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Wednesday, February 6

Sagada Tour: The Mountain Guide

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My wild dream of finally spelunking happened here in Sagada.

If you have never been in a place so rustic in nature, so rugged in outdoor and it’s just plain simple, then chances are, you haven’t been yet to the Mountain Province in the Philippines. When we say Mountain Province, we pertain to the province next to the Cordilleran province of Benguet. And the best offering of this province is what we call “Sagada”, a very simple town six hours away from Baguio City. The views going there is just so magnificent, how much more when you get tour yourself there?

Nothing Beats Plain Nature Adventure: Sagada

If you have never got the chance to travel to the simple town of Sagada, then you have to plan it one of these days. It is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and you will be lucky if you will get to visit it before you die. Honestly. It’s nature’s bounty. The woods. The culture. And the people. They all just add up to the great feeling when you tour this municipality in Mountain Province.

Classic rock formations in this simple town of Sagada, Mountain Province
And to help you in your trip, I have come up with a simple list of things you have to keep in mind when traveling to this “simple paradise” of Sagada:

THE TRAVEL. I’ve got 6 long hours of travel to this place. Take note, it’s already coming from Baguio which is a part of the Cordillera Administrative Region. How much more when you are coming from Manila? Then it’s a staggering 11 hours ride! From Manila, you have to travel at night at around midnight, and catch the first trip to Sagada at 6:30 AM (but you have to be at the GL Terminal in Baguio by 5 AM). Or you may catch a bus trip directly heading to Sagada not routing to Baguio. Whatever route you are taking, it’s still a half-day trip to Sagada. But you don’t have to worry because once you get into the mountains where the straight roads turn to zigzag, the views are just so refreshing. If you have never seen the blue cascading mountains over a sunrise morning, then getting to Mountain Province is a must-try.
Sagada's Kapay-aw Rice Terraces
THE TRANSPORTATION. The bus going to Sagada is non-aircon, but it’s pretty cool over the mountains. Plus the spectacular views will not dismay you. From Baguio to Sagada, there is one bus stop in Buguias, Benguet, an almost three-hour ride from Baguio City. Here you can take your breakfast. There will be another one somewhere in Mountain Province already but it will only take you a few minutes. Next is your arrival to the town already. To know more on how to reach it, check out “How to Go to Sagada from Baguio City” to be posted soon.

The Hanging Coffins is the most popular tourist attraction in Sagada.
THE HOTEL. Hotels, or lodges, inns and homestays, are pretty affordable in Sagada. They range from P250 – P400 depending on the season. Most of the inns are located near the town hall but there are some which are located nearer to nature. I’ve tried both ways, at first night I stayed in Misty Inn where it takes you around 10-15 minutes to reach the town hall and Yellow Inn where it’s just in front of the Yoghurt House. There is a difference and it depends on your choice.
One of the outstanding structures in Sagada is their Stone Church. It's an Anglican Church.
THE FOOD. If ever you are on a trip to this town I suggest you to bring snacks and drinks you can take with you during your hiking or trekking. Packed goods here are somewhat more expensive than those that can be bought in Baguio or Manila. But you have to limit it there. Your other food has to be pure Sagada style. I mean you have to try it because they were indulgence and treats to your tongue! Like getting a breakfast of mountain rice and “tapa”. Or a merienda of home-made yoghurt topped with fresh strawberries. Or you can try their lemon pies and blueberry pies. Or you can eat fresh fruits like oranges which you can pick from the trees. Persimmon too! Or if you get to see it on its season, you can have a pear from a pear tree too! The price? I have to be honest. It’s expensive. But it’s worth it. The cheapest you can get is around P90 (>$2) and the average can cost you P160 ($4). The P90 I was referring was like a budget meal in Manila at a price of P30. Haha. But see the difference. They serve “red rice” in Sagada. Not the plain white rice.

Don't miss this delicious combination of fried egg, a toast and the home-made yoghurt topped with strawberry preserves.

THE TOUR. Sagada is a place where four days is not enough. So imagine when I previously said that Baguio is good for a three-day tour as you can already get to visit the most interesting tourist spots. Here, four days is just plain “bitin”! Unless you are trying to be like a superhuman where you put everything at once—and I really do not advise to trek and see everything in one day! I tell you this: you have to walk all the way from the town hall to Sumaguing Cave for spelunking adventure and when you get inside the cave, it’s another story! Unless you will hire ATVs or bikes or SUVs during your trip (where it is recommended for people who get tired easily). But it’s worth it. All the trek and hike I did when I got to tour Sagada were fruitful sacrifices to nature. I love Sagada. And since I haven’t been to El Nido yet in Palawan, Sagada is my most interesting and beautiful place I have visited so far. And by the way, Sagada is a 1900-ish Baguio. It’s Baguio before it became Baguio City. Get it?

