Trek for a Cause: Tanudan, Kalinga (aka “the best part of Y-and-E’s summer”)

Funny how life leads us somewhere unexpectedly.

We initially wanted to go to Sagada so we went on sites that featured the place. We stumbled upon a post on the Visit Sagada site inviting individuals to join K.I.D.S. Foundation’s Trek For a Cause.  This wasn’t the first time we heard of the trek (we’ve seen it in yahoogroups and in Multiply, a few times in the past), but the timing of this invite was just perfect.  This summer’s trek destination was Tanudan, Kalinga.  We thought, “Hey, why not do this trip instead of Sagada?” It seemed like a better idea. We get to go on a trekking adventure to somewhere beautiful, we get to help K.I.D.S. with their medical mission, and we get to reach out to the people of Kalinga.  Fun and fulfilling. Needless to say, it turned out to be a summer trip we’d never forget. Yey!

Photos by: Tin Mantuano (left) and Djoanne Tiambeng (right)

May 20, 2011 Friday.  We boarded the bus to Kalinga with 40+ other trekkers. Some of them we’ve met during the pre-trek orientation, but most of them were new faces. Thankfully, Ms. Rox of K.I.D.S. was very friendly and welcoming. We had to make the most of the 10-hour bus ride to sleep and rest because as soon as we set foot on Kalinga, we were going to be on our feet.

May 21, 2011 Saturday.  Still in the bus, we woke up to a welcoming sunrise at a place very different from where we left off. Left and right, we saw mountains and greens and traces of fog.  We were almost there.

yza blog1
Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
At Tabuk, Kalinga, the group got off the bus and moved all our stuff to 3 dump trucks. We then traveled another 1 1/2 hours to Barangay Baccong.  It was a very bumpy ride. Roads were rough and steep and sometimes scary.  And our butts hurt from all the bouncing around in the truck.

Photos by: Eliel Sarmiento (top-left) and Anthony Mendoza (bottom-left and right)
But it was a fun ride. Plus, the air was fresh, and the sceneries were beautiful.  We also saw Rafflesia flowers – the world’s biggest flowers – along the way.

“The newest Philippine find is Rafflesia banaoana, discovered last year in the isolated highland forests of Kalinga province.” – had to Google to make sure it really was what we saw! haha.

When we arrived at Barangay Baccong, we immediately set up for the day’s medical mission. We had our assignments (Yza at registration, Eliel at vital signs for Day 1) and we went to work.  Breakfast was served on the side and we took turns eating the local food that the people of the barangay prepared.  Finally tasted baboy damo. Also loved the fried puso ng saging dish (don’t know what it’s called, though.)

Photo by: Melvin Torres
It was a hot day, but people came and we did what we were assigned to do.  These people don’t often have the chance to see doctors and get medical attention, so they really look forward to things like this.

Photo by: Melvin Torres
Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
The kids were also treated to some fun and games!:)

Photo by: Melvin Torres
Photos by: Anthony Mendoza (left), Paolo Socco (top-right) and Eliel Sarmiento (bottom-right)
Photo by: Anthony Mendoza
After the long day, everyone headed to the river to enjoy the cool flowing water. :)
Photos by: Eliel Sarmiento (left) and Tin Mantuano (right) 
That night, we slept in the houses of our host families. We (Yza and Eliel) were assigned to a host family along with 4 other trekkers.  Lucky for us, the people of Baccong were very nice and hospitable. We felt safe and had a good rest that night.  No mosquitoes.hehe

Photo by: Melvin Torres

May 22, 2011 Sunday. We woke up at 4 in the morning and set out to our next destination. Took the truck again to a drop-off point. From there, we took a 2-hour trek towards the next location, Barangay Bawak. It rained the night before, therefore, paths were super muddy. Our feet were heavy because of all the mud sticking on our shoes/sandals.  We had numerous, “Are we there yet?” moments because the road just seemed to go on and on and on. No kidding.

Photos by: Eliel Sarmiento
When we FINALLY got there, we were greeted with breakfast, and, yahoo, a sari-sari store that sold Coke! The food, as always, was overflowing.

Photo by: Melvin Torres
And then we went to the school where we were to hold the medical mission for that day (Mababang Paaralan ng Biga.hihi no offense, it’s just that our Bisaya side couldn’t help but giggle at the name).  Anyway, we had new assignments for that day (Yza-holding area, Eliel-gift giving).  Sunday turned out to be busier than Saturday.  For a town that seemed so far away from civilization, there were a lot of people! Turns out, people from the neighboring barangays really came over just to have their kids checked up.

Photos by: Eliel Sarmiento
Photo by: Anthony Mendoza
Photo by: Anthony Mendoza
We also got the rare opportunity to meet the elderly women from the Kalinga tribes who have the traditional batek tattoos.  Sadly, this tradition seems to end with their generation. It’s pretty cool. But it’s unimaginable how painful the tattooing process would have been. Yikes.  Those are some brave, strong women they have there. 

