We don’t know what compels us to do the things we do. I can however, explain with so much fondness what i know about the complexities of love- thereafter. It started out as an impromptu bus ride. Imagine someone getting you from your place of work, or in my case where i studied. Having a meal and getting the sudden desire to flee. Glances were exchanged and with a mischievous look on both your eyes you both went your separate ways only to meet hours after. Missing the bus to your original destination you patiently wait for a new one, but if the new one forces you to be apart for 8 hours you take a blind leap of faith and hope to get on the other one on the next street. You succeed, you arrive and you enjoy a meal whilst waiting to get on the 2nd one. The ride is cold and bumpy. But your company made you delirious, views outside are tempting but your eyes stay glued to the seat next to you. Arriving somewhere new you excitedly roam the place together only to move forth to another destination. You’d like more of a challenge and so did we, atop the jeepney, onwards we went hoping to reach our summit in the nick of time.
Looking for a purpose, yet lost and insecure. We were crestfallen to learn that the last trip has made its way on. We were the only ones left who needed to go to our destination that afternoon. And with every moment that passes it takes an inch of sunlight from our day. We had to make a decision that will leave us with a bitter taste. Haggling was futile. They had their agenda we had ours, we took the bait and we rode again. If only the beautiful yet short lived sights were much of a consolation. Only for me it wasn’t, i was comfortable in my sleep knowing i was being guarded safely.
Even before arriving we already knew what we were getting ourselves into. Fear and surprise shouldn’t even be on the equation but we didn’t know when our courage would run out. If this was a test it was surely doing its job well.
I was scared. We both knew that, hold on to me and don’t let go never had so much meaning as when it was said during a death defying moment. Maybe that’s why all the greatest romance were borne out of adversity, having someone hold your hand gives you so much courage, like you have two lives and twice as much bravery. Granted that i probably wouldn’t die at the ravine, the falling rocks and trees that were punctuating our terrifying cross made me shudder. Thankfully we both made it safely.
Our ordeal wasn’t over. There was still about halfway of ground to cover. That involved climbing up a mountain with two policemen carrying flowers. I suspect another lovelorn fantasy for the guy carrying a bouquet while they jokingly commented about our “stroll”. We made it up in the foggy peak and managed to flag down a tricycle. The tricycle driver quoted a price and we agreed. About a quarter of the way through he explained that he needed more. It was reasonable, perhaps a better, well rested and more amicable me would weigh this accordingly but i can’t be that person each and every time. I broke down and i lost control. I cried on my knees and i was embarrassed at my outburst. I didn’t know what to do but someone close to me did. He said we had somewhere to go and we’d go through any means to get there, he wanted to be there as much as i did. I’ll always be thankful for this support, someone has my back when i needed it most, He stayed strong even if everything that i’ve been through he’s going through it as well with heavier bags and less sleep.
We made it unscathed. Mentally, emotionally and of course physically tired we chose to sleep at one of the many hotels at the town center. We awoke refreshed and embraced the sunlight for shining at us in our own mecca.
Would never trade any amount of coffee (no matter how splendid the Banaue Coffee is) with sharing a morning with someone who barreled me through my catatonic state. We didn’t have a specific agenda for the day but as we had breakfast in the People’s Restaurant by the hotel we stayed in we decided it best to try and hike on some of the terraces in the area. There is a chart on the wall of the restaurant for the transportation and guide fees to the tourist spots. It’s best to haggle since the prices are a bit steep. We decided to go to the Hungduan Terraces by the Hapao Villages for a hike and a dip at the Hot Spring. We quickly packed and went on to our mighty tricycle equipped to withstand he rough roads with some photo pitstops along the way.
One would have to register at a municipal hall by the Hungduan town center and enjoy a hike for about 3 hours going up and down the stone-walled terraces. Like most locals we’ve encountered they also suffer from a very nearsighted misjudgment of distances but with the cool weather and the gorgeous sights we didn’t mind. The path was a bit wet and narrow. Made of mud and a bit slippery, i wasn’t wearing trail shoes although i didn’t cuss at myself for neglecting to bring sensible shoes since i imagined this rice field was a far swankier Powerplant Mall.
