Five friends traveled up north for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure
Written by Lory Alba
Photos by Ken Rivera
Sometimes the busyness of the metro can be overwhelming. Sometimes the only refuge is to temporarily get away from it all ̶ away from the crowd and stress of the city and simply get lost in a place by the mountains. Well five friends took the opportunity to get momentary escape and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure when they decided to head up North in Sagada.
The fifth class municipality in the Mountain Province, Sagada is a well-known hideaway way up in the highlands. This remote town in the north has become a destination of sorts, to those looking for a one-of-a-kind quest, and yet brave enough to travel the distance. (Because honestly, the 12-hour drive from Manila is no joke!)
TO AND FRO
There are various ways to travel from Manila to Sagada. Daily buses leave the metro almost every hour to Baguio. But if you want to make a side trip and drop by the famous Rice Terraces in Banawe, you can take the Banaue route.
An ocean of greens
As soon as you reach your destination you will witness a landscape so different from that of the city. Where you are used to tall skyscrapers and buildings shading the sun, there you’ll be surrounded by mountains, trees, and everything that nature has to offer. It’s like being transported into a whole new dimension, where nature takes over ̶ the air is fresher, the sunsets gorgeous, and the food fresh.
The coldest time in Sagada is around February when the average temperature drops to 12 degrees Celsius. If you’re planning to visit then, make sure to bundle up!
What’s the best way to immerse in the experience? Eat like the locals do! One great thing about the restaurants in Sagada is that each offers their own signature dish, so you can expect a different treat each time! Of course that, and the fact that you get the freshest ingredients!
Lemon Pie House is one very famous stop that you should definitely try. Owned by Joseph Daoas, the secret recipe was said originally come from his mother, Elena, and which Joseph himself perfected over time. You can ask any local and they’ll point you to the direction of it. Have it as breakfast or meryenda with fresh brewed coffee and you’ll see why it has become a tourist attraction in itself.
Of course no trip up north would be complete without the famous Strawberry Yogurt. Strawberry, a famous and abundant commodity in this part of the country has been made into all sorts of delicacies. Strawberry Café is a small, quaint café that offers this delicious treat!
A day of trekking
There can be many sights to see and places to experience while in Sagada and trekking is the best way to experience them all! Make sure to travel light as you will just be burdened if you bring a lot of unnecessary items. Limit your carryon to one backpack with all the essentials like a handy camera, water, sunscreen, and packed food.
While a DIY trip is possible for the adventurous, it is still better (and safer) to do so with a guide. There are many available guided trips that you can choose from.
While these architectural masterpieces of the Rice Terraces are scattered all over the Cordillera, Sagada too had its own share. The Rice Terraces of Sagada is a breathtaking sight that you cannot ignore. These carefully carved slopes make up for a breathtaking sight, as if giant stairways to heaven.
The Bomod-Ok Falls, or Big Falls is a local gem. Going there will require passing through small villages and even walking along rice paddies, a true probinsiya experience that you’ll appreciate. Of course you won’t notice the heat of the sun or the distance because you’ll be surrounded by lush greeneries! But as you near it and hear the sound of splashing water, you’ll realize this impressive work of nature is worth the trip. The water may be cold but you would definitely be tempted to jump in. A piece of advice? Jump in.
Echo Valley is a memorial cliff where the Hanging Coffins are. Perhaps one of the most famous sights in Sagada, the Hanging Coffins is a long-time tradition for the locals. Igorots believe that burying their departed underground will isolate them from the natural world, and that the higher the bodies are, the closer they are to heaven. Upon inquiry you’ll learn that not all locals are buried it, suffice to say, it only for a priviledge few. Only “real” Igorots who have been born and raised there, and have eventually had children and grandchildren deserve the honor.
If you are looking to buy some pasalubongs or keepsakes, then Sagada Weaving is the ideal place. Here you can find various souvenir items like bags and pouches, all made by the Sagadan weavers, who you can also see working on the spot! You’ll be amazed how these hardworking women make the products using their wooden tools and weaving looms. Bright colorful fabrics appear almost instantly! It’s definitely one sight you shouldn’t miss.
Finally, no Sagada trip is complete without journeying into the very popular caves. If you’re feeling a bit claustrophobic, then you should probably sit this activity down. But if you want to know what it feels like to be in an enclosed space, in the dark then this is the activity for you. You’ll be amazed how these natural structures look in the inside! And once you come out at the end of the trail, you’ll have the priceless feeling of satisfaction that you have conquered your fears. It’s exhilarating!