What I believe in:

Most great adventures are those where you've just got to go for it and see where it leads you... No ifs, no buts just you and your conviction.

From the 7k+ islands of the Philippines, keep traces of Melay palaboy as she widens her horizon across the world tasting freedom, independence, and just living and loving life.


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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sagada: A Home Away from Home

Sagada. 
Pine trees. Mountains. The cold weather. Mist. Sweaters. Bonnet. Mittens. Scarves. Sumaguing Cave. Hanging Coffins. Rice Terraces. These are the images that will automatically flash into your mind once you hear the word. 

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

After being on hiatus for 5 months, we yearned for our usual past time of travelling. Going places can really be addictive once you started it.

It was in November 2014 when we decided to spend the Christmas break away from the metro. This was the first time we ever did so as we used to shun away from vacation spots during peak season because of too many tourists everywhere. Nevertheless, we did this time and we chose to spend 5 days and 4 nights in Sagada, leaving Manila on the night of Christmas Day.

Side Trip to Banaue Rice Terraces Main View Point
We left Florida Bus Station in Cubao at 8:45 PM on Christmas day, 2014. We chose the bus that headed straight to Banaue and arrived there at 4:45 AM, December 26 (8hrs travel time). We registered at People's Restaurant for a van to Sagada that departed at 8AM. We were given a brief side trip at Banaue Rice Terraces Viewpoint before heading to Sagada. Just to note, this is not the famous Amphitheater Rice Terraces of Batad, Banaue, which is out of the way going to Sagada. One has to go on a direct tour to Batad to see the Amphitheater.


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Banaue Rice Terraces


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Banaue Rice Terraces

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Banaue Rice Terraces
We had to wait for the fog to lift up to get a perfect view of the rice terraces

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Banaue Rice Terraces

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Banaue Rice Terraces

The Winding Road to Sagada

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

From Banaue to Sagada we passed by the town of Bontoc. The smooth 2-hour travel time from Banaue to Sagada is rich with breathtaking scenery: long winding road along the mountainside, fog-covered mountains, pine trees, and cool breeze. The road itself was well-managed and without the hassle of bumpy rides and rough road.


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Nestled in a valley between the main Cordillera Mountain Ranges and the Ilocos Range, Sagada is a peaceful haven that attracts tourists, especially locals, who want to have a taste of cold weather and be away from the heat and stress of the metro. Sagada is one of the 10 municipalities of the landlocked province of Mountain Province in the Cordillera Administrative Region in the northern part of the Philippines. Sagada is adjacent to the capital of Mountain Province which is Bontoc, and about 140 kms from Baguio.


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

What to Do and Where to Go in Sagada, Mountain Province 
1. A Walk to the Town Proper
Our chosen accommodation, Misty Lodge is about 5-10 minutes ride from the town proper, and about 20 minutes on foot. On our first day, we gladly walked our way to the town proper. The sights and scent (we owe it to the pine trees) of Sagada made us forget the convenience of getting a ride. 
Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines



Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines
"Head Over Heels"
Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines
"The Twins"














Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines
"The Ballerina"

It is especially a blissful walk when the fog sets in covering you in the cold weather even more. This happens in the early morning (until 7am) and in the late afternoon some time at 5:30pm until the evening.
Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

There are a number of pubs and restaurant bars open in the evening where tourists usually spend their time savoring the serenity and weather of Sagada.


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Just a caution, though. The Centrum Building in the town proper where convenience stores are located closes at 7pm because it really gets cold after sunset. We had our fair share of walking in the evening and boy, it really was cold! We could literally see our breath while laughing and talking - and shivering - on our way back to Misty Lodge. 
Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

2. Hitching a Ride, the Locals' Way
Thankfully, the ambiance of Sagada is not spoiled by too many buzzing vehicles with their gray (or black) fumes polluting the clean air. In case you're wondering how you can get to and from the town proper, there are a number of Sagada - Bontoc jeepneys but their travel is bound by schedule.

This posed an exciting opportunity for us  =)
We really wanted to try out that ride on the roof! And so we did. The local folks are very kind to offer a ride to hitchhikers. We tried this out on our second day in Sagada and went on until our last day there - walking and watching out for passing vehicles to hitch a ride. The cool breeze and being on top to see the beauty of Sagada mountains is worth the experience.

