On Choosing Sagada as a Destination
Where do broken hearts go? Where do you find yourself when you are lost? I do not understand why my fellow travelers would instantly say Sagada. For some reason, I only found myself in the middle of trekking with sore muscles and exhausted legs. Soul-searching? Yeah, I felt my soul partly leaving my body out of fatigue. LOL. I am an ocean advocate and a self-proclaimed mermaid. But for the love of the Philippines, I chose to go North to go trekking and explore up there. I find mountaineering and trekking intimidating. It’s not for everyone. Though, it’s not my first time to trek, speaking by experience, I still find it quite overwhelming. It was an after-storm during the time we went up. I firmly consider that I would be able to help the locals of Sagada to rise up again after they were hardly hit by the typhoon through tourism. So, that was my deciding point. We’re going up to Mountain Province. Some roads were still under repair and undergoing clearing operations. But Dear Bobbie, don’t worry. THE LORD IS WITH US. I kept telling myself. Now this is the part where my love-hate relationship with Sagada begins.
The “Dislike” Part First before the Good Ones
I AM NOT A BIG FAN OF SUPER COLD SEASON. Being the researcher that I am, I know that it is chilly there. I have experienced snow in Australia and Korea, but it’s a different kind of “cold” up there. The moment I stepped out of the van, I started sneezing like a wet cat. I kept asking myself, do I lack a layer of clothing on me? Did I not prepare enough? The sudden change of climate made me literally sick. I wasn’t so sure if I under-estimated the weather.
IT’S A VERY LONG AND TEDIOUS TRAVERSE. Our group of 7 vans left Manila at 9:00 PM. We arrived at the Banaue Arch (our first stop) at about 8:00 AM. That was 11 hours of tiresome land-travel. This is not advisable if you tend to be car-sick during long travels.
LANDSLIDES AND ROUGH ROADS. There was a moment when our van passed by a recent land slide by the side of the road. A small rock fell on the van’s roof and I knew it came from some higher ground. Though roads in the North are fairly smoother than roads in the South, it becomes a different story once you enter CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region). Roads are long and winding, and muddy, and rocky, and… God knows what.
YOU HAVE TO BE FIT FOR TREKKING. Which I am definitely not. I spent my days working, and eating, and reviewing restaurants before my trip. With zero exercise and zero sleep, yeah, I braved Sagada trekking. If you plan on going to Sagada to trek, be prepared!
ONLY 1 ATM IN THE AREA. What was I thinking? This is Mountain Province. How could you possibly bring the machines with so much efficiency? It’s a struggle for vans and buses. What more trucks to bring the machines up? Thus, the expensive bank charge. Make sure to bring sufficient cash. Next ATM is about 4 hours away by van (LOL. Kidding! But half-meant.)
PUVs ARE VERY LIMITED TO NONE. During our first day, I slept in the room throughout the day. I was not feeling well and it felt like my head’s gonna explode. I even missed spelunking. So when I woke up at around 6:00 PM, I was definitely hungry. We went out to look for a place to dine in. Only to realize that there were no tricycles or even jeep around the place. No public utility vehicle at all, except for buses bound to Manila. You literally have to walk to your destination (no matter how near or far).
What I Absolutely Loved (Let’s not make it sound like I’m Ranting. LOL.)
THE SCENERY. We started traveling at night so all I can see throughout the window was darkness and the headlights from the vehicles that we come across. But, it was quite a view when morning came, as the lush greenery of Mountain Province welcomed us through the bumpy ride.
THE CULTURE. We got the chance to hear about the province’s culture during a talk inside Ganduyan Museum. Learning about how the province grew from a laid-back primitive land to a tourism spot is such an exceptional experience.
EVERY SPOT IS WORTH IT. Trekking to the beautiful Bomod-Ok Falls takes about 2 and a half hours from main jump-off point and about 2 hours back. Also, it will take you about 45 minutes of daunting trek to the Hanging Coffins from the Eco Valley Entrance. It was muddy, slippery, tiring, and life-threatening, but each spot was worth the sweat.
DINING IS AN ACTIVITY ITSELF. If you are into peace and serenity, then Sagada is the place for you. Though restaurants are not strategically located beside each other, each dining place has its own specialty. Check out Log Cabin for posh Western Cuisine (review on this on a separate post). Also try Masferre for pastries and breads and the famous Yoghurt House to try Sagada’s finest desserts and authentic Yoghurt. Lemon Pie House is also a pride of Sagada together with Sagada Brew. But then again, dining is always better with good company. Saying hi to all the new friends we’ve met during this trip.
