Note: This is a continuation of Part 5

3098_1124268979254_1002990736_30401122_3333835_nWe were set to leave before noon but there were still some places we haven’t visited yet. So we started out early on Black Saturday morning.

Every Saturday is Market Day in Sagada. Farmers, sellers and merchants would come in from other towns and gather in the main road, set up ‘shop,’ and lay down their wares, such as tea, coffee, fruits like 3098_1124269059256_1002990736_30401124_6954535_nblueberries (for only 15 pesos in a cup!), vegetables, fish, meat, stuff from China, wooden crafts, sweaters, dvds of movies and Cordillera music, etc.

It was 6 in the morning when EmJ, Zbeth and I passed by; some were still in the process of setting up.  We decided to buy a pre-breakfast snack (if there is such a thing) from them—cinnamon bread and hot Sagada brew served in styro cups—to be eaten while strolling along the St. Mary’s Episcopalian Church grounds (left).

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the church pretty much looks the same as it did a hundred years ago (see old pics of it via this vid).

A peek inside: The Church with stone walls and Rose windows:

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The church grounds where one can contemplate and meditate:3098_1124269099257_1002990736_30401125_7916920_n

Then, we went back to St. Jo’s to take our last breakfast of fried rice, and 3098_1124268619245_1002990736_30401113_8108847_nall-you-can-eat danggit. Next off we went to pack our stuff so we can get ready to check out at 11.  But since there was still time to spare, we decided to go for one last trek.

We passed beyond the church grounds to see the cemetery and as shown on the right, the big cross at Calgary Hill (which was ruined because of a hideous communications tower said to be from Globe built behind it):

cliff-087Watch your step!: Just the previous night, there was somebody who fell down around these parts. Fortunately, he survived.  A local manghihilot was all they needed to patch him up.

And then, off we went for a short hike towards Echo Valley, so-called because it is where you can hear echoes of your own loud shouting and screams (and yes, we tried it, of course!).  And from our viewing point, one can see from a distance, the Hanging Coffins of Sagada (the unique burial custom of the locals) at a limestone cliff (pic courtesy of Lori B):

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3098_1124329380764_1002990736_30401337_2391447_nThe last thing we did was visit the Ganduyan Museum.  Here, we found out that before the Spaniards came, Ganduyan, was the original name of Sagada.  Artist and owner/curator, Cristina Aben (at left), showed us around and gave a very enlightening talk about Igorot history and local customs, as well as indigenous artifacts and items in her collection displayed in her museum. A small monetary donation is asked of you in lieu of an entrance fee.

Travel tip no. 3—make it a point museumto visit a local museum or attend a cultural show every time you travel.  If traveling in Sagada, I recommend to include Ganduyan Museum in your itinerary.  I found it a very informative and worthwhile experience that capped off our Sagada vacation perfectly.

Just one more… Part 7 (The Journey Home)

Note: This is a continuation of Part 4

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Afterward, we went to Sagada Weaving. Here, one can watch the skillful weavers (but no pics allowed) make the durable Sagada cloth that are made into bags, wallets, purses, and3098_1123742646096_1002990736_30399579_4009513_n even shoes and in turn are sold in their store:

Oops, there goes my budget: I bought a backpack for P520 and a wallet for around a hundred pesos (right)

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Next, we dropped by The Orchard, a garden restaurant and café where you can pick fruits (if in season) and pay for them later but there were none when we arrived…. So we just lounged around and chillaxed a bit. 3098_1123742486092_1002990736_30399575_1486658_nWe liked the flowers most especially the lady slippers adorning the entrance (left pic).

Native baskets are hung from the ceiling in the restaurant, adding charm to the interiors (at right)

3098_1123742686097_1002990736_30399580_6168336_nFor lunch, we went back to the town.  Four of us chose to eat at Masferre Restaurant. We ordered and shared home-cooked style Pinoy meals: papaitan, chopsuey, and adobo (Cordillera-style). By this time we noticed that there were so many Holy Week tourists (local and foreign) in Sagada, it was like being in Baguio (well, almost).  This wasn’t like this 5 to 10 years ago, I heard.  The town then was quiet, and charmingly quaint during the Holy Week.  Now, inns were fully booked that some tourists had to be turned away.

