(Creative Feature Writing Contest – First place) Nueva Vizcaya: A Walk with Inang

“Nu ayaten tayo ti adda kada tayo, maikkat ti amin nga apal ket agtalinaed ti agnanayon nga ragsak ti puspuso tayo.” If we love our own, we get rid of bitterness and we shall fill our hearts with everlasting happiness.

It was supposed to be a typical Sunday but the pattuke, a wooden cart pulled by a carabao, Inang and I were in, made it different than the other Sundays. On a gloomy weather of September, we were going to Nagbitin Falls in Brgy. Nagbitin, Villaverde, Nueva Vizcaya; 20.2 km from the heart of the province, Bayombong. What’s with the day? I asked myself. I laughed a bit with random thoughts on my head as the scent of barrio air brushed across my face.

However, after a long ride, the pattuke could not take us anymore to the falls. The steep mountain plus the rocky trail made the way inaccessible for any vehicle. So, we trekked. Manong Silvio, owner of the carabao, led our way. Though old, Inang was impressively capable of walking the steeps. But, I had to look at her still.

On our way, excitement reigned over me as I heard the strong cascade of water against the rocks. The burbling water of the streams and the chirping birds even added to the vibrant ambience of the virgin forest. When we took our last step to the destination, I couldn’t help but smile on the beauty I beheld. A two-layer falls was gracefully plashing its waters over the grasses and rocks. Although the falls isn’t great for swimming since it doesn’t have its own lagoon, the dancing water through the rocks makes it outstanding from the other falls.

There were number of people enjoying the cold water. Friends under the falling water would shiver in chills. Boys would climb higher over the rocks and water would splash unto the kid’s faces. Along the stream was mother preparing foods and father taking woods. Ideal for picnickers, the falls provides an exceptional view of the whole Town of Villaverde.

Manong Silvio, resident of Brgy. Nagbitin, also told us that it’s best to visit the falls during rainy season for it will showcase more its beauty with strong current of water. Away from the limelight of civilization, Nagbitin Falls, indeed, is a hidden gem of Villaverde.

If you were to visit the falls, take a tricycle ride going to Brgy. Nagbitin at the side of SaveMore 2 in Solano and let manong driver to drop you off to a bridge in Purok 1, Nagbitin. From there, you shall walk for around one hour before reaching the falls. If you’re lucky, you can take a lift to a passing vehicle.

After witnessing the sublime beauty of Nagbitin Falls, we went 13.9 km South to Brgy. Aggub in Solano. There, the magnificent Mt. Singian proudly showcased its great built. Inang was to bring me at its summit but I was thinking of her welfare. Fortunately, a passing car driven by a group of teens also happened to visit the mountain’s highest point. So, we hitched a lift.

The trail was cemented at first. Then it became tire pot, then rough. Sometimes, I looked out the window to catch a glimpse of nature’s gifts. In surprise, a hidden resort, Villa Glorina, nestled along the way where one can unwind in relaxation.

I learned that the teens were to camp overnight at the mountain peak. “We would love to witness the beauty of the Barrio Lights at night, glowing against the vast darkness and imitating the night sky. And the Sea of Clouds at dawn, the rolling billows of the sky kissing the foliage of the trees,” they said. Ideal for camping activities, the mountain offers a relaxing experience that satisfies one’s leisure pursuits.

Few minutes later, we finally reached the summit. Located 574 meters above sea level was a little chapel nestling atop the mountain where people gather during Holy Week to worship God. A soaring cross, parallel to it, also graced the mountain edge.

Bubbled with excitement, I trotted off to the other side of the mountain to look at the vast rice field beneath. I was astonished. I could see the whole perspective of the province; the lush hills and the rivers running through them. Green, virgin, and calm. The mountain provides a spectacular view of the green valley. And lounging on its grasses on a gloomy afternoon is an experience never to forget.

 One can also take his own paragliding equipment and experience the cool wind of the grand mountain. On my right was people jumping off the cliff and flying like an eagle. I could hear their shout echoing on the eternal space, reverberating not fear but total excitement while floating on the wind. Out of nowhere, I lifted my hands up against the sweet breezes then murmured. This is my province. This is where I belong.

For someone who plans to enjoy the serenity of the mountain, take a tricycle ride going to Brgy. Aggub at the side of SaveMore 2. Tell to the driver you are going to Mt. Singian and he shall drop you off in Purok 7, Aggub at the foot of the mountain.

It was already getting dusk when Inang and I decided to leave the grandeur of Mt. Singian. Gratefully, the teens were too kind for offering us a ride.  But wait! The day with Inang didn’t stop there.

“Ammuk nga mabisin kan. Intan idiay Bagabag ta ramanam met ti buko pie nga ipanpannakkel ti probinsiya tayo.” I know you’re hungry, let’s go to Bagabag so you can taste the famous buko pie of our province. Thoughtful Inang was, a walk is incomplete without trying some delicious foods.

10.4 km far from Brgy. Aggub, Solano; a number of food stalls selling buko fruits and pies parades along the National Highway in Tuao North, Bagabag. A famous pit spot attraction for the passengers from Cordillera and Southern Region; people would stop over to buy buko, pineapple, ube, and other pie variants and fruit products as pasalubong for their families and friends. There were also vendors in the roadside who sell tupig, a Filipino rice cake that uses coconut strips as ingredient, wrapped in banana leaves and baked over charcoals.  

The feeling was unexplainable when I savored the taste of the pies. Baked for about ten minutes inside an oven, its precious taste had dwelled on my palate. Its creamy filling was exploding in my mouth. And every single bite was no frustration for there were countless strips of smooth young coconut meats jammed inside its crust. It wasn’t lacking on any of its ingredients. Best paired with natural buko juice, the buko pie gives a refreshing feeling like no other.

G&B Restaurant, a prominent pioneer of buko pie in Bagabag, also serves exceptional delicacies. If one’s looking for unique Filipino dishes, their pansit, kare-kare and chopsuey, which use young coconut meats as ingredient, are must-try.

 One can also have the chance to learn more about the ingredients of the dishes at the Department of Agriculture’s Nueva Vizcaya Experiment Station located at Brgy. Villaros. There, visitors can experience farm adventures like picking fruits and vegetables, and taking care of poultry and livestock. 

 Home to the Buko Alley of The North, the bucolic Town of Bagabag speaks for the rich agriculture of Nueva Vizcaya.

 If you love to savor the province’s buko pie, ride on a jeepney near the Solano gymnasium bound to Lamut, Ifugao. Then, ask the driver to drop you at the buko alley.

 It was already six o’clock in the evening. We were walking under the street lights. And our shadows, though black, wasn’t dark at all. There’s the smile. There’s the love. There were colors in our silhouette. I looked at Inang. And a picture of happiness popped up on her eyes. I figured out, I wouldn’t have found myself appreciating the beauty of my province if I didn’t have a walk with her.

She smiled. “Nu dadduma, madi tayo makita ti pintas ti adda kada tayo ta sabali ti intayo kitkitaen. Apo, ammum kadi nu anya nga aldaw ita? Ita nga aldaw nasarakam ti panagayat mo iti bukod mo nga probinsiya.” Sometimes, we don’t see the beauty of our own because we’re looking so far. Son, do you know what day it is? It is the day you finally found love on your province.

I hugged her. For who’d believe that a beautiful love shall bloom from a walk with Inang? Agyamanak ti daytuy nga regalo nga inpaay mo kanyak, Inang. I’m grateful for this gift that you gave me, Inang.

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