I got in to work on Monday, ready to be careful and make sure I was doing everything right. That day Ratna wasn’t coming into work because she wasn’t feeling well which means that it was up to me to make sure everything was on point. It took me the whole day to get the PCR done because the machine kept on malfunctioning and I had to reset it over and over again. I was there till 6 so by the time it was done, I just went back to the dorms.
The next day, I went to test out my products from Monday. I was happy to see that some of the combination of primers and Taq worked, which meant that it wasn’t my fault that nothing was working so far. That was a huge relief for me. That made me a bit more confident in myself, so I was ready for the next trails. Later that day, we went out to eat at a little Italian restaurant in the grove called Da Fernando Spaghetteria Italiana.
For the next two days at the lab, I just had to keep repeating the PCR and gel electrophoresis until I was able to see results for all the plants that I extracted the DNA from. After Ratna saw that it was the combination that was the problem, she gave me some better quality Taq so I could see better results. The thing about better quality is that it’s also more expensive so now I had to be extra careful. I was able to get some more data for some of the plants but not all. So now there was a new problem to tackle but that was a problem for next week.
After work on Thursday, Zoe, Meghan and I left for Manila so we could meet with Emily, Elia and David to make our trip to the mountain provinces in Banaue and Sagada. We met them at the Mall of Asia and started our overnight journey. We left at around 8pm and got to the Banaue at 5 am. We had a chance to take some pictures and then have some breakfast before we went to see the rice terraces. Although we had the sun right in our eyes, we were still able to see the beautiful sights that Banaue had to offer. Shortly after, we left for Sagada which is where we would be staying for the next couple of days. After 3 more hours, we were finally at the inn where we could check in and rest for a bit. It was only 11 am by the time we made it, so we decided to go for a walk around Sagada until lunch time.
After lunch, we were scheduled for spelunking in the Sumaguing and Lumiang cave. On our way there, we were given a brief introduction about what we will be for the next 3-4 hours in the cave. Everything was fine until the tour guide mentioned that we were going to passing through really tiny spaces which had my heart racing. In my head, I imagined us having to crawl through a tunnel with only a couple inches to breath, which obviously didn’t help me calm down at all. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case at all. It was only like a tight passageway that leads to a more spacious area. I crawled out a braver person! Other activities included having to rappel up the rocks and slowly come down using ropes. There were a lot of times where we have to crab crawl so we wouldn’t fall down. And did I mention that we had flip flops on which made it all even harder not to slip on the smooth rock formations. Also there were times where we had to swim through some cold water in order to get to the next point. If you asked me a couple years ago if I thought I would go caving in the Philippines, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. But here I am, after a four hour journey inside a cave and I can say I had a successful spelunking experience. We had dinner later that evening at a cozy restaurant in town.
We woke up at 6am the next day so we can go to Echo valley and the hanging coffins. It’s called the echo valley because people usually come there to yell out the names of the deceased in order to let the spirits know that their loved one will be joining them. Shortly after, we went down a lot of steps in order to get to the site where the hanging coffins were open for tourists. The tour guide explained to us that it was part of the Igorot tradition to bury their loved ones in a mini coffin that was hung up on the walls of the mountains. She also explained to us that sometimes people would have to make coffins for themselves in order to get ready for their own deaths. I thought that was an interesting thing to go through as an individual. After going up the stairs that left us with burning thighs, we went for breakfast and on to our next destinations, Bomod-ok Big falls. We went to the start point and they gave us sticks so we can have some support while we were hiking. Our tour guide told us that we would have go through 10,000 steps to get there and back. We were ready for the challenge but didn’t know how hard it was going to be. Our legs were shaking 30 minutes in the hike down, but atleast it wasn’t sunny so we could dodge the heat. After an hour and a half, we made it to the falls and it was unbelievably beautiful. I thought Pangsanjan falls was a big fall but this was way bigger than that. The most craziest thing happened that day. Our friend Apple wanted to take pictures by one of the pools of water that was coming from the falls. She had really underestimated the push of the water and ended up losing her balance and the water took her away. She told me to take the picture so I saw her slip away and I instantly started freaking out. Everyone around there tried to get to her but was scared to actually get close enough because the water would take them too. I was on a rock far away so I for sure wouldn’t have done anything to help, I just had my hand out as if I could reach and grab her. I felt completely useless. But luckily, she was able to hold on to a rock and save herself. She ended up having a couple bruises on her stomach but she was more or less fine. It was so scary to just watch it happen let along experience it. I couldn’t believe it. After she made it out safe, we all decided to hike back up the stairs to our car. It was super hard to finish the whole way up but with some rest here and there we made it. I can say I am all caught up with the leg workouts that I haven’t been doing since I came here. After that brutal beat down by the stairs, we went to lunch and then went back to rest for a bit at the inn. We met up with the driver after a couple hours and went to a local pottery house where they showed us a demonstration of how to throw clay to make it into a vase and a water jug. It took me and Zoe back to the ceramics class we took spring 2018 and brought up some good memories. Later, we went around the city for dinner and called it a night.
After a couple hours of sleep, we had to be up at 4 am so we could go watch the clouds on our way to Baguio city. It was an amazing view from the top of the mountains where we could see the clouds below us. I never thought I would be that high up in the mountains. It had a beautiful view. Baguio city was like 4 hours away so we had to leave shortly after. We were driving through different mountain provinces so I was left in awe while looking at the nature all around me. I didn’t want to sleep on the drive there so I wouldn’t miss out on the views. Shortly after, we made it to Baguio city and to the Strawberry fields. We got a chance to look around the farm for a while and then went to the huge market that was surrounding it. We caught up to some souvenir shopping, had some strawberry ice cream and some street food. It was them time to leave for our 5 hour drive to Manila. We made it on time to catch the bus to LB and out way to IRRI. We got back at around 10pm to go straight to bed. I can say that it was an eventful and scenic week.