Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tuba, Benguet: Scary Moments in Sitio La Presa

La Presa is the fictional name of a sitio which became the setting of ABS-CBN’s recent popular teleserye Forevermore.  Contrary to what most viewers thought, Sitio La Presa is actually not located in Baguio City. It is at the peak of Mt. Kabuyao in Tuba, Benguet and its real name is Sitio Pungayan.  The residents here cultivate vegetables in terraces at the slopes of the mountain. Forevermore turned the used-to-be-quaint sitio into an overnight tourism sensation, with tourists crowding its small pathways and locals taking advantage of the situation by selling various goods and souvenir items. If you want to see photos of an overcrowded La Presa, check out this POST in the blog Our Awesome Planet.

But after the teleserye wrapped up its shoot last May, tourist arrival in La Presa slowly dwindled. With business significantly slowing down, sellers started to stop operation and remove their stalls one by one.  The sitio slowly turned back into the quaint place that it used to be. 

It is in this premise that I got excited in visiting La Presa when we were in Baguio a few weeks ago (July 18-19, 2015). You see, while I have not watched a single episode of Forevermore, I have read about Mt. Kabuyao in travel blogs long before it became famous. I have known it as a hiking destination near Baguio City and now that the La Presa crowd is no longer there, I thought it would be an awesome spot to see the vegetable terraces, the overlooking view of Baguio City and La Union and the mountains of Benguet Province.

After leaving our bags at Benguet Pine Tourist Inn, we hired a taxi in going to La Presa.  The driver quoted as the price of 600.00 pesos round trip in which we agreed without hesitation.  I’ve known for a fact that before the Forevermore series ended, riding a taxi from Baguio City to La Presa and back would cost Php1,000-P1,500. 

It was raining on and off as we started to traverse the road from Baguio City to the peak of Mt. Kabuyao. According to the driver, La Presa is about 11 kilometers from the city proper. Entry point is at Green Valley along Marcos Highway where the 3-km ++ uphill begins. The road is concrete-paved all the way to the peak which made me see this route as also ideal for running and biking.

The awesome view of Baguio City can be seen on the way up. However, the rain and fog would often block the view. Kuya Glenn, the taxi driver narrated how chaotic La Presa months before and how the locals took advantage in cashing on the large flock of tourists. His aunt used to sell souvenir items but business already ceased operation after the sitio’s popularity started to wane. He also pointed out the outpost where environmental fee of P25 per person used to be collected by the LGU. Nowadays, going to La Presa is back to being FREE.


We passed by the radar station and Kuya Glenn told us that La Presa is just a few hundred meters away. However my excitement turned to worry as the rain started to pour heavily and the wind blew strong.  As we passed by the vegetable terraces, I was disappointed to see it damaged by the three weeks of continuous rain. I felt sorry for the farmers seeing some yellowish cabbages uprooted by the wind and the rain. 

We had a hard time looking for the house used as residence of Forevermore’s female lead, but thankfully a passing local pointed it to us. The small but charming shack is mainly made up of corrugated GI sheet with fixed glass windows and wooden door. 


As I attempt to get down the taxi, I was met by the howling wind so strong that I have to back off and immediately shut closed the door. The wind blew so hard that I started to worry it might topple the vehicle with us inside. Thankfully, the rain and wind subsided a bit, giving us the opportunity to get off and run towards the house. 




A child peeked at the window but we were not allowed to get inside. We would later learn that the continuous rain flooded the inside of the house and it is the main reason why visitors are temporarily not allowed to go inside. Then the rain and wind started to pound the mountain once again so we went to the right side of the house to seek shelter.  We started to feel the chill brought by the cold temperature so we rushed back to the car. 


We told the driver that we better get back down to the city proper as no clear view could be seen due to the fog shrouding the place. Unfortunately, just as we are about to leave the place, a car ahead of us got stalled in the middle of the narrow road. And since there is no other way out, we have to endure anxious moments of waiting until it finally got fixed.


The weather got a bit better as we started our descent back to the city. Cascades created by the continuous rain can be seen on the sides of the mountain and it seems like landslide is a very imminent threat. Fortunately, we safely made it back to the highway and we heaved a sigh of relief as we move on to our next destination.

How to Get There:



Sitio La Presa is about 11 kilometers from Baguio City proper. There are passenger jeepneys passing by this route but the most convenient way to get there if you're in a group is by hiring a taxi. The driver of the taxi we hired gave us an initial rate of P600.00 round trip but later lowered it to P250/hour as we also hired him to later tour us to other tourist spots of Baguio City. If you want to avail his service, you may contact Glenn Bullong at 09996788394.
    

  
     


3 comments :

  1. The foggy, rainy weather makes everything look mysterious and ethereal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you! Great idea for a weekend getaway but the weather was not that good.

      Delete
  2. It has been a ton of adventure. Sounds interesting. One must travel safely. I used to consider weather when I travel. I also safeguard myself from jet lag. That is why I always have jetLAGFX http://www.jetlagfx.com/. The most effective way to avoid jet lag.

    ReplyDelete

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