TRAFFIC JAMS TO EASE SOON, PALACE SAYS  

The congestion in Metro Manila will ease by Aug. 16 as President Aquino and other government officials agreed to continue a Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) crackdown on colorum trucks and buses, Malacañang said yesterday.  Government officials – following an inter-agency meeting in the Palace yesterday – backed a Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) moratorium on the apprehension of trucks-for-hire to give their owners time to apply for franchises. Trucks-for-hire still using green plates are allowed to operate until Aug. 15 while in the process of applying for provisional authority with the LTFRB, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. “Effective Aug. 16…trucks without provisional authority will be apprehended and fined. Meanwhile, not-for-hire trucks owned by private individuals or organizations for their own use may apply for exemption from the (provisional authority) requirement,” Coloma said.

He said the exemption, effective for three years, will be given by the government for free. Coloma however, said that despite the provisional authority or exemption, “green-plated trucks will continue to be covered by the existing truck ban and other traffic regulations.”  The Palace issued the statement to clarify the confusion arising from a circular issued by the LTFRB board on June 28 to stop apprehending trucks-for-hire still bearing green plates to allow them to apply for franchises and avail of the yellow plates. LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez said the provisional authority will be valid until Oct. 17, by which time “the franchises of the trucks bearing the provisional authority should be issued to the operators.”  As for colorum – without a franchise – and out-of-line buses on EDSA and other parts of the metropolis, Coloma said the apprehensions will continue. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Escort chopper of Roxas crashes 

A brand-new Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopter, traveling as part of the aerial convoy of Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, crashed in Marawi City yesterday afternoon shortly after the Cabinet officials conducted a meeting to resolve the 15-month power outage in Lanao del Sur. The Sokol helicopter had 11 persons on board when the incident happened at around 2:30 p.m. at Kampo Ranao, the headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City. All, but one, escaped unhurt. “There was no explosion. All of us are okay except for one who suffered a broken foot,” said Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division who was one of the survivors. Visaya was referring to one of the two pilots whose feet were pinned against the wreckage. Both Gazmin and Roxas were aboard another helicopter when the incident occurred. Visaya said the helicopter had just taken off and was hovering some 50 feet from the ground when the pilots encountered technical problem. “Two to three minutes after the takeoff, it could no longer go up further. It suddenly veered left until it crashed,” narrated Visayas. In a text message, Roxas said the chopper was one of the two Sokol helicopters they used in their travel to Mindanao. “Sec Volts ( Gazmin) and I are safe. An AFP Sokol providing area secu (security) crashed. All safe, no casualties,” said Roxas.  * READ MORE...

ALSO: Manila port congestion to hike prices of goods, DA, traders warn 

Prices of most imported goods would likely go up in the coming days due to limited supply caused by the congestion in two ports in Manila, a report on GMA News' "24 Oras" said on Thursday. Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association Inc. (PASI) president Steven Cua said the delay in the movement of container vans from the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and the Port of Manila, has already caused a significant decrease in the supply fresh milk and detergent soap. This, he said, would likely result in an increase in prices. Cua said the supply of imported raw materials used by local manufacturers was also affected by the port congestion. “A lot of items mag-iincrease ng presyo kung ganun, dahil a lot of the components ng ating ginagamit pang araw-araw ay imported. In fact, may manufacturer na nagsabi, paglabas (from port) medyo sira na yung produkto nila,” Cua said. Department of Agriculture (DA) undersecretary for Field Operations Emerson Palad also warned of possible increase in prices of agricultural produce due to the gridlock in and around the ports. “Maari po na dahil sa congestion sa ports ay ma-discourage ang ilang importers na magpasok ng kanilang kalakal at magkulang ang lokal na supply at magbungsod ng posibleng pagtaas ng presyo,” Palad said in a statement. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Manila Mayors to enforce Palace ban on ‘colorum’ vehicles 

