Posted in My Travels

Sagada: How I enjoyed My Short Stay

Are we still in the Philippines? This place looks like we’re in a totally different timezone!”, we flabbergastingly uttered to each other.

From Baguio City, we learned from the locals that we will reach Sagada, Mountain Province by land for 5 hours. I initially thought of a shorter travel time as Baguio and Mountain Province seems to be just alongside in the map. Turned out, we journeyed for almost 6-7 hours due to some changes in our route as there were parts of the road  heavily affected by mudslides. We didn’t have much options since there’s no other means of transportation available to get there. It was probably the longest 7 hours in my life. The road was narrow and the fog was thick making the way real hazy; you’d be amazed how well-versed the drivers were on the road as we didn’t swerved off. While the view of the mountains was undoubtedly captivating, the look of danger on the way was equally bothersome. It’s amazing how the locals  are dauntlessly travelling those steep crags, and narrow and sheer drop offs. Believe you me, my sleep was insufficient the night prior, but I couldn’t stop praying for I was restless and uneasy. Anyhow, we reached Sagada safely; it was a definitely a ‘Thank You Jesus’ moment.

Here’s what greeted our eyes, Sagada Town Proper. “Are we still in the Philippines? This place looks like we’re in a totally different timezone!”, we flabbergastingly uttered to each other. The place seems to be somewhere but Philippines! Sagada appeared to us as a secluded mountain town enriched with heritage and culture. Surreal!

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At Sagada Tourism office

We had to register to the municipality’s tourism office and pay for an environmental fee of P35. Afterwards, we looked for the nearest inn since we were all tired yet excited to start our Sagada Exploration. Just like in Baguio City, the inns here are really cut-priced; we got ours at only P250 per night per person. But we were already penny-pinching this time so we just joined another group of tourists for our tour inclusive of a guide.

What transpired during our 2-day Sagada stay were as follows:

Day 1

Trekking to the Echo Valley, Sagada

The name of the place was taken literally from the bouncing of sounds unto the walls of the Sagada Limestone Valley. We were not able to take some decent pictures of the rock formations on the valley since it has been raining in the place for days, and doing so may not be very safe for tourists like us. Also, one of our friends did not make it this far because of the physical demands of the activity. Consequently, her medical condition prompted her to go back and rest in our inn.

Another interesting place we visited was the Hanging coffins in Echo Valley. While most of the cultures would want to bury their dead six foot below the ground, some tribes of differing countries have this practice of hanging  their dead’s coffins in rocks or cliffs. In the Philippines, it’s a practice of the Igorots. According to our tour guide, who is an Igorot himself, they have this way of ‘burial’ because they believe that they came from nature, and once they die, it’s the easiest way to be one again with nature. I’m not sure how accurate the reason was, but coming from him, we better take it as said.

  The  Hanging coffins in Echo Valley

We were looking fine like in the photos above until the rain poured down. We were not ready for it. One thing I learned in this trip is to always be appropriately dressed. None of us, among my friends has been aptly prepared for it. None of us thought of getting rain coats or umbrellas. We were also wearing jeans, then someone was wearing Chuck Taylor’s and a wedged shoes. It was basically a disaster for the unprepared. What happened next was a series of climbing, leaping and getting down some steep rocks and mud. There was even a time we had to cross a river and pass through a cave. Of course, we were wet and mud-dirty. Even so, we had to continue hence there’s no other way. We were basically stuck in the middle of the forest. It was still about 3-4 PM but the surrounding was already dim. It was really a test of our physical endurance; it was really cold and we were all water-soaked until we reached the highway. We assumed that the pain ends there, but we were wrong. We now have to go down some steep and muddy residential area across the street for another scenic attraction we ‘needed’ to visit. Following our tour guide, we made it through a place where safety is already of real concern, so we all decided to call it off and head back. Public transportation isn’t constantly available in Sagada so we had to walk our way to our inn.

This is what I was talking about. See? It was like going through some challenging physical training in Amazing Race, this time in Sagada. However, we still managed to capture the moment and smile!

Day 2 (Last Day)

Sunrise at Kiltepan View point, Sagada

If you’ve watched the Filipino movie, ‘That thing called Tadhana’, this view will probably be familiar to you. This was the place where Mace (Angelica Panganiban’s character) screamed some hugot lines trying to recover from a heartbreak. I wasn’t heartbroken but I’ve been hankering to get there so waking up at  5 AM was never an issue for me. I also have this huge appetite for sunrises and sunsets. We then prepared and contacted the other tourists who will be with us in this trip. Through a shuttle van, we went there. It was still really dark at around 5:30 AM when we arrived but there were groups of tourists ahead of us already positioned for what seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime-picture-taking-moment.

