In many of my travels, I have always placed 'getting into the local verve' at the top of my tick list. The company I keep, though for most of my travels I travel solo and meet new friends along the way, comes close at second spot. But this trip to Sagada opened up something new. Or maybe, just maybe, it was there all along, at the back of my mind, and during this trip, it was swelling, ripe enough, perfect for picking. Wookie. Wookie. Before this entry triggers the warning bulb and bursts into an explosion of saccharine proportion, let's get down to the business of budget traveling. In the mean time, let's keep the mystery like a riddle. If you got answers, I'm giving out prizes. The major prize is, drum rolls puulease, trip to Jerusalem. Nah! I'm just pulling your leg.
Getting back on track, the Philippine version of Shangri-la, Sagada may not be Utopian but it is definitely remote and exotic says Robert Gardner of aenet dot org. And I couldn't agree more. This lovely little town of about eleven thousand people is tucked in a valley in Central Cordillera. Aside from spelunking and nature hikes that will lead you to the hanging coffins (hanging coffins was a traditional way of burying people that is not utilized anymore. Not anyone was qualified to be buried this way; one had to, among other things, be married and have grandchildren--wikipedia.com) this town 275 km. North of Manila also offers homey inns and guesthouses with charming owners.
Under the drizzle, treading on a slippery trail, we were like goats piling toward the shelter at the rib of the mountain. By the time we got to the shelter, there was no jeepney waiting for us. By the minute, travellers arrived in truckloads. Fog grew thicker and the rain heavier. By the time the rain stopped, our hired jeepney arrived. "It's been raining non-stop. Landslide sir..." the barker explained in broken English. We hurried inside to further escape the afternoon cold and in a few hearbeats, the engine started and we soon found ourselves bouncing like balls inside. The ride was getting rough than ever. On the drive toward town, we had to stop ocassionally either to wait for the landslide to be cleared off or pay courtesy to an incoming car on the one-lane road, clinging dangerously between a slippery road and a seemingly never-ending ravine.
After the thirty-minute bumpy ride, the jeepney finally snaked a paved road that led us to the town center of Banaue. The plan was to take the bus to Bontoc from there. And from Bontoc, take the jeepney to Sagada. But we were not prepared for a bus bursting at the seams! So, we had to create plan B. With chance and weather working against us, we were left with no choice but hire the same jeepney to Sagada for such a hefty price tag of four grand!
The ride to Sagada, in spite of the rain was, by far, the best part of the trip. I braved my way to sit on the luggage rack on top of the jeepney, pulled my raincoat and enjoyed the business class view on a third class seat. Mountains are never-ending backbones of green dragons sleeping side by side. A river gracefully carve its way between them. The road is a brown trimming. I couldn't get any view better than this. I snapped my camera between taking-in the experience, the view, the feel of the cold moutain air against my face, the people waving from the road and more. But my upper deck privelege had to be cut short near Bontoc. The barker explained the traffic regulations.
Bontoc, Moutain Province
In Bontoc, I secured the return ticket to Manila before heading to Sagada. Better early than sorry. The stop was also a good way to stretch my muscles after the two-hour ride. The sun was shining this part of the Cordilleras. By three in the afternoon, the air grew thinner, the mountain's character more distinct and town quietier. It only means one thing: WELCOME TO SAGADA!
DISCOVER: Food destinations include Yoghurt House, Masferre Cafe and Lemon Pie House while places of interest are Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves, Bomod-ok and Bokong Falls, Rice terraces, Echo Valley, Kiltepan Tower, Underground River and Lake Danum.
next entry: Things to do and places to see in Sagada.