On the Borderline: Mount Polis and the Two Provinces

Shrouded in mist. Perhaps the road to the mountains hides a mystery.

Shrouded in mist. Perhaps the road to the mountains hides a mystery.

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.

A bright morning in Banaue greeting us.

A bright morning in Banaue greeting us.

The road to a foggy journey begins here.

The road to a foggy journey begins here.

The road continues to wind up to the top of the mountains. Debris from above are frequently seen along the road.

The road continues to wind up to the top of the mountains. Debris from above are frequently seen along the road.

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.

A small town of fruit and vegetable stands suddenly emerge into view. Welcome to Mount Polis.

A small town of fruit and vegetable stands suddenly emerge into view. Welcome to Mount Polis.

Fog moves upward to the summit of the mountain as the sun warms up the lower portions.

Fog moves upward to the summit of the mountain as the sun warms up the lower portions.

One of the few "attractions" at Mount Polis: a huge figure of the blessed Virgin Mary.

One of the few “attractions” at Mount Polis: a huge figure of the blessed Virgin Mary.

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.

Ifugao in the foreground, Mountain Province in the background.

Ifugao in the foreground, Mountain Province in the background.

A simple marker signifying the so-called borderline of the two provinces.

A simple marker signifying the so-called borderline of the two provinces.

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.

Rolling terrain behind the households produce agricultural crops which they also sell along the road.

Rolling terrain behind the households produce agricultural crops which they also sell along the road.

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.

Bunches of longgan fruit at one of the stores.

Bunches of longgan fruit at one of the stores.

Vegetables are plentiful at Mount Polis. They're also cheap!

Vegetables are plentiful at Mount Polis. They’re also cheap!

A military outpost surveys the area to control conflicting interests on the territory.

A military outpost surveys the area to control conflicting interests on the territory.

One of the few shops offering meals to travelers traversing the Banaue-Bontoc road.

One of the few shops offering meals to travelers traversing the Banaue-Bontoc road.

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.

Inside the Mount Polis Rolling Coffee Shop, which is also a home-turned-cafeteria.

Inside the Mount Polis Rolling Coffee Shop, which is also a home-turned-cafeteria.

Local meals to fill you up before continuing the long journey in the mountains.

Local meals to fill you up before continuing the long journey in the mountains.

A mini mart also provides basic necessities and convenience to residents and travelers alike.

A mini mart also provides basic necessities and convenience to residents and travelers alike.

More vegetables on display. Great for health buffs!

More vegetables on display. Great for health buffs!

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.

Leaving for the next town. The fog still envelops the quiet roadside community.

Leaving for the next town. The fog still envelops the quiet roadside community.

Skies are clearing. Onward to Bontoc!

Skies are clearing. Onward to Bontoc!

 

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.

More delightful scenes along the way are to be seen. Keep your eyes open!

More delightful scenes along the way are to be seen. Keep your eyes open!

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!

Fresh, crisp veggies. Buy some to help the local community.

Fresh, crisp veggies. Buy some to help the local community.

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.

The town of Bay-yo as seen along the road to Bontoc. There is a view point a few hundred meters from the first sight of the village.

The town of Bay-yo as seen along the road to Bontoc. There is a view point a few hundred meters from the first sight of the village.

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!

 

We are the Outing Series. Embracing the misty ambiance of Mount Polis.

We are the Outing Series. Embracing the misty ambiance of Mount Polis.

Lunch time!!! :)

Lunch time!!! 🙂

Please click on the links below for further reading:

1. Mount Polis – Wikipedia.org

2. Banaue, Ifugao: Touched by Splendor and Simplicity – BiyaherongBarat

3. The Road to Sagada: Quick Stop at Mount Polis – TheTravelTeller.com

4. 4 Stops You Should Not Miss in Halsema Highway – ThePinoyExplorer.com

 

A question for you, dear readers! 『How is it like to be high up in the clouds, in the mountains?』 Post some comments below!

 

『lakbaykuno』

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “On the Borderline: Mount Polis and the Two Provinces

  1. Pingback: Into the Woodlands: The Ethereal Town of Sagada | 『lakbaykuno』

  2. Pingback: Mountain Quest: Sagada and the Thrills of Nature | 『lakbaykuno』

Anything in mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s