Monday, August 21, 2017

Hiking Mt. Pigingan in Dalupirip, Itogon, Benguet

It was already pitch black when we reached the rather quiet and secluded barangay of Dalupirip. Situated in the outskirts of Itogon in Benguet, the place has a certain kind of charm to it. Maybe it’s the stillness in the air. Maybe it’s the clear sky bursting with stars. Maybe it’s the sound of rushing waters at the mighty Agno River. The place reminded me of home – Besao, Mt. Province. The magic of rural living was everywhere.

I was in the company of new friends who, just a few hours ago, were nothing short of strangers: Edu, Ivan, Junie, Ana Fe, Shin Joy, Natazzia, and Angelique. They were a team of photographers, videographers, guides, and travellers bent on documenting the beauty of Dalupirip through an initiative by the Itogon Tourism Office. In a nutshell, we were there to help spread the word about the place.

Driving the white truck we were riding was no other than Mr. Joel Bauzon, the barangay captain of Dalupirip. He picked us up earlier at the Dangwa Station in Baguio City. The plan was to spend the night at a house near the magnificent Agno River then climb Mt. Pigingan before dawn breaks. Trekking early will make sure that we reach the summit in time to catch the sun as it rises out from the east.

The truck slowly swerved its way through the rugged road as we got closer to base camp. Every now and then we have to stop to open road gates. These are gates that prevent cattle (mostly cows and horses) from venturing into areas where they can inflict damage on properties and crops.

At around 9:00 in the evening, we reached the home where we’ll stay the night. Serving as our base camp was the house of manong Cruzaldo Atos. Manong Zaldo prepared for us a sumptuous meal of pinikpikan, brewed coffee, malunggay leaves, and a few other vegetables the names of which I can’t fully recall.

When the clock struck 11:00, we called it a night. Two of our companions retired inside the house. The rest of us preferred to sleep at the makeshift kubo outside. The kubo has open sides so we were at the mercy of mosquitoes and nasty small insects locally referred to by the Ibalois as sepsep. Our plan was to start the climb at 1:00 in the morning which means we only had two hours left for restful sleep.

We started the trek to Mt. Pigingan at exactly 1:30 in the morning. The first section of the trail isn’t that difficult as it follows a road currently under construction. The final trail to the summit is a bit more difficult but very manageable, even for beginners. It’s the rainy season so huge sections of the trail are wet and muddy. The trails are also often used by cows so the wet mud can be several inches deep.

Fortunately, Mt. Pigingan doesn’t have a leech (lamatik) problem. Dealing with leeches is a real struggle. I am reminded of the time we climbed Mt. Lubo in Bakun a few months ago. We had to stop every few minutes on the trail to pick off the leeches that latched onto our clothes.

After several hours of arduous climbing, we reached the summit of Mt. Pigingan. We were there moments before the sun peeked from the distant mountains. The summit is a thin grassy ridge punctuated by a few pine trees. When moving through the peak, you have to be very careful because the east side has a vertical drop which is dozens of meters high.

Suffice it to say that the views from the summit were magnificent. You have to be there to truly appreciate the beauty of the place. It’s highly recommended that you climb the mountain early in the morning, like we did. You’ll be treated with a fiery sunrise and a great view of the hills, mountains, rivers, and meadows below. If you climb too late, there’d be nothing to see but clouds and thick mists. The choice is yours: climb early or climb late.

And here are a few teaser photos from the trip. I say it again, you have to be there to truly appreciate the beauty of the place. These photos don't do justice to the wonders of nature that surround you once you step foot on the summit ridge.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

BENECO Notice Of Scheduled Power Interruptions From August 14 To 19

Parts of Baguio City, La Trinidad, Tublay, Tuba, Buguias, and Bakun will experience electrical power interruptions in the coming week. In particular, the whole town of Bakun (except barangay Kayapa) will have no power on August 19 (Saturday) from 9:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon. Below is the full schedule of the power interruptions as per a notice disseminated by the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO).