METRO Manila mayors are set to fully implement an order by Malacanang to rid the streets of colorum or illegal public utility and private vehicles as a means to address traffic congestions in major thoroughfares in the country’s premier region.
According to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., the members of the Metro Manila Council composed of local chief executives will sit down to discuss how local governments can help in solving the worsening traffic problem in the region.
“They [local executives] can be of great help in resolving the problem since there is a need for convergence, a coordinated move by the national government and local governments,” Coloma said over the weekend.
He reminded operators of public utility vehicles (PUVs) and even privately-owned trucks for hire that they have only until August 15 to secure provisional authority to travel from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). “This will be discussed [by the mayors]. All agencies of government, national and local, are ready to cooperate for the welfare of our citizens,” the Palace official said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: UNESCO Delisting of Bohol churches from nominees causes stir  

CEBU, Philippines - Bohol officials reacted against the act of the UNESCO in deleting from the list of nominees for the World Heritage Sites the centuries-old churches in Loboc and Baclayon towns. Mayor Nila Montero of Panglao town said in radio interview that "this is a wake-up call," while Governor Edgar Chatto said he still has to check this out because it surprised him. Reports published in national dailies last week said UNESCO has delisted the centuries-old churches of Loboc and Baclayon, which are now in ruins due to the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck the province last year. Also removed from the list of nominees in UNESCO's world heritage sites is Panglao Island due to "pollution and man-made interventions," the reports said.

Other sites delisted from the natural category are the Taal Volcano in Batangas province and Mount Apo in Davao del Sur for the same reasons. Montero said there are still a lot to do for her town of Panglao, apparently taking cue on what can be done against "man-made interventions" that caused the removal of the Island from the UNESCO list. Raising awareness and educating the people on environmental preservation and protection are her priority now, she added. Panglao island, including Dauis town, was cited for a number of environmental violations particularly the coastal 20-meter salvage zone by beach resorts mostly owned and operated by private entities. Dauis town Mayor Alvin Uy, in his text message to The Freeman, said local officials will discuss next week this development because they have not yet received the formal notice of delisting his town by UNESCO. The report said UNESCO already declared as World Heritage Sites the following, with the year of declaration: Vigan in 1992; Baroque churches (1993), Tubbataha Reef National Park in Palawan (1993), Banawe Rice Terraces in Cordillera (1995), Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (2009) and Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (2014). * READ MORE...

ALSO: Sagada, Mt. Province – up in the clouds  

CEBU, Philippines - Forks, Washington is considered as the rainiest place in the world. The city is popularized as the home of the Swans in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Every scene in the movie installations show how rainy and quiet locations could be a perfect place for dating teens – and vampires. But it would take us a thousand dollars to go to the rain-soaked city. One from the Philippines would probably have to save up for three years to take a “Forks” selfie outside the Swans’ old house.

Fortunately, the Philippines has its own version of Forks. It’s a place located in the Mountain Province, in northern Luzon, 275 kilometers from Manila. It takes 12 hours of traveling by bus to reach the place – the town of Sagada. The place has cold temperatures all-year round; it’s like a little Baguio. Actually, it’s colder in Sagada. One day last May, a group of us friends decided to see Sagada for ourselves. We didn’t go straight to our destination, though. We headed first to Baguio and spent a night there. The Baguio stopover was to break the 12 exhausting hours of sitting on the bus. On the following morning, a Monday, we took a bus to Sagada from the GL-Lizardo Bus Terminal near Baguio’s Center Mall. There were hourly trips to Sagada from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. The fare was around 400 pesos per person. The ride felt longer than the one we had from Manila, but it the mountain ranges along the way were fun to see, like those in “The Lord of the Ring” movies. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Traffic jams to ease soon, Palace says

MANILA, AUGUST 11, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Aurea Calica and Reinir Padua - The congestion in Metro Manila will ease by Aug. 16 as President Aquino and other government officials agreed to continue a Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) crackdown on colorum trucks and buses, Malacañang said yesterday.

Government officials – following an inter-agency meeting in the Palace yesterday – backed a Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) moratorium on the apprehension of trucks-for-hire to give their owners time to apply for franchises.

