travel to the highlands after a typhoon

Traveling to the Highlands After a Typhoon

Last Updated on October 27, 2021 by Tina

I started writing this post right after I got back to my workplace about two weeks ago, but I was having second thoughts. I’m not sure if anyone will be interested to read this. But after giving it some thought, I decided to finish this. Who knows, maybe someone who’ll read this will learn a thing or two about traveling to the highlands after a typhoon.

During the rainy season, and especially after a typhoon, traveling to the highlands is more difficult and risky because of landslides and rockfalls. Road closures are common during this time.

Last October 12, I was supposed to travel back to Mankayan after 11 days of field break. But because of Typhoon Maring, Suyo-Cervantes Road was not passable because of several landslides. I had to extend another day at home and wait for an update about the road condition. The following day after our weekly online meeting, I asked for an update about the road again and I was told that Suyo-Cervantes Road is still not passable. 

There are three routes you can take to get to Mankayan from La Union (the last option I found out about it just last Wednesday). The first is via Suyo-Cervantes Road in Ilocos Sur, the second is via Halsema Highway in Benguet and the third is via Candon then Quirino, Ilocos Sur. Because Suyo-Cervantes Road is not yet passable and Halsema Highway is already open, my colleagues who spent the night in La Union and I decided to take that route instead. 

The challenge of taking that route though is that Halsema Highway gets really foggy in the afternoon, making it more difficult to drive. Though we decided early that we’re going to travel via Halsema Highway instead, my colleagues picked me up around 12 noon, and we haven’t had lunch yet. I was computing the time we will get to Baguio and I thought it isn’t a good idea to push through that plan. Our driver feels the same too. And so the last option we had was via Candon-Quirino.

However, after passing by the La Union-Ilocos Sur border, our driver decided that we just take the Suyo-Cervantes Road instead. He has been getting in touch with his cousin who got stranded there the day before, and he was told that the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) staff are continuously clearing the slide along Suyo-Cervantes Road, and the mayor of Cervantes is facilitating the clearing because he wants to make sure that the road will be opened as soon as possible.

Our driver’s plan was for us to drive up to the part that is being cleared, and see how it goes. I was a bit hesitant about this plan because I didn’t want to spend the night on the road. So I told him we’re going, but if we find out that the clearing looks impossible to be finished, then we will go back and spend another night in La Union.

It was already past 3:00 PM when we reached the Ilocos Sur border. We dropped by the market to buy some biscuits and drinks just in case we get stranded along the way. Our drive along the Suyo-Cervantes Road has been continuous for the first 2 hours. We passed by a lot of slides and big rocks on the road, but half of the road has already been cleared so that vehicles could pass by. Then around 5:30 PM, we reached the part that was blocked with a landslide and a fallen tree. We had to wait for the backhoe to clear the slide.

Landslide in Suyo-Cervantes Road
The reason why we couldn’t pass through, which was a blessing in disguise because I got to witness a beautiful sunset

The bright side of getting stuck there is that I got to witness a sunset along the Suyo-Cervantes Road. And it was so beautiful. The picture I was able to take wasn’t able to capture the real beauty of that view. It was amazing; it was a mixture of blue and pink and red and yellow.

It took some time for the slide to be cleared, and it started getting dark. After maybe 30 minutes, we were able to pass through already. But after driving for around 100 meters or so, there’s another slide. And it was a big one. We just stayed inside the vehicle, waiting for the slide to be cleared. The place where we got stranded has no signal. I couldn’t inform my supervisor, my sister, and my aunt that we haven’t reached Mankayan yet because we got stranded.

Good thing I downloaded some Netflix series on my phone. I was able to finish 7 episodes of The Hook Up Plan while we were waiting. We waited for 4 hours, but I wasn’t annoyed at all because there was something that kept me busy while waiting. It was almost 10 pm when the clearing was finished. We were already super hungry because we only had biscuits in the car, which we ate earlier. And after we were able to pass through, there were no restaurants open anymore. We were able to have dinner at around 11:30 PM. It was a very exhausting day, but I’m glad we were able to reach the staff house safely.

To make this post useful to anyone reading this, here are some tips for you when you are traveling to the highlands during the rainy season and especially after a typhoon:

  • Make sure your phone is fully charged before you travel so that you’ll still be able to use it in case you get stuck somewhere. Bring a fully charged power bank if you have one.
  • Bring enough water and food so that you won’t starve while waiting.
  • Download some TV series, movies, games, or music on your phone so that you have something to keep you entertained while you are stranded.
  • If the trip is not that important, consider rescheduling your trip.
  • Pray that you reach your destination safely.
  • Inform a family member about your whereabouts during the trip just to assure them that you are safe.

This concludes my post. I hope you learned something from this. If you have other tips to share, please feel free to write them down below.

P. S.

Two days after our trip, we went back to Suyo-Cervantes Road to do a quick geohazard assessment because our boss instructed us to do so. Here are some photos of the landslides in the area.

Scoured underside of the highway near the Cervantes-Suyo border. My colleague writing down some notes about the area.
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