That Place Called Sagada

We all have our favorite place or places, may it be our house, a tourist destination, a cozy café, or a chic hotel. But wherever that maybe, this place has become our favorite because it carries memories and recollections. It can be a place that gives us contentment to our desire, longing or passion. It can be a place that gives us solitude, happiness or enjoyment. It can be a place that makes us who we are. It can also be a place that makes us feel home. Well, those are the things that I always feel about when I pay a visit to this place called Sagada.

Sagada is my most favorite destination in the country. Though, I enjoy most of the time being in the beach, the charm that Sagada has is so incomparable and irresistible. Sagada has this feeling of being a home away from home. Sagada gives me this sense that I’m always part of this place, that I’m not a stranger, an outcast or an outlander. It always embraces me with its full spirit and nature.

Sagada is a small and peaceful town situated in the Mountain Province. It has many natural wonders that make this place a popular destination to backpackers and tourists.

Sagada is a place that I always appreciate of going to nonetheless the number of hours to reach it. I can endure the long and winding journey because surely there will be worthy and remarkable experiences await me on this lovely destination.

How to get to Sagada?

There is now a direct bus trip from Metro Manila to get to Sagada via Coda Lines. I haven’t tried it yet. But one can also go either Baguio or Bontoc to reach the place.

I always prefer going to Sagada via Baguio because it’s more convenient for me. The only bus lines that go to Sagada from Baguio are GL Liner and Lizardo Transit. They have their terminal at Dangwa with trips from 6:00 AM up to 1:00 PM. During high season, they usually add trips – but that is still depends on the availability of the bus. Bus fare costs PHP 220 per person, with travel time that takes about 5 hours.

There are now numerous options in Sagada for places to stay and eat. However, please be reminded that during high season, advance booking for accommodation is a must. You may check this link to see the list of places to stay and eat in Sagada.

Adventures in Sagada

The list of things to do in Sagada is growing. Before, I only knew about big falls and spelunking but now, there are already several activities that Sagada has to offer. It has an array of activities from spelunking, trekking, mountain climbing, sunrise viewing, walking tour and other adventures that visitors will surely enjoy to.

Visitors of Sagada must all register at the tourism center.

Visitors who wish to partake to any activities in Sagada must hire guides who are only authorized either by the tourism office or SAGGAS. Here, you can already choose an adventure that you wish to participate. You can also join other groups who had registered for a tour, if you wish to. These offices and organizations help tourists decide, plan and form groups who wish to join an activity while in Sagada.

Because I already did spelunking a couple of times already in my first visits in Sagada, I had decided to skip doing it when I visited Sagada again.  Rather, I’ve decided to focus on the attractions that I had not able to do before.

Sunrise at Kiltepan Peak

Kiltepan Peak is the most popular spot to watch the sunrise. This spot is situated on the eastern part of the town and is about three and a half kilometers from the town proper.

Getting to Kiltepan Peak is easy by joining a group. It was a night before our planned trip to Kiltepan when my buddy and I went to the SAGGAS office and asked if there was a group who will be going to the viewpoint. Luckily, there was. We registered at the tour and waited for the confirmation. Few hours after, I’ve received a message that our tour will be proceeding together with other joiners.

A guide is actually not needed to get to Kiltepan Peak. We only hired a jeepney for our group to get to the famous viewpoint. The jeepney hire costs around PHP 500 two-way. We were about 8 in the group, so each of us paid PHP 63.

The sky was cloudy. We were anticipating for the sun but because it was gloomy, it seems that the sun will not going to show up. But sometimes the wind blew the clouds away giving us a clear sight of the mountains and the rice terraces.

Though my friend and I wasn’t able to meet the famous sunrise, seeing the view from the peak was still worth it. Moreover, having a picture of myself with the mountains and rice terraces on my background.

Hike to Bomod-ok Falls

Bomod-ok Falls, also known as the Big Falls is the most popular waterfalls in Sagada. It is located 6 kilometers from the town.

