Sagada, Mountain Province

Sumaguing CaveThis trip was decided in the Faculty lounge back in Summer 2014, while teachers were all busy checking papers and giving grades. We were all stressed out that we wanted to just find a way to get away from it all. One of my co-teachers found a travel promo from a group buying website, CashCashPinoy. It was offered by TipidLakbay. It looked so tempting that we all bought vouchers on the same day. The voucher costs more or less Php2800. The tour package includes all tourism fees and guides, and accommodation. We booked the trip a couple of weeks after the graduation ceremonies.

Going there

Going to Sagada was not included in the tour package, and since none of us have cars, we had to find a way to commute going there. My co-teachers know only one way to go to Sagada, that is the Baguio way. For those of you who do not know, that is taking the 6-hour bus to Baguio, and then another 6-hour bus ride to Sagada. Being the researcher that I am, I found two other ways to go there. Presenting them alternatives kinda made them put me in charge of planning the whole trip.

One of the alternative ways was the Bontoc Way, that is taking a 10-hour bus ride going to Bontoc, then taking an hour jeep going to Sagada. The other one is the Banaue way (my best friend, Babes, suggested), which involves taking the 9-hour bus going to Banaue, then taking the 2-hour jeep to Sagada. I was able to convince them to go for Banaue way, because jeeps/vans coming from Banaue pass by the Banaue Rice Terraces, which I haven’t seen yet. Also, that was near the time of the Florida Bus tragedy, so taking that bus going to Bontoc was off the table.

I went to the Ohayami Bus Terminal in Manila to buy the tickets a couple of days before (planner, you see), too afraid to lose seats (and lose the whole trip. haha!). My co-teachers and I live in one house, so planning for a trip was not really that difficult. We all left the house at the same time and was able to board the bus an hour before it leaves. The bus departed from Manila at 10pm on Thursday, April 24, and arrived in Banaue around 7am of April 25. Jeeps at the Municipal Hall do not usually leave until 8am, so we had time to eat.

At the terminal, we asked the driver to allow three of us to ride the roof of the jeep. We have seen it in pictures, and we thought it was fun. They call it top-loading, which was usually allowed when the seats inside were all taken (or if you are as insistent as we are. hehe!) It was actually fun for the most part, I mean, for me. I get a 360-view of every site in the area and believe me they were all breathtaking. When we started zigzagging along the way, on the sides of the mountain, near the edges of the cliff, being the acrophobic that I am, that’s when things got a little bit scary for me. My acrophobia was not really that intense now compared to when I was younger. The fear started to become tolerable when I trained for high-angle rescue back in college, but my knees would still buckle/wobble and my heart would skip a beat when I get too high and too close to the edge. I remember, for the most part of the jeepney ride, I was holding on to anything that I could reach so I won’t fall (or feel like falling), tried to look ahead instead of down the rocky cliff, and vowed not to try it again. haha! We reached Sagada at around 11:30am, and boy, was I relieved!



Whose idea is this?

The Residential Lodge was not uneasy to find, it was just a straight walk from the Municipal Hall. We met the person in charge of our stay and checked in. But before we went to our rooms, we had to finalize our itinerary because our tour starts after lunch. We were presented several tourist spots that we are supposed to see for the duration of our trip. These are the City Tour, Bomod-ok falls, Mt. Kiltepan, and spelunking in Sumaguing Cave. It was a little cloudy that day, and the forecast is that it is going rain, and if it rains it would be dangerous to go spelunking. So, I suggested that we do it first before it starts raining. Also, just so we could do the most difficult activity on the first day and enjoy the rest of our days.

We dropped our bags to our room, which was big enough for us 6, and got ready for spelunking. We had lunch at Sagada Mami House first and met with our tour guide after. He suggested that we try to complete the spelunking tour, the package only includes Sumaguing Cave, and he told us that most of the beautiful structures are on the other side, the Lumiang Cave, and to be able to do that we have to traverse the two caves; come in the Sumaguing and come out of Lumiang. However, we had to add an extra two hundred bucks per person. Since it is our first time and we’re all there already, we all thought we should try. It’s part of our job to climb mountains, we are prepared for any adventure. Or so we thought.

We walked towards the Sumaguing Cave, a good 30-minute walk from Residential Lodge and started going in at 2pm. Define buwis buhay (risky)! haha! That’s the only thing I could think of during our time in the cave. Imagine, we had to climb up and down each and every rock, go through each and every crevice that we thought we’d never fit, stretch our limbs to lengths we thought we’d never reach, submerge half our bodies in freezing cold water and crawl on a batpoop-covered ground. Whenever, we make any move that we think would cost us our lives, one of us would ask, “whose idea is this trip?” We thought of going away from work to de-stress, not to be stressed. But, to be honest, the view inside is wonderful, and worth every body-stretching move that we did in that cave. It took us 4 hours to finish the activity. We came out on the other side, alive (thank God!), at around 6pm and made the 30-minute walk towards our hotel.

