THE TRAPPED DRIFTER: ‘Sagad sa Ganda’ – The Unusual Beauty of Sagada

Photo from PREMIERE Creative Director Jerald Penafiel

What makes this blog post different from my usual #TheSoloDrifter stories about my travels abroad and local adventures? I’ve been celebrating Chinese New Year in Binondo’s Chinatown for five years, but this year – I went to Sagada! With Kyle and Jerald! And why #TheTrappedDrifter this time? Let’s wait for Jerald’s vlog, you’ll find out!

We left Manila night of 23 January (8 p.m.) and we took a semi-deluxe bus of Coda Lines and it costed each of us P760. For a super deluxe (with CR), it costs P980. We arrived in Sagada around 7:30 a.m of 24 Janaury. We booked via Pinoy Travel.

What you need to know about Sagada?

  1. Sagada is a municipality in Mountain Province
  2. It is famous for its hanging coffins, a traditional way of burying people. Not everyone is qualified to be buried this way; among other things, one had to have been married and had grandchildren.
  3. Sagada is known for citrus, mainly lemon, lime and Valencia oranges
  4. Most locals use Kankana-ey and understand Ilocano. But they are also fluent in English and Filipino.
  5. November to April is the driest and coolest period, suitable for the outdoor activities.

Where to stay

With P1,405 via Booking.com, we were able to book a room in Pinewood Homestay. Tip: Book as early as possible. Walk-in chance is low.

What to do

But worry not if you failed to engage a travel agency prior to your arrival or tour. There are a lot of tourist guides welcoming you at the Tourism Office. Kuya Eric (+63 956 045 2549) helped us plan our activities. He welcomed us when we arrived at the Tourism Office.

Cave Connection

Kuya Eric introduced us to our tour guide, Kuya Ivan (+63 949 686 3058). Our adventure started in Cave Connection from Lumiang to Sumaguing caves. It’s challenging – we experienced going down the cliffs, see rock formations of animals, food and people, and get wet.

You know you’ve reached the Lumiang Cave when you see hundreds of stacked coffins at the entrance, with symbolic markings of life and fertility. Known as ‘The Big Cave’, Sumaguing Cave has the largest enclosure from the 60 caves found underneath Sagada.

Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins

You’ll find Sagada’s famous hanging coffins in the Echo Valley, just next to the town center. It’s a short walk away from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and through the new cemetery. 

Pottery Making

It’s not part of our itinerary, but Kuya Ivan brought us to Sagada Pottery. Nanay Tessie gave us a demo. Each group of tourists pays P100 for a demo. I tried making a bowl with Nanay Tessie’s guide. The 3-minute tutorial costed me P100.

Sunset viewing

After that pottery making experience, Kuya Ivan brought us to the Viewdeck to watch the sun set. It’s cooler than expected! But I got a good time lapse – an addition to my collection of sunsets and sunrises.

Sea of clouds in Marlboro Hills

Sagada is famous for its sea of clouds sighting at Marlboro Hills. Because Kiltepan is currently inaccessible, Marlboro Hill has become the go-to sunrise-viewing spot. To catch the sunrise, we left the town at 4:30 a.m. Don’t worry about food because there are also kiosks selling champorado, sopas, and arroz caldo in every stop. You may bring food, but please bring the waste with you when you get down. We were advised by Kuya Ivan to bring chocolate bars and a bottle of water.

Blue Soil Hills

The whole Marlboro and Blue Soil adventure took us 5 hours to complete it, but seeing the Blue Soil Hills inspired me. It’s one-of-a-kind natural wonder. Tourists are restricted to take selfies in the middle and on top of the hill as it destroys the mineral and beauty of this wonder.

Where to eat

On our first day we had our breakfast at SLABHOUSE Cafe and Restaurant, which offers affordable traditional Filipino meal like the ‘silog.’

After our cave adventure, we tried Yoghurt House. Tourists love this because of its Western dishes. I tried strawberry lassie and boneless chicken with cashew nuts. A dish averagely costs P250, while beverage costs P120.

We’re tired and we wanted to take a rest so we tried Sagada Bistro, it’s just beside Pinewood Homestay. I tried the popular Etag and had a wine. It only costed me P300 for my whole dinner.

