Typhoon Ompong: Will we ever get to Sagada alive?
Panic, fear and turmoil surrounded our upcoming trip to the point where we were just so close to cancelling.
You see, we booked the trip 2 months in advance and we didn't know that a storm would be coming to the Philippines a week before our actual trip. Typhoon Ompong devastated a number of places up north. It destroyed a lot of the tourist attractions in Ilocos and even flooded Baguio, also blocking a lot of the main roads going to Sagada from the landslides that occurred.
I was the main organizer handling the questions and cries of eight other people joining the trip. I gave all of our possible options, and we always just went back and forth and back and forth with decisions. It was a mess, and I didn't know what else to do because I'm not God. I can't control the weather or just salvage the destruction the storm brought. It was evident that there was risk involved if ever we did go through with it.
All of their concerns were valid and understandable, but a concrete unanimous answer or solution was not in sight.
And if ever we do post-pone the trip to a later date, I would just have to give up any hope that anyone will still be up for it. Vacation leaves were approved, a plane to Manila was booked, reservation fees were nonrefundable and we all have our own lives to live. It was just such a relief that the travel agency we booked answered our my relentless inquiries and assured us that Sagada was not touched by the storm. It was safe. And by the end, we just decided to trust their word and put our lives in their hands.
Meet up Place: Mall of Asia
The drive to the meet up place was like walking towards certain doom. From a distance, I clearly see the sky getting darker. The clouds were getting heavier and heavier. It was gonna pour down at any minute and I couldn't do anything, but hold my breath in as if that would help somehow. It hasn't rained the past few days after the storm and that should have been a good sign right? No, the clouds were just being sneaky and have every intention of just ruining my life. It was only collecting more vapor, building power and momentum, ready to fall at the exact moment I prayed it would not. The universe was out to get me, even tormenting me with lightning flashes as I got closer and closer to SM Mall of Asia. When I got off the car, then it all came pouring down hard with roaring anger. Doesn't that just scream "DON'T GO" to any sane person?
There were a lot of trouble getting the guys together, from the traffic and the rain and how a few just couldn't get a ride. It was a total mess. Everything that I was afraid to happen happened. I half expected them to bail last minute and I would have to leave by myself and still be left with the cancellation fees for 8 people.
I really would have understood if people started having doubts at that minute but to my surprise, they were still game. One by one my friends started arriving and I couldn't believe that everyone is actually showing up. It had been a long time since we were complete and was in each other's presence again. The last time we were this complete was during out college graduation which was almost a year ago. We were just all so busy with our own jobs, that there was never enough time to hangout as much anymore.
This was the chance to finally do that and for 3 days straight without the stress of our day-to-day lives and only the thrill of old friends and new adventures.
I think that the excitement kind of helped distract all of us from the chaos of heavy rain and strong wind that we clearly see before us.
A 10-hour Road Trip through Hell
But we were together and it was finally happening. Nothing can stop us at this point. We went into a van and settled for the more than 10-hour trip going to Sagada. Since we were 9 pax, we mostly had the entire van to ourselves. There were 5 other joiners in our trip: 2 girls who were friends, a couple and a solo traveler. We didn't do much talking that night because everybody was tired coming straight from work. Most of them slept through the drive.
For me, the travel was excruciating all night. Aside from not getting any sleep, it was also troubling to hear endless raindrops hammering hard into the hood of the van.
We were going uphill, but we did not escape the rain even as we were further and further away from the city.
Since Bagiuo was devastated as seen in the news, the driver Kuya Ryan avoided it and chose an alternate route the one passing by Nueva Ecija. It was worst in the morning where we saw the roads we were passing. Going up the mountain, you can see how soft the soil is on one side and how deep the cliff was on the other.
The view was great sure, but who's gonna be enjoying the view when you can be thrown off the cliff at any minute.
We also were passing by big landslides that were recently cleared off for passage. I was constantly panicking quietly in my seat and hoping, wishing and praying that nothing unexpected would happen. I felt like I was pushing the van closer and closer with every breath I took, hoping that danger won't great us right away when we haven't even gotten past Sagada's doors.
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