It was a breathtaking view that welcomed me as we veered away from the busy streets of Baguio City to traverse the outskirts of the Benguet province. The mountainous beauty and the cool, fresh air invited me to turn off the car’s A/C and savor the freedom of breathing fresh air as I feasted my eyes on the long stretch of greens wherenever I turned my head. Seeing the stretch of the zigzag roads ahead of us and deep ravines beneath each turns, I wondered how one can endure the passage on this steep mountains without the fear of overshooting in a single mistake of the wheel. But then I thought, this adds up to the adventure of the roadtrip aside from the beautiful sceneries that makes it enjoyable.
We were making our ways to Atok, one of the towns of Benguet province that proved to have the one of the most exhilarating views of the vast mountains of this northern province. Atop this quiet town, lies the highest point of the Philippine Highway system. At its viewdeck, one can stare at majestic Mt. Pulag on the other side,providing a preview of its beauty to those who wishes to conquer the second highest peak in the country but yet needs to build the endurance to do so. This is the place where bottled drinks were serve straight out of the shelves but still remain cold to the taste. The food that the hospitable people of this town put on the dining table are always fresh and organic, knowing that they are freshly picked from the numerous “terraces” that are bountiful around the town. And this is where beautiful cut flowers which are so expensive to buy in the metro grows just like one of the decorative grasses beside the road.
Amid each twist and turn of the road, pine trees grow tall all over town. But the most fantastic view to watch are the vast mountain terraces, a legacy of the olden times passed to the new generation and continue to be the center of the agricultural lives of the people. We’ve always talked about the Banaue Rice Terraces of the Mountain Province, but to experience the view of these terraces, one cannot help to wonder that these people have great tradition and are very grateful to keep it that way. These stairways winding around the tall mountains are the testament of tradition withstanding the new world, a statement of pride to the decendants of the culture and the love and pride of these people to the natural God-given beauty to this place.
Going down the mountain at early evening where fog started to cover your view and the chilly winds started to creep into the human body was a very humbling experience. In the midst of the dark road, you can see people coming down from the mountains to the road, walking quietly and unmindful of the darkness that surrounds the place. I have wondered so much of how great is the trust of these people to their surroundings that they were able to be at peace with the darkness where they can walk within it with confidence, without fear of the dark elements associated with it. And I deduced that the place has given its people a sense of contentment that they do not feel threatened of the outside world.
Atok left a big empression on me. Somehow, somewhere amidst the tall mountains, I have learned a great lesson in life. Happiness is not about being in the limelight but being at peace with yourself.