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Glamping in Tublay
Team Tublay: Mayor Armand Lauro, Nohreen from Banglaesh, Jahra Roxas, Elaine from South Africa, author Gina Lopez, Otta Montinola

Glamping in Tublay

FROM THE HEART - Gina Lopez (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2019 - 12:00am

It has been almost a year since the Quest for Love was launched. Since its inception, it attracted 128 applicants (municipalities) from 40 different areas all over the Philippines. After a rigorous process, which ultimately resulted in the flying over of the top 16 in Metro Manila, the top eight were chosen by an esteemed board of judges headed by Dr. Eduardo A. Morato Jr. of the Asian Institute of Management.

This article is all about Tublay, which topped the list.

Tublay is a beautiful place, an hour away from Baguio City. It has magnificent caves, waterfalls, mountains, rich agricultural land, centennial trees and hot springs — considering it’s just a fifth-class municipality! Saying this is madness is an understatement. It should be first class++, because it is so rich in natural resources.

My determination is to turn Tublay into a first-class municipality in record time — and it can be done because we have really good change agents on the ground. This is the critical ingredient.

In this case, the “change agent” who won was Onie Aguinalde, the vice chancellor of the University of Cordilleras. She has passion, integrity, and heart. She is also part of a school culture committed to service. It absolutely helps that the mayor there is par excellence in the person of Mayor Armand Lauro. He is amazing. We tease him and tell him he looks a little bit like Robin Padilla. He is full of heart, very honest, humble and unassuming. He also has a lovely wife, Josie, who is very supportive of all that he does.

Tublay, ahh, Tublay. I will insist that everyone pays at least one visit there. My last visit included three ladies from the Volunteers of the Museum of the Philippines: Elaine from South Africa; Maureen from Bangladesh; Liz, writer/editor, my childhood friend; Otta Montinola; and the only “muse” in the pack, my good friend Bobby Cuenca. Also with us was Marisa Alcantara, the owner of our partner travel agency; and her son Pirkko.

We had a blast. Everyone was so game and the median age was late 50s and early 60s. Elaine was amazing! She jumped right into the chilly waters of Boyokbok Falls and climbed the rocks. The senior citizens crowd who were not athletic went right in and did the rock climbing. Of course, Otta, who is a month older than me, is so not normal. I could have bragged that “you know I am 65 years old and look at what I am able to do,” but her presence spoiled my bragging package because she is a month older and so much more agile and sexy. Sigh... Such is life.

The first day started with a river trek down rocks. Each person was given a guide to hold his/her stuff and guide them through the rocks. I discovered that the puddles of spring water along the river was healing. I had just sprained my ankle (so one might wonder what in heavens name was I doing trekking?) But this had been planned long before I sprained my ankle so I more than survived. I found that after dipping my feet in the water, my ankle got energized. I think it’s because the water contained the energies of fresh spring water — carrying the energies of the forests and the mountains.

• Bengaongao Cave. Bengaongao means echo. You really have to come here. I want to applaud the Integrated Institute of Electrical Engineers. I totally love them. They put in half a million pesos worth of lighting that was totally unobtrusive and non-invasive. It didn’t touch the walls of the cave but was lighting on the ground level so we can see where we were going. The effect was magical.

There is a part in the cave where there was pin-drop quiet and stillness. I led the group through a meditation. That’s always good for the soul.

We had a fresh organic lunch at the mouth of the cave and that, too, was a treat.

I had climbed the cave three times already so I knew the value of stretching intermittently. At the top, we basked in the view of the mountains of Tublay.

• Paterno Cave. I was unprepared for the majesty of this cave. One crawls through a hole but the cave is unlike any cave I have ever been to. I meditate so I can feel energy. I felt spiritual forces lifting me up. I want to go back to this cave and meditate. It was apparently called Paterno Cave because General Paterno hid here during the Japanese occupation.

The pictures don’t do it justice. . It can be a spiritual retreat place. There are rock formations there, which they call Jesus, St. Joseph and Mama Mary. The energy of the cave is something else. Later, after eating squash balls and drinking lemon grass tea, we went to the glamping site.

Coleman Philippines generously gave us a big discount for the tents. SM will soon be donating tents and mattresses. I love Tessie Sy-Coson. She and her company are the best.

Glamping under the super moon

We were fortunate that night because it was the night of the Super Moon! Wow! We all had dinner basking in the moonlight, while the community serenaded us. Some of the ladies even had hilot in their well-appointed tents. We had bio-char toilets through Philip Camara. These are made from agri-waste. Waterless, but zero smell, zero flies. It’s pretty awesome. . If you are interested in this, call Philip Camara at 0917-8135508. I fully attest to its efficacy.

The experience and the service. I had deep profound meditation. So much so that I am planning a meditative experience there, which will include hiking. More introspective in nature. If you are interested let me know.

• Bayokbok Falls. After a good breakfast — my cook Ming is teaching them how to add luster to their food — we went off to Bayokbok Falls. Passing through the community area, which had been cleaned and bridges fixed, we reached the waterfalls. Ellaine jumped right in and the group bravely went on the rafts to rock climb — three levels! And this is a senior crowd! And all women!

Eating on top of the rocks and seeing the view, what more can one ask for? We trekked to the hot springs.

• Asin Hot and Cold Springs. This was a fitting closing — hot and cold springs! I could have spent hours there, but we still had to go to the farms to buy organic vegetables at farm gate prices. We ended up buying everything the farmers had.

What a trip! One of the biggest gems is the graciousness, the heartfulness of the community. I totally love them. Again, my deepest aspiration is to get them out of poverty and I have zero doubt it can happen in record time. You just all have to go there!

The tour can be adjusted according to your needs. In my group, each one had her own tent and his/her own guide, plus a luxury van from Manila to Baguio and back. Four days, three nights all inclusive of everything for P15,000. I have another group going who will be four in a tent, they are taking the bus from Manila to Baguio and not staying in an inn, whereas the first group stayed in an inn and that whole trip  costs P6,000 for four days, three nights. We can do one-day, two-day trips. The best is if you can stay for a minimum of two full days, which makes it four because of travel time.

All the money goes to the community. Onie is putting systems in place so everything is honest and the community is well provided for and a fund is set aside for operations and reinvestment. The future of Tublay is bright.

Also on the pipeline is a love garden. Hiking through the mountains village to village, we discovered another glamping site with lots of water. God has so blessed Tublay. He has probably similarly blessed the whole Philippines — we just need to discover it.

The key is in the change agent. Things can happen, but without integrity and compassion at ground level, it doesn’t work. Congratulations to Onie and the Mayor of Tublay. You make our country proud. Keep the light shining.

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For those who want to visit, call or SMS 0917-8780032 or email questforlove@gworld.ph.

BAGUIO CITY QUEST FOR LOVE
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