Besao Loop with UPM Sagada

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mountaineering

Besao Loop with UPM SagadaJanuary 26, 2008

Besao Loop with UPM Sagada

National Geographic Destination
Although I've stayed longer in the Cordillera, Paul, a fellow UP Mountaineers member, has seen more of it. I was hoping he'd take me along to some of them. I've heard a few words thrown around - Tamboan, Laylaya, Panabungan...as remote villages in Besao, some accessible only by foot. The hike there was said to be rough and long, plunging down and climbing back up. Given the place's isolation, it seemed like one of those Nat Geo destinations.

UPM Sagada
When Paul decided to go to Tamboan one more time, he invited me to come along, and better, he invited 2 UP Mountaineers sisters and Besao locals, Gawani and Adamey to join us as well. UP Mountaineers Sagada? Hey, how cool is that? Kicking it higher, the hike would go beyond Tamboan. The plan was to hike from Sagada to Besao, head towards Kin-iway, plunge down to Layugan, climb up to Tamboan, climb down the valley and up again to the other side to Dandanak, spend the night over, climb down another valley, up again to the village of Panabungan and head back to Besao in a loop, passing through the villages of Laylaya, Katengen and Bunga= - 2 days and 1 night altogether. Waaay cool!

Layugan
Paul and I started out our hike from Sagada towards Besao and were joined by the 2 sisters in Besao. From the mountain top, we started our 2-hour descent into Layugan at river level. The road just went down and down with no reprieve. I was wondering...this would be great for a downhill bike run, but climbing back up? The sun was unforgiving. At Layugan, the river, with falls and lagoon, was irresistible. We spent 2 hours swimming, eating and just chilling out.

Tamboan
From there, we started our arduous 2-hour hike up to Tamboan. The road was blocked by landslides in many sections. It would take heavy equipment to clean it out. Sadly, the farm-to-market road which was opened in December of 2006 was only operational a few months when the earthquake causing the landslide happened. Tamboan became isolated after that. Folks would have to take the long walk to Layugan to board a jeep that would take them to the town proper, Besao.

Dandanac
It was nearly an hour of valley descent, river crossing and climb up before we reached Dandanac. It's a sitio accessible only by foot. This is the farthest, most isolated sitio of Besao. The road (or what used to be the road) ends in Tamboan. Dandanac used to be the rice granary shortly after WWII. Nearby villages would buy their rice from Dandanac during the leans times. The situation deteriorated over the years due to increase militarization and changes in production systems. This erosion has caused economic losses, hampering productivity and food security and leading to broader social costs. Dandanac has already lost its prestige as a food-sufficient community. Now the community depends on external supplies to feed its population during food shortage.

Crashing at Doman's
Our affable host in Dandanac was a far relative of Gawani and Adamey, Doman. Originally, we planned to camp out, but given the culture and tradition of the place, it would have been rude not to stay at a relative's place. It was a cold night despite a roof over our heads...and a much colder shower!

Panabungan
The bright and sunny morning hike towards Panabungan gave promise of an equally long hike, albeit rolling for the most part. Again, it was doing the now familiar hike along a mountain slope, descending down to cross the river, climbing back up again. Unfortunately, Gwen suffered an allergy episode. It was a good thing we unexpectedly met her uncle earlier. We stayed in his house while Gwen rested and regained her strength back. In the meantime, we were treated by Uncle Roman to his homemade bugnay wine...nice! It was generous of him to drive us back to Kin-iway given that Gwen was not in shape for that long hike back. From his jeep, we saw another facet of the Besao Loop from the other side of the valley.

The Disappearing Uncle
When Uncle Roman dropped us off, he said he'll just park his jeep and follow inside the house. He never did. I guess it's a cultural thing not to underscore an obvious favor. Auntie Penny, Gawani's mother, did not seem too surprised. I guess the "thank you" need not be said...it was already understood.

Crashing Besao
We crashed in Besao and treated to a wonderful dinner and breakfast by Tita Penny (Thank you, Tita!). Paul and I were off on the morning bus to Sagada where he had to catch his 9am class.

Ending Thoughts
This trip is meaningful to me at many levels. It was my first time to venture into the inner villages of Besao, my first time to hike and enjoy the company of Paul, Gawani and Adamey, be graciously hosted by complete strangers (Doman and Uncle Roman), and lastly, I developed a sense of appreciation to Besao's natural beauty. This time, I wasn't just passing through, as I often did in the past. I experienced Besao as I walked around its loop (or at least until Panabungan) in an inviting way that begs for more visits. With Panabungan - Kin-iway still undone, that's one more reason to come back.

--- TheLoneRider

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