Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sagada: A step closer to heaven

I have been waiting for months to go on a much needed vacation. The past few months have been very tiring and hectic. Joggling between work and family is not an easy task. Most especially now that my daughter's birthday is just around the corner. Looking for the best party coordinator, catering, photographer and videographer, photobooth and lechon supplier have been mind-boggling. Scouting for the best venue is also one thing. Not to mention going to Divisoria to buy some stuff for the party as well. A lot of things have been running in my mind lately that I just said to myself, "I had it. I want to leave the city,,, NOW.".

Good thing that I, my husband, sisters and friends have something planned by the end of March. SAGADA! This place has been haunting my mind. I have always wanted to go to this place and experience the cold weather. Going through the Banaue Rice Terraces has been in my dreams since I can't remember when. So this is it! Sagada here we come!

Day 1: Met with the tour people in Trinoma. We will be sharing the van with 2 more couples.

Left Trinoma at 10pm. I slept almost immediately after the van left the meeting place since I was not able to sleep properly after my shift in the morning. We had 2 stop-overs. One was in a gas station somewhere in NLEX and then the second was in Cabanatuan. After at least 8 hours we were finally in Banaue.

We stopped to eat in a small eatery. I cannot remember the name or if it has any. But it was almost at the top of the Rice Terraces. I do not recommend the food here. It was the typical "Silugan" that we have in Manila. We ordered Porksilog (P125) and Longsilog (P100). It was expensive. The food was dry and tasteless. However, the view in this place is gorgeous. You get to see the Terraces and walk on it. I almost cried after being able to step on the sides of the Terraces itself. It was such a very nice feeling.

After eating, we went straight to Sagada Homestay, which served as our home for 3 days, to fix ourselves and get ready for our first activity, Caving.

Sumaguing Cave is famous for its spelunking adventure. The way down to the cave was a little steep and muddy but we were able to manage it without tripping or falling down. :)

You will  be welcomed by a few wood coffins at the entrance of the cave.

According to the tour guide, it will be a 4-hour trek to the other end of the cave.

Going through the cave itself is a such a total workout! For someone like me who doesn't exert effort in too much moving, it was a real test. Climbing walls, passing through small holes and hallways, and sliding down slippery steps that were at least 10ft in height were some of the things that we had to go through inside. Although, it may sound so exhilarating, we still enjoyed it. The view inside the cave was unbelievable. The rock formations were such a sight to be seen. It was also cold inside the cave so we didn't feel the tiredness as much (it was so cold that there is smoke coming out of our mouth). The only thing that set me back in this experience is that while we were already on our way out, the feces of the bats were all over the place. It was hard not to hold on to rocks as you are walking so we had no choice but to touch it. You can also smell the foul odor of it. It was a bit gross. But all in all, it was such an unforgettable experience.

After the cave experience, we went back to the Inn to fix ourselves and get ready for dinner as we were all starving. We went for a walk and had a few options in mind. We went to Log Cabin, Yoghurt House and Lemon Pie but they were all closed (most establishments close at 8pm). Right beside Lemon Pie is Sagada Brew. Since we were all tired and hungry, we walked in and settled. And it was the best decision that we made! Their food are all delicious and had generous serving. Rice meals are priced at P200 (with salad and dessert) and pasta is at P150. I also loved their hot choco. The owner was also very polite and attentive.

Hot Choco (P100)
Rosemary Peppered Chicken (P200)
Pork Hamonado (P200)
Day 2: Call time was 7am. We were scheduled to go to Bomod-Ok Falls and the Hanging Coffins.

We had our breakfast at the Inn's Eatery and it was better than the one that we had in Banaue :). At P130 for a chicken, rice and salad, it was reasonable for me.

To go to the Bomod-Ok falls, we need to pass through the Rice Terraces itself. It is at the back of a small mountain right across the Terraces. According to our tour guide, Aly, it is only a 2km hike. Again, the way to the falls was steep and muddy.

Going to the falls, we passed by a small community of Sagada natives. I tried to envision myself living there but I already find it hard to see. These people need to walk up and down the mountain to go to school, to buy food, to get stuff, etc. It was such a very simple community.

Finally, we were able to see the falls after at least 2 hours of walking, but it was all worth it.

However, if you plan to go to the falls and not to dip into the water, I think it will be a big waste of time and effort. The trip going there is not easy. So, if you will just go there to have your pictures taken please think twice. If the way going to the falls was hard, the way back is a lot harder, waaaay harder. We had to go through at least 1000 steps of stairs and 1000 more steps of hoping into stones and mud. It was hard, really hard. Did I also mention that it was freaking hot that day? It was so hot that our skin was burned after. My whole body went sore after that. All we wanted was just to go back to the Inn and have some rest. The pain was excruciating. It took us another 2 painful hours to go back.

Before going back to the Inn, we decided to eat our lunch first because we were already starving after the trip to the falls. This time we were able to go to the Lemon Pie House first to buy a box of lemon pie then to Yoghurt House for our lunch.

I really don't know why Yoghurt house always pops up in blogs and on the internet of restaurants to try in Sagada. Their service was beyond poor. The small guy who attends to customers is so arrogant. They also do not serve free water to customers! Their food is tasteless and expensive! I really have nothing good to say about this restaurant. Even their yoghurt is so sour that my face cannot be painted anymore after one try. This restaurant is now on the top of my list of not to recommend restos.

After lunch, we went back to the Inn to freshen up and to get ready to go to the Hanging Coffins. I was personally excited to go to this one because I have always been amazed of why and how they buried their loved ones like this.

Going to the Hanging Coffins, you need to pass through a regular cemetery. It was creepy but at the same time very solemn and peaceful.

After a few minutes of walking, you will finally be able to see the hanging coffins itself. But to see them clearly and closer, you have to go down the mountain again.

It was such a serene moment. Right this time, I think I already felt why they did it.

It was also about to rain so we went down quickly. I realized one thing, that lightning and thunder in this place is more frightening. It seems like it is just there and ready to strike you. And then I thought, that maybe I am really just a few steps away from heaven.

Again, going up is another story...

We went back to the Inn after this so we can rest. From morning until afternoon of walking is definitely not a joke. I am proud of myself that I was able to survive it :).

We ate the Lemon Pie for merienda. And again, I was disappointed. This is one of the must-try's in Sagada according to a lot of people and it has been compared to the Calamansi Muffin of Boracay but we didn't enjoy it. It was so sour and is nothing like my favorite calamansi muffin.

For dinner, we decided to go back to Sagada Brew. And again, it was yummy :).

Chicken Roulade (P200)

Had a room-service massage to lessen my pain. Then went to sleep because our call time the next day was 530am.

The early morning of our third day was picturesque. The fog covered the mountains and the air was cold.

Left Sagada with a smile on my face and a once empty space in my heart now filled with joy. Finally, it was time to go home.

While we were on our way to Baguio, I just witnessed the most beautiful sunrise that I have seen, so far. It was majestic. No words can explain how I felt when I saw it.

Sagada, for me, is another home. If given the chance to go back, I would. I would love to roam around more and try other things. I would love to go food hunting in remote areas to try their delicacies. I would love to know more about their culture and history. Next time, I will spend more time in this place. A place I am now claiming as home.

Thanks to Budget Local Tours for fixing everything for us. :)

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