(A pre-Christmas trip, December 17 to 20, 2014)
Inclusive dates of my latest trip: September 24 to 27, 2015

As part of our team building, planning and Christmas vacation, we traveled to Sagada, Mountain Province. Typically, the weather in the area is very cold because of its high altitude. Since we went there during cold December days, we were able to experience the temperature drop of upto 14 degrees Celsius, thus, it  was so difficult to walk around the town even during noon without wearing a  jacket.

As it was our first time to go there, our friend toured us to most of the tourist destinations within the area, and we did a lot of major activities when visiting Sagada. These are as follows:

  •  Be enlightened at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin

When we arrived in Sagada, we ate our lunch then our friend immediately toured us around. The first in our list was an old Anglican Church near the town proper, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. This church was part of the Episcopal Diocese of the Northern Philippines. The church was founded by Rev. John Straunton in 1904. The interior of the church was very much like the interior of a Catholic Church, from the long chairs to the statues, to their beautiful stained glasses. The design was very simple,  a combination of wood and concrete.

the interior of the Church of Mary the Virgin
the interior of the Church of  St. Mary the Virgin
  • Catch the sunset at Lake Danum

As part of the trail going to Mt. Ampacao, you could have a very refreshing stop over in Lake Danum. The word “danum” is a local word which means liquid or water. The scenery was overwhelming. A real play of colors. I asked our guide whether we could swim in the lake and he replied that we could. I just didn’t know if he was telling the truth or just joking. Anyways, I didn’t try to swim. As you can see in the picture, the lake was eutrophic, so it was very hard to tell whether you were in a very deep area or just in a shallow portion of the lake. Lake Danum is also famous for its majestic sunset view.

enjoying the plains near the lake
enjoying the plains near the lake
  • Shout out at Echo Valley

After going to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, we went to Echo Valley. The echo valley was also just few minutes walk from the town proper of Sagada. The valley was so called Echo Valley because of the echo made after shouting. But the valley was not only visited for its majestic views and sound echoes. One of the best, if not the best, attraction in the valley was the famous hanging coffins. The coffins were attached to the high rock formations like decorative pieces on a concrete wall. The coffins were in different sizes and colors.

Hanging coffins in the Echo Valley
Hanging coffins in the Echo Valley
  • Be brave enough to finish the Cave Connection (Lumiang Cave to Sumaguing Cave)

Although I have a fear of enclosed places (claustrophobia), I still tried to do the cave connection.  Since it was my first time to try this kind of activity, I was overwhelmed with the different rock formations inside the cave. Our guide was also creative enough to make a story out of these rock formations. We were able to finish the cave connection activity for around 3 hours.

one of the many rappelling activities inside the cave
one of the many rappelling activities inside the cave
  • Trek the Mt. Ampacao

Since our group was also composed of hiking enthusiasts as myself, we also went trekking to Mt. Ampacao after we finished our spelunking activity. The scenery along its trail was very breathtaking , from the view of the town to the wide array of floral and faunal species.

near the summit of Mt. Ampacao
near the summit of Mt. Ampacao
  • Witness the Sagada Weavers in action

Along the trail going to Mt. Ampacao, we were able to have a short side trip and witnessed the famous Sagada weavers in action. The products made by Sagada weavers were famous for its beautiful and colorful designs. These products were the best souvenirs from Sagada.

This particular weaving house along the trail was owned by the Bondad family.

a local weaving a cloth
a local resident weaving a cloth
  • Experience the Sagada pottery, hands-on

Another famous arts-craft in the municipality was its pottery. The location of the pottery house was also along the trail going to Mt. Ampacao. Here, a potter would do a demonstration for the whole group, and if the visitors would want to try also, they could do so. However, they could not take the pot home.

IMG_0164
the master potter
  • Get chilled by the ice-cold waters of Bomod-ok Falls

This falls was also referred to as the “big” falls because of its height. It could actually be viewed even from a far distance. It was also called as such to distinguish it from the other falls in the municipality. Going to the falls was not an easy task since we needed to walk up and down along the rice terraces of Sagada. Once you arrived in its location, the cold mist from the falls was enough to make you chill. But since we were there already, we wanted to experience how cold it was to actually bathe in its freezing water, so we did. The temperature of the water in the falls was comparable to a water with a lot of ice in it. It was like we did our own version of the ALS ice bucket challenge!

facing the giant
facing the giant
  • Visit Bokong Falls

Another falls that you can visit in Sagada is Bokong Falls. Bokong falls is close to the place of the famous Sagada Weaving store. You can visit this as part of the Central Sagada tour (along with Echo Valley). This is much smaller than Bomod-ok falls, but it also has a beauty of its own.

