Sagada: Defying My Limits

Sagada Travel Blog

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eggplant pasta at yoghurt house. Nomnomnom
This post was originally published in my blog:

Nike said 'Let's do it' and Adidas said that 'Nothing is Impossible'.

I have never been, maybe never will be, athletic and sporty. I love eating healthy and has an extremely low sugar tolerance so I am not really at risk - Black Swans aside - of obesity or any health related disease. Running has been my only sport lately with my fitness regimen chronicled by nike plus.  So when I got the itinerary for an action packed weekend in Sagada, I knew I would be so tired.

Indeed, I wasn't wrong, not only did I get so tired but I was also able to do things which I thought I would never be able to do.

Day 1: After 11 hours of travel by bus and van we eventually arrived in Sagada. Late lunch for me was a huge and filling plate of eggplant and basil pasta and a bowl of banana, granola, and strawberry preserves yoghurt bowl.  After 30 minutes we're off to explore the Sumaguing Cave.

First stop en route to the Caves -- the hanging coffins of Sagada.

yoghurt and fruits in season
This mode of burial had been a tradition among the locals of Sagada for ages. The Sumaguing cave site alone has about a hundred, the oldest one was 400 years old while the most recent was 1975.

According to our guide, Siegried, when I asked her how they are able to put the coffins so high up in the mountains they put the coffin first - the traditional ones are carved wood the later ones uses nails - early in the morning; the body (in fetal position) is later 'transported' to where the coffin is. The 'transporting' of the body is done through something like a relay, that is, all volunteers will line up and pass the body to each other. Who would volunteer, you might ask, apparently almost everyone.
hanging coffins
Why? Since the body is not embalmed prior to burial there are some liquids (oils etc.) dripping from the body, these oils are believed by the locals to bring good luck. Hence, everyone wants to get dripped and volunteer.

After the easy part of pointing and shooting at the hanging coffins, next we went to the Sumaguing caves.  The caves were beautiful and magical.  This is the only time that I would be able to say I have done something death defying, and that's not an exaggeration at all. Being novice cavers, Cristine (my evil twin) and I did the hardcore caving experience where one doesn't only get wet, but swim in icy cold water that goes up to your chest. There was even a part wherein one wrong move and you risk falling into a pool of water the depth of which is unknown.
Unknown until perhaps they do some rescue operations there.  Navigating the cave, which includes rappelling among others, is also very tricky. There are some rocks that would give one such a good grip that for a moment you'll feel like spiderman (or spiderpig) and there are some which no matter how good your shoes or sandals are, getting a grip is just impossible.  Despite the encounter with Joe Black and bat shit, however; doing the hardcore Sumaguing cave experience is something I would recommend people to do. Except of course those who obviously cannot i.e. those whose vertical measurements won't let them fit into the tricky parts of the 'secret tunnel' and those who have claustrophobia.

To end day 1 and reward ourselves, we went to a reggae bar. Somehow, San Mig light tastes so good after you feel like you got a second lease on life.

Day 2: Still fresh from our caving triumphs but aching from yesterdays experience, second day was hiking day.
Hiking across such unbelievably green rice fields on the way to the big falls is a very blissful experience. It was more than an hour walk across rice fields and across boulders en route to the water falls. It was not yet harvesting season when we went so the palay was just so green. According to Siegried, they had a bad season before so there was some delay in planting.

I've seen better waterfalls - the katibawasan falls in Camiguin, for example - but the falls after the tiring scenic hike is such a welcome sight that we didn't waste any minute and swam at the (again) icy water. I figure that after my bout with hypothermia yesterday, swimming in the cold waters at the big falls is nothing.
some coffins at the entrance of sumaguing cave
Indeed, it is so refreshing!

We ended the morning of our Day 2 trip with lunch at the Municipal Hall Canteen in - guess where - Sagada's municipal hall which, when we asked her where locals usually eat, Siegried recommended.

After our hike to the big falls, afternoon is another hike at Echo Valley where there are more hanging coffins, and more going up and down big rocks and where ta-dan I had my first rock climbing. I didn't reach the top, never expected I would, but I did pretty okay and did a considerable distance. After my attempts at tracing my gorilla bloodlines I decided to quit the climbing habit and we proceeded to our hike, exiting at the Episcopalian church.

Unlike most parts of the Philippines, the primary religion in Sagada is Episcopalian - it is also a protestant religion. Not surprising since it was the Americans who have the most - compared to the Spanish  - influence here.

Previously bombed in the second world war, the Episcopalian church in Sagada was rebuilt around 1940-ish.  It is such a quaint church, really charming and quiet. It is a perfect place for all those wishing to have some small chapel wedding in a land far far away. 

We were not lucky as the french chef in the log cabin was out of town and hence log cabin was closed. We instead had to go to yoghurt house again, and it was so full it took more than 30 minutes for our food to arrive.
the water inside the cave
It was not really a particularly good night, not to mention there was a rude group of tourists who occupied one side of the veranda as smoking area when it could have fit more people who actually wanted to eat! Nonetheless, it was just too hard to loose your cool when you're in such a peaceful place so we patiently waited.

Day 3: We started really early for a sunrise hike to Kiltapan where low-lying clouds abound in the morning. The view of the sun rising over low lying clouds that seems to invite you to eat it, the cool mountain air, the Sagada rice terraces slowly revealing itself as the sun rises is just totally out of this world in its beauty.

After our sunrise hike to Kiltapan, we had breakfast at Maseraffe Cafe where they have the most yummy pancakes.
Kings curtain rock formation
  I had banana pancakes and coffee.  The Sagada coffee is not that strong, so the caffeine dependent me had to take 3 cups of coffee.  A hike to (come to where the flavour is, come to) Marlboro Country was the last one in our itinerary for the trip. The place is of course not called Marlboro country but it only got it's name because of the wild horses. Unfortunately, we weren't able to see any wild horses. Of course, as any day in Sagada probably will, the hike was still perfect. Walking on pine needles strewn path, occasionally picking up mushrooms for food, seeing beautiful flowers, picking some wild berries here and there, singing 'the hills are alive with the sound of music' while walking, inhaling the fresh cool mountain breeze so far from Metro Malignant (Steve's words)...ahhh this is probably the closest too that I can say bliss.

The thought of leaving Sagada that afternoon sort of dampened our spirits but then bad vibes are just not welcome and is not possible in a place as perfect as this.
water terraces rock formation
Our last stop was the pinikpikan (killing me softly chicken) place near our hotel. We just had to try the local cuisine. It was good, maybe not worth the cruelty to the chicken

Going back was another 11+ hour ride. Going to and from Sagada is long and the stay always too short but guaranteed to always be sweet. Farewell Sagada, I had so much fun and so much memories.

Next stop to the mountain province will be Mt. Pulag and Banawe-Bontoc-Battad.  Soon!

estvanguardia says:
Thanks! you're my biggest fan in TB. Looks like i wasn't accepted in WTO, so no switzerland or eu for me this next 6 months. :(
Posted on: May 25, 2010
baliw-katok says:
Wow Est, I really enjoyed reading your Sagada trip. You have a pleasant "way of writing" and the beautiful pictures made it complete. Great blog !!
Posted on: May 25, 2010
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eggplant pasta at yoghurt house. N…
eggplant pasta at yoghurt house. …
yoghurt and fruits in season
yoghurt and fruits in season
hanging coffins
hanging coffins
some coffins at the entrance of su…
some coffins at the entrance of s…
the water inside the cave
the water inside the cave
Kings curtain rock formation
Kings curtain rock formation
water terraces rock formation
water terraces rock formation
the view from  our veranda
the view from our veranda
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photo by: lauro