Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Baguio City welcomes the Year of the Fire Rooster as the New Year’s Eve parade was held yesterday, January 27, 2017. Personalities as well as local and national brands graced the occasion. Flocks of people witnessed the event and had fun watching (not to mention, got some goodies the parade participants threw at them [which it seems to be a symbol of good luck for the coming year]). We’re sorry for the bracket within the bracket.
Ms. Baguio 2016, Arianne Dia Gallotan
Baguio City Representative, Cong. Mark Go
I was only limited to where I was but it was a fair good vantage point for me.
Here are the other photos I took during the parade, in no particular order.
People from Baguio know what this is. We usually see it at 50s Diner.
Wushu Federation Philippines CAR Chapter
Messing with her is not on my list.
Right after the parade, I rushed to Session Road. I witnessed the Writings on the Road.
Happy Lunar New Year!
Session Road in Bloom immediately follows after the float parade. It is when Session Road will be closed to vehicles and stalls are put up. This is a great opportunity for business owners all around the Philippines to showcase their local products and services.
The Market Encounter is in Burnham Park along Lake Drive. The only difference between Session Road in Bloom and Market Encounter is that the latter can take place earlier.
Only in the month of February when the three main roads within Baguio’s central business district are closed. Session Road in Bloom on Session Road, Market Encounter on Lake Drive, and one lane along Harrison Road for the Night Market. The Night Market in Harrison Road happens daily, which starts at 9:00 PM.
And where there are cars, there are these amazing, pretty ladies. We felt so lucky. Well, who won’t?
Photo credits to Paul for these images.
Photo credits to Ian for this image.
Later in the evening, the fireworks display concluded the Panagbenga Festival. I struggled to get a location with good vantage point. This is the make-the-most-of-what-I-have kind of shot.
Personally, I associate the Panagbenga Festival with beauty. Here are some shots during the 6th of March.
The float parade is one of the most awaited highlights of the Panagbenga Festival. It is usually held on the last Sunday of February before the Session Road in Bloom starts. Float designers use tons of flowers to decorate their float that attracts the attention of the crowd. Public or private entities can join to have an entry, which not only be used for their advertising but most especially to bring joy to the crowd.
Once again, I woke up at around 5:00 AM and went out at 6:00 AM. I was able to ride a jeepney. When I arrived downtown, this is what surprised me.
Now I’m too late to find a good spot now. Nobody is allowed to watch on the overpass. I thought this is the end for me. But as the parade goes near, people stayed on the overpass until nobody can’t go through anymore. Luckily, while I was walking along, I happened to get stuck in an area with a nice view of the parade.
Jeepito made a crowd appearance in Panagbenga 2016. This crowd favorite is arguably the smallest and cutest fully-operational jeepney. It is said that Jeepito originated in Baguio City and has been patented and registered by its owner. Jeepito can carry up to 4 passengers.
At last, the colorful and amazing flower floats came. In no particular order.
And with NLEX’s float participating in the parade, so as with some of PBA’s NLEX Road Warriors.
Here’s the float of Lower Dagsian. And who could be the one riding on it? Could it be…
…Yakon Man! That’s the name my co-spectators yelled. He got a loud cheer from the crowd.
Aside from the floats, there were also celebrities who joined the parade.
Manolo Pedrosa and Maris Racal, both former Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) housemates, joined Panagbenga 2016.
Real-life couple Jason Francisco and Melai Cantiveros-Francisco also joined the Panagbenga 2016 float parade.
And the much awaited personalities showed up. Here comes Coco Martin, Maja Salvador, Pepe Herrera, and Xymon “Onyok” Pineda.
Panagbenga is a month-long yearly festival held during February in Baguio City. The highlights of this festival is the Street Dancing Parade and the Floral Float Parade, which is usually done on the last Saturday and Sunday of the month. Panagbenga is concluded with Session in Bloom, a trade fair where businesses from all around the Philippines showcase their products and services.
