Many foreigners and Filipinos alike are drawn to the beauty and mystic of this small town, amidst the mountains of Northern Philippines. With its temperate climate, magnificent caves and waterfalls, and rich culture, it is truly, a patch of heaven on earth.
Sagada is a small town in Mountain Province, Philippines, 275 kilometers north of Manila. It has about 2,100 households and a population of about 11,000.
Ever since I’ve heard stories about if from a friend who has visited this beautiful place, I have always wanted to come and see for myself what the fuss was all about. Going to a place such as Sagada is not an easy feat, nor a quick trip. From Manila, the capital of the Philippines, one has to travel by bus to Banaue for a grueling 9 hours. From there, a hired van will take you to Sagada in about 7 to 8 hours, including stopovers in Mt. Polis and Bontoc.
During my last visit, I decided to bring my Holga 120N, loaded with Kodak BW400CN black and white film. I figured that such a place of heritage would be best captured old school style.
The bus usually leaves Manila at 10 in the evening. By daybreak, you would have reached the municipality of Banaue. There, you can take a hired van, or catch a jeepney to Sagada but not before having breakfast of course. A popular restaurant there would be the People’s Lodge and Restaurant, where you can have your sumptuous first meal of the day, overlooking the quiet town that sits along a peaceful, winding stream. While in Banaue, it is also best to take a few snapshots from a viewing deck where the famous Banaue Rice Terraces can be admired.
A few hours after leaving Banaue, a stopover would be necessary at Mt. Polis, where a giant image of Mother Mary stands.
By lunch time, you would have arrived in the town of Bontoc. You can visit a nearby museum where you can find a landscape of what a traditional village would have looked like a few decades back.
If you want to maximize your experience, I suggest that you take the rest of the journey on top of the van! This is not for the fainthearted though, as you’ll be traveling along a narrow unpaved road by a steep cliff.
By 3 in the afternoon you will be in Sagada!
There are a lot of places where you can stay at bargain prices, but it is better to have a room reserved before you leave Manila.
In Sagada, you will not run out of places to go to and things to do. Some foreigners, I think, even spend months here at a time vacationing. Sagada is traditionally a rice cultivating town, but since it has become a tourist destination, locals also thrive in tourism as a source of livelihood. Tour guides, pension houses, and restaurants are abundant.
Nature. Everywhere you look there are pine trees! After all, you are literally in the midst of a mountain range. Even if the sun is up, there are months when a windbreaker would be necessary. Vehicles here are a rarity, everyone goes about the town by foot! There is internet though.
Food. In Sagada, you have a wide array of choices for eating. And, the cost of a meal is very affordable too! Some of the more popular ones include: the Log Cabin (you have to order a day ahead), Masferé’s, and the Yoghurt House. In a place where there are no fast food restaurants, and where development has not caught up much, you’d wonder why there is a place for yoghurt. Actually, this is owned by a Canadian (if I am not mistaken) who fell in love with the place and decided to stay in Sagada for good.
Adventure. There are two major adventures that you can take in Sagada. One would be trekking. You can pass by an old cemetery on your way to Echo Valley. As the name suggests, you shout, the valley will echo! From here, you can view hanging coffins (a traditional burial means for the locals of old) on the other side. Another destination would be, Bomod-ok Falls. Reaching this water attraction would require a 2-hour trek from the jump point. As you do, you can enjoy walking in the middle of rice paddies that glows emerald green during growing season, and gold during harvest season. For the ultra-adventurous, exploring the caves of Sumaging will not be a disappointment. Inside, the walls are adorned with magnificent limestone formations. Water runs though the cave as well, so you can take a dip if you think you can handle the temperature. Image bathing in water from your refrigerator, that’s pretty much how cold it is.
So, if you decide to visit the Philippines, and you’re tired of going to our lovely beaches, check out this patch of heaven, called Sagada.