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I first set foot on Sagada about 4 years ago, had so much fun and adventure then that I vowed to visit the place again. The opportunity came during the long December holidays; it was more of a sudden decision really, of packing your bags, leaving your thoughts and hopping on the bus the day after Christmas.
Sagada, known as Philippines’ shangri-la, is a rusty idyllic town near Bontoc, the provincial capital of Mountain Province in the Cordilleras. Located some 275Km North of Manila and about 140Km from Baguio City, it is a haven for adventurers. Famous for it’s centuries old hanging coffins and burial caves, underground river and water falls, majestic sunrise and star-studded night skies, aromatic coffee Arabica and verdant rice terraces. At 1500m above sea level, it has cool breezy weather throughout the year. Dry season starts usually from December to May and wet season from June to November.
Even after 4 years, little has change in Sagada. The whole place seems to be trapped in a time-warp with the locals keeping to their traditional way of life. The only notable transformations are the numerous inns and lodgings converted from residential homes, upgraded rest houses catering to more tourists with better amenities, and more dogs on the streets. Relatively crime-free and peaceful, with residents familiar with one another, only dogs are employed for house security; shifting from pet dogs in the morning to guard dogs at night.
We stayed for 3 days in Sagada, exploring and revisiting some of its major attractions. The first two days was mostly trekking; started from the limestone cliffs of ‘Echo Valley’, up Cavalry Hills, down the hanging coffins with the most recent burial in May 2008, passed the mouth of the underground river, felt the misty falls of Bumod-ok and Bokong, beheld the spectacular fog-covered mountains atop Kiltepan Viewpoint during sunrise, tranquil Lake Danum, and flourishing rice terraces. We also witnessed two wedding celebrations wherein family members and guest toke turns dancing to traditional gong music from dawn to late evening.
Our last day saw the arrival of President Arroyo and the First Family in the morning. Flew in from Baguio, the President visited Echo Valley, marveled at the hanging coffins, trekked down Lumiang burial cave and had lunch at Rock Inn with local officials. In the afternoon, our group did the “cave connection”, easily the highlight of the tour, this entails rappelling down Lumiang cave, transverse limestone chambers and coming out of Sumaging cave; an almost 5 hours of exhilarating adventure!
As most of Sagada’s attractions are reachable only by trekking and climbing, it helps to have a healthy body and happy dispositions. Good trekking shoes are a must as well as warm protective clothing. Tourists usually take home Arabica coffee beans, fresh mountain tea leaves, weaved products & shirts, and our recently discovered lemon pie.
Travels to Sagada are generally by bus. Cable Tours located near St. Luke’s hospital in Quezon City has several trips a week. It leaves Manila around 8PM and arrives in Bontoc the next day with approximate travel time of 12 hours. One can also opt to go via Baguio, taking the scenic route of the Cordillera Mountains in a 6 hour bus ride.
All VRs taken on December 27-29, 2008. Thanks to Leia of www.travelfactor.org as our facilitator and the many new people I’ve met throughout this trip. The author can be reached at: