Travelling from Bontoc to Tinglayan along the Chico River sure is beautiful. It can get spooky looking over the edge of the road because it’s a long way down to the river.

All the vehicles are packed with passengers including the roof.

I usually opt for the roof ride myself because the view is so great. The jeepney or bus will stop alongside the road so everyone can fill up their water bottles from the fresh mountain streams. It is really cool to be in such a clean environment.

bigcave_254.jpgThe Chico River can be rafted and kayaked during the rainy season when the water is high.

There was a plan years ago to dam it up and install hydroelectric turbines so the power could be directed to Manila but the local resistance was fierce so the plan was dropped.

If the valley was flooded a way of life would have been destroyed and the people knew that if they did not resist they would loose everything.

bigcave_286.jpg When you get to the town of Tinglayan there are 2 places to stay. The Good Samaratin and The Sleeping Beauty Inn.

This is a good base to start your treks from. You can leave your extra weight at the hotels.

Some of the hills are a good climb so try not to take along any unnecessary gear because it will kill you.

bigcave_280.jpgIf you are an experienced trekker you would be able to negotiate the trails on your own but it might be far more rewarding with a local guide.

They speak the local language and know what is going on and the Kalinga people tend to be hesitant to accept strangers.

If you decide to camp in the hills is is so much easier to have someone smooth the trail for you.

bigcave_241.jpgOnce you leave town there are no restaurants or organized places to stay but you can barter with the villagers for food and the water coming down from the mountains in some places is clean and pure.

I have spent a few nights with the villagers and that worked out pretty well but you must be prepared to rough it a bit.

It is getting close to the elections so Comelec police are checking buses and jeepneys for possible weapons and other things.

bigcave_266.jpgThere is only one road between Bontoc and Tabuk so the police can control what passes through pretty easily.

A lot of these mountain people speak very good English but are rusty on Tagalog.

Some of them do not owe a strong allegiance with the central Philippine govt and still do not trust them. When the officials tell them “We are from the government and we are here to help you” it just doesn’t seem genuine.

bigcave_293.jpgThere are a lot of old traditions still alive here. I met one of the last of the headhunters a few years back but he passed away 2 years ago. In a few years a lot of this stuff will just be just memories and only alive on the internet.

If you want to get slightly off the beaten trail this would be a neat place to visit and it really doesn’t require that much effort. The food does suck though, especially if you don’t care for chopped pork.

…but, if you get the chance…enjoy a meal of red rice. It is really, really good!


Feb 28, 2007 www.dutchpickle.com

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