The Land of Besao

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A small, unpretentious town somewhere in the mountains of the Cordillera region in the Philippines garnished with lush forestry in full bloom, untainted rivers and creeks, magnificent, rice terraces in every corner, invigorating breeze of air, amiable folks, and harmless, well-maintained neighborhoods. This is just a concise description of my hometown called Besao, a half hour drive from Sagada if you’re driving a car or taking the bus.

Yes, I was guilty of being oblivious to the elegance and exquisite beauty boasted by this tiny town when I was younger. Being born and raised in a rural where people are keen on every single person living in the area, my enthusiasm of appreciating the sceneries and traits this town possesses was non-existent at all. I had looked at them with nonchalance until recently when fate decided to give me a second chance of redeeming myself as a prodigal native of this congenial town. To say the least, this humble town with its spectacular beauty welcomed me with open arms once more.

Despite the lousy weather, this did not deter my adventurous spirit from packing my bag and taking the torturous, seven-hour bus ride to my hometown. It wasn’t a rejoicing trip I tell you as my excitement to see my friends, my sweet and loving grandmother and the whole town in general made my senses acutely aware of the bumpy road torturing my back with glee. And despite being sleep-deprived from the previous night, I was wide awake the whole time that my inner evilness felt like kicking my cousin beside me to wake him up, so I had someone to share my spurting excitement with.

My mind was overwhelmed with forthcoming plans which I earnestly wanted to carry out within the short five days I was going to stay in town. I couldn’t wait to reach home to hang out with my friends whom I only see on facebook, to give my grandmother a firm, lasting hug, to hear her piercing voice waking me up early in the morning, to gobble her delicious, homemade cooking, to inhale the distinct, crisp air of Besao, to yell and shoo those stubborn chickens from going inside the house, and to saunter through those rice paddies while trying not to stumble or fall.

And then I reached home. The first thing I did was to open the pot sitting on the stove and see what leftover my grandmother cooked for lunch. It was a simple mixture of squash and “Lucky Me” noodles. I was literally in tears while scooping out the dish from the pot. The nostalgic, savoury flavour which melted in my mouth, my grandma’s cooking that I had missed the most was in front of me. I was home at last.

What’s more gratifying to do than take tons of pictures of the spectacular sceneries I had failed to adulate when I was younger.

Besao scenery, Besao rice terraces

The view from my grandmother’s house

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Banguitan, Besao

Banguitan

Besao Scenery

“Ken Sanay”

When I arrived home, there was a nasty storm brewing, thus blackout was expected. For us, this was an opportune moment to bond with our incessant chatters while watching the storm unleashed its wrath outside the house. Instead of babysitting our cellphones or watching TV, we were lounged in my grandmothers crammed kitchen nursing our steaming coffee while enjoying each other’s company.

Storm, fog

The Storm

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No Besao sunset so I decided to take a photo of the mountains instead..

No Besao sunset so I decided to take a photo of the mountains instead..

Since I had not eaten “pinikpikan” (a traditional food of the Igorot people) for a while, my loving grandmother forced my cousin to dress this chicken (picture below, the red one) for dinner. I remember those times when I used to aid my older cousins in beating a chicken to death for this particular “pinikpikan” dish. Holding the wing while my cousins beat the hell out of the chicken using a stick until it turned blue is indeed inhumane. However, the Igorot people (term use to describe the indigenous people of the Cordilleran region) have practiced this barbaric way of preparing the traditional food before my great, great, great ancestors were even born. And being an Igorot myself, this traditional food is one hell of a dish I will always miss and crave despite the brutality it exudes in terms of preparing and cooking it.

Pinikpikan

The live, innocent chickens ready to be butchered

Pinikpikan, Besao

And voila!! Our dinner, the chicken, the “sayote” and the “etag” mixed together and ready to be devoured. “Pinikpikan” time!!

My grandma’s chayote I reaped from the guava tree outside the house. Chayotes are climbing plants which can grow anywhere. Yup, this thing is the real deal since it’s organic.

My grandma’s chayote or “sayote” I reaped from the guava tree outside the house. Chayotes are climbing plants which can grow anywhere. Yup, this thing is the real deal since it’s organic.

Etag

“Etag,” salted and preserved meat I found hanging outside my grandma’s window.

"Kudil"

“Kudil” sinan patnay

And of course my grandma’s organic beans from her garden

And of course my grandma’s organic beans a.k.a. “bukilas” from her garden.

Organic potatoes

Lola’s potatoes a.k.a. “batatas”

I also had the chance to visit Bomod-ok falls in Sagada. I was lucky one of my cousins was a tourist guide there, so we didn’t end up paying the registration fee which was 500 pesos for ten people (about 12 bucks). Bomod-ok falls was simply magnificent.

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Bomod-ok Falls

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

The refreshing water

The refreshing water

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Pedlisan minesite in Sagada

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Wiggling our way through those slippery, small and big rocks.

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The creek

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Pedlisan, Sagada

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Rice Paddies

I wouldn’t be here posting this blog if it weren’t for both of you who practically raised me and my brother. Yes, I’m damn lucky to have both of you!! I’m hoping the two of you will live until the age of a century or more. “Matago tago kayo ay alapo!”

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Lola Christina

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Lola Francesca

Besao will always be my home sweet home. Having that chance to bask in its beauty was a rewarding breather and selfless comfort for myself who presently lives in a bustling metropolitan area. The tranquility it offers, the marvelous sceneries it proudly displays to the naked eye, the courteous locals, the magical, breathtaking Besao sunset which unfortunately I wasn’t able to witness due to the bad weather, the chilly, invigorating air, the abundant trees encircling you, and the simple, lifestyle are among the innumerable reasons why staying in this modest town for good is something to foresee in the future. Having said this, it’s a blessing to be considered a native of this town because of the endless privileges of indulging yourself in its beauty every now and then. Again, I am a lucky gal!!…

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9 thoughts on “The Land of Besao

    • The town is called Besao. The falls however is in Sagada, Mt. Province. It’s a seven hour trip via bus if you’re coming from Baguio City. These towns are pretty closed from each other, so if you get the chance to visit Sagada which is famous for its caves (Sagada Cave) and Hanging Coffins, you should definitely check out Besao as well. 🙂

    • If you’re planning to go to Sagada, make sure to go there during the summer not during rainy season. You don’t really want to be stranded somewhere in the mountains because of landslides..:) and of course, don’t forget to visit Baguio City as well.

  1. nice one! besao will always be our home 🙂 wherever the winds take us….somewhere within our hearts, is a longing to trace our roots back 🙂
    catch the sunrise and the sunset next time 🙂

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