Panagbenga means season of blooming where blossoming of flowers is believed to be at its peak in February. Flowers, apart from strawberries, brooms, peanut brittle, fruit jams, and the like, are one of the products Baguio City is well-known for. What was believed to have started as a thanksgiving for a bountiful flower harvest is now a grand celebration that attracts local and foreign tourists. But above all, Panagbenga helps to let the new generation, indigenous or alien, rediscover and appreciate Cordillera’s old traditions as well as the culture.
For many years, I’ve always stayed at home during these parade days. I don’t want to get caught in traffic or get trapped in the crowd. But this year, I braved being pushed (and to push when necessary) because I seriously need to watch the parades personally (even just once in my life, I’ve experienced watching it). And in the end, I found it all worth it.
So here I was, woke up at 5:00 AM to prepare myself and leave home by 6:00 AM. I could either jog or ride a cab going downtown. I was lucky to catch a ride. To my surprise, flocks of people are already gathered along the roadside. Now I think I’m too late to find a good spot and I need to look for a place that has a view. I was able to secure myself in an acceptable good spot but simply not the best as it doesn’t offer a good vantage point (especially without a telephoto lens).
Safety and security is one of Baguio City’s top priorities during this event.
More people flocked the sidewalks in anticipation for the parade.
And finally, the parade begins… no, wait!
At around 10:00 AM, the parade finally started (at least from where I was at).
Soon the street dancers arrived. Oh, my shots are only as good as my vantage point provides. Here are some of the shots that I got, in no particular order of the performers.
The melodies of drums and lyres from different groups of street dancers filled the air. All the participants performed graciously with their street dancing exhibitions. Despite the scorching heat, they managed to execute their routines very well.
And of course, the parade will never be complete without showcasing Cañao, the traditional and indigenous ceremonial dance of the Cordillerans.
The peaceful town of Kabayan, Benguet is really mystical. We’ve been to the Timbac Burial Caves, the 4 mystical lakes, and Mt. Tabayoc. We were here to see the skulls and bones of the Opdas Burial Cave. This mass burial cave is literally within someone’s backyard. I’m wondering if they ever have felt any supernatural sights and noises.
Opdas mass burial cave houses hundreds of skeletal remains dated to be 500 to 1,000 years old. Here we went into the place:
And here’s the spooky welcome marker:
Just a few steps away, we were able to get to the cave. It wasn’t as scary at all. I whispered a little prayer before going in.
I also noted this info marker.
And here it reads:
This unearthed remains of the living past was carbon-dated by Tokyo University Japan, and was found out to be from five hundred to one thousand years old. Renovated by the Philippine Tourism Authority in 1991.
Strong disclaimer: The photos are for educational purposes only. Photos were taken with verbal permission from the caretaker of the place. In no absolute way these photos were taken to desecrate or disrespect the place.
And here are the bones right in front of my eyes:
It was suggested that they were the casualties of smallpox outbreak brought about the Spanish colonizers. Others say they may be citizens of lower social class hence they were buried in mass burial caves.
Big thanks to the good caretaker for her permission. Respect.
Our hike to Mount Tabayoc is the main event of our trip to Kabayan, Benguet. Mt. Tabayoc is 2,842 MASL making it the 2nd highest in Luzon and 5th highest in the Philippines. With this reputation, it feels like a privilege to take on this mountain.
After our quest to explore the 4 mystical lakes of Kabayan, Benguet, we started our hike at wee hours the following day. The trek can take 4-5 hours to the summit and he are hoping to catch the sunrise there.
The path to Mt. Tabayoc
Image taken upon returning to the camp site
Since it was dark when we started, I wasn’t able to take any photos during our ascent. It was also drizzling but we were warned beforehand to expect even moderate to heavy rain. If such happens, we have no choice but to go back.
Armed with flashlights and headlamps, we proceeded. We have to go through dense forest and have to use both hands and feet. The moss makes the trail slippery adding challenge to our task. So far, this is the most enjoyable climb I have. I enjoyed every minute of it. The trail is like no other.
Image taken upon returning to the camp site
Speaking of rainforest, it is only here that is foggy and drizzling. The weather on the camp site is fine and warm.
