La Presa Surpresa!

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Sitio La Presa is a fictional Sitio (A territorial enclave that forms part of a Barangay) situated atop Mt. Cabuyao (Mt. Kabuyao) in Tuba, Benguet. Known to locals as Sitio Pungayan, the Sitio became a household name due to the popularity of Forevermore, A TV Series that features the stunning vistas of Benguet’s towering peaks as their lovely backdrop.

Aligned with cell sites( Mt Santo Tomas), Relay Stations and patches of vegetable terraces and strawberry fields, The rising superstar spot in Benguet, 11 kms away from the Baguio City Central business district, has drawn hundreds of thousands of tourists due to the show’s overwhelming popularity.

The scenic location where Agnes and Xander (played by Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil respectively) nestled their high above the ground love story in the hit TV series FOREVERMORE has captivated many, including me. The series relive the “Romeo and Juliet ” scheme and tweak it fresh and highly relatable to younger audience has made the then quiet pilgrim site mountain an instant tourist spot. it was well-filmed and angled impeccably that you just want to breathe in the gentle cold wind and touch the clouds while watching it on your TV set.

But before Sitio Pungayan became famous via “the La presa effect”, the site (Mt. Kabuyao in general) was known for its vegetable terraces, strawberry fields, its two dishes transmitter (known to Locals as Mickey Mouse ears) and a restaurant aptly named Cafe in the Sky where visitors can rest and have a majestic view of La Union on their view deck. there is also a Station of the Cross aligned along the road.

 

How to get there:

From Burnham Park go straight to Hotel Veniz and look for jeepneys plying the Tuba – Green Valley route. Tell the driver to dropped you off at La Presa jump off site (a Police Station aligned to Sto Tomas road will be your landmark) fare at 15php, and will traverse the Marcos Highway/ Ben Palispis highway.(this is actually the main reason why many considered Mt. Kabuyao as part of Baguio and not Tuba, which is the gateway to Baguio) From the dropped off point, which is 4-5 Kilometers away from the sitio atop, wait for a Taxi van that can be hired to and fro the mountain.

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It is more convenient  to bring your own vehicle if you are not into waiting,  there are taxis/ vans to take you there, but the waiting time for an empty van would painstakingly take you Forever-more, as well.  But if you are adventurous enough, then hitching rides is your game. My co-jeepney passengers and I were happy when finally, after waiting for almost 30 minutes, an old FX taxi stopped and offered us a ride!

The Trail off La Presa:

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the two-dish transmitter locally known as “the Mickey Mouse Ears”baguio-1027n

baguio-093X6 baguio-0910XThe striking birds eye view of Baguio City on the east and the cloud covered sceneries of Panganisan and La Union on the west are truly majestic.

Mt. Kabuyao also serves as the highest viewpoint of Baguio City where you can locate SM Baguio and its infamous Skypark, Loakan Airport, the towering University of the Cordillera among others. yes, that “Google map went larger than life feels” while atop with high altitude fresh air kissing your head.

At 2025 MASL (Meters Above Sea Level), it is by far the highest place that my feet have set onto. Tough? naah, not really, as a matter of fact Mt Kabuyao’s big brother, Mt. Santo Thomas, is the country’s highest “commutable” mountain. That means you can drive all the way near the radar station and walk the dirt road all the way up, cool isn’t it?

baguio-0923XOverlooking the Giant water basin of Baguio City ( It’s a water catchment area constructed on top of a mountain and serves as one of the water sources for the residents of Baguio City and nearby towns. )

As soon as you see hundreds of people lining up, you know you are in the right place.

baguio-0943B baguio-0942Xbaguio-1002We queued the long winding lines, just to be informed that we can’t see the actors up close because they need to finish their scheduled taping that day (the production staff who is ushering us to fall in line said that their taping will be packed up by tomorrow, at least.) though at least the atmosphere of the visitors were fun filled and enthusiastically waiting still.

So we just lined up there anyway and have our photos taken to the equally famous La Presa Marker which is erected a few meters away from the actual set. And men it was still jam packed. We just settled ourselves watching them act as we wait for our turn. (fan mode on!)

baguio1-0995Xbaguio-0986dWith the family I’ve met on my way to Mt. Cabuyao.

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baguio-1003Business are also booming in that area as myriad of vendors offer a wide array of products. From ice cream ( yes, ice cream on a cold weather on top of a mountain, to refresh you after a that looooong uphill walk) to the freshly packed strawberries and to the mandatory “all time favorite Pasalubong” Strawberry jams to products with that catchword “La Presa” labeled on it. ( mind you this, those products with that namesake are a hit especially in Baguio Public Market, Marketing ploy at it’s best I must say.)

The La Presa Effect also waves the eco-tourism of Tuba and other nearby towns, including the Tourism Giant Baguio City, creating more opportunities for the locals to sell their products and services. I am hopeful that more shows that showcase our tourist spots and rich and diverse culture will be produced soon, producing hundreds of jobs for the locals, a win- win formula for sure!

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Descending will give you some real challenge unless you are tough enough. There are three possible ways to descend, first is to wait and hire taxi vans that descend every now and then as there are influx of tourists flocking in atop Mt. Kabuyao. Be mindful though to negotiate first to the driver to take you down after your visit as it can easily be filled by other commuters waiting as well. Second is to hitch rides to motorists that descend, there may be a good samaritan out there who can lend their empty seat for you. Third and the hardest option is, to walk all the way down, that’s five kilometers of steep, snaky concrete and dirt road all the way down ( but the stellar view high above will be worth the try). So prepare yourself whichever options (or the lack of it) you are up to (or… down to, naahh haha).

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.”
(Ed Viesturs)

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We hailed a number of taxis and vans going down but all of them were already occupied, so we decided to descend by foot (or at most half way through until we get a ride), and it was the most struggling part for me. Albiet Gravity was against us, I was still grateful that the afternoon cold wind easily swayed us to just slow down, stop for a while and enjoy the view of Baguio City from above.

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And as soon as the clouds cover half the road, the magic starts to linger in my imagination.

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Fortunately we saw an empty jeepney on our way down so we immediately ask the driver if we can hitch in and he nodded yes. ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. BIG TIME.

So the next time you visit Baguio, please do include La Presa in your itinerary, it’s worth the trek and the view and the adventure that awaits.

The next time I watch Forevermore, that La Presa Feels will always bring those smiles and memories back in my head. Till next time La Presa, you definitely have so much surpresa!

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

-Sir Edmund Hillary

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“Why do I love Clouds? Because you can’t save a cloud like you can save a leaf or a flower or a rock. Clouds are NOW. ” -Terri Guillemets

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