I've always wanted to go to Baguio since grade school, but my mom will not let me due to the historic earthquake happened there when I was in my mother's womb. The earthquake occurred when my mom was traveling back to Manila from Baguio. And now I'm 26 years old yet, I still have not been there.
Craving for a cold place on top of the mountains, a friend of mine invited me to have an adventure. Not in Baguio rather, in Sagada. One of the coldest places in the country. A place of peace and relaxation. It's like an escape place from the city and reality. And from the famous movie “That Thing Called Tadhana,” it's a place where broken hearts go.
Traveling to Sagada is good for family, friends, couple, or even a soloist. Although only selected places are advisable for seniors and kiddos and of course, make sure to have a comfy ride back and forth since it will be a long one. So, to all those who are challenge to go there, here are my experiences in the places we've been and the food we have ateen.
My friends and I took the Coda Bus Line in Cubao for P700 one way – routing from Cubao to Sagada Town Proper. Make sure to buy tickets in advance as the bus is always full. Coda Bus Line is located in HM Transport Terminal, Maryland corner EDSA. The travel time is 10-12 hours so, I really recommend this bus which has reclining seats and good music & movies. You'll thank me after experiencing it. The bus departed in Cubao at 9:00 pm, Friday last February 10, 2017. After 5 hours, we already arrived Baguio City at 2:00 am. We had two stopovers from then until we arrived Sagada Town Proper at 7:00 in the morning.
On our way home, we also took Coda Bus Line for P700 one way. I suggest to buy a roundtrip bus tickets beforehand. From Sagada Town Proper, look for the jeepney going to Bontoc provided by Coda Bus Line because the bus terminal going back to Manila is in Bontoc. No additional payment needed in the jeepney as this is included in the bus payment. Riding their jeepneys is one of the fun parts in Sagada. If you're one of the adventurous people, challenge yourself to seat on top of the jeepney. Yes, you read that right! Seat on top of the jeepney along the bags of the passengers. Most of the people who did it was men but some ladies are brave enough to try. I always thought of it as a scary thing since you'll be seeing the cliff from above. But if you focus on the scenery, you'll be thanking God for the amazing view. It's like a postcard brought to life. Another good thing about this bus is, you have a stopover somewhere with zero visibility to buy veggies and other delicacies and another stopover in Banawe Rice Terraces for picture taking.
We stayed at Misty Lodge Hotel and Café – 2km away from Town. It may seem far but we did not regret staying there. The hotel is very much cozy and they serve the best food in town. Upon entering the house, you will see a pretty decorated Café with a Chimney on the side. They have one room at the ground floor, 4 rooms at the second floor, and 5 rooms at the attic. The rooms are good for a soloist to a bunch of four people per room. Since we're a group of eight, composed of four boys and four girls, we requested for two rooms abreast. Fortunately, the available rooms are located on the attic, facing each other. The room for four people has 2 beds with a side table and cabinet. Their second floor has a living area with deck of books that you can use for your spare time while the attic has a hangout area at the center of the rooms for peeps who wants to play board games. The house is filled with books and games that guests can use for entertainment. The hotel is highly recommendable although they only have a shared bathroom. They only have two huge bathrooms for the whole house so, you might want to wake up early as expected to avoid the lines. Another good thing in this hotel is that, they do not turn off the lights at night. You also have to note that they turned off all the lights, even the street lights, at 10:00 pm.
I also know some people who stayed at Rock Inn Hotel. It's also a nice hotel but farther from Town than in Misty Lodge. And another one is at Residential Lodge. Residential Lodge is already located in Town so you do not need to worry walking long distances in a very cold street after the activity or after eating. But since it's in Town, they follow the lights curfew shence, turning off the lights at 10pm including the room lights. So you can not do anything beyond 10pm away from sleeping.
There are tons of activities in Sagada, though most of them require hiking. So, if you're traveling with seniors or kids, select only those that are safe for them and make sure to hire a tourist guide. Here are some of the activities my friends and I went to.