Photo by: Melvin Torres
Photo by: Melvin Torres
To cap off our activity, the locals prepared a short program. They sang traditional songs and danced with some volunteers. It was a sort-of teaser to what we were going to see that night.

Photo by: Melvin Torres
Photo by: Melvin Torres
Then it was time for us to say goodbye. But not without the requisite group shot.

Photo by: Derick Adil
We then headed back to the city, where we would check in at the Davidson Hotel.  On the way though, our truck overheated so we had to take a few stops so that they could "water" it.hehe

Photo by: Melvin Torres
After 1 hour-ish, we made it! Davidson Hotel was quite decent, and way better than what we were expecting. We checked in our rooms and freshened up for the dinner socials.

Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento

By the time dinner was served, we were starving. Table 1 (our table) was apparently hungrier compared to the other tables.  After sneakily lining up for 2nd and 3rd servings, we were filled and happy. And ready for the "cultural show” that the locals prepared for us. :) 

There were songs (♪♪♫titiwoy, titiwoy, tuwad, tuwad♪♫♪ well, something that sounded like that anyway) and some tribal dancing.  The highlight of the night was the participation of several K.I.D.S. members/volunteers in the tribal dances. Girls actually went crazy as the boys danced around in the traditional bahag.  The boys seemed to be enjoying as well. hehe

tribal dance
Photos by: Tin Mantuano (left) and Eliel Sarmiento (right)
May 23, 2011 Monday. [Happy 44th monthsary Eliel!<3] We had to get up early (4AM) so that we could trek and catch the sunrise at the Talama view deck. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave the hotel on time, so the sun was already starting to rise as we were just starting our trek. Locals say that it takes 15 minutes to get to our destination. So we walked …and walked… and walked. 15 minutes came and went, we still weren’t there. But of course. When locals say 15 minutes, it takes us thrice as long.LOL

Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
But it’s cool. On the way to the top, the views of the valley and of Chico River were breathtaking. (Chico River’s known as a whitewater rafting place, but during that time, locals said that the water was low and it just wasn’t a good time to go rafting. Oh well)  I thought that was it. But no, the view at the peak was better. Clouds:)

Photo from: Eliel Sarmiento
Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
It's sad when you have to go back down to reality. But  of course we couldn’t stay there forever.=p So down we went. And as always, it was quicker going back.

Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
Then back to the hotel we went. Breakfast!!!

Photo by: Tin Mantuano
After breakfast, everyone went on their own ways. Some went swimming and some of us went back to sleep.zzzzz Had to catch up on rest.

Around 11AM, we took a bus to this other river where we had a picnic lunch. Yummy food and ice cold drinks:) It was chill time.

Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
After lunch, we went to this hanging bridge.  The locals say the walk was going to take us 15 minutes but lucky for some of us, we were able to hitch a ride on a jeepney on it’s way to the bridge. Crossed the bridge, took some photos and then we had to go because we were short on time.

Photo from: Eliel Sarmiento
Guess who we bumped into in front of our bus? Father Amado Picardal, who’s been walking from Davao and is only 4 days away from his destination, Aparri. It’s his run/walk for Life and Peace. (Read his blog here.) He blessed everyone from our group and then we had our photo taken with him.

Photo by: Eliel Sarmiento
Afterwards, we trooped to the souvenir shop to buy pasalubong. Everyone came out sweaty (the shop was so small and all squeezed ourselves in) but pleasantly happy with the loot we got.

Then it was straight to Emilia’s for our early dinner of Pancit Batil Patong and Puto-Pao.

Photos by: Tin Mantuano (left) and Eliel Sarmiento (center and right)
Since it was getting late, we only had 15 minutes to grab our stuff from the hotel and load them into the bus because, sadly, it was time to go home.

10 hours later, we were back in Manila soil. Tired but extremely fulfilled :)

This blog post may be longer than the usual, but believe me, there are loads of details not included here. We made lots of new friends (it took a bit of time to adjust to the group, but by the end of the trip, hello 30+ Facebook friends!), spent a blessed weekend with the Kalinga people, saw the most refreshing and breathtaking sights, experienced something very unique and can I just say AWESOME? :)

Photos by: Melvin Torres 
Photos by: Melvin Torres 
Photo by: Paolo Socco
We will definitely attend more treks in the future, given the time and resources. Will definitely recommend this kind of adventure to anyone looking for something fun and meaningful to do. The K.I.D.S. family is a bunch of wacky yet dedicated people with super big hearts, no doubt about it. Thank you for making Y and E a part of this trek. Mwah!


P.S. Sadly we couldn’t attend the much-anticipated post-trek party due to prior commitments. That will sure be loads of fun. Will just check out everyone’s Facebook photos after the party.hehe :)