Thursday, April 7, 2016

Soaring to Sagada: Banaue-Bontoc-Sagada Trip

The uphill climbs, the winding roads, the exhilarating rides and the long hours on the road appeared like clinchers of this out-of-the-blue trip but the sceneries that welcomed us at the top resonated like a new civilization waiting to be embraced by every weary traveler. This is another tale of a travel under a shoestring budget.

Early morning, we were welcomed by the cold weather of Banaue. The smiles of excitement won't give you a hint that we just completed bundles of reports including students' grades the day before our flight to Manila. 
 I could sort this trip as a spur-of-the-moment journey of a group of colleagues who wanted to get out of their common shell. Since it was a group trip, we managed to get an affordable four days and three nights Tour Package which included a transport van for the entire duration of the tour and homey accommodations at Sagada and Baguio City. Thanks Kuya Vic of Victor Ticyado Van Rentals and Package Tours.  

Arriving from Cebu, we headed to SM Mall of Asia where we were picked up for our departure for Sagada at 10:00 PM. Making a couple of stopovers to stretch and freshen up, we reached Banaue, Ifugao around 8:00 AM which was just perfect time for breakfast at one of the hostels at the foot of Banaue Rice Terraces. Immediately after breakfast, we set our crazy feet to the viewpoint of Banaue Rice Terraces.  
The Banaue Rice Terraces in Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines still leaves your mind in awe imagining how the Ifugao tribe engineered these layers or rice fields thousands of year ago. 
Tribal Fight. At the view deck of Banaue Rice Terraces, you will see "lolo" who is wearing the traditional Ifugao costume. He's always up for some photo op and he can always act it out.
 Around 12 noon of the same day, we reached Bontoc which is the capital town of Mountain Province. We stopped by Bontoc Museum where unique collections of Igorot crafts and historical items are kept. The museum also  displays pictures of tribal headhunting expeditions and remains including jaw bones which were used as handles of their gongs, drums and other musical instruments. These bones are believed to improve the sound of the instrument. After our museum visit, I wanted to indulge with their local food. I felt like trying Pinikpikan, a dish popular in the region which is prepared by beating a live chicken with a stick prior to cooking but it wasn’t available so I tried Etag. Also known as the Igorot smoked meat, Etag is prepared by rigorously rubbing salt to the meat before curing it under the heat of the sun. Etag is also a staple ingredient which adds flavor to the Pinikpikan. 

The Bontoc Museum in Bontoc, Mountain Province is a replica of the traditional house of the people in the region. 
From Bomtoc to Sagada, we passed by this village. I forgot the name of this place so please comment below if you know.  
 We arrived in Sagada late in the afternoon already but that didn’t stop us from pushing through with our itinerary. There’s so much to do in Sagada that resting in your hotel won’t be a nice idea for a two-day trip. The group was up at an exhilarating caving adventure at Sumaguing Cave which, for me, one of the bests so far in the country. The entire Cave Connection Adventure lasted for almost three hours not because of the level of difficulty as you do spelunking, climbing and trekking but because of the magnificent stone formations housed in the cave that one can’t just proceed without taking photos. In case you would like to experience such kind of adventure, make sure to drop by at the tourism office to pay for the dues like environmental fee, entrance fee and guide fee before proceeding to the cave.
At the entrance of Sumaguing Cave. This cave has a very big opening so it's not so much of a problem for those who are claustrophobic depending on the degree of the phobia though. The way going down to the cave is slippery so wearing proper gear is a must.   

The locals give names to various rock formations inside the cave. There is an area inside that they call "PORN" for some reason. The rock formation in this picture is one of those formations located in the area.   

We were suppose to spend our night at Lake Danum for we were hoping to camp and experience the sunset of the place but time did not allow us anymore as it was already dark when we got out from the cave. Instead of camping at Lake Danum, we strolled around the area where our hostel was and we found a cozy place  at the Yogurt House. The ambiance of the place fits with the Sagada atmosphere and they serve really great yogurt.    
Dinner at Sagada Yogurt House

Camote Fries at Sagada Yogurt House

Our second day in Sagada was full-packed. We started the day with sunrise viewing at Kiltepan Peak. I wanted to have a remake of the scene by Angelica Panganiban and JM de Guzman in the movie “This Thing Called Tadhana” but all I could manage to do was a selfie and spare me the details of that. J Nevertheless, the view at Kiltepan Peak makes you feel that you are at Cloud 9. 
Sunrise at Kiltepan Peak

Sea of Clouds at Kiltepan Peak

After Kiltepan Peak, we dropped by  at Rock Inn and Orange Farm for orange picking. Sagada orange is pretty expensive for me so instead of picking more oranges to bring , I took advantage of the unlimited oranges that you can eat while in the farm which comes with the entrance fee.
Orange picking at Saga Rock Inn and Orange Farm
Continuing the series of exciting activities for the day, we headed to our next destination immediately after breakfast. Our service van brought us to the jump off to Bomod-ok Falls. It took us almost two hours or more of trek going to Bomod-ok falls but despite the long hike wasn’t boring at all as you pass by fascinating views and local villages which gives you views of both natural landscapes and local cultures.   

After our trek to Bomod-ok Falls, I tried rock climbing at the Echo Valley while my travel companions were still with our guide at the Hanging Coffins. I wasn’t successful at reaching the top though. Since it was November 1, it was a perfect timing to watch the Panag-apoy after at the Anglican Cemetery.
Rock Climbing at Echo Valley 

The Hanging Coffins at Sagada. Local tribes used to hang the coffins of their departed loved ones. According to our local guide, some tribes are still practicing this until now. I asked our guide why there were chairs hanged and he said that these chairs were the ones used during the wake because some tribes usually have the dead corpse sit.   
It has always been a challenge for the people in Sagada to light candles in memory of their lost loved ones. The windy weather in this highland town would just blow the candles off. Instead of lighting candles, they burn woods to commemorate their loved ones who passed away.

We ended the day with a good rest by strolling at nearby places as we had to leave early the following day for Baguio City where another set of experience awaits.

Before leaving our hostel in Sagada

The Highest Point of the Philippines Highway System. We stopped by the landmark on our way to Baguio City. 


Rochkirstin Santos said...

Wow! There's a lot to learn from this trip. How much is the budget per person? :) This kind of travel is recommended for those who seek adventure and those who have a high dose of adrenaline for trekking. The hanging coffins and burning of woods sound interesting but also somewhat scary. :|

Josephil said...

The entire package was 3,500 per person for 12 pax. It already included van transportation, accommodations, entrance fees and government fees. We had to pay extra for our guide to Bomod-ok Falls trek and to hanging coffins but it was less than two hundred pesos.