The sun slowly illuminates the path. Unfortunately, there is no clearing. No blue sky and all foggy view. We got to the view deck at the summit. The rain clouds didn’t dishearten us though from enjoying the joy having reached Mt. Tabayoc summit.
Here are some pictures from the view at the summit:
After some photo shoots, we descended. We went through the same trail. It was a relief when we reached the base. Indeed, the weather is fine here.
Here’s our guide holding exposed carrots. These carrots are no longer good for human consumption.
Leave no trace. Take nothing but pictures.
Did somebody just say mystical lakes? That sounds really good to me. It’s not everyday that I see even one mystical lake. Seeing the four lakes of Kabayan, Benguet is a marvelous treat!
Finally, we arrived at our destination after three long hours inside the jeep.
We arrived at our camp site on Barangay Ballay and got ourselves registered at the Ballay Ranger Station. Moments after, Sir Arlan, Mt. Pulag National Park Forest Ranger, gave us a briefing. He also told us what to expect and yes, never forget safety first and leave no trace.
Afterwards, we all pitched our tents and settled down. It was then we learned that we’re already at the first mystical lake, Lake Tabeo (or sometimes spelled as Tabeyo).
According to the locals, the lake never dries even during summer. The farmers sometimes get water from the lake for their crops. Farm animals drink from the lake. It replenishes itself by collecting rainwater. The lake also has fish but I doubt if it’s suitable for human consumption.
The entire Lake Tabeo in a frame:
Now I got more excited to see the other lakes!
In order to reach the remaining lakes, taking on Junior Pulag is a challenge I have to take. That’s at least what was on my mind. We went through the mossy forest and had our share of skids and bumps. The thought of being tortured turned to bliss when we reached the top.
Others say that Junior Pulag got its name because of the obvious changes in temperature and air pressure, which is similar to that of Mt. Pulag. All I had was gasping for air and sweaty shirt.
From the Junior Grassland point on Junior Pulag, you can already see the 2nd lake, Lake Incolos. Wait, it doesn’t look like a lake, though.
I could say that Lake Incolos (how Ibalois call it) or Incoloh (for Kalanguyas) is fascinating and unique. Dirt, moss, and grass cover the lake water underneath. Step on it and you will slowly sink. You can even see the water seeping in.
Taking a photo on the lake is a risky business. The ground can only hold so much weight. But for the sake of a group picture, these guys are will to go all in.
We went around the lake to go to the next lake, Latep-ngapos.
Beware of the quicksand!
Speaking of mystical lakes, Lake Latep-ngapos (Ibalois) or Latep-ngapoh (Kalanguyas) lived up to its reputation. The fog and drizzles adds an enchanting beauty of the place along with the driftwood and its clear water.
The next lake is not so far away. After some picture taking sessions, we left for Lake Ambulalakaw.
Lake Ambulalakaw or Ambulalacao (sometimes plainly Bulalacao) is the 4th lake visited thus completing our quest for these mystical lakes. The water is so serene and clear. Unfortunately, the rain clouds seem to be chasing us.
So what made this lake extra special? It is regarded as the cleanest in-land lake. The locals preserve it that swimming or any form of similar activity is prohibited.
We headed back to the road to catch our ride. This wrapped up our trip to these mystical lakes. Back to the camp site we go.
Kabayan, Benguet, as welcoming as the town’s name, could have more unexplored places to go to.
It took us no longer than 30 minutes from Mt. Timbak to the drop off site of Timbac Burial Caves. We got us a guide to show the way around. Likewise, it is also their function to keep the caves secured and undefiled. There were reported incidents of looting and vandalism and that is why each visitor must be registered.
We followed the concrete stairs on our way down. The perimeter is fenced to protect the caves from possible animal attacks as well as to deter intruders. We were reminded to avoid shouting or make loud noises.
We walked for around 15 minutes before reaching the first cave. It was a scenic route and any random shot can capture a nice photo. This is a completely random shot which I though might be useful as a breadcrumb should I get lost.
