Friday, October 21, 2011

Sagada, Mt. Province: The Rustic Charm

Day 2 (April 16, 2011) 

              Minutes past 4:30 am, I opened my eyes but my body seemed frozen... paralyzed to numbness. I was awoken by the subtle sounds of my roommates struggling to rouse from bed. Suddenly I remembered what we went through yesterday and I shut my eyes with the memory... Spelunking is not my brand of coffee after all. 

My body was succumbing back to sleep when I heard faint whisper from my friend, Bea.  
“Oi, Marvs.. gising na... Malapit na ang 5am. Diba magsunrise pa tayo ng Kiltepan?” 
I literally had to drag my body out of the bed. Sleeping is such a luxury. 

Eventually, all eight of us were marching up the road. On the way, we saw our guide coming to meet us. It was just past 5 am, the town was still enveloped in darkness. As we were waiting for transportation, I was silently shivering from the cold morning breeze. How I wish we had this kind of climate in Laguna. 


Initially, our plan was to hike Kiltepan from our lodging house. But since that would take about 1 hour of brisk walking, plus our mind and body were all complaining from the idea, we decided to just hire a jeep instead. I did not expect it (and did not thought it possible), but the jeep brought us exactly atop Kiltepan Viewpoint. That saved us a lot of time to catch the sunrise. 

Although, being inside a moving jeep in such a bumpy road en route to Kiltepan, is like being tossed in one of those Star City rides...just that, there’s no harness to support your body. Law of Inertia applies. Atop Kiltepan, we saw some people around a bonfire, sipping coffee on one hand. The area is a prominent camping ground for those who are opting for some outdoor fun. Tall Pine trees blanketed the place and wild flowers grew along the edges of the ravine. Plus, the temperature was perfect. 

We immediately run towards the edge of the cliff and gazed at the wonder before us. The sun was almost rising and the sky was bathed in vibrant hues of orange and yellow. 

The fog covering the mountainous terraces added mystery to the almost perfect scene. I never knew when I stopped pressing my camera or when we stopped posing for group shots...  

All I can remember was my enthusiasm to capture every moment conceived, every emotion evoked, and every little smile that smeared our faces... 

We left Kiltepan and rode the same jeep to Rock Inn (I don’t know exactly how much we paid for the jeep but I think it cost us around Php900-1,000, which I think is too much considering the distance covered. But we shrugged the amount since we had an awesome time back there and we didn’t want it to spoil our day... Less haggling, less conversations, fewer disappointments...) 

Rock Inn 

Rock Inn is your typical inn nestled in a country feel backyard, with an atmosphere of rural life. From the main road, you have to enter a smaller and steeper road to get to the place. The main restaurant is cozy in the morning and very quiet. Devoid of your usual background mp3 music... The only thing you’d hear are the silent murmurs of conversations, the sounds of plates and other glassware, the chirping of daylight birds and the likes... The area is landscaped with several ornate plants that added allure to its already bucolic farm setting. 

There is also an orange farm patch beside the inn. During months of November – January, guests could handpick them straight from the trees for a fair price. Sadly, we didn’t experienced that one since the oranges where just flowering. And to think that was included in my must-do list!

The place also offers lodging for travelers. But in case you opt to stay here, I suggest you bring with you a vehicle (either you rent one in Sagada, which would be quite expensive or you really bring one, which I don’t recommend, since the roads to Sagada is definitely not for novice drivers) because there’s going to be a lot of walking to get to the town proper (unless of course you want total isolation and opt for quiet ambiance).

One thing I notice with all bistros here in the north is the quite expensive pricelist of food items. The typical breakfast meal is twice as expensive as you would normally have in the city. Well, I realized that is the price you’d pay when going to places as remote as Sagada. I wonder how much seafood costs here?!

Saturday Market

After the sumptuous meal at Rock Inn, we left for Bomod-Ok falls (with a slight detour to our lodging house for change of outfits).This time we decided to ditched the skeleton jeep and rent a more comfortable van.

It was Saturday and the town proper was filled with street vendors. Saturday is their market day where locals flock and join in trading all sorts of commodities from food to souvenir items. This has been a tradition in the area for decades. Root crops, fruits, and vegetables of all sizes filled the place. You could actually shop for grocery items here and cook during your stay in the area. It would save you a lot from the expensive eateries. Surprisingly, there were also several tiangge like stores which trade ukay-ukay like items. I was astonished to see them here.

