Disclaimer: All views expressed on this blog are my own based on my own experiences and do not represent of any entity with which I have been, are now or will be affiliated

September 13 2022 (Tuesday)
Batangas, Philippines

I haven’t been blogging lately. I feel so stressed because my dog, Phoebe has distemper virus, a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs. She was hospitalized, brought back home after 3 days and from today she’s been lethargic. I really hope she recovers because I don’t know what I’d do without her.

Date of Trip: September 02-04
Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines
13 degree Celcius

I have been planning to go to Sagada since I’ve moved back in the Philippines in late 2020. I was so curious why people always say it’s best for troubled mind because it’s so laid back and the weather is cooling. I did not have troubled mind when I went there. I wandered and found a land of adventure – hiking, spelunking and chasing waterfalls .

Sagada is located in the mountain Province of Cordillera Administrative Region in North Luzon. It is 11-12 hours away from Manila. It’s chilly weather makes it more relaxing. Sagada’s far-flung location and steep terrain kept it isolated, and is still one of the few places in the Philippines that’s preserved its indigenous culture.

Sagada is a laid-back town that attracts adventure-seekers who come to hike, spelunk, and or even make pots. It is also one of the few places in the Philippines where pre-colonial culture has survived largely unchanged.

Transportation

I booked a tour from Vanlakwetsero. It a tour agency in the Philippines. We had a private van and it took us 11 hours to get to our destination. The roads of Sagada were twisty and extremely challenging. It won’t be an easy ride especially once you arrive at the mountainous roads of Baguio to Sagada, one of the Philippines’ deadliest highways.

Who can travel to Sagada

Sagada is accepting leisure travelers provided that they follow the standard health protocol. No medical certificates, S-pass, RT-PCR test or vaccination card to be presented to some establishments or checkpoints. But I suggest to always bring your vaccination card and for your protection, have yourself vaccinated.

Language

The locals speak English and Igorot.

Accommodation

Vanlakwetsero booked our homestay for us in Hagar Homestay. Since I was a solo traveler, I have to pay Php1,000/day. I did not expect too much in our homestay, it was really cold in Sagada so no fans or aircons needed, they did not have any of those in the room. Unfortunately, the heater was not working so I had to take a very cold shower and most of the time, there was no water. I did not like where I stayed, it was a bad experience.

Best Time to Visit

Like the rest of the Philippines, Sagada has two seasons – rainy (May-Oct) and dry (Nov-Apr). Being a mountain town, it enjoys milder weather with year round temperatures at around 18°C (64°F).

Budget

My budget for this trip is Php11,000. Php5,899 for the travel agency, transportation and accommodation, Php1,600 for the tour, Php960 pottery making and the remaining is for food.

What to Wear

Sagada has chilly weather, I’d recommend to wear clothing that makes you warmer especially at night.

Day 1 September 2
Banaue, Ifugao Philippines

I thought this solo trip will never happen because there was a typhoon, Henry in the Philippines, but the tour agency mentioned we’re good to go so off I went. I left Manila on Sept 1 (Thursday) evening 9pm and arrived on our first destination in Banaue after 10 hours at 7 in the morning.

Banaue is home to an awe-inspiring rice terraces, you can’t help but stare in awe at this amazing stair-like beauty especially during sunrise, I will never get tired of this view. It is referred to by the locals as the 8th Wonder of the World, Banaue Rice Terraces is more than just a sight to behold, these rice terraces were created thousands of years ago by the Ifugao people. It is their way of preserving and cultivating their rice culture.

After sight seeing the rice terraces, we headed over to Sagada, a 3 hour and a half away drive from Banaue. We ate lunch first and rested for 1 hour in our homestay.

We reached Sagada almost lunch time so we ate lunch first, went to our homestay and rested a bit.

Sumaguing Cave
Sagada, Philippines

There are over 60 caves discovered underneath the town of Sagada, Sumaguing Cave has the biggest chamber, earning its nickname “The Big Cave.” The cave has countless rock formations slowly shaped by nature over thousands of years. Some of these formations include the bear, elephants, mother and child, lover etc.

At first, we had to step down a a man-made staircase from the roadside that leads into the mouth of Sumaguing Cave. It was very slippery when we came down as it was a bit raining in Sagada. As soon as we walked farther, we saw the awesome rock transformation. It was a very challenging experience but so good! I love spelunking, I tried this first in Krabi but this cave in Sagada had better rock formations.

