A Butt-Numbing Roadtrip to Sagada, Mountain Province

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November 29th 2012
Published: December 10th 2012
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Banaue Rice TerracesBanaue Rice TerracesBanaue Rice Terraces

Terraced rice paddies just off the road welcome you in Banaue, Ifugao (not Mountain) Province. From here, it's another 3-4 hours along zigzag roads to Sagada.
All of 12 hours on the road? I had 2 issues here. Reason enough why a local like moí never made the trip till now. The long drive is half a day. Bad for my back. And butt. No flights. No trains. There's the bus. We chose to go on a hired private van, so we can stop to stretch whenever the bad back becomes a problem.

The intended, well-intentioned rest and stretch stops..... That's a big joke. Having gone on a long weekend, we felt like half the city people had the same idea as our group of 7 pax. Traffic was B.A.D. And so, there were literally more stops than intended. You bet it proved to be longer than 12 hours! And obviously no rest and stretch stops for the last 3-4 hour zig zag drive from Banaue Rice Terraces to the remote mountain village of Sagada.

Banaue Rice Terraces

We were awake after a breakfast stop at Jollibee, a local fastfood chain. Feeling slightly grumpy early in the morning, missing my favorite brew, with my back and butt numb from the long overnight ride, I was not in my best
Terraced Rice PaddiesTerraced Rice PaddiesTerraced Rice Paddies

Can you imagine planting and harvesting rice from these fields? Hard work.
disposition to know we are nowhere near Sagada yet.

Until we stopped at Banaue Rice Terraces. What a breathtaking view! I've seen some terraced rice paddies in other parts of the world even before I viewed our very own. Shame on me! I would have taken a lot of shots here but the long drive got me tinkering with my cam and messing up its settings. Thank God I was with my niece Sarah, Jen and Peter -- all photography nuts. By the time I was done posing here and there, or asking these young ones to snap a photo of this and that, I knew what I'd do when I turn billionaire. Told my niece I would likely have a staff of private assistant, a massage therapist and a photographer whenever I travel. 😊. Dream on, indeed. Long road trips can do this to you!

The vista dispels all bad moods and not so cheerful dispositions. A National Cultural Treasure, but NOT a UNESCO World Heritage Site contrary to popular belief. Why? Because one finds modern structures alongside traditional Ifugao structures within this 4,000 square mile mountainside area. A
Cave TrafficCave TrafficCave Traffic

I felt like half of Manila was here!
pity. And all because the local authorities failed to preserve the "integrity" of the 2,000 year-old rice terraces carved out by the ancestors of the indigenous mountain people of Ifugao. Seeing it and knowing how old these rice terraces are elicit some respect for these tribes' ancient knowledge of traditional farming and natural irrigation techniques. It also draws attention to ancient stonework and earthwork technologies. I'm told there are other clusters of rice terraces like in Batad, where the terraced rice paddies resemble an amphitheater. Not on this trip, though. Maybe next time.

Spelunking? Soon After Arrival?

The "problem" traveling with a young group is that they want to hit the ground running soon after arrival. We only had time for lunch and an hour or so checking in and resting at Sagada Homestay Inn before our first adventure in SUMAGUING Cave. Did anyone tell these young 'uns I'm turning 60 next year? Did anyone remind them I've never done this before? My niece Sarah was here only last year. She made sure my head's adorned with a headlamp (what a BRILLIANT idea), that I'm wearing gloves to firmly grasp those cave rocks climbing up

Hard work. Very hard work.
and down, that the camera is neatly tucked inside a small plastic bag strung around my neck. As she spewed out "instructions" and "warnings", I confess I hardly paid attention. I can do this!

And sure I did 😊 Went in past 4pm, out by nearly 7pm. Traffic inside the cave! Had to wait on our descent as a long line of spelunkers were climbing up and out of the cave. As each passed me on their way up, a thought crossed my mind. Am I the oldest among this crowd of curious tourists? Yay. The good thing is there's always a hand stretched out to help and guide me as I put up a brave front. Now I understand why my older sister cried while caving here with her sons many years back. 😊 (Her sons claim she was bawling!)

Sure enough, this was the highlight of my trip. I rocked. And I rolled! As I came out of the cave, I found my niece waiting -- asking most everyone if they've seen my guide James. Was she worried I'd never come out of the cave? I will not
Made My Guide SmileMade My Guide SmileMade My Guide Smile

Yeah, see how my guide James looked mighty proud of me! Lol.
trivialize the peril, the risks, and the hard work. But these local guides are truly very very competent. For the life of me, I can't figure out how James can balance a lamp with one hand, feet firmly on slippery rocks, while pulling me up! I looked around and found many guides just as competent. There's even one who clearly reminded me of Jackie Chan as he quickly negotiated a climb ahead of his group to make sure their path is lighted!

My niece was very proud of me after this adventure. But she has one regret. She said she wished she caught on video my first few lines coming off the cave. 😊

Glad To Be Alive To See This

Dinner that night was in this tiny joint called Kimchi Cafe and Bar. Good old adobo (national dish of the Philippines) and organic mountain rice. Nothing fancy. That can wait till Saturday night when we dine at Log Cabin run by this French Chef who is now an adopted son of Sagada and goes by the local name Chef Aklay. (Quite frankly, the Saturday buffet was a disappointment. I
Kimchi Cafe BarKimchi Cafe BarKimchi Cafe Bar

Cool place to chillax (Chill and Relax) ..... A favorite hangout among young 'uns. Well, at least I can relate to Bob Marley.
wasn't impressed with the buffet spread plus the service can do with lotsa improvement. The Log Cabin can do without the Caucasian lady waiting on tables and the faggot behind the bar. These 2 characters even had a screaming altercation in front of the dining guests!)

