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    Ballesteros North West of Magapit

    As luck would have it, the approaches to Magapit bridge were clear and afforded us the opportunity of pausing on the bridge to take a couple of photos. We are heading west and our next stop will be Alacapan.

    After crossing the bridge, we drove to the top of the small range that bounds the western shore of the Cagayan River, and passed through the village of Bangag. There are coconut and banana plantations on the side of the hill, and we notice that the air is clean and crisp as we begin the descent to the low country. Unfortunately there is no elevated view of the river behind us so we focus on the road ahead, which is paved and carries only a moderate amount of traffic, at this time.

    Our driver makes a fuel stop at a rather large gas station on the main road at Alacapan before turning into a side street almost opposite, which leads to the town market place. Traffic congests the streets around the market area and it took some time for us to find a parking spot for our jeepney. The area is teeming with people, buying and selling all kinds of produce, which is being transported to and from the markets in a variety of vehicles, ranging from barrows, peddle trikes, kulig-ligs, trucks and jeepneys.

    Back on the main road, we enter the municipality of Ballesteros and head for Zitanga, which is little more than a junction stopover that provides travelers with basic facilities. The right fork will take us to the town of Ballesteros, which is on the far north coast of Luzon and is supported by a major rice farming community.

    Vast rice fields, adjoin both sides of the road, many of which, are being tended by groups of farmers working under large umbrellas. Carabao are used extensively to cultivate the fields, and we pass many along the roadside pulling sleds laden with palay or bundles of seedlings. These animals are ideally suited for working in the water filled rice paddies.

    Mabuttal Festival DancersAs we approach Mabuttal, we encounter a lot of traffic and upon reaching the village, we discover that the annual village festival is in full swing. Vehicles line the road side for a kilometer or more, needless to say we parked or jeepney, walked back to browse the numerous displays, and to enjoy the festive performances. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the actors who, dressed in costumes, sang and danced to entertain the large audience that filled the auditorium.

    The Township of Ballesteros

    After spending a couple of hours at the festival we resumed our journey and were soon on the outskirts of Ballesteros. At Sta. Cruz we turn left into the main street of Ballesteros and park our vehicle near the waiting shed in front of the town hall gardens. Almost immediately a dozen trikes surround us, their riders looking hopefully for a fare. On this occasion we choose to walk so we can browse the shops and businesses that front Rizal street. Seems as though every town up here has a Rizal street!

    The street is a hive of activity, with a never ending stream of trikes transporting passengers to their respective destinations in an orderly fashion. As my companions and I walked along Rizal street, we were warmly greeted by the locals who are eager to chat with us. I popped into see Willie, an old friend of mine who runs the local hardware store, before having coffee and doughnuts at the eatery nearby.

    Ballesteros Town Hall GardensRefreshed and relaxed we boarded our jeepney and took a run around town to see the sights, and explore places of interest. There are many schools and churches in Ballesteros, as well as a host of essential services. The high school is located on a headland that faces the sea, and it overlooks a magnificent blue sandy beach that extends in either direction for as far as the eye can see. It is incredible that the foreshore is completely undeveloped, and this expanse of beach has not yet been spoiled by human intervention.

    We called in at the public markets, where I visited another old friend of mine who owns the Navarro store. Linda and I had some chat before I picked up the items that I needed and then, wandered aimlessly about the market complex, which is a virtual warehouse full of produce of every description.

    The day was almost done when we booked into the De Leon Hotel, had a few drinks over dinner and turned in for the night. Ballesteros is a humble town, yet it is one of those places that makes one feel at peace.

    La Hunter