December 2013
Photos, videos and stories of town explorations.
"We do not have snow in the Philippines but we have our own way of experiencing a White Christmas..."

White Christmas is every Filipino's dream to experience. Snow-capped mountains, wearing layers of winter clothes and skiing are probably topping their wishlist. By reason of being a tropical country that is detached from mainland Asia, the Philippines is an archipelago often visited by typhoons rather than snow storms. However, the Philippines has its own version of "White Christmas." The basic requirement of a freezing-cold weather and a white landscape can also be experienced in the Philippines, hence, a tropical white Christmas that I wish Filipinos would appreciate. The following are places I have visited in the Philippines that could offer us a tropical White Christmas experience. I hope you like it!

(1) SABLAN

Sablan is a high town in Benguet adjacent to Baguio City. During December and even in some random seasons, the intra-town highway is veiled with fog turning the environment white. There is also a possibility you might get lost if you are not accustomed traveling here because villages are hiding within the thick fog.

The mountainside villages have been hidden by the fog


So if you wish to experience a tropical white Christmas in Sablan, survive first a challenging ride through roads already blurred with thick fog. Drive slowly and keep safe and enjoy!

(2) MT. POLIS

Mt. Polis is located at the border of Banaue and Bontoc in the Cordilleras. A road connecting those towns passes through Mt. Polis. Due to its higher altitude, this area is often covered with thick fog even if it is summer.


Most of the time, Mt. Polis is white, even during summer


So if you want to experience a tropical White Christmas in this part of the country, get ready to be frozen. Anyway, there are several coffee shops waiting to give you warmth here any time of the year.

Erratum: Please forgive me for the wrong photo label, it should be #BONTOC * MOUNTAIN PROVINCE * PHILIPPINES and not #BANAUE * MOUNTAIN PROVINCE * PHILIPPINES since Banaue is part of Ifugao.

(3) PRE-SUNRISE AT THE KILTEPAN PEAK

Why not spend your Christmas the adventurous way as you climb to the top of the Kiltepan Peak in Sagada? This is one of the best spots to experience a White Christmas in Sagada if you do it before sunrise.

Pine trees within the white air


The intensity of the White Christmas here at the Kiltepan Peak in Sagada escalates when the thick sea of clouds starts to appear and veil the sunrise. You're simply above the clouds which makes you feel like you're at the heavens.

(4) SITIO AGCO, ILOMAVIS

Another whitey place you might want to spend your Christmas is Sitio Agco in Brgy. Ilomavis. This village is an ancestral domain of the Manobo tribe located on a high altitude at the slope of Mt. Apo, the Philippines' highest mountain.

Jungle trees soar high inside the forest covered with fog


There are actually several adventure destinations in Ilomavis like visiting a boiling lake of Agco, Jacuzzi waterfalls or simply trek in search for waling-waling orchids (but please don't take any plant you see, just look, don't get). Ilomavis is located in Kidapawan City of Mindanao Island, Philippines.

(5) BESSANG PASS NATIONAL PARK

Ilocos Sur is known to be a province rich in history and heritage. In Bessang Pass, the history is never leaving your White Christmas experience because this site is where a battle happened - Battle of Bessang Pass (World War II).

The dangerous cliff can deceive you with this beautiful white background


Brave Ilocanos sacrificed their lives to defeat the imperial forces of the Japanese people here in Bessang Pass. Fog is very much present here all year round which turns the landcape white.

(6) BAKUN

The welcome arch to the town of Bakun, oftentimes, deprive you of getting an idea what to see in this highland town of Benguet. The road entering the town seems like leading to nowhere which feels like your destination is somewhere there, in the fog.


Entering Bakun. The destination beyond the road is mysterious.


Bakun is a tribal town inhabited by fair-skinned people with almond-shaped eyes. Get immersed with the people or simply enjoy the White tropical Christmas. When you see fair-skinned chinito people speaking in a dialect with ch-, -ng and f- sounds, it's like you're in China.

(7) ATOK

When we talk about fog and tropical White Christmas, Atok is grossly, the place to be. Atok town in Benguet is where the highest point of the Philippine Highway System is located. The highest village in the Philippines is also under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Atok.

Fog in Atok is not selective, as in fog is everywhere in town.


Atok is where I experienced that first chill wherein I thought I am gonna die secondary to hypothermia. I shivered gravely to death. I consumed 2 cups of coffee within few minutes but it was not enough to give me warmth. I think Atok is the best place to experience a White Christmas - the closest picture of the real white Christmas with snow. To note, ice even falls down from the sky in this town. Water is also gravely cold. You might skip taking an early morning bath.