Bokong Falls
Bokong Falls
  • Challenge yourself (and your friends) in rock climbing at the Echo Valley

This is the most challenging activity that I did here in Sagada. When you first descend from the echo valley, going to the hanging coffins, you will easily notice the site of the rock climbing. At first, we thought that it was just low, however, as we got closer to the area, it became clear to us that it was really high. Since all of us were first-timers, it took us a considerable amount of time before we were able to reach the top.

Note that the rock climbing activity is not always present at the site. So if you are really interested to try this, you better contact Mr. Barie at Sagada Pines.

rock climbing!
rock climbing!
  • Be adventurous as you enter the underground river of Sagada

Another fun (but really challenging activity) that you can try here in Sagada is to cross the underground river. From the echo valley, you will need to trek and do some river crossings before you reach the entrance to the underground river. It is not as spectacular as the famous Puerto Princesa Underground River, but, for those who wants to put a little more challenge and excitement to their Sagada tour, this will definitely do the trick.

entering the underground river
entering the underground river
  • Try the orange (and persimmon) picking at Rock Farm

Sagada is home to the famous local oranges called Satsuma, and one of the farms that produce this is the Rock Farm. For just Php 50, you can eat all the oranges that you can. However, once you take them outside the farm, you have to pay Php 60 for each kilo. take note that you really have to listen to the instructions that will be given by the staff if you want to avoid doing unnecessary actions that may cost you (or your friends) Php 500!

picking some oranges
picking some oranges
  • Catch the sunrise on the summit of Marlboro Mountain

Since the movie “That Thing called Tadhana” hit the blockbuster, a lot of people are making a fuzz about going to the famous Mt. Kiltepan to witness the breathtaking view of sunrise. However, little do they know, Marlboro Mountain can offer them the same sensation, and more. By staying on the summit of this mountain, you will have a great 360 degree-view of the nearby mountains and municipalities. Also, if you are very fortunate, you will also have a chance to see some wild horses living within this mountain. Wild berries are also available on its summit.

the majestic sunrise on the summit of Marlboro Mountain
the majestic sunrise on the summit of Marlboro Mountain
  • Have a taste of Sagada’s local wines

Since Sagada is endowed with various fruits, a number of wines are also produced from them. These include guyabano (sour sop), santol, persimmon, and many more . The most famous among these local wines is Tapuy (rice wine). There are a number of wineries that produce rice wine, however, I prefer the brand Pitik over its competitors.

some of the local wines of Sagada
some of the local wines of Sagada
  • Do a Sagada Food trip!

One of the best things about any travel is experiencing the local food. Since Sagada was a very famous tourist destination, a number of good restaurants could be found in almost all parts of the municipality to cater the different tastes of the visitors. Most of these restaurants were specialty shops which served delicacies made from different Sagada products. There were also a number of local foods that you could buy along the road or at local stores (READ: Food Trip: the Sagada Way).

the Gaia Burger with some
the Gaia Burger with some cassava chips
  • Toploading

One of the most exciting and at the same time terrifying (for those with fear of height such as myself) activities to try in Mountain Province was toploading on a jeepney. Although this was not my first time doing this activity (READ: 8 Backpacking activities that you should try in Sorsogon), I was still thrilled since the experience was very different. Instead of beach, we traveled along mountainous areas, passing along very high cliffs. We witnessed the breathtaking view of different rice terraces, rivers, villages, and vegetables farms.

toploading crowd
toploading crowd

The experience in the municipality of Sagada was something that I will surely cherish and will definitely try my best to come back and try its other treasures.

When we left, we took nothing but pictures, we left nothing but memories.

 Additional notes:

  • Pls always make sure that you inquire regarding the schedules of the trips while staying in Sagada so you won’t miss them.
  • Tour guides were available in the town proper of Sagada. They could take you to all the tourist spots in the municipality. Most of the tour guides in the area were organized especially the tour guides from the tourism office of the municipality.
  • Book ahead of time for a trip going to Baguio, especially if you are planning to visit Sagada during a long weekend.
Travel Guide*    
Route Mode of Transportation Estimated Travel Time
Olivarez Plaza** to Victory Cubao Terminal Bus (Cubao Bound) 2.5 hours
Victory Cubao Terminal to Baguio City Bus (Baguio Bound) 6 hours
Baguio City Proper to Bus Terminal  Taxi 15 minutes
Baguio City to Sagada Bus (Sagada/Besao Bound) 6 hours
*based on actual events    
**Los Banos, Laguna (College)    