Meantime, I was a bit nervous about the next activity we were going to have in the afternoon. We were going inside Sumaguing Cave.  I heard stories how difficult it would be to explore it with super slippery trails.  I was bracing myself for an arduous adventure ahead…n589437526_2811974_5857961

We were advised to wet-proof our gadgets and cameras. I chose not to bring mine since it was also advisable to keep your hands free while spelunking.  The  cave’s snapshots shown here are some that I grabbed later on from my tour-mates’ FB pages (thanks to Lori B. and Alejandro M!).

Some of the cave formations that we managed to see…

Well, what can I say… Frankly, it was a bit nightmarish for me. Some parts of the cave were smelly (with all the 3240_1131626925711_1078384336_30391307_8262156_nbat poo and stuff) and slippery.  Plus there were so many people inside that it caused ‘traffic jams’ (pic at left). The place was crowded and brightly-lit by the kerosene lamps held by cave guides, that somehow, I feel like we were inside a mall or something.

The inside of the cave was enormous.  And some of the paths were scary and steep. I was too preoccupied with trying NOT to fall that I found myself not enjoying the cave and its natural wonders anymore.

Then, someone said “I can’t go in any further” (I swear it wasn’t me).  Someone agreed (again, not me) and before we know it, majority of us did not want to venture forth anymore (and that included me–ashamedly).  I can’t say I n589437526_2811972_7469479was disappointed that the spelunking was cut short–I was also tired.  But looking back, I wished that we DID finish it—we could have seen the unusual cave formations ahead and the underground river.  Oh, well. Maybe if I was a few years younger…this would have been a cinch for me. But at that time in Sumaguing, I was only dreaming of a long hot shower to get of rid of the guano stench.

Light at the end?: Travel Tip No. 2 – Before you try spelunking inside Sumaguing, BRACE yourself for a difficult (and dirty) ordeal.  Don’t go in if you think you can’t do it.  And if you do, FINISH it. Don’t give up.  It’s also embarrassing to your spelunking mates who may want to reach the end if you give up.  Some paths are hard but you will survive.  Promise.

3098_1124268859251_1002990736_30401119_7368544_nAfter showering (I stayed in the bathroom for an hour!), EmJ, Zbeth and I went and got the steaming arroz caldo porridge we had been craving for since the previous day.  We got it at Strawberry Café (left).  With pinikpikan chicken, boiled egg, and dayap juice, this comfort food (for 60 pesos) hits the spot alright! Yum!

b (=^‥^=) d ニャッ!purr~~

And then, for one last craving, off we went for a slice of lemon pie. But 3098_1123742766099_1002990736_30399582_7505147_nagain, we were disappointed to find out that Lemon Pie resto ran out of pies, and so we settled for lemon tea instead. Anong lasa? Lemon siempre!

3098_1124268939253_1002990736_30401121_2038824_nWe tried to finish shopping for souvenir items like shirts, blueberry jam, oatmeal cookies, ponchos, caps, mittens, scarves, coffee, tea, etc. before the curfew starts.  Then, we had our last dinner in Sagada (since we’re set to go home tomorrow). We had sisig, and onion rings, and strawberry wine at Alapo Inn’s resto (left pic).

Meanwhile, outside, there was a semi-full 3098_1124268899252_1002990736_30401120_3270010_nmoon over at Mt. Ampucao.  I took a picture of it with my cellcam, and this is the only clear shot of it:

Good Friday moon with a mysterious shining cross: We stood and wondered where the cross was coming from. Other people saw it, too, and took pictures of it.  We surmised that it may be coming from a communications tower at Mt. Ampucao.  This coincidence (it was a Good Friday—the day Jesus was crucified on the cross) made us say a little prayer and reflect: Ayan tuloy…Di naman dapat puro good times na lang kami! Magdasal at magpasalamat naman sa matiwasay na byahe at masayahing bakasyon!

I also prayed for a safe journey home for the next day…

To be continued… Part 6 (The Last Day)

Note: This is a continuation of Part 3

“Mas mataas pa tayo sa clouds! (We’re higher than the clouds!)”