My friend and I hired a vehicle to get to Bangaan, the starting point of the trek to the Big Falls. From there, we registered at the tourist information center and hired a guide to accompany us through the hike. A guide costs PHP 600 for a group of 10 visitors or less.

The hike to the falls was made easy because of the paved path. We came across a village and different paddies. The descent was relaxed and enjoyable as the surrounding was so picturesque and soothing to the eye.

It was an hour after that we had finally reached the falls. There were a lot of tourists, which we had already expected. We planned to take a swim but the water was too cold for me to take a dip. I couldn’t take the coldness, so my friend and I just settled in an area to relax.

Bomod-ok Falls is certainly a nice attraction. Despite of the number of tourists obstructing me to photograph the falls, it was still magnificent. No wonder, why many tourists go to this place. The hike down was worth it.

A few minutes later, we had then decided to go back but taking the route going to Aguid instead. The hike that time was not that easy anymore because it was an ascent. Our guide had told us that this route was easier to take than the first one because the upward trail isn’t that steep. But there was no need to bother because the superb view along the trail already relieved our struggles.

Few minutes after reaching the main road of Aguid, our vehicle fetched us back to the town of Sagada. We paid the driver PHP 650 for the two-way transfer.

Late Afternoon at Lake Danum

After participating into a major activity, I had thought for us to go in an activity that doesn’t need much effort. Considering that it was already midafternoon, I decided for us to just go to Lake Danum.

Lake Danum is a popular spot in Sagada to see the sunset. This lake was said to be a venue of some legendary tales like how Sagada got its name.

It was few hours before sunset when we inquired at the tourism center for available vehicle to get us to Lake Danum. We waited for a long time but it seems that there was none so we had just asked around by ourselves (at the jeepney terminal) if there was a jeepney that can take us to Lake Danum. Luckily, there was a group who was planning to go to Lake Danum – so my friend and I had just joined the group. We were picked up by the jeepney from the town center and there we met the group.

The cost of our two-way transport fee to Lake Danum was PHP 550. We were 6 so we shared PHP 92 each for the ride.

Morning Walk to Echo Valley Hanging Coffins

One of the easiest places to visit while in Sagada is the Echo Valley. This place is just a few walks away passing by the St. Mary’s Church and Sagada Anglican Cemetery. But the challenging part is getting up close to the hanging coffins, which one needs to trek through the slippery downhill path.

It was morning before my friend left for Manila when we went to Echo Valley. It was a good timing because there were only few tourists around. In fact, I can count through my fingers how many people we had passed by. Since, I’m already familiar with the place, we didn’t hire a guide anymore.

The viewpoint from Echo Valley gives a great vantage point of different parts of the town. Take note as well that this place is called Echo Valley because of the obvious reason that this place can produce echo when you utter a loud call. My friend got confused when I told her about shouting and hearing an echo when in Echo Valley because she thought it was spelled as ‘Eco-Valley’.

From this point as well, one can already view the hanging coffins. But because I want my friend to see it up close, we hiked down through the slippery trail. The hike took us about half an hour. Sagada is well-recognized for its hanging coffins. This is their traditional way of burying people. However, not everyone is eligible to be buried this way; among other things, one had to have been married and had grandchildren.

Sagada Saturday Market

Aside from different tourist spots to visit in Sagada, what is also interesting about Sagada is their fresh produce. Every Saturday, vendors sell these fresh produce in the town proper making it like a street market. There are fruits, vegetables, and also meat products. Aside from food, some items and apparels are also on sale. It was nice to drop by at the Saturday Market. I bet you’ll find something to buy.

Visit to Sagada Pottery, Ganduyan Museum and Sagada Weaving

I was supposed to go mountain climbing but because it was already late and there were not much of participants, I had just paid a visit to some places within and nearby town. Two tourists who were supposed to join me in mountain climbing had just joined me as well in visiting Sagada Pottery and Ganduyan Museum. But after visiting those tourist spots, I went solo in visiting Sagada Weaving.

