Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sagada: A Silent Sanctuary on top of the Mountains

Every now and then, there is a need for us to getaway from the hullabaloos of this life. The need to suddenly escape from the noise and troubles of the city life is inevitable for us to keep our sanity intact. Once in a while, we have to leave our comfort zones and break away from the confines that surround our everyday existence.

And what better way to have this so-called ‘great escape’ than to travel and uncover the beauty of the rest of the world? But of course, traveling here does not only mean going to the famous beaches or shopping hubs in and out of the country. It actually goes beyond that. Traveling as a way of retreating from the pandemonium of normal waking days means heading off to a strange place and finding your own silent sanctuary amidst the unfamiliarity of that place to you.

And for this great escape, let’s pack our bags and head on to Sagada.

Nestled at the upper end of the Malitep tributary of the Chico River, about 1,500 meters above sea level in the central Cordillera, there lay a haven that’s still kept untouched until now--Sagada. Despite the popularity of the place among tourists and local travelers, Sagada is still able to preserve its traditional cultures and natural charm. Its lofty little town, dirt-free air, and sights of towering pine trees, for every visitor, represents an ambiance of tranquility and peaceful life. Though a bit of modern technology had already reached this small village, the conservative values and customs of this small town’s inhabitants are still apparent. A curfew is carefully carried out by local authorities, thus, as early as 9:00 in the evening, people are already sent home. The people gladly follow the ordinance since for them, it’s one of the ways to help them preserve their town’s organized life and to avoid strangers to go beyond their traditional culture.

Sagada locals are inherently friendly as long as one knows how to stay in his/her place. If you are taking a photograph with a particular person as a subject, ALWAYS ask permission first. If it’s a local holiday (obaya) wherein one is not allowed to go to particular places, RESPECT it. Otherwise, something unpleasant may happen which has occurred many times in the past. Respect Sagada traditions and the gesture will be returned back.
Because of its temperate weather, undisturbed environment and the presence of towering pine trees, foreign visitors simply describe Sagada as their home in the Philippines.

The Magic of Sagada

For those who love adventures and likes vigorous activities such as spelunking, trekking, and mountain climbing, Sagada is the perfect place for you. Nature-lovers, however, would also love walking down the trail with wonderful natural sights to behold.

Upon arriving in the town proper of Sagada, tourists are asked to register their names in the tourism office located few steps away from the bus drop-off point. This way, the local officials would know who the visitors of that day are so it won’t be hard to identify them should there be any problem or accident that may occur. At the tourism office, every tourist will be asked to pay a registration fee of P10.00, a small amount that could help maintain the cleanliness of Sagada. An instruction/special guide on how to go along the town safe and sound will be provided, as well as a map the places of interests.

Since time immemorial, Sagada is popularly known for its subterranean caves used as burial grounds by the natives, eminent limestone cliffs and nearby scenic falls. Some caves like Sumaging, the deepest and the biggest, requires strong endurance and enthusiasm.

Other stunning destinations are Bomod-ok and Bokong Falls, Danom Lake and Weaving Shops. Trekking the nearby mountains is an ultimate experience although it must be done with local guides. There are simple trails for short hikes which are leading to some picturesque summits, and can be easily done in one day, or longer for those who may want to camp out. Those who came with motorbikes and mountainbikes, all trails inside Sagada are excellent courses for hi-adrenalin trips. Sagada may not have the luxury of hi-tech society but it has the abundance not even a well traveled man have ever experienced anywhere in the Philippines.

Other places and spots that should not be missed when in Sagada are the Echo Valley—where you can actually hear your name being called back by the mountains three times; the Underground River—a tough challenge in itself since the trail is very steep and slippery and is covered with vegetation; Sagada Rice Terraces—the town’s version of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces; St. Mary’s Episcopal Church; the creepy cemetery; and the Calvary.
Aside from these marvelous sights, travelers also flock in Sagada to try the famo
us restaurants there such as the Elena’s Lemon Pie House, The Shamrock Restaurant, Alfredo’s, Masfere’s Inn, Bana’s Café—which serves the best buttered chicken in town, and the prominent Yoghurt House which is known for its homemade yoghurts covered with granola and a choice of fresh strawberries, bananas, and mangoes.

