Locals call the Halsema Highway “mountain trail” spanning 150 kilometers between Baguio City, La Trinidad and Bontoc in Mountain Province with its highest peak in Atok town set at 7,400 meters above sea level, officially the highest altitude highway in the Philippines. The highway is still
considered one of the world’s most dangerous with its twists, turns and ravines, however, it gives motorists a scenic view of the mountain ranges. Historians note construction started in 1922 and was completed in 1930 as a foot trail, over the years it has continually developed.

Traversing through the highway, you will pass eight municipalities in Benguet and four towns in Mountain Province. It is also the way to the tourist town of Sagada, where visitors flock all year
round. The highest point of the scenic highway is 7,400 feet above sea level. Several buses and
vans ply the route, varying in size, with varying degrees of safety, a risk that you take each time.
The lady engineer said there are two areas in the Halsema Highway which need immediate concern.

One is the sinking section’s highest point area which is considered as the biggest problem now and the damage to the Pilando portion of the highway which she described to be like a roller coaster track after Typhoon Ompong. The sinking section at the highest point area is a recurring problem lamenting it was cemented in 2012 but was shortly damaged. In 2016, the same area was part of a calamity project on slope protection, but in the same year, after the project, the area sank again.

Once, while traversing the expanse of the trail, Ev, a photojournalist from the Philippine Daily Inquirer and I found ourselves at the losing end of a proposition when the local bus we were riding
seemingly joined a Slalom race, about to maneuver a curve, overestimated the length of the narrow road and almost plunged us into a ravine. We always sit at the front of the bus, to get a full view of
the road and possibly a few photographs, but at that time, we looked at each other in panic and for a split second realized we saw, in full view, the ravine we were about to fall into.

Bracing for impact, we were ready for the worst-case scenario, but maybe it was not our time, as we were saved from death with whatever ability the driver had left to cheat death, escaping the tip of the ravine and getting back on the road. The mini bus aligned itself to the road and like nothing
happened, we were back on our way, lucky to be alive but Ev and I both cursing that we would never take public transport again. Travel buddy Ev and I traversed Halsema Highway many more times after that, safe and slower vehicles we rode, but never forgetting the scare we had.

Ev is sick nowadays, which makes me sad, as we shared many travels together, bravely battling the Cordillera roads to cover festivals, rituals and events. We have many near death experiences, the battle he is in now, I know he will overcome, just like the many dangers of the roads we took, like the Halsema Highway.

Amianan Balita Ngayon