A personal experience: ‘I’ notes
We’ve been planning a grand vacation this 2012. It’s already our group’s tradition to spend a vacation to some good places that we’ve never been before.
This is the time of the year where we are all (temporarily) free from our responsibilities (well I guess most of us), professionally and/or academically; the season to take a short break from all the exhaustion brought by tons of workloads, to breathe some fresh air; and the best opportunity to be together, enjoy each other’s company and have fun.
We tried looking for the best resort in town. We considered Palawan, Pagudpod and Boracay, however our thirst to experience something new made this vacation a lot better and intensely incomparable!
Nature + Culture = Sagada, Mt. Province
We decided to take away resorts and/or beaches from the list of options. We’ve done a lot of it, so why not explore other ways to enjoy the summer vacation? Until we saw a tour package in the internet which was, I think, tempting and a bit affordable- a Sagada trip.
Sagada was introduced to me by my history and (Philippine) culture teachers. Most of them reiterated how wonderful Sagada is and how fantastic the hanging coffins are. More than that, I’ve read lots of stories and watched some television specials where Sagada was highlighted and being used as a story location. With these, I dreamed of setting my feet in this culturally-rich and mountainous placeof Luzon.
The 5th class municipality in the province of Mountain Province
Facts about Sagada:
Sagada is a 5th class municipality in the province of Mountain Province, Philippines. According to the latest census,it has a population of 10,930 people in 2,158 households.
It is located 275 km. north of Manila, 140 km. from Baguio, and it is adjacent to Bontoc, the provincial capital.
Sagada is famous for its “hanging coffins”. This is a traditional way of burying people that is still utilized.
Popular activities include trekking, exploring both caves and waterfalls, spelunking, bonfires, picnics, rappelling, visiting historical sites, nature hikes, and participating in tribal celebrations.
Enchanting scenery of Sagada
We decided to take the tour package to take our summer getaway in a higher level of adventure. After we saw the itinerary, we couldn’t help but to be amazed and be more excited. It was full-packed from day one up the last day.
Ipod: Fully-charged; camera: fully-charged; water container: full. Ready for long hours of road trip.
Our group left Alabang at around nine in the evening after we talked to the trip coordinator and made sure that the vehicle was fine. The first few hours were smooth and all right, we’re all in the midst of thinking what to see and experience in that well-reviewed Sagada.
We chatted, threw jokes to each one of us and then slept when we got tired of laughing. Some of us stayed awake.
Banawe Rice Terraces up close and personal
We took the Bulacan route instead of taking the expressway. On our way to Sagada, we passed through series of mountains which was a good subject for photography. Though I am used to seeing those (because I grew up going back and forth to my mom’s native place Abra), I still enjoyed the sceneries with my friends, took a lot of pictures and made lots of crazy memories.
We reached our transient house after approximately 20-hour drive. Though were a bit disappointed, we still looked on a brighter side, were safe and no one got harmed.
Our Itinerary and the epic three days
With what happened, we weren’t able to follow the schedule that was given to us but fortunately we found a remedy to be able to have/do everything in the list of activities. A little adjustment and modification and we’re on the right track again.
Here’s a copy of our supposed itinerary.
2000 Departure from Manila
0600 ETA Sagada.
0700 Breakfast at Sagada town proper
0800 St. Mary’s church, Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins, Sagada Weaving
1100 Check in at hotel; freshen up
1400 Caving adventure
2000 Return to hotel. Rest
0700 Breakfast. Buy packed lunch for the trek
0830 Trek Aguid Rice Terraces. Swimming at Bomod-ok Falls (aka Big Falls)
1200 Picnic lunch at the falls. Free time
1300 Return to Sagada proper. Visit the Ganduyan museum.
1400 Free time (souvenir hunting,, food tripping)
2000 Return to hotel. Rest
0500 Sunrise at kiltepan view deck
0830 Departure to Banaue. Check out from the hotel.
0900 Photo stop at Bontoc Rice Terraces
1100 Photo stop at Banaue Rice Terraces
1200 Lunch at Nueva Vizcaya
1300 Departure to Manila
2200 ETA Manila.
After we had lunch in Banawe proper and witnessed their amazing rice terraces (though it’s not as good as those seen in many postcards), we visited the Sagada weaving and shop. We saw the weaving process using a structure made out of wood.
Our co-adventurer trying out the weaving equipment
Being resourceful and creative was seen in the way they produced every cloth that was then turned into some ethnic bags, purses and clothes. And it took (i’m sure) a lot of patience to finish a yard of weave cloth, not that easy and definitely time-consuming. All praise to our native weavers!
–The feeling is exquisite; it was like as if I reached the clear blue sky while experiencing the scorching heat of the sun and a mild cold breeze brought by mountains and pine trees around, perfect combination.–
Next stop, the Echo valley. We took a 20-minute hike to get into the site. You might think of crazy things when you are about to go to the area. Why? Because you will be passing into a small cemetery with some huge cows at the middle of it and there’s no way you can avoid it. I think the tradition says that while passing through a cemetery you should at least say a prayer to those dead people, that’s what I did.
