I got a better look of the poblacion in the morning - the parish office and church, St. Theodore’s hospital, the souvenir shops, the surrounding mountains, the halo-halo stand and the local people. It was a bright and sunny day. We were ready to trek Fidelisan for Bomo-dok Falls.
For an affordable fee of Php 1,250.00, we hired a van and a guide to trek down the Fidelisan rice terraces and to bathe in the pools of Bom-odok Falls. Excitement was in the air. Dianne was wearing his hiking sneakers. She brought along a walking stick and wide brimmed hat. I have my camera ready.
The city people that we are, we were so cocky! Mang Jimmy, our guide, showed us the three-kilometer trek from the top of a viewing point. Yeah, we tell him. We can do that. And we did!
We crossed the rice terraces down winding paths and rocky terrain. The view of the mountain was fantastic. Clouds hover above us. The sky was so blue under our heads. The landscape magnified our irrelevance. Man is but a speck in the vast universe and he is free to do what he pleases in it. The rice terraces are truly a wonder of the world! The red earth and the palay that grows on them are firmly held on by rocks at the edge to prevent erosion. According to Mang Jimmy, the rice terraces in Banawe do not have such support. The Mountain Province terraces are sturdier than the Ifugao counterpart. With rocks or none at all, this Igorot invention and ingenuity is unparalleled. Though rice terraces can be found in Vietnam, China and Japan ours flourish on the rocky mountainside.
Contrary to textbook information, rice is not the only crop that grows on the terraces. Kamote, cassava, cabbage and lettuce are planted year round along with other root crops. I read somewhere that natural irrigation, rain and spring water keep the rice terraces green and growing. The rain that prevented us from caving and trekking yesterday was proof. The natural spring water that gushes out the mountainside was another. There were plenty! And what musical sounds they make! The Fidelisan rice terraces were so alive! Half way down the terraces, we met kids who ran ahead of us on the steep path like mountain goats. They were barefoot and nimble. Such was their friendliness to tourists and strangers that Yumi, one of our companions, befriended a few and took pictures of them. They made the tiring and challenging trek to Bomod-ok Falls fun and playful.
Along the way, carabaos graze on a grassy field by a stream and pools of water litter our path left and right. Little fishes, minnows, I’d like to think, and tadpoles swim in their small watery world. Then we heard the gushing of strong water. We were a few meters away from Bomod-ok Falls. Finally, we saw it. The Big Falls that the Tourism Officer recommended for us to see. It was not Niagra, but it was majestic in its own right. The force of the water was overwhelming. The current down river was strong so we selected pools and spots to dip in. Our cameras were on hand for photos to put in our Facebook accounts.
It was refreshing to be there. I sat between two rocks and allowed the water to massage my aching back. Heaven! Dianne swam in the pool and played with the kids we met earlier. She played ‘Nanay – Tatay’ with the boys. In return, she taught them ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly Jam’. Mang Jimmy, our guide left us to enjoy the afternoon. Our companions, Yumi, Jovel, Lucky, Ailen and Jerome took pictures and waded in the cool shallow waters. After an hour, we headed back to the poblacion. The trek going back was double the challenge! Yet, we made it.
Lunch that late afternoon was at Grandma’s Yellow House. We met an Igorot woman by the name of Lilian on our way there. She carried a clump of kamote vines on top of her head. She gathers, plants and sells them at the market place. If the harvest is good, she goes down to Baguio to sell more. We invited her for lunch. She declined, but we insisted. It is typical in the province that everyone is a relative to another. Lola Lilian is the perfect example. She met her grandson (twice removed) at the restaurant and her nephew by the automotive shop. Over tea (mountain tea), I asked if she told any stories to her fifty grand children. She nodded her head but could not remember or share any. Perhaps the language was a barrier. I'm not H. Otley Beyer who lived among the Ifugaos for sixty years. Beyer was an Americam anthropologist who studied and wrote about the mountain people’s way of life, customs, rituals and traditions. He included folklore collected from the locals. Sadly, his writings are in a repository somewhere in a big university in Australia.
While the “bagets” headed back to the rest house, Dianne and I continued exploring the poblacion. She went to St. Mary’s Parish and did her own research. I went to the Ganduyan Museum. Having met Dean Bocobo, the writer and scholar from Manila earlier that morning I heeded his advice to see Christina Aben of the Ganduyan Museum.