I am one of the many who loves to go to cooler places every chance that I get. Being born and raised in the Visayas, we do not have much of such places where the temp is below 20˚C. Sometimes I consider my place as having only one season: Sizzling Summer.
Sometimes my mind drifts off to places in the Cordilleras. Baguio may just be a perfect option to escape the summer sting, but the place is just too crowded and so much covered with urban development and commercialism.
Instead I pushed my mind to wander beyond the city of pines and imagine a cool summer place deep into the arms of the Cordilleras. And Sagada just popped into mind.
Sagada, up there in the Mountain Province, in the heart of the Cordilleras, is one of many options for travelers who want simple and tranquil place to wander off. In contrast to Baguio City, this mountain town doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of a city. It doesn’t have malls. The weekend flea markets is central to the town.
Sagada offers an honest-to-goodness hospitality. Guesthouses and inns are common and are mostly affordable. My first visit to Sagada was November 2015. My friend and I got an attic room at George’s Guesthouse Annex for only Php 350.00 pax a night. Most of the accommodation are near the town centre or the tourism centre office.
If you plan to go to Sagada during Holy Week or between Christmas and New Year, then expect the rates to go up as high as the elevation of Sagada itself.
How to get there? The most common way to reach Sagada is either through Baguio City or Banaue in Ifugao province. If you come from Manila, you could catch Victory Liner as well as other bus lines. If you choose to pass by Baguio City, head directly to Dangwa Terminal (GL Bus Liner) and get tickets for the Baguio-Sagada trip. The bus trips are in the morning only. Should you miss the bus for Sagada, you may also take the Baguio-Bontoc trip, get off in Bontoc and then take a jeepney ride (top-loading if you want) to Sagada for only Php 40.
If you choose Manila-Banaue trip, you need to catch an Ohayami Bus at their terminal near University of Santo Tomas. To be assured of seats, I suggest you book online. The trips are mostly overnight, 9-10hrs, arriving in Banaue in the morning. From Banaue, hop on a van or a bus to Bontoc. The trip would be at most 2 hours. Then from Bontoc, take a jeepney to Sagada.
What to do in Sagada? It is mandatory for visitors to drop by Sagada’s Tourism Center. There, you need to register and pay an environmental fee of Php 70. At the Tourism Center, there is a display of activities which you can choose from. The popular options are: Hanging Coffins at Echo Valley, Explore Sumaguing Cave, Trek and Swim at Bomod-ok Falls, Visit Lumiang Burial Cave, Witness a Sea of Clouds at Kiltepan, Orange Picking, among others. One can’t get lost in Sagada. You can also opt to trek or hike around town on your own (except for Echo Valley, where it is required to have a guide).
Burial coffins at Lumiang Cave
Hanging coffins at Echo Valley
Sea of clouds at Kiltepan Viewpoint
Where to Eat? The town doesn’t have a fancy restaurant or branches of fast-food giants. But there are strings of hole-in-the-wall in town or should I say village diners worth your money and time. Some places I could recommend are: Salt & Pepper Steakhouse, Sagada’s Lemon Pie House, Sagada Brew, Happy Restaurant and Strawberry Café.
Salt & Pepper Steakhouse
Strawberry Yoghurt from Strawberry Cafe
My first Sagada experience was basically 2D1N, covering all the popular activities except for the orange picking and the trek to Bomod-ok Falls. I get to witness the weekend flea market and visited some prominent spots like the Episcopalian church and the cemetery at Calvary Hill. Most of all I experienced the cold November night in Sagada exactly as how I imagined it to be.