I can’t recall if it was the BlackBerry’s alarm that woke me up or the fact that I’m generally a light sleeper in unfamiliar surroundings. I do remember waking up a few times the previous night and again falling back to sleep soon after. The last time I did though, I discerned a bit of daylight through the tent and so I thought (correctly, it turns out) that it was already time to view the sunrise. So after wearing my shoes and getting my camera, It was time to shoot.
Although it was cold that morning, it wasn’t something that would make you shiver, unlike, say, Mt. Pulag’s brand of cold. Evidence of the previous night’s drinking session – empty vodka bottles, barbecue sticks, etc. – were strewn over the plastic mat at the center of the camp. (The mat had a conspicuous-looking burnt-out spot.) Most of us got up and went about enjoying the early morning view and taking photos, while a few of the hardcore drinkers didn’t leave their tents at all.
We did witness a “sea of clouds”. We were so high up the mountains that what we thought of as fog were actually clouds that moved through the mountaintops. They didn’t remain in one place for long though. They were continuously drifting between and above the mountains. The three photos above were taken in a span of just around 5 minutes.
Gracey and I initially took photos at a cliff side near our camp and we were later called on by Edge to join him and the others who were already on top of a “hill” (i.e., an elevated area) with a more sweeping view of the surrounding mountains and the sea of clouds. There was another group up there who must have arrived a lot earlier because they were having breakfast by a small fire. They were with a guide whom I recognized as “Gareth” from the photos in the website run by the Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SaGGAs).
Once up there, it was another round of picture-taking, this time with the entire group. Erwin put on his photographer hat and showed his skill in operating different types of cameras for the group shots. After that, there was this:
After viewing the sunrise, taking photos and creating hundreds of bubbles, we then walked back to the camp where we were met with hot water, sachets of 3-in-1 coffee and piping-hot Spanish bread prepared by Erwin.
It was also around this time when Deanna and Cedric got out of their respective tents to “wake up and smell the coffee”, so to speak. They probably drank a lot more vodka than the other hardcore drinkers. The breakfast wasn’t that filling but it was a good way to start the day. After that, it was once again bumming around at the camp. Some, like me, strayed around to take more pictures, while some of the others took naps to catch up on their sleep.
We had no idea that the coffee and bread were just appetizers for a bigger meal that we would have that same morning. So all the while, I thought that we were just waiting for the break camp and the trip back to the town proper. In the meantime, the weather alternated between sunny and foggy due to the passing clouds that drifted through the camp every now and then. Thankfully, there were still no rains.
Second breakfast turned out to be a boodle fight too. We had lots of rice with okra, hotdogs, tuyo and hard boiled eggs, and even a banana each for dessert. There was so much food that I really felt bad we had too many leftovers. (Edge and I were the last ones to leave the boodle.) Fortunately, Erwin and his fellow guides had no qualms about eating from our leftovers.
Soon after second breakfast, it was finally time to break camp and prepare for the hike back to the jump-off point where our jeepney would be waiting. Bags were packed, trash was collected, and the tents were dismantled and packed. With one last look at the beautiful surroundings, we were then off.
By the way, the place was named “Marlboro Country” supposedly because wild horses roamed the area. At the time that we were there, the number of wild horses we saw was a grand total of one (1). There was however proof that animals frequently roam the area as evidenced by the presence of dried animal dung everywhere, especially at the camp site. We actually had to clear them away before pitching the tents the day before.
Here’s a video Cedric made on the whole camping experience.
In his blog, Cedric expressed his dislike for appropriating cliched western names for local places, and I agree with him on this. There is another more famous “Marlboro Country” in the Philippines and it is located in Batanes. I always refer to it by its indigenous name, which is “Rakuh-a-Payaman”. I wish the people of Sagada would also provide an indigenous name for this beautiful place (or try to remember one from their collective memory) as I don’t believe its present name has any appeal at all.
Camping here is a great experience. I certainly would want to repeat the whole thing on my next Sagada trip.
(Next, Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection.)
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This entry is part of the Sagada series dated June 18-20, 2011:
1. Sagada Adventure (Prologue)
2. Sagada Adventure, Day 1 (Arrival)
3. Sagada Adventure, Day 1 (Marlboro Country)
4. Sagada Adventure, Day 2 (Marlboro Country)
5. Sagada Adventure, Day 2 (Cave Connection)
6. Sagada Adventure, Day 3 (Walking Tour)
7. Sagada Adventure, Epilogue (Banaue Exit)