The trail is divided into three stages (hard, harder and hardest) haha. First part was the descent, second part where you’ll get to see the rock formations and did rapelling, and the third is a tunnel, you squeeze yourself in a tunnel and you take a plunge. We did not reach the last part since there was already flood due to heavy rain on the way out. It was heavy pouring of rain that the entrance became a waterfalls, thank god we made it out. I will do this again, I’d like to try the hardest spelunking in Sagada in summer. It’s very dangerous when it rains in a cave.

It rained heavily on our way out and we just decided to conclude our first day so I just ate, had coffee and sleep.

Day 2 September 3

I woke up 3 in the morning, but, there was still heavy downpour of rain. I thought we were going to hike to check the sea of clouds but it was cancelled. I slept again and woke up at 9 in the morning to move to the 2nd day of the trip.

Sagada Weaving

Sagada has been weaving quality products such as bags, flip flops, and souvenirs since 1968. Many locals work here and it is said to be one of the largest employers in town. If you wish to buy Sagada traditional items, you should go here. I bought earrings and head bands here.

We had a brief moment inside their work hall, it was small and we were not allowed to take photos or disturb the workings. I witnessed how they create the souvenirs using wooden weaving looms. I don’t think I could do that, it seems really complicated and patience-testing which I don’t have haha. The products were so intricately woven.

Sagada Pottery

The second stop was the Sagada Pottery – it is actually a workshop of making pots, we were instructed of how to make pots by one of the potters Siegrid Bangyay. The pottery was founded in 2001, home of traditional pottery making in the town.

The shop charges P100.00 for a group and another P100.00 for each person who would want to try his or her fingers on pottery. I volunteered to make a bowl and supported the locals by buying my handmade bowl. It was a really amazing experience! Finally, I did pottery!

Echo Valley Tour – St Mary’s Church, Mission Cemetery, Echo Valley -Hanging Coffin

Echo Valley is famous for scenery that includes sharp cliffs with dangling coffins attached to one edge. They say that when you go to Echo Valley, you can shout and it will echo, hence the attraction’s titular name. However, we were not able to do this as guides recommend to keep the place quiet as a sign of respect to the dead and enjoy the scenery instead.

To get to Echo Valley and the hanging coffins, you’ll need to walk past St. Mary’s Cathedral, a church built by American Anglican missionaries who arrived in Sagada during the early part of the last century. Despite converting to the Anglican faith, many Sagadans continue to practice their pagan beliefs.

About 15-20 minutes downhill trek lies the hanging coffins. In the Philippines, the Igorot people or locals in Sagada practice an ancient burial ritual where the elderly carve their own coffins and the dead are hung off the side of a cliff. Before a corpse is laid in the coffin, it is placed in a wooden ‘death chair’, tied with leaves and vines and covered with a blanket. The body is then smoked to delay it from rotting as relatives pay their respects over several days. The Igorots believe that a person should depart the same way he entered the world.


Trekked at Pongas Falls

It was a very challenging trek and one for the books. I almost fell in the boulders going up this waterfall. It was raining heavily when we went here. The trek was slippery with rocky trails, hanging bridge, rice terraces and cliff edges. But once I saw the majestic waterfalls hidden in the big boulders, it was truly a nature’s beauty at its best. Swimming in the cold pool created by cascading waters also provided a refreshing relief.

September 4
Sunday

I woke up at 3 in the morning, only to find out that we were going to trek at 4:30 in the morning. There was also no water in the homestay so it was really quite frustrating but what the hell, I needed to go and trek haha.

Marlboro Hills

Marlboro hills was an easy 1 hike trek in the highest peak in Sagada. It’s name was inspired by the old Marlboro cigarette commercial showing cowboys riding their horses on hills. According to the locals as well, the place was once the playground of mountain horses which have been the mode of transportation back then. It was foggy and unfortunately we did not catch the sunrise and the sea of clouds. It was chilly and with a nice view from atop, not my favorite view as I love Mt. Pulag so much but I’d still go back and trek in Marlboro hills if I come back to Sagada.

Blue Soil

After 30 minutes in Marlboro hills, we had a traverse hike to Blue Soil. Blue Soil or Kaman-Utek as the locals call it. The Blue Soil Hills of Sagada is a set of mini hills in which turns to blue-green especially when moistened. Soil’s color changes because the land contain high amount of copper sulfate. It is believed that the blue color intensifies once the soil gets even more moistened.