I noticed some foreigners with their tripods ready, busy capturing the colorful market scene. I couldn’t help but be amazed by the remarkable handicrafts paraded, especially the delicately weaved fabrics, the ornately molded potteries, and the daintily chiseled wood carvings. These works of art are the silent reflection of our northern culture that we can boast to the world. I just hope we never lose these crafts in the future.

Fidelisan Rice Terraces

It was about 30 minutes ride going to the jump-off area to the Big Falls. To reach the falls we had to go down several very steep man-made stairs and unpaved paths under the scorching heat of the sun. But it was well worth it. I saw some storage houses for rice crops designed against natural pest. It was structured above ground. 

The view compensated for every sweat, every inch of sunburned skin, and every accidental bump and a few major slips. Just imagine yourself walking along the famed rice terraces the likes of what we have in UNESCO heritage site in Banaue.

It was my first real life encounter with such structure and it was just as I’ve imagined it would be. How I wish it was harvest season and the field was glowing in its golden splendor, while locals are busy collecting seed grains. Surely, it would have been such a contrast from the greenery that is typical of rice terraces.

My only worry is the paved trail along the ridges of the terraces (pilapil). It would have been better if they did not cemented the path. Aside from the lost aesthetics and rustic feel, my ENS professor mentioned how destructive its effects to the natural drainage system and absorptive capacity of the underlying soil...the very same reason for the destruction of several parts of Banaue Rice Terraces where collapsing terraces were observed.

Banaue Rice Terraces is one of the living testament of our ancestor’s remarkable engineering expertise (one of the best in the ancient world) and definitely a source of cultural pride. Done with just bare hands and unbelievable endurance, our ancestors have utilized their ingenuity to create a structure that would last for centuries. They developed means to create natural source of irrigation water that would nurture the soil, enough moisture for rice to grow.

Yet after hundreds of years, it was disturbing to see the collapse of some part of this famed structure. It was initially thought to have been caused by the presence of gigantic worms that supposed to have encroached the area. 

In reality, the root cause was actually the pavement of roads which affected the natural waterway and caused the soil to lose its moisture. Eventually, the worms which have been inherent to the place, have to migrate and the lack of enough soil moisture caused rigid holes where the worms have tunneled itself through. Holes in compacted soils and the general lack of soil moisture eventually caused the collapse of some part of the terraces. 

 Well what can I say? Another misguided intervention of man (done in pursuit of globalization) that has caused the eventual ruin, this time, of a world wonder. I hope people get more informed with these cause and effect scenarios. 

Bomod-Ok Falls (Big Falls) 

We reached the falls after almost 1 and half hour of tottering. We were welcomed by a sight of happy picnic goers and local children enjoying the basinful of fresh water. Instantly, we set up and changed to our swimming clothes. There was a feverish enthusiasm to submerge oneself in its cold depths. 

But one must be warned! Against the mid-afternoon heat, the water at Bomod-Ok falls is still terribly cold! We were shouting when we realized (too late) how painfully cold the water was. I couldn’t even begin imagining the temperature-drop if it’s not summer. After long minutes of struggling-tussling-screaming, we finally (yes finally with a relief!) conquered the coldness and enjoyed the relaxing after effects. And yes it was relaxing... well for most part of it. 

Later, we ate our packed lunch (canned goods and red rice) beside the falls. I did not know I was hungry until I started eating. We were also accommodated by the not so-relaxing massage courtesy of the local children. It was more of an immersion than a therapy. We were laughing throughout to enjoy the actual massage. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the snippets of conversations I had with them.

Sagada Weaving 

After our frolic by the falls, our itinerary said that we had to hurry and catch the sunset at Lake Danao. So we did... hurry (or should I say, our guide was the one in a hurry, hehehe). The hardest part that you had to experience is perhaps going back the jump-off area. It was leisurely walk going down the falls, but it was test of endurance going back... 

It took us almost 2 and half hour of almost non-stop walking. I did not anticipate how much calories I had to shed in that feat. Definitely, a good prelude to our “sema santa” sacrifices! I swear never to tread the same path again. ahahha

We left the area by van and proceeded to Sagada Weaving which is just along the road to the town proper. The store houses variety of locally weaved products (that are quite expensive for my taste). We also visited the adjacent weaving room, where the local women were busy crisscrossing the multitude threads of various colors. Unfortunately, picture taking is not allowed in the area, so we just had to respect that. We did not stay longer because the locals seemed uncomfortable with us around, staring and poking at their work. Hehehe.