August 14, Monday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm - [Magsaysay, Liwanag, Loakan Proper, Bubon, Purok 7, San Luis Extension, Zarate Road, Middle Quezon Hill, Purok 3, Dominican Hill in Baguio City], [parts of Alapang, Alno, Pangablan, Asin Tuel, Balluay, Bagong, Botot, Bayuga, Banengbeng]

August 15, Tuesday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm - [whole of Central Tublay], [Kilometer 4, Capjaran, Central Pico, La Trinidad], [Chamomile Street, Sunnyside, Fairview, parts of MRR Queen of Peace, parts of Naguilian-Ferguson junction, Purok 5, Navy Base, parts of Polo field in Baguio City]

August 16, Wednesday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm - [Sayucong, Central Balili, La Trinidad], [Conit, Jappa, Shilan, La Trinidad], [Gabriela Silang, Baguio City]

August 17, Thursday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm - [Palew, Kahadong, Caponga, Tublay], [whole of Taloy Norte and Taloy Sur in Tuba]

August 18, Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm - [Coplo, Sablan, Gallano Aringay La Union, San Pascual, Tarong, Nangalisan, Tuba], [parts of Loo, Banooy, Sebang, Magmagaling, Baculongan Norte and Sur, Mansoyosoy, Buguias]

August 19, Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm - [parts of Sinipsip, Buguias, whole of Bakun except Kayapa]

Chicken Fillet With Etag And Soybean By BSU Students Win Cooking Competition In Diliman, QC

Consider this as another triumph for Cordilleran cuisine. Two students taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management at the Benguet State University emerged victorious in a cooking contest held last August 8 in Quezon City. Pamela Jeane Remiendo and Maravilla Senado won the Soybean Cooking Contest with a unique dish that has chicken, soybean, etag, carrots, and broccoli as main ingredients.

For the uninitiated out there, etag is the dried meat (usually pork) that is very popular among Cordillerans. The drying process involves either spreading the salted fresh meat under the sun or over a smoky fire. The dried meat is also often referred to as either kiniing or kinuday.

Remiendo and Senado named their dish Rolled Chicken Fillet with Etag-Soybean in Honey Mustard Soybean Tidbits Sauce. It has chopped carrots and broccoli on the sides. It's easy to prepare, affordable, and most important of all, healthy.

According to Rodeliza Flores, the coach of the students and a member of the faculty of the College of Home Economics and Technology (CHET) in BSU, they included etag in the dish's ingredients to give it a Cordilleran taste.

The contest was sponsored by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (an agency under the Department of Agriculture). It was part of the events for the 13th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition.

With the victory, BSU will be receiving a 1 million peso research grant for soybean production, processing, and product packaging. The winning students will also receive certificates, a plaque of recognition, and incentives.

The winning dish. Image credit: Rita Dela Cruz via the BSU Facebook page.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Expired Medicines And Kits Found At The Bontoc General Hospital By DOH Inspection Team

During an inspection done by a team from the Department of Health on July 20, it was found out that the Bontoc General Hospital in Mt. Province has been using expired medicines, kits, and reagents. According to a report on Sun Star Baguio (the only traditional news outlet so far that has covered the issue), it was found out that the medical facility has been "using expired reagents and kits at the laboratory section and expired medicines at the emergency room and dialysis unit".

[Definition]: A reagent is "a substance that is used to produce a chemical reaction that allows researchers to detect, measure, produce, or change other substances." [Source: Medicine Net]

Among the expired items that the hospital has been using include glucose reagents, cholesterol reagents, amiodarone, syphilis kits, and sodium bicarbonate. In light of the findings by the inspection team, Dr. Penelope Domogo, officer in charge at the hospital, has been requested to explain the use of expired kits and medicines inside the facility.

