We were on the road once more. The wheels on the blue jeepney being driven by Kuya Jun kept rolling endlessly along the asphalt roads of the mountains, and The Outing Series group waited eagerly for the next adventure. The farther we went, the higher the altitude seemed to be. That was confirmed when we finally encountered something which looked as if it came straight from a suspense movie. One glimpse outside the windows and we saw ourselves being shrouded in mist – a white blanket of cold and faint eeriness which made it almost impossible to see beyond the road, the previously visible panorama of green and blue below the cliffs. One instant, it was all white, and only the road and the dirt and gravel on the other side were to be seen.
But instead of being startled by the phenomenon, we took turns in peering outside the windows, snapping photos and feeling the cold slightly numbing our skin. It was an incredible and euphoric sensation – knowing that we were so high up in the mountains that the clouds were literally embracing us. After a few more minutes into what seemed to be a highway leading to a ghost town, figures of small houses finally emerged. We were not mistaken; we have just entered a small roadside barangay, but instead of being empty, there were people living normally in this settlement, some 6,000 feet above sea level. We were welcomed by the humble community of Mount Polis.
Nothing was really sensational with this so-called village atop one of the highest peaks in the Cordilleras (it is actually the third highest peak in the province of Ifugao), but the dramatic swirling of mist and clouds passing through the whole of the area was quite remarkable. An enormous figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary stood beside the road inside an enclosure, and a tall cell tower was installed beside it, the tip obscured by the mist. Most of the shops beside the road sold fresh vegetables and crisp fruits. We made a stop at one of the rolling stores just near a boundary marker which struck us after reading it.
We were footsteps away from the next province. Ifugao and Mountain Province shared this portion of the highway and the settlement of more or less a hundred people. What made it more special and a bit peculiar is that none of the road signs mentioned which province it belonged to.
After asking around a bit (and doing recent research), I later found out that the two provinces are actually having a conflict over the governance of the said area. In the maps, this portion of the highway is located just right at the tip of the town of Hungduan in Ifugao, but the boundary of the neighboring town of Bontoc in Mountain Province is just a couple of minutes away, with the small village of Bay-yo just around the next mountain road curve. What else? Hungduan’s boundary with Banaue is also near the location, which makes the tug-o’-war more exciting. This is also the reason why a military base was erected on this very site of Mt. Polis, spearheaded by none other than Barangay View Point in Banaue.
Despite the debate on territorial issues, the settlement remains reserved and keeps its thriving economy alive through the local market. A small convenience store also provides basic necessities, and the few canteens offer a warming cup of coffee to travelers passing by this point of the main road. Also, this is considered a stop-over for public vehicles plying the Banaue-Bontoc route for a quick brunch, so at times there will be a lot of activity in the place.
So how should the site be called? I think it should remain as Mount Polis, an iconic but modest commune resting on top of the mountain of the same name. Due to its unique climate and way of life, it will be unarguably noticeable by tourists along the way. Whenever one hears the name Mount Polis, not only the mountain will be remembered, but also those rows of residences and the friendly people living in them, and the mysterious mist encompassing the area.
Facts and Information
1. Mt. Polis is the third highest peak in the province of Ifugao, located at the boundaries of Hungduan and Banaue in Ifugao, and Bontoc in Mountain Province. According to Wikipedia.org, it is the 124th highest mountain in the country.
2. The vegetables and fruits being sold at Mount Polis come directly from their terraces just below the settlement. Buy some – they’re really fresh. And cheap!
3. The Rolling Coffee Shop and Restaurant is just one of the few canteens in Mount Polis, selling snacks and souvenirs as well. A meal will cost just around P100, cheaper if you’re sharing with a group.
4. This road trip is part of the fifth installment of The Outing Series, organized as Outing 103.5 for the group’s second travel for 2014. The travel date for this entry is October 25, 2014. Please read my previous entry on the journey to Batad Village in Banaue.
5. Be safe and have an enjoyable ride in the mountains!
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A question for you, dear readers! 『How is it like to be high up in the clouds, in the mountains?』 Post some comments below!