Due to its altitude, the town's vegetable farms are at times hit by frost thereby damaging their crops. Atok is 46 kilometers away from Baguio City.

(8) BUSCALAN

The high-altitude village of Buscalan is also a good place to experience a White Christmas with a touch of immense cultural display.

Buscalan is the home of Fang-od, the last tribal tattooist of Kalinga.


Since the village is higher than any other area seen nearby, the cliffs surrounding Buscalan is occupied by a sea of fog. So the village turns out to be an island in the sky outcropping from the white air.

(9) BAUKO

This town in Mountain Province is yet another exciting destination to spend your tropical White Christmas. It can give the chill you are looking for plus a white environment that can stay until high noon.

Foggy Road in Bauko


Enjoy the smell of the fog (yes, it's aromatically fresh) of Bauko and try to find the sunrise, good luck, and your Christmas would never be the same again.

(9) BATAD

Batad is not all about the over 2000 years old rice terraces but also for a White Christmas display. To experience its White tropical Christmas offering, wake up early (before sunrise) to catch the massive build-up of fog over the mountains of Batad and nearby villages in Banaue.

Fog-capped mountain, 'coz there's no snow


The view above is taken from the Batad Saddle. The whitey mountain ranges have turned the view unusual as the sunrise is trying to color the sky with gold.

(10) MALIBCONG

Malibcong is yet another remote town in Abra. Its highland communities are lucky enough to experience a weather that's cool all year-round. Fog also builds up over the mountains anytime of the day.

The white display has been defeated by the golden colors of the sunset.


The photo above is taken during sunset so the whitey environment is gone. This town is also an ancestral domain of three tribes. Enjoy the fog and be lost beautifully in this far, far away destination.

__________________________________________________________

So I hope you got what I mean when I said White Christmas. We do not have snow in the Philippines but we have our own way of experiencing a White Christmas, in fact, some of the destinations mentioned can still offer you a white Christmas anytime of the year -- or even White Summer, White Valentines, White September. The Philippines has it all! Be Proud. Stay Proud. And to note, the Philippines has the longest Christmas in the world! /end

#TownExplorations You Might Like

Map of the Destinations Mentioned in this Post

Map Courtesy of Wikipedia


MORE POSTS FROM THIS CATEGORY: *TOWNEXPLORER COLLECTIONS*

Top 13 Epic #TownExplorer Adventures in 2013

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NAGUSTUAM DIAY NABASAM/NAKITAM? MABALIN MO MET I-LIKE.
Photos, videos and stories of town explorations.
"So the year is ending, again. The year 2013 is a blissful one. Major life events came: there are milestones, there are crucial decisions, there are unexpected realizations."

It was full of adventure - medium, big and small. Much of them defined who I am today, that span of a year. 2013 was a turning point, and, it was a point of no return. Now, I would want to share to you these 13 adventures that I think the most epic in all my travels this 2013.

TOP 13: THE LONGEST ZIPLINE IN ASIA

Longest Zipline in Asia


At a very mysterious village at the slope of Mt. Apo is the sanctuary of the Moncaditas. Moncadista is a religious sect who considers their village as the paradise. They also consider some parts of Mt. Apo as the final destinations of the dead, like heaven and hell.

The village is called New Israel; it is where the longest zipline in Asia is located. To note, this is my first zipline experience. I consider it epic because I directly experienced the longest without conditioning myself to try the short others. I am not really sure if a new zipline has arisen to break it's length record. But of course, that time, it was the longest. My local host brought me here. Thanks to her and I am sure she is reading this

TOP 12: INTER-PROVINCIAL ELF-TRUCK RIDING

3 provinces, 1 elf-truck, unlimited adventure


I was able to explore some parts of the 3 provinces in Mindanao by riding at the back of an elf-truck with a great group. At first, it was a hesitant decision being a great earthquake has just cracked and damaged the roads, bridges and other public structures in North Cotabato and Bukidnon. What else? There is a big rain (sort of typhoon or monsoon) flooding many towns the night before the adventure. Deadma, the non-stop inter-provincial elf-truck back-joyriding's excitement overpowered our fear.

Epic. We started before sunrise and went home after sunset. The joy ride went through, in spite of the cracked roads and flooded towns we have to pass through. So where have we been and what we did? Watch out for the stories on 2014.

TOP 11: JAM-PACKED 3-HOUR ADVENTURE IN SAGADA

We are brothers, and we are [bachelor] backpackers


This was my first time in Sagada. For that very first time, the chance to explore the place was limited to 3 hours. That precious limited time was a remedy and the result of a major decision over Banaue and/or going home to catch my schedule for the job I am committed to do.

I consider it epic because we were in a hurry as we hired a random guide we just met along the way. With my brother, we were able to climb the Kiltepan Peak, visit Bokong Falls, the Echo Valley, the Hanging Coffins, the Rocky Valley, the Latang Underground River and of course, to eat Halo-Halo before the last trip out of the town -- all within 3 hours! Fierce! We were fast and furios!

TOP 10: SPELUNKING SUMAGUING CAVE 'WITHOUT' A GUIDE

Sumaguing Cave in Sagada


I can't get enough with Sagada, after that short 3-hour adventure, I went back after 2 weeks of returning to my regular job. This time, with an ol' good friend, dates back to childhood, now a Canadian citizen after a dose of hard work and faith. We, both knew how it feels to have nothing because we grew up getting used with nothing. Now that we have studied hard, surviving the financial challenges of sending ourselves to the university, we met again; now, with 'something.' 

We reminisced those days when we drool seeing [more] fortunate children wearing their good clothes eating inside a Jollibee branch wherein that time, we can't even afford to enter. Since we are that type of grown-up children missing our careless childhood with dirty over-sized clothes, we decided not to get a guide. You know, we are get used of taking the risk because when we were young, taking the risk is all it takes to get a chance and fortune since we didn't have the wealth those times. We knew the risk, but we are born "madiskarte." This so-called diskarte made us were we are now - doing anything fair and wholesome to achieve our dreams.

So what's epic here? Of course we tried to relive our chilhood diskarte to achieve a goal within our means. We had the fund, but we opted to limit our budget and still achieve a goal. Hence, this spelunking without a guide. On how we survived safe and alive is the result of a diskarte we learned from our childhood (more of this story on 2014).

TOP 9: KULIGLIG RIDING THROUGH MUD

Muddy Trail


So it was my first time to ride on a tractor or kuliglig. At some point, we have to get off and push the tractor over muddy terrain.

What makes this adventure epic is the fact that this tractor was able to contain up to 15 people squeezed altogether for the love of journeying in spite of the direful road. Our destination? I will reveal next year, that's 2014. Well, 2014 is for Mindanao adventures patiently waiting in their queue.

TOP 8: THE MOST EXTREME SPELUNKING, SO FAR 

Avenue Cave in North Cotabato


Another from Mindanao, so far, takes a part of my heart as I experience the most extreme spelunking I've ever done in my life. It was a total package for extremists. 

Epic extreme activities included inside this cave is walking through an above-ankle-deep mud, rappelling the deadly way (no harness + slippery wood and rocks), crawling through the stinky rocks covered with bat poops and sustaining at least one wound or skin cut (not required, but inevitable).

TOP 7: EPIC RIVER CROSSING

Stranded in the middle of the current.


So pushing it beyond the limits is all it takes for this group of adventurers where I hitched to reach a destination secluded by civil wars and insurgency. 

The river crossing was just memorable that we pushed beyond the limit. What happened next was epic. 2014 will reveal the story behind this adventure.

TOP 6: 15 DAYS OF BACKPACKING IN THE HIGHLANDS, CORDILLERA

Batad Rice Terraces in Ifugao


One of my favorite journeys in 2013 is my 15 days of backpacking in the Cordilleras covering Luna and Pudtol in Apayao, Bontoc and Sagada in Mountain Province, Banaue (includes Batad) in Ifugao, Bangued in Abra, Tinglayan (Bugnay ang Buscalan) in Kalinga and a road trip via the Halsema Highway all the way to Baguio in Benguet.

10 days of this adventure was solo-done, while the remaining 5 days was spent with a friend. There are more places to see in the Cordilleras, more surprising than the popular ones. 

TOP 5: 1 MONTH OF BARRIO-LIVING IN MINDANAO

Biking in a peaceful Mindanao Barrio to kill time


My 1 month stay in Mindanao in a laid-back barrio was a major enlightenment for me when I was drooling seeing some FB friends enjoying the good sides of being a Digital Nomad. This adventure (in life) has helped me chart a major decision, hence, epic.

This lengthy vacation-travel has taught me what I really wanted to do. At first, I wanted to become location independent. So this 1 month vacation was a trial-and-error. I realized, chillaxing, killing time, getting some adventures or simply biking around a place, continually, was not the kind of life I wanted. When I am in a vacation, I forget the definition of stress. But with this lengthy vacation, I realized that the things I am doing become routine-ary that I am missing my regular job. 