Really, Sagada is not only a place of natural beauty but a heaven of good taste. Our last food trip is at Lemon Pie House. I can only say one thing – it’s the best! The scrambled egg and cheese and the lemon hot tea!

Other Information and Travel Tips

  1. There are ATMs in the Tourism Office
  2. Bring comfortable clothes. When we had cave adventure, I used cave jelly shoes and wrapped my legs with cave pants. For the trekking, I used boot shoes. No need to bring layering clothes and jacket, you’ll feel uncomfortable from the moment you go trekking to sunrise.
  3. Bring first aid kit!
  4. Travel responsibly. Refuse single-use plastics and utensils.

Leaving Sagada

When you go back to Manila, you can take Coda Lines bus at 10:30 a.m, 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. But since we have an agenda in Baguio (the Never Give Up Project for May CPA examinees), we took a regular bus going to Baguio – it’s cheap! It only costed us P260 each.

Budget and Itinerary

The whole tour package in Sagada costed us P6,000 (exclusive of food) for all of us, three. Kuya Eric did the costing, we only informed him what we wanted to visit. The package includes environmental and transportation – you just need to relax. And there are no hidden fees.

For your convenience and in case you want to make your own itinerary and budget, here’s your guide.

DAY 0 – Departure
8:00 p.m. – Departure from Coda Lines – Cubao (P760)

DAY 1 – Cultural
8:00 a.m. – Breakfast at SLABHOUSE Cafe and Restaurant (P150)
9:30 a.m. – Cave Connection (P1,500)
11:30 a.m. – Lunch at Yoghurt House (P350)
2:30 p.m. – Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins (P300)
4:00 p.m. – Pottery Making (P150)
4:45 p.m. – Sunset View
7:30 p.m. – Dinner at Sagada Bistro (P300)

DAY 2 – Nature
4:30 a.m. – Trekking to Marlboro and Bluesoil Hills (P600)
11:00 a.m. – Lunch at Lemon Pie House (P300)
1:00 p.m. – Departure for Baguio (P26)

My Sagada episode ends here, but I’ll make sure to go back to this masterpiece. There a lot to visit in Mountain Province and I can’t wait to complete all activities it can offer every time we roll out the ‘Meet the CPAs’ and ‘Never Give Up’ Projects. Meanwhile, watch my short video here:

Ooops, don’t expect a Baguio blog from me. I’m always in Baguio twice a year, just follow my social media accounts below for some tips!

Cover Photo from PREMIERE Creative Director Jerald Penafiel

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About the Author

Paul Michael Jaramillo
Paul Michael JaramilloExecutive Editor
Paul is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a youth and environmental advocate, leader, writer, blogger, filmmaker and an organist. He’s the former Chairperson of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Ilocos Chapter. As a writer, he has found focus and interest on reproductive health, deaf rights, youth development. At the age of 14, he has fully embraced the call of leadership by leading student organizations and college publications. He was a recipient of the PGMA Campus Journalism Award. He joined and won national contests and published some articles related to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in a Spanish paper and website. Some of his articles were also published in leading Philippine news websites and featured in international organizations website.

He launched his career as a CPA in KPMG R.G. Manabat & Co. Paul is currently leading the Data and Analytics Network (and its university arm) of KPMG in the Philippines. He is also the Business Lead for Innovation. He provides trainings to KPMG professionals in the Philippines. He also joined Financial Services Academy for Shared Service Centres (SSC) as a presenter. He is part of the Technical Advisory Group of the Firm's Department of Professional Practice, focusing on data and analytics, audit methodology, accounting standards, root cause analysis, system of quality management, and financial statement quality control review. He represents the Firm as a resource and motivational speaker, arbiter, adjudicator and judge in academic conferences, audit conventions, accounting and audit cups, and audit case study competitions. He sits as a member of Root Cause Analysis team of the Firm. Paul is an Audit Methodology Champion and Workforce of the Future Champion of the Firm. He is also the Firm's System of Quality Management Implementation Manager.

Paul is the Review Master and Head Coach of PREMIERE Review School.

Paul is a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) and a Church officer in their locale congregation.