About Us

Contact Us





First Chapters
September Issue
October Issue
November Issue
December Issue

Discovering Sagada: A Yuppie’s Diary
'With a good pair of binoculars, hanging coffins can be seen amidst rock structures of the opposite mountain'.

The trip begins in a crowded bus station in Cubao, EDSA.
There are two routes to reach Sagada. The traveler can either take a bus going to Banaue and from there, take two more jeepney rides or; go to Baguio City first, and then transfer to a smaller coach heading for Sagada.
Since it was the holiday season, and if people from the City were not in Boracay, they were probably on their way to the northern part of the Philippines. Thus, bus reservations for going to Banaue were difficult. We didn’t have a choice but to go to Baguio City first. This means being on the road for four more hours. It takes at least fourteen hours to reach Sagada by this route.

Sagada was worth the long, grueling road trip. Aptly called the Shangri-La of the Philippines, the town was beyond amazing, full of irresistible charm

The town proper itself is small. The traveler can probably explore it in less than three hours. The Municipal Hall sits at the center of the town, while the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church stands proudly adjacent to it. Hostels, restaurants and other tourist-oriented establishments surround both major landmarks. A short walk from the foot of the Church will lead the traveler to the town’s cemetery. What is unusual about the cemetery is the fresh pile of burnt wood found at almost every tomb. Later on, a local informed us that burning wood is a substitute to using candles. Wax products were not commercially sold only until a few years back.

A trail from the cemetery leads to a scenic view of the mountainside’s lush forest. With a good pair of binoculars, hanging coffins can be seen amidst rock structures of the opposite mountain.
It is sad to note that in spite of the historical and cultural values of these hanging coffins, tourists have been vandalizing these ancient wood containers. On the surface of nature-preserved coffins are names of irresponsible tourists written in cheap and bold paint.
We were also disappointed to find out that tourists can’t still visit the Crystal Cave. Its closure is due to numerous looting incidents reported to the local government. This is the dark and ugly reality of tourism now.

By the time we finish worming our way back to the town proper, we were famished with the unexpected calorie burn. Fortunately, restaurants offer a wide variety of food choices. It’s worthwhile to try all the restaurants. They serve hot, fresh and delicious meals. Meat portions are extraordinarily generous and vegetables are mountain fresh. Sagada is indeed a hungry man’s paradise.
Don’t miss the local mountain tea. Aside from warming cold and empty stomach, it replenishes both the body and spirit. Desserts, from crepes to yogurts, are topped with delicious and sweet fruit delights. These treats jolt and excite the traveler back to life.

Our second day was far more physically demanding. After almost two hours of walking across rice fields and indigenous communities, we finally reach the intimidating sight of Bumod-Ok waterfalls.
Loudly crashing against big, solid rocks is the cold and freezing water of the mountains of Sagada. Dipping one’s fingers in the water automatically register a temperature too cold for weary bodies to swim in. But as one braves the water’s frigidity, the waterfalls become less mysterious. The sharp, biting sensation of the freezing water awakes the senses. And the secrets of the mountains seep through one’s skin.

We had to walk back to the community clearing where jeepney drivers wait for the arrival of passengers to take back to the town proper. While waiting for other tourists to finish their trek, we had St. Joseph Inn’s fried chicken and mixed vegetables for lunch, and the beautiful landscape of Sagada’s rice terraces as backdrop.

After finishing our meal, we still had enough time to play basketball with locals. One thing we noticed, the locals are so sports-oriented. They have a huge open field for softball matches just beside the Municipal Hall, and improvised basketball rings are everywhere.

While others participated in the game, my companions and I had foot and back massage. The experience was relaxing. Of course, you have to get used to their unique technique of massaging. For the foot massage, the masseur used two tiny twigs as needles. The technique is similar to acupuncture. Pressure was applied to nerve points by pressing twigs deep into the sole of the foot. It was ticklish at first. But once you get used to the sensation, it was just awesome. The backrub was as fantastic. There are two extraordinary things about this experience, by the way. First, the customer only pays P5.00 for each massage. Second, the masseurs are mere kids. My masseur was probably ten years old, while my friend’s was seven or eight. Imagine that.

