I recently had an epic trip with a group of travel photographers. Our mission was to photograph some of last remaining tattooed women in Kalinga - part of the Cordillera, a mountainous region in the northern part of Luzon.
They say that the journey is as exciting as the destination. For this trip it certainly was, that's why I'm starting the series by sharing the beautiful vistas we came across on the road.
We came via Baguio, and from Baguio took the Halsema highway to Bontoc (also known as Baguio-Bontoc road). It used to be an unpopular route because the road conditions are bad, but now the whole stretch is cemented - all the way to Bontoc. You'll pass by the most scenic towns and mountain scenes you'll ever come across in the Philippines. It helps to note that Halsema Highway is known as the highest highway system in the Philippines.
Ambulao Dam at dawn
We took a detour to Ambuklao Dam in Bokod for our first sunrise (see the first photo above). This was our first sunrise of the trip and if we were to take this as an omen of the things that will happen for the remainder, then I say we are off to a good start. (In retrospect, I think it really was a good omen!).
From Ambuklao we proceeded to some junction in Halsema Highway and then stayed on the highway for hours. I think the drive took about 6 hours, but it was 6 hours of the most amazing scenery I ever saw in that region. And of course with a group of shutterbugs, you except to stop every few kilometers to snap photos. The rule was simple: shout "stop!" if you see something interesting, and as if on programmed mode every ready their gear and jump out the car.
Here are some of my favorite shots:
Heaven is my roof. Atok, Benguet. It seems in this place, the sky is so close you can almost touch it. The clouds brushes against the treetops.
Highest point in Halsema. We stopped by a viewpoint on the highest point in the highway. In the distance you can see Mt. Pulag - the 3rd highest peak in the country
Cordillera mountains. For the next few hours, scene similar to this will be what we will see. It makes the long drive enjoyable.
Marching up. There seem to be no other types of trees in this mountainous region except pine trees
Top light. Late afternoon sun hitting the top of the hill. The whole valley is carpeted green by vegetable farms. I took this on the way back (we still had the energy to shoot after 4 days). I had to run from the point where our cars stopped to a better POV. I got 2 or 3 shots before the light was gone.
Sabangan View Point. There are segments of the highway that traces the Chico river or one of its tributaries. You can see that the people living in this region has maximized the use of arable land and even gone to the extent of carving mountainsides to create the rice terraces the Cordillera region is known for.
Sometimes we see that the light is good but we are not in an ideal place to shoot, so we simply use whats there. There was this one time on the way back when everybody almost jumped out of the moving car when rays began bursting through thick clouds.
We ran to a cabbage field (good thing the owner did not chase us out) and hurriedly looked for vantage points. I swore photographers can sometimes be a tenacious lot.
vegetable fields along Halsema
Our major pitstop was the town of Bontoc. We stayed there for a night to recharge ourselves (and our batteries!) before finally heading to Kalinga. Of course we did not pass the chance to shoot the sunset and the sunrise the next day.