After a few minutes of traversing the rugged road on a four wheel drive jeep from Abatan, Bauko, the team composed of staff from the Provincial Tourism Office of Mountain Province and Municipal Tourism Office of Bauko LGU reached Pandey.
In an area surrounded by magnificent century age rice terraces and boulders is the Bine-as at-ato, a traditional village that will soon be opened for use by the public. It has 3 lodging houses, 1 traditional house, a conference hall, a mini swimming pool, and a fishpond.
Lights in the cottages are being energized by solar panels.
Above the resort are the towering 7 mountain peaks that can be utilized for mountain trekking, camping and viewing.
The water supply is fresh, potable and abundant. It originates from a thickly forested mountain.
After brief pleasantries with Bila barangay captain Rodrigo Payacda, one of my college classmates, and some of his barangay council members who met us in the resort, we proceeded to our next destination.
We reached the “palace of the gods” after trudging up the mountain thru paddies of rice and vegetable terraces, towering pine trees and bladed grasses, and mossy trees.
A certain Paul Bill Mapangdol, a DOT accredited tour guide and staff of the Municipal Tourism Office of Bauko LGU, said that he coined the name of the place due to the presence of a stone throne and a whitish “palace curtain” formed by the cascading water.
According to our main guide Simon Songgop, the place was an evacuation area of foreign Roman Catholic priests and nuns during WW2.
Added unforgettable experiences were crawling a tunnel formed by boulders of about 5 meter long and the natural acupressure triggered by walking bare footed via clear water, rocks and pebbles, and branches of trees as foot bridges naturally positioned after typhoon.
The coolness of the environment brought about by the mossy forest, chilly droplets from the waterfalls, and rumbling sound from the waterfalls relieved our exhaustion.
Additionally, we were rocked as we ascended by the synchronized melodious sounds from the different species of insects and birds.
After lunch, we trailed to the Palidan peak where one can have a 360 view of the gigantic stone walled rice paddies, vegetable farms, Mount Polis, Inodey falls and green mountain ranges and some communities of Bauko.
Through gravel and piled stone pathway is Soyosoyan, a place is believed to be the old civilization of barangay Bila, Bauko. Relics of an at-atoan (dap-ay) and 2 pigpens (dugong) near it were observed. A few meters below these structures were piles of stones perceived to be a base of a traditional house and another pigpen were noticed.
Descending the 700 cemented steps, rice and vegetable terraces and a hanging bridge is Bila village.
Some of the industrial ventures found in Bila community are pottery, fruit wine making, and production and packaging of peanut brittle, veggie noodles, insumix and consolidating, roasting, grinding and packaging of coffee.
The people produce rice and highland vegetables, and backyard pigs, chicken and fruit trees.
Other fascinating sites in the community are the stone graves and at-atoan. Kalkalinat at-atoan, for instance, has a mini museum with traditional baskets, wooden trap for small animals, kamoan or lopao (rice container), mortar and pestle, etc.
Public utility vehicles that ply from Bila-Otucan and vice versa are modernized center cars being run by motorcycles. Each car has a capacity of 4 people.
According to Bila Barangay Captain Rodrigo Payacda, he is so keen and supportive to tourism. With the cooperation of his barangay council and people of barangay Bila, he envisions that Bila will benefit from tourism like other places.
Our gratitude to our guides Jomar Buclay, Paul Bill Mapangdol and Glenda Bayag-o, staff of the Municipal Tourism Office of Bauko LGU, and Simon Songgop, a freelance guide. Likewise, to Bila Barangay captain Rodrigo Payacda and his barangay council members Eugene Laguiwed, Arsenio Bangsalud and Domingo Tindoen, and barangay tourism council member Cynthia Balance for their mutual aid during the validation of some of the places of interests in barangay Bila.
By Francis B. Degay
Photo:Traditional pot making at Bila, Bauko is one of the places of interest validated by the Provincial Tourism Office of Mountain Province and Municipal Tourism Office of Bauko LGU. Photo by FBD