Saturday, 30 May 2009

the wonders of mainit - cordillera

This is a guided tour of Mainit, with signposts along the way.

Signpost #00. Notify someone of your whereabouts. Do not travel alone. Check with local authorities if it’s safe to travel to your intended destination. Depending on the time of year, you might get trapped in the cordillera if you arrive here in the storm season. that's not necessarily a bad thing but 'if your time to you is worth saving...'

Bontoc is the gateway to the cordillera village of mainit.

Approaching Bontoc on the halsema highway from the south, is the welcoming sight of lush green ricefields.
From the town center, you can gaze around the high mountains surrounding the place. Looking west is the daunting heights of mt pagturao on the way to mainit. The best way to really appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the mountains of the cordillera is to actually walk them. The hike from bontoc to mainit is a lazy 3 hours for the fit and experienced hiker. However i recommend to take a whole day so you can pause to enjoy the sights, take in some fresh air, and also to stop and smell the mountain flowers, and maybe sample a stray mountain berry now and then.
well alright you can catch a tricycle. there's a lookout point in pagturao, but the hilltop above the lookout offers a lot more. so catch a trike to there.

After a bit of a hike to pagturao, you turn back and gaze at the wonder of bontoc-samoki valley. The phrase ‘a river runs through it’ was never more apt.

Signpost #1. The golden rule. We all know what that is. Do not bring valuables with you. Jewellery and expensive things could attract the wrong kind of attention. Travel with light essentials only, and not like royalty, although if you've got a dime to spare...

Farther up the mountain, one finds relics of times past such as an old resting place. This would have served many a weary woodchopper, farmer, hunter or warrior in times past. This is also a good spot for a few minutes of rest. Here you can decide to continue on the mountain trail along the ridges, or to continue along the road. Always consider your safety as paramount, so if you don’t have a guide, please stay on the road, you won’t miss too much. Anyway the mountain tracks would be disused and hard to find these days, and could be very treacherous in parts especially for novice mountaineers. I think the shelter is no longer there but have a rest anyway.

Signpost #2. GIGO. Oh yes all you modern generation know it well. Garbage in garbage out. This means you do not bring your garbage in to these mountains. Keep your garbage with you and dispose of them when you get back to town. You don’t want litter in your yards, the mountains don’t either.

Deeper up the mountain, the pine forest gets thicker and welcomes you with the sweetest breath of the freshest air while enveloping you with a misty hug and even a wet kiss from the mountain dew.
The last rooftops of bontoc and samoki slowly disappear behind the pine needles as you climb on to cloudland.

On a mountain ridge on the trail between maligcong and guina-ang.
Remember if you’re not experienced in mountaineering, it’s easier to hike along the road. Very few people do see these hidden wonders. It’s off the beaten track. You will need a local guide but is worth it and more.
We’ll visit maligcong another time, so we turn southwesterly towards guina-ang.

On the way down from the ridges are these ricefields way up on the mountainside.

Soon the village of guina-ang is in sight and to make time, the road snaking through the ricefields would be quickest route.
Guina-ang has some stalls for fresh breads and other food items such as fresh green vegetables.

The trail between guina-ang and mainit is only short but on this trail are good vantage points for viewing the applai side of the mountain range. In the distance one can see cloud-kissed ricefarms, streams, forests, mountains and parts of the villages of kiltepan (killong-tetepan-antadao), dalican, fidelisan etc. Beyond the mountain peaks looking south but not visible, are the mountaintop towns of sagada and besao.
We will also visit them at another time.

Signpost #3. Ask permission if you want to take a picture of people.

Mainit village. the hidden world of natural relaxation.

welcome to mainit, one of the cordillera's favorite destinations. mainit is a sleepy village which offers a great variety of things to see and do. it is home to natural hot springs, rice terraces, and majestic mountains.
as a popular destination, mainit is great any time of year (except at the height of typhoons). if you visited before, somehow you knew you'll be back, but if you haven't, well what are you waiting for? how will you want to come back?

Nestled on the gentle slopes and surrounded by high mountains acting as sentries, the village of mainit sits cozily, overlooking the neighboring village of guina-ang.

The refreshing smell of hotspring steam lets you know you have arrived. (a mainit hotspring steambath is a great cure for asthmatics).
Houses are comfortably situated between pine forest and hotspring, or between ricefields and a patch of cane .

Take a stroll around the edge of the village and discover things.

Situated on the upper part of mainit is the elementary school. Say hello to the schoolkids and teach them to dispose of their lunch wrap and other litter thoughtfully. Children are impressionable and a good example from friendly visitors can only help. Of course they are taught not to accept candies from strangers.

The southerly hill called sagang, a short little climb above the Anglican church, provides great views of the village and its immediate surrounds.

Farther afield to the nothern slopes one will find the hidden wonders of mainit ricefields, irrigated by the fresh mountain streams flowing down from the peaks. This gives you a taste of that other undiscovered attraction of the cordillera - mountain trekking.

Signpost #4. Observe local custom. If unsure ask the locals. People here don’t take kindly to strangers roaming around their villages especially at night, and/or the local holy day te-er or tengao.

On a regular weekend you might find a few of the village lads troop to the hills to cut firewood. Another suggestion that may not go amiss with them boys is to cut only the dried branches off the pine trees. Due to the introduction of gas burner stoves in the past decade or so, woodcutting is perhaps not as widespread these days. Whether that’s better for the environment is debatable, but it certainly saves a few pine trees each year.

After collecting a load of firewood, it might then be time for a dip in the local pool. Everybody’s heard about the famed hot springs of mainit so i won’t bore you with twice told tales about them.
Just go for a dip and relax, and you’ll know that mainit is actually a lot better than what people say.

Beside a brook where the occasional geyser sometimes spurts, this stand of mahogany trees provides cooling shade and also helps retain the hillside, preventing erosion.
the murmur of the brook serves as a lullaby for a weary traveller.
signpost #5. be a good samaritan. help stimulate the local economy. do some local purchases in the village. even for just a bar of soap or some toothpaste. in these hard times, the local store can do with a bit of custom. be generous. as a tourist, a traveller, a government official, whatever your station in life, thanks for coming, and do come again. and please spread the good word about our village.
okay then catch a good night's sleep, for on the morrow, i will guide you to the majestic mountains. abangan.
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