I never expected that a road trip to Mountain Province would be a very long one – 17 hours on the road from my home province in Cavite to Sagada! And I experienced all the harshness on the road – bumpy roads, broken vehicle, dusty road and long non-stop drive while admiring stunning mountain views, river valley scenes, mountain-side waterfalls and verdant rice terraces. This road trip is the longest road trip I experienced in my entire travelling life. It was sure my unforgettable road trip! It was pain in the ass but what the heck! Arriving in Sagada was worth the entire long road trip with the best travel activities I experienced there.
|Mountain Province, at last! After a long road trip...|
It was a long trip again on the way to Sagada. 6 hours on the road while admiring the mountain scenes, cliffs and rural life of Benguet province. I’m even lucky to have a glimpse of Mount Pulag – Luzon’s highest peak and be on the marker of Philippine’s highest point of highway system in Atok, Benguet. Even tired on a long sit, when I we arrived in Mountain Province, everything seems to be a relief after a long journey. Beautiful mountain sceneries and verdant pine trees greeted us alongside a clear blue sky as we neared our destination. Cliffs as dangerous it can be on the roadside as our vehicle runs through beside it provided me numerous stunning panoramic sceneries of Mountain Province. And the cool mountain air breeze that refreshes along with its lovely cool weather made me feel the long journey worthy. We arrived in Sagada at 3 in the afternoon. It was a long and tiring road trip to reach Sagada. I uttered – “at last!” But it was just the start of my Sagada journey.
|Mount Pulag - Luzon's highest peak and the country third highest mountain seen as we drive through Benguet.|
|Mountain sceneries en route to Sagada.|
I just rested for an hour after a long road trip in our accommodation when we were informed by our tour guide that we’ll do a spelunking of Sumaguing Cave was our first activity in Sagada. It was my first time to do a cave spelunking so I was very excited to do the activity. But what I didn’t expect is spelunking in Sumaguing Cave was a one hard activity! It was a physically demanding activity so it’s a warning for those who want to try spelunking and who’s not much into a physical activities like me. At first, I’m quite hesitant to try it because at the mouth of the cave, it so looks deep and scary to explore it. But when a group of spelunkers who just finished exploring the cave advises us to go ahead with the activity because it was beautiful underground and worth a try, I said to myself – ok, the reason why I’m in Sagada is to do this spelunking experience. So I proceed to try spelunking.
|Accommodation at George Guest House.|
|The mouth of Sumaguing Cave... look how deep it is.|
|Spelunking to 6 feet under of Sumaguing Cave.|
|One of the amazing rock formations and pools that one will see at the deepest part of the cave.|
|Breakfast at Strawberry Cafe.|
|My first taste of Mountain Tea!|
|Heavy breakfast for a tiring activity for rest of the day.|
|Guided trek down to Lumiang Cave.|
|Lumiang Cave's burial site. Files of coffins found at the mouth of the cave.|
Then I prepared myself for the highlight activity of my second day in Sagada, which is trekking the rice terraces to visit Bomod-ok Falls. Together with my travel companions, we were brief at the tourist center of what we will do and what is to expect during the trek. It was a two hour trek going through the rice terraces up to the falls and back. So it’s a total of 4 hours trek for first timers like us. We have a trek guide named, Gloria or Ate Glo which we fondly called her so we have no problem going through the rice terraces trek of Sagada.
|Trekking the rice terraces of Sagada...|
|A closer look to the "palay" - rice plant.|
We continue our trek through the rice terraces after a brief stopover in Baranggay Fidelisan. There was a high viewpoint along the trek where one can viewed the vast verdant rice terraces of Fidelisan and its surrounding mountain sceneries. The trek let me have a closer look to the rice terraces of Mountain Province. It also let me see how life is going on Sagada and how irrigation system works in the rice terracing farming. Another hour trek through the rice terraces, we reached Bomod-ok Falls at last.