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I tried to get as much awesome snaps as I could but some tourists who were less than sensitive owned some spots until the sun had fully risen. So my photos only showed a few parts of the peak.  Who wants photo-bombers anyway?  I believe that as tourists, we have to consider our fellows as well who are trying to capture as much scenic spots as you [trying to sound friendly here]. Still, my senses definitely enjoyed the sunrise very much. I loved how the sea of clouds leaned against the mountains. I loved how there were some color changes unfolding before my eyes as the sun appeared above the horizon. I just loved every single moment of it.

The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin

This was our next stop: really nice architecture of the Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. Outside were these tall and luscious green pine trees. I still remember how cool the air was even when it was already 9-10 AM. Basically we just walked our way to this place and took a few pictures then left for lunch.

Food Trips 

Sagada is a home to different authentic food stops so you won’t run out of options. In our case, we were only able to visit a few. First stop was in Sagada Lemon Pie House which is known to be the home of Sagada’s famous lemon pies and other delish meals.

  Sagada Lemon Pie House 

Yoghurt House 

Second stop was in Yoghurt  House .  I am not really big on yoghurts but I had to give it a try. Anyway, it was the very reason we stopped by this ‘Yoghurt’ house. In addition, we tried some of their best selling meals. Fortunately, our inn was just a walking distance to the different restos in Sagada, but because of time constraints, we only tried a good few.

Pasalubong 

Before heading back home, we bought some souvenir items like sunflower and peanut brittle, Sagada Ground Coffee, and some special cookies from Sagada Lemon house and Yoghurt House. We also had a taste of the traditional rice cake delicacy called ‘patupat‘. Sagada is generally known for their arts and crafts especially weaving. Some souvenir shops happen to be just few steps away from where we stayed and there were a lot to choose from. Anyhow, I just bought some of their woven pouches and shawls.

Overall, Sagada was a myriad of experience for me. It’s definitely a place worth the grueling hours of risky travel. God is great and was faithful all throughout this journey! And if you’re planning to go there, I’d suggest you have it at a longer number of days to get more intimate with the place. You do some research not just on the must-sees nor must-dos but consider the amount of time to be incurred with each activity.  In our case, there were so many things we wanted to do or  places we wished we had visited in Sagada but we didn’t have the luxury of time so we just hand-picked the places we can afford to visit. Another thing, when we were there, waterfalls of our liking (Bomod-ok Falls) was intentionally closed in observance to an Igorot festival/ritual. As previously mentioned, the weather was a bit uncooperative during our stay, as a result, we weren’t able to maximize our entire Sagada stay. Regardless of the downsides we encountered, Sagada will always be a place I’d want to revisit; ‘Take me back to Sagada’ that is.

The beautiful Sagada Neighborhood

Psalms 36:5  Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

 

Posted in My Travels

Baguio: A Never-Before Experience

 


“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”.- St. Augustine

Why travel? There could be varying answers to that question. In my case, I have always dreamt of stepping my foot into places I’ve never been. I want to see new places, experience the people, try out their food, engage their culture and at heart, live like a local in that area for even just a few days.

Then my Baguio trip was conceived. I have always wanted to go there since this place has been tagged as the Summer Capital of the Philippines. The reason is that, it’s the best place to be at during summer since its cool breeze of air is retained while the rest of the country becomes increasingly hot and humid. Well generally, the rest of the Philippines is sunny the entire year while Baguio has it’s uniquely bone chilling, wintry weather.

The trip was 10 long months in the making. We booked on November 2014, dating the trip by September of the next year. The waiting seemed eternity but the excitement has never worn out. It was a Piso-Fare Sale of Cebu Pacific so I, together with my constant travel companions nabbed the chance at only about P1800 for a round tripper (Cebu-Clark-Cebu).

Finally, the time came when the trip materialized. From Cebu, we travelled by plane to Pampanga. It was thru a Victory liner bus that we journeyed from there to Baguio City. September is a rainy season but we decided to push through after confirming the safety of all possible routes we will be taking through the news. It was a crazy 7-lengthy hours transit which got me nauseated the whole time. Thankfully, sightseeing helped me endure it. Nausea and vomiting didn’t stop me in enjoying our passage to the City of Pines.

