Shoot me now but I
was made to believe believed that the Banaue Rices Terraces IS the 8th Wonder of the World. That’s what I was taught from my HEKASI (Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, at Sining) subject in Elementary. It was only after college that I stumbled on the internet a list of the other Wonders of the World claiming eighth place. There’s over 2 dozens more called “the 8th”. Boy, was I devastated! LOL. Moreover, the textbook didn’t clarify that there were other rice terraces as grand as the Banaue Rice Terraces.
So you can just imagine my excitement that March of 2012 when I explored the Inner Loop from Baguio City taking Halsema Highway into the heart of the Cordillera Mountain then exiting via Banaue. I have just visited Sagada and is now making my way to Banaue. This route is just as scenic as Halsema but has more brutal terrain.
Bontoc is only 7 kms from Sabang junction. It has a gas station and ATM’s – services you will find very valuable, like how I did. I guess it’s not the capital of Mountain Province for no reason.
Shortly after leaving Bontoc, I encountered some rough roads that prompted me to slow down to about 40 kph. Even paved roads are laced with some dirt and the slightest mistake can make me lose traction in an instant and could send Dhona and I flying off the cliff. I slowed down some more. On the other hand, I might get stuck in this same terrain by sundown if I played it too safe.
It is also difficult to stay focused on the road when you have breathtaking panoramic views of the mountain including the scary landslides on its slopes.
After almost 2 hours and 60 kms from Sagada, I reached Banaue and finally laid my eyes on the (like how my HEKASI textbook calls it) Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe. It is really an engineering feat by our ancestors. I’ve drawn those “steps” on countless school projects and I had to apologize how poorly I rendered them. No photo or video can can capture it’s greatness. You have to see it!
The wristwatch on that Ifugao reminded me to get going because it is almost 5 in the afternoon, 12 hours since I left Baguio. I have 400 kms more to cover. The first 60 kms of which is still within the Cordillera Mountains. Sharp curves, landslides, rough roads, steep hills, creepy scarecrows.. they are all still part of the game.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I merged into Maharlika Highway. It was already nighttime and I’m running on an 18-watt single bulb as my headlight. I rested for a while in Petron Aritao after refueling. I was having second thoughts proceeding through Dalton Pass but I really don’t have any choice so I proceeded anyway.
It was a scary, unforgettable experience. The road was riddled with hundreds of potholes and it was very dark. There were also vehicles on the road but they were mostly trucks. This actually worked in my favor and I stuck with them on several occasions. They were slow because of their heavy cargo but I relied on their blinding, bright lights so I can see where the potholes are. Problem is, they can get really close sometimes so I have to bail and pass them. When I became alone in the dark once more, I slowed down until a car catches up to me. I maintained the same speed as the car while staying ahead of it so the car can light up the way. One car can be useful for about 10 minutes before it can find a chance to pass me. Although there was this one SUV that seemed to understand the predicament I was in and tailgated for over 30 minutes. That or he is just as scared as I am to be alone. :p Buses were the worst! Wide tires, powerful engines, and the momentum to brush smaller vehicles off the road just makes them think they rule the highway. This has been the story for the next 7 hours as I try to figure out how to get home. I passed by Cabanatuan City, Gapan City, Baliuag, Malolos City, Manila, then Laguna. I left Baguio City before 5AM and covered a total of 592 kilometers in 22 hours. It was a priceless adventure.
“Igorot on Board” is a three-part series of my 22-hour Inner Loop adventure ride in the Cordilleras on March 2012.