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Thursday, June 13

The Itogon Experience: Of Hot Spring, Hanging Bridge and Grilled Food

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One of the resorts in Itogon Hot Springs
Why do people always look for something different from the usual? Like the contrary from the existing? When I was still in the lowland province, I certainly worry about the humidity and always complain it’s hot. And now I’m in Baguio, I was looking for something hotter than the place. When the weather is hot, we tend to look for cool things to eat, or cold places to visit. And when it’s cold, we look for something that can warm our bodies. Like a hot spring maybe? An hour away from the city is a town called Itogon, and it’s not just the hot spring of Itogon that makes it a tourist hot spot—it is always complimented with the experience, and an additive fun from the hanging bridge and of course, the grilled food.

Itogon Hot Springs (Song credit to Itchyworms "Akin Ka Na Lang")

Out-of-the-town Outing to Itogon Hot Springs

Food preparation
It was the finale decision of an out-of-the-town trip. Our first plan was to actually visit Mt. Pinatubo, until it was downgraded to La Union (in Pugo)…but it wasn’t successful so came the day we were not busy, we eagerly decided to check out Itogon Hot Springs.

If you are expecting a super natural setting of a hot spring, then it’s Itogon before. That was what an Australian friend told me, long before resorts existed in the town, it was undeveloped, untouched nature. It was like five years ago when resorts were still at their early stages, and this 2013, the time we visited Itogon, we were overwhelmed by the fact that there were already several resorts in the vicinity. Good for those who want to experience hot springs in a concreted pool, but not for those who want to experience a more natural one.

Mountains of Itogon, Benguet

House rules!

When we say “hot spring”, it’s a natural outflowing water whose temperature is above 21˚C, or just above its surroundings. The usual reason why hot springs appear was the fact that, the location or the mountain where it sprouted must have a volcanic origin, which may harness geothermal heat. In the case of Itogon, it’s natural hot springs were turned into water parks like resorts which began to rose just meters from the resources.

Slide na!

Unlike before, the water that comes from the spring has already been “piped”. The water was directly diverted into the conduits which eventually bring water to the manmade pools in the different resorts. We cannot stop the development once the hot spring was discovered, and believe it or not, some of the resorts were still under construction. Good for the local economy of the town, as well as those who own the resorts, but hopefully they know how to manage everything from the inflow to the outflow including wasted waters or sludge from the sewages. Even if it was “misdeveloped”, I still somehow like the fact that we were enjoying the waters from the hot spring while viewing the heights of the Cordillera mountains. The feeling that you were in the middle of the mountains, that is.

We left Baguio at around 7:30 in the morning and reached Itogon Hot Springs at around 8:30. If you are also coming from Baguio City, you can ride a jeepney bound to Itogon (P32.50), and drop off at the “1300 Level Pools”, or simply the hot springs, or the resorts; the driver already knows where were you going. Besides, the hot spring was the end point of the trip from Baguio to Itogon. You don’t have to check or ask the driver every time the jeepney stops.

This barren land will be concreted soon
It was an unpaved road to the resorts, rugged and rocky. When we went there though, the “parking space” for the private vehicles were going under construction, and some parts have already been concreted for those who go to Itogon by their own cars. We bought some charcoals along the store (and yes there were a lot of stores in the place, you can buy items like suits to food to matches) and find our way to Carlo Trese Resort (P40 entrance fee). Carlo Trese was not our first choice, but since it was the one with no tourists when we visited, we decided to be there for the whole day. We saw some better resorts there, but we opted for that very “private experience” as if we rented the whole resort and hired all of their crews on that day. We actually enjoyed that feeling. Hehe.

Jackfruit and other fruit plants inside the resort

As I have mentioned, there were still other resorts there where you can choose from, if you also plan to go to Itogon some time. We were actually looking for that setting where trees were our shades and the pool was somewhat very natural in its form, unfortunately we didn’t get much time to actually check each and all of the resorts. It was a hot day after all, and everybody wants to dip their bodies in the warm pool.

The pools of Carlo Trese were indeed not the best (and can I say that they were poorly designed as well?). Tourists though who also want to go to Carlo Trese be advised that somehow their pools were not appropriately designed, I mean, following the standards in terms of constructing water pools. The stairs going down the waters of the pool were “biglang lalim” and not in a sloped or graded level, the ridge along the sides of the pool was not user friendly and it does lack signs like “No running near the pool” or something like that (even though everybody knows it already). We just didn’t mind it, but I do not recommend Carlo Trese to those who will bring kids with them, if you know what I mean. Danger is danger, and nobody can even predict accident.

While the pool was recharged of its water, me and my friends decided to check out the nearby hanging bridge which we saw on our way to the resort. It was my second time to actually walk on a suspension bridge in Benguet, the first time was when we unfortunately were stranded on our way to Ambuklao. And this feeling like the ropes of the bridge will break was there! Even though I know that the bridge was made up of  strong steel cables, I cannot forget the fact that we were hanging tens of feet above the river! One at a time please!

Another great experience on the hanging bridge. But the story goes on when we went back to the resort and find ourselves dipping in the warm pool (not really hot). It was relaxing. It’s really different to dip your body when you know it comes from a hot spring. There something in it that makes it feel a bit different from the usual resorts which have swimming pools where the water comes from the water district.

The hanging bridge

Hmmmm...grilled pork!

Stuffed bangus and grilled pork

While we were enjoying the warm water, friends were also preparing our lunch. We marinated meat and did some stuffed bangus. Use of grilling materials were free of charge while the cottage we rented was P300. It was a cheap way to have a fun day. And the food was great too! The ones we cooked were just that extraordinary, thanks to my friends who know how to cook! Or was that just a hungry man’s quote? Whatever, the food really tasted that good that after it we all enjoyed swimming in the pool—even though we find it unsafe because it didn’t follow the provisions haha. I hope the owner redesigns its swimming pools.

Came past noon and it started drizzling which eventually turned into a light rain. It’s was swimming while raining theme of the moment, and we bet to enjoy it. Unfortunately, we cannot stand all night long to stay in the resort, because our plan was just to spend the day in Itogon. We enjoyed the activity, but we have to catch the last trip to Baguio. We check out at around 4:00 in the afternoon and walked our way to the jeepney bound to Baguio. Fortunately, there was still some jeepneys left for Baguio (around 2) and we hopped on it and we arrived in Baguio at around 5:00 PM already.

Somewhere in the middle of the mountains were hot springs. And one of those was Itogon's. A hot spring adventure for us! Kudos!

Out-of-the-town Outing to Itogon Hot Springs Travel Series:
Part 2: The Itogon Experience:Of Hot Spring, Hanging Bridge and Grilled Food

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