After our sumptuous meal and relaxing massage, we had to ride a jeepney again to take us to the Kiltepan viewpoint. Something totally memorable happened on our way. As the jeepney was building up speed, a carabao suddenly crossed the street. The driver slowed down. He kept on honking his horn in hope that the carabao would give way to the jeep. However, the carabao probably got scared with the noise. It ran very fast and fell off the high cliff.

We didn’t know what to think. A passenger immediately went down to check on the poor animal. It fell onto a rice terrace. We didn’t wait to find out if it survived the fall. Seeing the carabao falling had an unexplainable impact on me. It made me reflect on how short life could be sometimes. We couldn’t really tell until when we can take on the pressure of “noises” in our lives. Sometimes, these experiences strengthen us and we learn to carry on. But during unfortunate and depressing periods, we fall to unknown and fearful depths. Who would have thought this trip will also be spiritually enlightening for me? (But sadly not for the Carabao).

We were dropped off in the middle of the deep forest of Sagada. We walked (again!) for about an hour. The forest floor was spectacular. Sometimes we’d be walking on a bed of soft grass and pine needles. Sometimes, we’d be skipping from one rock to hard, days-old animal manure. I have never seen so many species of shrubs and plants. Picture how heightened my senses were: scent of citrus and mint, vision of endless greenery and sensation of dew touching my skin. It was therapeutic.
At that time, I thought nothing could possibly top the exhilarating walk in the forest, I was wrong.
The view at the Kilpetan Viewpoint was breathtaking. It offers a panorama of Sagada’s rice terraces, communities and mountain ranges. I felt like I was the king (or queen) of the universe. I had a strange feeling of empowerment. It was euphoric to trace back where we started. A moment such as this one just has a way of re-affirming one’s love and zest for life. To be a witness to such splendor, to have walked that far and make it to the top, it was an exhilarating moment.

As we make our way back to the town proper, a local wedding celebration was being held. A big banner announced the union of the couple. A long table holding gifts was placed in front of the house. Guests were sitting opposite this table. Men wearing traditional costume on top of casual clothes provided entertainment. The father of the bride was wearing a red handkerchief. He was leading other male others into the circular formation. They were either holding gongs or improvised drums (kitchen pots). Our guide informed us that the party would not be finished until the following morning. Everybody, locals and tourists alike, were invited to join in the celebration.

The walk from the Municipal Hall to the mouth of the cave took about forty minutes. We had to stopped in a local sari-sari store to rent kerosene light lamps. The entrance of the cave doesn’t really tell much of what to expect inside. Aside from a post explaining what to do and not to do inside, the cave looked dark and unimpressive. But wait till you get inside!

The cave is so beautiful. The walls are yellow due to its sulfuric properties. As you go farther from the mouth, the water also rises higher. The water is also very cold. But it’s just impossible to resist the mini-waterfall at the King and Queen’s curtains. There are also numerous mini-pool formations inside the cave. The deepest pool is about eight feet. There is just no way a tourist can pass such a special opportunity to soak one’s body in one of nature’s splendid miracles.

It was a long day. After ravenously finishing our dinner, and gulping local rice wine as if there was no tomorrow, we gratefully welcomed slumber.

The following morning, we had to wake up early to catch the jeep going to Bontoc. From Bontoc, we took another jeep for Banaue. From Banaue, we had to transfer to another jeep to see the Batad Rice Terraces. But that’s another story.

My trip to Sagada was just beautiful. I couldn’t think of a more fitting word to describe my three days of nature, culture, history and adventure. My trip was physically tiring, but it was mentally and emotionally enriching. It was a cathartic experience to be immersed in a world totally different from what we deal with in the big city.

As our Bontoc-bound jeep slowly move its way out of the town proper, I caught myself whispering a mantra: I will be back, Sagada, I will be back.

© Weng 2002

Weng is in Advertising and PR.graduating from the University of the Philippines with a BA in Communication Research. Right now, she is thinking of going back to working full time again, also planning to take an MA in International Studies by June.

< Back to Index
< Reply to this Article

© Hackwriters 2002