This time, I realized that the value of a thing can only be appreciated if it is gone. For that 1 month of pure traveling, I temporarily lost my job. From there, I started to realize the value of my job. I suddenly missed becoming productive and creative as a result. Whenever I see young professionals wearing their dignified uniforms and see myself purely having fun without being productive in an active job, I envy them and it makes me want to wear that uniform again and get back to my work as a professional. I came up to the realization that my job is as important as traveling. 

Non-stop traveling becomes usual in due time. So to get the excitement back to traveling, I have to attend my regular job until the thirst for adventure makes me weak again. To gain strength, I have to satisfy the thirst. I think, balance is important, of family, of work and of leisure.

TOP 4: SOLO HIKE TO BUSCALAN, NO GUIDE

Fang-od: an Epic Tribal Tattooist


The 4th spot is reserved for my solo hike to Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga -- the place where a ~93-year-old woman resides.

In all my adventures in 2013 from Luzon, Visayas to Mindanao, I have only written 2 towns: Bontoc and Tinglayan. If you are a regular reader of this blog, I believe you have already read my story about that solo hike to Buscalan to meet Fang-od and on how epic it was.

TOP 3: #SPG

The 3rd most epic adventure belongs to a journey that I am not yet ready to disclose. There are things in life that make the world a better place if they are kept as a secret. Right? #SPG and steamy.

TOP 2: 3-DAY NON-STOP ISLAND HOPPING FROM LUZON TO MINDANAO

A family that travels together, stays together


This is something that I treasure traveling by land (via RoRo) from my hometown Vigan to Davao. What makes this adventure epic is the presence of all the members of my family. Yes, we traveled together by crossing straits in between islands from Luzon, Samar, Leyte to Mindanao. It was my suggestion, great thing the reception for that crazy idea of traveling was all-fun for them. So far, it is the longest time my family stayed close together within four corners and/or within the 100 meters radius. At home, we only spend up to 16 hours a day (during sleep + daytime chit-chat) and after that, we go to work. This time it was 3 days!

Epic. Just another family of contemporary vagabonds! Just this time.

TOP 1: 15 DAYS OF MOTORBIKE ADVENTURES, NON-STOP, UNDER THE MONSOON

15-days in Abra. One Motorbike. 22 Towns. Countless Thrill.


The scheme I employed in this wander-lustful adventure is the rain-or-shine-journey type of exploration. The monsoon that brought heavy flooding in Metro Manila last September extended it's power up north. So Abra was not spared, but the adventure must continue. Together with a new friend, we bravely hit the wet road, rough and harsh.

Epic. Indeed the most epic because this 15-days of exploring Abra via motorbike under the monsoon is giving rise to a book that will be published next year (2014). Fair enough right?

This is EDMARATION #TownExplorer's official entry for the December 2013 Pinoy Travel Bloggers' Blog Carnival hosted by Brenna Bustamante of The Philippine Travelogue

To see the previous compilations, click the logo at left.

Happy New Year everyone and see you in 2014 for more #TownExplorer type of adventures. Bolder. Fiercer. Steamier./end

#TownExplorations You Might Like

Map of the Destinations Mentioned in this Post

Click to Enlarge Map Courtesy of Wikipedia


MORE POSTS FROM THIS CATEGORY: *TOWNEXPLORER COLLECTIONS*

Top 12 in 2012 | A Year-End Post About 12 Beginnings

TEASER: "I am not really into making year-end posts because a post of this kind is not evergreen. It is time-dependent. By time, the value goes down. Time can consume it fast. But I realized it is just once a year right?

5 Creepy Travel Destinations to Test Your Courage and Faith

TEASER: "Yes, some unexplained encounters happen but my conviction is that one should not be afraid if you have the Words of God in your heart."

My 7 Super Shots | Best of Travel Photos

TEASER: "Everyone can be a singer, but only a few can be a good singer. Everyone can dance, but only a few can be a good dancer. So with photography: everyone can be a photographer but not everyone has the eye of a photographer. I can say, I have the eyes, not the eye of a photographer though, lol!"

20 Reasons Why I Love the Philippines (A Response to Jimmy Sieczka)

TEASER: "Can't decide where to go? Well, I understand you because I know it is really hard to choose from those over 7,000 lovely islands. Just another 7,000 reasons to love the Philippines!"
NAGUSTUAM DIAY NABASAM/NAKITAM? MABALIN MO MET I-LIKE.