I was never a lover of neither the tall peaks nor the dense forests and coming to Sagada was just a part of the work that I do. The trip didn’t get me excited at all. But during the six to seven hour “very bumpy” ride, I realized that the mountains can make me feel very small and alone. It elicited a feeling of deep melancholy and silence despite the noise of rugged terrain.
Sagada is one of the towns of Mountain Province in the Cordillera Region of the Northern Philippines. It’s made only of two natural elements: rocks and pine trees in a very cool setting. It’s a better alternative to Baguio City during vacation time. It’s nature at its finest with the hanging coffins, rice terraces, waterfalls and caves. March to May are the perfect months to trek the place.
1. Via Baguio City. A 6-7 hour zigzag bus ride with the view of Benguet countryside and Chico River.
2. Via Banaue. A bumpy jeepney ride with the view of the Banaue Rice Terraces and Bontoc. Head and body shake to the max with free painful buttocks to complete the trip.
Where to Stay
Lodging houses and pension homes for as low as Php 70.00 a night. These are comfy cottages with spectacular panorama. The Mapiya-aw Pension House, Green House and St. Joseph Rest house are the famous places to stay.
Places to Visit
1. Bontoc – experience the real Spartan town-living, the Igorot-way
2. Kiltepan Rice Terraces – its walls are filled with small rocks making it different from the Banaue’s compacted soil
3. Sumaging Cave – “Big Cave “ fascinating chambers and rock formations dubbed as “Rice Granary”, “Cauliflower”. These are burial grounds for the locals.
4. Echo Valley “hanging coffins” – usually in groups, some neatly piled others randomly stacked all found in places impossible to reach.
* Never go there from June to November – landslide months.
* Bring your ukay-ukay thermal suit – it could be bitingly cold.
* Wear comfy pants while trekking – slippery most of the time.
* Pickled veggies at St. Joseph & homemade yoghurt of Shamrock II – A Must
* Shorts will give wind burn.
* Keep a lip balm handy.
* There’s a 9pm curfew!
* Always ask permission when taking a photo of a particular person.
* Never play with the bones on the burial sites. Respect it. My friends’ jeep broke down after doing so. Believe it or not.
* Respect the holiday “Obaya” wherein one is not allowed to go to particular places. Otherwise something untoward will befall you. Respect for its traditions will be returned back.
Sagada is full of traditions and deeply rooted values. It’s a part of the mystery, allure and enchantment of the place. With its elevated location and temperate climate one can feel very close to our Maker and farther from the worldly urban living. Great place to introspect and commune with nature. A place where one can hear the whisper of the trees as the chilly wind blows …
Written: October 2002