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Exploring Buguias and Atok in Benguet
It was very early in the morning and we were all suffering from the five-more-minutes syndrome. The hot shower did not help much to clear the cobwebs, but we managed to leave our lodgings early enough to reach Kiltepan for our first activity of the day – sunrise viewing.
Kiltepan Viewpoint is located in the eastern part of Sagada and it is about three and a half kilometers from the poblacion (town center). This is a famous tourist destination in Sagada because of its amazing vista. You can get a picturesque view of beds of clouds and a spectacular sunrise.
Unfortunately, there were more clouds than we wanted that day, and we were not able to witness the golden sunrise. We consoled ourselves with a nice breakfast near the viewpoint before leaving the area for our next stop – Buguias.
Passing through Halsema Highway which was previously called the “mountain trail”, we arrived at the municipality of Buguias in Benguet Province to meet some of the organic vegetable producers in the area.
The entire convoy converged at Garden Breeze Hotel along Halsema Highway for a short orientation. We divided into 3 small groups and then headed for various parts of the vegetable terraces to pick fresh vegetables under Pick and Pay scheme.
Under this concept, people could tour the vegetable gardens and pick their own vegetables. At the end of the activity, we paid for what we picked. This is similar to the U-pick or PYO (pick your own) farms in other countries.
While it is not exactly a new concept, it is certainly an effective one. It benefits the farmers as well as the tourism industry. Farmers are able to bypass the middleman and sell their produce direct to the consumers. As Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) President Cesar Cruz pointed out, it is also a clever way to entice jaded urbanites to stop and get a taste of farm life and get fresh vegetables at low prices.
After we had picked our fill, we returned to the Garden Breeze Hotel for a hearty lunch to appease our vegetable-picking appetites. Sated, we then headed to Atok Benguet to visit the flower farms.
Atok is one of the biggest producers of cut flowers and they supply flower markets in Manila like Dangwa in Sampaloc, Manila. There are about 10 private farms of five hectares each growing temperate flowers in Atok.
After marveling over the extensive field of flowers in Atok, we were treated to a welcome reception in the Benguet Provincial Capitol of La Trinidad. Popularly known as the Strawberry Capital of the Philippines, La Trinidad is also the capital of Benguet Province. La Trinidad is a bustling commercial hub in the area because it is where all the vegetables and cut flowers are traded after being harvested from various towns in Benguet.
With the program over, we headed for Azalea Residences in Baguio City to check in and leave our bags. The last item on our itinerary for the day was at Baguio Convention Center where we had dinner while enjoying cultural performances from the local students.
After having dinner, PHILTOA organizers headed by Mr. Cesar Cruz awarded the certificate of completion to the newest Cordillera Heritage Warriors who completed the entire program.
Day 5 – Baguio to Manila
We packed in the buffet breakfast at Azalea Residences because we were headed after to La Trinidad, Benguet to do some more picking, This time it was for strawberries. We were also due for some pasalubong shopping or we would not be able to go home. Of course, no Baguio trip is complete without visiting Mines View Park. We also managed a quick stop at Good Shepherd for more pasalubong shopping.
Just before heading down to Manila from Baguio, we had an excellent lunch at Good Taste Restaurant courtesy of the Department of Tourism. Good Taste Restaurant is famous for its affordable and delicious meals.
It was sad that our Cordillera sojourn was over. I must admit that packing in all those destinations in a few short days was a bit tiring, but I regret none of it. I would love to do it again. The Cordillera is indeed the perfect destination, and not only for its cool climate. The people are among the friendliest in the country, and the delicious food in the region just makes it the ultimate travel experience.
The Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), Inc. is a non-stock and non-profit organization of DoT-accredited tour operators and allied members actively involved in the advocacy of responsible tourism. The membership includes tour operators focused on promoting inbound and domestic tourism, hotel, resorts, transportation companies, handicraft stores, and other tourism-oriented establishments and associations.
For inquiries about upcoming Island Philippines Fun Caravan schedules please contact Tel. Nos.: (02) 812 4513; (02) 822 6964 | Fax No.: (02) 817 4608 | Email: [email protected]; [email protected] Website: www.philtoa.com
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