Road trip to Ifugao- Liwon

July 31, 2017

June 24- We were late. And sleep-deprived.


Because we were not able to secure tickets prior to our trip, my girlfriend and I had to take our chances on whatever bus is available going to either Santiago in Isabela, or Tuguegarao in Cagayan. We were hoping to catch one between 11:30 PM to 1 AM, but the opportunity arrived at around 20 minutes past 4 AM. Prior to that, I had considered us backing out and head to Laguna again from Cubao but somehow I could not bear the thought of my girlfriend going through all this- backpacks and other preparations- for nothing. And so at 11:45 AM we were at a waiting shed in Sto. Domingo in the Nueva Vizcaya town of Bayombong waiting for a van rented by our friend Tony, to pick us up. Upon arrival at the property of Berna's (Tony's wife) family, we were greeted by the rest- Paulo, Adrian (Berna's cousin) and Zeb, who arrived in his motorbike all the way from his home in Rizal and thus disheveled and grimy from the pollution that envelopes Manila. After some chit-chats and lunch. we went our way and picked up the final member of the group to join us for that trip- Pete. Along the way it seemed that the van is flying with words inside; one of the nice things when going on a road trip is the variety of subjects that pop up from everybody, and for this it ran the gamut from nature in general to bits of anthropology, then Bigfoots and UFO sightings. At some point I fell asleep, until we arrived in Kiangan in Ifugao.


After picking up some supplies, mainly foodstuffs, we continued further up and pulled over at 4:18 PM for some photographs of the surrounding scenery:





 At 4:45, we arrived in Liwon, and from the main road, we trekked to Berna's relatives over rolling terrain:



 The newly carved road has unfortunately eroded tons of soil and rocks to the river below. I was told by Adrian that gobies were previously found here, but are now nowhere to be found. The massive siltation has obviously brought irreversible damage to the fishes' breeding grounds.

 Around the river is this tomato plantation. Fertilizer and pesticide use will further deteriorate the river.

 On this photo the eroded soil over the rocks along the banks can be seen.

 After about fifty minutes, we reached the house of Berna's relatives, of Kalanguya descent. Their share a rather spacious home that easily houses the entire family and with ample room for visitors like us.

 Family pets and livestock wait for scraps.


 A locally-made scooter.

 Of course at night, we went 'hunting'. Pictured here is a centipede from the genus Otostigmus, albeit somewhat coy.

 A forest roach:

 Two species of stick insects:


 Here is a strange snail whose name I haven't been able to find out yet. On the first photo it can be seen that there are conical protrusions jutting from the shell, suggesting a sort of armor, perhaps to deter would-be predators. 

 Out of curiosity I touched the shell to determine how rigid the spikes are. But to my surprise, the protrusions retracted. To this day I still have no idea about the mechanism involved here. 

 A robust phasmid, maybe from the genus Eubulides:

 A more 'typical' snail clad in rich browns:

 A pair of Eubulides, as per Paulo Ortega's identification.

 Another stick insect, slender but with a robust posterior:


 And here is a large, prickly-looking caterpillar.

 Those pompadour-styled hairs made me remind of Elvis Presley...

 A juvenile Phyllium; these insects have an interesting ethnozoological value to the Kalanguya. These, as well as the stick insects, are locally known as tanip, and are used as amulets to render the user invisible and thus avoid detection by dogs and enemies. Tanip literally translates to 'to become invisible in the company of others' and reflects the Kalanguya's awareness of these animals' incredible camouflage.

 Here is another individual:

 During the course of the night, a Philippine Bamboo Pitviper (Trimeresurus [Parias] flavomaculatus) was seen, but we opted to photograph it during the day. The species name literally means 'yellow-spotted' and refers to the row of yellow spots seen on the lateral sides of the snakes, evident here. However, these vipers are extremely polymorphic and many have the yellow spots replaced with white, and even red-brown.

 My geeky friends photographing the snake while I photograph them.

 Another shot of the snake. I personally know of very few actual snakebites from this species, none were fatal. Yet, extreme caution is needed when dealing with such snakes. 