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

3. Taking a short trek to the nearest Hanging Coffins
Our 5D4N stay in Sagada was really meant to just be a staycation. We did, however, explored some sites that are within a few kilometers-reach.

One of the well-known tourist attractions in Sagada are its Hanging Coffins. There is not just one but a few more Hanging Coffins sites in Sagada. One of them is perhaps the most accessible and nearest the town - the Echo Valley Hanging Coffins.
Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins
Click here for our detailed post featuring Echo Valley Hanging Coffins

The Echo Valley Hanging Coffins can be reached by going to the town proper and heading towards the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Even further is an uphill climb where your trek to the Hanging Coffins starts. Don't forget to pay a one-time payment of Environmental Fee at the Tourism Office in the town proper. The personnel in-charge at the entrance of Echo Valley will ask for your O.R. Don't leave it to them, though because you will need it whenever you go to a Sagada tourist attraction.

I suppose we don't have to explain why Echo Valley was named that way.

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins
The main view point of Echo Valley

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins
Trekking deeper in the valley to the Hanging Coffins site

4. Falls, anyone?
Bokong Falls is perhaps the most accessible waterfalls in Sagada. We even easily discovered on our own the two routes that lead to it.
The cold water rushing from the top felt like melted ice. Sagada may be known for the cold weather but this doesn't stop tourists from daring to take a plunge in the naturally carved pool beneath Bokong Falls.
Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Bokong Falls


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Bokong Falls


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Bokong Falls

5. Native delicacies
There are a number of delicacies in Sagada and among them are their well-known pies. If you're not up to try a different kind of flavor, so citrusy that it will leave your face contorted and cause you those jaw cramps, I bet you will not like the lemon pie. My husband and I tasted it. Nah, actually we each had a slice.... How did it go??? Well, good thing we had a cup of coffee within reach.
The vanilla pie, now, that's yummy! At least for both our taste. It looks like the more well-known egg pie in Manila but this one is much creamier and a little sweeter.
Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Lemon Pie, Vanilla Pie
Lemon Pie (left) and Vanilla Pie (right)

6. Trying out the Restobars in Sagada town proper
Sagada may not have the hard-party bars like those in Baguio but it does have restobars and mini-pubs where local and foreign tourists spend the evening with friends and families over a cup of coffee or sharing a platter of pasta and other sumptuous meals.

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Sagada Lemon Pie House


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Yoghurt House

There's a different kind of magic in the still evening air of Sagada. While most locals of Sagada are all warm in the comfort of their home, the tourists enjoy the soothing tranquility of empty streets but at the same time taking comfort at the sound of soft laughter and giggles from fellow tourists. 

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Sagada Brew


We don't have much else to share in this post as we only intended to spend our vacation in complete rest. We did, however, inquire on what activities there are in Sagada as we look forward to return this year for a taste of their adventures.
If you want to know what's in store for you in Sagada, here were the info we gathered:

Caving
Cave Connection
Route: 
Dokiw Hanging Coffins - viewpoint
Lumiang Burial Cave - entry point
Sumaging Cave - exit point
Rice Terraces - viewpoint

Guide Fee: 
Php800 for 2 visitors or less; Php400 for each additional visitor

Short Course Caving
Route: 
Dokiw Hanging Coffins - viewpoint
Lumiang Burial Cave - entrance
Sumaging Cave - entrance and exit points
Rice Terraces - viewpoint

Guide Fee: 
Php500 for 4 visitors or less; Php400 for each additional visitor
Php600 for 5 visitors
Php1,000 (2 guides) for 6 - 9 visitors
Php1,200 (2 guides) for 10 visitors
Php1,500 (3 guides) for 11 - 12 visitors

Balangagan Cave Spelunking (Marcos Cave)
Guide Fee: Php650 for 4 visitors or less

Waterfalls
Bumayeng Twin Falls
Fee:  Php2,500 for 5 visitors or less (includes packed meal)

Bomod-ok
Fee:  Php600 for 10 visitors or less 

Pongas
Fee:  Php600 for 10 visitors or less 

Bokong
Fee:  Php200 for 10 visitors or less


Mountain Trekking
Mt. Ampacao Traverse
Fee:  Php800 for 10 visitors or less

Grassy Land / Marlboro
Fee:  Php600 for 10 visitors or less

Langsayan Danum Traverse
Fee:  Php1,000 for 3 visitors or less

Mt. Sisipitan
Fee:  Php2,000 each

Mt. Polis
Fee:  Php1,500 3 visitors or less




As travelers who are very fond of nature, Sagada is a piece of heaven for us. Clear skies, cool breeze, the smell of pine trees, wild sunflowers, virgin forest, mountains thick with the presence of trees, fresh air, and zero-noise and light pollution. These are the ones we value and admire the most in our travels. We sincerely hope that Sagada will be preserved as it is and not be saturated with establishments, housing infrastructures, and too many vehicles, unlike what happened in Baguio.


