The river less travelled

I would be exaggerating if say that the “road” to Palanan is difficult. The trip is lengthy, yes. The last leg had no roads, yes. But it is possible. Actually, I found crossing-the-river part most fun.

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He’s the son of the man running the boat. I kept taking photos of him to the point that he got conscious. I found him rather photogenic. I’ve always wanted a younger brother too…

Yet, it is still a road less travelled for both leisure seekers and church ministers. Here’s a summary of the journey:

  • 12 (or more, or less if the force is with you) -hour bus from Manila to Tuguegarao
  • 5-minute tricycle from bus stop to airport
  • 45-minute flight in a 15- or 20-seater from Tuguegarao Airport to Palanan Airport (with possible 2-hour flight delay depending on whether the plane from Palanan was able to get enough passengers to fly to Tuguegarao and vise-versa… Yes some flights are like jeepney rides, waiting for the seats to fill up)
  • 10-minute tricycle from the airport to the river
  • 25 to 40 minute motor boat from one side of the river to Dibungko, our destination. (If you’re going to Divilacan, a popular beach, it takes about 2 hours.)

Moreover, flights from Tuguegarao Airport to Palanan only happen 3x a week and they don’t jive with the Manila-Tuguegarao flights in case you want to take a plane to Tuguegarao.

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Yes. We paid P2,500 to risk our lives. No pun or boasting intended. The last time our host’s daughter took this flight (few years back), they almost didn’t make it.
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See that zigzag trail between the mountain ranges? That’s the river, Palanan River.

The flights are not cheap either. They cost P2,500 one way. And yes, they rarely leave on time. I spent roughly P8,000 for my trip back and forth last April 2017. By the way, these flights were also popular for having had crash landings.

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Sailing down the river. My favorite part.

 

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We docked here and climbed those steps to the village.

At the village, there aren’t millions of people, only a simple village. There’s no crusade or hotel or VIP rooms. When you go, you go not to be seen but to see. And to tell them that you see them. That they are not forgotten.

But for sure, there are some of us who love this kind of challenge. Like I said, it didn’t feel difficult at all when I first went there last year. The only struggle I had was the way back, with me needing to catch my Saturday morning class (for my graduate studies) back in Manila.

Why I’m Going Back

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The Walk Up. From the river, we climb these 100 something steps to get to the village. This used to be a hiking trail with no stairs way back when the first missionaries came here some two decades ago!

Well, first of, Duane, my former YWAM leader, a pioneer in the mission work in the said village, invited me again to come over. I was hesitant at first because of my health condition and my strict diet but the Lord touched my heart again and reminded me of how precious these people are to Him.

Let me tell you about a few of them whom I met there. Forgive me, I have been struggling with my ability to remember things because of my health condition. I may not remember some of the names correctly, but the faces, the faces for sure I will remember.

Ishmael

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I won’t tell which one but Ishmael is in this pic. 🙂

On one of my talks (It was about dreaming big in life), I asked for a few of them to share with the group what their dream is. One of them, a young man maybe around 17 years old, really wanted to share but we could all see that something was holding him back. He stood up and thought for a long time before he finally went up front.

After I handed him the mic, he said in Tagalog, “My dream is to be…(pause)… My dream is to be… (pause)… My dream is to be…(pause).” The teenagers laughed. The adults were stunned and wondered what was wrong. (Was he making fun of us or was he really struggling for the words?) I said, “Go on… what is your dream?”

He repeated the same lines over and over and over for what seemed like eternity. I am not exaggerating. I’ve heard people hesitate before, but not as much as this one. Just when I thought that he finally was going to say it, he would pause again and look down, or laugh, or hide his face in shame. It was such an awkward moment for him (and us) but he held on to the microphone.

He was ashamed to say his dream. After several tries and much encouragement, he finally says it — not a lot of words but just one.

“My dream is to become an architect. But it seems impossible.” And he said something to this effect, “I am ashamed to admit before people that someone like me should have a dream this big.”