Trucks-for-hire still using green plates are allowed to operate until Aug. 15 while in the process of applying for provisional authority with the LTFRB, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“Effective Aug. 16…trucks without provisional authority will be apprehended and fined. Meanwhile, not-for-hire trucks owned by private individuals or organizations for their own use may apply for exemption from the (provisional authority) requirement,” Coloma said.

He said the exemption, effective for three years, will be given by the government for free.

Coloma however, said that despite the provisional authority or exemption, “green-plated trucks will continue to be covered by the existing truck ban and other traffic regulations.”

The Palace issued the statement to clarify the confusion arising from a circular issued by the LTFRB board on June 28 to stop apprehending trucks-for-hire still bearing green plates to allow them to apply for franchises and avail of the yellow plates.

LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez said the provisional authority will be valid until Oct. 17, by which time “the franchises of the trucks bearing the provisional authority should be issued to the operators.”

As for colorum – without a franchise – and out-of-line buses on EDSA and other parts of the metropolis, Coloma said the apprehensions will continue.

* The MMDA apprehended 15 more out-of-line buses in Pasay City on the second day of its campaign. The agency impounded 32 vehicles on the first day.

Coloma said the routes for provincial buses going through Metro Manila will be rationalized, this time by both the LTFRB and the MMDA.

The MMDA and the mayors earlier opposed the rationalization, citing that provincial buses should never be allowed on Metro Manila roads. Ginez said it was agreed during the meeting that the MMDA’s stance was not feasible at the moment since the integrated transport terminals are not yet in place.

The other issues, Coloma said, would have to be consulted with Metro Manila mayors in a meeting set next week.

Looming crisis

Concerned about the adverse impact of the congestion at two of the major ports in Metro Manila, the Senate is set to conduct an inquiry in order to find possible solutions to what could be a potential crisis.

Senators Francis Escudero and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV filed separate resolutions calling for the investigation into the congestion at the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port.

The city of Manila recently imposed a daytime truck ban to address the traffic jams in the city. Philippine Ports Authority general manager Juan Sta. Ana earlier said 75,000 shipping containers remain unclaimed at the two ports as a result of the ban.

He said the Cabinet cluster on port congestion has ordered that unclaimed containers be transferred to the Batangas port and a facility in Laguna.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said yesterday the ban will stay. He said the ban did not affect the country’s economy.

Estrada said the city government has given truckers 24-hour access to Roxas Boulevard’s innermost lane. – With Mike Frialde, Jose Rodel Clapano, Marvin Sy

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Escort chopper of Roxas crashes August 8, 2014


MARCH 2012 PHOTO OF A brand-new Polish multi-role Sokol Combat Utility helicopter prepares to take off with some members of the media following a turnover ceremony at Clark Air

A brand-new Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopter, traveling as part of the aerial convoy of Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, crashed in Marawi City yesterday afternoon shortly after the Cabinet officials conducted a meeting to resolve the 15-month power outage in Lanao del Sur.

The Sokol helicopter had 11 persons on board when the incident happened at around 2:30 p.m. at Kampo Ranao, the headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City. All, but one, escaped unhurt.

“There was no explosion. All of us are okay except for one who suffered a broken foot,” said Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division who was one of the survivors. Visaya was referring to one of the two pilots whose feet were pinned against the wreckage.

Both Gazmin and Roxas were aboard another helicopter when the incident occurred.

Visaya said the helicopter had just taken off and was hovering some 50 feet from the ground when the pilots encountered technical problem.


A Philippine Air Force Sokol 921 helicopter is a total wreck after it crashed in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. The chopper was part of the convoy of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas 2nd and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin who had attended a meeting in Marawi on Thursday. All 11 people aboard survived.PHOTO BY AL JACINTO COURTESY OF THE MANILA TIMES

“Two to three minutes after the takeoff, it could no longer go up further. It suddenly veered left until it crashed,” narrated Visayas.

In a text message, Roxas said the chopper was one of the two Sokol helicopters they used in their travel to Mindanao.

“Sec Volts ( Gazmin) and I are safe. An AFP Sokol providing area secu (security) crashed. All safe, no casualties,” said Roxas.

* Aside from Visaya, those in the chopper were a certain Colonel Macario who is the inspector general of the 4th Infantry Division and some staff of Roxas and Gazmin.

“We went back after learning of the incident. All of them are safe,” said Roxas.

LUCKY

Visaya said he accompanied Roxas, Gazmin, and Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla who were in Marawi City for a meeting with local elected leaders and officials of the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (Lasureco) to resolve the coop’s 15-month imposition of power outage in 32 towns, following series of appeals and legal petitions by thousands of affected Maranao villagers.

He said they were on their way back to Cagayan de Oro City when the chopper crash occurred.

“I am okay,” said Visaya when asked if he suffered any injury.

PROBE

In a statement, the Defense Department said it will conduct investigation on why the newly acquired helicopter crashed.

Visaya revealed that the Sokol was a total wreck and may no longer be usable.

“An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of this incident,” the statement read.

The two helicopters are among the eight Solol choppers acquired as part of the modernization of the Philippine Air Force.

Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman and Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Luwalhati Antonino joined the Cabinet officials in the meeting, alongside Lanao Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Manila port congestion to hike prices of goods, DA, traders warn August 7, 2014 8:47pm 86 14 1 104 Senators want port congestion probed


Senators want port congestion probed. An aerial view showing thousands of shipping containers waiting to be shipped or delivered are stacked inside the Manila International Container Port in Tondo, Manila on Wednesday, August 6. Two senators on Wednesday asked the Senate to conduct an inquiry on the worsening congestion of cargo shipments in two major ports in Manila, which is hurting the flow of goods in and out of the country, saying an economic catastrophe is waiting to happen unless the situation is resolved as soon as possible. Danny Pata

Prices of most imported goods would likely go up in the coming days due to limited supply caused by the congestion in two ports in Manila, a report on GMA News' "24 Oras" said on Thursday.

Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association Inc. (PASI) president Steven Cua said the delay in the movement of container vans from the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and the Port of Manila, has already caused a significant decrease in the supply fresh milk and detergent soap.

This, he said, would likely result in an increase in prices.

Cua said the supply of imported raw materials used by local manufacturers was also affected by the port congestion.

“A lot of items mag-iincrease ng presyo kung ganun, dahil a lot of the components ng ating ginagamit pang araw-araw ay imported. In fact, may manufacturer na nagsabi, paglabas (from port) medyo sira na yung produkto nila,” Cua said.

Department of Agriculture (DA) undersecretary for Field Operations Emerson Palad also warned of possible increase in prices of agricultural produce due to the gridlock in and around the ports.

“Maari po na dahil sa congestion sa ports ay ma-discourage ang ilang importers na magpasok ng kanilang kalakal at magkulang ang lokal na supply at magbungsod ng posibleng pagtaas ng presyo,” Palad said in a statement.

* He said several traders are already complaining about the delays in the release of containers vans. The hold up has reportedly resulted in the spoilage of goods and additional costs.

Palad said that based on the information they received from the Bureau of Plant Industry, there were several shipments of imported fruits and garlic that remain stuck at the ports.

In one supermarket in Quezon City, prices of imported fruits such as pear, apple, orange and ponkan have begun to increase.

Fuji Apples are now at P25 per piece from the previous P20; oranges now sell at P25 per piece from P20; ponkans are at P20 from P15 and pears at P37 from P25.

Probe sought

On Wednesday, Senators Chiz Escudero and Bam Aquino filed separate resolutions seeking probe on the congestion in Manila ports, saying that the situation must be resolved immediately as it posts nationwide “economic catastrophe”.

Aquino said that because of the situation in the ports, the Bureau of Export Trade Promotion's forecast of a 5.8 percent to 7.2 percent export growth for the year may no longer be feasible.

The senator said inefficient port operations have adversely effected free enterprise and the competitiveness of Philippine goods.