By the time we were back in Sagada Homestay, I was nearly wasted. From my room, I could hear the conversation, the banter, the coquettish and drunken exchange among guests around the bonfire. It would have been fun to eavesdrop to see who ended up with whom, but I must have dozed off soon after my back touched the mattress.

That can wait another night. And the blog on the Kiltepan Sunrise, Hanging Coffins and Echo Valley can wait too. Watch this page! 😊

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Ingenuity With Bottle CapsIngenuity With Bottle CapsIngenuity With Bottle Caps

Here, used bottle caps make for nice "curtain beads" and wall decor. Such ingenuity!
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Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Spotted: Lady in BlueSpotted: Lady in Blue
Spotted: Lady in Blue

Do I look like I'm lost here? Perhaps just a bit disoriented. Those waters are real cold!
A Brilliant Idea! A Brilliant Idea!
A Brilliant Idea!

Pun intended. It's more fun in the Philippines, indeed!
The DescentThe Descent
The Descent

Mouth of the Cave. Get down here!
A Must-Do? A Must-Do?
A Must-Do?

They say a trip to Sagada is not complete without this caving adventure. That's what they say. But it's not for everybody.
Bat DroppingsBat Droppings
Bat Droppings

The nocturnal residents of this cave leave their mark on the rocks you'd step on. Get them on your feet and it would be one slippery trail.
Are we there yet?Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

As we made our way down, I asked James how much further and deeper we're going. When he said we haven't even reached the halfway mark, I restrained myself from asking him again and just plodded on.
Day After Surviving SUMAGUING CaveDay After Surviving SUMAGUING Cave
Day After Surviving SUMAGUING Cave

Mountain vistas like this are better appreciated AFTER a SUMAGUING Cave adventure.
And this.......And this.......
And this.......

How I wish there's a better, safer, quicker way to reach Sagada. If only for this view. (And the fresh lemon pie. Lol.)

If you're not a rice eater, it's hard to understand the many rice varieties we have (<100 methinks) --- and how we lust for scoops of this mountain rice!
Hard WorkHard Work
Hard Work

In Sagada, I found many youngsters working in the fields. Errr, rice terraces. Like this lad.
No Easy Life For These FolksNo Easy Life For These Folks
No Easy Life For These Folks

Sagada thrives on agriculture and tourism. While much of it remains unspoiled, the Government must seriously consider ways to preserve the 2,000 year-old rice terraces. Many have grown dry and abandoned.
Top loading?.Top loading?.
Top loading?.

It's typical among locals to ride in this manner. It's "cooler", they'd say. And perhaps there isn't room inside anymore. Many tourists love doing the same ride. Not for me.
Lemon PieLemon Pie
Lemon Pie

Before I write the next blog, let me leave you with this piece. Of. Lemon. Pie. YUM!
And Strawberry Ice CreamAnd Strawberry Ice Cream
And Strawberry Ice Cream

On your descent from Sagada through Baguio to Manila, stop to rest, stretch, and enjoy this cone of fresh strawberry ice cream.

10th December 2012

wow Tita Lili goes spelunking. I won't be surprise to read your scuba trip or bungee jumping escapade next time. Unfortunate though that it is no longer a UNESCO heritage site.
10th December 2012

Scuba diving and bungee jumping not for me. On the first, I wish I could. But I easily panic and can't even snorkel properly. On bungee jumping, I don't like the feeling of total loss of control. ;-)
10th December 2012

Well Done!
Well done Lilram for doing the caving, it's pretty difficult for a 'young 'un' so it goes to show you are up there with them for having completed that! I found it quite difficult in places and felt the same sense of achievement as you did for having done it so good on you! Loved reading about it.. I was trying to imagine my mum doing it but it would never happen.. she'd have been crying at the entrance!
10th December 2012

You should have been there as I was coming out of the cave.....
My niece should have videotaped it! Hahaha. My sister did it around the same age I'm in now, and my nephews love retelling the story of how she cried or bawled!
11th December 2012

Daig mo pa ko. I've never done spelunking my whole life. :)
12th December 2012

I bet you'd do better!
My first too, Jay. Napasubo ako!!!!!
11th December 2012

spelunking 'aint a joke
proud of you tita :) and the guides truly are the most helpful. looking forward to the next part... x
12th December 2012

You fared way better, Tyn
Cave connection? You did that, didn't you, Tyn? I'd run out of energy for that!
12th December 2012

Wow, great adventure Tita Lili ! How I wish I had the same chance when I was younger. Do you think a Sr Citizen like me can still go for it?
12th December 2012

Sure you can!
It was hard work. But sure you can! Just go early enough. Part of my anxiety is having gone in late in the afternoon. Got out 7 PM already. Last batch to get in was 5pm and I didn't want them to overtake me nor for me to be the LAST one crawling out of the cave! [:)]

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