Hidden through the mountain sides and nestled down in valley location, Bomod-ok Falls was a sight to behold. It was a very tall feet waterfall with strong currents of water going down to its base river. I can feel the mist of waters spraying on me even I’m standing far from its base. My companions took the opportunity of our stopover here by swimming near the waterfalls. It’s rock boulder filled river is amazing scenery as well as enticing for a swim. The water is crystal clear and clean. While I didn’t took a swim, I photographed Bomod-ok Falls in all angles that I can like a professional travel photographer just to savor my first time encounter of a waterfall. Bomod-ok Falls is a stunning beauty of nature. It is a place that should not be missed when in Sagada for it is really beautiful and divine. I was really stunned by its beauty! It was truly stunning!
After another two hour trek back from Bomod-ok Falls, we took a mandatory rest and take our lunch so that we’ll have energy for the next itinerary of our exploration of Sagada. Around 4pm, we visited St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, a prostestant church in Sagada. The church is known as the mother church in Sagada and the seat of Anglican Mission at the north. Built by American Missionaries during the early 1900’s, the church was founded by the Reverend John Staunton who came to Sagada to spread the Christian faith to its local people. Sagada is predominantly Protestant by religion, with 95% of its population sharing the faith.
Near the church is just a few walk that leads us to Sagada’s Public Cemetery and Echo Valley. Although I find it creepy roaming through Sagada’s Public Cemetery, I’m glad that we were greeted with picturesque views of pine trees and mountain in every corner in Echo Valley. The afternoon rays of the sun is silhouetting the ridges of the mountains creating a dramatic shadow scenery at that time that makes a pleasant view to my eyes. These beautiful Sagada sceneries is joined by a cool afternoon weather which I assure every visitor will like. The breeze of cool air in Sagada is fresh and cool. Echo Valley is actually a cliff that when you shout a word or phrase aloud facing the cliff, it echoes back at you, hence the name of the place. Going to Echo Valley is quite risky. The path down the valley has side cliffs and narrow foot ways so extra caution is needed when trekking the trail here.
|St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.|
|Sagada's Public Cemetery... not really creepy.|
|Shout a word that echoes back at you at Echo Valley.|
|Echo Valley's beautiful scenery - mountains, sunset and pine trees.|
From Echo Valley, I can already see the famed Hanging Coffins of Sagada as instructed by our tour guide. The coffins are placed on cliffs by attaching it to a huge tall stone making it look liked hanged on the stone walls. According to the Igorot beliefs, the purpose of suspending the coffin from the mountain rocks is to bring the deceased closer to heaven. From Echo Valley’s platform, one may follow the trail down to Sagada’s famed Hanging Coffins. We did not proceed to go on a trek to have nearer view of the coffins as we are dead-tired from earlier rice terraces trek and its getting dark already.
The following morning I got up as early as 5 in the morning because our guide instructed us that we will watch sunrise in Sagada. I thought it will just be an ordinary sunrise viewing and did not expected much as I still prefer sunrise viewing by the beach over the mountains. So I proceeded riding the van with my travel mates to the viewpoint. It was heavily foggy and very cold when we arrived at the viewpoint so I wore my cardigan. I walked with others to the sunrise viewpoint called Kiltepan Viewpoint. I waited. And as the sun rises from the horizons, it was an “awe moment” for me. The rays of the sun intertwined beautifully with the dawn clouds. It revealed a panoramic view of ridges of the mountains, the morning clouds that hugs it and the rice terraces below with beautiful reflection from the rice paddies’ water. The Sagada Sunrise highlighted the beautiful scenery that I saw at the viewpoint, actually enhancing like an Adobe photoshop application! It wasn’t just an ordinary sunrise viewing that I expected. It was the most beautiful morning in Sagada!
|The most beautiful morning in Sagada is best experience at Kiltepan Viewpoint.|
|Sagada orange farm at Rock Farm Inn and Cafe.|
|Mandarin bloom at Rock Farm Inn and Cafe's Sagada orange farm.|
|Bay-yo Rice Terraces marker.|
|The scenic Bay-yo Rice Terraces at Bontoc, Mountain Province.|
Sagada: Stairway to Mountain Province is part of my Cordillera Region Tour blog series to Mountain Province where I explore Sagada as my main destination to the province last October 5-8, 2012. I also had a side trip to the province’s capital, Bontoc. Part of the tour is also side trips to Baguio and Banaue, Ifugao in which I will have a separate blog stories.
*This is not a paid article.