The next day, we rented a van (not included in the tour package) at 4:30am and went to Mt. Kiltepan to catch the sunrise. It was amazing! We decided to have breakfast there before going to our next destination, and it was like dining in a sea of clouds. Have I mentioned it was amazing? We left for Bomod-Ok Falls around 6am and arrived at the jump-off 30-minutes after. It took us an hour descending the terraces to reach the falls. Since we arrived early, we were the only people in the area, which allowed us to enjoy the view more. The hike back took us more than an hour, since going up is much more difficult than going down. Of course, during the climb back up, one of us would ask, “whose idea is this?” again. haha! Before going back to town, we passed by the Sagada Weaving. We reached the town around 11:00am and had lunch at Salt and Pepper, the restaurant where Anthony and Mace dined in (On the same table, mind you). Before going back to our hotel, we ordered the famous lemon pie at Sagada Lemon Pie House to be picked up the next day. You have to reserve because they always run out.

Our tour guide mentioned that our next tour is around the city. So, we thought that finally, we’ll have something easy. We could never be more wrong! It’s called the Mountain Province, of course, the city was built around the top of the mountain, and the path was not concrete. We started the Echo Valley Tour at around 1:30pm. We passed by the St. Mary’s Church, the Calvary, and also tried shouting at the Echo Valley. When we reached the Hanging Coffins, it rained hard. But since we wanted to finish early, we continued the slippery walk towards the underground river. It was too slippery that I decided to remove my flip-flops and walk barefoot. It was easy and difficult to walk barefoot. Easy, because wearing flip-flops made the walk slippery and I had no intention to slide down the mountain. Difficult, because I would step on sharp rocks and spiky plants and they would pierce through my feet. It was exhausting, I didn’t even have strength enough to enjoy the view. It was already 5pm when we got back to cemented road. Whose idea was this trip again?

There was another destination, the Bokkong Falls, but I already opted out. My feet already had a few cuts due to slips and falls, and they were already too sore to make another hour of walk on a rocky and slippery trail towards Bokkong. I used the little strength I had left in me to make the 30-45-minute walk on the cemented road towards our hotel. I also passed by a souvenir store along the way to buy a magnet (something my family collects).



Going home

Since we finished all the three different tours in only 2 days out of the prescribed 3, we decided to leave early and spend the rest of the day shopping for pasalubong (souvenirs) in Baguio City. We picked up our Lemon Pie, had cup noodles for breakfast, then checked out. We lined up at the Lizardo / GL Trans buses and waited an hour for Baguio bound buses. Every bus that arrived was full, so we decided to just take a jeep to Bontoc instead and ride Baguio-bound buses from there. The jeepney driver suggested that we try the top-load, and we all declined. Believe me, it really is not something I would ever do again. Well, maybe in the city, but the air is too polluted here. haha! Jeep left at 9:45am and reached Bontoc at 10:15am. We were able to catch the bus that was about to leave for Baguio. It was more or less a 6-hour trip on a rainy day. I felt really sick that day. I didn’t even eat along the way. I don’t usually get dizzy during long travels, but that time, I had a vomit bag ready. We reached Baguio around 5pm and had dinner at Dangwa. Because we were all exhausted, instead of roaming around Baguio and do some shopping, we decided to just go straight to Victory Liner and ride a bus going back to Cubao.

The line for tickets was so long and the next available bus that we can book was at 4:00am, the next day. Since I know my way around Baguio, I suggested that we go to another bus terminal, Genesis. I decided to go first so that we won’t lose our place in the line at Victory. When I went there I saw that the line was a bit shorter than at Victory Liner’s, so I called them to come where I am at. During the wait, I nearly had a full-blown fight with an older woman. I saw her cut the line in front of me, so I told her off. She said she got there first. Of course, she lied! And lying is my number one pet peeve. Also, I was tired, hungry, sick, and I so wanna go home, so naturally my patience was also cut short. Good thing, my co-teacher told me to just drop it and just transfer to the faaaaaaaar end of the line to get away from that lady. (My co-teachers are really nicer than me. ;P)

We didn’t know that that end was actually the start of another line for another bus company going to Cubao, Dagupan Bus Line. So, we got on a bus earlier than expected, earlier than that not-so-nice lady. I was tempted to go back there and just show her this face –> >:P

The bus left Baguio at 7pm and reached Cubao around 1am. We took a taxi going home and was back to our house at 1:30am. I slept for a bit, then proceeded to work at 8am, which I realized I shouldn’t have done. I think I got sick for three days because of that. haha!

Recommendation

Try out their yogurt! It’s delicious! I’m not a fan of their Lemon Pie, but their Egg Pie tastes really well. Oh, their brown rice is so cheap, I should’ve bought some that I can take home.




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