Sagada is one of those places I often hear or read about and yet I have no freaking idea what it looks like. I know I’m going to see a lot of trees since it’s up in the mountains (I know that much) but once I’m there, what else can I see when I look around? What are the houses like? And the people? What’s a normal day like in Sagada? Questions, questions, questions. I’m not sure exactly when or how, but I just decided that Sagada will be our next destination.
Prior to our trip, I did the best preparation that a regular grownup in today’s world could do–I went to Google, hopped from one travel blog to another, and then tried to take a mental note of the things we can do once we get there (itineraries are so not my thing). After many hours spent researching where to go and what to eat, I was already on that Victory Liner bus going to Baguio and yet my idea about what Sagada looks like is still as much as the gold medals I won last olympics–zero.
And so we stepped into the night and pursued that flighty temptress, adventure…
I’ll give a quick rundown on how we got there in Sagada. First, we boarded a bus from Victory Liner Caloocan that departed at 11:30 pm. Fare is 450 pesos. We arrived in Baguio around 5 am, and we quickly called a taxi that took us to Dangwa terminal, which is near the market place. The earliest Lizardo bus going to Sagada leaves at 6:30 am. And since it is a 5- to 6-hour bus ride, we got there by lunch time. Important Note: Eat breakfast in Baguio! It will be at least 2 hours before the first bus stop. Also, to see or capture great views while on the way, sit on the right side of the bus.
So we arrived in Sagada.
After signing up at the municipal hall, which is just near the place where the bus stopped, we went to find our hotel. I didn’t expect what I saw there. Turns out, the Sagada town proper has one main street where you can find almost all the restaurants and hotels. Unfortunately, we booked a room that is so far from the municipal hall, so every time we wanted to eat something or we wanted to get a guide to take us to a certain place, we had to take that very long walk. It didn’t help that the street going to the municipal hall from our hotel is uphill.
Our first day was spent eating and relaxing. Can’t blame us, we just spent almost 12 hours riding a bus.
We also walked around town and saw the church.
The second day, however, we decided to go spelunking.
His name is Nori. He was our guide when we went to Sumaguing cave. He said that the hanging coffins around Sagada are always facing East because that’s where the sun rises, which symbolizes a new life. Their ancestors believe in reincarnation. Not the rise-from-the-coffin type of reincarnation, but the spirit-will-live-again kind.
We needed to signup before entering the cave. There were no fees. We just presented “the receipt”–proof that we registered at the municipal hall. We also had to leave our things here. Our guide said that our bags and other stuff would only get in our way. It was okay to bring the camera, though.
One thing that makes Nori a great guide is that he knows the best spots inside the Sumaguing cave to take pictures. Case in point, the photo below.
I woke up early on the third day, hoping to catch a beautiful sunrise. However, the clouds didn’t allow it.
In the municipal hall, they have these “packages” for tourists. In each package, you will be given a guide and a transportation. The transportation is either optional or required. It depends on the location. We chose to walk going to Sumaguing cave for example since it was just 20-30 minutes away. In the afternoon of our third day, we decided to take the Central Sagada tour.
Not sure if I liked the Central Sagada tour package that much since the places we went to were really not that impressive. We saw the “little falls,” another entrance to a cave, the hanging coffins up close, and the cemetery. We originally wanted to see the “big falls” or the Bomod-Ok falls but the ride that would take us there is only available in the morning. Lake Danum was a choice, too. However, because we’re too tired from all the trekking we did on the Central Sagada tour, we decided to pass on that.
The weather wasn’t kind to me at all when we were there in Sagada. I wasn’t able to capture a single sunrise or sunset!
Random cute kids.
On the morning of our fourth day, we went to Kiltepan Viewpoint to see the most glorious sunrise in Sagada. We were already there around 5:30 am. The ride costs 500 pesos back and forth and has to be booked prior to the trip.
I was hopeful at first.
And then the fog came.
And then the clouds joined the party.
There goes my sunrise.
Here’s the view below.
Random dude sitting at the edge of a cliff.
And that’s it.
Baguio looks so big and crowded compared to Sagada. Once you’re there, you will really feel like you’re closer to Mother Nature. The only thing that was missing for me was the culture. Sagada’s identity wasn’t that pronounced, in my opinion. It’s like it was hiding under a thick veil of tourism. When I looked around me, the town was clearly preparing to be more tourist-friendly. Commercial buildings are slowly rising, people are speaking English, the main street is empty of local children. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just wasn’t able to explore the place more, talk to people, and do other stuff. Anyway, I think that’s where the beauty of traveling is. No amount of pictures or videos can make you feel the real thing. You have to be there. You have to experience the place to know the place. And sometimes, going there once won’t be enough. You have to go back.