DAY 1 – The long trip into the Cordilleras started upon waking up to an early call time and then rolled off into the break of dawn. The team caught up with sleep before passing through the historic Balete Pass in Nueva Vizcaya— a zigzagging road that connects Central Luzon to the Cagayan Valley. The pass has witnessed a lot of battles throughout history and it is likewise known as the gateway to the Ifugao Rice Terraces. But that trip is still a long way down to the itinerary. Breakfast is served in Santa Fe Forest Park before heading to san Vicente Ferrer Church in Dupax del Sur. It is one of the biggest and oldest unreinforced brick churches in the Cagayan Valley. The group was then greeted with a cultural presentation by the students of the municipality before touring around the People’s Museum and get a glimpse of the culture that is still thriving in the Cordilleras. After some snacks, the group then headed to the Department of Agriculture – Nueva Vizcaya Extension Office and experience the farm life. Everyone had a chance to pick some tomatoes and other produce that is available and then finally rest their tired bones at Palaisdaan Hotel and Restaurant.
DAY 2 – Another early call time heading further into the mountains as the team drove to the Ifugao Provincial Capitol for a courtesy call. The team was greeted with yet another cultural presentation, coffee, and local delicacies. Everyone joined in the festivities as it is custom to most ritualistic dances for the whole community, especially the guests, to join in. Everyone was sent off with a smile before trekking through Rice Terraces of Hungduan. It is one of the five clusters of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras that were declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The long walk along the steep rice paddies were rewarded with a hearty meal and a chance to put on a native costume. But the trek is not yet done, as the whole team headed to bathe in the river adjacent to a hot spring just up along the trail. After some rest and recreation, everyone headed to Banaue Hotel feeling refreshed. In the evening, the whole team took part in a ritual of good luck before turning in for the night.
DAY 3 – Seeing the mist flowing through the mountains in the morning is a morning worth waking up to. Everyone is ready to head on to another rice terraces, but before that, everyone took a snapshot of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces along the way. Having acclimatized to the mountain air, going through the Maligcong Rice Terraces was just a breeze. It has becoming one of the more popular hiking destinations in the region, especially to those who would opt for a more chill climb than for a hardcore one. After a quick lunch in Bontoc, the road lead to Sagada, where everyone made a quick trip to the Hanging Coffins, passing through the town’s cemetery. Coming back from the short trip, everyone wasted no daylight to catch up on shopping, before heading to Rock Inn and spend the night.
DAY 4 – This day was all about history and farming and that is what the municipalities of Bauko, Buguias, Atok, and La Trinidad offered to the whole team. Everyone enjoyed meals that were cooked with fresh ingredients and everyone got their hands dirty in cutting and picking fresh produce off the land. The convoy was heavy with loads of products from the Cordilleras and at the same time, hearts are full with bonds of friendship made between the team and the locales they have visited, and memories to cherish whenever they pass through the mountains of the Cordilleras on their next trip.