 Lobelia nummularia (Family Campanulaceae), an attractive creeping plant with brightly-colored fruits. Gratitude goes to Pieter Pelser for providing me with the name of this plant

 Uncle Manuel, as he watches the children play outside.

 The family cat sits beside the stove.

 A moment of close bonding for the family. In places where technology only had limited influence, family members from varying age groups are often seen together, for extended periods of time.


That morning we also prepared to go to the forest to collect honey and set off at about 9 in the morning.

 Strongylodon caeruleus (Family Fabaceae, Subfamily Faboideae) displaying vivid coloration.

 Lithocarpus (Family Fagaceae) leaves bundled together in preparation for smoking the bees.

 A shrubby Begonia esculenta (Family Begoniaceae).

 After preparing the bundled leaves, we descended on a steep gully where the honey collectors planned their mode of attack.

 Along the trail we spotted a terrestrial orchid from the genus Plocoglottis, possibly P. lucbanensis.

 Apis breviligula. Gratitude goes to Aimee Lynn for the identification of this black and white banded bee.

 The smoking starts.

 One thing I have noticed here is that the thick smoke are not painful to the eyes.


 At this point I had to move to higher ground to avoid the alarmed and by now extremely agitated swarm of bees.

 Sarcandra glabra, a plant whose leaves are used by locals to make tea and known here as gipah. I have encountered this plant many times before from several forays into the forests, but it is only here that I learned of its use by a local community.

 The collected hive.

 Pinalia cylindrostachya (Family Orchidaceae).

Penthicodes astraea:

 Episcapha quadrimacula, a beetle we found upon turning over a fallen log on the ground.

 A dagwey tree (Saurauia bontocensis, Family Clusiaceae). The fruits of this tree are pleasantly tangy and have been made into preserves in the Brgy. Imugan in the town of Sta. Fe in Nueva Vizcaya.

 Eutropis cumingi

 A showy inflorescence of a species of Zingiber (Family Zingiberaceae), unfortunately without flowers.

 Sambucus javanica, Family Adoxaceae. Thanks to Dany Tandang for supplying the name of this plant for me!

That clearing in the forest, termed here as 'awa', is employed to trap bats and birds: those that settle on the 'island' are trapped by means of net cast in places by the natives.


This aquatic frog is possibly Occidozyga laevis, a species concept that likely involves a number of look-alike species. This one is atypically large compared to the ones I am used to seeing.

 A pair of Tiger Beetles.

 A tree whose fruits are locally known as 'bili' and said to be a relative of mangosteen.. The raw fruits are eaten but extremely and sharply sour.

 A dead on the road Calamaria bitorques

 A species of Freycinetia (Family Pandanaceae).

 By around 1:40 in the afternoon, we were back. This is a 'lusong'. The term is also the source of the name for the island of Luzon.

 Bee larvae cooked in honey. Not bad, I would say.

 Chopped 'bili'. We used salt to neutralize the acidity, but it had limited, if negligible, effect.

 After our late lunch has concluded, we began our trek back. Below is a species of Poikilospermum (Family Urticaceae); Pieter Pelser suggested P. acuminatum.

 A dead skink was found along the dirt road, possibly the rare Brachymeles bicolor.

 A dead Dorcus taurus cribripes. It would seem that some wildlife in this place have not yet adapted to the conditions brought by these recent intrusions into their habitat, and some just perish from exposure. 


My sincerest gratitude to Estan Conrad Cabigas for providing the name of this beetle.

 A stick insect from the genus Ophicrania.

 Rows of tomato plants signify a high demand for the crop...

...and yet, many fruits were just left to rot on the ground.

On our way back, we found this T. flavomaculatus caught by a local.

 Liwon, just like other areas in Ifugao, is experiencing a boom, thanks to the vegetable market. And along with it, the necessity to build more roads which results in more settlements and a need to clear more forests for cash crops. With so much waste going on and the as environmental deterioration escalates, one begins to think if this is all worth it.


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