Philippines Montaña y Mare, November 2014

Magandang araw!  I’m writing after a brief escape to the Philippines which I fashioned into a montaña y mare (reef ‘n turf) adventure. I journeyed north of Manila on the main island of Luzon to the Cordillera mountain region. At almost 3000m altitude it contrasts with the 7000 other sandy tropical islands in the Philippine archipelago. The Ifugao mountain tribes of the area were renowned for their revenge headhunting but also as the architects of the steep stone-walled rice terraces that have been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world. Glittering green rice paddies cling to cliffsides with the verdant latticework filling the mountain valleys. I spent a couple of days hiking among the uniquely Asian alpine panorama. My local Ifugao guide spoke of the conservation challenges for the area as the next generation dreams of careers in business and technology rather than the manual labour of rice farming. The rice paddies are maintained and passed down through families as their heritage and livelihood but may seem a bittersweet legacy for some young people as it is a tribal taboo for the rice paddies to be sold.

Part two I toughed out a sailing trip around the archipelago of northern Palawan – a daily diet of reef ringed islands, coconut palm lined beaches and bathwater blue seas. I snorkelled and dove with cheer squads of clown fish and anemones, pastel gardens of swaying soft corals and a candy store of tropical fish. Breakfast was a freshly opened coconut, lunch grilled fish and rice and we made an instant sashimi stop whenever a tuna was reeled in on the trawling lure lines. I lived in a bikini for a week, had a bucket for a shower and a tropical breeze for a fan. Tropical torture..

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