Sagada will require your sole energy needed for walking, strolling, trekking, hiking, and climbing.
THE TIME. Doing the Echo Valley tour, Underground and Small Falls tour is enough for one day. You can also include food trips and strolling around the town. If you are not satisfied, then you can include an action-packed rock climbing! And we saw one when I toured Sagada! Amazingly different and adventurous! I want to try it too someday. But anyway, it’s all for one day. You cannot include caving there because you will get sick if you do it. All I want to say is you have to budget your time and take note that it should include the word “rest” and “relax”. Remember it’s a small village over the mountains, and when we say mountains it means walking and trekking and hiking and climbing! It’s not a city tour my dear where you can just ride a cab and get off to interesting places or do a walk tour where the terrain is flat and not sloped.
The Kiltepan Peak over the Kiltepan Mountain. This is where you might see the sea of clouds and the wonderful Kiltepan Rice Terraces below it.

THE BUDGET. Here comes the budget. The inn accommodation you may find is cheap but the food is expensive. Plus there are entrance fees on some of the attractions. You also have to pay guide fees. When I went to Sagada for a tour, I spent more than P2,500 for a three-day tour but I haven’t covered the two big falls. But it was worth it. By the way the P2,500 is already cheap because I was guided by a local Sagadan and it’s free. And if you are a first timer I recommend your hire a guide for your tour. Sagada is filled with so many interesting facts, like the “hanging coffins”, and for that the tour guide can explain all of these. You don’t want to leave Sagada with no single trivia, do you? I will be posting my expenses soon so you will get more idea on how to budget your money.

Get into the old village and witness some real home-made Sagada weaving.
THE MONEY. And speaking of the money, you have to bring cash. Cash, cash and cash only. No credit cards please! And this is the fact you don’t want to miss—Sagada has only one ATM! And believe it or not when I went there I didn’t bring cash and the ATM was offline. And I have to borrow money from my Sagadan friend, who is also a blogger at Christian Aligo. The ATM was out for three days—and it will mean no money for you if you do the same too. So piece of advice, bring hard cash.
Tourists flock during the All-Saints Day because locals of Sagada have a different way of commemorating their dead loved ones. They burn cut pine woods.
THE CULTURE, THE PEOPLE. Do not be surprised if on your trip you will get to see “Begnas” or people dancing along the streets with their g-strings (bahag). It’s part of their community practice. How I admire them because they were able to preserve their culture. And they also have a different way to commemorate their loved ones who already passed away. And just those hanging coffins make the big difference. They have their own way of life. When you get to see someone smiling at you, just smile back at them. Locals of Sagada are friendly. And you will also get to see some backpackers along your way. Say hi to them and you can get to tour with them. And be friends. Sagada is backpacker’s haven.

It depends on the season, you may see some fresh blueberries, or wild mushrooms or just like these ones, wild berries of Sagada.

See the fully pine covered mountain over there? That's how Sagada looks like. A rugged nature hideout similar to what you see in Camp John Hay in Baguio. But Sagada is more relaxing and peaceful from city sounds.
There are still some more important notes but I will already include it in the contents of my upcoming posts. The tour which I did in Sagada was so memorable I already miss it as of posting time. I still have to visit more places in Sagada and maybe this time I will try to go to them. And for you who want to travel and have a trip to Sagada, I recommend you to keep in mind these things I just imparted to you.

Try to spot several of lizard sculptures and icons. Lizards symbolizes Sagada because lizards repel away bad evil spirits.
Just like Baguio, Sagada is also rich in flora. Flowers like these and a lot more grow in this simple town.
Nothing Beats Plain Nature Adventure: Sagada Travel Series:
Part 9: Another Burial Tradition in Sagada's Lumiang Cave
Part 10: A Dinner with the Igorot Family
Part 11: Of Misty Morning, Mountain Dew and Sagada Flowers

Part 12: Fruity Restaurant Breakfast at Yoghurt House, Sagada
Part 13: A Quick Stop at Sagada's Persimon Cafe
PART 14 - 19 of Sagada Travel Series LINK HERE.
PART 20 - 30 + List of Expenses LINK HERE.

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  1. thanks for this write-up...................isang taon ang nakakalipas...haha

    1. Ganyan talaga pag madami ipopost ahehe inaabot ng isang taon. Hehe :)

  2. One of my best travel of 2012 - Sagada is truly a stairway to Mountain Province! This is a great share.

  3. hi, would u know if its ok to travel on mid sep?

  4. Hello Anonymous,

    I find mid-September as a 50/50 travel date for a Sagada adventure. Once and for all, we know that July and August are months of typhoon season, extending until mid-September. You can still go, for as long as the weather will not be rainy, but this is a 50/50 chance.

    If I were you, I suggest mid-October onwards until May.

  5. Advisory:
    To all International ATM Card Holders.
    The only ATM Machine in Sagada, Mountain Province does nort accept international cards. Thankyou.


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