We, the ones from outside Palanan were stunned. Perhaps, especially me, the first timer. I grew up a freakin’ dreamer. I dreamed of becoming an Olympian when I was in my teens. Then I dreamed of becoming a stage actress. Now I’m dreaming of becoming a rich, successful entrepreneur, and a pioneer in a certain brand of Christian publishing.

I don’t have much accomplishments. I didn’t make it to the Olympics, I didn’t even make it to Freestyle 6 in figure skating, my sport. I never got back to acting after one free elective in college. And I am having a hard time right now making a business plan. But I dream big even if the odds are against me. I still believe that I will reach my God-given dreams. Some of the ones I mentioned above were not really God-ordained, you know. Haha.

Seriously, I could not believe that this young man took more than 10 minutes to say that his dream is to become an architect. It broke my heart. But I don’t blame them. It was only a few years ago that they started to have their first college graduates. If I am not mistaken, just recently, their first college graduate who took up education became the very first teacher in the village who also came from the village. Whoever she is, she is a forerunner.

That’s Ishmael and his boldness in sharing his dream to the crowd inspired me. Actually, not just his boldness in sharing but his boldness in dreaming.

He is one of the reasons why I want to go back.

There are many more I want to tell you about. I’ll write about them in the coming days.

Perhaps, you are starting to feel like you want to go with me. I wouldn’t blame you. It really is worth the trip. They are worth the long (and expensive) trip. But in case you are not volunteering for this one, would you like to help me go back by sowing financially to my Mission Trip to Palanan, Isabela this April? Please do pray quickly about it and send me a message ASAP. I only have 3 weeks to go and I need to book some flights and notify our host about my plans. Thank you so much! Prayers are also welcome and needed!

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Jump shot on the last day of the youth camp. (Sorry I’m not really much of a photographer!)

 

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I Wasn’t Expecting This – Palanan, Isabela Trip Page 2

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I like physical activity so climbing the stairs, although it was tiring, was fun for me. So was the plane ride, and the boat ride. But I didn’t expect this kind of reward.

When we reached the top of the staircase, what met us was breathtaking. So, this is what’s on the other side?

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The path on the left is the trail to the staircase. The edge of the grass lawn goes downward. The field and the mountains you see afar are on the other side of the river.

I felt like I was Poh of Kung Fu Panda after climbing that high wall (although my tiredness may be way less). After that last step, it’s like I just pulled the curtains to a different world.

“Hello lovely village. Thank you for the invitation to be here.”

The first thing that you’ll notice is the breathtaking view of the river, the fields and the mountains behind you. Then moving forward, there’s the basketball court (very Filipino!) and the village houses.

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After a couple of steps from the basketball court, we get to our abode. Boy, it’s big. This is where they have their guests stay. I feel like royalty. Aren’t we supposed to be suffering when we’re on outreach?

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Our abode for 1 week (for some of us 2)
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View front of our “house”
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Dining area
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Dining area view at the back of the building
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More view from our “backyard” (Some morning fog)
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Sometimes we get visitors. The lone turkey in the village. No we’re not going to cook it! She’s part of the family! (Then again, maybe not!)
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Our backyard view. Using DSLR cam.
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One night, when the sunset was showffing off

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We kind of panicked and grabbed our phones and tried to “capture” the sky while the scenery lasted.

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Duane, our leader. Chillin’ one afternoon.

 

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Laundry dries on one side of the house.
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The boys set up hammocks up front 😉 Neat!
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You can dine outside too…

 

So yeah, now that we’re all set up! We’ll go around the village next.

 

Palanan Isabela via Tuguegarao – The Wait Is Over (Page 1)

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Last April 22, 2017, my friend and I took a 10-hour bus ride to Tuguegarao City up Northeast of the Philippines. From Tuguegarao Airport, we waited 5 hours for a 45-minute, 20-seater flight to Palanan Valley in Isabela Province. We were early and the plane was 4 hours late.

Palanan is not a popular travel destination, more so the village we went to. I was jobless with savings slowly draining away. What on earth was in Palanan that we were ready to get Php 8,000 (almost US$200) poorer and some backaches richer just to be there?

Continue reading “Palanan Isabela via Tuguegarao – The Wait Is Over (Page 1)”