But apart from the physical and spiritual strength that I gained from my ninety-day trek around Benguet, I’ve had the most remarkable growth and realizations in life.
My friends always wonder how I have been able to get by being unemployed for almost a year now. But traveling alone and traveling beyond tourism, I have learned the craft of gaining the trust and friendship of the locals. I change locations almost every week but it is never a problem for me to find free food and lodgings in any town in Benguet. In exchange, I give whatever service I can render. I was on my 65th day, in Buguias, when I had this liberating realization that I was already living the life that the leftists have been wanting to achieve—a life free from politics and commerce. Only, I achieved it without taking up arms against the government.
Living with the locals, as in doing what they do and eating what they have on their tables, has given me another perspective on life. I was amazed by what my two hands are capable of doing and creating. And in the simplicity of their living, I found how it is possible to live a good life—not necessarily happy but definitely free of the unnecessary worries and follies of the urban society.
I have already shared some of my routes to a chosen few. And one of my invitees told me a very inspiring story of how the trek changed his outlook on life. When he saw the long arduous process that rice has to undergo from the paddies to the locals’ plates and when he found out that the kids have to traverse many peaks for at least two hours just to get to school, he realized that he was still fortunate after all. Y’see his son, in addition to his recurrent seizures, has trouble retaining new memories and newly learned skills. But his experience during the trek made him realize that he has a lot of other things to be thankful for. It’s not that he thinks the locals have bigger problems than he and his wife do. It’s just that, the locals have shown him how it is possible to refute the reality of problems or hardships. Problems in the city such as tedious manual work, power outage, and walking far and long are the way of life in the little hamlets we passed by. And the locals manage to live this life with a smile and an extra plateful of rice for the weary traveler.
So before I start farming in Leyte in mid-2016, I would like a few qualified individuals to have a taste of this epiphany. I have designed itineraries for three trekking routes (in Benguet) that are less physically demanding than the Lagataw Invitational Treks but are just as beautiful and eye-opening. They are a good way to start your new year right.
1. Sitio Paraiso Trek
(2 days 1 night; January 23-24)
Physical demand: Comparable to Pico de Loro / Batulao / Maculot
Aesthetic factor: 4 stars (If Mt Pulag without the crowd is 5 stars)
Epiphany factor: 6 stars
2. Camp Utopia + Sitio Paraiso Trek
(2 days 1 night; January 30-31)
Physical demand: Comparable to Arayat traverse (2x) / Ambangeg-Akiki (Pulag) traverse
Aesthetic factor: 5 stars
Epiphany factor: 5 stars
3. Tacadang Trek
(3 days 2 nights; February 6-8)
Physical demand: Comparable to Tawangan-Akiki (Pulag) traverse / Batad – Barlig (Amuyao) traverse
Aesthetic factor: 8 stars
Epiphany factor: 6 stars
General specifications for the trek are patterned after some of the general principles of ecotourism:
- Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors.
- Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in the host community
GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS for the EPIPHANY TREKS
• NO SMOKING
• NO Smartphones / Internet during the trek (we leave your comms at the municipal hall)
• NO music (focus on the music of nature)
• NO tents (we stay at local houses, where you get much of your epiphany)
• NO Liquor (we drink local tapey or basi if you want to and if there’s some available)
• You may bring a camera but I highly discourage this. It is better to focus on your experience with the place and the locals than to busy yourself looking for some vistas to capture on your camera. This way you can go home with a beautiful story that can paint a beautiful picture for the listener.
And when you do take pictures, make it as clandestine as possible when locals are around. We are not going there to remind the locals about what they don’t have. We are going there to find out what we’ve been missing in our busy lives.
• A maximum of SEVEN (7) guests can be accommodated in each of the treks
• Online screening with respect to your physical capability and your attitude will be done
• More details will be posted on my Facebook page.
If you’re looking for beautiful pictures of the destinations in this post, you are not ready for an epiphany. Go find a Mt Pulag trek on Facebook!