Amiodarone: an antiarrhythmic medication used to treat and prevent a number of types of irregular heartbeats. This includes ventricular tachycardia (VT), ventricular fibrillation (VF), and wide complex tachycardia, as well as atrial fibrillation and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. It can be given by mouth, intravenously, or intraosseously.

Sodium bicarbonate - an antacid used to relieve heartburn and acid indigestion. Your doctor also may prescribe sodium bicarbonate to make your blood or urine less acidic in certain conditions.
Image source:

Friday, August 4, 2017

Another Cordilleran Soldier Killed In Action In Marawi City

The ongoing conflict in Marawi City has taken yet another soldier from the Cordillera region. Scout Ranger Corporal Nelson Lasang Wailan was shot and killed during an encounter with Maute terrorists inside the besieged city on August 3 (Thursday). Wailan hails from Tabuk City in Kalinga. He was 35 years old and about to turn 36 this coming 27th of August. He has served in the Philippine Army for thirteen years.

Wailan is the second child in a family of eleven siblings. In an interview with Bombo Radyo Baguio, his sister Madonna Lasang Wailan described him as a kind, loving, industrious, and very responsible brother.

Wailan is the sixth Cordilleran to perish in the conflict that has been brewing for more than two months and one week now. The war erupted in May 23 when Maute militants attacked the city and occupied several buildings.

The other five heroes who sacrificed their lives in service for the country are Philippine Marines Private First Class Gener Tinangag from Barlig, Police Senior Inspector Freddie Manuel Solar from Baguio City, Special Action Force PO1 Moises Kimayong from Lagawe, Ifugao, Special Action Force PO3 Alexis Mangaldan from Bangued, Abra, and Philippine Army Corporal Benito Serrano from Conner, Apayao.
Nelson Lasang Wailan. Photo from Facebook.

Search Operations Ongoing For 6-Year-Old Child Swept Away By A River In Tinoc, Ifugao

A kindergarten pupil remains missing two days after he was swept away by strong river currents in barangay Ahin in Tinoc, Ifugao. The young boy has been identified as Jaypee Martin Mat-an, 6 years old, and a resident of said barangay.

According to a report by the Office of Civil Defense - Cordillera Region, Jaypee and three companions went down to the river to bathe around noon on Wednesday (August 2). They were playing on a huge boulder overlooking the river when Jaypee slipped and fell into the current below. His companions reportedly tried to help to no avail.

The children sought help and rescuers immediately scoured the area to try and locate the whereabouts of Jaypee. They weren't able to find him. Search and rescue operations continued on Thursday and Friday.
Image credit: Tinoc Municipal Police Station via Bombo Radyo Baguio
In light of the incident, parents and guardians of young children are being advised to watch over their wards and prevent them from going into the river. It's the rainy season so the river current is usually strong. Furthermore, just a small downpour can cause the river to quickly swell and catch bathers/swimmers unaware.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

2 Small-Scale Miners Die From Gas Poisoning In Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet

Two small-scale miners were found lifeless inside a mine tunnel in Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet on Monday afternoon (July 31). Initial investigation showed that they may have succumbed to gas poisoning. The men have been identified as Anthony Gorteza Salas (30 years old) and Robert Binay-an Gorteza (28 years old). Both men hail from the town of Bagulin in La Union.

According to the Itogon police, Gorteza and Salas entered the tunnel in an area referred to as Mill Site to work. They failed to come out after more than an hour inside. Concerned, other miners sought them out and found their lifeless bodies around 1:00 in the afternoon. Retrieval operation for the bodies was completed four hours later.

The two miners likely went to a section of the tunnel expecting it to be safe and free from poisonous gases. Little did they know that the huge amounts of rain water that typhoon Gorio and tropical storm Huaning dumped on the region caused water levels inside the tunnels to rise. This pushed the poisonous gases closer to the tunnel entrance.
Image source: Neal Wellons via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
During the onslaught of the typhoon and tropical storm, local offices of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office have issued warnings for pocket miners to avoid working inside their tunnels.