We arrived at 7:00 am in Sagada Town and had our breakfast in Misty Lodge Café since we also need to check-in. Unfortunately, we can not have an early check-in, so we decided to leave our bags at the receptionist and went to Mt. Kiltepan. From Misty Lodge, it's a 2km walk to the entrance of Mt. Kiltepan and a 20-30mins walk to the top and you can go there even without a guide. It's a safe place; just be careful when you stand on the cliff. You can also take your car or rent a jeepney to go on top. This mountain was featured in the movie “That Thing Called Tadhana” where the lead actress released her feelings by shouting. Though in the movie, they went there to wait for the sunrise while we went there at 10am and the view is still amazing! A clear view of the proudly Filipino made Rice Terraces. I guess no other groups ever thought of going there without it's sunrise well, we have the place all to ourselves. We took a lot of great pictures without rushing. But if you want to see the sea of clouds, you have to go up there at 4:30 am and wait for the sunrise. I'll tell you, it's totally worth it.
Echo Valley Tour -> Hanging Coffins -> Underground River -> Bokong Falls
On our 2nd day, we decided to rent a guide for an Echo Valley Tour for P500 for a group of 10 people. This tour is composed of many routes, depending on your last destination and here's ours. We first went to the church and the hill of cemetery where we listened to the history of the places and their traditions. Then we walked to the Echo Valley, a place where if you shout, you will hear it echoes. It's amazing! Then we went down to the hanging coffins. It's not scary, it's somewhat puzzling especially those on the middle of the rocky mountains. How did they even managed to bring it all up and push it inside the mini caves? Still disturb, we hiked until we reach the underground river where we needed to lights our torch inside to see where we're going. You have to be careful inside due to some of the stones are so low, you may hit your head. When you reach the end of the river, it means you've reached Bokong Falls. It's just a small falls but it's lovely. There, we enjoyed our lunch and swimming. Afterwards, we took a different route heading back to Town. It took us almost 4 hours on this tour but we enjoyed it.
Sunset in Lake Danum
Feeling pump, after our Echo Valley tour, we have a little snacks of barbeque and hotdog then we rented a shuttle for P600 to drive us to Lake Danum. A lot of tourist went there to time lapse the sunset. Sadly, the sun was covered with clouds so we have not really see it clearly. But still, it's a nice place to have picnics. I also recommend buying their instant coffee (Organo Gold coffee) or yogurt while waiting for the sunset. It's really delicious!
Since we already went to Mt. Kiltepan, we decided to hiked up in Marlboro Hills to see the sea of clouds. We started hiking at 4:00 am on a Sunday while the sky drizzles. We hiked up for 1hr and 30mins and it's getting colder and colder. It's higher than Mt. Kiltepan and it is not that advisable if it's raining due to the ground gets muddier. It's zero visibility up there and make sure you have you're fleece jacket on.
That's all our activities during our stay in Sagada. We also have another trip to Bomod-OK Falls but it was cancelled due to their ongoing ritual on that day. Other than that, you may try going to Sumaguing Cave, Blue Soil, Lumiang Cave, Ganduyan Museum, Pongas Falls, and to the famous Sagada Rice Terraces.
If you're looking for something to replaced your burned calories after the activities, Sagada has heaps of restaurants that you will not forget. Of all the places I've been, Sagada is the only place where all the foods they served have veggies. You do not have to request for it, it is given. Not just that, their veggies are fresh and delicious. Their dishes are tasteful and the cheesy pizzas & mouthful burgers are those that you should not let go of. Of course, do not forget to try their famous creamy yogurt. It is their specialty because of its creaminess and freshness of fruits flavored in it. I recommend you try eating in Misty Lodge Café, Sagada Brew, Salt & Pepper, and Gaia Café. Those are some we've been to and it's a must! Especialially Gaia Café, this place has a view of Banawe Rice Terraces and it's best for their coffee and muffin. Also, it is better if you try their local foods that you can buy in the streets such as wheatbread with chocolate / cheese, dirty ice cream w / Hershey's syrup, and yogurt.
Wondering where to buy souvenirs for your loved ones? Well, you do not need to ride far away since the town is a small place and have lots of souvenir shops. I suggest that you hoard their red wine. HAHA Just kidding! They sell one of the best wines and my favorite is Charlina Bugnay Red Wine that I only bought for P150-P160 per bottle, depends on what store you bought it. Aside from that, I've also bought a pack of mountain leaves for P10 and turmeric tea for P150, which is very good in cleansing the body.
For 4 days, we really did enjoy going there and I'm pretty sure I'll be back there. If you're a soloist looking for an escape place or somewhere to relax, this is a great place for you. Or maybe you're a couple or friends or family that is up for an adventure, do not forget to bring you're A-game! Also, do not forget to bring moisturizers and sunblock. Even though it's cold, sun's heat is strong enough to burn your skin. Truly, Sagada is one of a kind! So when you're there, seize the moment!