THE first question I asked the first tricycle driver I saw after my five hour bus ride from Baguio City to Pinili, Ilocos Norte was “Manong, where can we find Barangay Pugaoan?”
He was quite hesitant to answer me with a facial expression of confusion while checking us out in our outfits (backpack, sunglasses, shorts and rubber shoes). So upon waiting for his response I made a quick assessment of the town. At first sight it’s just as ordinary as the other towns I have been to - fields of garlic.
Then, the man answered, “Ay adayo didiay a ading, apay sinno kadi papananyo didiay (It’s far. Why do you wish to go there)?” Instead of giving an appropriate answer, we asked, “Mabalinna kami itulod manong ta arkelaen da ka lattan (Could you bring us there? We would like to contract your tricycle)?” This time without hesitation he answered, “Sure”.
We boarded his tricycle expecting a long travel. I almost feel disappointed as the dusty and rough road almost instantly turned my white shorts to brown. But these feelings were forgotten after I decided to just enjoy the view.
We arrived in Barangay Pugaoan after 20 minutes. I step out of the tricycle and handed our fare. The driver seemed to laugh at me. I felt insulted so I looked at my reflection on the vehicle’s side mirror. I then discover that I was indeed, laughable, with my hair rumpled and my clothes dusty. I thank the driver anyway and he replied, “You’re welcome.”
Most of the houses in the barangay were traditional made of nipa, but what caught our attention was when the residents came toward us and asked if there was anything they could do to help us and even offered to feed us.
We felt overwhelmed and shy as we were, we asked them to help us find the Sangbay falls.
Three residents volunteered to accompany us. But we were wrong when we thought we were going to need another ride. This time our “wheels” will be our “PAAjero”. It’s going to be a lot more difficult, we thought. Before setting out, our companions asked, “Kaya yo met laeng (can you do it)?” We replied proudly, “Of course, kami pa!”
According to them, it will take 30 minutes to reach the mouth of the falls. The first 20 minutes seemed cool for us, but when we reached the narrow hanging bridge made of rope and woods, nervousness almost conquered us.
It was my first time to cross a bridge like this one. With each step the boards complained, “crrrrrrkkk”. We all breathed a sigh of relief after successfully crossing it.
The journey did not end there. We had to cross a river. I was about to give up but I just thought of the lesson that my teacher in Social Studies taught about Julius Caesar’s crossing Rubicon river, “The die is cast.” It means no turning back. Whether it will be a glory or not that we will see after the crossing, our decision was fixed. We will cross the river.
We carried our rubber shoes and risked the muddy river. The crossing was messy but we enjoyed it. The water was cool and even though our feet were wet we felt freshened from the bath with our smelly soap. I was enjoying so much that I did not notice snails were attached to my legs.
At last, we reached the other side of the river. We were now at the mouth of the falls. We can now hear the resounding splash of it. What a nice sound.
I ran the remaining 100-meter distance as though I wasn’t tired just to satisfy my excitement to see it. I stopped, took a look around, felt the freshness of the air, experienced the calming sounds of nature and took in the life reviving scene of the Sangbay falls.
What a beautiful sight. All our exhaustion paid off. With a gesture of happiness and contentment, I showered myself with the relaxing water of the Sangbay falls. (Jan Trish G. Acdan, MMSU Intern)