Excited voices woke me up at 6 am on Good Friday.  Apparently, my fellow travelers staying in the other dorm rooms at Alapo Inn were already up and about; thrilled about whatever they’re seeing outside. I got up, too, went to the window, and this is what I saw:

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A Sagada morning (above): Are these clouds or just a foggy morning? Being brkfstlowlanders all of our lives, we couldn’t tell (hehe, that’s how we are–we even get easily excited at the sight of a mere pine tree).  Whatever it was, it made me want to shower and dress up quickly.  No time to waste… there’s a long and bustling day ahead!

Breakfast awaits (at left): Included in the organized tour that we availed of were daily breakfast meals at the nearby St. Jo’s Café. We were served skinless longganisa, omelette and native fried rice, plus ‘bottomless’ Sagada brew. A perfect hearty meal to face a grueling day. Carbo-loading ito!

Then we were off to our activities for the day–nature trekking, cave exploring, and more (!) picture-taking and eating (^o^)丿だー:

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Grab on!: this is what they call ‘top load’ traveling (literally meaning, riding on top of jeepneys while traversing across rough terrains). Only for the fit and super-adventurous. And that doesn’t include me. No freakin’ way.

3098_1123742006080_1002990736_30399564_8059214_n Into the woods: We passed different kinds of pine trees along the way to our destination. I heard that 10 years ago, there were not enough modes of transportation to help you go around the place–one had to just walk and hike. Now, vans and jeepneys can be rented for around a thousand pesos (including the driver’s fee).  The roads are still rugged but that’s just part of what this place is all about.

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Care to take a dip?: Wha-? Brown water at Lake Danum? They said it’s usually blue but since it rained the previous day, it turned brown.  Oh, well. We took pics of it, anyway.

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The view during the hike on the way to the falls.

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The rice field terraces up close: young green rice plants. So this is what they look like…

n589437526_2811835_7803308We trekked across the fields and muddy trails.  Since I was afraid of slipping, falling and landing on my butt, I grabbed at whatever sturdy branches and leaves as much as I can.  I was able to manage much to my relief.

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At last, we reached a small waterfalls. Whew! The water was so cold, almost icy to the touch.  It was tempting to take a dip or explore the area a bit more but we still had places to go to:

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Next, we visited a viewing point that took our breath away:

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Wow! Now this was more like it!: “Profile Pic! Profile Pic!” we exclaimed when we reached the viewing point. There was another magnificent view at Mt. Ampucao but going there would require a lot of huffing and puffing since it was higher in altitude.  This one may not be as high in altitude but all the same, we were immensely ecstatic about it.

Umaga pa lang yan pero ang dami na… at meron pa…

To be continued….Part 5 (A Good Friday PM)

Note: this is a continuation of Part 2

By 2 pm, we finally reached the municipality of Sagada.  It was cold, of course, and as soon as we settled in our gear at Alapo Inn, it rained.  We were supposed to start touring the place but because of the rain, we had to postpone it.  So instead, we showered and freshened up.

The first thing we checked out is food, siempre naman(!) ★(*^-゚)⌒☆Wink!:

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After the rain: traversing a Sagada street on our way in search of an afternoon snack.

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Sagada yogurt with strawberries, banana and granola from the much-talked about Yoghurt House. There were a lot of customers that some would opt to eat outside.  Since there were too many orders, the yogurt we got tasted too sour; not enough time to let the cream ferment before it was served.

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Next, we went to the Municipal Hall and registered as tourists.

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Travel Tip 1: first thing to do also is to buy a map of Sagada. One can be bought from any of the souvenir stores that dot along the streets.

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We strolled around admiring the landscape and pine trees.  We also milled about in the market, checking out wares and stuff (mountain tea sold for 10 pesos; cinnamon bread for P17) and before we know it, it was already dark.

foodEmJ was craving for hot arroz caldo (rice porridge) and so was I but we couldn’t find any. So we settled for Shamrock Cafe. I ordered garden salad and cheese omelette (left) which were superb and satisfying nevertheless. It was also my first time to try out Sagada brewed coffee.

For desert, we wanted to try lemon pie at Lemon Pie (where else?) but we gave up because we had to hurry back to our inn before the curfew comes into effect at 9 pm. We slept early (with socks and mittens on to combat the cold cold night) because we had to rest and be ready to take on the next day’s adventures…

To be continued… Part 4

Note: This is a continuation of Part 1

It was Maundy Thursday.  En route to Sagada, we had several stop-overs in Bontoc. First, we reached Mount Polis, which is the borderline between Ifugao and the Mountain Province.  Again we took some neat photos:

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HIGH-yop! This is said to be the highest highway, maybe in Luzon; here, you could literally ‘touch’ passing clouds (low-lying ones only) but there were none when we passed by.

