However, the enjoyable company of my friends and the vibrant view outside the car window somehow comforted me during the ongoing long hours of travel. I noticed ourselves getting somewhat excited about reaching our destination, as we veered off from Manila’s chaotic traffic heading north, where the long and winding road to Bambang awaited.
Bambang is among the historically and culturally affluent towns in the Nueva Vizcaya province, situated along the mountainous realms belonging to the Cagayan Valley region. This region, moreover, is geographically interesting because it is located in the northernmost elevated part of the Philippines, and most specifically, in the Northeast Luzon area owning natural wonders and considerable number of attractions. We finally left the busy exit points of Manila and drove through to our destination at 3:30pm, accompanied by the disturbing jet lag from our individual flights.Having its beginning in the early period of Spanish colonization, Bambang has been populated by the ethnic group called “Igorot” (or “Mountaineer”): an ethnic group in the area, whom, according to reliable sources, has kept their traditional religion and way of life until today. History reveals that the Igorots are Austronesians. In the earlier days, they were known for wars and headhunting. The Spaniards forcibly and partially subdued them during the colonial occupation of the Philippines; that process being completed during the period of U.S. dominance in the country.
Bambang carries a great significance to me because its known for its salt springs at the Salinas Natural Monument. This natural monument holds saline springs and forested mountains in Southern Cagayan Valley and is one of four protected areas in the province of Nueva Vizcaya with an area of 6,675.56 hectares in the towns of Bambang, Kayapa and Aritao.
The natural park, moreover, established itself in 1914 as the Salinas Forest Reserve covering the Salinas Salt Springs and surrounding forest. Later, in 1926, the forest reserve, through amendments, was re-established as the Salinas Deer Refuge. And the Government finally declared Salinas as a natural monument in the year 2000 under the National Integrated Protected Areas System. Bambang’s Salinas Salt Spring, on the other hand, has been listed as one of the natural wonders in the world tourism map. However, it has, unfortunately, lost its grandeur and attraction after its salt flow ceased because of the July 16, 1990 violent earthquake that severely hit northern Philippines.It was not until 2018 that a new salt spring has emerged in this town, fueling hopes for a tourism attraction. The emerging salt spring is located on a hill in Barangay Manamtam, a few kilometers away from the old Salinas Salt Spring. The provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya through its environmental agency has confirmed this development, which has inspected the regeneration of the Salinas Salt Spring and continuously conducted monitoring for its protection. The emergence of the new salt spring has been growing in diameter and height due to its continuing natural flow. In addition, the provincial tourism office of Nueva Vizcaya has also taken steps for the possible protection of the area.
The Santa historical Catalina de Siena Parish Church, or simply known as Bambang Church was built in 1772 (completed in 1791) and constructed in a Baroque architecture, dating back to the time of the Dominican Order’s hegemony over the town. Documents show the Dominicans first arrived on a mission in Bambang in 1609 and later established their convent here in 1751. Despite their utterly infamous and abusive exploitation of the Philippines with whom I thoroughly dislike (along with other colonial entities that preceded or succeeded them), they somehow left a legacy which is beneficial to this present day tourism.
There are, of course, a number of food establishments and food chains within Bambang’s town that cater to tourists and visitors as well as marketing establishments and some places to stay. I was able to roam around town a few hours before the first day’s event began at our hotel. A pacific place with pristine environment and friendly people, Bambang actually is one of the first class towns in the province of Nueva Vizcaya that began to progress when it opened itself to big investors and businesses in 2012. It obviously has a cool weather temperature due to its elevated location.Just an hour after our first day of event ended, I took some photos of Bambang’s outside scenic view from my room located at the upper level of the hotel. Bambang’s idyllic location is impressive as mountain backdrop surrounds the entire town. Aside from its seemingly sprawling suburbs, Bambang still has vast thousands of acres of prime farmlands, including rice lands, agricultural lands, timber lands, with unlimited fresh water, including creeks and several natural springs. These farmlands, moreover, hold myriads of fruit trees and hardwood trees, giving the idea that this town belongs to the many places of the Philippine Islands that have still retained their unspoiled and pristine environment.
The somehow simple yet priceless experience and the sporadic opportunity to see places far away for free will always leave indelible memories on travelers. In my 16 years of documenting my travels, I’ve concluded how wonderful and beautiful traveling and its experiences are. Apart from becoming a storyteller, it certainly heals one from the many pressures and anxieties in life and and broadens one’s horizons. I’m thinking about all these benefits – while sitting at the hotel lobby in the early morning waiting for our trip back to Manila.