SADANGA, Mountain Province – “Good morning!” These words of greeting coupled with welcoming nod and gracious sweet smile from the villagers of barangay Betwagan, here, relieve the one-hour strenuous hike from the national highway to their village.
The villagers live a simple life. Hardworking people as they are, men and women go to the rice fields before the sun rises. Farming is their bread and butter. They produce rice, camote and legumes. Some legumes are sold in the capital town of Bontoc and outside the province.
Visiting the place is not complete if you will not have a taste of the basi or fayas which they brew from their sugar cane patches. This is produced in the months of November, December and January.
Even with the continuous development in the village such as electrification, the male elders and men gather at the ator or dap-ay in the late afternoon after a whole day of backbreaking work in the farm. They exchange pleasantries and discuss pertinent issues and concerns for the benefit of the community. On the other hand, children prefer to play outside rather than stay at home to watch movies or teleserye and play computer games. The elders say that despite the introduction of new technologies and other development in the community they will not forget these traditional practices as these keep them united and peace-loving village.
For those who want to visit and experience the simple life of the villagers and wonders of Betwagan, you may ride on a public utility jeepney that has its parking area beside the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC) located in the capital town Bontoc. It leaves at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
The first trip from Betwagan to Bontoc starts at 9 o’clock in the morning while the last trip leaves at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
Fare for regular passengers is P30.00 while students, senior citizen and the person with disabilities (PWDs) is P25.00.
Without homestays or lodging houses, the visitors may stay with theat hospitable villager’s’ homes to rest for the night to prepare themselves for a long-walk the following day. It is advised to coordinate with barangay officials before visiting the village for a place to stay, an itinerary and tour guide.
One of the outstanding sights that Betwagan offers is the Akay-ay Falls. A four hour trek from the village, passing through mountain ranges, stoned walled rice terraces, irrigation or “arak”, and a river is rewarding as you reach the place. The waterfalls lazily drop from above the mountain down the pool and flow down the river. Climbing through the rocks on the side of the waterfalls, you can see two smaller water falls facing each other.
The Akay-ay Falls has been the favourite picnic spot of the youths in Betwagan especially summer vacation because of the cold and crystal – clear water.
One can hear the splashing sound that the waterfall makes, feel the soft breeze touching your skin, hear the chirping of the birds, buzzing sound of insects, and find a shade or shelter as the place is surrounded with plants and trees. One can say this place is indeed a perfect picnic ground to spend your summer vacation with your families, relatives and friends.
Taking a dip in the cold pool would freshen your mind and weary body from the long hour walk. Aside from swimming and sight-seeing, you can enjoy fishing at the pool. It is rewarding due to abundance of eels (chalit) and kachiw, the favourite exotic delicacy of the villagers. These fishes are still plenty because of the strict implementation of the policy of the villagers prohibiting the use of electric fishing equipment.
You may go back to the village in the early afternoon or spend the night there if you want to view the sun emits its rays that reflect in the waterfalls and pond. You can also experience the rising and setting of the sun over the mountains.
For camping enthusiasts, you can set up your tents on top of the mountain. Make sure that you bring with you your complete camping materials and gears.
Experiencing the beauty of Betwagan is a perfect get-away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Indeed Betwagan is a place you can call a home- for a searching soul, a broken heart, and a weary mind and body.
By Juvy K. Langpawen