February in Sagada: What Valentine's Feels Like Up There
January 1, 1970
The month of February is often cold in the Philippines, but this didn’t stop throngs of people from heading up the Mountain Province, me included, to go to one of the country’s popular destinations for any Weekend Warrior who wants to unwind or find themselves. Sagada has grown in popularity specifically after a local movie, That Thing Called ‘Tadhana’, featured some of its parts. A showcase of local culture, it’s something that Filipino travelers will certainly not want to miss.
Any tourist heading up the winding–and treacherous–path up North would want to visit the following:
This is perhaps the most iconic part of Sagada, and visitors would wake up as early as they could to see the majestic sunrise from the vantage point. Strangers grouped together to hire a van, as the destination isn’t one you can easily reach on your own. The view is perfect–if you go early enough.
- Don’t hesitate to approach small groups. A standard van accommodates up to ten passengers, and you pay for the whole van even if there are only two of you. Save on costs and meet new friends!
- Bring a jacket! This goes for all your travels around Sagada, but especially in Kiltepan Peak, and this early, your body will thank you for the protection from the cold.
- Take a selfie stick. Some of you may cringe at the idea of using a selfie stick when you have that expanse of sky and a trusty companion to take your picture, but with Kiltepan’s popularity, it will be hard to take a picture without a random stranger popping in the background. A selfie stick helps you get wider angles from a higher point of view, eliminating some of those unwanted encounters while still getting a good background.
Salt & Pepper Diner
Your Sagada trip will not be complete without sampling the various dishes in the area. The place is teeming with food choices, and you’ll want to eat at a new place for each meal. Salt & Pepper Diner is a good breakfast place, especially if you sit outside, on the second-floor balcony, watching as the town came alive. This is a good way to cap your visit to Kiltepan Peak. A good view and then good food? Your day is made already. To sample their steaks, however, you might want to come back later. Be mindful of the lunch-hour rush. It’s one of the most popular spots in Sagada for a reason.
Gaia Cafe is an out-of-the-way cafe that’s worth the walk, but be ready with your comfortable shoes and clothes. Though the temperature in Sagada is low enough to not leave any weekend warrior feeling warm from a few minutes of walking, Gaia Cafe is by no means easily accessible if you have no car. Feel free to contact any of the vehicles for hire near the information center, or drop by this on your way to Lumiang Cave.
Going to this cafe on foot, and staying here, is an affair to remember. Just take a look at what you pass by:
Every part of Sagada is picture-perfect, so make sure your phones and cameras are fully charged and that you have enough memory for all the photos you’ll be taking. Do try the food at Gaia Cafe–they have a vegan and vegetarian menu that’s perfect for the hungry traveler. Their drinks are worth coming back to, and the view from the elevated cafe is sure to make all the walking you’ve done for the day worth it. Gaia Cafe offers a good view, perfect for those “senti” selfies. Do check out the Crafts store, as well, and bring home locally made bags and other crafts to mark your visit.
Hanging Coffins and the Echo Valley Tour
Fact: There is no single place where you will see hanging coffins in Sagada. They are actually in some caves in the mountainous region. The one shown in the photo is seen when you go on the Echo Valley tour. Your tour guide will entertain some questions when you get here, so feel free to ask away.
- Don’t attempt a DIY tour. Sagada officials do not recommend it, and as you are going through mountainsides and caves, it can be unsafe to navigate the area on your own. Seeing the Hanging Coffins involves passing through the Sagada Cemetery–and that’s just the easy part of the journey.
- Again, feel free to get in touch with other tourists. The Echo Valley tour is good for ten people, so you can divide the tour guide fee among yourselves.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. The tour is not a walk in the park, literally and figuratively. You will sweat and catch your breath. It will be worth it, but your body will be working against you when navigating steep caves and passageways.
- Bring a bottle of water with you. Stay hydrated.
- Have fun! The Echo Valley tour is an experience, and it’s your gateway to the more challenging tours around Sagada, so treasure the experience and reward yourself with a good meal (and a shirt that says you conquered Sagada) after you’re done.
Located about two kilometers from your starting point, this is an unexpected sight as part of the Echo Valley tour, but it’s a welcome sight after you’ve trekked for quite a bit. Bokong Falls, with a drop of around 20 feet, refreshes your sight and recharges you for the rest of the tour. Stay a few minutes to capture majestic photos with this as your backdrop, and perhaps take a dip if you brought a change of clothes. Do note, however, that you are going with a tour guide, and this isn’t even halfway through the tour, which can last 3-5 hours. It’s one of the easiest falls to access in Sagada, though, so enjoy your time.
Sagada is a relaxing place for the city, and no matter the time of year, it’s a place where lovers flock for that weekend retreat away from their responsibilities. Even for single millennials, leaving Manila for this scenic destination is a much-needed breath of fresh air. And in Sagada, you will certainly never get enough of that fresh air.