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines


How to go to Sagada from Manila by Bus
Currently there are no buses that go to Sagada straight from Manila. To go to Sagada, you have two options: One, ride a bus going to Baguio then from there another bus to Sagada. This route goes through the province of Benguet. 
The other option is through Banaue then from there you may take a van directly to Sagada (Php300/head) OR if you're up for some adventure you may take a jeepney to Bontoc (Php150/head) then another jeepney to Sagada (Php45/head). The view on the way to Sagada is truly breathtaking. That must be the reason why those who prefer to ride a jeepney choose to take a nice spot on the jeepney roof.


Where to Stay in Sagada
Our accommodation was at Misty Lodge, which is located a few kms before reaching Sagada town proper from Banaue. If you'll choose this accommodation, make sure to inform the driver to drop you off in the area.

In all our travels we prefer booking our accommodation in lodges, inns, resorts, and hotels that are located outside the town proper to savor the tranquil urban life in the provinces and save ourselves from the stress of too crowded places. Our vacation in Sagada was made especially peaceful by staying at Misty Lodge - great-tasting food (I especially love the burgers and pizza), well-maintained rooms and facilities, and a hospitable staff.

Misty Lodge is owned and managed by Ms. Sigrid and her family. They were very nice and accommodating, attending to our needs whenever we needed assistance. Misty Lodge is not just a place to spend the night but it is also frequented by tourists for their great-tasting food. At night the dining area is usually filled with other tourists from the town proper and from the other nearby lodges.

We highly recommend this place in Sagada. You may keep in touch with Ms. Sigrid for booking reservations:  

Contact Number: 0926-1235186  
Facebook Page: Misty Lodge and Cafe


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Misty Lodge


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Misty Lodge

Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Misty Lodge
Our morning greeter ^_^


Backpacking Pinoy Couple, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, Misty Lodge


Sagada Posts (Mountain Province)

Our 5D4N Sagada Vacation (December 2014)

Day 1   Dec 25, Thursday
     8:45 PM    ~   departed from Florida Bus Station in Cubao going to Banaue (Php530/head)
     
Day 2   Dec 26, Friday
     4:45 AM    ~   arrived in Banaue and registered at People's Restaurant for a van to Sagada (van at Php300/head)
     8:00 AM    ~   departure time from People's Restaurant 
     8:20 AM    ~   a brief side trip at Banaue Rice Terraces Viewpoint
     9:25 AM    ~   passed by Bontoc town proper
   10:25 AM    ~   arrived at Misty Lodge

From this point on there was not much activities to share as we spent the remainders of our vacation lazing around, relaxing, walking, hitching, slept most of the morning, savored the cold climate, and just enjoyed a good rest (except for the part when we explored the Echo Valley Hanging Coffins and Bokong Falls on our own)              

Day 5   Dec 30, Tuesday
   7:30 AM    ~   waited at town proper, near St. Mary's Church for a bus ride to Baguio
   9:00 AM    ~   bus departed for Baguio (Php220/head)
   3:00 PM    ~   arrived in Baguio
   3:20 PM    ~   bus departed from Baguio to Pasay (Php456/head)  
 11:00 PM    ~   arrived in Pasay
   
        

Budget allotted was Php 10,000.00 at Php 5,000 per head
Actual expense amounted to around Php 8,500 (Php 4,260 per head)

Expense breakdown:

   Php  2,400.00 (5D4N)      Overnight stay at Misty Lodge (@Php600/night)
   Php       530.00/head         Bus from Cubao to Banaue
   Php       300.00/head         Van from Banaue to Sagada
   Php         35.00/head         One-time payment of Environmental Fee paid at Sagada Tourism Office
   Php   1,500.00/head          Meals 
   Php       220.00/head         Bus from Sagada to Baguio
   Php       456.00/head         Bus from Baguio to Pasay 
  
   

Backpacking Pinoy Couple 2015
Backpacking Pinoy Couple