The Sagada Pottery is situated few meters away from the town proper. Because it can be easily walked from the town, our group had just decided to walk. But a jeepney passed by – so we hopped in and rode the jeepney to get to our destination. We paid PHP 10 each for the ride that took around 10 minutes.

Sagada Pottery is one of the shops wherein you can find Sagadan pottery and buy them as souvenirs. Each jar is cautiously precast by hand, giving it a nice form and authentic sculpture.

The shop gives a demonstration to its visitors on how to mold a jar. Each group has to pay PHP 100. Visitors can also experience molding a jar by paying PHP 100.

After visiting the famous pottery, we went back to the town proper then visited the Ganduyan Museum. Ganduyan Museum is a small museum that is filled with sculptures, jewelry and other Kankanay artifacts. Picture taking is not allowed but visiting this museum is worth a stop over from all adventures that Sagada has. It’ll give you an insight about the history, heritage and culture of Sagada. Ganduyan is the traditional Kankanay name for Sagada.

Because I still had time before nightfall, I visited Sagada Weaving. Sagada Weaving is a small shop where you can buy souvenir items like bags, pouches and different kinds of stuff made by hardworking Sagadan weavers.

Pongas Falls with New Found Friends

What is great about visiting Sagada is not only about discovering new attractions but also meeting new people.

It was when I inquired at the tourism office about a tour to Pongas Falls. I was the first one who showed interest about Pongas Falls that day but I still asked the officer to list me down so if there’ll be people who wish to get there to, then it’ll be easy to arrange. When I went back to the tourism office to ask for an update, it was amazing that 6 other people were interested to join.

I was thankful not only because it’ll be cheaper for me but also it’ll be more enjoyable to get to the falls with companions.

It was around 10:00 AM when our group had been finally completed. Because the jump off point to get to Pongas Falls is located at the southern distant part of the town, we hired a jeepney to take us there. It was 20 minutes bumpy ride to reach the jump off point. We were told that from there, it would still take us about an hour hike to reach Pongas Falls. We hired a guide to accompany us through the hike. A guide costs PHP 600, which is already good for our group.

Pongas Falls is the newest discovered attraction in Sagada that is quickly becoming a hotspot. It features twin falls, which makes this destination stand out.

The hike was not that easy. I could imagine how hard it was before when there was still no concrete trail. But I could say that all effort to get to this nature’s attraction was priceless because it was a treat in the end. Seeing the magnificent Pongas Falls was nothing but glory and greatness.

I’ve thought of taking a dip to cool down from all the exhaustion that I’ve felt during the hike. However as soon as I touched the water that was coming from the falls, I backed off. I don’t think I could manage to bear the coldness when I take a dip on that icy pool.

Some of my companions bravely took a dip.

An hour after, our group decided to bid goodbye to the falls. We then started to descend. That time was already kind of relaxed because the trail was already downward.

It was already 1:00 PM when we were able to get back to the main road. Few minutes after, the jeepney arrived and brought us back to the town. The two-way transport fee costs PHP 650 for 10 visitors or less. We were 7 in a group, so we shared PHP 93 each for the ride.

The fun connection of our group didn’t just end there in Pongas Falls. After that exciting activity, we all held together in roaming around the town as well as having lunch and dinner. We even had a drinking session that night to know more of each other – and plan for our next trip.

Finding new friends was the most fulfilling thing that I’ve experienced during my trip to Sagada. It had shown me that this is not only a place to explore new sites but also a destination to meet new people.

Sagada is a destination favored by tourist because of adventures, food and culture. But for me, Sagada is more than that. I consider this place as my sanctuary, my home. It has this vibe that I really like. Even though I already spent longer days to explore this destination, it still gives me reason to go back. I don’t know but whenever I’m on this place, it lifts my passion to travel and gives me the feeling of serenity, fulfillment and happiness. A great feeling that I couldn’t find anywhere else but only there, on that beautiful place called Sagada.

Now, I just couldn’t wait go back and fulfill my promise – to visit Sagada at least once in a year.

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