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Sorry po sa distorbo, Manong… A Bontoc elder contemplates, seemingly unmindful of us, a bunch of noisy, giddy kulit travelers.

pict0465Feels like heaven: A huge statue of the Virgin Mary, probably measuring 20 feet tall…

pict0464…and a cabbage patch can be found at Mt. Polis where organic vegetables can be sold really cheap. We decided to buy some when we pass by here again on our way home.

Then, we stopped again to gaze with amazement at the picturesque town of Bay-yo and its terraces:

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There were more terraces along the way…

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We reached Bontoc Proper at 12 noon and went straight to visit the Bontoc Museum first before it closes. There were replicas of Ifugao houses displayed there that are worth checking out if ever you drop by someday:

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A mannequin display of an Igorot woman weaving cloth at the museum (left); and the museum features old photos of the Cordillera’s rich culture and heritage (right)

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Fellow traveler, Melo (above), a food and travel blogger is hard at work, doing his thing (Check out his post on this; he has better pix than me!)– taking picture of our lunch: delicious lechon kawali dish from Tchayapan restaurant in Bontoc.

After a good meal, we were off for one last ride (for another hour) before reaching our final destination: Sagada.

To be continued…Part 3

As I said, it had been a dream of mine to go up and see Sagada of the Mountain Province, Cordillera region for thebataan-126 longest time.  It had been in my bucket list of destinations that I’ve been itching to tick off for so long.  There were several attempts to actually push through with it in the past but something always came up, and so I thought this elusive dream of mine will never be realized. Until now…

Last Holy Week, I and two of my friends (EmJ and Zbeth) from work finally decided to avail of a packaged tour of Sagada, organized by NACCI. We would be traveling with some strangers who also availed of the tour. We took the Banaue/Bontoc route instead of the one via Baguio (Benguet), taking a Florida airconed bus Wednesday night (God! the bus station was practically bursting at the seams with people trying to get home to their respective hometowns!).

We also passed through Nueva Vizcaya in the dark. We first arrived in Banaue at 8 am where we had our breakfast, took souvenir pictures and marveled at the Banaue Rice Terraces…

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This view from the balcony at Stairway Lodge and Restaurant seemed to be greeting us a bright and cheery morning.

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We Pinoys proudly claim it as the eighth wonder of the world.  Even if some do not agree, it is so in our hearts.  Alas! My camera (and our view deck’s location) did not give it justice though.  I mean when it came to the ‘view-deck’ (which was something carved out on the side of a road cliff) that we were taken to, I think it was too low.  Maybe there was one at a higher vantage point and better angle where the terraces or steps can be fully seen and appreciated but we were not taken to that.  But hey, it was a blast to finally see The Terraces with my own eyes anyway (and not in some post card), so I was happy nevertheless.    pict0420

Our breakfast at Stairway… they were pretty fast in serving a motley crew of hungry, sleep-deprived travelers like us who were on the road for almost 9 hours.

And so afterward, we ventured on.  We transferred our backpacks to a yellow jeepney (which is a longer and modified Pinoy version of a  jeep meant to take in passengers; great for rough roads) that was going to take us the rest of the way to Bontoc and Sagada…

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pict0444The long and winding roads (which can be seen at the picture above) up the mountains were quite safe (with some parts still being improved, constructed and paved), not at all scary and still offered breath-taking views of the cliffs, mountain terrains and more mini-terraces along the way.

To be continued in Part 2! ☆^(*・ω・)ノ゜+。*゜+。

I’m back from the boondocks.  It was a real memorable and worthwhile trip.  But really tiring… I would LOOOVE to write about it and post my pix but now I’ve got to get back to work. Sighs…

Anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to post just ONE pic as a sort of preview:

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Taking it all in: Now, I can proudly declare, “I survived Sagada, man!” Wooweee!

To read my Sagada Adventures, start here —ヾ(゜∀゜*)人(*゜∀゜)ノ