This is my niece's maiden attempt to go solo. I could have joined her but family matters and traditions got in the way. Sagada has always been in my bucket list; but no worries. When I do go, Sarah, my niece, would be my tour guide.
This is her story.
Late Evening Departure for Sagada
Sarah took the 9 pm bus for Bontoc via Banaue. Many advised about the ice-cold airconditioning in Manila-Banaue buses, but Sarah claims this was not the case. Not with the bus she took. It was a pleasant ride and the journey gained for her quite a number of travel buddies. In all, they formed a group of 10 or so. Arriving in Banaue at 6am, she and her new friends spent the next hour stretching their limbs and enjoying a breakfast of fried garlic rice, egg and local sausages called "longganizas" or beef jerkies called "tapas" in a place called People’s Lodge.
They then took a jeepney ride to Sagada
. That is all of 13 hours for a nearly 400 kilometer-journey. The chill was getting to them around this time, and those who earlier braved sitting "topload" (on the roof
of the jeepney) had to concede defeat after only 10 minutes. But despair they did not, what with the breathtaking stopovers at Banaue Rice Terraces Viewpoint and Mt. Polis Bayo Rice Terraces Viewpoint.
And those were just teasers!
Nestled 5,000 feet above sea level, this Mountain Province destination has attracted many brave souls. Sarah and her new friends , all first-time Sagada visitors, didn't waste time exploring this mountain destination. They had a whole day of cave exploration to do.
A Quick Change of Clothes, Then Some Spelunking
By 10 am, Sarah's group reached Sagada and quickly checked in at George Guesthouse
for a change of clothes. Though still full from the heavy breakfast, they couldn't pass up the lunch served at Kimchi Restaurant.
After lunch, they met up with their local guides at the Town Center headed by Manong Frank nicknamed “Akla”.
By 1 pm, they were all ready for their first cave: Lumiang Cave or Burial Cave.
This took just one hour. Next was Sumaguing Cave.
I am not sure I would have the same courage. In fact, I wasn't sure Sarah would have the spunk to do
Sumaguing Caves. But as they say in the travel books, you have not been to Sagada if you didn't explore Sumaguing Caves
. Sarah broke her sandals here while on a descent trail over moist and mud laden rocks. No chance to be a camwhore here as she was focused on having firm grips on rocks covered with bat droppings while battling the cold at 11-16 celsius. Distance of 750 meters and a depth of over 100 meters, the tour was ably managed by this English-speaking "Manong" (older brother in local dialect) who was kind enough to lend a pair of slippers to my niece. If you are wondering why these local folks speak fluent English, it is because American missionaries reached the far corners of this mountain region to teach these natives.
After 3 hours, which seemed like almost a lifetime for Sarah, the tour ended with this group of young travelers feeling accomplished and "wasted". But not wasted enough not to enjoy the rest of the day. Back at George Guest House by 6pm, they had some energy left to take a shower and then walk from the guesthouse to explore the town. Sure enough, they found
Lemon Pie House and tried the lemon and blueberry pies. The friendly owner of the pastry shop also offered them some freshly-picked , very sweet cherry tomatoes. You can say dessert came first before the dinner back at Kimchi Restaurant, but who's observing rules high up here? Perked up by dessert and dinner, the same group stayed till nearly midnight at the Kimchi Bar to jam with the acoustic singers. And this is only the first day/night!
Bomod-Ok Waterfalls and Kiltepan Peak
Wake up call at 5:30 am to witness sunrise at Kiltepan Rice Terraces. Now, who says they are sleep-starved? At Kiltepan
, Sagada's 2,000 year old rice terraces beckon. This is easily the highlight of the trip, yet the adventures offered by Sumaguing Caves and the punishing trek to Bomod-ok Falls compete for attention. Let the photos speak for themselves. You decide.
If I thought spelunking in the Sumaguing Caves was tough, Sarah claims the trek to Bomod-Ok Waterfalls
is another killer. The trek took all of 4-5 hours, passing rice paddies along the way. At the base of the waterfalls waits icy waters for those brave souls. Sarah passed up the chance.
So did many of her travel buddies. But not without Sarah taking some candid photos of 3 young men who were egging each other to take the first plunge. A simple game of chance, and the "winning" first-timer or first-plunger lets out a nervous guffaw.
Before the sun set, there was time enough to visit the Sagada Weaving Center.
This is where one can shop for souvenirs and "pasalubongs" or gifts. Soon after, they visited Bana’s Café
to try macaroons with civet cat poop coffee , locally known as "Alamid".
This is the equivalent of Indonesian Kopi Luwak, though way cheaper.
Since this was the last night for this new group of travel buddies, they had their drinking around the bonfire way until midnight. Oh the energy of these young men and women! The next day, it was time to visit the Sagada Church Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins, Sagada Pottery, Lake Danum.
The traveling group departed soon after lunch for Banaue, where they boarded their Manila-bound bus. Quite a weekend for this troopers!
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