A Tricycle Named Dessert Deuler
The tricycle is the major form of transport in Bontoc, Mountain Province. As the name of the province suggests, the area is mountainous and definitely is not a barren dessert wasteland. Most jeepney and tricycle owners in the Philippines name their automobiles after saints and countries where their relatives reside (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Canada, USA)
Sagada is one of the best kept secrets of northern Philippines. Nestled in the Mountain Province where winding dirt roads and lush forests have protected it from the commercialism ever so evident in Manila and it's neighboring provinces. Not a McDonald's outlet or Starbucks is in sight, which is quite refreshing for once. This is not to say though that Sagada is primitive and backward! The natives of Sagada speak good conversational English and I was quite surprised at the number of international tourists. During our brief two day stay in Sagada, we met and exchanged stories with British nationals, Americans, Koreans and Europeans. I don't know if it's the spirit of this enchanting town, but everyone was just warm and accommodating. I guess the relative smallness of the Sagada fostered this type of tight-knit community feeling.
Food here is clean, cheap, organic and abundant. The prices are standardized (PhP 100 per meal) for all restaurants and each serving of rice is good for two people. Good food places we tried are Alfredo's, Masferre's and the Yoghurt House.
We stayed at the Sagada Guest House where we shared a common bathroom. It is only PhP 200/person/night but the bathroom
A view of the Rice Terraces from the Jeepney
We took a jeepney ride from Bontoc to Sagada. The 30-45 minute ride costs PhP 35 (USD 1 = PhP 45). Remember to hold on tight! The jeepney ride is a bumpy one because of the rough dirt roads. And although you may get a preview of the crisp and cool air of Sagada, you may also be taking in some of the floating road dust or worse, the exhaust of another vehicle right in front of you.
is typical of public toilets in the Philippines: it is smelly, has no tissue paper and has no warm running water. If you want better accommodations, reserve way in advance in St. Joseph's Inn. It is more expensive but I guess you get what you pay for.
Exploring Sagada is best done with a travel guide. They are all trained by experienced trekkers and mountaineers and know the terrain like the back of their hand. For the cave connection, where we went through Lumiang and Sumaging cave, we spent PhP 400 each. For the sight seeing of Eco Valley where the hanging coffins are, the trek to the small water falls at Bokkong and the Underground River, we spent PhP 300 each. The Tourism Office makes it a point that there is a good ratio of trekkers to tour guides (usually 2:1 for caving and 4:1 for sight seeing) for safety reasons. And do bring cash and small bills. There are no ATMs or credit cards in the area.
One more tip: bring clothes that dry quickly like gym clothes and swim suits. Nothing is worse than getting the sniffles the next day because of being drenched in
Kildapawan Rice Terraces
Breath taking view from the jogging and mountain bike trail near Rock Inn. Waking up at 5 AM to see the sun through the clouds was well worth it.
wet clothes while in cold weather. Whether you'll be going to the water falls, the underground river or even inside the two caves, I assure you, you will get wet! Also packing muddy clothes may be quite a hassle so you may also opt to have your clothes laundered by the locals as well.
(US Dollar 1 = Philippine Peso 45)
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