Friday, January 20, 2012

Sagada: Why Unplanned Trips Turn Out To Be Exhilarating Ones

I thrive on unplanned trips. Or anything un-planned for that matter.

Take this Sagada trip for example. I may have read tips and tricks on how to go about this adventure, but I met a lot of changes along the way. I am normally a control-freak, but over the years, I've come to appreciate changes. I have become more flexible and tolerant of the annoying little things that life has to offer me. Come and join me for a ride as I chronicle my adventure to Sagada.

Plan 1: 
Take the 10pm Autobus trip from Manila to Banaue

Champ and I arrived the terminal 9-ish and found out that the 10pm trip was already fully booked. Good thing, they have a 9:30 that goes to Lagawe-- a couple of kilometers away from Banaue.

We arrived 5 am.

From Lagawe, we waited a good 30minutes until we caught a bus going to Banaue.

Plan 2:
From Banaue, take a jeep to Bontoc.
From Bontoc, take another jeep to Sagada.

From Banaue, we were met by very friendly locals who led us to People's Restaurant, where jeepneys headed to Bontoc pass by. We took our breakfast behind the resto and it provided a refreshing mountainview.

At exactly that time, we learned that a group of travellers were also headed to Sagada. In a way, we were better off. iIt meant we won't have to transfer jeeps. The local brought us to where the group was--Viewpoint. I was delighted. It offered a breathtaking view of the rice terraces and definitely, a good photo op!!

Viewpoint, Banaue Rice Terraces
the lighting was bad-- against the sunrise :(

jeepney from Banaue to Sagada
stopping over at Mt. Polis

it's foggy at Mt. Polis

..and so our day went, we arrived Sagada safely. Booked at traveller's inn and pleased our itchy feet to explore the tiny town.

Plan 3:
It was past 12 and our packed lunch was spoiled. One of the travel guides I read online mentioned a cheap eatery--Cuisina Igorota. For only P50, you get a very tasty viand and rice-all-you can! We were out to find that.

I particularly remembered seeing the Cuisina Igorota sign right beside the municipal hall / hospital. As we were entering Sagada when we arrived, I was already taking a mental note of everything I read and I was specifically delighted to see it right away since we were on a 'shoestring'.

It must be one of those times when my memory fails me. Dang.

I convinced champ that we should just walk along until we saw that sign. We were off 50 meters. 100 meters. 200 meters. Still no sign. Then I said, unless we see Mapiya-aw Pensione, we won't stop. [Mapiya-aw was the first landmark on my mind which signals the entrance to Sagada]. We must've walked a kilometer when we already saw Mapiya-aw, and still no Cuisina Igorota :c

Oh well. "Why don't we explore this place, anyways? I read that behind it is a beautiful rock garden," my faint attempt to keep our spirits up and our minds off food.

Yet, we were pleasantly surprised to find a treasure beneath the hill!

We must have hiked a good one hour. On our way back, our quest to find Cuisina Igorota was yet again interrupted. I stopped at a store to ask about their wines. It was one pasalubong I'm sure my parents will love. We sampled 3 flavors-- bugnay, cherry , and lemon. As we were chatting with the local saleslady, she asked if we've been to the nearby falls. As if on cue, both Champ and I got excited at the thought of exploring another scenery. So instead of lunch, we found ourselves walking up the hills and through the rice paddies.

I don't have evidence of the falls. We were at the top and at the wrong angle.

By 4pm, we decided we were really hungry, and needed fuel.

When we reached the hospital, the sign was where I thought it would be. It was there all along, just not facing away from the town proper. Sheesh.

At 4pm, I doubted if they still served lunch. True as i thought, the only thing left from their menu is a plate of lechon kawali-- something i stopped eating when i took on my no-pork diet. But the cook gladly offered to serve something else-- only if we could wait. We didn't have much of a choice so we waited. And the wait was worth it. I only requested veggies, yet it was so tasty, you'd never realize the only ones they had were squash/pumpkin and baguio beans! =D

Plan 4:
Previously, we bought a colored map of sagada back at the wine store. Scanning through it, we rationalized that the next best stop would be the church. It would be an easy walk. Then we'd hit the sack and snooze. We haven't had any decent sleep since we left manila 9pm the previous night. And although the stretch from banaue to sagada was a lengthy 3hours, the road was bumpy enough not to lull you to sleep.

We realized that visiting the church was such a breeze. We reached the end in less than 10 minutes. Looking back at the map, we saw that the nearest spot we could explore was the Echo Valley -- where the hanging coffins are.

What makes the nature hikes in Sagada challenging is the fact that there are no signs. And the map that we bought proved to be utterly useless since it's not detailed. Meaning the curves could mean the next hill, or the next mountain. Trusting our instincts, we hiked along paths that seem to leave a trail. We already reached the top of the hill and the only thing we saw was a distant rock/limestone formation with just a minute coffin hanging on it.

So disappointing.

We were deciding whether to go down the valley or just view the coffins from the cliff when we heard a man yelling--making some noise as some sort of a signal. As he was headed our way, we grabbed the chance to ask about the path leading to the coffins. Mang Ben off-handedly revealed that he was looking for his cow. And that he used to be a tour guide when he was much younger. And so, he willingly accompanied us downhill and through each of the burial sites. [for those planning to go to echo valley, make sure you wear pants. the bushes can get nasty] As he led us to each site, he also had some historical stories to share. Very educating.

to us, he's the famous Mang Ben!

At the bottom of the valley, he led us to a different path going back to town through some more rocks and one cave. I was really glad we bumped into him as it was already getting dark when we hit the main road. I was huffing and puffing on our climb up and there he was, still going strong! He was in a hurry to go home. He still had to feed his pigs. ;)
Original journal entry written in 2006.


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