“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!
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.