The descent was a muddy and rugged terrain lasted for an hour. Some descents were muddier and very slippery. The other parts consisted of jagged limestones. I think by far this was the hardest descent I have ever done that I just wanted it to end. I loved the view as the whole descent was covered with pine trees. while other parts consisted of jagged limestones. Once we reached the Blue Soil, I wasn’t really that impressed. I have endured the mud and the slippery rough way going to this place, it’s not worth it. I am good seeing it once in my lifetime but will not go back just for the view and for the challenge.

Sagada Eats

What I really love about Sagada is it’s a food heaven with different local specialties. I also like that the food spots offered quaint and very homey atmosphere. I had the best gastronomical experience in Sagada and will surely go back.

Lemon Pie House
Atey, Dao-Angan, Sagada
Php50-Php200
Accepts Cash only

I heard a lot about good things about the famous lemon pie here but I was quite disappointed when I had a taste of it on my own. It was not citrusy to my taste, the crust was soft and the over filling was not sweet and buttery. Probably their egg pies tasted better and I should try that next time but I am not a fan of their lemon pies.

Salt and Pepper
Dagdag, Sagada
Php150-Php800
Accepts Cash Only

Salt and Pepper was very hard to spot as their signage was not that visible in the road but it’s a find that I would recommend to all my friends. I love Salt and Pepper and this is one of my favorite restaurants in Sagada. They offer variety of local delicacies which were so deliciously and heavenly appetizing. This is a must whenever I will visit Sagada.

Pork Etag Sisig

I tried pork etag sisig and it did not disappoint. It was savory and fatty flavors from sizzling dried and salted pork. Etag is the Igorot’s traditional way to preserve the dried and salted pork that can last for a week or months when it’s sun-dried. It is kept underground in an unearth jars. The locals believe that by using wood to smoke Etag can bring more aromatic flavor to the meat.

Dinakiw

It is a pan-grilled pork with onions. This is pan-grilled in perfection. Flavorful, meaty and heavenly. I’d always go back and try this dish, highly recommended

Sagada Brew
Php150-Php600
Accepts Gcash and Cash

Sagada Brew only not caters to coffee but famous local dishes in Sagada. I loved their coffee, juices, pasta and Sagada’s Pinikpikan. I have dined here for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of my favorite restaurants in Sagada as it’s very near our homestay – 2 minutes walk.

Pinikpikan

Pinikpikan is a controversial dish. The soup consists of chicken and etag. What makes this dish controversial is how it’s prepared. The chicken is slaughtered – it is gently beaten to death with a stick in a ritual performed by local tribes without breaking the skin or bones. This process bruises the chicken giving the skin a different texture and flavour as they say. Once the “pikpik” process is completed a single hard blow to the back of its head or neck is used to end its life.

Even though, the process was tragic, I was really impressed of the taste of this dish. I surprisingly liked it so much that it was the best chicken soup I have ever tried. I don’t like how the process is done but this is part of Sagada’s tradition and culture.


Yoghurt House
Php100-Php400
Accepts Cash Only

I never really liked yoghurt but this is the best yoghurt I have ever had in my life and will never ever get tired of going to Sagada just to have a taste of this yoghurt. It has a smooth and creamy texture with tangy flavor with a slightly more sour taste. I will try other dishes next time when I visit Sagada again.

Bana’s Coffee
Php200-Php500
Accepts Cash or Gcash only

Bana’s coffee offers variety of breakfast dishes and coffee. They serve huge portion of dishes and it’s flavorful and aromatic coffee.

Gaia Cafe
Php200-Php300
Accepts Gcash and Cash

I walked 15 minutes just to see and taste the food in Gaia and to be very honest I was disappointed. I liked the interior and the view but the food tasted bland and not worth my 15 minute walk. They cater to Vegetarian dishes but I’ve had better Vegetarian dishes somewhere else. This was my least favorite of all the food spots in Sagada.

Pitik Wines
Php200-Php500
Accepts Gcash and Cash

This is just around 4 minutes walk from our homestay and it’s a quaint clay house wine shop. I love to try local alcohol whenever I travel. I talked to the owner of the shop and learned a lot about their humble beginnings. They started in 2004 so the wines are still fresh, wines are better when aged. I love their tapey or rice wine, it’s light and sweet just how I like my wine and I brought Bugnay for my brother, it’s stronger with 13% alcohol content.

I love Sagada and will always go back to this laid back place. It’s a must see for locals and foreigners. I will always go back to Sagada.

Love,

Maria, sometimes, Niskie