Friday, July 21, 2006

Last Break in Laguna

To celebrate this summer's outcome and the approaching end of our time here in Manila, the CCT group had organized for the rest of the team the "Friendship Tour", a 2-day side trip in Laguna, that was held on July 15 and 16.
It is thus with great apprehension that, on an early Saturday morning, Cindy, Danielle, Emanuel and I were getting on the van, accompanied by Elpidz Estares and Pastor Dick Ramos, two of our CCT hosts that were to become our tour guides and driver for our little excursion.
But before getting into the heart of the subject, I must apologize for the lack of pictures, our technical support being gone/damaged, no pictures could be inserted in this text, hoping the narration of our weekend will be descriptive enough to provide you with your own images of our adventure.

Five o'clock, time to go,
With the rising sun in our back, it is without any regret that we drove away from the capital city, its highrises disappearing in the horizon. Before reaching our first destination, a stopover at CCT Cavite branch office to assist to their morning worship and a break at Ronald's Kingdom for breakfast were negotiated. Our stomach full, we once again hit the road to get to our first adventure, a boat ride on the Bombongan river and its main feature, Pagsanjan Falls, location known worldwide as a legendary site in the cinematographic art. Movie lovers will remember the site for featuring in movies such as Tiger Joe, 13 Days about the 13-day crisis in Cuba under JFK, Behind the Enemy Lines in which the story takes place in Vietnam, and the classic Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
Eyes wide open, confortably installed in our small embarcations, the ride would start with our 2 canoes being towed by a third motorized vehicle up the stream to reach the Bombangan River. Along the way, water buffalos, giant and docile beasts, grazing along the stream in the shallow water, other tourists' boats going down the waterway and many merchants, promoting and selling handicrafts in their barks, litterally aboarding and invading the tourists, would compose part of the landscape that would welcome us to the gorge formed by the water.

Breathtaking is probably the word that best describes the view that was being formed as we were navigating up the river. The Bombongan River and its fourteen rapids is, for most of its bed, trapped between two massive vegetated walls. The meandering chocolate-colored river, due to the severe monsoon rains washing the area over the past few days, and our navigating wooden vehicles would appear miniature and fragile next to those gigantic cliffs. The sinuous greenish canyon, with its silent trees and screaming water, would give rise to amazing views and sights, which was completed by the calls of the tree-jumping monkeys, the whistling of the exotic birds and the screaming of the rapids as soundtrack. Our devoted boatmen, working in pairs on each boat, bravely fought the strength of the current at every rapid we would meet. Jumping from rock to rock, stepping in the shallow river, pulling on the wooden floating vehicles up the rapids, the sweat on their face, but mostly the marks left by their many excursions, were the signs of their dedication and passion to their work.
After an hour of paddling, pulling and pushing, our little crew had finally arrived at its final destination on the Bombongan, the Pagsanjan Falls, mythical site for movie lovers where the many cinema crews exploiting the land have left scars on the cliffs. After having appreciated the powerful falls and the many tourists risking their lives behind the falls by visiting the Devil's Cave on bamboo floats, it was time to go back down the river.
Shooting the rapids, as exciting as going up the stream, was unfortunately much faster. Before we could even fully appreciate the ride down, we had already come to our starting point and were back in the car, ready to see more of the Laguna Province.

Caliraya and Paete,

After driving for nearly half of the afternoon, the now-called "Fab Four" and our two guides had arrived to the site where we would spend the night, Caliraya Re-Creation Center. Located on the shore of the man-made lake bearing the same name, the resort was a drastic, but how much appreciated, change from the noisy city. Surrounded by the unspoilt jungle forest and its palm trees, the hotel, on its elevated platform, faces the reservoir formed by the dam feeding the hydroelectric powerplant and Mount Banahaw. Attainable by motorized boat, the only sound coming in were the very few motorcycles and Jeepneys heard from far and the karaoke machine that would become later in the evening the major entertainment source for Danielle, Elpidz and Pastor Dick and give rise to surprising performances. Unlike our previous experience in Banaue, Ifugao, the very few companions we would share the site with overnight were to stay outside our apartments, guarding our rooms and enabling us to fully appreciate the serenity and quietness of the area.
The morning after was to be spent at Paete, a small town located 15 minutes of car ride from our temporary installations. The place, known as the Philippines' wood carving Capital City, is famous for its many handicrafts exports. We obviouly could not spend a weekend in Laguna without stopping over and spend some time shopping for wooden bowls, tools, chairs, sculptures and other artefacts made in the area. Our bags filled with some of these goodies, we later left Caliraya and took the road back to Manila.
A few stops on our way woud make the trip longer and more enjoyable. A break in Santa Cruz, Balut capital city, a taste of buko (coconut) fresh juice and pie, and some time spent at UP Los Banos in the Botanical Garden in Mount Makiling would complete our stay in the country side.

Minds and bodies rested, we were now ready to face the last stretch of the first BuildAid internship, to hit the table again and complete our CAD drawings and other documents to be submitted later this week. We couldn't complete this post without recognizing and thanking our tour guides, hosts and friends, Pastor Dick and Elpidz. For the incredible time we've spent with them, for sharing part of their country with us and the time devoted in our company, we are thankful to you.

hello fab four!

i am so glad you all had a chance to relax and see a bit more of the philippines. i am truly sad that i missed the opportunity to be with you guys. and good job on the work done-you are all truly the fab four!!
yan, you are an incredible writer. your relay of the account really painted a wonderful image of the place. i wish i could have been there!
to you and my bright spot of sunshine, danni, i hope your trip to melbourne is supererb and for manu and cindy coming home, i can`t wait to meet and hug ya`ll and hear everything!

cheers ya`ll to a fantastic experience together.

i must agree with jill, this is such a great read Yan. well painted!
This write-up is great! I couldn't write one like this. The descriptions are just the right fit. No need for pictures.

It's our honor to have brought you there.
Yan, you're such a great writer! It was nice to have briefly met you. I hope you a had a fabulous time in my ol' Melbourne. Salut!
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