Still on the air-conditioned bus but  I’m already feeling this cool breeze of air, cooler than hours earlier. That’s when I knew we’re already in Baguio. Pine trees were before my eyes that probably were of different ages. Mesmerized by its beauty, we excitedly went off the bus upon arriving there.

I’ll be showing snapshots here in order of the places we visited in our 2-day Baguio escapade.

DAY 1: Wright Park Riding Circle located within the flat and wide triangle below The Mansion where 200 horses are available for hire. We tried to maximize our time so we didn’t try horseback-riding this time.

Tried out wearing the Igorot’s Native dress. We are apparently enjoying the colors! Don’t we all look good?[laughs]

Still in the same park, I tried to strike some poses even when I was already dripping wet. The weather was a bit unfriendly this time. It was cold and raining but we still managed to go to different spots from here!

This is where our struggle was. We were freezing cold but we can’t let go of the idea that we will be taking memories through pictures of some awesome sights! There was already a thick fog  and we were the only few who handled it!

See? We were seemingly insane but definitely had a good time. The uppermost photo was at the gate of The Mansion. Raindrops are visible in this photo which explains why I looked like I just left the shower! Consequently, we needed to have our clothes and shoes laundered!

DAY 2:  Right in the heart of Baguio is Burnham Park which serves as a major attraction for both relaxation and recreational activities. Burnham Park is centered around a man-made lake located at the heart of the city. It was named after the city’s planner, Daniel Burnham. The park is a favorite place of local residents and visitors alike.

Their infamous strawberry Taho for only P30. How I wish I can have some of it now!

There are different activities in the park but basically all we did was strolled around the park, take pictures and tried a boat ride across the lake! Wished we had more time! We practically tried to squeeze in as much activity that we can. Two days was definitely not enough.

Our last stop was at the Mines View Park. The sky was a little gloomy when we made it there. From the observation deck of the park, a breathtaking panoramic view of Benguet’s gold and copper mines and the surrounding mountains unfolded before us. It was a spectacular sight to behold and should not be missed when visiting Baguio. Aside from that, there were collections of flowering plants and bonsais available as well as selected delicacies, arts and crafts ideal for pasalubong.

Sidetrips: I’ve recalled some of the food we tried in Baguio, and to the best of my memory, here’s  a few of them:

Canto Bogchi Joint-Ketchup Food Community, Good Taste Restaurant, and there’s this one Japanese restaurant I totally forgot. I may not exactly be able to recall everything  but unarguably, such gastronomic experience I had in Baguio was one of the best I’ve had.

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Another thing, hotels and inns in Baguio are way cheaper that in any other places in the Philippines because they save from having air-conditioning units due to it’s naturally nipping weather. I also commend honest and professional taxi drivers who made our trips possible from place to place. One tip though, book your trip during summer, it will allow you more activities to do in Baguio. It’s a lot more comfortable too.

” The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” –Psalm 19:1

Undeniably, Baguio reveals God’s wonderful handiwork.  It’s God’s way  of reminding me of God’s wonders. That nature is one of God’s beautiful creations. That everything He ever created speaks for His Glory!

Delighted as I am in sharing this experience, hope you all are too. Let me know!

Thanks,

Janey

Posted in Random thought

Sharing lives

“A friend loves at all times,and a brother is born for adversity.”

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Trying to our jump shot at Himontagon Hills, Loay, Bohol PH

Nothing ever happens that is outside of God’s control. When we say nothing, it simply means, none at all. This includes our relationships. May it be our families, our friendships formed at school, at work, or even those random meet-ups who turned to be our constant companions. It’s all part of God’s plan for us. It’s a divine set-up. Isn’t it reassuring, that all of the people God brings to our lives are from Him? No matter how our responses may be, they all serve a purpose. May it be to bless you or for you to bless, it’s formidably orchestrated by God.

No wonder God delights in our relationships. God is its author. God loves reconciliation and strengthened ties. He, being a holy and blameless God even desired for our friendship. He relentlessly pursued us even in those time we were walking away from Him.

This gives me in no place to choose people or be partial to them. It’s God’s way of reminding me that because of the tremendous love I have experienced, there is no way for it not to overwhelm me. This overwhelming in me has to be translated in the way I relay love. It is not possible for me to give it to everyone, that’s why he purposely sends me people, in the form of family members, relatives, friends, acquaintances or any random person I meet. What I do to them, certainly I’m doing in honor for Him.

“The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.”