The scariest part of the route going to the valley, scary!!
On our way down, our guide told us to shout at the top of our lungs. We heard clear echoes of our voices that made us amazed. We realized that the site’s name was nothing but the literal meaning of what can be very prominent in the place, Echo valley because of the clear and loud echoes it can produce.
Down in the area, we found some coffins hanged in a big rock (or maybe a small part of the mountain). During that time, our guide warned us about the sacredness of those coffins and, traditionally they (the coffins) demand enough courtesy from those people who are just visiting the area.
Sagada’s hanging coffin, i remembered my teachers 🙂
“Those rich and prominent people during the old times where the only people who can be hanged with their coffins. They are given reverence through offerings, like those you are seeing right now, chairs, cloth, etc.” said Tig-aw, our native tour guide.
After the Echo valley trek, we went back to our house to prepare some food for dinner. Day one was over.
Second day, rise and shine!
Our second day was marked with a lot of intense adventures: trekking, hiking, rock climbing, spelunking (caving) and (super) cold water falls.
AKA ‘The big falls’
We went first to the Bomod-ok falls or the Big falls to take a bath. It took us two hours to reach the falls area- a two-hour trek in Aquid rice terraces.
On our way down to the falls, we saw big land areas that were turned into a rice fields. It was like staircases holding millions of golden grains that were arranged perfectly in a linear form. That could be a great place for those who want to achieve serenity even just for a while. The feeling is exquisite; it was like as if I reached the clear blue sky while experiencing the scorching heat of the sun and a mild cold breeze brought by mountains and pine trees around, perfect combination.
The golden grains of Sagada
It was a long walk and it really tried my stamina, but at the end of it was a fascinating scene that I never saw before, the big falls. It was fulfilling.
The falls was as high as the building that can be seen in the metropolis. Surrounded with shrubs and rocks, the place was astonishing. The water from the falls was so cold and clear.
The rocks that surround the falls were another thing that we enjoyed. We climbed up the rock walls (though it’s a bit dangerous) to explore the other side of it. It was beautiful. Rocks are arranged as if it was man-made, plants of different kinds covered lots of its surface and a pond was like made for those creatures that couldn’t distracted, everything was at peace.
We went up (to our vehicle) after we ate our lunch beside the falls. It was another two hours of epic climb and for me, going up was more exhausting than going down.
After that tiring trek and climb, we finally reach the highest point of the trip, the highlight, the climax.
Our trip’s climax- Lumiang cave’s entrance
If you are to read the reviews in the internet, you will be seeing a lot about the caves of Sagada. Well, it’s no different with the other caves that we can find in other places; there are rock formations, bat caves and lots of bat poops (unfortunately). I think the best part of the Sagada caving adventure that made it outstanding among the others was the way the tour inside was executed by the guides, especially ours.
Rules were strictly monitored to avoid accidents. The formations inside were creatively and wittingly presented. We were helped all throughout the caving adventure and some of us were even carried at some point inside the cave. They even took our pictures for us not to be harmed.
Sumaging cave adventure
We took the biggest cave which they called Sumaging cave instead of taking the three-hour cave connection or the Lumiang cave. We wanted to try first the easiest one before going to a more complicated route.
Sumaging is home to thousands of bats. Closer to the cave opening, we came upon the already familiar bat-dung section that draped the rocky cave-scape. While navigating, you’ll be introduced to its slippery texture and ammonia-like odor. It’s all part of the Sumaging experience.
Inside the cave we encountered underground streams and natural pools. The stalactite (from the ceiling) and the stalagmite (growing from the floor) formations made us imagine that we are walking inside a primitive palace. Some of the formations are golden and some are silvery.
The human ladder- it’s different!
The first parts were slippery however, when we reach the middle part of the cave where the underground stream and natural pools were located, the surface became more ideal for walking. The adventure intensely went up when we finally went through a human ladder (your personal tour guides) and after we passed through some narrow areas of the cave that need some rope to be able to go down or up.
We were able to finish the cave adventure, though one of us wasn’t able to go down because of phobia of heights.
The caving adventure actually concluded our Sagada trip. After all the activities that we did, we all want to scream: “We survived Sagada!!!!”
The last day, road trip- again!
The third and last day became like a town tour and souvenir hunting time. We went to the highest point at Kiltepan view deck and in Baguio’s Strawberry farm (bonus for us!). It was the best way to end that three-day trip.
They survived Sagada!!!!
This year’s summer trip was really the best and memorable. Now, I can’t wait for another grand vacation to discover and explore the hidden treasures of our country.
Enjoy and live life to the fullest!
Want to see more of Sagada? click here
Source: Sagada facts
Star Alcorcon, Laurence Marbella, Alex Santillan