IT WILL TEACH YOU AN EXTREME LESSON ON PATIENCE. Whether it’s the long ride, or the tiresome treks, or the freezing water pouring from your shower, you have to endure. Good things don’t come easily. It takes time to achieve what’s worthy. Amazing things happen to those who are patient. Keep calm and carry on.
THE FRIENDLY PEOPLE. For I do believe that the very pride of a destination is its own people. It’s the kind of place where you still feel secure though you are already lost. It’s not that scary to ask for directions when in Sagada.
TOP-LOADING SAGADA STYLE. It was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience to be riding on top of a jeepney’s roof while traveling from the mountains to downtown. It’s nothing for the adrenaline junkies who went to Sagada for a lesser strenuous trek. But for a person of the sea such as myself, IT WAS ACTION.
Day 0 – 9:00 AM Leave Manila, Mc Donald’s Centris
Day 1: Rice Terraces and Spelunking
- 8:00 AM Banaue Arch Arrival
- 9:00 AM Breakfast at Banaue
- 9:30 AM Banaue Rice Terraces View Point
- 10:00 AM Arrival at Clairence Inn
- 11:30 – 12:00 NN Lunch
- 1:30 PM to 5:30 PM Sumaguing Cave Spelunking
- 7:00 PM Dinner at Yoghurt House
Day 2: Sagada Trek
- 7:00 AM Breakfast at Clairence Inn
- 8:00 AM Pick-Up from Hotel to Jump-Off Trail to Bomod-Ok
- 8:30 AM Start of Trek to Bomod-Ok
- 11:00 AM Bomod-Ok Falls (30 minutes Swim, if you dare.)
- 11:30 AM Trek back to Jump-Off
- 1:30 PM Late Lunch (Chicken Inasal, Sagada Style)
- 2:00 PM Sagada Weaving
- 3:00 PM Eco Valley, Trek to Hanging Coffins
- 3:45 Hanging Coffins
- 5:00 Back at Eco Valley Entrance
- 6:00 PM Ganduyan Museum (History of Sagada)
- 7:00 PM Pasalubong Center
- 8:00 PM Dinner at Log Cabin
Day 3: Last Day
- 4:00 AM Pick up to Kiltepan
- 5:45 AM Mt. Kiltepan Peak, Sunrise Watching
- 7:00 AM Top-Loading downtown
- 8:00 AM Breakfast at Clairence
- 9:00 AM Free Time
- 10:00 AM Orange Picking
- 11:00 AM Travel Back to La Trinidad
- 1:30 PM Benguet- Philippine Highway Highest Point
- 3:30 PM Arrival at La Trinidad Strawberry Farm
- 5:00-6:30 PM Stop-Over, Super Late Lunch and Early Dinner at La Trinidad
- 7:00 PM Travel down to Manila
- 11:30 PM Arrival at Manila
Some Tips For Your Trip To Sagada:
- Do not under estimate the chilly climate. Sagada doesn’t care if you’ve gone through snow in the Alps. I tell you, it’s a different kind of “cold”.
- It’s best to go on Summer Season. We went up November so hello rainy downpours. Hello slippery trails.
- Bring your trekking shoes/sandals. (PLEASE DO NOT WEAR FLIPFLOPS ON TREKS TO AVOID INJURIES.)
- Buff-up before your trip. (Which I did not do and I sincerely regret. When in Sagada, it’s leg-day errday.)
- Bring a neck-pillow to make you comfortable during the long land-travel.
- Bring cup noodles and instant coffee. These stuff are expensive in Sagada. Some accommodations give hot water for free.
- Book your accommodation downtown. Again, there are no public utility vehicles and some accommodations are really far from town. To maximize your time and stay, you can stroll downtown during free time.
- Do not bring unnecessary items when spelunking and trekking. Make yourself as light as possible.
- Try to sleep when you can. Sagada Activities are no joke! You need as much energy as possible.
- ENJOY YOUR ADVENTURE. WAG MAG-REKLAMO! GINUSTO MO YAN!
I urge you to experience Sagada
It may be a love-hate relationship between me and Mountain Province, but at the end of the day, I will still choose to travel to Sagada. It’s not just a destination, it’s an experience.
If you want to visit Sagada please do let me know.
Check-out my travel video during my trip to Sagada here.