Discovering Sagada: A Yuppies Diary
'With a good pair of binoculars, hanging
coffins can be seen amidst rock structures of the opposite mountain'.
ROAD TO SAGADA
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 didnt 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. Marys 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 towns 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
A trail from the cemetery leads to a scenic view of the mountainsides
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 cant 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
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. Its 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
Dont 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 ones fingers in the water automatically
register a temperature too cold for weary bodies to swim in. But as one
braves the waters 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 ones 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 Inns
fried chicken and mixed vegetables for lunch, and the beautiful landscape
of Sagadas 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 friends was seven or eight.
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
We didnt know what to think. A passenger immediately went down to
check on the poor animal. It fell onto a rice terrace. We didnt
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 couldnt 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
wed be walking on a bed of soft grass and pine needles. Sometimes,
wed 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 Sagadas 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 ones 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 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 doesnt 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
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 its just impossible to resist the mini-waterfall
at the King and Queens 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 ones
body in one of natures 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
thats another story.
My trip to Sagada was just beautiful. I couldnt 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.
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