Aquino suggested that authorities look into the possibility of using the Ports of Batangas and Subic Bay as alternative drop-off points for cargo vessels.

He said Vietnam had the same problem, but was solved after cargo vessels were diverted to the alternate ports of Ben Nghe and Phu Huu, aside from upgrading the Cat Lai port.

Prof. Cayetano Paderanga of University of the Philippines School of Economics warned that the delay in the delivery of goods might also affect the country's gross domestic product for the whole year.

“Kasi kapag yung intermediate goods or raw materials hindi nakapasok, babagal ang produksyon, titigil ang trabaho, maapektuhan yung output,” Paderanga said.

SBMA, a willing alternative

SBMA chairman and director Roberto Garcia said the port of Subic is willing to accommodate for free around 7,000 container vans congesting Manila ports.

“Para makatulong naman sa mga negosyante namin dito sa Subic at Central Luzon, sabi namin, bakit hindi kaya gamitin muna ang aming container port bilang storage area dahil under-utilized po ang container port namin at kasyang-kasya ang 7,000 container vans dito,” Garcia said in a phone patch interview aired on GMA News TV's “Quick Response Team”.

Garcia however clarified that SBMA is willing to accommodate the empty container vans but not cargo from various ships coming from Manila.

“Ang problema diyan sa Maynila ay hindi na sila makapag-baba ng cargo dahil wala nang space na paglalagyan dahil marami pong empty containers po dun..So, this is mainly for the empty container vans and cargoes destined for Central Luzon,” Garcia said.

“Imbes na makadadag pa sila sa traffic diyan sa Maynila, dapat yung cargo for Central Luzon, ideretso na nila dito,” he added.

“Marami kaming importer at exporter na mga Japanese companies, Taiwanese companies na kailangang kailangan makagamit ng Port of Subic. Mas mura ang shipping fee dito, walang truck ban, 24 hours ang operation at walang baha, so marami talagang benefits,” Garcia said. — Elizabeth Marcelo/NB, GMA News

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Manila Mayors to enforce Palace ban on ‘colorum’ vehicles August 10, 2014 8:43 pm MANILA TIMES by JOEL M. SY EGCO AND RITCHIE A. HORARIO

METRO Manila mayors are set to fully implement an order by Malacanang to rid the streets of colorum or illegal public utility and private vehicles as a means to address traffic congestions in major thoroughfares in the country’s premier region.

According to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., the members of the Metro Manila Council composed of local chief executives will sit down to discuss how local governments can help in solving the worsening traffic problem in the region.

“They [local executives] can be of great help in resolving the problem since there is a need for convergence, a coordinated move by the national government and local governments,” Coloma said over the weekend.

He reminded operators of public utility vehicles (PUVs) and even privately-owned trucks for hire that they have only until August 15 to secure provisional authority to travel from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

“This will be discussed [by the mayors]. All agencies of government, national and local, are ready to cooperate for the welfare of our citizens,” the Palace official said.

* Coloma said backlog of shipments at the Port of Manila that usually cause heavy traffic in the area is being addressed by authorities.

Last week, Malacanang ordered the impoundment of all illegal vehicles in Metro Manila to end a bitter row between the LTFRB and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

“Upon the directive of President Aquino, members of the Cabinet and the concerned agencies discussed solutions to remedy the worsening traffic jams in Metro Manila and to reduce congestion in the Port of Manila,” Coloma announced.

The directive called for apprehension and charging of fines on colorum vehicles and buses that are “out of line” or traveling beyond what their franchise allows them.

In the last three days, the MMDA apprehended a total of 53 colorum and out of line vehicles.

Crisanto Saruka, head of the MMDA’s Traffic Discipline Office, also over the weekend said out of the 53 vehicles, 37 were operating out of line and the rest colorum and with no certificates to operate as public conveyances.

He added that all the vehicles were immediately impounded by the MMDA in its holding area in Tumana, Marikina City, and their drivers slapped with penalty and traffic violation receipts.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said they are mandated under Republic Act 7924, the law creating the agency, to go after colorum vehicles.

FROM PHILSTAR, THE FREEMAN

Delisting of Bohol churches from nominees causes stir By Ric V. Obedencio (The Freeman) | Updated August 10, 2014 - 12:00am


Loboc Church Bohol

CEBU, Philippines - Bohol officials reacted against the act of the UNESCO in deleting from the list of nominees for the World Heritage Sites the centuries-old churches in Loboc and Baclayon towns.

Mayor Nila Montero of Panglao town said in radio interview that "this is a wake-up call," while Governor Edgar Chatto said he still has to check this out because it surprised him.

Reports published in national dailies last week said UNESCO has delisted the centuries-old churches of Loboc and Baclayon, which are now in ruins due to the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck the province last year.

Also removed from the list of nominees in UNESCO's world heritage sites is Panglao Island due to "pollution and man-made interventions," the reports said.

Other sites delisted from the natural category are the Taal Volcano in Batangas province and Mount Apo in Davao del Sur for the same reasons.

Montero said there are still a lot to do for her town of Panglao, apparently taking cue on what can be done against "man-made interventions" that caused the removal of the Island from the UNESCO list. Raising awareness and educating the people on environmental preservation and protection are her priority now, she added.

Panglao island, including Dauis town, was cited for a number of environmental violations particularly the coastal 20-meter salvage zone by beach resorts mostly owned and operated by private entities.

Dauis town Mayor Alvin Uy, in his text message to The Freeman, said local officials will discuss next week this development because they have not yet received the formal notice of delisting his town by UNESCO.

The report said UNESCO already declared as World Heritage Sites the following, with the year of declaration: Vigan in 1992; Baroque churches (1993), Tubbataha Reef National Park in Palawan (1993), Banawe Rice Terraces in Cordillera (1995), Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (2009) and Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (2014).

* UNESCO has updated its list as a first step to the declaration of World Heritage Sites during a recent gathering of the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, added the report.

Those retained in the list were the churches of Boljoon in Cebu, Marigondon in Cavite, Lazi in Siquijor, Tumauini in Isabela and San Sebastian in Manila.

UNESCO also retained in the list, under the natural category, the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument in Bohol,

The Huffington Post, in its latest issue, cited Chocolate Hills as the country's natural wonder and one of the top sites to visit the country, including Mount Mayon in Bicol, Banawe Rice Terraces and El Nido in Palawan.

Balicasag Island, off Panglao Island, was also cited as reasons for the Philippines being the best tropical destination, Huffington said, adding the diving spots in "Malapascua Island, with four different shipwrecks to explore, the uncrowded and incredible reefs and diving sites in Apo Island." (FREEMAN)

Sagada – up in the clouds By Philip Lapinid IV (The Freeman) | Updated August 10, 2014 - 12:00am


Sagada is a fifth class municipality in the province of Mountain Province, Philippines. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 11,244 people.[3] It is located 275 kilometres (171 mi) north of Manila (taking at least 12 to 15 hours by bus), 140 kilometres (87 mi) from Baguio, and it is adjacent to Bontoc, the provincial capital. WIKIPEDIA

CEBU, Philippines - Forks, Washington is considered as the rainiest place in the world. The city is popularized as the home of the Swans in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Every scene in the movie installations show how rainy and quiet locations could be a perfect place for dating teens – and vampires. But it would take us a thousand dollars to go to the rain-soaked city. One from the Philippines would probably have to save up for three years to take a “Forks” selfie outside the Swans’ old house.

Fortunately, the Philippines has its own version of Forks. It’s a place located in the Mountain Province, in northern Luzon, 275 kilometers from Manila. It takes 12 hours of traveling by bus to reach the place – the town of Sagada. The place has cold temperatures all-year round; it’s like a little Baguio. Actually, it’s colder in Sagada.

One day last May, a group of us friends decided to see Sagada for ourselves. We didn’t go straight to our destination, though. We headed first to Baguio and spent a night there. The Baguio stopover was to break the 12 exhausting hours of sitting on the bus.

