Sunday, March 21, 2010 2:11:28 AM
This was the road leading to the place where I worked before for more than ten years. Sunny or rainy days I sacrificed passing in this highway just to go to work, go for holidays and visit my family down in Pangasinan. I remember there was one time I walked about more than two kilometers of it because the bus we were riding at was stranded in one part of a mountain at Buguias, Benguet during a heavy typhoon in the mid eighties.
That was indeed a heavy typhoon, huge part of the mountain was eroded and the rocky, muddy soil was deposited almost entirely on the cemented road. All we can do was to walk all the way out to the next mountain where other buses were waiting for every commuters that were stranded.
That day was foggy, we barely couldn't see each other, drizzling, wind was a bit strong and was too cold. We crossed through farms of potatoes and vegetables, the soil was slippery and muddy. We only were relieved when we finally arrived at the other part of the mountain, totally exhausted and wet.
The Halsema Highway, was named after the engineer who finally managed to open the mountains to road travel in the early 20th century. Affectionately called the “Mountain Trail” by local residents, the Halsema Highway is not just a road to somewhere else, but is well enough known to qualify as a tourist destination inn its own right.
The road begins in Baguio City, where it starts to wind its way uphill/downhill from the strawberry fields of La Trinidad. The earlier part of the road follows the path of timbering vehicles that years ago removed all the valuable timber from the mountain tops. Now the old forest areas are carpeted with vegetable farms that feed the cities of Baguio and Manila. Note in the vegetable growing areas how houses are scattered, only grouping together near the road, but elsewhere each farmer makes a house near the fields.
The statue of a potato at the entrance to Atok Municipality should not be missed. It can be seen just before the Caliking Elementary School about 26 km from La Trinidad. Further along is the big, flashy carrot statue in Natubleng, but the potato statue has a quiet modesty that is quite note taking.
Small vehicles like jeep, cimarron and the like, as well as buses of Dangwa Bus Lines and other similar vehicles travel this road. One may wonder how excellent the driving skills of the drivers here that they drove like they're on the highways in the lowlands.