As far as backpackers’ haunts go, Sagada definitely looks and feels the part. There have been so many travelogues on this remote mountain province that my two cents really won’t be worth anything. (For awesome travel insights on Sagada, check out Visit Sagada, Lakwatsero, and the Travelling Dork.)
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Sagada back in early December. The weather was nice and cool, just before the peak holiday rush. My mountaineering friend remarked that the quiet, laid-back Sagada we saw was the Sagada of yesteryears. Apparently, this far flung town has become overly popular, especially during the annual bonfire.
The first item on our itinerary (after an awesomely yummy lunch at Yoghurt House) was to visit the dead. We saw both the Christian cemetery and the famous hanging coffins in Echo Valley. Whether those coffins are actually remnants of traditional burial practices or recently put up for tourists is up for debate. It doesn’t make it any less photogenic, though.
The next day was filled with activities. We started with an early morning trek to Kiltepan Viewpoint to watch the sunrise. (There was none, as documented in my very misty photograph.) We stopped at Cafe Bodega at the Rock Inn for some good eats, and orange picking in their backyard.
After breakfast, we stopped by Sagada Weaving to see traditional looms and watch a few women at work. I was impressed – it looked as complicated as working a medieval pipe organ, with pedals and and rods rythmically moving up and down.
We went to Pongas Falls for our second trek immediately afterwards. Being the ‘immerse yourself completely in the experience’ type of tourists, we opted for the long and scenic route. Our guide Fred said that the long way round would take two to three hours. It was also very dependent on the water levels of the rivers and creeks we had to cross.
Guess what? It took us over three hours to get to the waterfalls. Some serious climbing was involved – think hugging boulders and crawling at 45 degree angles. All in all, everyone got through unscathed. Though there were more than a few screams, yells, and whines along the way.
The unchallenging parts of the trek were truly scenic. We even met some happy children along the way. Suffice it to say, we decided to take the easy way back – which took us all of 45mins. Oh, and the waterfalls were majestic. (Photo courtesy of Maniniyut.)
Our final stop was Sumaguing Cave. I opted to keep my camera tucked away and dry during this leg of the race. I have yet to get copies of our spelunking adventure from our official photographer. But the cave experience is highly recommended. Bring swimwear and another set of dry clothes.
We left Sagada on a Sunday, and ended our trip with the morning service in their 100-year old Episcopal church. The Church of St Mary the Virgin sits on a grassy knoll above the rest of the town. It is the perfect place to contemplate the beauty of nature and man’s place in it. It’s also a good place to say goodbye to a town so quaint and charming, that you wouldn’t really want to leave.