On the following morning, a Monday, we took a bus to Sagada from the GL-Lizardo Bus Terminal near Baguio’s Center Mall. There were hourly trips to Sagada from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. The fare was around 400 pesos per person. The ride felt longer than the one we had from Manila, but it the mountain ranges along the way were fun to see, like those in “The Lord of the Ring” movies.

* Another sight for tourists to marvel at is the Philippine Pali, the highest highway system in the country located in Atok, Benguet, at 7,400 feet above sea level. Further up towards Sagada, the ambient temperature gets colder as the ride go on slopes and curves. Shortly, at around the middle of the trip, there’s a quick stopover for those who want to grab something to eat and drink.

Upon arrival in the town proper, tourists are asked to register for a record of the volume of people coming in. Accommodation is not a problem; there are nearby inns, hotels, and guest houses from the town hall. A short stroll ushers in a line of street cafes. One nice thing about Sagada is that almost everything is at a walking distance – from the hotel to the souvenir shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions.

At George Guest House, where we stayed for three nights, the rate was 300 pesos per person, with three of us sharing a room. The guest house had a Wifi connection, a laundry service, and offered tour packages.

It was hard to find a budget restaurant in the morning, and we wanted to veer away from fancy breakfasts. So we went to a small store at the upper floor of the public market. They served “Silog” meals at 80 pesos per set. I liked the “Tapsilog” with a vegetable side-dish, which was good to cap with the town’s famous Kape Arabica.

We got a tour guide from the Sagada Genuine Guides Association as required of anyone wanting to go to Lumiang and Sumaguing caves. We wanted to try caving, going inside Lumiang cave and exiting through Sumaguing cave. At Lumiang, there were a few old coffins.

Managing inside the cave was difficult, since we had to descend and the pathways were slippery. We had to rappel to reach the bottom of the cave. There were pools of cold water and towering limestone formations around. We walked for about 30 minutes to reach Sumaguing. The temperature got even colder; I wore a long-sleeved shirt, but I still felt cold.

For taking pictures, a waterproof camera or one designed for extreme action environment is advisable. The whole cave tour for Lumiang and Sumaguing cost us 500 pesos, plus a tip of 100 pesos for the guide.

The next day, we went for the Hanging Coffins of the Echo Valley. Going down the valley was hard as it rained on our way there. Travelers were allowed to get as close as just meters away from the site of the coffins. The reason for the hanging of coffins was the belief of the Igorots that the higher the dead body is placed, the closer the deceased is with his dead ancestors. The coffins were suspended on the face of the cliff with iron wires or ropes. One coffin even had the wooden chair where the deceased was made to sit during the final ritual. According to our guide, the last hanging coffin was put in place in 2004.

For dinner, we tried the crowded Yoghurt House. Those who want to try fresh yoghurt should better be there at six p.m. since the restaurant would already be full by seven. I ordered “Salt and Pepper Diner’s Rosemary Chicken” meal, which was a half of organic chicken with rice and a side dish of vegetables. In Sagada the meals were cheap yet the servings were enormous. But I had to wait for about 45 minutes for my order – I was told that “good food is not fast food.” For dessert, our group ordered three yoghurt concoctions – “Banana Granola with Strawberry Preserves,” “Plain Yoghurt,” and “Fruits in Season.”

To end our Sagada sojourn, we decided to watch the sunrise from the Kiltepan viewpoint. We took a van to the viewing area at five in the morning. It was a good day; the sun rose magnificently, as we felt the clouds moistening our feet. The morning fog was thick, as Sagada is at a 5,000-feet elevation.

For souvenirs, Sagada has woven bags from coin purses to messenger-type ones, priced at 50 to 800 pesos depending on the size. Souvenir centers also sell mountain teas and Kape Arabica at 200 pesos per pack.

Sagada is definitely a good travel option. The place offers a cool respite up in the clouds. And it does not have to cost much.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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