The Charm of Sagada
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
I am a big fan of traveling. I make it a point that every year, I get to travel to somewhere I've never been to. And it always creates a giddy feeling within me whenever I do something new and I get to discover new places. It really makes me say, "it's such a wonderful world!"
Sometime around summer of 2018, my friends and I planned on a local trip and we agreed to go to the very popular tourist destination in the Mountain Province: Sagada. It is located in the northern part of the Philippines. If you are coming from Manila, which is its capital, it is approximately 390 KM away, and is equivalent to more or less 9 - 10 hours drive, without stops in between.
We booked a 3 days 2 nights tour, from Thursday night to Sunday night, via a travel agency we found on Facebook. They were very accommodating and we had a pleasant transaction with them. The cost of the tour then per person was P2,300, inclusive of the accommodation, transportation expenses and environmental permit fee. Since it was on a weekday, we all came from the office and went directly to our meeting place: the Mall of Asia complex.
It was a very long trip. From our 8:00 PM departure, we arrived at Banaue, Ifugao at around 6:00 AM the next day. The entire travel going there was really exhausting even though we were just sitting inside the van all throughout. Thank God for bio breaks as we were able to stretch our legs from time to time. What made me really anxious though was passing through the mountain side, as the roads were so narrow with very wide cliffs in just a few meters away. And I had this grim thought that if we fall from it, I'm pretty sure where we'd be headed to (hello, heaven!), but then of course, nothing beats a prayer to cure worries.
Banaue Arc and Rice Terraces View Deck
As soon as we reached this arc, it felt as if we already reached our destination. However, what we didn't know was that it will take us another four (4) hours to reach Sagada. We had our breakfast first and explored the beauty of the Banaue Rice Terraces.
So what is it all about? If I may quote Wikipedia, "The Banaue Rice Terraces (Filipino: Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe) are terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao in the Philippines by the ancestors of the indigenous people. The terraces are occasionally called the "Eighth Wonder of the World". It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand."
I was in awe. I cannot recall the last time I was here, probably when I was still very young, during the times when I still travel with my cousin's family to and from La Union and Baguio.
Then we were off to Sagada. Another long trip for us, but this time, it became a lot more exciting because we were almost near our destination!
Sagada, Mountain Province
We stayed at a guesthouse with several rooms. It felt very cozy as the structure of the house was made of wood, and to add to that, the weather was cold and breezy. It was a breath of fresh air!
Right after lunch, we prepared for our first stop: The Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins.
Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins
Our first stop was one of the very popular tourist destinations in Sagada. Our tour guide informed us ahead of time that there will be a little hiking during the tour, which was fine with us because we knew we were prepared. We brought our hiking shoes and small bags with light food.
Before we reached the hanging coffins, we passed along a cemetery on the way. The tour guide said that nowadays, most of the interments happen here, since the hanging coffins tradition isn't practiced anymore (except for minority of the indigenous groups).
There is also a place where you can shout out loud and you'll hear echoes (well I guess that's why it was called Echo Valley anyway!).
Check out this cool video:
Afterwards, we stopped for a while to appreciate the view more. It was astonishing!
Then we were off to our favorite part, the Hanging Coffins. I am pretty sure you are also wondering, why are they hanging? According to Wikipedia, "the ancient funeral norm of hanging coffins from mountain cliffs is still practiced by some minority groups. The purpose of suspending the casket from the mountain rocks is to bring the deceased closer to heaven." I know that sounded interesting but yes, they looked creepy as well!
It was as if I was so close to the corpse and to their bones! Whew! But still, it was a very interesting place to see. You need to hike down for about 20 to 30 minutes to be able to get to this part, since it's somehow near the caves. It was very quiet in there. Of course, who would want to wake up the dead, right?
The more challenging part though, since we were down the hills, was to go up! My legs were really tired out but thanks to the cool weather, we didn't get too sweaty at all.
And of course before we left, I didn't miss the chance to take advantage of the beautiful scenery!
Our next stop right after lunch was one of the most attractive lakes I've ever been to: Lake Danum. It looked so perfect that you can just stare at its beauty the whole day! Within the vicinity, there were small food kiosks that offer light snacks during the day.
It's such a wonderful place to take gorgeous photos!
And since I was already in Sagada, I made sure I had this photo in my feed:
Just a few minutes away from Lake Danum, you'd find the Sagada Pottery. You may opt to try and make a pot and there will be a very kind and helpful lady who will guide you.
The following day, our first stop was the highest falls in Sagada. We were a little hesitant initially if we would do the 2-hour hike but we thought that it was one of the highlights of the trip and we shouldn't miss it. We very well knew that it was going to be a long and tiring journey. But since we already travelled that far, we decided to do it. You may opt to ride a jeepney from the top to mid-way, but we chose to walk since the trail was kind of easy and it was downhill.
It took us about 45 minutes going down. The first 15 minutes was a breeze, it was all fun and games until that moment when we already felt the heat, and the exhaustion of walking.
Then we finally reached our destination. It was beautiful and indeed a hidden paradise at the bottom of the mountains!
After spending a few minutes there, we almost didn't want to go back because that meant going hiking again for about an hour, and this time, it would be uphill! Just the thought of it made me want to give up already. But of course, we couldn't, unless we wanted to stay there for the rest of the trip!
I'll share a funny experience. While going up the trail, I felt this very familiar feeling within me, something that I eagerly wanted to attend to but couldn't, at least not yet. It was my stomach rumbling! I badly wanted to go to the washroom but of course I had no choice, I was in the middle of the mountains with tall grass and trees beside me so I had to keep it all in and do my best to reach the top as fast as I could. It was indeed a very memorable moment for me, well, something that I wouldn't want to experience again!
It was a very refreshing feeling when we reached the halfway point of the trail. This time, we already rode the jeepney as our energy couldn't make it to the other half anymore.
We were supposed to go spelunking at Sumaguing Cave after lunch but we opted to just stay at the guesthouse to relax for the rest of the day. But for your reference, here's how the cave looks like:
Kiltepan Peak (Sea of Clouds)
On our last day at Sagada, I hardly slept because our next destination was my most awaited moment: the Kiltepan Peak. This place became so famous when it was featured in the Tagalog Movie "That Thing Called Tadhana." It was where the female lead shouted to her heart's content all of her heartaches and grief about her ex-boyfriend. Not that I shouted as well but if I had the chance I would (haha, just kidding!).
It was very common to ride a jeepney going there, but it's a different experience when you're riding on top of it. The cold and windy weather added to the excitement and it was something I'd be willing to do over and over again! Here I was with a good friend of mine enjoying our topload car experience (this was taken after the tour already):
It was an early morning trip; we reached the top at around 5 AM, just right before the sunrise. This place is the highest point in Sagada and you'll be able to see a sea of clouds, because it's way above the cloud formations.
There is a popular saying that if the sun rises before you, it means that you'll find your "forever" or simply "the one" very soon. And luckily, we were able to witness it right before our eyes:
It was so magnificent! You'd be stunned just by looking and wondering how God created this amazing work. As to my forever, well, I guess I already found him, so it's probably true!
The day after, it was time to go home. We stopped by Baguio City in the morning to buy some souvenirs and goodies for our loved ones. It was a very unforgettable experience and one that I would highly recommend. Do visit Sagada if you can!