Pottery House 

With that short detour at Sagada Weaving, we decided to then proceed to Lake Danum. After about 15 minutes we first stopped by a secluded Pottery House for some authentic Sagada earthenware. Unfortunately, the owner/artist is not in the shop during weekends, (as was the case when we went inside) so we missed the chance of seeing and experiencing real pottery in action! We had to contend ourselves with what’s inside: Half-finished clay pots and figures... I would have loved to see how such valued pieces are formed mounds of clay.

 I heard, artists often add some Pine ashes to make the figures sturdy. In my new found interest with these potteries, I bought three (3) small pots the next day for souvenir. Although it comes with an expensive price tag, I did not hesitate buying. With my small talk with the artist, I managed to squeeze some narratives surrounding the pieces I bought.

Lake Danum 

For me, Lake Danum is one of the most mysterious looking bodies of water I’ve seen. Well for one, it’s my first time to see a lake above a mountainous plateau. The descending fog that surrounds the place makes it more eerie and ghostly.

Plus, the lake water is murky brown. Gazing at it will make you think of lake nymphs and all sorts of creatures of the underworld. I can’t think of anyone wanting to swim on its uncanny water. 

Although we went there for sunset viewing, the elusive sun was unfortunately covered by thick fog. We just enjoyed the area by cam-whoring along its grassy grounds. I particularly enjoyed our “tsunami” run and photo-ops by the lake: a nice and relaxing conclusion to the jam-packed and gripping activities. 

Massferri Restaurant 

Later that night, we took pleasure in dining at Massferri restaurant. The food in this café is quite ordinary, nothing spectacular (and definitely not cheap either). If not for the colorful diorama of Sagada’s history captured through the lenses of a foreign photo-journalist, the place would have been mediocre. Needless to say, the place is frequented by quite of a number of people because of strategic location in the town proper.

"Mamamatay akong hindi nakikita ang ningning ng bukang-liwayway sa aking Bayan! Kayong makakakita, salubungin ninyo siya, at huwag kalilimutan ang mga nabulid sa dilim ng gabi." -- Noli Me Tangere (Dr. Jose Rizal)

"I die without seeing the dawn brighten over my native land.You who have it to see, welcome it--and forget not those who have fallen during the night!"

MT--meeting time
ETA-- Expected Time of Arrival
ETD- Expected Time of Departure

Day 0 (April 14)

Choice A: Manila-Banaue -Sagada Route

Option 1: With Side Trip to Banaue Rice Terreces

2100H - MT UST Area, Sampaloc Manila
2345H - ETD Florida Bus Line (Manila-Banaue, 450Php)
0800H - ETA Banaue Terminal Station
0900H - ETD Terminal Station ( hire a jeep to Sagada,depende sa tawad, around 1.5-2K )
1200H - ETA Sagada!

Option 2: Via Bontoc Town

1900H - MT (E. Rodriguez Sr. QC. front of Trinity University of Asia. Right Side of Garcia’s Supermarket
2030H - ETD Manila (Fare, 650Php)
0900H - ETA Bontoc (Explore)
1000H - ETD Bontoc (via Jeepney, 50Php)
1100H - ETA Sagada!

Choice B: Manila-Baguio -Sagada Route

Option 1: Via Baguio (Side Trip City of Pines)

2100H - MT Cubao Terminal Station

a. Victory Liner ( Php 450) - with sched trip per hour
b. Genesis Bus (Php 400) - Relatively New

2200H - ETD Terminal
0400H - ETA Baguio Terminal (Engineers Hill- Victoryl/ Gov. Pack Road- Genesis)
0400-0600H = Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral Baguio City, Benguet, or Meet sunrise @ MInes View
0600H - ETD Baguio to Sagada (First Trip, Php 240) Lizardo Bus Line, Dangwa Terminal Station
1200H - ETA Sagada!

Day 1: April 15, Friday
(Southern Sagada Spelunking Survi-best!)

