“So, should we go spelunking today or check out Bomod-ok Falls?”
This was the topic of conversation over lunch upon our arrival at Sagada. Jericho and I had met up with two new friends who had come down from Baguio – when I say ‘new’, I mean I had said hello to one over work for two seconds when he visited BGC for a project, found out he was from Baguio, asked about tips for Sagada, and admonished him for never having gone there. Oh, and he brought a friend who was familiar with the place. Don’t worry, we became fast friends after the whole me-hiking-in-a-bikini-incident a few hours later – walking around half-naked freezing your tits off in nothing but a cover up and flip-flops does that. We’ll get to that story in a little while.
Jericho badly wanted to try the cave connection, but he got out voted three to one, as we opted for a less strenuous activity – a hike to the Bomod-ok waterfalls seemed like a fun idea. We headed to the Municipal Information Center to register and hire a driver for the trip (more on the Sagada itinerary and activity costs here). The 20 minute drive took us to Pide, the northern part of Sagada, where we showed our environmental receipts and paid for a guide to take us to the waterfalls. We were given hiking sticks made with bamboo to help with balance for the trek down and the hike up.
Our guide, Rose, was a tiny woman. Around 5″2 in height, she informed us that 90% of the journey down to Bomod-ok would be paved, so the hike wouldn’t be that hard, but that we’d be passing through a shortcut on the way up that involved a bit of a balancing act – using the path of tumbled stones and boulders created by the typhoon Ondoy. The trek to the falls would take an hour while the hike up would be two to three hours long, depending on how fast we were. A regular chatty Cathy, she told us stories of previous groups she had taken to Bomod-ok, showed us medicinal plants along the path, and how to use them, and introduced us to the local kids who lived in the little village in the valley below.
We made it to the little village of Fidelisan, Sagada, 30 minutes into our trek. Looking up at where we had come from, the cement stairs looked tiny, winding up the side of the mountain leading up to the main road. Rose explained how that was the only way in and out of the village, so if anybody needed to be taken up to the hospital, they should have to be carried there by the men of the village. At one time, someone had even gone as far as given birth on the steps.
Onwards we went, past the village and the rice paddies, the cement stairs leading up to a stream with a little crossing, and then finally, after what seemed like hours of maneuvering through boulders and slipping on rocks, we could hear the waterfall of Bomod-ok.
According to Rose, Bomod-ok was named after the mountain, bundok in Tagalog, and slowly evolved into the name we know today. She perched herself on top of a giant boulder and had us leave our things with her so we can cool off and take a relaxing dip in the pool below the falls. Getting there at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the place was a tad crowded, but that didn’t dissuade me from plunging into the ice cold water – just the thing I needed after a long ass hike! Not everyone shared my sentiments about the water – every now and then I’d hear squeals from both men and women about just how freezing cold the water was. Seriously, if you were expecting the warm waters of Boracay, you came to the wrong place.
After paddling about and cooling off, I used my scarf as a cover up, thinking I would dry off while trudging back up the mountainside and probably wear my leggings and shirt midway up. And so we started our long climb back, with me in my bikini and flip-flops leading the pack and our two friends covering the rear. Now, although I thought the walk down was a bit tough, the ascent back to the main road was killer on my knees and thighs. This feeling must be why people skip #legday. It was getting cooler as dusk approached, but I was sweating all over while trying to breathe in with each step.
“Are we anywhere close to the top yet?” I asked Rose. “Well, that depends. What may be close for me may not be the same for you.” Dammit, Rose. You could’ve at least lied to me. Turns out, we were around an hour of a hike off, and this was after around an hour and a half of slipping, sliding, and a close call that would have involved falling from a height and being met with rocks below. And this was the shortcut. Rose, who grew up in Fidelisan, used very little effort to practically skip and hop her way to the top. I swear, I think the people here had goats for ancestors or something – they made it look easy. I could only gawk and stare as a cute little grandmother excused herself to pass us by while carrying a basket of stuff on her head. A grandmother.
After two hours of huffing and puffing and several breaks to catch our breath, we finally made it back up to the main road just before nightfall where our driver was waiting for us, keeping warm by the fire with the others who were also waiting for their passengers to come back up the mountain. I was exhausted – my knees were bucking and my thighs felt like they were on fire from the inside. I was also still in a bikini and a scarf, which looked so out of place it was almost comical.
The trip to and from Bomod-ok Falls took up most of our day, but it was well worth the effort. This is definitely an activity you’d want to do either early in the morning or late in the afternoon so the heat isn’t so bad and always remember to bring a bottle of water with you as the hike will really wear you out.