 

Estimated Budget (in Pesos)  
Transportation  
Cubao to Baguio 450
Victory Bus Stop (Baguio) to GL Transit Station 60
Baguio to Sagada 220
Sagada to Bontoc 40
Bontoc to Banaue 150
Ohayami Ticketing Station to View Point (RoundTrip) 200
Banaue to Sampaloc, Manila 450
   
Tour*  
Central Sagada Tour (St. Mary the Virgin, Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins, Entry Point to Underground River, Bokong Falls, Sagada Weaving) 600
Spelunking at Sumaguing Cave 600
Cave Connection 800
Hiking at Marlboro  600
Mt. Ampacao to Danum (with Pottery and Weaving) 800
   
Other Activities  
Rock Climbing near the Echo Valley 400
Spelunking at the Crystal Cave 2500
Entrance fee at Ganduyan Museum 25
Orange Picking 50
Sagada Pottery Demonstration (per group) 100
Sagada Pottery Hands-on (per individual) 100
   
Vehicle Rental for a day (for the tour)** 2200
   
Food (per meal)*** 150
   
Lodging (per individual per day)**** 250
   
Environmental Fee 35
   
*Sagas tour rates; most tours are for 1-10 persons aside from Sumaguing Cave Spelunking, which is good for 1 to 4 and Cave Connection, which is good for 1-2 persons  
** this is good for a sunrise activity (Marlboro or Kiltepan) until around 5pm  
***Average price of meal in Sagada   
**** Average price of lodging  

 

Trip Schedules*          
             
Sagada to Baguio      
(GL/Lizardo)      
Morning   Afternoon      
1st 6:00 Last trip 1:00      
2nd 7:00          
3rd 8:00          
4th 9:00          
5th 10:00          
6th* 11:30          
             
             
Sagada to Bontoc      
Morning   Afternoon      
1st 6:30 Last Trip 1:00      
2nd 7:00          
3rd 7:30          
4th 8:00          
5th 8:30          
6th 9:00          
7th 10:00          
8th 11:00          
9th 12:00          
             
Bontoc to Banaue (Bus)        
Morning Trips Only          
1st 7:00          
2nd 9:00          
             
Bontoc to Banaue (Jeepney)      
Morning   Afternoon      
1st 8:30 Last Trip 1:00      
2nd 10:00          
             
Banaue to Manila (Ohayami Trans)      
Night Trips Only          
1st 6:30          
2nd 7:00          
             
*you should take note that jeepneys and buses start their trips ahead of time if seating capacity is already full

For more info, you may go to the website of Sagada Genuine Guides Association, Inc. by clicking this link.

Here are some photos during our Sagada trip:

Lake Danum and the sky
The play of color at Lake Danum
one of the wooden pathways in Sagada mountain ranges
one of the wooden pathways in Sagada mountain ranges
the gate entrance in the mountain
the gate entrance in the mountain
a local weaving a cloth
a local weaving a cloth
Sagada weaving looms
Sagada weaving looms
almost done clay pots of Sagada
almost done clay pots of Sagada
unfinished clay pots
unfinished clay pots
the exit/entrance to the cave
the exit/entrance to the cave
rope and tires
rope and tires
the "Banaue Rice Terraces"
the “Banaue Rice Terraces”
the "alligator"
the “alligator”
the "rice granary" inside the  Sumaging Cave
the “rice granary” inside the Sumaging Cave
very big opening of the Lumiang and Sumaging Cave
very big opening of the Lumiang and Sumaging Cave
the frog pond
the frog pond
the "swimming pool" inside the Sumaging Cave
the “swimming pool” inside the Sumaging Cave
vandals inside the Lumiang cave that dated  more than a decade
vandals inside the Lumiang cave that dated more than a decade
one of the Lumiang coffins
one of the Lumiang coffins
an Anglican church in Bangaan
an Anglican church in Bangaan
the grassy land and the pine forest
the grassy land and the pine forest
pine forest
pine forest
the staircase to heaven
the staircase to heaven
the trio in the bridge going to the Bomod-ok falls
the trio in the bridge going to the Bomod-ok falls
cemetery in the mountain
cemetery in the mountain
a cattle in the cemetery
a cattle in the cemetery
the wheels that brought about a change
the wheels that brought about a change
Bomod-ok falls or the big falls
Bomod-ok falls or the big falls
a great view along the way going to Bontoc
a great view along the way going to Bontoc

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