Sagada, Mountain Province: Choose Your Own Adventure
The rugged landscapes of Cordillera highlands consist of colossal peaks that soar passed clouds and mists and fog, and countless clusters of rice fields hand-carved on slopes. The imposing geography can easily strike awe. Many were struck deep – including me. Its uncanny charm brings me back, once or twice or thrice a year, to different destinations found on this mountainous region. This year, I found myself back on Cordillera’s terrifyingly scenic highway headed toward a town renowned among travelers, local and foreign alike. No further introductions required – this is Sagada, Mountain Province.
Sagada sits on a craggy valley, cloaked in a verdant blanket of tall pine trees with jagged limestone cliffs piercing through lush foliage. Here, the earth breathes a cool and crisp mountain breeze that drop to freezing temperatures during nights and at times, even during days. Nevertheless, the nippy climate can’t stop travelers from wandering the town proper’s narrow road, exploring shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes. A local tourism office and tour guide station can also be found within the area. Visit the office, register, learn, and choose activities that suits your appetite for adventure.
Hanging Coffins of Echo Valley
The ancient Igorot believed that burying the departed six feet underground makes reaching their ancestors in heaven six feet harder. Instead, they fixed the coffin, made from a single hollowed-out log, on a solid rock face six feet (and way higher) above ground. The bizarre burial method is actually more practical – in a spiritual way. Though rarely practiced nowadays, the hanging coffins can still be found at Echo Valley, an easy 20-30 minute walk from the town proper, pass the Episcopalian church of St. Mary The Virgin and Sagada’s modern-day cemetery.
Several waterfalls can be found in Sagada but Bomod-ok Falls is certainly the biggest of them all. Bomod-ok Falls, or Big Falls, sends icy waters gushing down from a staggering height of 200 feet, and creates a thunderous roar resonating amid the massive gorge. Going here can be quite challenging (especially the return hike) yet Bomod-Ok Falls is one of the most visited attractions in Sagada.
Lumiang-Sumaguing Cave Connection
If you’re looking for an even greater challenge, the intense 4-hour Lumiang-Sumaguing Cave Connection would fit you just right. Lumiang Cave, a huge cavern used as a sacred burial site, serves as the entry point while the route ends Sumaguing Cave or the big cave. In between these caverns lies a series of obstacles, such as narrow openings, rappelling and climbing, and water crossings to name a few. But don’t let these intimidate you. You’ll be surprised when you stand on the opposite end realizing the feat accomplished.
This was my first time in Sagada.The wide array of adventures this quaint town can offer earned it local and international reputation as one of the top vacation destinations in the Philippines. Sagada can cater to any type of travelers. Whether you’re a thrill-seeking adventurer who wants to push beyond personal limits, or a laid back type of traveler who simply love sightseeing or maybe the curious type who’d love to engage themselves in local scene, learn the culture and traditions – there’s always something for everybody. In Sagada, you define your own adventure.
1. There are two ways to commute to Sagada from Manila. First, the Baguio route
Baguio Route: Take a bus bound for Baguio (Victory, Genesis, Viron, Dagupan, etc.) which takes around 5-6 hours travel time and costs around P500.00 on an average depending on the bus liner. From Baguio, go to Dangwa Terminal and take a GL Bus bound for Sagada which takes another 6 hours and costs around P250.00.
Banaue Route: Take a bus bound for Banaue via Ohayami Trans which leaves Sampaloc Terminal around 9PM daily. Travel time takes 8-9 hours and costs around P450.00. From Banaue, there are vans that go directly to Sagada which costs somewhere around P250.00-P300.00, or you could take the jeepney which costs P150.00 (I’m not sure about the jeepney if it goes directly to Sagada or Bontoc). Travel time is 3 hours.
I usually take the Banaue Route going up because I never get tired of seeing Banaue Rice Terraces, and when I go back to Manila, I take the Baguio route because I love the scenic route of Halsema Highway. Plus, taking the Baguio route provides me numerous options of buses coming from Baguio City.
2. Where To Stay in Sagada: I visited Sagada twice and stayed in two different lodges. George Guest House (0918 548 04 06 or 0920 948 31 33), the annex building, is a bit further down the road but more quiet and has a nice view. They have ample parking space, wifi, and hot & cold shower (I don’t really mind having hot & cold bath but in Sagada, I think it’s a necessity). Residential Lodge (0919 672 87 44), on the other hand, is within proximity of restaurants, cafes, bars, souvenir shops, etc. They also have hot & cold shower, wifi, and best of all, there’s free coffee. Both charges P250.00/person per night
3. There are many restaurants and cafes and bars in Sagada. Food or meals costs P150.00 on an average, but it’s definitely a hefty serving. Some lodges also provide cooking services, or may permit you to cook your own food.
4. Visitors are required to register at the municipal hall. You could also ask for a map which is free. Some souvenir shops sell it for P20.00 also.
5. Attractions listed in this post are only the few offered by Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SAGGAS). Check out their website for more destinations, activities, services offered, and rates.
6. Some activities such as spelunking require guides, while others like echo valley and hanging coffins, you can do it on your own.
7. A 10:00 PM curfew is observed.
8 For an easy and hassle-free trip to Sagada, visit Biyahe Lokal on Facebook or contact Yani 09063623854 for further inquiries.
9. More about Mountain Province.
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12. Be safe and happy travels.