Our guide whispered a prayer before unlocking the gates of the cave. She reiterated that taking photos of the mummies are prohibited. I welcomed the idea and only took photos outside the cave, which is somehow allowed.
We took turns in entering the caves and viewing what’s inside them. I thought that these are indeed gems that must be protected. The locals, Ibalois, have high regards to their elders and one way of showing their respect and love is through performing their traditional burial rites. The main reason why these mummies are called Kabayan Fire Mummies is because the corpse is set over a fire to dry the body. I can say that these mummies were well preserved and had withstood the test of time.
This is a one-of-a-kind experience and definitely worth remembering.
I am not a botanist but does this plant belong to Monophyllaea sp? What’s its name? It is a one-leaf plant that grow beside the trees. Kindly comment or push an email should you want to help me out.
Mt. Tabayoc, here we come!
Mount Timbak (or Mount Singakalsa) is one of Atok, Benguet’s most frequented tourist destinations. It has an elevation of 2,717 meters above sea level making it the 3rd highest peak in Luzon. Hiking Mt. Timbak takes only less than a day and no permits, fees or guides are necessary. Keeping the place tidy and avoiding to step on the crops when going up are highly appreciated.
After our stopover at the Highest Point, Mt. Timbak is our next destination.
Going to Mt. Timbak summit only takes roughly 15 minutes since our ride did most of the climbing. The path going to where we jumped off is paved for the produce delivery vehicles to pass through. A large portion of Mt. Timbak has been converted to terrace farms where locals grow vegetables and flowers.
Hence, our hike to the summit begins.
If the thrill of climbing is what you seek, then Mt. Timbak might not be for you. However, if you love the view of mountain ranges as I do, then you won’t miss going on this mountain.
Going through the trail is like going through the Stations of the Cross. The three crosses on top resembles the scene of crucifixion on Mt. Calvary. It also signals that you are, at least, near the summit.
These are the other man-made structures on the mountaintop:
Reaching the top and seeing the view makes the experience rewarding for me. My companions have became too busy taking selfies and groupies while some of us just enjoy taking pictures of the view. Garden farms surround the trail which for me adds beauty to the path.
The Highest Point can be seen from the summit. It is visible on a clear sunny morning. Here I used my 75-300mm lens.
This is my most favorite photo. It has Mts. Tabayoc, Al-al, and Pulag, respectively, in the frame. The summit of Mt. Timbak is believed to mark the boundary of the municipalities of Atok and Kabayan, Benguet.
Next stop, Timbak Burial Caves to see the Kabayan Fire Mummies and learn how ancient Ibalois venerate their departed loved ones.
I enjoy stopovers, especially if I’m on a long trip. It couldn’t get any better if you’re on the Highest Point of the Philippine Highway System at daybreak. Whenever you pass by Halsema Highway, then you won’t miss this point.
As a part of our hiking event in Mt. Timbak and Mt. Tabayoc, we had our stopover here at Highest Point, in Atok, Benguet. It has an elevation of 7,400 ft above sea level.
Quite frankly, I couldn’t get a good sleep while in the jeep. Aside from the undeniable coldness, the coffee I had earlier have kicked in since we departed from Baguio past 3 in the morning. My eyes are shut but my mind is wide awake. Finally tired of pretending to be asleep, I took my light-capturing contraption and took my first glimpse of the sunrise.
It didn’t took that long until we finally reach Highest Point. It wasn’t my first time setting my foot in this place but it is my first time to catch the sunrise here. The feeling is totally exhilarating!
This is the view deck located in the area. We were lucky because it was a clear sunny morning.
Our time for this stopover is limited so we only took as many photos as we can. We have to get to Mt. Timbak by 7AM. Hence, here were my shots:
And here is when I thought that my phone camera takes better pictures than my DSLR:
Here you’ll see a view of the mountain ranges, vegetable garden farms, and beautiful cloud formations (especially in the morning).
Break’s over. Off to Mt. Timbak.
Using a private transport, going here from Baguio is just around 1hr15mins to 1hr30mins trip. It was cloudy when we went there and we can barely see anything. And yes, the cold breeze goes through my thin jacket.
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