourism office. I was even able to interview when we were going down from Mt. Kopapei and admiring the breathtaking scenery of the Maligcong rice terraces.

Before going to the Bontoc Museum, we went first to the Maligcong Public Market to check out the local produce being sold like the mountain tea leaves (which later we could actually pick for free in the mountain of Maligcong) , powdered soy and barako coffee, etc. Naknak of Meaningful Travels explained some of them so please do check it out on this video.

We were there not just to see what possible goods to buy as pasalubong on the last day of our travel, but also to have some barako coffee at one of the stalls there. The coffee was a welcome treat after traveling from Banaue to Bontoc via jeepney. (We've drank barako coffee several times all throughout our stay in Bontoc, and I must tell you that the coffees at popular coffee shops in Metro Manila, are equally matched, if not better.

It's not my first time to go through a public market but the difference here is the availability of their most prominent products that are harvested in Bontoc or the Mountain Province.

We were also tempted to go to Sagada since it was just a two-hour ride from Bontoc. But there's just too many interesting sites to visit and people to meet at Bontoc that we find time not to our favor. Since we needed to go back to Manila for another event, and we also needed to rest after several days of trekking, we had to forego the desire for now. There'll be more opportunities to visit Sagada, as we also included it in our bucket list as one of the most "must visit" travel destinations.

That's it for now for Part 1 of our Bontoc, Mountain Province adventure. We've prepared a video summarizing this first part of our adventure. The best parts are yet to come, and so this will be a lengthy blog series. But you would know that I truly enjoyed this journey since I am writing a lot about it.

That is what makes blogging a whole lot of fun since we are free to share our experiences, thoughts and opinions, in our own convenient time. Though others may prefer we release their stories as soon as possible, rushing the story-telling would always end up with less creative and substantial outputs. I enjoy blogging more if the stories I publish are all with a personal and endearing touch.

But the best part of blogging is when you get to meet people that touches your life for their valiant efforts and heroism. I am referring to more than one throughout this journey, but one that stood out was Wesley, our jeepney driver, who exerted a very touching effort just to make sure we were OK when we we stranded in our bus on our way home. I've told this story on a separate blog post so please read it and be amazed at what he did.

So until our next blog post about our adventure at Bontoc, Mountain Province, see you again soon here at Wazzup Pilipinas.

Partner Photograher: Collin Sarthou Yap

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