I need a break.
With this in mind, I decided to request for a 3-day off from work and started to search online for places to take reprieve from the city. One place that always pops up is Sagada. It was hyped up last 2016 because of a movie about heartbreak and finding Sagada as place where broken-hearted people go to mend themselves. Broken hearted? Not really. But I was tired. The stresses of work is getting to me and I just had to get away for a while.
Know as the Shangrila of the North, Sagada is a small town in the mountain province of the Philippines. Getting there would take 7-8 hours via bus from Cubao, Quezon City.
There are deluxe buses offered with built-in restroom and it cost around 700-900 pesos. They offer snacks and bottled water for the trip and they have on-hand plastic bags for the prickly passengers who can’t handle the long and winding road. Coda bus lines offers deluxe bus direct from Cubao to Sagada.
Arriving in Sagada
With my bag in tow upon arriving, I called my friend to notify that I have safely arrived in my destination and I just took a deep breath. You will have that feeling. The feeling of peace. When the fresh air and cold weather gets to you and you know that you’re in a good place and you can almost feel the stresses of your life leave you. That is what I felt.
The first thing I did was register in the Municipality as a tourist. They do this to control the tourist that comes in and from there you can have a pick of the tours and places in Sagada that you want to go to. You have a choice of doing it with a group or as a solo. They have a fixed price which will be divided based on the number of joiners they have grouped you with. This way, you will not be overpriced if you’re a foreigner and they will have a list on who’s going where with their very own trained tour guide. They will also arrange for all the activities that you want to do for the specific time that you want it done. They will get your contact number to inform you if they have found a group for you or if they have other suggestions for your itinerary. The tours are also very cheap and they specified the maximum allowable group for each activity. This is probably one of the most efficient system I have seen and everyone is very accommodating to help you get the most experience that you want to do in Sagada.
I usually book before I go places but it wasn’t peak season and hostels and dormitories are relatively cheap so I just swing it. I got a 250/night private room with shared bathroom (though there a few guest that time so the restroom was almost mine to use alone). Bonus is the police station which is just around the corner so you will feel really safe (though there are zero crime rate in Sagada according to the locals).
Things to do and Sights to See
There are a lot of activities to choose from in Sagada. There are sights for those laid-back traveler and fun activities for the adventure junkies out there. But why not do both?:)
Pray at the Episcopal church of St. Mary the Virgin
The Episcopal church of St. Mary the Virgin. Quaint but very tranquil. It is the oldest church in the Cordillera region, not counting Baguio. I prayed for safety and for an enjoyable trip.
See the Hanging coffins at Echo valley
Sagada is known for its hanging coffins in the Echo valley. The old tribes from Sagada believes that coffins of their deceased loved ones should be hung on limestones where the light is visibly seen as a guide for them to cross the other side (like the saying “walk through the light”). Some coffins are very small because they are buried in a fetal position with the belief that we will leave this world the way we have entered (from the mother’s womb). You can also shout your heart out on Echo Valley with the echoing sounds caused by the surrounding limestones.
They also boast with their amazing sunrise with sea of clouds at Kiltepan without the need to climb a mountain. Wake up around 4am, secure yourself a good spot and wait for the majestic sea of clouds after the fog has cleared. I almost cried upon seeing it. Natural works of nature just make you feel how beautiful the world is and make you realize that in the grand scheme of things, we are nothing but a speck of dirt in passing so we have to make the most of what life has to offer.
Go Cave Spelunking!
For the adventure seekers out there, you can also try cave spelunking where you will cross rock formations and underwater pools barefoot (you have to take off your shoes because the rocks are slippery). Just make sure you are not claustrophobic because it is really dark getting in and you only have the guide’s lamp as source of light. I was grouped with a couple and another solo backpacker and it was here where I had the most fun. We simply jived and everyone is game to do whatever the guide ask. We ended up taking another activity together and dinner as well since we enjoyed each other’s company.
Swim in the freezing waters of Bomok-od falls
Bonus view of the rice terraces on the way to the falls:)
Another fun activity is the trek to Bomod-ok falls. The way to the falls is rewarding itself since you will pass by beautiful rice terraces. You will get an amazing 360-view of lush green pastures it will feel like you’re in a painting. After the long walk, you’ll be rewarded with the beautiful Bomod-ok falls. Make sure to dive into the freezing waters to get the full experience.
After all the activities you’ve done, don’t forget to try out Sagada’s famous delicacies. They have their famous Yogurt cafe and Lemon pie. They also produce their own unique rice wine.
Just relax and have fun!
Above all these, simply walking around the town of Sagada will leave you a sense of peacefulness. Their way of living is very simple and everyone is very polite. I think this is one charm of Sagada that attracts people. It’s simplicity. You’ll be reminded to take things slow and just appreciate the view. Enjoy nature. Live simply. Life is beautiful.