Mountain Heaven in Mountain Province

I'm in mountain heaven at Mountain Province. The artist who I met in Coron didn't make a mistake to tell me to live here. A tribal drum craftsman and tattoo artist, he's lived in many places, high land and low land, in the Philippines. The only place I know where NOT to live in is Metro Manila, with the exceptions of UP Diliman campus and Bonifacio Global City. Outside the city capital, Sagada, said the artist, was the perfect combination of relaxed atmosphere, chilly weather, indigenous culture, and plenty of mountains, naturescapes, and outdoor activities. Sagada is an ideal playground for nature junkies and introverts like myself.

Sagada is an ideal playground for nature junkies and introverts like myself.

Just like how I came and explored other locales in the country, I've arrived in Sagada alone, without any booking or hotel reservation, without knowing anybody. I just come and dive in like a boss, trusting that the universe will take care of everything else. (Which it usually does!) While I have been here for short trips several times in the past, knowing the soul of a place doesn't take two or three days. I took the advice of other long-term travelers, accustoming myself to living in one location for AT LEAST three months. (And I promise to write more now, since I have electricity!)

On the side note, I have to update my criteria on living in a new destination:

I've been here for only two days, the first day spent just sleeping and recovering from the 12-hour bus and jeep commute from Manila. As soon as I recovered, I haven't stopped wandering. The first two or three days are usually spent familiarizing myself with the town, its streets, vegetable markets, restaurants, transportation routes, and secret nooks for reading, yoga, or just breathing delicious air. And then I'd talk to a dozen people to get a glimpse of their lifestyles and views on which area is best to live in. I checked out two potential places to settle in yesterday, and the first one was just perfect.

What do I mean perfect? Thirty minutes before I set out to look for a room, studio, or apartment, I listed a couple of things in my phone. That this new home is within 15 minutes to the market (so I can prepare my herbivore food XD), has a view of the sunrise, near the forest, mountain, or stream/river, has available drinking water and electricity, has a clothesline, kitchen, and bed. And guess what? The first place I checked out had all of these.XD I don't know if my visions are creating the future or that I can foresee the future. I may have superpowers like that. Aaaaand on top of all these, I am only renting at a freakin P1,500/month. o.o

The chimney house is made of heavy hardwood on the inside and insulated with steel metal sheet from the outside. I share the six-room house with about 8 other people, mostly Igorots. Uncannily, they don't look anywhere near the Igorots found in mainstream media, but they are generally heavyset and squat (but not always!), often with bloody-looking mouths from chewing betel nut. My room is on the second floor, with two wide windows, one of which faces the sunrise, a portion of Echo Valley (where the hanging coffins are found), and steep mountains clad in pine trees. The air here is seductively clean and cool, with the faint but all-pervasive smell of pine. If I get to find a carpenter within this week I'll have a wooden table made for me to write on and finish my books, all that facing this gorgeous view. Ah, heaven!XD

Since I've already been to the hanging coffins, burial caves, and rock climbing activities in my previous visits, I went out my way to explore sites rarely visited by tourists. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning yesterday, washed up, and started trekking to Kiltepan where I would see the prettiest sunrise in Sagada. Guessing I'd get there in 30 minutes, I walked leisurely starting at 5 am, and marveled at the mist slowly rising around me. With the brightening sky, the noisy birds shooting off their headquarter trees, tall pine trees everywhere, cozy chimney houses in sight, all these united by thick fog and freezing chill, I thought I was in some page ripped off from the novel The Hobbit. All the way to Kiltepan, fog came out my breath as if I was smoking a cigarette. Turned out, I underestimated the trek as it took me at least an hour to get there (way to go, Little Miss Leisurely), the last 15 to 20 minutes entailing a gradual ascent on a dirt road towards Kiltepan Peak.

Had I known it would take me that long I could've hitchhiked instead. But the trek itself was rewarding anyway so I thought I'd just hitchhike on the way back. Kiltepan Peak had a wide clearing for car parking, surrounded by more pine trees, and an abandoned hotel and restaurant on its highest ground. From the edge of the peak was a panoramic view of mountain ranges one behind another, where the sun had risen (and I missed it, goddamnit) and was now slowly inching over two distant but still inspiring rice terraces collectively known as Kiltepan Rice Terraces. Note to self: visit this again before sunrise and hitchhike next time! On the way back down I chanced upon a middle-aged man who just emerged from a pine forest and had a motorcycle parked along the dirt road. He said he's been scouting area for mushrooms and they haven't sprouted yet. Kuya Ronny, his name, let me ride on his motorcycle on the way down and to the town.

Oh drat, I sold my iPad and no longer have anything to take pictures with, save for my analog talk and text phone that shoots photos in kilobits.XD I bought a Kindle Paperwhite after selling the iPad -- I should've done this a long time ago! I'm in love with Kindle. Reads like a regular book with soft paper. (Then again I'd still prefer a real book I can turn a page and sniff over anything else.) An iPad makes for a shitty long-term ebook reader. My eyes would hurt and water after just an hour of reading, and then there's the stripes imprint at the back of my eyeballs when I close my eyes. HIDEOUS. Good riddance.

Goddamnit, this place is too perfect. Time to make some trouble.

// Jul 2017

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