It was still dark when I left Bontoc yesterday morning. I felt fresh and ready to tackle the Halsema highway since I had a half-day rest on Sunday afternoon. The first 18 km was easy biking on level road. But after Sabangan, the climbing began and it went on and on for for four hours until I reached Mt. Data. From there it was downhill to Abatan. A police car met me as I entered Abatan at noontime. The police officer welcomed me and led me to the parish church. There the members of the parish pastoral council and the mayor's representative welcomed me. Afte a quick lunch with them, I continued biking led by the police car up to the outskirt of the town. As I started my ascent towards the highest point of Halsema, the rains poured and the icy winds came. I put on my Northface rainjacket to keep myself dry and warm. After another four hours of biking I reached Sayangan, at 7400 ft above sea level the highest point of the Philippine highway system. Since it was 5:30 pm and the fog and rain darkened the surrounding, I was wondering if I should continue or just stay overnight in the nearby parish. I decided to go on since I still have 50 km to go and most of it would be downhill. With the fog, visibility was just 30 meters so I slowed down and put on my headlamp and my warning backlight. By 6:45 the rain had stopped and it was getting dark. I continued to bike in the dark with the moon and my headlamp showing me the way. There were still some climbing to do 27 kilometers before Baguio. What bothered me were the dogs that barked and ran after me so many times as I passed various barrios and towns. I had to increase my pace and shout at them every time they came after me. I reached Baguio at 10:00 pm, 17 hours after I left Bontoc. I had covered 147 km along the toughest and highest highway of the country. I was welcomed by Fr. Ben and brought to the bishop' residence where I had late supper before going to bed.
This has been the longest day of my journey. I was supposed to cover it in two days (Bontoc-Abatan, Abatan-Baguio) but I decided to do it in one day so that I can catch up with my schedule which had been delayed by the Abra-Kalinga harsh road conditions. Besides, I assured myself that I had taken an half-day rest beforehand and I will have the whole day today for rest. After the Cordillera legs, the rest of the journey will be a breeze.
So today is rest and recovery day. I will celebrate the Eucharist at the Cathedral at 5:15 this afternoon.