Where to Stay

Before packing your stuff and head on to Sagada, remember to check on the Internet the places to stay when in Sagada. It’s best to get their contact numbers and accommodation rates for reservation to ensure that you will have a place to stay when you get there.

There are a number of transient houses in Sagada that you can choose. The accommodation rate ranges from 150-300 per head per night. Some of the well-known lodging and pension houses are the Sagada Igorot Inn, Alfredo’s Inn, St. Joseph’s Rest house, Ganduyan Rest house, the Green House, Olahbinan Rest house, Traveler’s Inn, Mapiya-aw Pension House, Pines View Inn, Rock Valley Inn, A-Seven House, Residential Lodge, and George Guest House. All these pension houses offer a cozy cabin-like accommodations and breathtaking views. Some guesthouses have their own dining rooms, while some don’t. There are also some houses that you can rent in full so you could have the privacy and comfortability that you need. These houses are not advertised or promoted in town, so it’s best to ask the locals when you get to Sagada and they could refer you to the owner of that house.

If you want to have a feel of what it’s like to live and spend a couple of days with the locals, you have an option of renting a room in one of the residential houses in the village since there are some locals who make a room in their house available for the travelers and tourists, especially during the peak season when almost all the pension houses are fully-booked.

How to get there

There are two ways to get to Sagada from Manila: either you ride a bus going to Baguio or a bus going to Banaue.

If you opt to pass by Baguio first before going to Sagada, there are available buses in Cubao, Avenida, and Pasay. The fare is around P300-P370. The best time to leave from Manila to Baguio is 10:00 in the evening so you can get to the terminal of Lizardo Transit (the bus going to Sagada) by 4:00-5:00 in the morning of the next day—just in time for the first trip of the bus going to Sagada. The bus fare is P220.00 and the approximate length of travel time from Baguio to Sagada is 6 hours.

The Banaue route is also recommendable if you want to take a side-trip to Banaue and see the famous Banaue Rice Terraces. To get there, you may take the Autobus transport with terminal in Cubao, which leaves around 10pm. The fare is approximately P400-470 and the travel time is 12 hours maximum. From Banaue, you take a tricycle from the terminal going to the town proper of Banaue, and from there, you can take a jeepney bound for Bontoc. The fare is P35 and travel time is 2 hours. From Bontoc, take a jeepney going to Sagada which is another 1/1/2 hour ride.

The road to Sagada may quite be an ordeal, especially for people who are not used to traveling long hours. Nonetheless, the long ride is definitely worth it once you set your feet on Sagada. The marvelous sights of endless rows of mountains, vegetable plantations, and crop terraces certainly add up to the excitement of the journey.

Going back to Manila, the two options are still available. A cable car, however, is available in Bontoc which is already directly bound to Manila so you won’t have to stop-over at Banaue anymore. The cable car has only a single trip everyday, which is only every 3pm. The fare is P500 and the travel time is roughly 12-13 hours. If you don’t prefer this way, you may take the route going back to Baguio through the Lizardo transit.

Why is it a perfect sanctuary for writers?

Writers, most often need a time for themselves to recharge their minds with awe-inspiring thoughts and ideas again. And for that, traveling could perhaps be considered a perfect pill. When a writer left his/her comfort zone and head on to an unfamiliar place and went back home filled with heartfelt inspiration to write about the place he/she had been, then perhaps, that writer gladly found a silent sanctuary in that unfamiliar place.

As for this writer, her silent sanctuary was found in the little town of Sagada, Mountain Province, where life is simple, blissful, and the people know how to care for the environment.


Sagada said...

i love the landscape pictures. beautiful! thanks for sharing.


blog of the SaGaDa-iGoRoT

Anonymous said...

May bagong babasahin:)

juana buendia

AppleOliver said...

hi sagada:-)

thanks for visiting my site and posting your comment..i truly love sagada..for me, it's really a silent sanctuary!

AppleOliver said...

thanks for visitng my site mareh..napagtripan q lang..heheheh! mas private nga lang to kesa sa multiply q:-)