You will then see a sturdy looking zipline used to transport cement or maybe a person halfway through your trek. This will surely be fun if i got to try this, i have a feeling more than a few adventurous boys have gotten a ride with this one.
Most of the people we’ve encountered have a rather “Chinese” looking face, and the names of the areas echo this sentiment. They’ve easily earned my respect for having the quiet confidence that i can’t put my finger to. However, what’s truly unmistakable is the serene and tranquil vibe of the whole village. We felt like intruders who were welcomed to see but not stay, Make no mistake about their friendliness though, we were able to interact with them using a strange yet funny mixture of Tagalog and English trying very hard to put a twang of whatever dialect i could think of and i barely managed to have a sort of fealty that enabled us to try their famed past time.
Nga-nga is commonly seen in the Philippine provinces, it is a mixture of a beetle nut wrapped in mint leaf with a white powder and a bit of tobacco on the center. Once chewed the nut will break and cause a red orange tint on your mouth which they claim will result to stronger teeth. The Nga-nga is very, very bitter and i couldn’t hold it in my mouth for long. My travel-mate had been chewing his for a considerable time before you have to do the icky “spit” and with much cringing embarrassment we were drooling pink and giggling.
I somehow blame the sulfuric springs for emitting that lovely vibe, this is a very nice way of nature saying Fyou to modern plumbing. There are mini geysers on this spring about centimeters in diameter sprouting hot water from a nearby dormant volcano and gets mixed up via the mini waterfall with the cold waters of the mountain. The spring is quite warm and felt nice on the skin especially after our trek. We were joined by a few kids after the lesbian Russian couple who preceded left with their female tour guide.
Going back the trail wasn’t much of a chore, if anything it proved to be leisurely. The stone walled fields of the terraces are reassuringly sturdy that my only gripe was not having a hand to hold while walking. Tired but not spent we enjoyed a breather in the pit stop having some interesting Chinese coke and “kababayan” a comically shaped pastry. Our tricycle mightily sped on back to Banaue giving us ample to time to reserve our seats at the 7pm BANAUE-MNL trip of the Florida Bus Lines.
We were still blessed with daylight and had ample amount to play in the town. There’s a bridge that crosses a ravine near the town that i was so curious about, we went down to it and saw that it wasn’t that bad. The iron was chipping and the floor had holes, when i stepped on the metal screeched like a banshee. But i wanted to cross it so bad so i gingerly stepped on and forward about middle of the way i beckoned him to cross too but he was deathly afraid of heights. Needless to say we did it together after much prodding and pulling and while we were on what we thought was such a monumental cause the local kids zipped right on past us running and sending the metal bridge amok. We couldn’t help but laugh at what we thought was so scary, we should just let go and let God but it’s always much easier said than done.
Checking out proved to be the event that would bring out some sort of Bat-man desire for revenge. After getting conned for more than a thousand pesos because of their claimed 7am check-out time we really felt helpless and depressed, but as my wonderful companion was downstairs aboard the tricycle that will take us to the bus station. Well, let’s just say that those mean staff will get their money’s worth when they find the contents of this box on their mattress.
The Florida Bus terminal was just beside the Banaue Hotel and a small sari-sari store called Serendipity. Armed with food and him earning so much of my respect we bid Banaue adieu. But maybe we were on an insanity tangent, or our horoscopes are horridly misaligned. Whatever reason i could think of it can’t explain the slew of things that happened and at the odds that it did. The culminating point of our expedition was getting stranded in the middle of a dark highway for hours on end. Then i saw a tiny green speck of light i’ve never seen before. My friend caught it and gave it to me. It was a beautiful firefly and as it flapped its wings the light it emits shines brighter. With our spirits renewed i knew i had to do one thing. I was going to take us home.
Well at the various states of crazy my head has been through i might as well do it damn straight. But a new bus arrived and we shared the long way home together. I’ll never know if Banaue really was his mecca and i’ll never know his reason for going with me, at first i thought it was mine but i realized it was so much more than that. And if our trip Banaue was a test he truly passed it.
Each and every one of us can fall in love. Staying in love with the same person, falling each and every time is the challenge. Banaue was by no means easy and there were times that i doubted my purpose, having someone with me who wanted the same thing made it possible. I fell in love with Banaue and i’ll do it all again if i had the same person to share my journey with.