Above the clouds

- Lester Gopela Hallig () - March 30, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - For some, a long weekend does not include conquering a mountain. But there we were, happy campers taking on Mt. Pulag in Benguet. It is considered the highest peak in Luzon and the third overall in the Philippines. So, what possessed us to take on this mountain?

Well, we wanted to prove that long weekends are more fun in the Philippines. The timing of Microtel Baguio resident manager and area general manager for Northern Luzon Dean Cid’s invitation to climb Mt. Pulag could not have come at a better time.

Faster than we could catch ourselves saying “Go!” we found ourselves in one of Microtel Baguio’s 60 clean and comfortable rooms. Mine had a great view of the pine trees in the distance, the fog that covered them, and the houses down below. Welcome again to Baguio.

Microtel Baguio served as our homebase, and we lost no time heading to another base — Mt. Pulag. It was a bright idea that we decided to climb on a sunny Monday morning. We had the trail and the camp all to ourselves. No weekend crowds to wrestle with at the summit for views. It was, shall we say, a well-calculated plan.

....and posing at the summit with Microtel Baguio GM Dean Cid and director for marketing Albert Banaag (standing, left and second from left, respectively).

We took the mountain jeepney to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office where we had to log in (think airline manifesto) and log out. There we were given an orientation about Mt. Pulag, its trails, flora and fauna, and mountain climber’s do’s and don’ts. Then we were off to the Ranger’s Station for the start of our Pulag trek. By the time we arrived at the station, we had to have a well-deserved breather. After all, the jeepney ride took two hours along bumpy roads. We hired local porters to carry our bags and paraphernalia for us. The hike was three hours. For first-timers like us, it was best to mind where we were stepping on.

It was an overnight stay at the Mt. Pulag camp. The cold was unspeakable, but, in a twisted way, quite fun, as this was the first time some of us in the group endured such a temperature. Four layers of thick thermal wear did not help, and neither did the rain. We had dinner under a makeshift shelter. What can we say, instant noodles never tasted so good. We wanted an adventure, so we got one.

The call time for our trek to the actual summit was at 3:30 a.m. This gave us enough lead time to catch the sunrise. The trail was a bit intimidating (remember, we have never done this before) in the cold darkness. We knew the reward was waiting for us at the top, so we trudged on.

Microtel Baguio façade

At about 6 a.m., we finally reached the summit. Yes, we were literally breathless from negotiating some trails, but the scene before us — mountaintops, clouds, skies, rainbows, mist, valleys, rising sun, horizon — made it all so well worth the effort. There were no words to describe the wonder of it all. One has to actually be there to fully appreciate the glorious sight. Everyone fell silent as the scene unfolded, slowly, surely. After that, it was a mad scramble for the cameras. Just like that, we were back to reality.

The overnight Pulag adventure done, we returned safely to Microtel Baguio. We found comfort again on the hotel’s chiropractor-approved bed, hot and cold shower, cable television, and cozy environment.

Cid reminded us that Microtel Baguio is the ideal jump-off point to Mt. Province’s key destinations and tourist attractions. “We will help arrange for adventure trips such as this. Just inquire with our friendly staffers who are more than willing to help. Microtel Baguio is here to bring you the total experience,” he said.

Recently, the hotel officially opened Te Quiero Tapas Bar & Restaurant. It offers sumptuous tapas to local fare, and a fine selection of imported wines and other liquor. Te Quiero overlooks its next-door neighbor Victory Liner Passenger Center. The hotel and the terminal have an actual connection: there is a private bridgeway from Microtel to Victory Liner. Guests can enjoy bar chow, meals, and drinks as they wait for their bus, all safe and secure.

Double room

So make it Microtel Baguio the next time the City of Pines beckons. Explore Mt. Province and discover that being above the clouds is really more fun in the Philippines.

* * *

Microtel Baguio is located at Upper Session Road, Baguio City. For more information, call (074) 619-3333 or (02) 899-7171, or e-mail at baguio@microtel.ph. Visit its website at http://www.microtel-baguio.com/.

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