1200H - ETA Sagada
1200-1230H - Book at Residential Lodge (Php 250/night/head)

1230-1330H - Lunch @ Yougurt House or Cuisina Igorota
1330-1400H - To Municipal Hall, arrange guides for Sumaging Cave
1400-1800 - Sumaging Cave Spelunking

Incuded Sites on the way:
1. Sugong Hanging Coffins
2. Lumiang Burial Cave (Entrance Only)
3. Kapay-aw Terraces

Std Guides: 5 people - Php 600       6-9 People - Php 1,000      10 People - Php 1,200

1930H- Dinner at Pinikpikan House
2030- 2100H:  Freshen up, change clothes
2100H - Bed Time (Curfew hour is at 2100H)

Day 2: April 16, 2011 Saturday 
(The Northern Sagada Trekking Escapade)

0330H - Wake Up Call
0400H - ETD for Kiltepan View Point (Guide Fee 200Php)
0500H - ETA Kiltepan Summit, Wait for Sunrise
0800-0930H - Breakfast @ Rock Inn (Pick Oranges at the Orchard)
0930-1000H - Arrange for guides to Big Falls
1000H - ETD to Bomod Ok Falls (Big Falls)

Guide Fee: 1-10 people - Php600
Vehicle Fee: Php 800

Included sites:
1. Aguid Rice Terreces / Fidelisan Rice Terreces (Walking at the terreces!)

1300H - ETA to Bomod Ok Falls (2 hours of trekking)
1300 - 1330H - Lunch near the Big Falls
1330 - 1630H - Swimming, Picture Taking, etc...
1630 - 1700H - Changes of Clothes, ETD Big Falls
1800H - ETA Residential Inn, dinner cook our own meal.

Day 3: April 17,2011 Sunday
(The Ultimate Eastern-Western-Central Sagada Invasion)

0600H - waker up time, breakfast (in bed, nagtitipid na...hahaha)
0700H - ETD to Marboro Mountain (30 mins trek, with wild horses!) (

0800H - ETA MArboro Mountain
0800- 1100H - commune with nature, seelimestone formations
(photoshot theme: Haciendero e' haciendera paradiso! Clothes in chekered, hahaah.)

1100H -ETD from Marlboro Mountain
1130H - Lunch at Sagada Lemon Pie House
1230-1600H - Echo Valley,Underground River/ Bokong Falls

Included sites:
1. Saint Mary’s Church
2. Sagada Weaving
3. Calvary Hanging Coffins

1600H - ETD to Central Sagada
1630H - ETA Lake Danum
1630 - 1830H Sunset View at Lake Danum/ visit Pottery Shop and Demang Old Village
1900H - Dinner at Masferri resturant or Rock Inn (try their Bonfire)
2000H - Prepare for Tomorrow's Departure

Day 4: April 18, 2011 Monday
(The goodbye)
Lean time!!!! Go on shopping, souvenir hunting...

0900H - ETD Sagada
1500H - ETA Baguio City!!!!
1500H- 1700H (Visit other places, if possible, like grotto, teacher's camp,or ukay-ukay shops, etc...)
1700H - ETD Baguio City
2300H - ETA Manila

Other Tips here

PS. I wrote this on our planning days. Kinda funny reading it now.

Marvin Eric Says:

I am so exciteddddddddddddddddddd....

ahem... prepare natin ang ating mga kasuotan ha..

1. Checkered long sleeves for boys(or kahit long sleeves)... bistida (preferably white) for girls... (let's have this ranchero photos at MArlboro Mountain... sana me hats...hehehhe..Theme: Sa Rancho)

2. Shorts and gloves (yung parang sa tricycle, yung butas ang kamay) para sa spelunking sa Sumaging Cave (theme: Earth Diggers)

3. Shawl..scarf... lots and lots of shawl... scarf!!! for the sagada weather! (Theme: Lamig-lamigan sa Tag-Araw)

4. More than 1 Jacket... (for the sunrise at Kiltepan, sa biyahe, and Fireplace sa bahay!Theme: State-side )

5. Swimming attire (for the hidden Bomok-Od Falls)--> Sando + short is good, let's not swim in t-shirts.. hehehe. (theme: Katorse)

6. Something Yellow (for... wala lang... pwede for Ninoy and Cory? hahaha)

7. Something White ( It's Holy Week afterall, magsimba tayo in white clothes in St Mary Chapel and the cemetery nearby, plus the hanging coffins!)

8. And last but not the least, stuff toy, yung maliit lang. It would be our miniature self, our own AVATAR... kasma sa lahat ng picture taking.. heheh.

Shocks. kmusta naman ang bag ko diba? ahhaha....


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