“Kuya, pababa po sa may Churya-a ha,” I told the konduktor as our D Rising Sun bus was nearing Bontoc, the capital town of Mountain Province in Northern Philippines.
I was seated a few rows opposite Andrew, an intrepid backpacker, who by this time was munching on what looked and tasted like puto. He probably read my mind or I looked visibly hungry that’s why he gave me his last piece. I looked at my watch and it was close to 3:00 PM. The last meal we had was that bulalo breakfast in Baguio.
From our bus door, I could make out the Chico river meandering below the highway. We will realize a few days later or as we made our way to Buscalan, that this view of the restless Chico snaking through majestic rice terraces, farming villages and hanging bridges – all these picturesque sights are quite common in these parts.
Yet I am not complaining at all. I try to soak in everything in the Cordilleras, whether I’ve seen it before or otherwise. In fact I have been to this portion in the Halsema, albeit traveling in an opposite direction.
A few years ago, my friends and I were headed to Baguio after our whirlwind adventures in Sagada. Inside that full bus, I was seated beside a cute freelance writer, whose name I unfortunately forgot. Allow me to call her ‘Yeti’ for now.
I would have wanted to enjoy the scenery that Tuesday morning, but I was admittedly engrossed by Yeti’s travel exploits, mountaineering adventures and even by her brief stint as an adult film reviewer. I could still remember how she uttered ‘heaving’ and made a mental note to use the adjective in a blog entry someday to describe something that’s breathing and irresistibly pleasurable at the same time.
Time flies fast when you find yourself in a conversation that’s both deep and meaningless. Before we knew it, we passed by the highest point in the Philippine National Highway. I think Yeti noticed that she did most of the talking the entire time, so she casually asked if I was happy with my life.
I stared blankly at her for a good few seconds.
“Brennan, it’s a quite straightforward question, one that’s answerable with a yes or no,” she added. Why it took me so long to fashion a reply could be a separate blog entry by itself. But to make the long story short, I managed to answer her Ms. Universe-esque question, with a rather convoluted explanation too, as we entered La Trinidad in Benguet.
Affordable stay at Churya-a
“Opo. Sa may tapat mismo ng Churya-a namin kayo ibababa,” the konduktor reassured me in a tone that’s between amused and annoyed.
As our bus entered the Bontoc town proper, I was unnecessarily melodramatic recalling Yeti’s ‘straightforward’ question. Maybe it was my real age catching up. Maybe it opened a bunch of even harder life questions that I’ve been avoiding all this time.
We alighted right in front of the 4-storey hotel and settled for a basic accommodation by the terrace. I could see why Charlie, our Buscalan contact, recommended Churya-a after he learned that we won’t be coming from Tabuk that day.
For one, Churya-a’s room rates are very affordable even if the hotel was located at the center of Bontoc. The town plaza, the various bus terminals and the market were also just a few blocks away.
After we finished our first of many cups of Kalinga coffee that weekend, I was still not sure what we will do next in Bontoc. But for some strange reason, I was both excited and happy at the thought of getting lost for the next few hours.
Yeti’s question was thankfully, already a distant blur as we walked towards the town plaza.
Churya-a Hotel and Restaurant
Main Poblacion, Bontoc, Mountain Province
Room rates start at Php 500, good for 2 pax.
+63 906 430 0853 | +63 917 575 1253 | +63 908 177 5138
All unwatermarked photos are courtesy of A. Desabelle and G. Leteracion. They are used here with their permission.